Original article posted by Soft_Pen:

Rodney woke with a start, experiencing that terrible feeling of displacement that follows heavy slumber. As he groggily tried to reorient himself, he felt a strong hand fall on his shoulder.

“Lie still, Ravenpaine—give the drugs a chance to wear off completely.” It was Shu. “You should be feeling better now. Do you?” he asked in a kindly tone.

“I do, thank you. What happened back there? The last thing I remember coherently was you shoving me on top of that cart.” He stuck his hands into his eyes, trying to rub out the gummy feeling.

“Well, there were a few more of Barnes’ men waiting in the lobby. I took care of them. Are you hungry? I have some food in the back seat.”

It was then that Rodney realized he was traveling in a large car. The deep, cool leather felt wonderful, and he had to fight the urge to lay back into the drift of cushions and sleep. Instead, he turned around, found the small bag resting on the back seat, and brought it forward. Inside he found simple fare: a sandwich, some chips, and a soda. He began eating immediately. Shu looked over, nodded.

“Yes, it appears that Dix, if I heard you right, is quite the drug. I find it overkill, but we’ll get to that later. Looks like rain.”

Rodney looked up from his meal, saw the flashes of light arcing from place to place in the low clouds. As he ate, the rain started falling, gentle at first, but with increasing strength, becoming a wonderful lull in the back of his mind. He felt very restful.

“How did you know that name, Ravenpaine? I’ve never told anybody about that.” All his life, Rodney always thought of himself by that name. It was an odd secret he kept. Not even his most intimate friends knew about the identity he held for himself, locked away in his mind. Rodney stared at his rescuer with eyes full of suspicion. A small smile tugged at the corner of Shu’s mouth.

“I know a lot about you. I know who your parents were, and their parents, going back two hundred generations. This probably won’t shock you, but you aren’t of Anglo Saxon descent. Your ancestors hail from the far east.”

Rodney nodded. Why else his fascination with the Orient? “Yeah, I’ve somehow always suspected that. But you still haven’t answered my question: how do you know the name Ravenpaine?” Rodney folded his arms, turned fully towards Shu, who turned up the car’s heater a notch.

“Ravenpaine is a title of office, I guess you could say. Sort of like a military rank, but not so impersonal.” Shu looked Rodney deep in the eyes. “At its core, it is a calling” he finished softly.

Rodney digested that. And as he mentally reviewed his thoughts and feelings from his entire life, a small voice spoke to him, telling him Shu was telling the truth.

Rodney cleared his throat, said: “So, what is a Ravenpaine?”

“You are not ‘a Ravenpaine’, you ARE Ravenpaine. You are the embodiment of a special spirit, a distillation of ancient traditions and lineage. You are Ravenpaine,” he concluded simply.

Rodney stared out his window, watching the rain fall on the darkened landscape; he was suddenly seized by his own reflection in the glass. He was startled to realize that a stranger stared back at him. He turned back to Shu.

“So, how do you know all this? What am I supposed to do?”

“I know all of this because I am related to you, going back twelve generations. You could say we are cousins. You are a direct descendant of Gi Lao, he who has touched the hand of God.” Shu’s voice had softened, and Rodney noted the calm that had overtaken Shu as he said the words.

“’Touched the hand of God’? I didn’t think that the Christian God was part of the oriental faith tradition.” Hell, I know He isn’t, thought Rodney.

Shu only smiled. Rodney re-crossed his arms, waited impatiently.

“We’ll get to that later,” Shu said. “You asked what you are supposed to do.” Rodney slowly nodded. “Ravenpaine’s life isn’t a pleasant one, but it is a necessary one.”

Rodney was incredulous. “Let me guess—I have special powers, and I must confront the ultimate evil, destroy it, and then fade into obscurity. Does that about sum it up?” he finished with a snort.

Shu looked over at Rodney, displeasure written all over his face. Rodney sensed he had crossed a line, apologized. Finally, Shu spoke.

“I understand why you would make light of this, given the present state of the culture you were raised in. But this is a deadly serious matter. Only you can use the stones, only you can Draw…” Shu looked at Rodney meaningfully.

“Stones? What stones?” Rodney queried.

From the inside of his jacket (the lab coat was long gone) he produced a small leather bag, handed it to Rodney. “Open it,” he said.

Pulling loose the drawstring, Rodney opened the bag, turned it upside down, and into this open palm fell five smooth stones. The colors ranged from jet black to azure, and Rodney was amazed at how comfortable they felt in his hand. He sensed a gravity there, a special weight felt not so much with his hand, but with his heart.

“What are these?” Rodney turned them over with a finger.

“These are special stones; they have been prepared for your use, Ravenpaine. They aren’t fully charged now, but you will be able to do that later, after you have been shown how,” he paused—“You’ll need to know much before you can face the Walker”.

Rodney felt his guts turn to ice.

The Walker…

He hated that name, hated it with the most intense fury he’d ever felt before.

Rodney’s hand clenched tight, and the stones in his grip began to emit a soft blue glow…