There was no sound. Like the air was sucked out with out the McWrither’s noticing. In that moment, Solace new this would be the trip of a lifetime. His fingers began to melt away before his eyes. Whether he closes his eyes or they vanished like his fingertips, he doesn’t know. He is left floating in the blackness for no more than a century before the sound of rushing water bellows in his ears. The cool rush of moist air hits his face. The smell of fresh water. He opens his eyes.
“It is very good to see you again, Solace.” A monstrous voice echos from behind the waterfall. Who ever is speaking must be hiding behind the tumultuous wall of water taking up his entire field of vision.
“Who are you?”
“They call me the terror,” the being says before growling a laughter from the very bowls of the earth.
“Where am I?”
“Does it not look familiar? Have a look around.”
Solace, standing on a lone bolder very near the cascade, slowly turned himself around. It looked like like any other enormous waterfall, but then the fairy emerged from the mist. He was back in Niagara, and if the sound of a young boy crying can be trusted, he is back the day he learned about his imagination.
“I remember,” the voice says, “you were the first to see me in hundreds of years.”
“They said I imagined you.”
“That is how all see me, I am but a fractal of fear forced into the human psyche. Even now, you are imagining me.”
“I am a reminder of your cosmic lineage. There have been countless others with your burden strewn about space and time. All fighting the same antagonist. All needing creatures like myself to help them through.”
“I don’t understand.” Solace says, turning to face the waterfall again. The ferry and the weeping child sink back into the mist. “First Orin tells me there is an apocalypse coming, then Talia tells me I have to kill Byron to stop the apocalypse, and now it sounds like you are telling me there have been others who tried and failed.”
“There have been and will be.” The voice bellows louder than the falls.
“Then what is the point?”
“Balance. Some have failed and an equal amount have won. At this time we are at a stalemate, but the game continues. It is your job to tip the scales.”
“No one knows. You may be either.”
“But you just said there are those like me who fight the same antagonist. Doesn’t that mean I am the good guy?”
“The hero is the antagonist to the villain.”
“I… what?” but before the creature could speak again, the world gives a violent shake, and for a split second the falls part revealing to Solace the emerald eyes of a giant black Owl.
“It is time for you to go back, Solace Arrives. We shall see each other again.”
The world shakes again and Solace tried in vain to stay on his boulder. He hits the freezing water just as he exhales, and with a vicious cough he is back on the dirt floor of the McWrither tent. Nancy Fairheart stands over him in her red heals and business skirt holding an empty bucket. “Wake up princess, I have some information for you.”
“How long was I out?”
“Long enough for the brothers to kill six of my guys and us to kill two of them.”
“Who?” Solace says, trying and failing to keep the worry out of his voice.
“Ooh, do we have a little Stockholm Syndrome? Well princess, we Shot Edward and Timothy McWrither. Which is to bad, since they were the heart of the team.”
“In cuffs. Now do you want to know which one of your friends are working for Byron or not?”
Solace stands and rummages through his pockets for his cigarettes. Nancy grabs a joint from the floor and hands it to him. He lights it and makes his way outside. What looks like hundreds of masked and polished looking mercenaries surround all four of the McWrither’s with their guns drawn. Their radio distorted voices yelling at Billy to calm down while half a dozen try with difficulty to restrain him. He stares at his brothers lying dead, screaming his head off.
“Who?” Solace says as soon as Nancy walks up next to him.
“What are you going to do once I tell you?” She crosses her arms and smiles at the scene that is Billy McWrither.
“Kill them most likely.” This is a lie. Even for the more recent additions, he has no idea what he will do with this information. Since his and Nancy’s meeting back in Byron’s decrepit home, he has been tortured by th idea that one of his friends would be a traitor.
“May I suggest hiring me to get more out of them?”
Solace doesn’t answer. A lump has locked itself I his throat, if he clears it to soon he will surly let out a cry of despair. Ignoring it will only work for a couple of seconds. His breathing goes shallow, his lips tighten in an attempt to keep the lump at bay. His friend, a person who is more than family, has betrayed him. They have put the rest in danger, driven them from a peaceful existence. Destroyed his home, the last physical reminder of his wonderful mothers.
“It’s Cas,” Nancy says. Mercifully she looks away as Solace sinks to his knees and weeps along with Billy McWrither.