by K. Hartwell
A spectre, tasked with maintaining order in the world, faces his greatest challenge.
|There is a world of intrigue and wonder, beyond what we can see in the day. The night holds many mysteries of demons, warlocks, witches, and others. Even the slayers who hunt the creatures of the night; many of whom fight to protect the daywalkers from nightmares, others who only seek to purge the world of it's darkness. Yet, none are so mysterious as the reapers who exist alongside them. In this world there are three kinds of reapers. First are the observers, the caretakers of the world, who are tasked with maintaining balance between the light and the dark, they are known as ancients. Second are the harvesters, reapers who collect the souls of the mortals, in charge of guiding the lost to eternal rest, they are known as phantoms. Last come the guardians, protectors of the light, tasked with maintaining order in the world, hunting creatures of darkness when necessary, or otherwise detering overzealous slayers. Known as spectres, they are the only reapers permitted to interact with the world and those in it.|
If I were asked to describe my place of birth, I might say it is a "city afloat in the sky". In truth, it would be closer to say it is a fortress not of the world. From an early age we spectres were taught the importance of maintaining balance, and the necessity of combating those who seek to disrupt the balance. We learned, not to live, but to survive. Our dwellings reflect those teachings, humble domes with little access to light, set in the wilderness of the ether. More comfortable than the barracks we grew up in, if only because grass is softer than stone. As I plucked a blade of grass from the ground, a sliver of light invaded the room, an indication that my duo had returned from the conference.
Without looking up I asked, "How is life in the citadel?" I twirled the grass between my fingers.
A somber voice emanated from the figure in the doorway, "It is as expected Ezekiel, the section leaders are busy dealing with the new recruits. The chief expects senior guardians to be model spectres for them."
The chief is always pushing the senior spectres to rise above and be standouts. Section leaders have the responsibility to teach young spectres what they need to know, as well as run operations in their respected regions.
I flick the blade of grass, "So in other words, Chief Shannon assigned us to another mission. What could it be this time Reciful?"
Reciful closed the door and stepped toward the lower area of the dome, "I honestly have no idea, the chief wants us to receive a transmission on the whisp light in a few hours. Something big must have happened though, some of the council members seemed on edge."
"The two of us have not seen Earth in quite some time, the real question is how drastic things must be to reinstate us as section guardians."
Reciful moved to the whisp light and turned it on, setting the whisp to flame, "We most likely won't have much time to spare after the mission breifing, so let's eat while we can."
The whisp light, an interesting little invention, capable of being used as a method of communication or transportation, yet also with the capacity to provide heat and produce flames to cook on. For now it will be used as a cooking flame, in a few hours we will proceed to use it for the communication features, and if necessary, to transport us to the world below.
"Practical as ever Reciful, shall I make ragout then?"
Reciful bore a delighted grin, "If you would be so kind, do you need any help gathering the ingredients?"
"You need not get so delighted. I went hunting yesterday, the rabbits should be about ready, so there is no purpose to getting more than we can eat."
Reciful, my partner, is a born weapon specialist, and takes every chance he gets to prove it. On his last hunting expedition, Reciful tailed a wolf for 3 hours with a kitchen knife, and managed to slice through each of the wolf's larger teeth while also not receiving any bites or scratches. Since then I do hunting on my own time, and only allow him to gather fruits and vegetables.
"Sometimes you really take the fun out of being a spectre."
"We may have unique talents, but there is no legitimate reason to misuse our talents. Spectres are bred for a single purpose, anything that comes afterward is unnecessary."
Reciful let out a sigh, "Yes, I understand, that's why we're a team right? We both know how important it is to maintain the balance of this fragile world."
Reciful sat in silence as I prepared the ragout. As much as he hates to admit it, Reciful is not nearly as carefree as he seems. He knows what we do can be overwhelming, nevertheless he understands the tragedies that can occur if we don't take it seriously.
Hundreds of years ago the spectres on earth failed to maintain the balance of souls. Although I suppose it would be more accurate to say we did not realize someone was intentionally unbalancing the world. There was a war, on a scale like none others. Reciful and I both lost everyone we knew personally. The current chief, Shannon, was one of the many young spectres who were not participants, but were forced to bear the responsibility of rebuilding the world into what it used to be. Reciful and I are all that remain of our generation, the cursed generation. If everything had stayed the way it was, Reciful would probably be chief right now, he gave up that mantle to become my partner after the war, and the duty fell to Kimberly.
When the ragout was finished I grabbed two bowls and spoons and filled them with the meal, I handed one of the bowls as well as a spoon to Reciful, "We should eat it before it gets cold."
Reciful looked up, his flame colored hair illuminated by the whisp light, "Thank you for the meal," he said before lifting a spoonful of ragout to his mouth.
At that moment I noticed the flickering of the whisp light, someone was using the transportation function. A vibrant golden light showered the interior of the dome, and a figure appeared out of the light. A young looking girl walked out of the whisp light. Reciful once described her as, "a chesnut haired girl with adorable freckels, a passionate heart, and a gentle soul. She is the girl who will be our chief."
"Reciful had not mentioned you would be coming here, otherwise I would have put out another bowl. Make yourself at home chief."
The chesnut haired girl looked at me with a witty smile, "Pardon the intrusion, I never exactly told Reci I was coming, but I did have something important to discuss with the two of you, so surprise, here I am."
Reciful glanced at Shannon, a look of moderate irritation in his eyes, "How many times do I have to tell you not to call me Reci? It's rather embarrassing coming from you. By the way, your so-called intrusions happen multiple times a week, so it's not as much of a surprise as you seem to think."
While what Reciful said about Shannon being here is true, she never comes to brief missions in person.
"Relax Reciful, there is no harm done. Still, there must be some explanation as to why you wish to brief us in person."
Shannon stopped smiling, her face a canvas of seriousness, "The nature of this mission isn't something I wished to disclose in public. There have been...strange occurrences on earth recently, specifically in this one location."
Reciful's eyes narrowed and spoke slowly, "What do you mean by strange occurrences?"
"Many groups of witches and warlocks are gathering, and there are numerous vampires and werebeings as well. As far as we can tell there isn't any demon activity, but at this point it only seems like a matter of time." Shannon replied in a grim tone.
"The council wants us to investigate these happenings?" I asked tilting my head.
Reciful scoffed, "There's no way the council would have asked for us personally if they were only concerned demons may appear." Suspicion laced his voice, "What's really going on?"
Shannon glanced down nervously, "The council is concerned something else might be happening beneath the surface, so I'll be going with you as a supervising official."
Clarity dawned on me, "They think there may be a shade conspiring with local groups to disrupt the balance."
Shades, reapers who have lost their way. Soulless beings that go against the wishes of the council. They shatter the balance, spread chaos, and even attack their former allies. A group of shades were responsible for the last great war of our time, it would make sense that Reciful and I are two of the only spectres qualified to handle a shade if one were to emerge.
"But it's only a possibility, and we won't be the only spectres around if something does happen," Shannon muttered, "There's also a slayer headquarters in the city we'll be staying, we've been asked to help them protect the citizens during our investigation."
Reciful smiled softly at Shannon, "Don't worry, I'm sure the council just wants to proceed with caution. There isn't anything we won't be able to handle."
Shannon gave a grateful look towards Reciful. He always did know how to cheer people up.
"Even so Reciful, the council is not likely to overlook the possibility of all these groups working together. It is far too suspicious, and we cannot afford to get involved in trivial conflicts that have nothing to do with us. I assume that is part of the reason you will be supervising our investigation? It would be best for us to hear all the details now while we can think ahead."
Shannon sighed, "I've been trying to investigate for some time now, and Julia and I are getting nowhere by ourselves. There's too much ground to cover and we have to keep up appearances as well. We recently integrated into a middle school, in a district for the children of non-human bloodlines to live normal lives, and we're both heavily involved in a variety of clubs associated with slayers or the children of slayers. That's where you two will come in, Reciful will be investigating during the day under the guise of job searching. Zeke is going to be transferring into the local high school, while patrolling with the slayers at night."
Reciful rasied his eyebrows, "Job searching, school, club activities? What are you talking about?"
Shannon gave a wicked smile, "It's been a while since the two of you have gone down to the surface hasn't it? A lot of things have changed, and you should probably start learning. Julia and I would be glad to help you seniors in any way we can."
I folded my arms, "Putting our age aside, Reciful and I have separate roles for what reason?"
Shannon looked down, "The council doesn't entirely trust the two of you. They accepted my request to let you join the investigation under certain conditions."
Reciful shrugged, "I suppose it's to be expected, we've always done things our own way before. Although there is something I'm curious about, do you know anything about the new vampire rumors?"
"Oh yes, the dhampires right? Part vampire, part human. They have weaker mystical powers than vampires and aren't immortal, but also have none of the major weaknesses. They can walk around in daylight, and don't require the life essence of humans to survive normally. They are still capable of taking essence from others, and it vastly enhances or even awakens what power they do possess. At the same time, being neither fully human nor fully vampire has it's drawbacks. They aren't really accepted by any faction."
I blinked slowly, "I see, they exist in two worlds, and both worlds attempt to deny their existence."
Shannon crossed her arms and pursed her lips, "Oh, and I have a condition of my own by the way. We're going to have to do something about the way you speak, it's far too formal and rigid, you'll stand out more than necessary. Don't you worry, Julia has something to help you fix that."
Shannon and Julia are partners, the two are the current chief and sub-chief. Both females are highly respected on the surface, and on the spectre exams they scored higher than any individual in the last 1500 years. All spectres look up to them as the epitome of what a respectable guardian of the world should be.
Reciful flashed a grin, "Here that Z? The one and only sub-chief Julia is going to be looking out for you."
Shannon smiled in amusement, "Well...technically the two of you will be looking after us...as our older brothers that is."
Reciful stood with his mouth agape, "When did we become older brothers exactly?" I was as confused as Reciful, this mission was beginning to sound as though it were nonsense.
"A few moments ago when I stepped into this dome. Reci, you're going to be my older brother, and Z will be Julia's. We're going to be living together for a while."
I looked over at Reciful, still in shock from the sudden development. Every trace of fun seemed to have vanished from his mind.
I still had traces of skepticism in me, "Is all of this necessary for the completion of the mission?" I asked.
"It sure is, we need to blend as much as possible. No offense, but a flame-haired weapon enthusiast and his friend the 'somber soldier' stand out too much...if we're being perfectly honest that is." she said earnestly.
I had my misgivings, though nothing seemed particularly flawed about the chief's plan, "How vexing."
Reciful suddenly recovered, "Would you two slow down a moment or two? Let me see if I understand this correctly. The council is worried that a shade may be behind a series of strange occurrences, and you want Z and myself to help you a Julia find out what's going on? In order to do that we're going to pose as siblings, the three of you are going to go to school while I'm out hunting during the day, and at night we'll meet up with slayers and search the city at it's more dangerous time?"
Shannon smiled pleasantly,"I'm so glad you understand, explaining it to you again would have been a hassle."
The mission seemed fairly self-explanatory, "Class S combat equipment will more than likely be necessary if we want to be prepared for a potential shade. We would probably also appreciate class B observation equipment, a set of type 3 archaic runes, and perhaps several templates, it should be necessary to determine if things begin to get out of hand and we lose focus." I said as I walked toward a cabinet where Reciful and I keep our equipment. "Shall I assume you will be bringing along your umbrella as well Reciful?"
"Do I ever go anywhere without it?"
"Right, point taken."
Reciful, having been gifted with the ability to make a weapon out of practically anything designed an umbrella specifically for his personal use as a weapon. While I do not deny his abilities as a spectre, his choice of weapon makes little sense.
Shannon did not seem as though she understood what was going on, "Why would we need runes? It's not as though we're lacking in mystic prowess right?"
"Well for starters, Z has practically no affinity for the mystics as it is, and runes are much more versatile than traditional mysticism anyhow. Not to mention the simple fact that it greatly cuts down on the cost our psyches would normally bear. It would be rather troublesome for us to be caught off guard because we weren't cautious enough when dealing with the mystics."
Shannon appeared to be in disbelief, "How is it even possible for someone to have no affinity for mysticism? Aren't we all connected to the world beyond?"
"Some of us tend to be more sensitive to the connection than others, on those occasions it becomes drastically more difficult to maintain the connection without being consumed by it. My affinity for mysticism is low for the sole reason of not being able to maintain my connection with that world."