A king stood in a tower, and watched from its window as his kingdom burned.  His blood ran down his leg to pool at his feet on the floor.  He held his hands against the wound, but he could not prevent the inevitable.  He sank against the wall by his window to prop himself up, he was so very tired.

            He had seen everyone and everything he cared about destroyed, and was even partly to blame for some of it.  He had betrayed people he loved, been betrayed by people he trusted, and abandoned those he swore to defend.  He wept silently, filled with sorrow and remorse.  His legs gave out from under him, and he slowly sank to the floor and died.

Genevieve Pitney woke up to the sound of screaming.  She had been having a wonderful dream about the skiing she planned to do this vacation, which had developed into something that was more disturbing.  Waking in such a frightening manner caused her to forget what she had been dreaming about.  All around her there was a high-pitched keening, as every human being on the plane seemed to cry out in one voice, and the cacophony drowned out her memory.  As  the adrenalin began to flow, Genevieve realized that her own voice had joined the others in a howl of fear. 

            Torrents of rain lashed at the windows, and the entire jet was shaking in the wind, turbulence rocking it from side to side like a boat.  She dug her nails into the armchair of her seat, and planted her feet on the floor.  Still screaming, Genevieve looked around the cabin of the plane for her friends.

            Passengers everywhere were screaming and crying.  Genevieve was watching the world around her go mad.  The sudden chaos was a far cry from the excitement she and her friends had felt when they had got on the plane, pleased to be on their Reading Week break from university.  Beside her was Ethan Keaton Pitney, her elder brother.  The others were all panicking, which was fully understandable given the circumstances.  Ethan alone was having what one would say was a strange reaction to such a dangerous situation, in that he wasn’t reacting at all. 

            Ethan was quite tranquil, simply observing the frenetic activity around him.  Genevieve looked up at him and was shocked to see the look of complacency on her brother’s face, given that at any moment they could die.  The shock knocked enough sense into her that she stopped screaming, and realized her throat felt raw.

His expression was unnerving.  It reminded her of a time as children when they had gone on a roller coaster.  She had screamed in fearful joy as the ride wooshed and swooshed along its tracks, shaking her and the other passengers.  The theme-park had taken photos that were for sale, and Genevieve had been startled to see the photo of her and Ethan – while she was in mid-scream, he had the same look then as now, one of being totally unconcerned with the activity around him.  He was simply staring into space as if he had been listening to something no one else could hear.  The memory struck a nerve and she started to giggle.

            As if her laughter had awakened him somehow, Ethan suddenly moved.  Genevieve felt terror in her soul as her brother unbuckled his safety belt and stood up.  She reached out to grab him, her hand shaking, but he was already moving down the aisle.  The thing that frightened her most wasn’t just the extreme danger Ethan had just put himself in, but the look upon his face. He had that same zombie-like stare, as if he wasn’t really there.

            Ethan strode down the aisle, somehow balancing against the shaking of the plane as it was tossed about by the fierce winds outside.  He went up the aisle towards one of their friends, Jason Shelagh.  Oblivious to the screams around him, Ethan headed directly to Jason’s side and slapped the crying young man.  The blow was hard enough to shake Jay’s blond head.  The shock of the blow caused Jason to sit straight up in his seat and stare into Ethan’s eyes intensely.  It seemed to Genevieve from her seat that the two were speaking to each other, communicating, yet their mouths did not move, so she couldn’t understand why she had that impression.

            Jason turned to the young man sitting next to him, his stepbrother Alexander.  He touched Alex’s shoulder, and then reached across the aisle to touch another of their friends, Evan.  Each in turn reached out to their other friends, until all had calmed.  Genevieve was amazed as she felt fear receding from her body to a manageable level.

            Ethan was still standing in front of Jason, but already his attention had redirected itself, away from his friends and towards the front of the plane.  He marched purposefully up the aisle towards an air-flight attendant standing there.

            All of the other passengers were holding completely still, and there was an eerie silence filling the cabin of the jet.  She wondered if they were calming down because of Jason, too, but then she noticed that none of them were moving.  At all.  Their faces were still locked in mid-scream, their fingers still clutching armrests or spouses’ hands, sweat glistened on the foreheads of many, suspended in mid-fall.  They weren’t even breathing, and Genevieve suddenly felt the fear begin to return, like cold fingers creeping along her skin.

            She instinctively sought Ethan, her big brother who had always protected her, and saw him at the front of the cabin.  The attendant was speaking to him, but Genevieve couldn’t see if he was answering back, his face was turned away from her.  She could see the woman’s face, though, and an errant thought took rise in Genevieve’s mind, totally out of place in such a frenzied situation, where their lives could be hanging in the balance. 

            She’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, Genevieve thought to herself.  She appeared to be Ethan’s age, as best as Genevieve could guess.  Her hair was almost shoulder length, and curly.  Its colour, however, was the remarkable thing about it — it was a red or auburn that seemed to almost glow with a golden light.  And her skin wasn’t just smooth and nicely complexioned, but pure.   That was the only word Genevieve could think of to describe it, and it didn’t come near enough. 

            The woman smiled at Ethan then, and from rows away Genevieve could feel the emotional warmth that radiated from that smile.  It evoked feelings in Genevieve that reminded her of her mother:  comfort, safety, love.  She wondered how Ethan could even speak to this angelic creature.  He was normally very shy and nervous around girls, apt to trip over his own feet and his tongue when he tried to talk to them.  If the woman’s beauty could strike Genevieve so strongly from that far away, she imagined it should hit a male like a gale force wind.  Or a hurricane.

            As she pondered this, Genevieve missed seeing what Ethan did next.  All Genevieve knew was that Ethan had been standing by this woman one moment, and by the time she looked again he was gone.

            “Where’s Ethan?”  she shouted, standing up and breaking the group’s circle.  None of them had seen what Ethan had done, or the woman, either, but they looked now.  Ethan was nowhere to be seen, but the attendant was coming down the aisle towards them.  She passed by the frozen passengers, seemingly unconcerned with their immobility and the screams painted on their faces.

            “Where’s Ethan?”  Genevieve demanded again, a tone of anger and panic creeping into her voice.  No one paid her any mind.  The woman went to Jason first, took his hand and helped him rise to his feet.  She directed him down the aisle with a gesture and a smile, and he started heading towards the front of the plane.  It seemed that he and all the other boys had been struck dumb by her beauty, as she repeated the sequence with each of them, and no one spoke a word.

            “Where is my brother?”  Genevieve glared at the woman as she approached.  Then her anger dissipated, gone as if had never been, as she looked into the woman’s eyes.  They were a rich blue that was so dark it was almost purple, like an evening sky, and were strangely calming.  From far away they would appear brown from their depth, but up close their colour was startling and beautiful.

            “Do not worry, Evie, everything will be fine,” the woman said.  She took Genevieve’s hand and started to lead her to the front of the plane.  So gentle was her manner that Genevieve could not question her, nor feel anger at the use of the nickname only Ethan and her baby sister Gwendolyn were ever allowed to use.  No one else could call her Evie without invoking her wrath, yet this woman knew that name and used it like they were friends.  Or sisters.

            Genevieve looked back at the other passengers.  “What about them?”

            “Do not worry.  They will be fine, but you must get off the plane.”

            Genevieve would have questioned this statement, as her mind screamed:  Are you mad?  There’s a storm, and we’re in mid-air, about to crash, and you want me to get off the plane?  The woman’s calming gaze erased her concerns again however, and Genevieve allowed herself to be led to the door of the jet, gaping like a hungry mouth before her.  The woman handed Genevieve her bag, which had conveniently been placed there, and then smiled.

            “Who are you?”  Genevieve asked, as she prepared to do the impossible, leap from a crashing plane headlong into a hurricane, just because this woman told her that she must.

            “A friend.  You must trust me, Evie.  All will be well.”

            And with that Genevieve had to be content, as she found herself falling from the plane into darkness.

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