The room goes quiet, Sacate's eyes dancing over each of us, skipping the two Bado in the room in his plea for help. Skychaser and Skyswain also stare at us in their plea, the former looking at me intensely. I am slightly uncomfortable with the birdman staring at me instead of Johnny, our leader.


Why is he looking at me? Faces turn all around to gauge each other's reactions. Still, Skychaser just concentrates on me, his piercing eyes unmoving and determined. Awkwardly, I wave a finger at him, the birdman sitting across from me.


"Is there a problem?"


The Bado shakes his head as everyone's attention turns to us two. Skychaser then speaks up, his fixation still not departing me.


"No. There is no problem, young man. There is only one we must convince. The Graves."


Almost a dozen gasps ring along the table as everyone here takes in his meaning, most filled with surprise or disbelief, but I'm only filled with frustration. And anger.


My family is something to be kept secret for my safety and others. To know puts a target on your back from some of my father's enemies, and for me to be widely known would put an even more major one on mine. Only Johnny knows the whole truth, Virgil and Sacate some, and Alexos a bit. Oh, and Primrose, too, I guess. Some others might have ideas or thoughts about my heritage, like Abraham, who caught Sacate negotiating for my life against Alexos. Though, Abraham was oozing far too much blood to actually pay much attention. Of course, Darkstep also knows, but she's never leaked the information for some reason. If she had, from what Johnny has told me about my father and all that I've learned from him, I'd be in deep shit.


Johnny and I have tried to keep those who know at a minimum. Still, I realize this has all fallen apart as Skychaser breaks the promise he gave Johnny regarding my identity.


Blake is the first to react, her realizing eyes going wide as she meets mine. A few people stand up from what's happening, all turning to me, but Virgil shifts closer as I stare at Skychaser in anger. The Darkstalker or I suppose it's something else now, is unwilling to let my identity get leaked just like that. If chaos breaks, I at least know I have him at my back.


Silas' brow raises as the undead leans in. Skyswain gets up from her rock in shock as Skychaser pushes her back down. Abraham spits out the water he was drinking all over the ramshackle table, the man choking during his first break in days. Frank and the remaining Sister Of Silence repeatedly look back and forth in surprise from Johnny to me.


I can feel the tense situation rise as confusion and betrayal flow through me. Why would Skychaser just blurt it out?! What was the point of this? How dare he? I can't believe he would just do that! Does he not know the consequences? What if it gets out? Do we want another enemy like Hura!? The more people who know, the riskier it is! Fury boils through me at the thought of yet another threat when we are already swamped in danger that will likely end us all.


Angrily, I slam my hand on the table and stand, wanting to make Skychaser pay. The Bado's eyes widen at my anger, but I don't stop. Beside me, Virgil half-unsheathes his Claymore and cocks his Colt, the man willing to fight for me on a dime. Still, Bonfire, the only one relaxed at this current juncture, speaks out before anything happens.


"Ah! It all makes sense now! Okay. So, what's next?"


Attention flickers to the goofy pyro as he waves his arms into the air. The tension in the air hangs taut for a brief moment. Then, Bonfire cuts it with his fiery words pointed at each person.


"Uhm? What's the big deal? Why are you so angry, Wyatt? Why are you all so shocked? We all knew there was something wrong with the kid. Him being a Graves is a best-case."


I go to refute him, wanting to say how important it is to keep who I am a secret, but Johnny cuts me off.




"He's right, Wyatt. Too long have we kept it a secret. At this point, it doesn't matter anymore. Territories are falling, and Pillars are crashing. Your father's enemies will likely be occupied in the coming months, either from within or without. Everyone, meet Wyatt. Wyatt Graves, son of the Undying and grandson of the Indomitable."


I sputter angrily, still trying to reason everything, but Virgil pushes me back to my seat. The older Hunter whispers to me as he does so.


"Relax, Wyatt. Deal with it later. We need to focus right now."


Shaking my head in frustration, I let it slide, my mind struggling to fathom why Skychaser would say such a thing out loud to the whole group. Why would he blatantly reveal my identity? There is simply no reason to. Does he not know the consequences? That has to be it. The Bado are most excluded from human affairs, right? He must not know how many enemies a Graves has even if he knows our infamy. But why would Johnny side with him?


Is it just to keep the peace? No, he's not that insensitive, right? He must think this is the best course of action. I don't want just to let this slide, though. Skychaser should know better. He was trusted with the secret yet broke that trust.


Sacate, now that everyone is quiet once more, turns to Skychaser.


"I understand what you were trying to say, but, young man, you do not know the consequences of your actions. A whirlwind brews, and you add fire to the storm. But enough of this. A father does not determine the man. The struggles of a boy do. And none have struggled more than Wyatt. No matter what you might think of his family, put it aside. So, let's focus on the coming tide, okay?"


Everyone at the table nods along with Sacate, even if most are still sneaking glances at me. The Ijiraq continues, his plan for us finally coming out after the brief chaos.


"I hope you all agree with my plans; if you do not, speak out at any time. No one will think ill of you, of that, I promise. For we will save a Pillar from the clutches of the Nahullo Councilmen."


Even louder shouts of disbelief come out this time along the table, one coming from me too.




The mere notion of standing against Councilmen, each a 7th Sigil in their own right, stands as an act of wooing the pale lady's hand. I glance back and forth at the whole group at the table, each sharing my disbelief as well, including Skychaser and Skyswain, the two who want this the most.


Johnny, however, calms the group, the Gunfighter raising his hands and snapping loudly to draw our attention.


"I have discussed this all with Sacate since we got here, and I agree. The Bado need saving, and they will be irreplaceable allies, especially if we can save Blightraven. A 7th Sigil to help lead and protect us will keep us alive. Pillars are called Pillars because that is what they are; the presence of an Angel is something all can rely on in times of strife."


His words still don't convince me. First, my mind darts to the fight with Hura, where a 6th Sigil kicked our asses and killed many. Then, it flickers to the battle between Birdie and that 7th Sigil demon. And finally, it flashes to Iva, the monster in human skin who killed said demon with zero effort.


No way. No way am I fighting an Angel. No way in fucking hell. We'll all die if we do. And Johnny picks up on this as the atmosphere of the entire tent falls.


"Now, I'm not asking you all to fight Councilmen. I'm asking you all to help fend off Sentinels and the other Nahullo that may be on our way to Blightraven. Then, all we need to do is escape with him, or more precisely, allow him to escape with us. The Motherbound, as much as I hate to admit it, will be taken care of by the Nahullo and their Sentinels."


I squint my eyes at him. This still doesn't seem like an effective plan. Where are the details? Who is actually going to save Blightraven?


Silas is the one who asks the question all of us are thinking, the undead's gray lips doubting Johnny.


"And so, who will be the ones to save this man, then? You? Sacate? Two 6th Sigils? That's asking for death. I heard that there were three Councilmen. All of us in this room would likely die to one. Maybe, just maybe, you and I would survive."


I nod along with Silas' question. With Birdie's help, the two got their asses kicked by a single 7th Sigil. Where is all this confidence coming from?!


Johnny smiles at Silas as his eyes flicker to Virgil, our resident Damned.


"You see, it would not just be Sacate or me. At this moment, the camp of the Nahullo is being overrun with thousands of Plagued Bado. According to Virgil, these Bado are crazed and attack anything they see. Some of them are helping Blightraven fight as the man tries to escape, even if it's likely a coincidence. The Councilmembers are tired from constant battle and are distracted from keeping their men alive. Plus, with all the Bado still in this spire, when we leave, they will follow, adding more fuel to the fire."


The Gunfighter then turns and looks right at me, his eyes shimmering with flakes of gold.


"Surely, Wyatt, you'd love to join such a chaotic fight. Imagine it. Plagued against Nahullo, Nahullo against man, and man against monster. And that's not all. I'm feeling confident lately. As if... I'm approaching something. All that remains for me to advance is Proof. And if I'm to Prove myself, it won't be in some dusty corridor or cave. It will be with my gun in hand."


Murmurs trickle in at the idea of Johnny, our Johnny, becoming an Angel. Pride blooms in me at the thought. I mean, he has all the requirements of one, right? The grit, the drive, and he even has an Absolution already. I can't wait to see what his eyes become when he takes the leap.


Perhaps... there is a chance in this plan. But, of course, with Motherbound and Plagued distracting the Sentinels and Councilmen, we would have far less pressure to contend with. But Johnny doesn't stop there; he keeps talking, furthering the idea, and beating it into shape.


"Virgil saw multiple 6th Sigiled Bado fighting the Nahullo on the surface. Even Manipulators were not all that uncommon, with a few being spotted. The rescue mission will be chaotic, one that only the strongest should attempt to come with. Should someone be lost in a horde of Plagued, we can only leave you behind. But with all the Plagued, at most, Sacate believes we will have to fight two Councilmen. Of which, Blightraven can handle one. I... I will handle the other."


There is a twinge of hesitation in Johnny's voice at the very end of his explanation, one that I think only I catch. He must be unconfident in fighting the Angel one-on-one, even if he believes he can advance. Or... perhaps, it isn't his plan to win.


My eyes trail the Gunfighter as he keeps speaking, my mind flickering back to one of our long talks. Johnny once said he'd give up the leadership if he found someone better to lead. That, even if I cannot understand, the man would make the sacrificial play if needed. A far nobler man than I, than I think I could hope to be. Something deep down tells me the situation is off. Can Johnny really fend off a 7th Sigil? Even with his eyes? Even on the verge of advancement?


I hope so. I have to. Because if he can't, what will I do? Watch another mentor fall? Even if I hate to admit it, that is what Johnny is to me, a mentor. Admittedly, he is not quite as foundational as Edmund, but that doesn't mean he's any less critical.


All this means is that I'll just have to keep him alive. I don't want to fight a Councilman, but... I will do it if it means I can help Johnny live and that we gain an Angel of our own.


And what that means is that I need to get stronger. For example, I could perfect a new form of Adrenaline Surge, learn a new skill, improve my current ones, or improve my Ether saturation. The first one will be the most significant bump in power, and the last two will be done simultaneously with the first.


With a mind set on training, I stand up and wave at Johnny as he explains his plan.


"I'm in. Just tell me about it later. Going to go train."


The Gunfighter nods at me with a smile, the man obviously approving of my actions. Of all of the people here, Blake, Lennox, and I can improve the most from training our Ether because of our recent advancements. Lennox and I, primarily due to how little time we've had Ether compared to the rest. The fewer steps taken up the mountain, the easier they are to take, for the steepness builds.


I hear Johnny's plans slowly fade as I walk away toward a rock wall on the far end of the cavern, Ether already flowing through my body. Every other time I've made headway with my Ether, it's been under duress. How about I create some manually?


Risky, but that is life. I have little time, based on what I heard earlier. The attacks from the Plagued and Motherbound are overwhelming right now, but more Councilmen are likely to be sent if things keep up. So, how do I create stress, then? Hurt myself? No, that's just dumb. There are other kinds of stress, like the anger I feel at Skychaser. I want to punch him for revealing my secret. My secret!


Stop it! Fuck. I need to somehow focus on this. Okay. Okay. So, I need to create Steam Strand Ether. Basically, it is to increase the density of my Ether until it turns into a gaseous form.


But how do I do that? I tried doing something similar with Steel and Braided before just pressing it down with my will and twisting, but neither worked. Wait. I need wisdom, and there is someone I've been neglecting lately. Sitting down on a rock, still having Ether flow through me as it never hurts to practice, I pull out the First's book.


And I flip through the pages, searching for one on Steam Strand, hoping the man wrote something about Ether manipulation here instead of just the vague concepts. And after just a few minutes of flipping through the relatively short book, I find a passage on Ether manipulation. I skim past it to see what I need.


Single Strand...


Many Stran...


Braided Stra...


Steel Str...


Steam St...


Oh, I found it!


Steam Strand. The first of the transmogrifications of Ether, with the colossal Plasma and the epitome Solid that come thereafter. For one to condense Ether from liquid to gaseous, it is different than any other step along one's path with Ether to this point. This is not only because it marks the halfway landmark up the mountain but also because Ether density relies entirely on the outside pressure one feels. Merely wanting to do it is not enough for most.


Some are skilled enough to create faux pressure with their minds, allowing them to develop gaseous Ether whenever they wish, but this is only for the best. As always, those who want to learn how to do it for the first time seek guidance under the burning candle. One can reach their pinnacle only with fire on both ends, evaporating weakness.


My mind comes from the book full of surprises. I wasn't all that far off with stress. It turns out it's outside stress or pressure, like the threat of death or danger. I wonder how some can fake that tension; Johnny is likely one of them, though, as I've seen him use it to shoot his bullets with more power.


However, an idea comes to mind as I glance at the silvery tattoo that runs along my forearm. Perhaps... No. I shouldn't. But... Abraham and Heath are here in case something goes wrong.


Hmm. The Bloody Palm has been... mellower than usual, more willing to help. Maybe it's over the grudge? Or possibly it's just from it realizing that we are trapped together after that Motherbound tried to take our minds. No matter the case, the best way for me to undergo stress is for the Bloody Palm to act up. So, I look down at the palm and delve into it with Insight, searching for a thought to use to build up my pressure. And almost instantly, I do.


A thought of a haze of bloodstained, swarthy, swarming insects comes to mind, and with Insight, I grasp the unreal. The insects fly around me, some taking small bites, eliciting short groans in pain, while others flee into my ears, nose, and mouth.


Well, fuck. I wasn't expecting this! But, at least, it certainly is pressure!


I try to focus as the feeling of grinding insects burrowing into my body nails their way through me. It's incredibly uncomfortable and makes me want to tear out my flesh. But amidst that haze of swarming insects, I rapidly feel the Ether in my body condensing and gaining weight as the insects, too, concentrate within my flesh, the imagined beings somehow defying reality.


As they do so, despite the painful and disgustingly uncomfortable sensations, I push forward, using my other free figment of Insight to delve into the Bloody Palm again, finding yet another depraved fragment of thought.


This one is of lamenting disease, billions of tiny, imperceptible creatures invading my body and breaking it from within. It feels like I'm being eaten from the inside despite not actually doing any damage to my innards. And clenching my teeth so tight I think they will crack, I push forward with my Ether. I prod my Ether throughout my whole body to try and activate Adrenaline Surge. All the while, I twist, pressurize, and force out as much Ether as possible, the veins on my head popping out as I do so.


But after a few moments, I feel something different about my Ether. A portion of it quickens and turns a dozen times silkier as my body grows lighter. But along with that lightness, I can feel that the things I used to create this gaseous Ether also grow in density and power.


With open eyes, I see a swarm of insects come out of my nose with every breath, just as a barely visible aura of red surrounds me. The insects bite and erode the rock beside me while the red atmosphere hovers ominously.


What the hell did I just do?

A note from Broken Saint

I've wanted to redo the blurb for a while, something most authors want to do, I suppose. But I finally made something that I liked more than the previous one, mostly because the last one was really long. This one is about 2/3rds the size. Let me know what you all think! Here it is:


In a twisted version of the Old West, where Native American fables come to life, the land is teeming with blight and cessation. Skinwalkers, Bakwas, Urayuli, and even the dreaded Wendigo roam freely, constantly terrorizing humanity. In this unforgiving landscape, survival becomes the supreme dream, luxury an impossibility.


But hope lies in Ether, an eccentric substance that defies reason, and Sigils, granting individuals extraordinary abilities. So, as men and women from the burgeoning East venture into the treacherous West, they must navigate the nightmares that lurk within the wilderness and the horrors from above, below, and within.


Survival becomes a battle for the mind, body, and soul. Each step must be taken lightly, lest they fall prey to a grim fate—a forgotten corpse, a demon's feast, or the plaything of ancient and incomprehensible beings.


Fools tread where angels fear to gaze, yet not all fools let themselves crumble. Some are simply too stubborn to break. 

About the author

Broken Saint

  • Somewhere in the middle of the west
  • Braint

Bio: Just someone who likes fantasy and exploring in-depth supernatural powers.

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