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You may recall, dear reader, that when I began telling you this story, I took special care to allow the unfortunate Plasma grunts to bandage their animals. While this seems like a trivial detail in the whole, it is important.
Because where I began telling the story isn’t where my story actually began.
In that sick room, where I sat, recovering from the procedure to my arm, I considered my terrifying and mysterious past; my downfall, and my return.
Revenant means return. I had returned.
I knew already how hard it was to lose a partner. Before I became part of the Delta Force, I belonged to a similar organization, the Pulse. I was twelve when I received Stormwing, the last dragon, my first partner.
Well, technically I did not receive him in the standard way; I was the only one who could tame him. Recalling it now, being Marnolian, a special affinity for dragons was already encoded into me, but when he was discovered, he gravitated towards me immediately, and we were inseparable from that moment on.
Stormwing was a brave friend, pushing me into situations that I otherwise would have avoided. He was a cunning ally and a risk-taker. He helped me gain my reputation as one of the best trained for my age.
But Stormwing was injured badly in a lightning strike when I was seventeen. We crash-landed in a forest during a thunderstorm. I rolled off his back unharmed, but he was nearly dying.
In a frenzy, I paced back and forth in the clearing, contacting the Pulse repeatedly for help. None came.
After hours, I believed that I was going mad. I sat beside the dragon as he rested, brushing aside my black hair. Stormwing’s breathing had steadied, but each breath was thin.
I looked up and started when I noticed a shadowy figure in the mist. I squinted my eyes to see who it was, but I could not identify it.
“Who are you?” I called.
I received no response.
The shadow was moving closer, but now it divided into two. I blinked a few times, but I was not losing my mind. There were two silhouettes approaching me.
“Identify yourselves!” I shouted according to protocol.
No answer, but the shadows split again. There were seven. Now they were within range that I could see their long, black robes.
I stood carefully, shaking in fear. I couldn’t build up the courage to say another word.
The seven began to encircle me. I rapidly watched around me, failing to keep track of them all. At least two of them were holding daggers.
I reached across my waist to grab the hilt of my sword to defend myself, but faster than I could act, two of them suddenly rushed forward and tackled me, and two more pinned down the weakened dragon. They tied my hands and feet and pushed me forward on my stomach. The two with knives parted ways, one standing behind me, and the other walking up to Stormwing. Then I was forced to watch.
The man with the dagger flanked the the dragon, examining its scales as if there was something valuable hidden between them. Then without warning, he raised his dagger and brought it down into Stormwing’s ribs, ending his life.
I nearly screamed, but one of the cloaked figures covered my mouth and nose, and another used his sword to **** my wrists. I could feel the wound bleeding profusely, but my screams could not escape their hold.
There was one black-cloaked figure there that had not moved since the ambush. He was obviously the tallest and thinnest. He extended his slim, white fingers and dipped them into the dragon’s bleeding heart. Then he came behind me. I could feel him fingering the cut on my hand. I inhaled sharply; it stung badly. He began to chant in some language I did not recognize at the time as he continued to mingle Stormwing’s blood with mine.
Suddenly, they cut my bonds. I stood in horror at what had happened, and I wanted to know what to do next, when I began to feel faint. I assumed it was the blood loss from my wrists, but I was wrong.
I’m not sure what happened, but when I came to, six of them were dead around me. The seventh was out of sight. The area was charred black.
And my hands were covered with blood.
I was found wandering the forest on my own six days later, sick, starving to death, and nearly falling over from delusion. I was rescued by Delta Force Agent Faylinn “Frost” Dawes, a tall, slim 29-year-old with short, bleached hair.
I barely remember it now, my thin, shaking figure bent over the ground, stumbling forward. When I saw her, I tried to walk to her, every step shaking, but I fell on my knees. She ran over to me, her arctic wolf Quicksilver racing alongside her to assist me. “Are you alright?”
I was delirious; my vision was swaying. I shivered. “I-I need t-… t-to g-get back… to Pulse…”
Frost examined me a little more closely, sadly, carefully. “What’s your name?”
I inhaled deeply and began to swoon. As dizzy as I was, I did not realize that I was breaking the number one rule of Pulse agents: Never tell anyone your true name.
“M-Madison. Please,” I begged, “I need to g-get back t-to Pulse…” My voice trailed off as I fainted.
The Delta Force was very kind to me and provided me with clean, dry clothes and a warm bed in their sick room. I knew from the way each nurse looked at me when they brought my food that I was not well enough to return to Pulse for a while. I barely noticed that my hair had transitioned from pitch black to amber red.
Five days after I was found, I was still feeling weak, but I was completely conscious and responsive. Frost finally came to visit me. “Hey, Madi. Feeling any better?”
I did not smile. “Madison, please. Not Madi. And even though I feel better, I don’t think I’m mission-ready.”
Frost chuckled. “Not yet,” she said. “So tell me more about you. You align with Pulse?”
“Yes,” I responded. “How soon can I go back?”
She looked at me with disappointed, ice blue eyes. “Actually,” she stated reluctantly, “that’s what I came to talk to you about.”
I knew the sadness in that voice. I inhaled sharply. “You… you don’t mean I can’t go back?”
“Now don’t jump to conclusions, dear,” Frost denied vigorously. Her response to my ****** expression told me that she immediately regretted calling me “dear”. Her voice shook. “W-we found concrete evidence that Pulse is trying to hunt you.”
That came as such a shock to me that I almost didn’t believe it. “Pulse? Hunting their best agent? B-but what does that have to do with Stormwing? Who was responsible for that?”
“We had a hidden camera in a tree in the location you were attacked. You were surrounded by seven mysterious men in cloaks, yes?”
“Those men **** your wrists to kill you. They used some Marnolian magic to change your blood into dragon blood, which is thinner and should have killed you faster, preventing you from using any sho commands to stop them. But upon analysis of the audio in the video, we discovered that the user of the magic was an amateur. He had not prepared the spell and thus didn’t realize that what he was doing was not only thinning your blood.”
I looked at my hands. The places where I expected to see bloody scars at my wrists were clean skin. They had healed completely.
“They accidentally gave you a new ability,” Frost continued, treading lightly on the subject. “We saw on the camera that you somehow transformed into a dragon and killed them all.”
“Madison, you’re a dragon.” She typed in a few numbers on her handheld and showed me a clip from the surveillance video.
I recoiled when I saw the force with which the cloaked swordsman had pierced the dragon’s ribs. The robed mage soaked his hand in the blood as my wrist was ****.
As I struggled to free myself, the others held me down, and the mage began to chant and mix the blood. But I noticed that the man was, in fact, pronouncing more than half of the Marnolian words incorrectly. Of the few I recognized, I heard the word drach and baramaga, the words for dragon and blood. But instead of kamor, transmute, he used kafor, transform. Perhaps that was why I didn’t recognize his language.
They cut my bonds, apparently trying to leave me to die. However, they started to murmur amongst themselves as I had stood up, evidently unfazed. My hair suddenly shot red, but I apparently didn’t notice. At the moment that coincided with my blackout, I began to grow to a larger size. My skin tinted bronze and gained a metallic sheen, then separated into hard scales. The wings extended from my shoulders and unfurled. My hands became claws, and my long, powerful tail appeared for the first time.
My feet hit the ground, and with a powerful roar, I rushed around them. The hooded men tried to run, but I blocked their escape with my tail.
The video feed paused where I had grabbed one of the seven and was beginning to put my claws through his chest. A slight splash of red was visible on my thumb claw.
I was stunned. I had caused that destruction?
“After analysis of the spell,” Frost sighed, “our specialists believe that you can transform at will. During our investigation, we also found evidence that Pulse was planning this for months.” She looked down at her lap with guilt. “Please forgive us, but we took your handheld and used it to hack the systems of Pulse. There are all sorts of files stating that you were growing too powerful for them, and they could not risk a mutiny. The documents list the seven agents asked to carry out this task, who also agreed that if you were to disagree with Pulse, you were capable of destroying it.”
She opened one of the documents on her own handheld, allowing me to read the words.
Classification: TOP SECRET
Objective: Agent Draco Thunder is growing too dangerous for Pulse. If she were to turn on Pulse, or even join Plasma, she could destroy the organization. Your mission is to incapacitate her and kill her and her dragon partner as quickly and quietly as possible.
The document went on to list some of my more impressive feats as evidence that I was more than capable to bringing Pulse to its knees. It almost made me smile. However, what struck me hardest were the names.
Agent Terence Dawson, codename White Rabbit
Agent Verity Sephith, codename Vixen Winter
Agent Renee Larson, codename Diving Raven
Agent Joseph Casten, codename Direwolf Baron
Agent Warren Jenkins, codename Lionheart
Agent Robin Adkins, codename Silver Tiger
Agent Kendall Cory, codename Bear King
I knew all these people. I disliked some of them, like Verity and Warren. Some of them I only had seen a few times, like Renee or Terence. Some of them had earned my respect, namely Joseph and Robin.
But the name Kendall Cory, or as we liked to call him, “Bear”, made all kinds of red flags pop up in my head.
I loved Bear. He had been probably my best friend in the corps. He was stealthy and serious, but he could still have a good time. He was not as tough of an agent as he looked, but he was able, smart, and inventive. Seeing his name on the list was a shock. Why would he agree to this mission?
Over the next few weeks, I learned to master my abilities, a little bit at a time. The other agents who were helping to train me were impressed, and they gave me the codename Agent Bronzewing, because of the color of my scales.
The dragon blood began to affect me physically as a human as well. Most notably, I aged more slowly, so even at 21, I still look like a 17-year-old.
Watching the video again and again, I was again reminded that one of the seven agents had escaped my wrath on the day I was transformed. He had probably gone back to Pulse and reported the mission failure. I began to believe that my greatest asset was my identity. It was around that time that I started to wear my black mask.
“Put on this special glove,” Frost told me, extending a heavy leather glove.
I slipped it on my left hand. It was quite comfortable. Now Frost helped me to adjust my hand position. “Hold it out, and that will signal your new partner.”
I didn’t know what I was going to think. It would be difficult to replace Stormwing as both a partner and a friend. Even so, I reluctantly held out my hand.
“Now close your eyes…”
I understood this was the element of surprise, but I freaked out when something weighted on my arm. I tensed up and didn’t dare to peek.
I heard Frost’s friendly chuckle. “Alright, you can open them!”
I leaned away from the glove as I opened my eyes. I half expected a wolf or a snake to be biting on it.
Instead I found a fluffy brown owlet, about the size of my head. He cooed and blinked at me.
“Madison,” Frost introduced me, “this is Darwin.”
Faylinn “Frost” Dawes and her arctic wolf Quicksilver disappeared without a trace a year later, along with another friend of mine, Charlie “Whiplash” Gordon and his monkey Motley. Frost noted in a message to Mission Control that Whiplash had been captured by Plasma, and after the analysis team attempted hacking his handheld, it was found to be likely that he had defected to Plasma. After sending one more cryptic message back to HQ that was mysteriously deleted the day after it was received, Frost was never seen again.
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