Exhausted with life, Dakota tries to end his -- only to be saved at the last moment by his friend Terrell, who then drags him into a world of magic and intrigue that's always been right there, hidden beneath the surface.
Powerful magic users are steadily pulling the planet into a violent war, and evil forces will stop at nothing to take the talismans possessed by Dakota and his newfound family. Dakota soon finds himself deeply in over his head ... with love, with family, with fighting for all their lives.
A clanging noise at the gate snapped him out of his fantasy. While the ranch's main entrance was chained shut, climbing it wouldn't be too difficult, even in the snow. The wind howled, but not strong enough to shift metal. Someone moved it.
Dakota called up to the house for help, though he knew his voice wouldn't carry that far. He waited but heard nothing in return. If he tried to hurry back on worn-out legs, the stranger might make it there first. He decided the best thing to do was to intercept. Make a stand. With two guns and two talismans, maybe he had a chance.
He sprinted through the snowdrifts and down a hill to the gate.
The silhouette of a person stood on the other side. When he saw Dakota coming, he backed away a little. But even at a distance and partially cloaked by the manufactured weather, the intruder's glowing crystal discs announced his identity. The torturer. Dakota moved closer. He observed icy blue eyes, skin as pale as a corpse, and red hair. A long gray trench coat. A black scarf wrapped tightly beneath his pointed chin. The look of someone who might try to outsmart a hero detective -- or shoot up a school for no reason.
The figure raised one hand toward Dakota, and with a commanding voice that practically echoed, he pronounced the name and commands of a new talisman. "Na'fenn eta ma!"
To Dakota's horror, the area around him burst into flames despite more than adequate snow coverage. Fire flared up in every direction. He could feel the heat of it as he crouched on the ground and tried to cover his face.
But it didn't hurt.
Maybe the fire killed all the nerve endings, Dakota thought. It wouldn't really cause any pain, right? He could think of worse ways to go.
In the next moment, the flames stopped. When he opened his eyes, expecting to see charred ash in place of skin, he found no damage. Not even singeing of his clothes. Nothing at all looked out of place, except a circle of melted snow around him. Astounded, he quickly scrambled to his feet. The attacker appeared equally shocked. His head tilted to one side as he stared at the only talisman Dakota wore openly. It wasn't activated. So, what protected him from spontaneous combustion?
What, indeed. Terrell's necklace had to be the culprit. It protected him from the fire. With only seconds to react, Dakota readied his rifle and pointed it at the man. He tried to aim as best he could, but he'd only shot the thing a few times in practice, and he never hit anything. This guy stood a lot closer than the cans, however. He'd have to be completely inept to miss.
He squeezed the trigger. The kickback dug the wooden butt of the weapon deeply into his shoulder, and he let out a yelp. When he looked to see what damage he'd inflicted, he found the figure completely unharmed.
"Fuck." How could he miss at such close range? Movies always made it look so easy. With a shaking hand, he worked the bolt handle up, back, forward, and then down again, releasing the spent cartridge and pulling a new bullet into place. The gun's capacity was four rounds, and Dakota carried another four on his person, but he didn't think he could successfully reload the thing quickly enough.
The eight-pound gun felt so heavy in his hands, which went numb from the cold. As his opponent selected a new talisman to use in attack, Dakota tried to aim better this time. He moved the barrel to the left a little, gulped, and fired. The sound rang in his ears, and pain shot up from his shoulder.
A grazing hit -- just above the man's collarbone -- forced him a few steps back. A bigger caliber, and much of the area would be missing, but Eddie feared Dakota would accidentally hurt himself with something bigger.
Probably. His shoulder already felt like hell, and he'd only fired the gun twice.
The injured attacker gripped at his wound and swore, but it wasn't even remotely life-threatening. In the next moment, he raised his hand and evoked another talisman.