Bryant heard the sound of Adan's dog whistle. It was something he'd heard only two or three times before, but he knew that it was a summons for him, and him alone. Something important had to have happened. He considered staying where he was- it might be that Adan just wanted to talk to him. But why would he blow the whistle for something so small as a conversation?
A second blow of the whistle pointed out the direction, and he headed that way. It wasn't far, just a few hundred yards away from Adan's house. He came out of the trees to find Adan in a somewhat distracted mood, holding a letter that he didn't appear to have quite read yet.
"I just got this," Adan said, turning to him. "It's from your father, but I haven't read it. I wanted you here first."
Bryant was curious, but cautious. The last time a letter had come, he was six, and he couldn't remember what it had said. Adan gave the letter to him- he didn't much like reading out loud.
I hope this letter finds you in a better situation than I am. How are Raven and Bryant doing? Please tell me that they have encountered no trouble. As for me, I was captured that day seven years ago, when I wrote the last letter. That was what let them catch up to me.
Let me clarify the situation: I was having pretty much a normal day. There was a vague rainy smell about, and I was near a river, so the river smell wasn't unusual. The next thing I knew, there were water kitsunekage after me, and they were huge. I kept well out of their reach until I stopped to write the letter and give it to a crow. I was far enough ahead to write it, but when I'd finished, they had caught up, slow as they were.
I did run for a while after that, but I couldn't regain my lead. Eventually, they cornered me. They must not have wanted to fight, so instead, I got a jet of water to the face, and you know what water does to me.
It turned out that they had been hired to capture any fire-types, like me, who wandered into the area. I was taken, blindfolded, to a compound, and that's where I am still. There are only a few others left; the rest have been sold, to whom and for what, I don't know. I have been here so long that I have just recently been given permission to send one letter a month to any friends or family. I cannot reveal the location.
There are more water kitsunekage acting as guards. They're starting to get suspicious because I've been writing for so long- I have to end this letter. Take care of my family.
Bryant didn't say a word, but handed the letter back to Adan. He had to process what he'd just read somewhere else, where he could voice his thoughts and possibly write them out, just to make sure he untangled all the knots.
Adan must have understood, for although he hadn't started reading yet, he let Bryant leave without commenting. But when he thought Bryant was too far away to hear, he whispered, "If only William could have seen you now..."
Bryant slipped away to his favorite thinking place, high up in an oak so old it could have held a house. It would have, were it closer to the village. Half the houses were in trees.
But the size was beyond the point. It was quiet and isolated, a good place to be. He needed to clear his mind.
He started with what he knew. The strangers had been after his mother, not him. He was only an extra. Now his mother was dead, so he would be the only target.
He had blacked out twice that day- that was very strange. It usually only happened once in a while, maybe every other week. There was a reason; apparently, his body was adjusting to prepare for the fiery abilities that came with his blood. How it caused him to black out, he had no idea.
The letter was probably strangest of all; not that it had been written, but that it had arrived at all, and at this time especially. It had to be coincidental; there was no other explanation. The crow must have already known the way to Cohron. If not, it must have had directions. Bryant didn't doubt that the bird was smart enough to follow them.
A few graifseng had made their nests in the tree. They were odd creatures about the size of a housecat, with bronze beaks and forelegs. Their pelts were varying shades of gray, and their batlike wings were brown. They also had red markings around the eyes, and the tufts on the ends of their tails were the same color. They were a genetically engineered species.
One flew down to Bryant. It was a younger one, not quite so large as its parents yet. The creatures had taken an inexplicable liking to him, and that one showed it by spitting out a tiny bird, a brown creeper, onto his lap. The bird fluttered away, and the graifseng looked a little disappointed.
Bryant absentmindedly scratched the creature's throat, where the fur was thickest. It was unnerving that it had showed him the creeper. The brown creeper, a common but rarely sighted bird, was the symbol of Cohron. It sounded superstitious, but the fact that the young male had caught a creeper almost seemed like a sign of what was to come. The ninja of Cohron, in fact, were sometimes referred to as brown creepers themselves.
He dismissed it as just another coincidence. Still, he couldn't sit inactive for long, so he gave the graifseng a final pet and stood up. When he climbed down and began to leave, it followed him.
He was almost back to the village when something huge rushed overhead, momentarily covering the sky. The wind from its massive wings nearly flattened Bryant. It could have been Adan, whose soulform (an animal, worldly or fantastical, that a person, usually kitsunekage, could transform into) was a nether falcon. A true nether falcon was a bit larger than a gyrfalcon, but the typical soulform was large enough to catch a car.
But it didn't seem quite right to be Adan; it was too large, and the wrong shape. In fact, it looked rather like the creature currently perched on his shoulder.
The young graifseng flew after whatever it had been. It was heading straight for the village. Bryant reasoned that if the graifseng was interested, it should be safe to go ahead.
As it turned out, he didn't have to go anywhere. The soulform was indeed a graifseng, and once Bryant had taken a few steps, it crashed through the forest and fixed its gaze on the boy. It was massive, large enough not just to catch a car, but to eat one. However, it didn't seem to be cars on the menu- just ninja.ns22.214.171.124da2