[[TARA, BREAGH - 00:00 Hours - One Month Ago]]
It was night again.
At least, he was fairly sure that it was night. It was dark, at any rate. And the chill that seeped into his very bones certainly gave the overwhelming impression of night. The black was receding, though. Off at the edge of his sight, the edge of his sensing, something was waking, rising, but it wasn't the sun.
Someone was shaking him, gently. Lowering the barriers he'd only recently learned how to construct, he let the presence brush against his mind.
"Mmph. Fi?" He huddled into the sleeping bag. It was too early to be awake...
"Right first try, Big Brother. Come on. Wake-up time."
Blearily, Jack cracked open one eyelid, squinting up at his sister. Fiona sat back on her heels and sighed.
"S'dark, still," he mumbled, opening the other eye.
Fi rolled her eyes. "Not quite. Come on; get up, and I'll show you. And Terren says he's gonna make breakfast."
As if on cue, Jack's stomach growled. He cringed, resisting the pull of hunger, but then the other thing Fiona had said reached the slowly-waking part of his brain.
He sat up, wincing as the draft from the open tentflap raised goosebumps on his arms. "Show me what?" he asked. Fi merely smiled and preceded him out of the tent, while he pulled a shirt over his head, grabbed his shoes, and followed her.
He waved at Terren as they passed the circle of the other tents, in the middle of which a small fire was burning. Jack caught a glance of Beilenya, one of the Guardians, sitting with several others on the grass near the fire, eyes closed, still. Immersed in something he couldn't see, not without stopping, dropping his shields.
"Fi, hey - wait up!" he called, hopping one one foot while tugging his shoe onto the other. He had to run to catch her, stumbling up the side of the hill they were camped beside. He noticed with some satisfaction that his steps were quieter than they'd been a month ago - anyone not trained they way they had been would never have known he was there.
The hilltop was scoured black, broken stones scattered in what might once have been a careful pattern. But Fi was not looking at the stones. She was standing at their centre, staring out toward the horizon. Toward the sea. Toward the sunrise.
::No way.:: Jack checked his watch. It read... he couldn't read it. ::What's going on?:: he wondered. ::What's that light?::
Fi must have sensed his question, because she answered it.
"It's the Greylight," she murmured quietly, pointing towards the spreading grey light in the distance. It was then that Jack realized that the light was not coming from the East, or even the West, or really from any specific direction at all. It was coming from all around them, from the horizon on both sides, from the edge of sight in all directions.
"What... what time is it?"
She laughed. "It's not sunrise, Jack," she said. "Do you remember what they told you, about how Crystallis is like a giant heart-muscle?"
He nodded. "Life-force of everything... like a bloodstream. I remember. I remember feeling it." His voice was hushed.
So was Fiona's. "It's the Greylight. It's the time between night and morning when the Flow is strongest."
Jack stared. "It's so bright."
Fi nodded. "You wouldn't even be able to see it if Belle and the others hadn't invoked it. It happens every morning - but most people don't know it's there."
"That's us, isn't it?" he whispered. He felt her start beside him, then turn.
"Yes, it is," she said, with some surprise. "In a way. The Greylight... it's like the energy given off by all life. Everything - trees, people, chipmunks..." she chuckled. "Everything. And it's strongest now. It sort of peaks... it's always there, but it's hard to see, even for us. And that..." she swept her arms out, indicating all that lay about them, and the spreading light that gathered at the edges of the hilltop like fog. "That's us. Do you see it?"
Jack looked down; indeed, tiny, barely-visible tendrils of white-grey trailed from his fingertips, drifting away from him, down and along the ground, joining the massing Greylight around them.
"This is it, Jack," she said, her hand joining with his. "This is life."
Jack smiled into the half-light.
In the depths of the ground, in a dank, dark place, it stirred.
It opened unseeing, milk-white eyes, tongue licking dry lips. It could smell them. It had been a long time since it had used its senses, but still, it could smell them.
It could smell blood. It could smell Bright blood.
They were there - waking up, like it had woken, growing stronger, growing brighter.
Young, Bright blood, coursing through their veins, pulsing with power.
It blinked upward toward the surface, toward the light. It could smell them. It had been a long time.
And it was hungry.