The ground trembled that day, several cities in the New England region reporting mild earthquakes.
It lasted for quite a while and the local authorities, in their paranoia, immediately suspected parahuman involvement. They were unsure about the location of the epicentre of the mild-ish earthquake, though.
The ground started to heat up in several places as if the furnaces of hell themselves had decided on that moment to fire up again.
And who knew, maybe they had.
Those organizations with access to Thinkers used these to try and find out more.
Most Thinkers simply drew blank, having not a single clue as to what was happening.
Most are not all, though.
While not quite sure of the exact origin of the quake, a single girl sitting in a bar – her head covered with blonde hair and her face dotted with freckles – turned to the approximate direction of the epicentre.
A fire? Underground?
And below the earth, near a small mountain range, inside a deep and truly gigantic chamber, an immense fire burned, its light illuminating the ashen landscape around it for the first time in centuries.
The fire raged and grew, shining brighter with each patch of ashen ground it spread to, and from the ground, as if reaching for the heat of the flame, large hands covered in black gauntlets reached upwards.
Tall figures, clad in black armour with various weapons strapped to their backs, rose from the ashes, answering the call they all had heard.
The figures neared the flame, casting long shadows on the ground and shaking off the ashes remaining on them from their long slumber.
The fire they were walking toward seemed to stabilize after quite some time after it had spread to the outskirts of the vast and eerie landscape, engulfing the black knights who didn't seem to care about the heat, nor about the brightness.
And in the centre of the gargantuan flame, the point where all the knights' eyes were locked on, a figure, tall and majestic, brown hair whirling around its face, opened its eyes.
It was at that moment that the knights knew their wait was over.
The flame burned once more, the world could return to its former glory and the dark would be repelled.
A new age had begun... a new Age of Fire.
And Taylor Hebert opened her eyes once more.
- Humanity -
The rain outside fell in streams and Emily Piggot was glad to be dry and inside her office. Even though the rain fell it was hot outside.
The event a few hours earlier had heated up the ground and evaporated quite a low of water so the surprising amount of downfall were to be expected.
Thankfully, the ground had cooled down again, although it was still slightly warmer than before.
The director of the PRT ENE, stationed in Brockton Bay, was in a meeting with the other directors. The topic of discussion being the already mentioned event earlier that day and their speculations about the origin of it.
Currently, the leaders of the Parahuman Response Teams were pretty much clueless; there wasn't a lot of information available.
The only thing they had been able to discern was that the origin of the quake that had shaken the land lay somewhere near the ENE branches HQ.
As if I don't already have enough to do... This city really doesn't need some kind of disaster striking it soon. At least it was confirmed that it wasn't Behemoth.
"Do we have a clue about the actual cause of the quake? According to Dragon, Behemoth cannot be the perpetrator since he is currently burrowing under East Asia.", one of the people on the screen in front of her asked.
She wasn't particularly interested in the whole thing but begrudgingly acknowledged that the ENE branch was important in this.
"We suspect a trigger event. A power like that would be known already so it is the only plausible option.", Chief Director Costa-Brown answered the question.
"Then I suppose we follow through with the standard procedure?", Emily Piggot inquired.
"Yes, though it would be good to establish especially strong connections early on, assuming the cape in question chooses to be a hero."
"Good. I will send a small troop to investigate the general area the event is most likely to have been caused from."
Cancelling the call, the director of the PRT ENE reached for the small office phone on her desk and pressed a button, retracting the screen she had used to observe the meeting back into the ceiling.
She took the receiver and dialled in a shortcut...
She had things to prepare.
- Humanity -
Warmth filled me, like a perpetual flame burning inside me, so strong that I would never have to fear the cold emptiness I had felt for the last year.
A feeling of power filled me and I felt content to be myself, for the first time in so long.
As I opened my eyes and saw the fire that surrounded me, I at first didn't know what to do.
I knew the fire wouldn't hurt me, that feeling was instinctual, somehow, but I was very unused to being covered in flames, and the strangeness of the situation I had found myself in, both earlier when I had literally stumbled into this place and now, after waking, only just began to settle in.
The warmth was unlike anything I had ever felt before and the feeling of power it gave me was exhilarating.
Screw Emma, I didn't need her. I didn't need anyone... but I wanted them... I really wanted friends...
It was kind of sad, really...
Before I stumbled upon this place I thought I would be able to do everything alone, handle school and all its problems on my own... and now that I had the power to do all that on my own, I wanted help... and I wanted to help.
Before me several figures clad in terribly scorched and blackened knights armour, huge weapons were mounted upon their backs, stood waiting. As I looked at them and the kneeled as one I felt a sense of belonging, as if these strange and forgotten creatures were connected to me in some way.
Maybe they knew something about all that just happened?
I strode towards them, intent on asking them all the questions my heart desired the answers to... but they stepped to the side like royal knights clearing the way for their king.
I turned to a specific knight to my right – he didn't look any different from the others; the only things that made these warriors distinguishable were their weapons, anyway – and asked him.
"Um... excuse me but... Do you... know what is going on? Where are we?"
To be quite honest, the whole situation freaked me out. I mean... what "normal" girl my age – or any age, for that matter – wouldn't freak out at being on fire while still being fine after waking in a cave after stumbling into said cave after... okay... I should stop rambling.
The point is: I was pretty uncomfortable then. The complete silence from these creatures didn't make me feel any better, actually.
As I inspected the knights' helmet further I could barely perceive the charred flesh beneath it.
How horrible... just what had these knights gone through?
"Ah... The Lord awakens at last... Or would it be The Lady?"
A deep, ominous voice sounded through the chamber, barely louder that the roaring flames.
Up ahead, barely out of the flames' reach, "stood" a serpentine creature, red slitted eyes staring straight at me, a mouth with exposed teeth – no lips were present on the creatures hideous visage – gnawed endlessly on nothing.
The creature looked malformed, like the monster of a horror film, to be honest, but its fleshy mustache hung from above its gnawing teeth in a strange perversion of comic relief.
I was hesitant about interacting with a creature such as this, but it seemed to know more about the situation...
"Um... Hello? Who exactly are you? And...", I looked back to the knights who had come closer to me, hands on their weapons as if feeling my reluctance to talk with this snake-like creature, "Do you now where we are? And what just happened?"
The snake seemed to grin slightly – as much as was possible without lips and proper facial muscles.
"Ah... It seems as if the new Lady is in need of some knowledge... Very well, I shall serve as a means of... exposition.", it lowered its head in a sort of bow – I wasn't sure if this was meant to be a sincere gesture or if it was mockery – and continued, "But first let me introduce myself... I am the Primordial Serpent, Kingseeker Frampt, close friend of the Great Lord Gwyn... Your... predecessor..."
A/N: nd that's it. I'm not entirely satisfied with the middle part of this chapter, but I think it worked out relatively well. Anyway, thank you very much for reading, and I'm sorry for the delay. I hope you had fun reading this chapter (and I hope you will have fun thinking about what might happen, that's always my favourite part about reading stories).
If you liked it or have some constructive criticism, leave it as a review. Thank you very much.