In the grey twilight of early morning, a young man walks through the streets of Glasgow, his black coat billowing behind him as a stiff wind blows. Shrugging further into it, he pulls the scarf closer around his neck to fight the pre-dawn chill. Hurrying across an empty shopping plaza, he stops for a moment as he catches his reflection in the glass of a nearby shop window. His piercing green eyes have a tired look about them, and his coat and clothes are shabby after days spent out of the city. Brushing a strand of black hair out of his face, he rubs the stubble on his chin and sighs.
“I need a shave,” he mumbles to himself. Turning from the shop window, he walks up the stairs to the entrance of the hotel which dwarves the nearby buildings. Stepping through its rotating door, he shivers a little as the warmth from inside washes over him. Ignoring the unapproving looks from the nearby wealthy patrons, he walks towards the lifts, unwinding the scarf around his head.
“Ah, Mr Aelfdane. Could I possibly borrow a moment of your time, Sir?” Stopping as he hears his name, the young man turns away from the lifts and walks over to the front desk.
“A letter came for you while you were out Sir. Here.” Taking the envelope from the clerk, he turns it over and looks at it. Plain white, with no seals or a return address. Frowning, he walks past the front desk and steps into an open lift. Within moments, he arrives at the door of his room. Unlocking it, he steps inside, shrugging out of his coat and flicking a light as he walks forwards and sits down heavily on the sofa. With a sense of foreboding, he tears open the envelope. Inside, he finds a folded note and a first-class train ticket. Ignoring the ticket, he pulls out the note and reads it. As he reaches the bottom, anger fills him and he crumples the note. Feeling a presence in his mind, he stops as a man’s voice talks to him.
“Calm down Leon.” Taking a deep breath, he unclenches his fist and smooths the note out. “She wouldn’t have sent you a message if she didn’t have a good reason and you know that.”
“Yeah, but it doesn’t make this crap any easier to swallow. We should be on our way. The quicker we get this over and done with, the better.” Getting to his feet, Leon quickly gathers his meagre possessions and stuffs them into an old worn rucksack. Pulling on his coat and scarf once more, he does a last sweep of the room before stepping out of the door and tucking the envelope into his pocket. Reaching the ground floor a few minutes later, he hurries over to the front desk and rings the bell, bringing the clerk running over.
“I’m checking out. What’s the rest on my tab?” Pulling out his wallet, Leon removes a card as the clerk taps away on the keyboard.
“It appears your account has already been settled, Sir. According to the notes, we’ve forwarded the bill to Schola Divini in London, Sir. They were very generous with their tip. Please pass on our thanks when you arrive.” Putting his card away as the man bows to him, Leon grinds his teeth.
“I’ll be sure to thank them when I get there. Thanks for all your help.”
“My pleasure, Sir. We hope you enjoyed your stay and look forward to the next time you choose to stay with us.” Picking up his bag, Leon hoists it over his shoulder and leaves the hotel. Stepping out into the cold once more, he shields his eyes as the first rays of sunlight peek over the horizon. Setting off at a brisk pace, he crosses back over the plaza and into the empty street adjoining it. Keeping his brisk pace, he ignores his surroundings and gets lost quickly in thought. Touching his chest pocket, he sighs and comes to a stop as he bumps into a large man.
“Sorry. I wasn’t watching where I was going.” Turning to look Leon in the eye, the man takes an aggressive stance forward. Stepping back, Leon lifts his hands in apology.
“You picked the wrong part of town to come wandering into pal.” Looking around, Leon realises the upscale buildings had given way to ramshackle huts and run-down buildings.
“I don’t want any trouble, mate.” Smiling menacingly, the big man cracks his knuckles and advances towards Leon. Jumping back a few paces, Leon takes a wide stance and flings his coat back, bringing his hand to rest on the metal cylinders clipped to his hip. Catching sight of the pieces of steel clipped to Leon’s belt, the big man’s eyes widen in fear and he backs away quickly from Leon, stuttering out an apology.
“My apologies, my Lord. I meant no offence; I was only playing.” Reaching the corner of the street, the big man turns and flees before Leon can do anything. Relaxing slightly, Leon glances around the slums and quickly finds his bearings. With a sigh, he turns and picks up his brisk walking pace again, heading back in the direction he came.
Finding himself back on the main street a few minutes later, Leon hurries along as the streets fill with the morning foot traffic. Avoiding contact with those around him, Leon finally reaches the terminal for the station. Walking down the stairs, he heads to the nearest helpdesk, pulling the letter from his coat and removing the ticket. Placing it on the counter, he addresses the man behind the window.
“Good morning. I’d like to book a seat on the first train to London if I could please.” Reaching over, the man takes the ticket, his eyes widening as he reads the text on it.
“Sir, this is a VIP First-Class ticket. We won’t have a train with a carriage available of that calibre until later this afternoon.”
“That’s not a problem. Put me in a lower-class carriage on the first train. The sooner I can get to London the better.” Frowning, the man turns to his computer and begins typing. After a moment, he gets out of his chair.
“I’ll have to talk to my manager about this. I’ll be back in just a moment.” Stepping away from his computer, the man walks through a small door at the back of the office. Sighing to himself, Leon turns away from the helpdesk and surveys the train station. For the early hour of the morning, the amount of people hurrying around the station surprises him. Stretching out his shoulders, Leon removes his coat and folds it carefully on to the top of his bag. Rolling up the sleeves on his shirt, he yawns and rubs the tiredness from his eyes. Stepping clear of a man in a business suit, Leon catches sight of a small girl and her mother as they hand their luggage to a porter, who hurries away with their bags on a small trolley. Looking his way, the little girl smiles at him. Smiling back at her, he gives her a small wave. Waving back, she tugs on her mother’s sleeve.
“Mummy, why does that man have pieces of metal on his belt?” Catching Leon’s eye, the woman smiles at Leon before squatting down to the girl’s height.
“They’re anima. He has them because he’s a keeper.”
“Oh. You mean like Uncle…?” Laughing, the woman replies.
“Yes, like Uncle.” For a moment a look of intense concentration covers the little girl’s face.
“What’s a anima?”
“They’re what allow the keepers to keep us safe. The keepers are the ones who fight the nocturna.”
The little girl’s look of concentration deepens for a moment before her eyes light up with the discovery of her realisation. Letting go of her mother’s hand, she runs over to Leon. Stopping in front of him, she drops into a small curtsy.
“Thank you for keeping us safe, Mr. keeper.” Smiling, Leon drops to her level and looks her in the eye.
“You’re very welcome, young miss. I think you should head back to your mother; you don’t want to miss your train.” With a last laughing smile, she turns on her heel and runs back to her mother. Taking the girl’s hand, she bows her head slightly at Leon before heading through the turnstile and further into the station. Standing straight, Leon turns back to the ticket booth at the sound of the door opening. The man from earlier comes through accompanied by an older gentleman.
“I’m sorry, Sir, but we cannot transfer you to another train on this ticket. If you’d like, I can get you on the train that leaves in fifteen minutes, but you will have to purchase a replacement ticket.”
“Fine.” Gritting his teeth in frustration, Leon pays for his ticket. Taking it from the clerk, he jerks his bag up onto his shoulder and enters the station. Boarding the train moments later, he quickly finds his cabin and enters it quietly. Dumping his bag onto the seat, he removes his anima, stashing them into the top of the bag. Stretching out a kink in his back, he puts the bag in the overhead compartment before taking a seat by the window. Relaxing into his seat, he pulls down the shade as the last of the passengers board the train. Closing his eyes, his breathing slows as he drifts into a restless sleep.
Turning around, Leon looks over the table at Andrea, leaning against the kitchen bench.
“I take it my father isn’t here?”
“They called him away on urgent business, Leon. It couldn’t be helped.”
“It never can be.” Sighing, Leon gets up from the table and drops his dishes into the sink.
“Where did he get called to this time? America, or Russia perhaps?”
“He’s in Brazil. In Rio I believe.” With a humph Leon turns away from Andrea and walks towards his room, turning to the tv with a start as the emergency broadcast sound emits from it.
“Breaking news. We are just receiving reports that an as yet unknown disaster has devastated Sao Paulo. Reports coming in claim that a giant energy wave destroyed the city, as well as the surrounding areas.” For a moment, the announcer stops talking and places her hand against her head.
“New reports coming in. Other waves have erupted in New York, Washington, Melbourne and various places in Europe.” With a look of fear and terror, the lady looks over to her right.
“God help us all.” With the sound of static, the broadcast shuts off and an emergency symbol fills the screen. Turning back to Andrea, shock covers Leon’s face.
“Sao Paulo is right near Rio.”
“Leon, we don’t know anything yet. Don’t panic. LEON!” Turning from Andrea, he bursts through the door and across the yard, ignoring Andrea’s shout. As the memory fades to black, Andrea’s shout lingers in his mind. Quickly replaced by a man’s voice in his mind.
“Nocturna. Wake up!”
Waking with a start, Leon lands on his feet as he’s thrown from the seat. The sound of grinding metal comes from outside as the train’s brakes struggle to bring it to a halt. Reacting quickly, Leon grabs a single metal cylinder from the bag above. Reaching the door, he wrenches it open with a crash and runs down the corridor towards the front of the train. Narrowly dodging passengers, he ignores the shouts and curses that follow him as he charges through the train. Reaching the door between his carriage and the next, he kicks it open, stepping out into the air. Without a sound, he leaps up, landing lightly on the roof of the train. Looking forward, he starts to run as he notices gigantic figures moving around at the front of the train. With a flick of his wrist, the steel cylinder becomes a single edge sword, a wolf’s head etched into the side of the blade.
“Let’s go Fenrir.” Increasing his speed as the first screams reach his ears, the world around him blurs. Sliding to the edge of the frontmost carriage, Leon leaps off the train, blade flashing in the weak sunlight. Landing heavily, he barely feels any resistance as the blade passes through the first of the nocturna by the train. Not waiting for the beast to fall, he launches himself around it, blade plunging into the chest of the next creature before it even knows he is there. Wrenching his blade free, he twists to avoid the claws of the third nocturna. Dancing away from the creature, Leon brings his blade upright in front of him. Gripping it firmly, he focuses on the next nocturna.
“Howling Wind Shard!” At his shout, wind bursts forth from the hilt, swirling around the blade. Stepping forward, Leon waits a moment for shards of ice to form and start spinning around the tip of the blade before swinging it towards the nocturna. With a scream that raises the hairs on his neck, the wind and ice rips into the creature, tearing it apart. Breathing heavily, Leon sags for a moment, driving the point of his sword into the ground and leaning heavily on it. Looking around, he takes in the carnage he caused in such a short amount of time. The sounds of breaking glass and screaming bring him back to reality, panic making him break out into a sweat. Hefting his sword, Leon runs to the other side of the train and comes across a sight that fills him with sadness and rage. Lying on the ground in a pool of blood next to a few other bodies, is the lady from the station, deep claw marks across her chest. Her daughter lying a few feet further away from her, as still as if she was peacefully sleeping. The little girl’s lifeless eyes bore into Leon like an accusation. Looking up as more screams come from the train, rage fills Leon at the sight of nocturna, reaching in through the window. With a scream, the rage inside explodes out, and Leon launches himself towards the nocturna. Stepping under its arm, Leon kicks off the ground and drives his blade up into the creature’s chest. Holding the blade as it rears backwards, he’s lifted off the ground. Fixing its sight on Leon, the nocturna swings its clawed hand towards him. Letting go of the sword, he falls backwards, the force from the creature’s swing rustling his hair as it goes past. Landing on his shoulder, Leon rolls clear of the creature’s arms and comes to his feet. Bringing his hand up, his finger glows. As if he was writing on paper, he scrawls a symbol of light into the air. As he joins the two ends together, he flicks it towards the nocturna. From the symbol, missiles of light explode outward and arc from every direction towards the creature, engulfing it in an explosion as they connect. Breathing heavily, Leon keeps his hand raised, the symbol of light still against his finger. With a thump and burst of dust, the nocturna falls forwards and hits the ground. Lowering his arm, Leon walks forwards and kicks the creature over. Reaching forward, he wrenches his blade out of the chest of the creature in a spray of blood. Turning away from it and heading back towards the train, he suppresses Fenrir, returning him to his dormant form. As he reaches the door, a deafening cheer comes from inside of the train. Before he can take two steps, the Chief Conductor steps from his cabin and stops in front of him.
“You just saved us all, son. If it weren’t for you, none of these folks would be going home to their families tonight.” Looking around at the people’s faces staring at him and the look of relief on them, he gestures outside, as he suppresses the grief rising from his chest.
“There’s some who won’t. Don’t leave them behind.” Without another word, he pushes past the conductor and with one glance at the look on his face, the people in the corridors step aside to let him pass. Arriving back at his carriage, he steps inside and closes the blind on the door before shutting it tight. Turning from the door, he takes two steps into the cabin before he falls to his knees, tears running down his face. In his mind, Fenrir’s voice echoes strongly.
“There’s nothing you could have done, Leon. We just saved a whole train full of people.” closing his eyes, Leon replies.
“We didn’t save a whole train. I did not save them.”
“There’s nothing you could have done, Leon. You know that.” “I know Fen. But it doesn’t make it hurt any less.” Kneeling on the ground, Leon hardly notices as the train moves once more, carrying him on his way to London as if nothing had ever happened.