Fallen Sunset Part One

Home is behind, the world ahead

And there are many paths to tread

Through shadow, to the edge of night

Until the stars are all alight

Mist and twilight

Cloud and shade

All shall fade

All shall fade…

-The Lord of the Rings

On the warm, blue planet Fallen, ice is a rarity and snow next to unknown. The only cold, in most populated places, comes from machines created for the purpose of synthesizing coldness. Everywhere people are, the sun shines with a brilliant white light, giving warmth and life to the towering, glowing plants, and the multitudes of diverse people.

Knowing this, the frozen island and floating icebergs of Gressnost comes as a great surprise to Noreus Cestorn, as do the apparent lack of life and the unusual, needle-leaved trees. An arctic environment is completely alien to him, yet he presses on, dropping from his small boat into foot-deep powdery snow.

He stands nearly seven feet tall, average for his people, and for the most part lightly built, with hollow bones and slender hands and feet, the only exception being his powerful shoulders and upper back, where enormous, white-feathered wings curve around his body, protecting him from most of the wind. A black cloth tunic of mourning wraps around his broad chest, bearing the symbol of Ventraedan worship.

Noreus is a Seraph, one of the three known intelligent races in the Universe, and the only to follow the divine wisdom of Ventraedi. He regards the white blanket of ice with black eyes, metallic silver irises focusing on a structure of peculiar design in the near distance, a temple of some sort. Again, completely alien.

But after all, alien is just what he needs. Different. Special. Anything to replace the stagnant mediocrity of his rank, or the disapproving and disappointed stares of his father and brothers. After his shameful demotion by High Priest Dackorec Seraph, Noreus is little more than a private, barely more than a child in the eyes of civilized Seraphic society.

Pride, he knows, is a sin, one of the worst. He should have accepted his situation as the work of Ventraedi and offered a prayer of thanks for the lesson in humility… but he'd found it impossible. He'd knelt before his small shrine and tried his best to feel the empty words spilling from his mouth by rote, and after hours of meditation had simply stood up, announced to his wife that he was going out, and taken the family's airboat out to sea.

Perhaps, he muses, a new and different place will assuage my crisis of faith. Perhaps some clue or knowledge exists in the hidden corners of this world to make me whole again. To help me accept my place in life.

Or perhaps the bitter chill and inhospitable air will kill him, and send him on to what awaits. Whatever that may be.

In a warmer ocean, a thousand miles away, a very different ship carries several very different people above the waves, all of whom Noreus Cestorn would like to personally strangle for various reasons. The silver-bottomed sky yacht, with great sweeping lines and a tapered stern, smooth wooden deck, and hastily spray-painted black and white circle next to the name Silverleaf is the picture of luxury and pleasure.

None aboard, however, are focused on enjoying themselves. Huddled around a single display in the roomy cockpit are four unlikely young people, eyes fixed on the screen which will let them know when they enter communications distance with Halfmoon Grove, and finally discover the fate of their home.

Oden sits in the pilot's chair, framed by his friends. The oldest person on the boat at the age of twenty-one, he is a somewhat skinny young man, one step above delicate in build, with short, bristling red hair and green eyes, but surprisingly well-bronzed skin. His long-fingered hands work with skill over the ship's controls, though a very slight shake betrays his nervousness.

Laying a hand on his shoulder is Kari, a tomboyish girl of nineteen, with multicolored hair only inches longer than Oden's. She alternates between leaning her head on top of his, and glancing at the various displays with no comprehension of their meaning whatsoever. Baffled as always by machinery, she trusts her friends to keep track of them.

Aelia Gageruek, one of the only people on the boat who wears her birth name, sits upright in the copilot chair, hands in her lap, eyes fixed on the horizon where the slightest line of landmass is visible. She occasionally shares a glance with the last person in the room, a relatively tall boy with broad shoulders, scruffy black hair, and the most obvious look of outright concern on his face.

"Don't worry, Evan. I'm sure we'd know by now if something was wrong."


"…okay, good point. Still, there's no sense in getting all worked up over potentially nothing."

Evan leans forward, a hand on both chairs, drawing a look of surprise from Oden. "Potentially nothing? I told you, those Pteros traders had our comm code and they were headed here. Where Sebastean lives. The only way those Seraphs could have found us is by capturing them, and that means they probably got them here!"

Kari looks uncomfortable. "I keep saying I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault, Kari," Aelia quickly interrupts whatever Evan and Oden both try to say. "Don't blame yourself for other people's cruelty. We didn't hurt those traders, we didn't attack Nostlack, and we have done nothing but try to exist for the past month and a half. You have nothing to feel bad about."

Oden coolly mutters, "Would be nice if I knew why you were trading numbers with a random guy, though…" while staring straight ahead.

Kari rounds on him, standing up and away from the chair. "Oh, listen to you mister no-reason-to-be-exclusive! You're gonna act like the world is ending because I thought some guy was cute, that's real mature-"

"The world is not ending!" Aelia almost shouts, silencing the room. "And what is happening is something we need to deal with. At this point it doesn't matter why. Let's just get home."

The radio beeps. "Signal Range. Contacting Landing Strip."

Everyone goes silent, listening. After a moment, Oden leans down to a microphone, looking hesitant. He speaks in a halting voice, trying to sound confident. "Pteros boat Silverleaf, calling Halfmoon control. Come in, control. How're things?"

A long, long couple of seconds pass. Everyone looks at each other.

Evan finally breaks the silence. "There's nobody there?"

"Could be they're busy," Oden murmurs, sounding unconvinced. "Could be. But we'd get some kind of automated-"

"Halfmoon control is experiencing technical difficulties. Please proceed to empty landing pad and remain aboard until an operator can assist you. Thank you for your understanding."

"Creepy." Aelia mutters. "Okay, I officially have a bad feeling now. I've changed my mind, something's up."

"Why? That was just a help message."

"No way. Have you ever been to the skydock? Evan, you remember. We waited an hour for a single boat to show up! I refuse to believe they're suddenly so busy there's no time to say 'hold on'. This stinks."

Kari nods. "Aelia's right. I did some volunteer shifts there. I read a book. A whole book. There's nothing happens there."

Evan says nothing, although a comment about slow reading speed comes to mind. His one skill in his Earth life was that he could finish a book in a matter of hours. He can't seem to get over his disdain for those who don't appreciate literature.

"Okay, good points. What do you suggest, Aelia?" Oden puts in.

Aelia looks thoughtful for a moment. "We need somewhere to put down that isn't Halfmoon, but close enough that we can walk there and check things out quietly." She closes her eyes, looking pained. "Guess there's one place we could try."

"Already took care of it." Sebastean says, stalking into the room. A tall, slender young man of eighteen, with black hair and the odd inverse eyes of a Seraph, despite the fact that he isn't one, he wears an expression of satisfaction. "The people in my gang who stayed behind had specific instructions to bring everyone to my place if anything happened. Either they're there, or everyone's caught already."

Evan frowns. Sebastean's gang. His little gaggle of Channelers, trained for combat specifically to protect Halfmoon from the errant Seraphs who'd occasionally take a shot at killing Sebastean out of religious fervor.

Upon learning that Sebastean had assembled a private army, and that he'd been marked as the newest member, Evan had developed a minor grudge at the idea of being pressed into service as a bodyguard. And then he'd been part of a violent raid to rescue the captured Sebastean, in the process learning the nature of his own abilities as a Channeler. As a fighter. Now, accepting that the war is going to be a part of his life, Evan sighs.

There's no escaping the struggle, no matter where you travel.

Aelia looks angry. "That was not appropriate, Sebastean. You're not in charge of those people, you should have talked to me before you gave orders to the entire town."

"Congratulations on your surprise election, Ms. Mayor." Sebastean remarks, drawing a glare from Aelia.

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"Means you're not the 'ruler' of Halfmoon either. And I don't need to consult with you, or anyone, before I tell people where they might be safe. There was no time for a committee, and I knew they'd be safe at Whitewall. So pipe down and let's go."

Evan looks around the room and realizes everyone is glaring at one another, in varying degrees. It reminds him of home, which is to say makes him extremely uncomfortable. "Guys, we're on the same side here. Aelia, Sebastean made a call without telling you, and that pisses you off, but it turns out that's the first safe place you think of, so why was he wrong? Let's just keep moving and try to stay not crazy."

Aelia looks at him steadily, like she's ready to say something harsh, but finally smiles. "You'll make a better warrior than any of us, in the end. Your first instinct is to find the peaceful way." The tension in the room seems to dissipate. "Evan's right. Sebastean, I'm sorry I snapped at you. Wanna put in the coordinates? I don't know them."

"Fine. Oden, hop up," Sebastean starts to say, when the Silverleaf is rocked by an explosion from underneath, pitching to one side and whining with the strain of remaining upright.

"What the hell was that?" Evan shouts over the alarms, scrambling to look out the front window, searching frantically for any source of attack. "There! Look! It's a whole bunch of ships, they're shooting at us!"

Far below, only a few dozen feet above the crashing, monster-infested sea, are five bus-sized white airships, rounded at the front and sweeping back to a point, like stylized feathers in their pilots' expansive Seraph wings. Harsh-looking cannons mounted to the bow of each boat are erupting with reddish bursts of cohesive energy, some of which are coming dangerously close to the Silverleaf. As Evan watches, another bolt pounds the lower part of the ship, sending everyone but Kari tumbling.

Oden heaves himself back into the pilot's chair. "I can't lose them at this altitude. I'm taking us down. Aelia, Kari, try and take out the boats, Sebastean you're on monster duty. Evan… I don't know. See what you can do." As everyone scrambles to leave the cockpit, minus an overwhelmed Evan, Oden settles into his chair and grips the control levers, muttering to himself harshly.

"Uh… where should I go?" Evan asks no one in particular. Sebastean pulls his arm roughly, eyes already flashing with headache-inducing black light. "Observation deck. Move."

The Silverleaf screams into a steep dive, plummeting towards the ocean at frightening speed, pulling level perhaps ten feet from the deadly waves, swerving like a slalom skier to avoid the crests. Seraphic weapon fire hisses into the waves with every near miss, sending up geysers of steam and occasionally blackish blood when they strike one of the massive predatory beasts lingering just below the surface.

Evan scrambles up the spiral stairs, stumbling with every step, grabbing the rail and sometimes the floor to avoid hitting his head, doing his best to move with the ship's bucking evasive motions. Emerging onto the observation deck, a raised platform designed for looking at the night sky, Evan looks around for his friends.

Aelia and Kari dash across the rear deck, eyes igniting with blue and white light respectively, Aelia already thrashing her arms gracefully, calling massive torrents of water up from the waves to buffet the pursuing Seraph attackers. As Evan watches, a hundred-foot blade, liquid but honed to razor-sharpness, cleaves through the leftmost boat, sending both halves spinning down into the ocean. The other four pilots must be more talented, however, and evade her attacks, though just barely.

Kari, meanwhile, startles Evan by leaping fearlessly into the air, twisting improbably to avoid errant weaponfire, drawing her unusual blunt sword as she lands lightly atop the center boat. She swings it like a golf club, tearing a hole in the ship's roof, then shears off the cannon with a lateral attack. Somehow her edgeless blade carves through the Seraph steel with little resistance, sending showers of sparks cacading around, as she drops into the ship through the gash she's carved.

Evan grips the railing as the Silverleaf sweeps around in a near-circle, pitching heavily to starboard, allowing Sebastean, who's standing on the bow, to lash out with one hand and devastate one of the pursuing boats as they fly past, sending a storm of shadows to slice through the steel as though it were made of paper. Smoke erupts from the dozens of cuts, and the ship lists to one side and crashes into the sea.

"You going to do anything?" Sebastean calls to Evan, half laughing. "I know this must be fun to watch! Blast something!"

Evan, feeling somewhat ashamed, quickly Channels, and the blurred chaos of the battle instantly shifts into a high-definition frenzy of obvious activity. Every errant drop of water becomes visible, every bolt from the Seraph boats slows down into a sphere of pulsing red light. The clean, calming scent of Fallen's freshwater ocean, mixed with the sulphur smell of monster blood, almost makes him cry with pleasure and retch at the same time.

And Evan's body comes alive with the power that's only just begun to feel familiar, radiant energy pulsing from his skin, in time with his quickening pulse. Directing his gaze and his willpower at one of the two unharmed enemies, he raises a hand and makes a mental effort, desiring the ship to fall, needing his friends to be safe, desperately wanting the power to preserve himself-

-And with a sound like thunder and reverberating bass notes, a fist-thick bar of blue-white light, like starlight, he realizes, bursts from his extended hand and streaks across the sky, sizzling in Evan's enhanced ears whenever it passes through a drop of water, slamming into the Seraph boat like a hammer.

A chunk of the boat's side is torn away, and the boat swerves awfully, but it remains airborne and quickly resumes the chase, firing all the while, now directing it's attacks at Evan. His eyes widen as a ball of tumbling fire approaches him, slow enough to notice but too fast to dodge, and without thinking he raises his left arm in a defensive posture.

The firebolt splatters against a wall of blue-white crackling energy, sending the dissipated sparks all around Evan in a halo of fire, but he somehow remains unharmed. Apparently, he realizes, he can do more than just laser things. Good to know.

Taking aim again, Evan pummels the already damaged boat with energy blasts, blocking another attack with an invisible wall, and finally scores a hit through the front viewport, causing an explosion to rock the boat from within, sending it tumbling down into the sea.

"One left!" Kari calls from the sky, leaping from the ruined boat back to the Silverleaf, eyes still alight with a white glow. Her booted feet lightly touch down on the deck, just as her victims' boat gently swerves into a swell and is attacked by a monster that looks like a shark the size of a football field, but with many trailing tentacles.

Indeed, only one Seraph boat remains, clearly manned by a skillful pilot, artfully dodging the combined efforts of Aelia and Evan, jerking around too much for even Kari to catch. Bolts of fire pour from it's cannon, sometimes strking the Silverleaf with enough force to rock it, causing the ship to skim the deadly waters every few seconds.

Sebastean calls out, from the bow, "This isn't gonna work! We've got monsters up the ass, guys, we have to get higher up,-"

And is cut off by a hideous roar, a sound like a hundred shrieking children fleeing a blazing building, and a beast emerges from the waves that haunts Evan's dreams forever. The blue glow fades from his skin, his power lost in the lapse of concentration, but the image of one of Fallen's sea creatures remains clear as ever. The details are simply too big to miss.

A hundred feet ahead, the top half of a head breaches the crystal sea, ridged and armored, then levers up and away to reveal a mouth full of yellow teeth, each half as tall as Evan himself. Multple whipping tongues lash out and around, frantically, as though trying to escape the beast.

And naturally the Silverleaf is hurtling directly towards that open, waiting abyss. Paralyzed by fear, Evan struggles to regain his composure enough to try and attack the monster, desperately trying to Channel, the Seraph ship behind all but forgotten. Frustrated by the flickers of light dancing over his arms and hands, dizzy at the fading and sharpening of his vision, Evan barely notices the dark, confusing shape that leaps from the bow of the boat and streaks across the sky, hurtling towards the monster with blinding speed.

Sebastean's shoulder strikes the beast's snout with the force of a comet, raising that jarring, horrific scream again, the chorus of fear, and Evan winces as Sebastean secures himself to the armored plates with black, ephemeral claws, Channeled from his fingers. With a mighty effort, he yanks the gigantic snout off to one side, tormenting the ponderous creature with slashes of dark nothing across it's many eyes, distracting it from the hunt just enough to manipulate it.

As Evan jumps the railing and slides down the Silverleaf's hull, landing heavily on the front deck, Aelia appears at his side, arms raised and muscles flexed, eyes shining with sea-storm fury, and the waves themselves begin to push the monster away, despite it's powerful thrashing. Fins like the sails of a massive boat emerge from the water, splashing with thunderous effect against a sea that refuses to cooperate.

Oden's voice comes over a loudspeaker, frantic: "What the hell are you doing up there? I'm still taking hits from that boat, Evan, it's all you!"

"Right!" Evan shouts, although certainly Oden can't hear him, and sprints to the stern, slipping on the soaked deck, still trying to focus enough to Channel. The boat gives a terrible lurch as a Seraph bolt strikes one of the loft sparcs, listing hard to port, swerving away from the thrashing leviathan just before an errant fin comes down with a crash.

A massive splash fills the air, rocking the boat even harder, and Evan finds himself tumbling end-over-end into the crystal sea, concern giving way to mindless, animal fear.

The familiar whooshing sound fills his ears, and bizarrely he thinks of jumping into his friend's pool at a cookout, on Earth, when he was much younger. The memory comforts him for one fraction of a second-

-Then he opens his eyes underwater, in the warm, freshwater ocean, frantically looking around for any sign of the Silverleaf, but of course a flying ship leaves no wake in the sea, and in every direction is nothing but monsters, monsters, increasingly interested monsters.

It's enough to inspire intense focus. At last, the sensation of Channeling slams into his body, the strength of his desperation becoming literal strength, and with a sense of relief, Evan swims hard for the surface.

He's almost there when a confusing feeling envelops his left ankle, like intense pressure, and looks down to see the jaws of a man-sized monstrosity attempting to clamp down on him, teeth held centimeters away by a crackling barrier of blue-white fire, a protective cuff. Still, the creature holds him down, and a dozen others like it are closing in, apparently to help their brother feast.

Not good, Evan decides. His clear, enhanced vision begins to dull somewhat, and he realizes he needs air. Focusing his willpower, he lashes out at the fish-thing with both hands, and a blast of the same bluish energy explodes from his palms, wounding the creature terribly and pushing what remains of it away with considerable force.

The current created by releasing his power underwater helps him to rise, pushing his face above the surface, and he looks around for the Silverleaf while gulping down deep breaths of air. About fifty feet away, Sebastean still struggles with the monstrous beast, the screams of terrified children erupting at intervals from it's meat-grinder throat. As Evan looks on, Sebastean conjures a sort of lance from nowhere and drives it into one of the monster's few remaining eyes, eliciting the worst roar yet.

A feeling of dread overtakes Evan, a mental vibration from below, and he looks down into a nightmare. Another of the gigantic, armored creatures rushes up from the deep, emerging from the darkness with astonishing speed, directly beneath him, eyes fixed on his Channeling glow, and he realizes he's made himself a target.

He gathers his will, Channeling as much energy into an attack as he can, brightening his glow dramatically, sending a foot-wide beam of white light directily down the beast's open mouth.

It's barely slowed down, flinching awfully but never straying. As the hundred tongues emerge from it's long, deep mouth, Evan feels a peculiar rush of motion, not, he recalls, unlike the strange feeling of death…

…but instead of being dead, he finds himself hurtling through the air, inches ahead of whipping, barbed tongues, dragged onboard the Silverleaf among a torrent of seaswaterby Aelia's power.

"You all right, Evan?" She asks, kneeling to examine him, but he waves her off. "Those things are drawn to Channeling. We've got to finish this soon, it's just gonna get worse."

"It can get worse?" Aelia jokes darkly, but she's already on her feet and headed to the helm, kicking open the jammed automatic door. Apparently she says something to Oden, because the boat begins to climb upward, out of the range of the sea beasts, followed now only by the lone Seraph pursuer.

Evan looks out over the sea at the thrashing forms of monstrous creatures, a long trail of chaos, left in the wake of the Silverleaf's battle. All drawn to the surface by their powers… or perhaps just his.

Far off to one side, the coast waits, looking serene. A jutting cliffside, coated in glinting blue trees, looks very familiar, and he realizes how close they are to Halfmoon Grove. It's strange to think that there could be this much craziness, this close to such a wonderful place…

…And with that thought, a sense of vengeance overtakes him. He's finally found a home, a place to belong, and once again some arbitrary authority has reared it's over-entitled head and taken notice. Once again someone has put themselves above everyone else and decided to wrest peace and contentment from the grasp of deserving people.

That makes Evan angry.

Unaware of rising, Evan plants his feet and gathers his will, mentally targeting the weaving Seraph boat, ignoring all else. The monsters, the Silverleaf, his friends, even Aelia disappear into a void, and when Evan speaks, the world leans in to listen.

"I need you gone," Evan calls out at the enemy, and a burst of blinding starlight lances from his open palms, erasing the boat from existance. No fire, no pieces, no trace of the machine remains to tumble into the awaiting ocean, simply a rapidly fading trail of light, motes of blue-white dwindling into nothingness.

The world comes crashing back in, and Evan's knees suddenly feel weak. "Oden!" he shouts, stumbling towards the cockpit, "Oden! We're clear! Get us out of here!"

Sebastean lands heavily on the deck, conjured black wings unraveling into wisps, grinning and wiping brackish monster blood from his face. "All aboard! Next stop, Whitewall!" He casually jogs into the cockpit, pulling his ruined shirt off and casting it overboard. The soaked garment dissolves mid-flight, curling away like smoke.

The ship slows, then banks to port, heading for a spot on the coast several miles south of Halfmoon, whining slightly with damage but flying true. Evan allows himself to sit down on the deck, starlight draining from his body like water from a sink. Exhaustion takes hold, pulling at his eyelids with a vengeance.

"You did well, Evan." Aelia sits down beside him, pulling the moisture from his clothes with a yanking gesture, then leans her head against the cabin. "I'm sorry life has gotten so hectic. It's not supposed to be this way."

"C'est la vie, I guess."

"What?" Aelia looks sideways at him, snowy eyebrows raised.

"Oh, right. What, there's no French people here? It means 'that's life', basically. I keep forgetting you're not from Earth."

Aelia laughs. "I don't know what French means, but I assume it's a country. No, most new halfmooners are either 'American' or 'Canadian'. Apparently your location on your homeworld roughly corresponds with where you pop up here. Some people think it's not really a different planet, so much as a different dimension. It would explain a lot."


"Like how three different races exist in the known universe, yet we're almost identical, from our basic shape, number of fingers, that sort of thing, down to details like nervous systems. It's scientifically impossible."

Evan nods. "So really, we're all just different ends of the same road."

"That's one theory."

"Makes me wish more people thought that way. Maybe there wouldn't be so much fighting. Maybe people would concentrate on real problems, instead of just what color and whatever else people are."

Aelia shakes her head sadly, then leans on Evan's shoulder, white braids falling around his arm. They watch the every-color sunset in silence, waiting for whatever comes next, as the Silverleaf streaks over a crystal sea towards a safe place.

Noreus Cestorn pulls a great stone door open, finally, after an hour of pushing away snow. A blast of stagnant air assaults his senses, reminding him of the tiny dormitories of his military training.

Going underground terrifies him on a primal level, but Cestorn is a trained warrior. Fear is a reaction; courage is a choice. The path of least resistance is for the lesser races. Gritting his teeth, Cestorn tucks his wings in close and enters the dark building.

What he finds there, at the end of a long, dark hallway, brings a smile to his tired face. His throat is dry, his lips cracked and glued together by the arctic wind, but he finds the word easily enough.


Sickly, insane laughter echoes across the snowy fields, only heard in a place far away.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Welcome back to Fallen, everyone! This time out, I'm taking the story in a more driven direction, and I've got a real plan for where things are going to go. There will be new faces and some old ones will end up in new places. Stay tuned, the best is on the way.

Thanks for reading, as always.