It was a three day hike from where Luca had found the boar to the little clearing where Luca, Garron, and their mentor, Micah lived. In those three days, the young men had eaten about a third of the boar, and dried the rest to preserve it.

As they approached the clearing, Garron slowed and stopped amid the thinning trees. Luca stopped too. He knew that Garron was more sensitive to the Aether than he was. It was hard to say if Garron had chosen magic because of his sensitivity, or if the sensitivity grew as a result of his practice bending Aether to his will. Luca suspected that both were true.

“What is it, Garron?” Luca asked. His friend’s face was contorted with the effort of probing the area with his own energy to learn what lay ahead of them.

“It feels as if there was a tremendous battle here,” Garron answered slowly, “The energy expended is unlike anything I have ever seen”

“Is someone still fighting?” Luca asked, drawing his sword as he spoke.

“No,” Garron grimaced, “there is no one in the clearing at all. It feels like the battle happened very quickly, no more than two days ago.”

“Let’s check it out, then,” Luca said. He began marching, sword at the ready, toward the clearing. Garron followed close behind him. At first nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but near their mentor’s tent was a figure on the ground. They approached it wearily, and soon discovered that it was Micah’s body.

“Micah,” Luca gasped, falling to his knees beside the old man’s remains. The grass all around them was dead and scorched, as if there had been a fire, but Micah was not burned. He lay peacefully, almost as if he might rise, but the ground around him was sticky with congealed blood. In Micah’s hand was a parchment scroll. Luca didn’t see it through his tears, but Garron was composed enough to take it and read it. It seemed to be an invitation to a fighting tournament.

In the last human rebellion against the elves, both Luca and Garron had been orphaned by the swift counterattack of the royal forces against all of the human regions. There had been so much collateral damage that the survivors weren’t sure who to hate more, the elves who had slaughtered their families, or the handful of humans who had started the fighting in the first place. Most found they had hate enough for all of them.

Micah had taken the two in as boys, and taught them to defend themselves, to hunt, and most importantly, to forgive. They bore no grudge against the elves any longer, but as Garron consoled Luca for the loss of their mentor, he felt quite sure that this offense would not be forgiven. They would find whoever was responsible for this, and their justice would be decisive.

“What do we do now?” Luca asked once he had recovered.

Garron handed him the scroll. “We will go there, to the Aetherstorm, and we will find the man responsible for this. He will pay.” Luca took the scroll and read it quickly. He nodded his agreement, and the two set out to bury the man who had raised them. Once their work was finished, they began to walk north, following the instructions on the scroll, and they didn’t look back.

In the trees nearby, a figure sat and watched two young humans bury the man it had killed a day earlier. The demon, Shane, had forgotten the invitation in his haste to leave after the battle, so naturally enough he returned to claim it, and move on to his next target, but when he felt the bitter anguish of these men at the loss of the old one, he stopped to enjoy the show, and was delighted by what he saw. These two would be fine for the Aetherstorm, he concluded. So he sat for a while and watched them mourn, and when they left the clearing, he vanished from his hiding space in a plume of black smoke, and the last thing to disappear was his grin.