Point Reyes, CA 1876
The heroes had finally defeated Hellstromme, but at a cost. Half their numbers lay dead throughout the sky-piercing tower along with whole battalions of both union and confederate soldiers. There was no time to mourn. From their perch atop the world they could see it spread to the horizon, bringing blight and death inland. Hellstromme’s doomsday bellows before them had begun pumping out a thick, toxic, black smoke into the atmosphere. They knew what they had to do. They had to stop it, at any cost.
Cedric – who resembled Hellstromme as a boy – soared from the open wall high in the tower to safety with his glider. There was one more glider there. As the heroes were deciding who should be spared, Xo’chitl decided to decide for them. As they looked on, mouths agape, the one they knew only as ‘the Gaucha’ grabbed the glider and took a running leap to into the sky to save herself. The others had only the time to curse her name before they made the ultimate sacrifice.
As she took to the open air, the chaos and adrenaline pumping through her veins made falling and flying in open air seem strangely relaxing at first. After nearly crashing, she got the hang of the glider in a hurry and set a trajectory to both land and get away as far as she could. A curious passing hawk began to fly in formation with her.
She looked below and saw Cedric drawing a bead on her with his rifle, before hesitating, putting his gun down, and walking into the demonic door behind him while holding hands with a gaunt man in a top hat with a feather. When they entered, the door vanished.
The young woman felt her heart pumping so hard it threatened to burst from her chest, what happened next seemed to occur in slow motion. A bright flash from behind that made it seem as though five suns were shining. The very air sounded as though it were screaming. Then, a massive deafening explosion that rattled her very bones. The cliffs below her crumbled, split, and fell into the sea. Suddenly a shockwave made the very earth ripple as though a giant wave of earth were cresting. It split apart earth and mountain and water with so much energy that magma burst forth from the massive crack that where the earth itself was disemboweled. She thought it was the end of the world. She only had time to take a shot of whiskey before the shockwave overcame her and the hawk. The last thing Xo’chtl thought of as she spiraled to the earth was “Shit.” blackness consumed her as her consciousness faded away.
Things were silent for a long time.
Then, a soft whisper: “Xo’chtl”
Am I dreaming? Was I dreaming? Xo’chtl felt the wind on her skin.
The voice calls her name again. It is soft at first but becomes clearer. It is the voice of her father. He was killed when she was a child along with the rest of her tribe.
The world blinks into existence all around her. Everything is blue. She is on a mesa in the desert. She stands face to face with her father a spiral of what looks like pollen swirls around him. For some reason they are nude but perfectly comfortable despite being in the hot desert sun.
“I have saved you because your work is not done. Your story is not yet complete.”
Suddenly behind him is mother, and the war leader of her tribe. Overhead the hawk circles. The hawk lands on father’s shoulder, in the distance a shadow looms on the horizon. She looks up. It is the black smoke. As it creeps closer, it whispers, “Connnnnnsuuuuuume”
Voices say in unison, “Wind is life, wind brings life.” When she looks back down, she is surrounded by the entire tribe. they chant “Heal the earth spirit”
“Consuuuuuuummmmmmmme” The black smoke is now upon them, swirling about them as though they were sitting in the eye of a tornado of smoke.
“Heal” chant the tribesmen.
“CONSSSSUUUUMEEEEEE!” shouts the smoke as it binds itself around each member of the tribesmen, creating a smokey shell that strips the very flesh from thier bones, leaving only skeletons.
The chief says “The earth and sky are wounded by your hand.” The smoke swirls around him and only bones are left, which stay standing.
Mother says "You must heal the earth. Just like the others, the flesh is stripped from her before she can say anything else.
As the smoke swirls around him and the hawk the flesh is slowly stripped from their bones, Father looks Xo’chtl in the eyes and says, “time to choose.”
Xo’chtl decided to listen to her tribe. Her father’s voice whispered in her head “then, drink.” At her feet appeared a cup of foul smelling liquid. She drank it. It was AWFUL!
The black smoke forms into the shape of a swirling vaguely humanoid shape standing before Xo’chtl, now alone on the mesa with the smoke beast.
“ENGULF!” The beast lunges at her, sniffs the air, stops…
“You sssmeelll delllicccioussss…” then kneels before her. “Maaaayybe we can make annnn…. arrangemennnt”
“What kind of arrangement?” she asked
Point Reyes, CA 2036
the World of Tomorrow!
She awakened on a cliff-side… it was night, it was cold.
Wait, I know this place she thought… this is where… where I died. She looked to the chasms where the lava floes erupted from the earth, they were long hardened with large trees growing from them in some places. Rivers flowed over some. What remained of the tower was now just a ruined base on a jagged outcropping of cliff. To her side was a huge cathedral complex where was once the site of battle. Green lights from the cathedral spire pierce the sky. This was all new.
Wolves howl in the distance.
Next to her was the hawk, skin and flesh partially dissolved with molted feathers sticking out haphazardly in every direction. It seemed to be barely alive. She touched it to see if it was real, it hops to its feet and squawks at her and takes to the air. Xo’chtl follows it.
Xo’Chtl awakens from bad dreams of her past. She looks around her, in a quaint little cottage, and thinks to herself, “Where am I? How did I get here?”
Suddenly, she hears a commotion outside: “Quick, summon Grandmother Deadwind! She’ll know what to do. She’s a little senile but I hear she’s very powerful! Just don’t confuse her too much.”