"Wake up my child."
A voice drifted into the boy's mind, slowly pulling him out of the darkness until he finally opened his eyes. He was in a strange, empty place. There was no sky, no horizon, only a strange light that illuminated the place, making it seem unreal. Who had called out to him?
"My dear Max, oh how you have suffered..."
It was the same voice again, clearer this time. With a shock, he realized that he recognized the voice. It was the voice of his mother! But she was gone, had been gone for over a year! How was it possible to hear her voice? Had he been killed by that corrupted beast after all?
"Who are you?" he asked as the light drifted closer.
A soft laugh rang out like chimes in the breeze. Max knew that laugh. It had been over a year since he last heard it, but it was without a doubt his mother's laugh!
"Silly boy, don't you know your own mother?" chided the voice playfully.
"But how? How is this possible? How are you here?" he asked as his voice caught in his throat.
Emotions and feelings that had long since departed from him were starting to re-awaken as the sound of his mother's voice echoed in his mind. It shouldn't be possible, but somehow her voice was here with him now.
"Oh my sweet little boy. There is so much I wish to tell you, so much I wish I could say. I'm sorry that you had to suffer so after my passing. I failed you as a mother and as a parent by leaving you like I did, but I had no choice... I pray that you can forgive me one day..." she said as sadness colored her voice.
Max didn't know how, but he could sense the sadness and the regret in her voice. He had never blamed her. He had only blamed the greedy filth that stopped at nothing in their desperate attempt to gain power. They were the only ones to blame.
"My child, I left you this message and asked you to protect Brumau for a reason. It was all to bring you to this very moment... Soon you will set off on a journey, one that will decide the fate of this world. All of existence hangs in the balance, and we are at the tipping point. The person you will soon meet is the key.
Go with her, help her along the journey. Tell her of the Asurai clan and the rest will fall into place... I'm sorry I cannot do any more for you, this is as far as the Sight allows me to see... I wish we could have more time togeth...." Her voice began to fade along with the light.
"Wait!" Max called out in panic. He still had things that he wanted to ask! But before he could form the words, the light disappeared and he was plunged into darkness once again.
Zoey let out a sigh of relief. The boy was still breathing.
It had only been minutes ago when she had first realized that a corrupted beast was in the tunnel with him, she had moved as fast as she had been able to reach him on time, only to see him being thrown against the rock wall of the tunnel with a crash just as she arrived.
She had tasked Viridi with protecting him as she drew her DAAC and engaged the roaring corrupted beast with a double barreled dose of magic slugs to its head. Amplified by the confines on the tunnel, the thunder of Zoey's weapon was like a shockwave that slammed into the creature shortly after the two slugs hammered into the barrier that surrounded it.
Even though her initial shot had done no visible damage, the impact on the beast's corrupted energy shield still staggered the beast long enough for Zoey to load another two slugs, this time laced with a little something extra.
Zoey was of course an Arbiter of the goddess Sethrii, and as such had access to the energy nexus that had been integrated into her inner world when she had accepted the Arbiter's Mark. In preparation for the corrupted creature that she had been tasked to hunt down she had prepared special shells for the DAAC that were infused with Sethrii's energy.
As the corrupted creature finally spotted her and charged with a rage-filled roar, Zoey took careful aim, and fired. There was an explosion of energy as the special slugs impacted the corrupted energy shield, punched through and right into the creature's head, splitting it open like a melon.
Zoey had been a little stunned by the effectiveness of the special ammo, and had taken some time to make sure that the creature was actually dead. She was only certain after seeing the corrupt aura completely disappear as the creature's corpse dissolved into ash.
After that she had made sure that the boy and Viridi were OK. The boy had been injured, but not severely, so Zoey and Viridi worked together and used their Mittra Regen Rune to heal him. Now, Zoey had pulled him to a more comfortable location while Viridi sniffed at him. The big feline was curious about this boy, as was Zoey. They could probably find out more about him when he woke up, if he didn't run away from them at first sight.
Zoey and Viridi were a rather threatening pair if you were meeting them for the first time... A masked, cloaked woman and a large panther-dragon hybrid with a mouthful of sharp teeth. Anyone in their right mind would be terrified if they woke up to see that in front of them.
Once she thought about it, Zoey decided to take her mask off. She felt like the boy would not be a threat to her because of her face, so hiding behind a mask was not necessary. Besides, it did get a little stuffy in there sometimes.
Zoey did not have to wait very long. Only a few minutes after he had been healed, the boy opened his eyes.