Pages of Fate
Magic isn't dead, Raven... Magic has always existed... it existed then, and it exists now...
No, it hasn't. Magic is fiction. It's nothing but a fairy tale...
How then, do you explain our... abilities?
Hahaha... oh Raven, do you really think you can explain something as extraordinary as super speed, super strength, or control over the elements? Magic is magic- you don't need to explain shit...
...you really think magic exists?
Of course I do. Back then, it was witches and warlocks... today, it's superhumans...
Raven Redwood snapped out of the memory, looking up to the primordial stone temple that he and Adonis would soon be entering. It stood tall in the midst of the jungle, much like the stereotypical Aztec monument that hid some sort of priceless treasure.
Adonis, donning a black cloak despite the tropical heat, turned toward Raven and smiled. His eyes were hidden behind thick, black sunglasses. "You still think magic is fiction, don't you?"
"Of course." Raven responded without shifting his gaze from the temple. He reached into his coat and lifted a book to his face, titled Frankenstein.
Adonis stares at Raven for a moment. "For someone who loves books like you, I'm surprised you aren't a little more open-minded to the idea of magic..."
"Books are fictitious." Raven retorted. "Except for non-fiction, of course, but fiction is fiction- it's not real."
"Perhaps your opinion will change once we get our hands on the Tome of Augury."
"...The only reason I came is because it's a book we're after. Although I'm pretty sure it would've decomposed by now..."
"We'll see." Adonis responded before heading to the temple. Raven sighed and followed, with his nose still in Frankenstein.
Once again, Raven found himself snapping out of a memory. "A flashback within a flashback..." he muttered. "Stupid, hyperactive brain of mine..."
He looked at the clock by his bedside, which read 2:50; he was supposed to head a Vagabond Alliance meeting within ten minutes. Yet he was tired, having spent all last night on a mission, and had yet to get himself ready...
He looked over to the coffee machine on the counter for a moment, then shook his head. "Only for emergencies..." he muttered. It was a habit of Raven's, whose brain processed information four times faster than normal, to talk to himself. But if he drank coffee... Raven shuddered at the thought. The last time he had casually drank a caffienated beverage, he had proceeded to read five novels, two magazines, and a newspaper- all within four hours.
He reached into a cupboard, and pulled out the files that he needed for today's Alliance meeting from behind a box of cereal, tossed them onto his bed, then headed for his closet to grab and slip on his signature crimson trenchcoat. Five minutes later, he found himself leaping across rooftops, heading for the Alliance headquarters with super speed.
Five minutes after that, he burst in through the doors, where he saw, sitting around a table: Agent Red, Deathwalker, Ruby, Tulwar, Ruichi, Nebula, Thirteen, Tueor, Lotus, Aeris, and Kindle. "Sorry I'm late..." Redwood said aloud, leaping up on top of the steel table and walking to his seat.
"Raven Redwood, late for an Alliance meeting?" Tueor remarked. "Now that's a first."
"...is walking on top of the table necessary?" Aeris asked.
"...quickest way to my chair." Redwood responded tiredly before stepping down into his seat and slumping down onto the table. He lifted the files from his trenchcoat and tossed them onto the table. "I had a hell of a mission last night, and I'm tired... Agent Red, do you mind giving the breifing for me?" he asked.
"...of course not." Agent Red responded curtly, picking up the files and beginning to speak. "Our targets today are a gang of miscreants and delinquents in..."
Redwood tried listening as best as he could, yet he could feel his eyes close, and hear Agent Red's monotonous voice fade as sleep slowly crept over him, and another vivid memory began playing in his mind...
Redwood and Adonis stood in front of stone doors, with only the red glow of their torches illuminating the chamber.
"...Is this it?" Redwood asked.
"Hopefully." Adonis responded. "I don't think we can handle another booby trap..."
"Get ready, then." Raven said, kicking open the door; a blade dropped from the ceiling and would've sliced Raven's skull open had he not leapt out of the way in the nick of time.
"...too close." Raven muttered, lifting Frankenstein up to his face once more, squinting at the words which were barely legible in the torchlight.
"...you almost get sliced to death, and yet you still think about reading?" Adonis said incredulously.
"...reading is what allows me to think." Raven retorted.
"You're hopeless..." Adonis chuckled. "C'mon, Raven, let's go..."
Raven and Adonis entered the chamber through the stone doors, which ominously slammed shut behind them. As this happened, a spark went of and a trench along the wall lit up with flame; the trench extended all the way around the room, bathing it in a red glow. At the end of the chamber was an altar, upon which lay a dusty old tome.
Raven headed over to the altar, brushing the dust off of the book. The cover was a light brown, and a diamond was embedded in it. He flipped open the book, and was disappointed to discover blank pages.
"...blank." he muttered, thumbing through the book.
A burst of light lit up from the book, illuminating the room blueish-white. Raven yelped in shock and stepped back as shining words began to write themselves on the decreppit pages.
"...Still don't believe in magic?" Adonis smirked.
"This is impossible..." Raven said. "This is some sort of... special effects, or something..."
"Raven. You're not convincing anyone, including yourself. This book is magic."
Raven, speechless, turned toward the book and silently read the glowing words: "Raven Redwood, speak your mind and this tome will answer. The past, present, and future are written within these pages, but be warned; a price must be paid for trying to see what was meant to remain hidden."
"What kind of... price?" Raven asked aloud; the glowing words shifted on the pages, and Raven read silently once more:
"A price equal to the information that you seek, both a blessing and a curse. If this you fear not, speak what you wish to know, and even the future can appear before you."
"This is crazy... this is crazy... I'm talking to a book..." Raven muttered, and yet, possibilities opened up for him. Raven was a glutton for knowledge; this he knew himself. What could be more tempting for him than a book that knew everything?
"...tell me my future..." Raven said boldly.
Raven was enveloped within a flash of light, and suddenly he found himself standing within a void of white, with only himself and the book.
"What the..." he exclaimed.
The book began to float up, and a tremulous voice boomed forth from it; "Foolish mortal who would wish to know things not meant for his eyes... know that I will grant your wish, but first demand my price..."
Glowing tendrils shot forth from the pages of the book, and ensnared Raven, holding him in place.
"What's going on? What are you doing?!"
"For the mortal who would wish to see visions of his future... an eye for an eye..."
"An eye? No... no!"
Raven could see the tendrils reaching out for his left eye, holding open his eyelid. The tendrils extended like fingers, reaching for the eyeball...
A flash of scarlet, then black. Agony filled his skull as Raven screamed. The tendrils dropped him and Raven clutched his now-empty eye socket, which profusely bled. With his other intact eye, Raven could see the tendrils pulling away his eyeball, with strips of muscle still hanging from it. He barely held back the urge to throw up.
The tendrils, along with his eye, disappeared into the pages of the book. Then Raven could feel a new mass appearing in his eye socket, and his vision was restored.
"Humans rely on their skills to progress into their futures... and so, I give you this eye... a blessing, to enhance your talents. A curse, to be tormented with the visions of your past and future. The price has been paid, you are free to read my pages whenever you wish..." Raven suddenly found himself standing in the chamber with Adonis. Weak to his stomach, he collapsed, holding onto the altar where the book rested for support.
"You're back..." Adonis said. "You disappeared for a while and I thought..."
Raven turned toward Adonis, who took a step back in shock.
"Raven... your eye..."
"What... does it look like?" Raven said quietly.
Adonis was silent for a moment. Then he lifted a hand toward his sunglasses and pulled them off of his face. Raven stared in horror; where Adonis' eyes should have been were two shining, pitch black orbs with a red dot glowing in their murky depths. Around his eyes, his face seemed cracked, almost like broken glass.
"This is what it looks like, Raven..." Adonis said.
"...but I only have one..." Raven responded. "...why do you have two?"
"You are quite observant... but perhaps if you read your future, I'll tell you who I have two..."
A number of suspicions ran through Raven's mind, none of them pleasant. Still, he leaned over the book and read aloud his future.
Adonis frowned upon hearing it. "That's funny..." he said. "Their futures usually entail being killed by me..."
"...what?" breathed Raven, yet his hyperactive brain already knew what was going on.
"...Why do you want people's eyes?" Raven asked.
"Oh, you're unusually sharp, aren't you?" Adonis taunted. "No, I don't want just any eyes... I want specific eyes, from specific superhumans... these eyes, called Maser-Eyes, enhanced the specific powers of people... in superhumans, they enhanced their "powers". With the eyes of superhumans in my possession, I can become more and more powerful..."
"...you only have two eye sockets..." Raven retorted.
Adonis stared at him for a moment, before pulling back his cloak sleeve. Raven looked on in horror as he could see a number of eyelids opening up on his arm, each revealing a pitch-black orb gazing at him.
"Each of these is a different power. Control over fire, control over ice, control over weather, super strength..." Adonis explained, pointing to each individual eye. "I have others... want to know how many? Nineteen. With yours, I'll gain my twentieth eye, and the power of your incredible speed."
"...but the book didn't say I'd die by your hand." Raven said.
"You idiot." Adonis snarled. "The book may claim to tell the future, but the future is never set in stone..."
A burst of wind suddenly threw Raven back, slamming him into the wall. Adonis began to walk toward him, the red torchlight giving his face a demonic look.
"You will die by my hand, Raven Redwood. It's nothing personal. But sacrifices must be made on the climb towards becoming the most powerful..."
Raven tried dashing away once more, but even with his speed, he barely got to the door before he leapt back, dodging a burst of fire from Adonis.
"The power that your eye will give me... I must have it!" Adonis roared, sending several waves of flame at Raven.
Raven darted at Adonis, aiming a kick at his head, yet he found himself being held back; a tendril appeared to be made out of shadow wrapped around him, holding him in midair. Adonis held out his hand, and a blade of ice formed, which he grasped and pointed at Raven.
"Die..." he snarled, lunging with the blade.
"AAAGH!" Raven shouted, snapping awake and startling each present member of the Vagabond Alliance.
"...you okay, Redwood?" Deathwalker asked.
"I'm fine... just a memory... like a nightmare... bring me coffee..."
A few minutes and a cup of coffee later, Redwood was wide awake. He pulled out a book and began to read it- his eye that wasn't covered was a blur, darting up and down the pages that he turned about every three seconds.
"...what did I miss?" Redwood asked in a voice strangely calm after coffee.
"Ruichi, Kindle, and Tueor were assigned to deal with a group of delinquents. And since Ruichi went, Nebula naturally had to go too." Thirteen responded.
"mmkay..." Redwood mumbled, continuing to flip pages at an alarming rate.
"Er... just what were you remembering that made you yell like that?" Thirteen asked curiously.
"Oh, nothing..." Redwood muttered. He involuntarily brought his hand up to the piece of cloth that covered his Maser-Eye, pressing his fingers against it for a moment, before continuing to read.
Among Raven Redwood's flurried thoughts, he couldn't honestly remember how he had escaped Adonis. Then again, he remembered that at the time, he was less than conscious. No matter how much he focused on remembering, the memory didn't seem to be there.
Yet try as he might to forget, he always remembered the future the Tome of Augury spelled out for him.
But that is a story for another time...