“What’s the last thing you remember?”
Wingrave closed his eyes. “Skylight. The Deep Eldren pouring out from that gate. Screams, the smell of blood and smoke. No time to ask questions. Leaping forward, scattering the skirmishers, trying to give the innocents time to escape. I remember Niss driving both blades into an invader who could have been her brother. Silo, making some foolish joke even as he threw himself in harm’s way. And you… calling us.”
Omen nodded. “What then?”
“A chamber of crystal and light. A fiend, the like of which I’d only read about in the darkest passages of the Avar Creed. It towered over us, and I could feel the hatred boiling off of it, see the tendrils of shadow leaking through its armor. You said you needed time… and so we fought. I remember calling on the light, bracing myself for the attack, and then… darkness. It’s all vague, until I found… this.”
Wingrave drew the dagger from his belt. The blade was formed from dark, patterned steel, but it was the crystal shard in the hilt that drew his attention. He could feel the power pulsing within it.
“That’s just as it happened,” Omen said. “But you didn’t survive that last battle. You were consumed by the Gloom.”
“I don’t understand.” Wingrave struck his hand against his chest, his gauntlet ringing against his armor. “I’ve banished restless spirits before. I know flesh and blood when I feel it.”
“You were consumed in the Fall, Wingrave. But the Gloom doesn’t simply destroy. It remembers. It retains the echoes of everything that was lost. When you enter a lost zone, those Echoes become real. You’ve experienced it already. But when you destroy the anchor, everything in the zone collapses back into chaos and shadow.”
“So I’m… an Echo?” Wingrave considered this.
“You are, but you’re much more than that. Your body was destroyed by the Gloom, but your essence—your will—remained. That dagger anchors and focuses your willpower, and when you touched it, you instinctively recreated your body. And that’s the least of what you can do. You’re a Wayfinder.”
“You’ve said that before,” Wingrave mused. “But what does it mean?”
“You have the potential to shape the Gloom, to control it… at least in limited ways. You’re not invulnerable, but you can rebuild your body if you fall in battle. You can push yourself beyond normal limits. When you defeat creatures in the Gloom, you may be able to catch their essence and weave it into your own form, strengthening yourself. Beyond that… do you remember the sword you were holding when in that last battle?”
“Of course I do.” That blade was Wingrave’s last link to his old life. He knew every nick along its edge, every pattern in the steel.
“Think about it now. Imagine it in your hand. Feel the familiar weight of it. Remember its length, the feel of the grip. And… look down.”
Wingrave drew in a breath. Vanguard was there in his hand, a dream made real.
Omen smiled. “That’s only the beginning of what you can do. You could call this sword now because you know it so well. But with time, with training, you can draw out other weapons lost in the Gloom. If Lord Halar and I are correct, you may be able to enforce your will over the Gloom itself—to mutate the lost zones themselves. And if you can do that…”
“We’ve been lost for so long, isolated by the Gloom. We don’t know what’s left of our world beyond its shadows. But if you can master this power, Wingrave—you may be able to cut a path through the darkness. You could reconnect our broken world. You could truly be our Wayfinder.”
Wingrave considered this… the familiar weight of Vanguard in one hand, the strange feeling of the dagger in the other. There was still so much he couldn’t remember about his past, about how he’d come to work with Omen and what had brought them to Skylight on that fateful day. And now… he was an Echo? A Wayfinder? A part of him wanted to deny it all, to drop both sword and dagger and drown his doubts in a tankard at the Bitter End. But he still believed in the Celestial Architects. He still believed in the light. And if this was the role he had to play… so be it.
Wingrave sheathed sword and dagger and turned back to Omen. “Where do I begin?”