AURASTORM

The Coming Storm

© 2004 Myrystyr


    From nowhere, a wind rose. Stunted bushes clung to the ridge, having survived worse before. Small animals, sensing something, quickly disappeared.

    Sharandar turned and leaned on his staff, breathing heavily as he looked back over his shoulder. No one was following him. Not surprising, given the last village he'd visited had withered under a sudden plague. The half-elf had left before the insular goatherds and basket-weavers could blame him.

    But not before falling ill himself. Sharandar had spent three days curled in a small cave, shivering and sweating and fouling himself, wondering if he was going to live. He had, but knew he shouldn't be up and about so soon. Let alone fleeing for his life.

    Behind the lone wanderer, barren hills twisted their way to a streaked horizon. No one was coming after him - no one mortal, at least. Even now, clouds shredded and regathered into a looming visage.

    It was useless to run, but Sharandar did anyway. He had been running from the talking storms for over a year now. They were finding him more frequently of late. The last time had been a week ago.

    The half-elf cursed as he stumbled down the slope. Why couldn't they leave him alone? He'd crossed most of Samuria and halfway back again, zigzagging from one settlement to the next. The longest he'd been able to stay among people had been a month. He'd even found a girl he could have made a life with.

    Not that there was much of a life an untrained nobody could offer to someone who'd never known hardship.

    Thunder boomed, as the air temperature plummeted. Sharandar stumbled again, this time gashing his knee. Exhausted, trembling, he bowed his head. "Not again," he whispered thickly. A tear shuddered on his eyelid, but he refused to let it fall. "Not let them win."

    So saying, he started to crawl through the thorns. Perhaps he could hide. Perhaps he'd be ripped to shreds before he was caught. Tangling his now damp hair, thorns clawed a bloody sheen of despair onto his face.

    "SHARANDAR! ANSWER YOUR FATE."

    He bit his lip. Too many times, he would cry his defiance and thus give himself away. He refused to glance back, knowing what he would see: a huge tornado, wobbling like a fat dancer, with a towering angry face slowly revolving into view.

    "SHARANDAR! ANSWER YOUR FATE."

    It was closer now, the deep heavy sound pounding at his ears and shaking him to his bones. The half-elf stopped moving and lay absolutely still. Rain slicked his ragged tunic to the ground. Wind tossed a fallen branch onto his backside with a painful crack.

    "SHARANDAR! ANSWER YOUR FATE."

    A tiny part of his mind wondered how the storms could track him; he had given up asking why. Another tiny part of his mind noted these were no ordinary Aura Storms.

    Cold, wet, miserable, Sharandar repressed a shudder. The storm's roar was almost directly above him now. In front of his eyes, stunted plants began to writhe and grow and change. The ground shifted. Sharandar closed his eyes, not daring even a silent prayer.

    No more significant than a tiny insect, surely the storm would pass him by. The crazed wind quietened, the rain lashed less feverishly. Had the storm passed? Sharandar risked a glance upwards.

    Right into the roiling eye of the storm.

    Sharandar screamed as he hurtled upwards in the grasp of some unseen force. Every hair on his body rose as the air shimmered, like oily ripples on a pond, about him. Through the contracting walls of air, he caught glimpses of the changed terrain. Power and knowledge coursed into his soul, as the storm squeezed like a giant fist.

    Abruptly, the storm was gone. The limp, now-naked form hovered briefly in mid-air - then fell.

    Sharandar landed amid the grass on hands and knees. He rose slowly, surveying his surroundings. Yes, this was where he would begin his new life's work.