Book 1: Spark of Imagination
We would destroy our enemies at the wave of a hand.
Our power seemed infinite, and no one dared to stand against us.
We were gods.
But we forgot how we obtained our power.
We were ignorant to forget that our power was stolen, and that one day its rightful owner might come to reclaim it.
Because of our greed; we lost everything.
Now we can only hope this dark chapter will never be forgotten.
There might come a day when we are once again tempted to wield this power.
But it cannot be controlled.
The power is his, and his alone.
Locked away in endless dreams.
The dreamer must never awaken.
Vincent is taking some time unwinding at the small peninsula by the lake, just outside of town. The water is calm with the sun standing high above him, and in the distance across the lake; trees are creating a green belt between the blue sky and the shimmering water. By the lake where he sits it is usually quiet, and only rarely does someone come walking by.
He was often out by the lake to clear his head, but today he has a hard time finding his calm, and a feeling of anxiety is building up inside him for reasons he cannot figure out. Vincent tries to remember what a friend had taught him about meditation and decides he would give it a try to see if it helps. But while sitting there, time gets away from him and he does not notice that the day passes into evening. The sun is now disappearing behind the treeline, clouds are gathering in the sky and the wind keeps getting colder. Eventually it is so cold that he decides to get up and head back into town. But just as he gets on his feet and picks up his bag, he feels as if a needle gets stabbed into his head, making him loose balance and fall back down again. When he hits the ground, something lashes around his legs and starts dragging him away at high speed. As he tumbles and turns, he can feel the razor-sharp ground shredding his clothes and starting to pierce his skin. But just as quick as he was pulled away; he suddenly stops.
Vincent takes a few deep breaths before he looks down towards his feet. He finds himself at the edge of a dark hole, and quickly crawls back once he realizes how close he is. He then carefully stands up and slowly leans towards the hole, trying to see how deep it goes. But there is only darkness; so dark that it burns your eyes looking at it. Vincent takes a step back and looks around. It is a large cave with symbols carved into the walls; filled with what looks like metal, glowing in pale blue, and it is difficult to see anything except the symbols, stretching far in all directions. He takes a step forward again and looks down into the darkness. It keeps moving, and he gets the feeling that it is watching him, trying to reach out to him. It seems to be alive and sucks all the light out the air unlike anything he had ever seen before.
While staring into the deep darkness; sadness starts creeping upon him. The sadness turns into grief and he begins to cry without even knowing why. He feels as if a large stone is pressing on his chest, and his body is getting so heavy that he can hardly keep upright anymore. As Vincent is fighting the urge to lie down on the ground; he hears something moving closer towards him through the darkness below, and suddenly it explodes up around him, engulfing him completely. He feels his mind being invaded by a will much stronger than his own and a voice starts talking to him in a tongue he cannot understand. Each word is like a knife gracing him, making small cuts, and as the words intensify; he feels as if they start to cut off small pieces of his skin and flesh. Moments later he is standing in his hometown, where everything around him is burning. People are running screaming out of their houses and the sky is filled with green flames swirling in and out of the clouds like a forming tornado. The clouds suddenly open and beams of light rain down over the fleeing people; cutting them to pieces. The pain is now so intense that he falls to his knees, and as the pain keeps intensifying, he eventually falls flat to the ground. But just before he passes out, the words start becoming clearer and he can just make out one sentence:
“Through death; there will be life…”
The pain disappears, and he quickly sits up, finding himself at the lake again. It is dark but the wind has calmed down, and he can hear the waves softly hitting the rocks in the water below him. Vincent looks at his arms and legs to check if the cuts that he felt are there, but there is not even a scratch.
‘What the hell was that?’ he thought to himself.
‘Did I fall asleep?’
‘Was I dreaming?’
As he brushes the dirt from his clothes, he hears a strange crackling sound above him, and he looks up to see a blue fireball falling in towards the city. Vincent quickly gets on his feet to get a better view and sees it crash somewhere in the forest with a big explosion.
‘What the actual f…’
‘Was that a meteor?’
‘But they shouldn’t be blue?’
‘Or should they?’
‘I have to see where it crashed…’
‘I hope no one got hurt.’
He runs to his motorcycle, gets on it, starts the engine and rides off in the direction where he saw the explosion. As he rides, smoke starts to rise towards the sky and when Vincent gets closer, he can see the smoke coming from behind the trees close to the road. He drives in on a small dirt path through the forest heading towards the impact. Close to the crash the path stops, so he parks his bike and starts running the last hundred meters. Just then he realizes how he is rushing towards this potential danger without any regard for his own safety. But he is driven by a sense of urgency, that he must get to the site as fast as possible, and the feeling inside him is so strong that he cannot ignore it.
‘What am I doing?’
‘Why do I feel this urge to get there?’
Once he gets close enough, he can see a large crater with smoke coming out of it.
‘No, it’s not smoke… it’s more like mist.’
To his surprise there is no heat or fire anywhere. On the contrary it feels quite cool. He takes a step and looks down on the ground, which is covered by crystals, shimmering in pale blue. As Vincent walks in through the mist, he sees something in the middle of the crater. He moves carefully through the mist to see what it is and gets close enough to make out the shape of a person lying on the ground. Vincent gets down on his knees to find a woman wearing a helmet and a dark, shimmering suit. Some parts of her suit have the same blue glow as the crystals, and her helmet feels like it is made of metal. But as Vincent removes the helmet, it feels extremely light. He puts the helmet beside her and reaches down to feel her pulse, trying to check if she is alive, when he hears sirens in the distance.
‘It must be more people that saw the crash and reported it.’
He reaches down to pick up the woman when she wakes up and looks at him with a big smile.
“It’s… really you...”
“It’s me… Karena…”
And then she passes out again.
He can now see the blue lights from the rescue vehicles close by, so he starts running towards them with the woman in his arms, and when he gets close, two policemen come running towards him.
“What happened here?”
Vincent catches his breath.
“I found her in the crater.”
“She woke up for a moment, but then passed out again.”
An ambulance also stops up the hill, and Vincent carries her towards it. As a man and a woman step out of the ambulance, Vincent continues up to the man, who is closest to him.
“Please help her.”
“I don’t know what happened, but she woke up for a moment just now.”
“She seemed to know me.”
The paramedic is quiet for a few seconds while he quickly checks the woman’s vital signs.
“Her pulse is weak, and she has a high fever.”
The driver opens the back door.
“Let’s get her in the ambulance.”
“There is a seat in the back, but don’t get in the way of my colleague.”
They put the woman on a stretcher, lift her into the ambulance, get in themselves and start driving towards the city at great speed with the sirens wailing loudly.
As they drive away; Vincent looks down at the woman while the paramedic examines her.
‘The markings in my dream.’
‘And the crystals in the crater…’
‘All with the same blue glow.’
‘Are they connected somehow?’
‘And why do I recognize her?’
‘I would remember if I met her before…’
Once they arrive at a hospital, Vincent hurries in after the paramedics and takes a seat in the waiting hall, while the woman gets rushed into the emergency room.
A short while later, a nurse comes with a form for Vincent to fill in.
“Could you fill in her personal details?”
“Are you her family, friend?”
“We don’t seem to have a record of her in our systems.”
Vincent shakes his head.
“I’m sorry, but I only know her first name.”
The nurse starts filling in some parts of the form.
“Okay… well, I will fill in that for now.”
“We will need to figure out the rest later.”
“How do you know her?”
Vincent looks confused at the nurse.
“I don’t really know her.”
“I just found her like this.”
The nurse looks sceptically at Vincent and writes something on the form.
“Okay, please stay here and you will be updated if her situation changes.”
“We might have to ask you some additional questions as well.”
“Thank you, I will.”
The nurse walks off and into a room down a corridor.
As Vincent finally starts to calm down; he begins reflecting over what just happened back there.
‘How did she recognize me?’
‘And why do I feel this connection to her?’
‘Like I know her from somewhere.’
He cannot explain it, but he feels she is important and that he must find out more about her. So, he stays and waits to see that she will be okay at least.
After about two hours, a doctor steps into the waiting room and looks around before he walks up to Vincent.
“Are you Vincent?
Vincent stands up.
“Yes, that’s me.”
The doctor motions for Vincent to follow and walks to open the door again.
“She is asking for you, but she may not have much time.”
“Several of her internal organs are failing and there is not much we can do.”
Vincent shakes his head.
“How does she even know my name?”
Vincent follows him down a corridor where they stop at a door, and the doctor opens it for Vincent.
“Here it is.”
When he steps into the room, he sees Karena is lying on a bed, and she looks up at him, smiling.
"I can't believe it's really you.”
Vincent walks up to her.
“Do we know each other?”
Karena takes Vincent’s hand.
“I never thought I would see you again.”
“I was stuck in there for what seemed like days."
Karena is speaking with a heavy accent and Vincent has some difficulty understanding her.
"I recognize you, but I don't know from where.”
“And what do you mean?”
“Where were you stuck?”
“Did someone hold you prisoner?"
Karena gets up and tilts toward Vincent.
”What I have to tell you is of great importance, and I do not have much time."
"You are the only one who can save us..."
“You are the only one who can find it and give us a fighting chance.”
Vincent holds his hand on Karena’s shoulder to support her.
“I’m sorry, but the doctor says they can’t do much…”
Karena shakes her head.
“No, I know I’m done for.”
“I knew that when I took this ride already.”
“But please listen; many people’s lives depend on you…”
"Vincent… you must head for Anzoria… there you will find the weapon..."
Karena shakes her head as if she was hit by something.
Vincent looks confused at Karena.
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t even know what that is.”
Karena grabs Vincent’s hand even tighter.
"You must believe me.”
“If you don't... we are all done for... and our world will be doomed."
"Please, take this map."
She puts a map in his hand made of something that looks like nylon, but it feels like metal to the touch. Vincent shakes his hand loose and looks at the map.
"Somehow I trust you... but none of this makes sense...”
“Who are you?”
“How do I know you?"
Karena shakes her head again.
"I... I... I am... out of..."
Karena suddenly gets an empty stare in her eyes, and Vincent moves closer to her.
”Out of what?”
Karena grabs Vincent by the neck and gives him a kiss.
Karena falls completely limp but Vincent catches her before she hits the floor.
The doctor checks her pulse and shakes his head.
”I am sorry, but she is gone.”
Vincent stumbles backwards and sits down on the floor.
”Can't you do something?”
The doctor shakes his head again more slowly.
“She seems to have been injected with some poison.”
“We have never seen anything like it…”
“The damage is just too extensive, and there is nothing we could have done to save her…I am sorry…”
Vincent sits there on the floor and shakes his head, still having difficulties making sense of it all as the doctor stands up and pats him on the shoulder.
“I am sorry for your loss.”
“Take a moment if you like.”
He then leaves the room and Vincent looks down at Karena.
“Why does she feel so familiar?”
“Who is she?”
“I know her…”
“Somehow I know who she is.”
“It’s there… just in the back of my mind somewhere, just out of reach.”
Suddenly, the woman starts to glow, and the whole room gets brighter until Vincent cannot see anything except the pale blue light. He can feel the woman disappearing from his arms while he becomes lighter and floats up from the ground. After a few seconds, the light fades away to reveal a mesh of glowing dots all around him. He rubs his eyes and looks again to realize it is stars that he is seeing, and he seems to be moving. When he looks behind him; he sees Earth getting smaller and smaller and it feels like he keeps accelerating, until suddenly everything around him distorts and bends in towards him. A few seconds pass, but then with a sound like a large sheet of plastic being bent and then quickly released; everything unfolds, and he can see the stars clearly again.
‘What the hell just happened to me?’
‘Am I in space?’
In front of him he sees Earth again.
‘It looks like Earth, but all the continents are wrong.’
‘Where am I?’
‘Am I hallucinating again?’
‘What the hell is happening to me?’
He starts falling towards the planet, and as he falls faster and faster everything turns pale blue again before he comes to a stop. He can feel himself standing on solid ground again, but still cannot see anything.
‘Feels like I am standing on rocks and sand.’
‘Where am I?’
When the pale blue light slowly disappears, he finds himself in a big crater filled with mist, just like where he found Karena.
‘I need to get out of here…’
As he climbs out of the crater, he notices crystals of varying sizes in the sand with the same glow as the ones in the other crater. He picks up one of them, but as he puts it in his pocket, he feels something, like a thick metallic disc.
‘How did this get here?’
Vincent takes it out and looks at it.
‘Looks like some sort of container.’
He opens it up and finds another crystal inside it.
‘It looks exactly like the crystal I just picked up.’
‘The shape… the size…’
As the mist disperses, he can make out that he is standing on a sandy beach next to a large pine forest. The forest is similar to the ones he knew from back home, but with a few types of trees he had never seen before. As he stands there looking around, his mind has difficulties interpreting what he is experiencing; like it wants to tell him it is not real, that it is just a movie or a videogame.
‘But it feels so real.’
From behind him, he hears a strange humming sound, and when he turns around, he sees two vehicles in the distance that seem to be driving towards him. He can’t help but wonder if whatever is driving towards him in those vehicles are friendly or not. As far as he can figure; he has ended up on an alien planet and all those sci-fi horrors he saw when he was younger comes rushing back to him.
‘If this is even real?’
‘Did I pass out from heatstroke by the lake?’
‘Am I still laying there, and this is just some vivid hallucination?’
But he has no choice but to wait for the vehicles and hope for help, as he has no idea where he would go otherwise.
‘Maybe they know of a way for me to get back home again?’
‘Get back home again?’
‘This can’t be real.’
‘This must be a dream.’
He pinches his arm.
‘Ouch… Nope, not dreaming.’
‘What the hell is happening to me?’
‘Oh shit, my bike is still standing in the forest at the crash site…’
‘Okay, that might not be my biggest problem right now.’
‘But damn, that was a great bike.’
‘Just calm down Vincent; calm down.’
‘Go with it…’
‘If it is a dream, you will wake up, and if not; you need to get back home again.’
‘That I am even considering this to be real…’
Vincent looks around again.
‘It seems so real.’
The vehicles are now close enough to make out details, and he can clearly see that it is a truck of some sort, somewhat similar in design to a regular truck from back home. The two trucks drive up close and stop, but he still cannot make out what is inside. The design of the trucks looks like something out of one of those sci-fi movies he used to watch, but at the same time they seem to be constructed of a brass-like metal, and look incredibly old, like ancient artefacts, belonging in a museum.
‘What kind of horrible aliens am I going to meet?’
‘Will I even be able to make myself understood?’
‘I really hope they are not the probing kind of aliens.’
But out of the trucks step what looks like three seemingly normal humans; two men and one woman, clad in medieval armour, with some parts looking more futuristic, like what Karena was wearing, and the same pale blue glow again.
One of the men draws a sword and points it to Vincent.
“Who are you, and what are you doing here?”
The language spoken by the man is like no language Vincent has ever heard before, but to his surprise he can understand every word without any difficulty. He registers it as a foreign language, but at the same time he hears his own language being spoken to him. The feeling was very odd and confusing.
The woman raises her rifle and points it to Vincent.
“Answer him; who are you?”
Vincent puts his hands up.
“Sorry, my name is Vincent.”
“I don’t know how I got here.”
The woman takes a small step back, looking shocked.
“You speak perfect Hizena…”
“Where are you from?”
Vincent gestures for the woman to calm down.
“I came from a place called Earth.”
“How is it that I can understand you, and how do you understand me?”
The man looks at Vincent as if he said something stupid.
“You are really not from around these parts, are you?”
“I have never heard of this ‘Arth’, and for the understanding part; you are infused with SOURCE of course; everyone gets it with birth.”
“I guess it is the same where you come from.”
“Maybe it’s just called something different in your parts?”
Vincent thinks for a few seconds.
'I’m quite sure I have never been infused with this thing they call SOURCE.'
One of the men point at the crater.
“Have you laid claim to these SOURCE crystals?”
Vincent shakes his head.
“I don’t even know what they are.”
“You can have them if you like.”
“All I ask is that you help me figure out where I am and how I got here.”
The man sheathes his sword and looks suspiciously at Vincent.
“Okay… do you know how much this is worth?”
“Don’t you at least want a share of it?”
Vincent shakes his head.
“Ehrm… no… I don’t know what it is…”
The man pats Vincent on the shoulder.
“Well… thank you… if you wish you can come along with us to the village once we have loaded the crystals.”
“These will surely help us a lot.”
“Help us load up, and we will see to it that you get a good meal and somewhere to sleep tonight.”
“That is the least we can do.”
Vincent looks down at all the crystals.
“Well, I don’t really have anywhere else I can go.”
“I have to get home somehow, and I don’t even know where I am.”
The man closest to Vincent points at the other man.
“This is Remin.”
Then he points at the woman.
“This is Eria, and my name is Osry.”
“As for where you are… This is Blinzmore of Zholand; part of The Free Kingdoms.”
Vincent rubs his face with the palm of his hand and shakes his head.
"I don’t think that helps me much… and I guess I am not going home anytime soon."
Eria puts her hand on Vincent’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry; we will help you out once we get to the castle.”
“I know someone who might know of your homeland.”
"But for now, let's start loading the crystals."
Vincent helps them loading, and when they are finished, Osry pats the closest truck while looking at Vincent.
“You go with Eria, we got this one.”
Osry and Remin get into one truck, Eria and Vincent in the other and they drive away. The trucks exit the beach and onto a brick road. After a while they turn in on a wider road leading through the forest, where Eria leans towards Vincent.
"This is Ondermael forest.”
“Strange things happen here."
"There is something hidden in these woods that does not belong in this world."
"Many people have walked into this forest and never been seen again."
“Why they are so stupid as to keep walking into the forest, I don’t know…”
"We try to avoid it, and if we have to travel through it, we stay on this one road that has been kept clear for passage."
"In these vehicles we should be safe, but they are the only two SOURCE trucks around these parts, so most people don't have the luxury of this type of travel."
"The only reason we use them for is to gather supplies for the village."
Vincent looks around inside the truck.
“Why don’t you get more trucks then?”
Eria shakes her head and looks a bit annoyed.
“We are quite happy that we have found these two trucks.”
“Finding working SOURCE is no easy job.”
“The findings are sparse and the items that we do find are usually broken beyond repair.”
“Also, if repairs are even possible, we need SOURCE crystals to fix them, and those are also quite difficult to find.”
Eria point with her thumb over her shoulder.
“We are truly lucky with the findings today.”
“Normally it takes us a year to gather these amounts of crystals.”
Vincent grabs the crystal he picked up earlier in his pocket.
“How does it work then?”
“And who made the items in the first place?”
Eria rolls her eyes at Vincent.
“Well you should know who made them.”
“You speak their language and all.”
“…The Hizena of course.”
Vincent looks at Eria with confusion.
“I never heard of Hizena until today.”
“I don’t know what SOURCE is, and where I come from; we definitely don’t have any tech like this.”
‘Except for what Karena wore.’
Eria laughs softly.
“You surely are a weird one.”
“But don’t worry; we will help you as much as we can.”
“We owe you for helping us to secure all of these crystals.”
“And… about the SOURCE items…”
“We don’t really know how they function, but they seem to work differently depending on the person using them.”
“SOURCE weapons for example; can be almost harmless in some people's hands, while they yield horrible destruction in the hands of others.”
“You can practice and get better at using SOURCE to achieve more powerful results, but some people just have a much easier time attuning to the items than others.”
“As if they were born with a better ability to control it.”
“But… why this is and how it works, is a mystery as far as I know.”
“And according to legend; there once lived beings in Entori, powerful enough to construct these SOURCE items.”
“They called themselves the Hizena and were sworn to guard this land.”
“Whatever happened to them, no one knows, but we have found relics from their time here, all over Entori.”
“As far as anyone can tell; SOURCE items date back thousands of years, but they are all extremely resilient.”
“How is it that you don’t know any of this?”
“Everyone from around here learn this, early in school.”
“Did you hit your head and lose your memory or something?”
Vincent thinks for a second.
“Let’s go with that for now…”
Eria looks at Vincent again.
Vincent shakes his head.
“I will try to explain later.”
“What is… Entori, by the way?”
Eria shrugs and laughs.
“Entori is everything you see around you… that is our name for the world.”
As they exit the forest, Vincent can see a castle village on a hill in front of them, and Eria points to it.
“There it is; Blinzmore castle.”
The trucks drive up to the gates and Remin holds up a piece of paper to one of the guards. The guard puts his hand on a plate, and the gates slowly open.
Once inside; the village looks mostly like you would expect a medieval village to look. There were blacksmiths hammering metal, outside a pub in a small stable there stood horses, and the guards all wore plate and chain armour. But at the same time the blacksmith’s forge seemed to be powered by some sort of large engine, next to the stable with the horses stood what looked like a futuristic motorcycle and the soldiers armour had pale blue glowing bits and pieces mixed in, which was quite a confusing sight.
The small village only takes a few minutes to drive through, and they keep driving uphill until they get to the castle, where they continue into the central castle yard through a portal. Well inside, they park at a pair of large wooden doors, and Eria turns to Vincent as the truck stops.
“So, here we are; home.”
“Time to get the crystals unloaded.”
As they get out of the truck, a well-groomed man dressed in what looks like quite an expensive suit comes walking towards them with quick steps.
“Eria, Remin, Osry!”
“You are back a lot sooner than I expected.”
“I got a message from the guards at the gate that you had returned.”
Eria walks up to the man and gives him a hug.”
“Hey dad, we ran into something unexpected.”
The man in the suit looks at Vincent.
“Ah, I see.”
“Who is this then?”
Eria tilts her head to the side, towards Vincent.
“This is Vincent; he seems to speak perfect Hizena, and says he comes from a place far away called Arth. He led us to a huge payload of SOURCE crystals, which is the reason why we are back already.”
“Both trucks are already full.”
“And Vincent, this is my father; Minister Harel Zeunze.”
Vincent raises his hand.
“Actually, it’s called Earth.”
Harel looks suspiciously at Vincent.
“You would just give away two truckloads of SOURCE crystals?”
“What is it you want in return for this?”
Vincent waves his hands subtly in front of him.
“I just want to figure out where I am, and if possible; find my way back home.”
Harel’s suspicious expression turns to a smile.
“I have not heard many people speak Hizena so easily.”
“But there is something different about your pronunciation I cannot put my finger on.”
“Is it perhaps a dialect?”
Vincent shakes his head.
“We have a lot of different languages and dialects where I come from.”
“I know very few of them.”
Harel puts his hand on Vincent’s shoulder.
“A mysterious man indeed.”
“You must join us for dinner and tell us all about this… Eerth place!”
Vincent rolls his eyes and sighs.
Osry motions for Eria and Vincent to go away.
"Go, we can handle this."
"We'll see you here tomorrow morning again."
Eria bows excessively before Osry and Remin.
"Well thank you, my favourite gentlemen."
"Yes, yes, we already said we would do it.”
“No need for flattery."
Eria waves to Remin and Osry.
“See you tomorrow.”
Harel, Eria and Vincent walk towards a portal in the wall and in through a small garden to reach the main castle building. They enter a large hallway and then into the dining room where the table is already prepared for dinner. The dining room decorations are quite modest compared to what you might expect to find in a castle, and on the wall, there hangs a machine that displays holographic images of a small girl and a young woman.
Vincent turns to Eria.
"Is this you and your mother?"
Eria gets a dreamy look in her eyes.
"Yes, she was a great engineer and SOURCE mechanic.”
“I hope to one day be as great as her."
Harel turns to Eria with a bothered expression on his face.
"You are already better at repairing SOURCE equipment than anyone I have ever met, including your mother."
Vincent gently pokes the holographic image with his finger.
“What happened to your mother?”
Eria’s dreamy look goes away.
“She was one of the first to disappear in Ondermael forest.”
“We searched a long time for her, but no one that disappeared in that forest has ever been found again.”
“If only I knew what happened to her.”
“With all the horrible stories you hear about that forest nowadays, it’s difficult not to let your imagination create all kinds of scenarios.”
“So many sleepless nights we’ve had…”
“…I don’t like to think about it.”
Vincent puts his hand on Eria’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Eria shakes her head.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“One day I hope to find enough SOURCE tech to build myself a vehicle powerful enough to venture into the forest and find out what’s in there.”
Harel clears his throat loudly.
“That will have to be one damn safe vehicle, before I let you head into that forest.”
Eria laughs and pats her father on the back.
“The forest was not always as dangerous as it is now.”
“I remember when I was younger; we used to go on picnics or fishing at the beautiful forest lake.”
“Then all of a sudden people started disappearing, and the bright colours of the forest seemed to fade away.”
“It’s strange that such a wonderful place can turn into something this dangerous.”
“And no one seem to have any answers.”
“Even Freun sent a team to investigate.”
“The team headed into the forest several times with no results…”
“But one day, they just disappeared and were never seen again.”
“After that, Freun did not send any more people, and we were left to try and figure it out by ourselves here.”
“Well yes, but what can they do?”
“They do not want to send any more people to their deaths.”
Eria looks to the window.
“No, I get it, I do.”
“But it’s so frustrating, that we can’t seem to get any answers.”
“Will whatever it is in that forest, stay in the forest forever?”
“Will it disappear by itself?”
“Will it start attacking us here in town?”
Harel puts his arm around Eria.
“Well, we have a guest now.”
“Perhaps we can save this conversation for another time?”
Vincent shakes his head.
“Don’t mind me.”
“I find it fascinating.”
“Sorry, maybe that is not the best word… but I never heard of anything like this before.”
A waiter comes in pushing a cart with three covered dinner-plates, and Harel lights up with a smile, gesturing eagerly with his hands.
Vincent looks at the covered plate; realizing again that he is on an alien world.
'Hope they don't eat something too weird around here.'
‘Please don’t let it have tentacles…’
Malkreth had seen the view from the ship's deck countless times before, but he could never get enough of it all. He would sit there for hours, just staring at the vast sea of stars stretching out in all directions. When you sit at the right place just above the ship’s main engine, there is this soft humming sound that kind of blocks out all other sound. And for this reason, he often missed the captain’s calls over the communications system that currently is informing all personnel to gather at the storage area.
Today the ship is headed for a small planet called Caeria, which is a trade planet used mainly for distribution of intergalactic shipments. But many merchants have set up permanent shops on the planet, taking advantage of the steady flow of ships passing through while on the way to other star systems or waiting for intergalactic travel clearance.
The captain had been very secretive about this mission, so Malkreth is sitting contemplating about what the mission could be, when suddenly a shoe comes flying just in front of his nose.
“WAKE UP MALK!”
The captain comes in yelling.
“We are about to land; go meet up with the rest in the storage area.”
Malkreth shakes his head.
“Sorry Davon, I must have lost track of time.”
The captain picks up his shoe and puts it on his foot again.
“You and your daydreams.”
“Hurry up and get your ass to the rest of the crew.”
“I like you, but I can’t keep giving you special treatment.”
“And it’s “captain” to you while under my command on this ship.”
Malkreth gets up.
“Sorry captain, I will pay more attention in the future.”
Captain Davon Aurus looks like the kind of man you would not want to have as your enemy. He is older than the rest of the crew, and there are a lot of stories going around the ship about his younger days. Each new story crazier than the one before it. And when it comes to the captain; each and every one of them might just be true. He has this thing about him that makes everyone stop and listen when he speaks. So, when he walks into the storage room, the chattering of the crew dies out like a campfire that just had a bucket of water thrown at it.
“Attention crew; we are about to land on Caeria to pick up our latest job.”
“This one pays a lot more than our usual deliveries, so there will be some added bonuses for you all if this goes smooth and to plan.”
All the crew start to whisper simultaneously.
“This will be a long trip and not without danger.”
“Our job is to transport her royal highness; Queen Anexia of Daruna.”
“There will be a meeting between the queen and the Intergalactic Trade Council to try and come to an agreement which will stop the Aterion aggression on Daruna.”
“It’s our job to get her there safely.”
“This will be a secret meeting, and she is travelling incognito with a minimum amount of guards, so we are also paid to be additional, temporary guards for the duration of this trip.”
“Our destination is on Earth, but we cannot take the fast route since it’s constantly inspected.”
“The controls themselves are not the problem, but Aterion has a lot of spies in the Trade Councils facilities, and if they would find out who we have on board; we won’t make it far after that.”
“We have to take the long way around the outer territories, and we will have to be careful when we use the fold, since fold-jumps are often monitored around highly populated star systems.”
“We are soon landing, so get everything ready.”
“And I need three extra rooms cleaned and set up for the queen and her guards.”
“…What are you standing there for?”
The ship is heading for Yminport; a large densely populated city full of shops with everything from designer clothing to illegal weapons. The city is located at the slope of a huge mountain; larger than anything you would ever find on Earth. At the top of the city, you could find the most exclusive stores and homes elevated on large circular pedestals reaching several hundred meters in the air. But Malkreth and the crew were headed to the lower parts of the city to avoid the watching eyes of the authorities and enemies of the queen.
The ship eventually lands on a small platform attached to a large, older, spherical building. Around the landing platforms, people are busy getting luggage and goods on or off the ships. The main, larger landing platform is connected by a wide bridge that stretches inside the spherical building and onto a shopping street.
Once they have landed, the crew heads down the ramp from the ship onto the landing platform and Davon steps out shortly thereafter.
“Malkreth and Tiera; come with me.”
“The rest of you; stay here on guard.”
“There is a lot of dodgy stuff happening around here, so keep it off my ship.”
Tiera is one of the best fighters on the ship. She is as agile with her blades as her marksmanship is accurate. Malkreth is nowhere close to Tiera’s fighting skill, but he is exceptionally good at noticing details and reading situations, which are useful skills when you meet shady people in dodgy places.
Davon looks at Malkreth, then Tiera.
“Try to keep it professional, okay?”
“I know this is not the kind of clientele we are used to…”
“But if we do this well and get a recommendation from the queen; we might get the chance to finally expand the business and move to less… shady customers and activities.”
“What’s wrong with our current customers?”
“Well first of all; they try to kill us once in a while to skip on payment… I could do without that…”
Tiera shakes her head.
“Well, I guess… but you are never in any real danger as long as you bring me along.”
“Please just keep it a bit clean…”
“Shall we get going?”
So, they head down the bridge into the large building and onto the shopping street. A few hundred meters down the path, Davon stops at a small pub between a sales stand and a parking for smaller vehicles.
“Come on; in here.”
Tiera looks at the pub and laughs.
“Yeah, sure captain… this looks really classy.”
Davon rolls his eyes at Tiera and opens the door.
“Just go inside…”
They head in through the small pub and up a stair to a private room. Davon knocks on the door and shortly thereafter a guard opens it and looks intensely at Davon before he lets them in. Malkreth steps in last, and as he sees the queen, he cannot help but to stare. He had heard she was beautiful, but her descriptions were clearly underrated.
Tiera leans towards Malkreth and whisper:
“DAMN, she’s hot!”
“I would soooo hit that!”
Malkreth hits Tiera loosely with his elbow.
“Don’t disrespect women like that.”
“But yes… damn…”
Tiera hits Malkreth back; quite hard on his shoulder.
“I’m also a woman; I’m allowed to.”
“…And one more thing; dibs!”
Malkreth rubs his shoulder.
“Good luck with that.”
Davon bows his head slightly before the queen.
“Your highness, it is an honour.”
Queen Anexia takes Davon’s hand.
“The honour is all mine…”
“Captain Davon Aurus; the man who punched Kerian Aterion in the face and lived to tell the tale.”
Davon clears his throat.
“Ehrm… that was a long time ago.”
“I have nothing to do with the Aterions anymore.”
The queen smiles.
“No, I would not have hired you if I thought so…”
“It is difficult to find anyone who is not in the pocket of the Aterions.”
Malkreth leans to Tiera and whispers:
“The captain, with the Aterions?”
“I got to ask him about this later.”
Tiera whisper back to Malkreth:
“I heard some stories about it, but I was not sure if it was true.”
The queen looks over at Malkreth and Tiera.
“And who, if I may ask; may you two be?”
Tiera looks slightly embarrassed while she takes a step forward.
“I’m sorry your highness… my name is Tiera.”
“We are here to make sure you make it back safe to our ship.”
Davon pushes Malkreth forward.
“And this is Malkreth; our surveillance and information specialist.”
“Tiera is our weapons specialist.”
Malkreth waves his hand.
“Ehrm… nice to meet you, erm… your highness.”
‘Smooth Malk… smooth…’
Queen Anexia smiles at Malkreth for a second.
“Nice to meet you, Tiera and Malkreth.”
“I sure hope you and your team live up to your reputation.”
Davon gives off a slight grin.
“I thought we had quite a bad reputation last time I checked.”
“I was surprised that you would even choose to contact us.”
Queen Anexia points at a screen showing a commercial for Aterion Industries.
“I can sort out their propaganda from the truth.”
“I know the Aterions have tried to sully your name, and that’s why you work mainly outside the regular systems and regulations.”
“And that… is exactly what I need right now.”
“And I do hope you can tell me the story of what happened between you and Kerian.”
Davon looks irritated,
“It’s something I would rather try to forget.”
“But please, come with us your highness.”
“We will get you safely to the meeting.”
Queen Anexia looks at Davon with a disappointed, yet playful look in her eyes.
“Okay, I’ll leave it… for now.”
They all head out, followed by Anexia’s guards, down the stairs, out into the busy street. As they walk along the shops and stands towards the ship, Tiera once again leans over to Malkreth.
“Want to make it interesting?”
“You still on about the queen?”
Tiera nods her head and smirks.
“Thirty days of chores says I’ll win her over.”
Malkreth rolls his eyes.
“She is a queen; what do you think you are going to achieve?”
Tiera looks over to the queen.
“It’s not like I intend to marry her and adopt a bunch of kids.”
Tiera bites her lip.
“But everyone has needs… even royalty.”
Tiera winks to Malkreth.
Malkreth shakes his head slowly and lets out a sigh.
“I have seen that movie; it never goes well…”
“But I wish you the best of luck.”
Tiera pokes Malkreth with her hand and stretches it in front of him.
“We have a bet?”
Malkreth laughs and shakes her hand.
“Sure, why not.”
“Easiest bet I have ever won…”
Tiera pokes Malkreth softly with her elbow.
“I have absolutely no intention of losing this bet.”
“Okay, good luck.”
“Let’s see who can get her first.”
Malkreth looks irritated at Tiera.
“Hey, I am not going to hit on the queen.”
“Well, that makes it easier for me then.”
“I’ll try to convince her to get you invited as well.”
Tiera slaps Malkreth on his butt-cheek, and the slap is so loud that Anexia turns her head, smiling at the two.
Malkreth looks embarrassed while Tiera gives a wink to Anexia.
“I think she might have overheard your plans, Tiera.”
Tiera slides her fingers through her hair.
“It makes no difference.”
They walk onto the landing platform and Davon motions with his hand to the ship.
“Here it is…”
“Perhaps not what you are used to travelling in.”
“But it will get us there, without suspicion.”
Anexia stops and looks up at the ship.
“We have several of these, making deliveries to and from Daruna.”
“They are quite big ships.”
“I would have expected something a lot smaller.”
Davon also looks up at the ship.
“Well, it’s something I kept from a time when I had larger and more frequent deliveries.”
“It’s a good ship…”
“Few years on her back maybe, and needs a few new parts once in a while, but still reliable.”
“And I’m sorry, but once we reach our next destination, I will have to replace one of the void-coils before we can make any longer fold-jump.”
Anexia smiles at Davon.
“As long as you get me to Earth.”
“And I am sure it will do just fine.”
They all walk up to the ship and step onboard. Tiera shows the guards where they can store their larger weapons while Davon and Malkreth show Anexia to the sleeping quarters.
“I’m sorry we cannot offer you anything more comfortable than this your highness, but we have made these rooms ready for you and your guards.”
The queen looks into one of the rooms.
“Don’t worry; this is perfect.”
“I may be royalty, but I have never been much for the excessive luxury and etiquette.”
“And you can relax around me…”
“It is going to be a long trip.”
“If we are to be formal and apologize for everything all the time, it is going to feel even longer.”
“So please, just call me Anexia for now, and do not worry about my comfort.”
Davon gives Anexia the key cards to the rooms.
“Sorry your hig… Anexia.”
“You seem all right to me.”
“Never had much for etiquette anyway.”
“Except for when we forget to address you as captain.”
Davon straightens his jacket.
“Well… ehm… that’s different.”
Malkreth slowly shakes his head.
Davon grabs Malkreth and pushes him towards the door.
“I don’t know, I just thought…”
“Yes okay… I get your point.”
Davon turns around and looks at Anexia again.
“Well, Anexia; welcome aboard.”
“Thank you… both of you.”
“I am looking forward to getting to know you and the crew.”
Malkreth and Davon head out to the common hall when Davon stops and turns to Malkreth.
“This might sound weird…”
“But I need you to keep an extra eye on the queen for me.”
“I trust my crew in most situations, but the Aterions would give you a lot of money for the capture of the queen.”
Malkreth looks surprised at Davon.
“It sounds like you are trying to sell me on the idea of giving her up.”
“And how are you so sure I won’t?”
Davon leans over and whispers.
“Well if it was not for doing the Aterions a favour; I might have considered it.”
“Don’t worry captain; I’ll look out for her.”
“And I highly doubt anyone of us would ever betray you in any way.”
Davon pats Malkreth on his back.
“Thank you… and I don’t believe so either.”
“Just can’t be too careful.”
“This is a HUGE job, and I want it to go perfectly.”
“Besides… she seems to like you.”
“Should not be too difficult to get close to her.”
“Also, you have never been in it for the money.”
“That’s why I trust you.”
“You are in it for the adventure, same as me.”
Malkreth thinks for a while.
“Well… don’t think you can stop paying me.”
“Money is still quite handy.”
“HAH! Don’t worry.”
“If we make it through this… there will be something extra in your bonus if you look after the queen for me.”
Davon knocks loudly on a table.
“Listen up crew!”
“We will start this trip by heading to Fiyrah.”
“From there we can fold jump undetected.”
“The trip to Fiyrah will take a few days and should be quite uneventful.”
“Take this time to prepare; the rest of the trip might not be as easy.”
In the middle of The Free Kingdoms lies the city of Palegate. The city is built in a large crater with towering rock walls extruded all along its outer edge. In the middle of the crater stands a massive stone pillar and in the centre of the pillar there are staircases and elevators going from the bottom, all the way up to the top. On the side of the pillar there are houses and gardens hanging or carved into the walls, where the richest and most powerful in Palegate live. At the top of the pillar lies Skyfort; a large castle housing the kings and queens when they meet to discuss matters of The Free Kingdoms. Below the great pillar, the common districts and slums stretch out far in every direction. The only way to get into the city on ground is to enter through one of the four pale blue gates located around the crater’s outer walls. The gates can be used to destroy anyone or anything trying to get into the city unwanted. There are always four gate-controllers stationed at each gate to monitor everyone and everything going in and out of Palegate. The gates were the first encounter with SOURCE that has been recorded in local history and was at first a place of worship. People gathered from far and wide to see what they believed to be a gateway to the higher planes. When more and more people gathered, a city started to form and eventually got the name of Palegate.
The city is, and always had been guarded by the Paleguard, and a man called Lord Augur Willenhand currently leads them. Augur also controls most of Palegate’s affairs together with the royals of The Free Kingdoms. His second in command is a younger man called Themos Lighthammer. Themos is the son of Zanther Lighthammer; the legendary general who won the battle of Palegate, which was the most important battle in the war that allowed The Free Kingdoms to gain their freedom.
Today Augur has called for Themos and set up a secret meeting in the halls underneath Skyfort. Themos does not know more than that it involves a mission which Augur wants to keep from the royals. As Themos walks through the tunnel where he had been instructed to find Augur, a guard calls for him to follow. The guard leads Themos down several stairs to a narrow corridor, and when they get to the end of it, the guard points to a door.
“He is waiting for you in there, sir.”
Themos nods to the guard and enters the doorway into a small office where he finds Augur sitting at a desk, reading on the screen of an old SOURCE device.
“Themos, it is great to see you my friend!”
“There is something we must discuss; something we found during an excavation in northern Kerna last year.”
Themos sits down across from Augur.
“I heard they had found a lot of data, yes.”
“But from what I understood; most was unreadable.”
Augur holds up a small device.
“We found some sort of data device which contained a message.”
“And yes… the data on the device is corrupted, but we managed to salvage bits and pieces.”
“There seems to be a voice message, and we succeeded in extracting some words and half phrases.”
“The word “power” seems to be repeated several times and a reference to “infinite power” and “SOURCE”.”
“And the device is marked with; “Anzoria”.”
“I believe it is a reference to a powerful weapon of some kind.”
“This could be our chance to defend ourselves and break completely free from the shadow of the Taran Empire, once and for all.”
“There are several documents left by the Hizena that indicate that the ancient city of Anzoria lies beneath the Valan capital Talandeel, down south in Anthar forest.”
“Talandeel is a sacred city for the Valan elves that live there, so they won’t just let us dig around without a fight.”
“We have on many occasions tried to establish trades with the Valans to no avail.”
“Anthar forest is full of ancient SOURCE technology, but the Valans refuse to dismantle and trade any of it.”
“Just recently, trade talks went badly and an entire group of three-hundred soldiers and merchants from The Free Kingdoms were killed by the Valans.”
“We finally have a unique opportunity to convince the royals to send an army down there and wipe them out, once and for all.”
“I have convinced them that this was a declaration of war against us and that we need to respond with force.”
“They have agreed, but would not send our entire army, since they fear an attack by the Tarans from the north.”
“We have come to an agreement that we can spare twenty-five-thousand soldiers, which should be enough to handle the Valan soldiers, who are both fewer in numbers and scattered all throughout the forest.”
“Your main mission however, will be to find Anzoria underneath the city and see if the weapon is still down there.”
“Your secondary mission will be to scavenge any SOURCE technology you can find that will help us battle the Tarans.”
“No one must know of your true mission.”
“If this gets out, the Taran Empire will surely attack to stop us before we can even find that weapon.”
“We have given the Valans more than enough chances to join us against the Tarans, and they have left us with no other choice.”
“We must be able to defend ourselves, and our biggest hope lies in finding Anzoria.”
Themos looks at the device that Augur was holding.
“Are you sure that it is a good idea to send so many soldiers down south right now, with the Tarans moving around up north then?”
“This would leave Palegate with pretty much only the Paleguard to defend it.”
Augur shakes his head.
“As I said; I have discussed this with the royals already, and they had the same concern.”
“But we will see the Tarans coming, and if they march on Palegate, we have more than enough time to move forces from the east and west.”
Themos draws a deep breath.
“Well, we could use a new weapon in the fight.”
“I just really hope there is still something there.”
Augur pats Themos on the back.
“I would not send you down there if I did not fully believe there was something worth your trip.”
“I truly believe this is our best chance.”
Themos nods to Augur.
“I guess you are right…”
“It will be done sir.”
Themos turns around and heads out of the room.
Augurs orders were absolute and Themos had always followed his command without question. But this time he does not feel the same confidence he usually had in Augurs orders. He feels that something is not right, and that Augur was not being honest about the true nature of the mission. He cannot explain to himself why he feels this suddenly, but the gut feeling is very strong and difficult to ignore. However, his position is not to question orders, so he goes on with his day, trying to forget his doubts.
But as the day goes on, Themos can still not shake the feeling. It was something in Augurs tone, something in the way how he explained the mission to Themos; something is not right about it all.
‘Why does this bother me so much?’
‘I have never questioned orders before, no matter how strange they were.’
Later that evening after Themos had dinner with his family, he sits down with his wife and he tells her about his concerns regarding the mission given by Augur. Themos’ wife; Illeana spends her days working as chief technical officer, planning the installation and maintenance of the various SOURCE based systems throughout Palegate. She takes a while to think before she responds to Themos.
“I have heard and seen things all over the city; something is happening.”
“Something is being prepared in the shadows.”
“I have tried to figure out what is going on, but the only lead I have is that it somehow leads back to Augur.”
“I am sure he is up to something, but I cannot figure out what.”
Themos looks surprised at his wife.
“So, I am not crazy after all?”
“But you have to keep a distance to this, Illeana.”
“Augur or whoever is behind all this is putting great effort into keeping something secret.”
Illeana smiles at Themos
“Don’t worry, I am keeping my distance.”
“But I can’t help overhearing things.”
“A lot of people seem anxious about the tense situation in the city.”
“We know the Tarans are active in the north, but we get very little information about what is actually happening.”
Themos shakes his head.
“He is not telling me very much about the whole situation either.”
“You would think that we should have a lot more spies gathering information about the Tarans in a situation like this.”
Illeana looks worried out the window.
“Are you sure it is a good idea to go on this mission Augur gave you?”
“It’s not like I have a choice; Augurs command is absolute.”
“I have to follow his orders, and I have nothing concrete to explain why I would question his judgement.”
“It will be okay…”
“But I am more worried about leaving you here.”
“If something goes down, I assume it will be in Palegate.”
“Try as best as you can to keep yourself and our children away from it all.”
Illeana looks over at her two children sitting playing games at the other end of the living room.
“We will stay safe… just keep your mind on this mission.”
“I want you back, safe and sound.”
Themos leans over and gives Illeana a kiss.
“No matter what, I will always make it back to you and the children.”
In the vast Anthar forest in Kerna lies the temple city Lieriel. Kerna is mainly inhabited by the Valan elves, who protect the lands from outsiders that would dismantle their technology or steal from any of the plentiful SOURCE sites which are considered holy. The Valans use alchemy to refine SOURCE crystals into potions, which give them long life and extraordinary powers. Because of their prolonged use of SOURCE potions, they have developed a faint pale blue glow in their eyes, their hair is almost white, and they generally grow taller than the people in the north. In Lieriel, the priestesses use rituals to amplify their abilities gained from the potions and get an even closer connection to the powers that is coursing through the crystals.
Today, a young woman named Niana is preparing for the ceremony to become a high priestess of the temple order. She is very young for such an honour but had shown great promise in controlling her powers and mastered the ability to heal wounds and illness beyond all the other priestesses in the city.
Niana is currently sitting in her room, preparing mentally for the ceremony where she would be submerged in the crystal pool, which is in an underground cave completely covered in SOURCE crystals. The waters there can boost a Valans power, but many have gone insane or died from the ritual.
Niana’s teacher; High Priestess Domeri, steps into Niana’s room and walks over to sit down beside her.
“How are you doing, child?”
“Are you sure this is what you want?”
Niana opens her eyes and turns to Domeri.
“I have never been more certain about anything.”
“I have had the dreams for some time now.”
“The dreams about the ancient god.”
“It is time for me to figure out my purpose.”
Domeri puts her hand on Niana’s back.
“I have taught you well.”
“But you have gone so far beyond anything I could ever teach you.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that your powers will one day overshadow all of ours.”
“But with this power comes many temptations.”
“I hope you keep the will to use it for good and the wisdom to understand what being good is.”
“Never use your power with anger or hate in your heart; that is how he finds his way into your mind and twists you into serving him.”
Niana draws a deep breath.
“I understand the dangers…”
“Going through the ritual gives me a closer connection to the ancient god.”
“Using those powers requires me to walk the line between light and darkness.”
“Keeping the balance will require me to focus at all times as to not fall too far to any side.”
“And why must you not wander too far into the light?”
Niana holds up her hand to the light shining in through the window.
“Then I will lose the connection to our power.”
“And then the outsiders will come and take our lands.”
“They will tear down our temples to build their weapons, and they will free the ancient god, which will be the end of all things.”
Domeri holds her hand on her chest.
“We must uphold the sacred task that was once given to us by the Hizena.”
“By using his powers, we also make sure he never gains enough to break free from his prison.”
“But if we get tempted to use the power for personal gain or in anger; your mind is lost to him, and you become his dark servant.”
Domeri and Niana close their eyes and hold their hands across their chests.
“The balance must be upheld!”
Domeri opens her eyes and turn to Niana.
“Are you ready?”
Niana gets up.
“I am, teacher.”
“I will not let you down.”
Domeri stands up with Niana.
“I doubt you will, child.”
“You might even one day become our new holy mother.”
Niana holds her head low.
“Your words are too kind teacher.”
Domeri motions to the door.
“Shall we go?”
Niana nods and they both walk out of the room and into the temple gardens. They cross the garden and head down a small path between the houses. At the end of the path there is a wall with a small portal which they enter, leading them into a larger, lush area at the base of a cliff. In the cliff wall there is a cave entrance that would lead them to the crystal pool. Domeri lights a torch at the entrance and they start heading down into the cave. As they get closer to the pool, the torchlight gets amplified by all the SOURCE crystals in the cave.
“Remember child… your resolution will be put to the test.”
“I cannot tell you what you will experience in the pool.”
“Some people are tempted by the power and loose themselves to the ancient god.”
“Others are driven insane by visions of death and destruction.”
“But if you get out of this without losing the balance; you will come out stronger, and a high priestess of the balance.”
Niana bows to Domeri before she draws a deep breath, holds her hands across her chest and start walking out into the pool. As she takes the first steps, she feels the power of the water; whispers, flashes of battles and green flames raining down on the temple. As she gets far enough out, she sits down in the water and the flashes and whispers stop momentarily. Then suddenly, she feels something reaching into her mind. Everywhere around her, there is complete darkness, but she can sense the presence of the ancient god, and someone else; someone with great power. As the darkness opens; she can see a man standing at the edge of a hole in the ground. The man leans over the edge and looks down. Suddenly, darkness explodes up around him like smoke, and when it disperses again, he is gone. The darkness swirls around the room before it starts to gather in front of Niana, and eventually it takes the shape of a man. The man starts walking towards her and she feels her body getting heavier and heavier until she falls on her hands and knees. The darkness is just in front of her now, and she can feel her resolve turning into fear. She tries to lift her head and look at the man, but her entire body starts to vibrate and looking at him burns her eyes. Just as she feels she cannot resist anymore; the darkness disappears, and she hears a whisper in her ear:
“Through death; there will be life…”
Niana wakes up in the pool again.
She looks around and sees Domeri standing at the edge.
“…Teacher… The… It… He…”
Domeri takes a step towards Niana.
“Take it easy child.”
Niana takes a deep breath.
“Teacher… I can feel it… the ancient god is awakening.”
Domeri holds out her arm.
“How do you know?”
Niana starts walking out of the pool.
“I can feel it… I feel him regaining consciousness…”
“It is not just his dreams anymore…”
“He was actively communicating with me.”
“I could feel him looking at me… observing me…”
Domeri hangs a towel around Niana’s shoulders.
“We must speak to the holy mother.”
“She must know of this…”
“Come, walk with me; now as a high priestess of the balance.”
The current largest company in the known universe is Aterion Industries. When humans started to inhabit other planets, Aterion managed to get the first transport contracts, which lead to great success and power for the company. Since then, they have bought up and manipulated their way into pretty much every branch of industry they could. And today, their biggest business is weapon-manufacturing and military forces for hire. The company was founded by Evon Aterion and is currently run by his great grandson Kerian Aterion, who has both his son and daughter working at the company. His daughter Revica is especially ambitious and had worked her way in charge of funding for the many projects and experiments run by Aterion Industries. At this position, she has a hand in pretty much all the company’s affairs, and today she is reviewing a project where its lead scientist claims he has been able to completely stop ageing in one of his test specimens. Similar claims have been made countless times before in human history, so she is a bit sceptic to the legitimacy of the claims. But she is under pressure from her father to show better results and has no choice but to inspect all the bolder claims made by the research and development department.
As she steps into the laboratory, the whole research team turns toward her and bow, before the lead scientist steps forward.
“Miss Aterion; I am Laumin Derik.”
“Thank you for taking the time to review our project.”
Revica straightens her jacket collar.
“What is it exactly you wanted to show me?”
“I understand you have been working with a crystal, found by my father on his Antarctic expedition?”
Laumin holds up a small tube with what looks like blood and a crystalized structure along the walls of the tube.
“Yes, miss Aterion, we have long been studying the crystal, and there seems to be massive amounts of energy bound within it.”
“But we have not been able to harness any of it… until now.”
“We have ascertained that the crystal reacts to organic tissue.”
“Several tests have been conducted with different plant and animal species, including human.”
“The crystal seems to react differently to different samples but has the strongest reaction with humans.”
“We have also performed experiments with the goal of replicating the crystal.”
“Many tests were made and failed, until we mixed it with a refined concoction based on human blood.”
“The crystal seems to merge with the cells and start to multiply as long as the blood is fresh, but quickly the process decelerates and eventually stops to crystalize again.”
“However, when a solution is injected into a living host, the reaction keeps going.”
“In some specimens we have noted superior healing, and in one case; a complete halt of ageing.”
Revica taps a screen she is holding, looks around the room and then taps it a few more times.
“How quickly can you put together a demonstration of this?”
Laumin looks surprised at Revica and clears his throat.
“Anytime you want miss Aterion, would you like to see it now?”
Revica looks at Laumin and thinks for a while.
“Do you have anything else to show?”
Laumin clears his throat again.
“Well, yes, this…”
Laumin picks up a handgun from a drawer. He then opens another drawer and picks up what looks like an optical circuit board. He inserts the circuit board in the gun and there is a short low frequency hum.
“Please, keep your eyes on the metal plate in the back there.”
Laumin takes a deep breath, then aims the gun up in the air and pulls the trigger. A beam of light shoots out from the gun, which bends around the equipment in the room and hits the thick metal plate hanging from a contraption at the other end of the lab.
Revica gasps and takes a step back.
Revica walks over to the contraption to see that the metal plate has completely disintegrated while nothing else seems to be affected.
“How does it work?”
Laumin laughs nervously, then gives the gun to Revica.
“It is actually nanoscopic particles from the crystal that reacts to the user’s thoughts.”
“Wherever you wish the beam to go; it will go.”
“If you want something destroyed; you merely have to imagine it happening.”
“And once the particles reach their target, they release a massive burst of energy on impact.”
“Part of this technology is something we have developed here in the lab, but how the crystal reacts to the user’s thoughts and how the energy is released; we have not fully understood yet.”
“For the process to work, we have a conducting surface on the handle that connects with the crystal particles inside the gun.”
“This… programs the particles to respond to the user of the gun.”
“Without physical contact with a living, biological being; the gun cannot be operated.”
Revica once again taps her screen a few times.
“Hmmm, I have a meeting with the board and my father after this.”
“They have been asking for better results from the R&D department.”
“You now have the chance to show them, and me; a reason not to cut the budget.”
“They want to see something that can make us money, but lately this department has only produced vague theories.”
“Your claims are bold and intriguing, let us see if you can impress them.”
As Revica turns around and walks to the door, Laumin drops the gun.
“Oh, you mean now?”
Revica turns around and looks back at Laumin who is picking up the gun from the floor.
“Unless you have something better to do than to save your jobs?”
Laumin motions the rest of the team to go get the specimens before he follows Revica out of the lab. The team hurries and catches up with them as they just get to the elevator. They enter the elevator and ride it up to the top floor, where they exit again and walk up to the boardroom. Just outside the door Revica stops and quickly reads through Laumin’s research notes again.
“Hmmm, I see, okay.”
Revica holds up an image of a metal cylinder to Laumin.
“Is this the container you found the crystal in?”
“And is this all the information you have been able to get from it?”
Laumin looks at his research notes and swipes a few times across the screen.
“Yes, miss Aterion, we have not been able to understand much at all from the symbols on the container; this is all we have so far.”
“It is unlike anything we have ever seen before and we have not been able to make connections to any known language except for this single word.”
Revica looks at the notes for a while with a bothered expression, before she puts on a subtle smile and slowly nods her head.
“Okay, no problem. I can work with this, let’s go inside.”
When they enter, most of the board members are already there, and they all look up at Revica, nodding to her as she looks around the room.
“Is my father coming?”
One of the board members points to the door.
“I think he needed to go to the toilet.”
A moment later the door opens and Kerian Aterion steps into the room. He sits down at the far end of the table, while looking suspiciously at Revica and the researchers.
“I see we have guests.”
“Normally this room is for board members only.”
Revica steps to the side of Laumin.
“You wanted me to give you a reason to let the research department keep its current funding.”
“Doctor Derik here can show you something that will even have you increase the budget.”
Kerian slams his palm on the table.
“HA! Good luck with that.”
“You are walking on thin ice Revica; this better be worth my time.”
“Or you will soon find yourself back in a cubicle with the rest of the office drones.”
Revica motions to the researchers to begin the demonstration. Laumin nods to her before he puts a briefcase on the table and opens it. He then picks up the gun and clicks the circuit board into it once again. Kerian looks surprised at Laumin who holds up the gun for the board to see.
“You brought a gun in here?”
“Remind me to fire someone from security for this later.”
Revica motions to Kerian to calm down.
“Anything in this room you want to get rid of?”
Kerian thinks for a moment, before he pats the closest board member on the back.
“Well Francis here has been a bit annoying lately.”
Kerian lets out a laugh and the rest of the board laughs awkwardly with him.
“Take my chair, it’s a bit soft anyway; not good for my back.”
Kerian then snaps with his fingers, and an employee hurries out through the door to get another chair, while Revica rolls his current one out on the empty floor.
“Okay, Laumin; aim the gun at me.”
Laumin looks nervously at Revica.
“A..Are you sure?”
Kerian raises an eyebrow, and for the first time since he entered the room, he looks interested in what’s happening.
Revica nods her head to the side at the chair and goes standing in front of it.
“Go ahead, shoot!”
Laumin tries to calm his shaking hands before he aims the gun at Revica.
He looks around the room before he looks back at her, takes a deep breath and pulls the trigger. A beam of light shoots out of the gun, bends around Revica and hits the chair, which disappears in a cloud of dust.
Kerian looks surprised at Revica and what used to be his chair.
“This could be promising indeed!”
“How does it work?”
Revica takes the gun from Laumin, ejects the circuit board, and hands it to her father.
“It is mind-controlled target seeking.”
“And the beam itself is more powerful than any weapon we currently have at this size.”
“And there are more applications than just weapons.”
Revica motions to Laumin.
“Go ahead and show them.”
Laumin rolls up his sleeve and exposes his arm while one of the other scientists rubs the exposed arm with a numbing solution. Laumin holds out his arm and looks away as the other scientist picks up a scalpel and cuts a big wound along Laumin’s arm. Some of the board members quickly pull their heads back and look disturbed, but then Laumin pours a solution on the arm, holds it up to the board-members again, and the wound starts closing almost immediately.
Revica goes to stand on the opposite side of the table from Kerian.
“As you all can see; this technology bears great promise, and once we understand it better, it could be applied to anything from medical treatment to defensive systems.”
Revica points with her hand to her father.
“Ten years ago; my father led a research expedition to Antarctica, searching for any trace of the ancient alien race who was thought to have once lived there.”
“Deep underground, he found a metal container with a large crystal inside it.”
“This technology is based on that crystal we found in the container.”
“We were able to decipher a single word from the container and have since named the technology after this one word:”
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