”Dear Ambellina, the Prise wishes you to watch over me.”
God was furious.
The Year of the Black Rainbow was a dark age. The Mage Wars threatened to tear apart all of God’s creation. Mankind and the mage Wilhelm Ryan were locked in fierce battle. Already, Ryan had taken care of the other mages and ruled with an iron fist. Those that followed him served in fear, and those that defied him drown in their own blood. Even with this threat, those created as Prise, guardians of that which God had created, did not intervene.
Since the war had begun, my sisters and I debated for too long about whether or not to intercede and help mankind. Heaven's Fence, the galaxy we watched over, was in turmoil. However, the words God had given us were twisted in riddle:
”If Man should decide to dabble in my affairs, then guardians must intervene. But, should I come forth to change the face of Man with you there to challenge me – then I shall return with the stars to destroy all I have made. Whether Man or I present that danger will not be told in the coming”
Without mention of the Mages, we Prise stood still. Now a shadowy void stretched across the sky, cutting a deep scar into the morning sky. The contrast was striking, as though a portal to another dimension had been opened. The symbolism was not lost on the Prise, least of all to me. My sister, Paranoia, was resistant at first, some may say even ignorant. Perhaps my angry outburst convinced her, or perhaps Paranoia knew all along but the black emptiness in the cosmos could only mean God was angry at our refusal to help mankind.
Paranoia then visited Dr. Leonard Hohenberger, using her powers to instill the knowledge he needed to create the weapons mankind required in order to push back against Ryan. With such knowledge, it was the hope of us Prise that they could reclaim what they had lost; their freedom, their sanity… their lives.
As part of the Prise, it was my duty to do whatever it took to see God’s word come to pass. No matter the cost, I would answer my calling.
”I will call you out from shelter. Burn your wings, you’ll know no better.”
Years passed by for man and the state of mankind remained mostly unchanged. War spread like a disease from planet to planet, destroying many in its wake. Dr. Leonard Hohenberger died at the hands of one of Ryan’s generals and the doctor’s weaponized creations, Coheed and Cambria fell into a purgatory slumber, neither alive nor dead. Still, we Prise held out hope. It had been prophesized that a result of the doctor’s work would be the end of Ryan’s reign. His name would be Claudio Kilgannon and he would possess the powers to destroy Ryan and finally end the suffering mankind had endured for too long.
The unsettled nature of the war became too much for us Prise to stand by and watch. It was decided that one of us would seek out the prophesized one, this Claudio, and protect him. To ensure the survival of Claudio was to guarantee the survival of mankind. Without him and his powers, mankind would forever bend at the will of Winhelm Ryan. Between the sisters, it was finally decided that I would find Claudio and safeguard him.
To fulfill my mission, I had to become like mankind; less than Prise but still more than mere mortal men. I knew what was to happen, but nobody, not even my sisters, could prepare me for the pain. A slow heat brewed inside me, gradually growing, rising into an inferno. Flames licked over my wings and devoured my hair. A great fire consumed me from the inside out, burning away any trace, any hint that was I was of the Prise family. My sisters looked on with horror as screams ripped from my throat while the flames overwhelmed me. Finally, the pain became so much, the world went black. When I awoke, I was ready for my mission.
With the help of my sisters, I traveled to Claudio’s last known whereabouts; his family home. It had turned into a crime scene but it was a place to start. Luckily I crossed paths with one who was quite familiar with Claudio, one named Newo. Her looks reminded me of the sisters I left behind for this mission, and her reluctance to help me in finding Claudio did not deter me. All I cared for was the success of my mission to find Claudio safely and ensure he destroyed Ryan for good.
Following the girl proved more trouble for me. A monster, one of the Onstantine Priests, attacked Newo. Still believing she was of importance, I intervened. Snapping the neck of the intruder, I disposed of him though not without a little help from Newo. Once the threat was taken care of, I came into possession of a letter Claudio had written for his love before he’d vanished. I sensed he was no longer on his home planet… no. He had escaped the long reach of Ryan, for now. To protect the girl, to keep her from searching, I lied and told her the letter spoke truth. The Claudio she knew was dead and gone.
Even with the lead Newo unknowingly gave me, tracking Claudio down was a difficult task. Perhaps he truly was dead… or perhaps he was lying in wait. Years passed before I was able to track him down, and I spent even longer protecting him from the shadows of Ryan’s men. It seemed creatures lurked around every corner, waiting for Claudio to be caught unaware. Little did they know, I lurked around the same corners and counted all of their moves.
”I will call you out from shelter. Burn your wings and learn their letters.”
During my years of searching for and protecting Claudio, my sisters took action in the war, fighting side by side with mankind. They had caught wind that Ryan’s plan was to disrupt the formation of Heaven's Fence and use the powers that connected the planets for his own. Although my sisters were mostly successful in thwarting his plans, Ryan still managed to gain the upper hand once more and broke off a several planets from the galaxy’s formation. The Prise gave their lives in order to preserve the rest of the formation and gave mankind time to reform. And with that time, mankind was able to capture Winhelm Ryan.
While mankind celebrated the capture of Winhelm Ryan, I busied myself with molding Claudio into the weapon he was meant to be. Having been hidden for many years, finding the bottom of many a bottle while lurking in the underground, Claudio was less than receptive to the idea that he, of all people, would be the end to Winhelm Ryan. He was even less so when he learned that Ryan had been captured and was to be executed for his crimes against mankind. All of Heaven's Fence watched in awe as Ryan was executed. Little did he and mankind know, Ryan was not so easily destroyed.
After the broadcast, I followed Claudio closely down into the deepest depths under the city. Instead of going to Claudio’s “home”, however, he took a detour. We came across the dumping grounds of the city. Piles of trash and treasure alike stuffed under the city where no one could see. Claudio admitted he’d dug through the trash more than once to fish out any valuables in order to trade for food and other “necessities”. This time was not a routine visit. Instead of finding valuables, Claudio happened upon the remains of an Iro-bot; a synthesis of machinery and human. It was a sign of Claudio’s destiny to become what mankind needed, but he was resistant. He angered quickly, lashing out at the closest thing to him; me. Before I could react, Claudio unwittingly awakened one of his long-lost powers and made himself immaterial. His hand had vanished into my chest, fingers clasped around my heart. Had I still been Prise, such circumstance would be of no matter. But I’d left that life behind me and here Claudio held my life in his hands. Just as quickly as his hand and grasped my heart, he pulled back in stunned silence. But it was too late. Blackness swirled into my vision and my lifeless body crumpled to the ground.
Even in a world filled with beings flickering closer and closer to immortality, death still finds a way to sidle through the cracks. As luck would have it, Claudio had the power to combat even death. Ruled by strong emotions of regret and guilt, he summoned his second power and brought me back to life. Perhaps it was the guilt he felt for nearly killing me or perhaps he finally understood his destiny, I was finally able to convince him to join my cause against Winhelm Ryan, And we’d start with reconstructing the Iro-bot we’d found among the trash.
It was laborious to bring the Iro-bot back from the shredded remains we had found, but Claudio put his whole being into reforming it. Even when a broadcast flashed across all of Heaven's Fence announcing Ryan’s resurrection, Claudio still worked. And even when Ryan’s forced landed on the planet and slaughtered the innocent, Claudio still worked. I would not stand by, however, and let Ryan’s forces overpower us at our weakest. Instead, I attempted to flee the underground and meet Ryan’s army above ground. An ambush thwarted my plans and if not for the kindness of a stranger named Al, I would surely have perished. Alternatively, we fought side by side to dispose of wave upon wave of bodies. Eventually we won out and Al offered us, including the Iro-bot now named Sizer, a ride off the planet in his ship.
We accepted without thought, knowing well that to stay on the planet’s surface was sure death. We knew not who we were dealing with. Al was found to be a mass murderer, one who preyed on women with the likeness of his past lover. A cache of his victim’s bodies swayed in the freezer unit of the ship, a cache I had stumbled upon by accident. After discovering this, I knew I had to alert Claudio… but I would not get the chance. Al was there with a neuroelectro paralytic, knocking me to the floor. Paralysis quickly set in as he threatened to add me to his morbid collection, and worse. I couldn’t fight back as he clasped my face in his hand, breath washing over my skin. Then Claudio was there in a flash, fighting Al back. My head hit the floor, paralysis still imprisoning my body. My muscles would not respond to command and instead I lay limp on the floor of the freezer, watching Claudio and Al locked in battle. Silently I cheered for Claudio and winced inside each time he took a hit. During the fight, the navigation panel of the ship was damaged and suddenly the ship was spinning, spiraling out of control towards the surface of a new planet, one that housed Winhelm Ryan.
Without much choice, Claudio removed Al from the ship and left me behind to fend for myself. And I did. Even with the crash landing of the ship, I survived and joined the fight against Ryan’s forces once more. Ryan did not hold back, flaunting his powers to imprison the rest of the Prise and push our men back into a retreat. It was during the retreat, at our most vulnerable, that Ryan’s army saw its chance to dispose of the last Prise; me. Pain suddenly sparked inside my body. As if from thin air, a blade protruded from my chest. With each beat of my heart, my life’s blood painted the ground. Claudio was at my side, holding me, screaming my name. But everything was so distant, so surreal. Darkness started to cloud my vision as I watched Claudio's face transform from shock into despair. Who knew, after all this time, that Claudio had felt something for me.
I had knocked at Death’s gate once before, but this time Claudio’s powers would not bring me back. This time I knew Death would answer…
“Dear Claudio… I know not much of love… It’s not in my make, but if I could’ve… I would’ve loved you…"
BG and quotes ©Claudio Sanchez + Coheed and Cambria
Story based on Amory Wars
Art and writing ©Celestial