AN: I'm taking a temporary break from the Horseman series. I'm still plotting that one out, and the structure for this one came to me remarkably fast and I wanted to get it down. Don't worry - I won't forget about it! Just be patient with me, guys.

Anyway, I hope this one is to your standards :x ... I'm a fan of the concept. Maybe it will keep me sane as graduation approaches. (Doubt it.)
RR, ladies and gents!


[Prologue]

When the world was young, chaos reigned.

The otherworldly and supernatural walked among mankind freely; demons and creatures of the Dark stalked humans and preyed on our weaker natures and tendencies; beings of Light sought not necessarily to protect us, rather to maintain the balance – to hold the line against the Dark and prevent the scales from tipping in its favor. We were fodder – sustenance and vessels for evil, often became a threat for goodness in the process...

Humanity was a casualty of the never-ending war between the Light and Dark. Our race was nearly snuffed out as the battles raged on for generations. Paranoia and terror gripped the hearts of every man; villages scattered, their denizens often taking refuge with the Fae or other willing protectors. The outcome of Twilight (or the Great War, as it is often referred to) was uncertain, the future bleak. Mankind needed a champion of their own – one to enter into battle on their behalf, not just as an afterthought or consequence.

That champion came in the form of Atticus, an aging man who had spent his life with Fae while his family sought protection. He studied and practiced their intricate magicks for decades, becoming the first human to successfully adopt otherworldly abilities. He sought to share this gift, to educate others in the way of magick; he realized it could perhaps be their only hope. His students – men and women alike – formed a Brotherhood, a council of magically endowed humans that fought valiantly for mankind. They learned soon on, however, that Fae enchantments are no match against the warriors of Light and Dark. They needed something more potent.

They needed to harness the sublime powers of Light and Dark itself.

The Brotherhood, calling upon their most advanced magicks, devised a spell, one that would harness the soul, the very essence of any creature and fuse it with their own human spirit. Though confident in their abilities, none among their ranks had the courage to step forward and offer him or herself up to be the first to test the spell.

A young girl, her name now lost to time, approached Atticus, begging and pleading with him to cast the spell on her; a neighboring village had just fallen siege to a clan of vampires. She feared hers would be next and she wished to offer protection other family and friends. Atticus hesitated; he was not inclined to send a young woman into battle against the scourge, even with magickal aid. She cried angry tears and spat bitter curses, condemning his cowardice. "I shall fight with or without your help!" She swore. "I shall fight and die with honor protecting my family. I will not flee and hide like you, dabbling with your silly magick while your brothers and sisters are slaughtered around you!"

Spurred on by her rebuke, Atticus conceded. His talent, though great, was being wasted selfishly. He gathered the Brotherhood and prepared for the ritual.

An ancient Fire Gollum, nearing the end of its life and encouraged by the Fae, offered himself as a willing sacrifice. He would merge his spirit with the girl's to endow her with his powers.

The sorcerers gathered, girl and creature stood bravely before them. The chanting began softly, their voices like a whisper, before it built into a roar and echoed through the glen they'd taken refuge in. Palms were split with a silver dagger; young blood mingled with ancient magick.

A blinding flash of light. A sudden wave of energy threw the unprepared backwards.

The forest was silent; every creature held its breath as the light dimmed and the dust settled.

The Gollum was gone. The girl remained, and she had been transformed. Her eyes, once dark like coal, glittered the most brilliant hues of orange and yellow – the eyes of a Fire Gollum. Her once skinny, wiry frame was padded with sinew and muscle. Tendrils of flame spat and burst from her fingertips.

A hybrid – a split soul. The first of her kind.

Just as she swore, she stood bravely against the vampires. Evil, unprepared for such a foe, suffered heavy casualties. Those who survived retreated into the darkness to warn others. She became a legend - she became feared.

More importantly, she became mankind's champion.

The world was too vast for one girl to protect, however. Atticus and the Brotherhood decided they could hide no longer - they divided into factions and spread across the globe, recruiting members into the fold. Those they deemed worthy could volunteer themselves to undergo the Transformation; they could join the ranks of the Guardians, the protectors of the human race.

The hybrids quickly gained the attention of the Light and Dark. Neither side was pleased to discover man's new ability to tamper with the order of things, to absorb their spirits at will. The Dark in particular felt threatened; their food source had grown claws, had learned to fight back. Some races mimicked the Brotherhood's ritual, calling upon dark magicks to create their own hybrids – some of which we now recognize as vampires and werewolves.

The War continued on like it always had, with no end in sight - the only difference is that Man had entered into the fray. Though they typically aligned themselves with good against evil, the Guardians' main concern was to push both sides from their realm and protect their race as they did so. "Continue your battle elsewhere." They demanded. "Leave our world in peace."

Their voices carried weight now, and many obliged.

But not all.

Monsters and demons unconcerned with Twilight still lurked among us and preyed on us. Many hybrids, in response, elected to roam the world to protect innocents. They'd wander from town to town, slaying whatever evil might be there before moving on.

Years passed. The original members of the Brotherhood realized their time on this earth was quickly drawing to a close. They compiled a collection of instructions and spells for the subsequent generations, the first Grimoire, and, gathering their magicks one final time, cast a powerful spell whose effects still ripple through time today: when one dies, another is summoned.

The Brotherhood had calculated the number of Guardians required to defend the world from Darkness - their ranks needed to remain small to remain covert, but they didn't want to risk having their entire race (however durable) wiped out over the years. Their solution was simple: with a Guardian fell, a creature's soul would be summoned from the afterlife and fuse it with that of a worthy individual. It was the Brotherhood's job to locate and train them until they were ready to enter into the fight.

What the Brotherhood neglected to realize is that their spell made no consideration for what would be summoned: any supernatural creature could cross the void and fuse itself with what it considered a worthy host. Most creatures tended to target the good, the morally-centered people. Some, however, were the essences of monsters or demons. They often (though not always) chose those who would eventually submit to the dark nature being impressed and imposed on them.

Any Guardian that abandoned or ignored their call were considered Rogue and watched carefully, if not immediately hunted down. There is no way to split the souls once they were fused - the only option is death. Otherwise, barring serious injury, hybrids could live for generations.

They exist to this day, walking among us unnoticed and protecting us from evils we have long forgotten existed. The Brotherhood's spell perfected itself over time, usually endowing its chosen with the powers and abilities of the creatures rather than physical appearance. That's not to say it's perfect - study any hybrid close enough and they'll often exhibit minute tells, minuscule details or qualities that just seem off.

Jade West is one such individual. Her eyes shine just a little too brightly in the darkness, her skin just a little too pale, her temper just a little too consuming. She was summoned in the late 1800s, her soul fusing with that of a chaos demon, a powerful servant of the goddess Eris.

She was not well received by most Guardians, her summoning not celebrated. Very few of her kind had ever existed and most that had had caused severe trouble and strife for the world before, their humanity warped and mutated over time by the powerful evil inside them. Despite her unfavorable treatment she remained with her team of Guardians for many years and was able to form strong, if not always positive, bonds with them.

Things, however, changed suddenly... Overnight, in fact. She and her companions stumbled upon a nest of vampires while investigating a rash of slayings and mutilations in the area, the element of surprise failing to work in their favor. Major injuries were sustained, casualties suffered. What remained of the hybrids retreated to safety before their entire team fell. When they awoke the next day Jade was gone, and all attempts to locate her failed. That was nearly fifty years ago. To this day she has yet to be found, and is presumed by many to be long dead.

But, as the story goes, speak of the devil and she will appear.