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How to Defy Logic, Gravity and Uncertainty


Book Two

Tales of a Yumi Master


Vincent Gilvarry


Published by the author

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Copyright

2017

©


INTRODUCTION


Allow your mind to roam further than it has ever done before, beyond the borders of the Milky Way, and even further, to a galaxy on the outer perimeter the star system known as Alpha Centauri. It is here you will encounter a galaxy called the Khavala, an energy field of immense scope and power.

The Khavala is an inter-dimensional realm, where many worlds exist side-by-side, where universal energy can be used to create, but they can also be used to destroy.

One of the many places in the Khavala is a realm of floating islands called Vela-Rishan, a civilisation that has its roots in the mists of time. In days gone by, it was the home of a legendary race of beings called the Rishani, also known as the Gods of Space and Time.

The Rishani were empire builders, who left behind many legacies, one of which was The Imperial City of Vela-Rishan. It is a masterpiece of engineering, a complex of magnificent buildings, temples and palaces, set amidst gardens, and long winding thoroughfares.

The Imperial City is an extension of the Askadera, the most prominent mountain in the realm, and at the night, it is illuminated by strategically placed lights.




CHAPTER 1

AN EARLY MORNING VISITOR

PART ONE

A CLIMATE OF FEAR


Any self-respecting tourist would pay a small fortune, to get a bird’s eye view of an inter-galactic city from the window seat of a luxury class cruiser. In the early hours of the morning, the Imperial City is a sight that could hypnotise even the most seasoned traveller. But not a young man who has been travelling for the last three hours.

Addric Sharano is dressed in the uniform of the Jhalian League, the military arm of the realm, but he has no time to waste, this is a mission of the utmost importance.

It is almost two-thirty when the shuttle arrives at the transport terminal. He grabs his bags and heads down one alleyway after another. The back streets are like a maze, and it’s not long before he is hopelessly lost. In desperation, he stops to ask the help of a passing stranger, an old man whose face is concealed by the hood of a dark blue cloak.

‘Ah, I will show you,’ he says. ‘It’s not easy to find the Old Library at any time of the day.’

‘This place is like a labyrinth, and it takes ages to find your way around.’

Addric follows him down a flight of stairs, past imposing buildings, through a pair of highly decorated gates, and into a courtyard with a long line of apartments, all of which are hewn from the very walls of the Askadera itself.

‘Is this where you live,’ the old man says.

‘No, it’s not, but my brother does. I would never have found this place by myself, thank you.’

‘You are most welcome, sir.’

‘Now, which one is Dheago’s,’ Addric says. ‘They all look the same at this time of night.’

‘I think it’s that one.’

He staggers up three flights of stairs, and by the time he gets to the top floor, his head is spinning. As to whether Dheago is at home, he has no idea, but he just has to be.

‘Please answer the door,’ he cries.

When someone is pounding on your door at three o’clock in the morning, you immediately expect the worse. Dheago leaps out of bed and races down the hallway.

‘Who’s there?’ he says.

‘It’s me, Addric, please let me in Dheago. I’m going to be sick.’

‘Addric, what are you doing here.’

‘I’m not feeling well. I think I’m going to be sick.’

He heads straight for the bathroom, and ten minutes later, he hobbles out on his hands and knees, looking somewhat paler, but none the worse for wear.

‘Feeling better,’ Dheago says.

‘I vow and declare that I will never go on a bender, ever again.’

Addric is in no mood for small talk, and can barely even think. He crawls over to the rug on the living room floor, and passes out immediately.

He sleeps solidly for the next eighteen hours, and the only sound is that of Dheago, creeping around the apartment.

‘You’re looking a lot better than you did last night,’ he says.

‘I’m sorry Dheago. I hope you don’t mind me barging in like this.’

‘Not at all, I’m just curious as to why you are here.’

‘It’s a long story,’ Addric sighs, ‘but I have the worst headache ever.’

‘Ah, I know how to fix that,’ Dheago says as he retrieves a bottle of pills from his pocket. ‘These little babies are pure magic, but I think you should have at least three.’

‘It’s a hangover actually,’ Addric says.

‘Thought so, welcome to the real world, it happens sometimes.’

Even though the pills are a murky shade of green, Addric pops them in his mouth and hopes for the best.

Addric hasn’t seen Dheago for the last twelve months, but he is surprised to see how good he looks. Even though he is only seventeen, he could easily pass for a man of twenty. He has never had much interest in his appearance, but today, he is wearing a red woolen shirt and a sleeveless leather jacket, close fitting pants and a pair of handcrafted leather boots. And for the first time in years, his hair is cropped, and his deep brown eyes are clearly visible.

‘So, this isn’t a courtesy call, is it?’ he says. ‘What are you doing here Addric? Did you get the sack or something?’

‘It’s a very long story, I resigned from the Jhalian League.’

‘I don’t understand Addric. Why?’

It was as much a surprise to Addric as it was to Hector Balinsaya, his superior officer. As to why he joined the Jhalian League in the first place, he is not exactly sure. Youthful exuberance perhaps, a moment of madness, Addric has done crazier things than that over the years.

‘Something happened a few weeks ago, and I had no choice but to resign.’

‘Under normal circumstances, I would have told Hector the truth, but he would never have believed me.’

Addric spent many soul-searching months in a world in which he did not belong. He presumed that the Jhalian League would be an-going adventure, but the life of a cadet turned out to be very different to what he imagined. A routine of never-ending discipline, of leaping out of bed before the birds were awake, was not for the likes of him.

It was a demanding job, but it did have a few advantages, and one of those was access to the League’s latest hardware. And for someone with a love of adventure, those boundaries are limitless.

The designers at the Centre of Research and Development are renowned for their ingenuity. And over the years, a diverse range of hi-tech equipment appeared from their laboratories on a regular basis. Not everything was destined for military use, many things eventually found their way into the public domain.

On his day off, Addric loved nothing better than to head for the hills, and test out one of their latest inventions. It was the perfect antidote to the long hours he spent in the classroom.

The headquarters of the League is located on the island of Candohara, off the southern coast of Arinyah. And whenever he had the opportunity, he would spend his time exploring its natural attractions.

‘Coasting over hills and mountains on a turbo boosted gyro-copter, that is what you call freedom, Dheago.’

‘But it was only a month ago, that I had to make an emergency landing. A storm was brewing, and I had to find somewhere safe.’

‘‘The winds were howling, so I took refuge in a cave. But I was there for a lot longer than I expected. Luckily I was well prepared.’

A recruit has to carry food and water, as well as a torch, a firelighter and a communicator, just in case anything happens.

‘The cave was dark and dismal, and I had no choice but to wait, but as I soon discovered, I was not alone.’

‘So, there was someone else in the cave,’ Dheago says.

‘I thought it was just a firefly at first, but it wasn’t buzzing around all over the place, it was on my hand.’

‘A firefly,’ Dheago says.

‘Yes, and when I looked closely, I realised it was something else altogether.’

‘What was it?’

‘It was a band of blue light on my finger, but if you didn’t know any better, you wouldn’t think twice about it, but the weird part was that I could see inside of it.’

‘And, what did you see?’

‘I saw you Dheago. You were chasing after me and calling out my name.’

‘Me?’

‘Yes, and after that, there was a flash of blinding light, but this is the really weird part, Dheago, we drifted out of our bodies, and ended up in some sort of spirit world.’

‘So, what does that mean Addric?’

‘It’s the sort of place you go when you die, but we weren’t alone, we had company.’

‘What sort of company would that be?’

‘Elegant creatures with soft shimmering wings.’

‘Angels, is that what you’re saying Addric?’

‘I guess so, but they bowed as we passed by, as if we were someone of importance.’

‘So, who were they?’

‘I don’t know, but we floated along through one realm after another for ages. And not long after, we arrived at some sort of energetic doorway.’

‘A portal,’ Dheago says, ‘in the middle of nowhere.’

‘Of some sort, but this is even weirder, the moment after we stepped across the threshold, we were on a ship of some sort.’

‘A ship?’

‘Yes. some sort of galleon that glistened like blue fire.’

‘Really, I just read about something like that.’

‘Where was that?’

‘At the library, it was the writings of a mystic called Sabrishus. It was a description of a ship that shimmered like blue fire. It sent shivers down my spine just thinking about it.’

‘But the odd thing is,’ Addric says, ‘there was no one else around but us.’

‘But that’s the Ship of the Dead, Addric. That’s the vessel which transports the departed to the heavenly realms.’

Dheago is a little unsettled by this news, and Addric isn’t sure whether to continue or not.

‘Let’s have a short break,’ he says,’ I think I need a stiff drink. What about you?’

Addric is a little overwrought at the moment, and a drink is that last thing he needs. He’s been practicing this speech for days, and if Dheago didn’t believe him, well, he had no idea what he was going to do.

Dheago returns a few minutes later with a bottle of wine and a platter of nibbles.

‘I have a feeling that you are not telling me this just for the sake of it. Are you?’

‘No, I’m not, there’s more, a lot more,’ Addric says, ‘and a few things you might find a little disturbing.’

Dheago has every reason to be concerned. After what they experienced the year before, he would prefer not to know anything about it. All he wants now is to lead a quiet and peaceful life.

‘So, what else happened? You said there was someone else in that cave.’

‘Yes, I thought I was hearing things at first, but then I heard it again, only this time it was whispering my name.’

‘So, what happened next?’

‘Brace yourself Dheago. You are not going to believe this.’

‘Try me,’ he said.

‘It said that we died in an explosion.’

‘What do you mean we died in an explosion?’ Dheago says. He has always had a short fuse for the weird things that Addric says, but this has to be the weirdest of them all.

‘You’re not making this up, are you?’

‘No, I’m not, Dheago. And just in case you have forgotten, we are Yumi and we cannot die, but for a short period of time, I think we did.’

‘But, that can’t be,’ Dheago says.

‘Let me finish and you’ll understand.’

‘Okay, so, we sort of died.’

Addric takes a deep breath and mentally prepares for what he is about to say next.

‘Apparently, we were incinerated by the cosmic fire designed to dispose of Morpheus. And on that day, we looked death in the face.’

‘We did,’ Dheago says incredulously. ‘Who told you that?’

‘That ghostly voice, of course, but if it hadn’t been for Emphora’s intervention, we would have drifted off to the heavenly realms, and no one would have seen us again.’

Addric has a habit of saying the most outlandish things sometimes, and Dheago’s response has always been the same. He usually shakes his head, and mumbles something under his breath, but this time he doesn’t.

‘So, did you find out who was in that cave?’

‘I did, eventually. I had to work it out for myself.’

‘Do I know you?’ I said hesitantly.

‘You do,’ was the reply. ‘I am a friend of old, you could say.’

‘I had no idea who it was, but it didn’t sound like a real voice. It was like it was coming from somewhere else.’

‘It wasn’t someone playing tricks, was it?’

‘No, Dheago, it wasn’t.’

‘Was it Morpheus?’

‘No, it definitely wasn’t him; I would have known that voice anywhere, but, a few moments later, it clicked.’

Odin,’ I said tentatively. ‘Is that you?’

‘Yes, my friend, the very same, I knew you would work it out eventually.’

‘Odin,’ Dheago cries. ‘But how and why? Is he still alive?’

‘Apparently, he is Dheago, and he had a lot to say.’

‘He did, like what?’

‘Well for one thing, his name is not actually Odin Dobrogost at all, it’s just Odin, but get this, Dheago, he is the Master of Souls.’

‘What does that mean Addric?’

‘He is one of the great Lords of the Khavala, and a god in his own right. Apparently, it’s his task to escort the spirits of the dead to the heavenly realms.’

‘Then he did a very good job of hiding that from everyone, didn’t he?’

When they first met Odin, he was very much human. As they found out some time later, he was on a mission, and biding his time, waiting for an opportunity to dispose of Morpheus. The battle that ensued was as frightening as it was gruesome. But at the very last moment, he and Morpheus were consumed by cosmic flames. In a last-minute effort to save him, Addric and Dheago were swept up in the wake of the explosion, and absorbed into the white-hot web of creation.

‘What did he want?’ Dheago says.

Dheago is not the gullible type, and news like this has to be handled delicately. Up until now, Addric has done a pretty good job, but he takes another long deep breath.

‘Apparently, Dheago, something big is about to happen.’

‘Like what?’

‘Odin said that a natural disaster is looming, one that could have dire consequences, if it isn’t dealt with soon.’

‘What did he mean by that Addric?’

‘I didn’t understand then and I don’t know any more even now.’

‘I told him that we are just regular people now, and we don’t have special powers.’

‘He made a point of telling me that our heritage is immutable, and it always will be. And even though we do not have our Yumi powers at the moment, they are still very much a part of what we are.’

‘They are,’ Dheago says. ‘I haven’t noticed anything unusual.’

‘Apparently, you have one of those rings as well, and they were given to us for a reason. But get this Dheago. We agreed to wear them as part of a contract.’

‘What sort of contract would that be Addric?’

‘Odin didn’t say, but he did say, that when they become active, we can do almost anything, but we have to do it together.’

‘This is getting too weird for words Addric?’

It takes Dheago a while to come to terms with this revelation. He has always been the skeptical type, and spends the next few minutes inspecting the index finger on his hand.

‘I can’t see anything like a ring, Addric. Are you sure it’s there?’

‘Turn the lights off, maybe that will help.’

Concentration is a skill that Dheago has mastered to perfection, and an hour later, he is just about to give this idea up as a lost cause, when the ring finally becomes visible.

‘Wow, it’s really true Addric, I can see it. And it really does glow like blue fire.’

‘However, that isn’t all,’ Addric says,’ Odin had a few more things to say.’

‘Oh no,’ Dheago says.

‘That we have a task to complete.’

‘Not another one,’ he groans. ‘What is it this time?’

‘Apparently, there’s a storm brewing. He didn’t say what sort of storm, but to resolve the problem, we have to make our way to the world at the centre of all things, to a place called the Ocean of Infinite Mystery.’

‘I have no idea what that means Addric.’

‘Neither do I, but we won’t be going alone, we’ll have company. But Odin also said that he would be coming with us.’

‘Odin is returning to the real world. This really must be big Addric.’

‘Let’s go over that again,’ Dheago says, ‘just in case I missed something.’

There have been hundreds of occasions on which Dheago never believed a word that Addric ever said, but things have obviously changed. They have known each other since they were five years old, and even though their relationship has often balanced on a knife edge, they are as close today as they ever were.

A very interesting evening follows, and after a few too many wines, Addric eventually drifts off into a deep and peaceful sleep. It was touch and go for a while, but he achieved the impossible. He convinced Dheago that what he had to say was true, and that is not just an accomplishment. With someone like Dheago, that is an achievement of the first order.



CHAPTER 2

LIGHTS IN THE SKY


Dheago is the assistant librarian at the Old Palace Library, and when he gets home from work that evening, he decides that they are going to have a night on the town. The Imperial City is steeped in history, and it is the place to be, especially if you are looking for a good time. And over the last twelve months Dheago has discovered some of its hidden secrets.

‘I know all the best places to go,’ he says, ‘something I learnt from Kandida.

She was a nightmare of a woman they met on the Silhouette, a vessel on which they spent a few very strange days. The very thought of Kandida was enough to make him see red, and Dheago vowed and declared that he never wanted anything to do with her again.

On the day that the people of Vela-Rishan gathered together to celebrate their victorious battle over Morpheus, they were famous for a few passing minutes. They stood side-by-side with Emphora on the grand stage of the Serinada Gardens, but in the back streets of the city, they are just another couple of faces.

On the way home, they take a detour through the city square, and even in the early hours of the morning, people are out and about and having a good time. It’s a hive of activity, and according to Dheago, it used to be an amphitheater, but today it’s a popular shopping precinct.

They are barely half way across the square, when Addric hears a sound that sends a shiver up his spine. A holographic sign, suspended in the air advertises one of the most celebrated performers of the day.

‘Jala Aleu, I have never heard of her,’ Addric says, ‘Who is she.’

‘One of those talents that comes along only once in a lifetime.’

‘So, she’s like an opera singer then?’

‘No, she isn’t, she appeared on the scene several years ago, and has taken the city by storm. She has already had two sell out concerts at the Serinada Gardens, but this will be her farewell performance.’

‘She is definitely not to be missed Addric.’

‘I think we should get a couple of tickets before they sell out.’

‘I agree,’ he says.

Vela-Rishan has two seasons, a mild summer, and a cold and blustery winter. During the summer months, the temperature is always a pleasant 24°, but at night, it has been known to plummet to near freezing.

The sky always has a soft purple tinge, an effect that has something to do with the light that reflects off the Abyss, the vast sea of nothingness that surrounds Vela-Rishan, a treacherous place, where danger lurks around every corner.

From the balcony of Dheago’s apartment, the view of The Imperial City is spectacular, but the most prominent landmark of all is the mighty Askadera. What most people don’t know, is that the Askadera has its secrets. Hidden away deep down below is a mystery that has not seen the light of day for centuries.

Even at this hour of the day, dozens of airborne vessels are weaving their way along aerial highways to other destinations, but Addric is momentarily distracted by a series of unusual flickering lights in the sky.

‘Dheago, what do you think that is?’ he says.

‘I have no idea.’

It is not usual to see lights shimmering in the night sky, but as to why it’s swirling around the evening star is even more of a mystery.

‘It looks as if it’s heading this way,’ Addric says. ‘What going on Dheago?’

‘I don’t know Addric. I have never seen anything like that before.’

‘A natural disaster could start like that, couldn’t it?’

‘I hope not,’ Dheago says. ‘I hope that has nothing to do with Odin’s prediction at all.’


CHAPTER 3

AN OMEN OF THINGS TO COME


It is somewhat cooler than usual on the night of Jala’s concert, and like everyone else at the transit centre, they are dressed in their finest clothes. They have no choice but to wait patiently, along with dozens of other passengers, for a shuttle to the Serinada Gardens.

‘So Dheago, what else do you know about Jala,’ Addric says.

‘Nothing much at all, to tell you the truth.’

‘Jala Aleu, that’s a very odd sounding name. So, where is she from.’

‘Based on her appearance, I would say Zesta Leonda.’

‘You could be right,’ Addric says, ‘they are sort of different to everyone else.’

‘Jala was a virtual unknown, until a few years ago, but now everyone has heard of her.’

‘Everyone, except me,’ Addric says.

‘Well, you have been out of circulation for a while.’

A local shuttle is the most common form of transport, and they are usually packed to capacity, but when they finally get to the Serinada Gardens, there is a distinct sense of anticipation in the air.

If the light show is any indication of what’s to come, this is going to be an interesting evening, but it’s not long after they take their seats, that Jala’s voice can be heard resonating through the air.

‘That’s her,’ Addric says.

A few moments later, a tall and stately creature with skin that glows like golden alabaster appears out of an enchanted mist. She drifts along like a sensuous disembodied spirit, but it doesn’t take long for the magic of her voice to ease its way into Addric’s soul.

Two hours drift by, and powerful emotions are stirring, but the last song in her repertoire is the one everyone has been waiting for. Jala holds onto one tantalising note for what seems like forever. And everyone in the auditorium, the thousands who have made a pilgrimage from all over the realm, rise to their feet like one mind and one soul.

But, it is then that Addric sees something unusual in the sky above.

‘Dheago, can you see that thing out there?’

‘Oh, my God, Addric, what is that?’

It appears to be an ocean wave, that rolls one way and another, but they have no idea know what to think when a dark and ominous energy tries to force it out of the way.

‘That doesn’t look good,’ Addric says.’

‘And that is no apparition,’ Dheago says. ‘It’s an omen. It has to be.’

Long after they have left the Serinada Gardens behind, that foreboding experience is still at the forefront of their minds.

Unbeknownst to either of them, it was a call for help, one that has travelled across space and time. It was the result of a decree made by the Countess Demetra, a wizard from a little town called Ditafarago. For the last eight hundred years, she and her forebears have been battling the scourge known as the Volkori.

Demetra had had enough, and she made a prophecy that a blight would descend upon all realms in the Khavala, that the very atmosphere would appear to fold. It would cause such consternation in the hearts of the people, that someone would eventually respond.

Sixteen years before, a nature spirit called Wimple introduced Addric and Dheago to the secrets of the Khavala. He took them to the borderlands of the world at the centre of all things. And it was there that they encountered the first of many threats to Vela-Rishan.

Morpheus has since been disposed of, but two other problems were waiting in the wings. One of those was the Volkori, and the other was a threat to the most pivotal of all celestial realms.

The Ocean of Infinite Mystery is believed to be a place of myth and legend, but as they will soon discover, that is not the case at all. A battle has been raging for thousands of years, and the future of the Khavala is in danger. The forces of the dark side are closing in, and time is of the essence. What they don’t know, is that they have to resolve this problem, and whether they like it or not, it has to be done soon.



CHAPTER 4

MERCHANTS OF DOOM AND GLOOM


Addric tosses and turns that night, only to be roused much earlier than he would have liked. And when he finally gets out of bed, Dheago is glued to the video monitor watching the morning news.

‘Addric, listen to this,’ he says. ‘Remember that strange thing we saw in the sky last night. Apparently, it’s visible everywhere.’

‘People are worried and beseeching Emphora for help,’ the news reporter says. ‘And over the last few days they have been flocking to local shrines in their thousands.’

‘Let’s hope that this is nothing more than an atmospheric anomaly. Let us pray that it simply goes away. But if it continues to develop, Vela-Rishan may once again be faced with a scenario of possible devastation.’

To Dheago’s disgust, the media are having a field day, speculating as they always do about anything that even hints of a crisis.

‘Matrix Central hasn’t worked out what’s going on yet, and neither have the meteorological bureau,’ he says, ‘but that doesn’t stop the media from interfering.’

The very worst thing they can do is create a climate of fear, and under the current circumstances, they are the bearers of the worst possible news.

‘That has to be the same thing, Addric, but what does it mean.’

‘I have a suspicion that this is going to develop into a major problem.’

‘The creepy part is, that the sky is now a sickly yellow,’ Dheago says. ‘That is really un-nerving.’

‘Jala has something to do with this, I’m almost sure of it, but why?’ Addric says. ‘I have a feeling that she is not what she appears to be.’

‘We could be in for big trouble,’ Dheago says. ‘Morpheus is out of the picture. So, who else could it be?’

‘The dark brotherhood, perhaps,’ Addric says.

‘If they exist at all,’

Dheago has never believed in them for a moment, but for a while, they were real enough to Addric, and it was all he ever talked about.

‘They wouldn’t dare stake their claim in Vela-Rishan, not while Emphora is around.’

‘A problem is looming, and it could change everything.’

‘We’ve been there before, Dheago, only this time, we are not going to sit around and just let it happen.’

‘But we haven’t a clue where it’s coming from Addric.’

According to the news report, it’s the same in every part of the realm. On every street corner, in parks and gardens, there is only one topic of conservation.

‘What is this thing and what does it mean?’ they are saying.

‘Addric, in just over a week, it will be the first anniversary of the Coronation Ceremony.’

‘I know that all too well Dheago.’

That was an experience they will never forget. For a few frenetic months, they were scooped up by invisible hands, and catapulted into the middle of a catastrophe. But the biggest drama of all happened on the day that the new sovereign was about to be crowned. It was on that day that the shadow of the Fire-Dragon became a reality.

‘The next few weeks could be difficult Dheago.’

‘I don’t want to know,’ he says.

‘But whatever it means, it will have to wait until I get back.’

Family obligations beckon, and Addric has to spend a few days with his parents and grandparents. After a light breakfast and several cups of coffee, he showers and changes, and stuffs a few things into his backpack.

‘I have learnt the art of travelling light,’ he says. ‘That’s one good thing about being in the Jhalian League.’

His destination is the high mountain plains, a place that is infinitely colder than anywhere else. He has packed his uniform away, and is now wearing a new blue cloak, woolen tights, knee length boots and a tailored jacket. He so wanted to keep his boots, as they are good quality military stock, but Dheago was insistent.

‘You’re looking really good, Addric, better than ever in fact.’

Addric is no longer the scrawny little kid he used to be. After twelve months of training, his chest has filled out, and for as long as it will last, he even has a light brown tan as well.

‘Okay, I had better be on my way.’

‘Give them my love,’ Dheago says.

‘I definitely will.’

‘You sure you don’t want to come.’

Dheago lost his parents at the age of ten, but Addric came to his rescue, and he was accepted into the Sharano family without question. If it had not been for that, he may have had a very different life.

‘Roland is away, and I am in charge of the library for a few days,’ he says. ‘Otherwise, I would jump at the chance.’

‘Okay, I’ll see you when I get back.’

‘Definitely, Addric, I don’t think we have any other choice.’

They head down the stairs, and as soon as they step out on the streets, they can’t help but notice the strange yellow tinge to the sky.

‘This is just a little too creepy for my liking,’ Dheago says.



CHAPTER 5

SECRETS OF THE OLD AND WISE


For two little city boys, the village of Banlu was an adventure playground, a place where they could explore magical forests, swim in beautiful rivers, and climb every mountain. Addric always looked forward to losing himself in a world lost in the mists of time.

Banlu is a quaint little village of cobbled streets and stone houses on a high mountain plain. His grandparents live a simple life, and one that Addric is aware of, more so than ever before.

Like all women of her age, his grandmother Pancilia, follows a routine that is never likely to change. One of her daily habits is to collect a pitcher of water from the well at the top end of Banlu Road. It’s a pleasant way to pass the time, and she and Addric wander along a winding road that has a breath-taking view of rolling green hills.

Pancilia doesn’t have to collect water from the well; she makes this trip for other reasons. It’s a routine that she looks forward to, and an excuse to catch up with old friends. The women of Banlu have been doing the same thing for centuries. They usually sit by the well and talk about their lives and families.

Addric’s hometown, the city of Karossa is just visible on the horizon, but this outing has another purpose, and before they leave, Pancilia and her friends always leave an offering to Emphora.

Just below the shingled roof of the well, is a hollow recess that has been repaired by the local stonemasons on numerous occasions. It is here that Pancilia, Rosalita and Shanala whisper their prayers. They always say one for their children, one for the village, and today, one for Addric.

They may live in an isolated village, hundreds of miles from civilisation, but they are aware of the events unfolding in the world outside. They are equally aware of the eerie discoloration in the atmosphere. They have no idea what it means, but they don’t have to give it a name.

The wisdom of the old follows unwritten rules, and they never mention such things out loud. But today, their visit has a very different focus, because another calamity is the last thing they want to see. But before she leaves, Pancilia usually places a bunch of flowers on the shrine, but today, it’s a branch from a flowering shrub.

‘Emphora appreciates these little things.’

‘I know grandmother,’ Addric says.

‘The world never asks our opinion anymore, but we know things Addric. We may be old, but we know things.’

‘Yes grandmother,’ he says.

The very moment that they place their tribute on the shrine, they hear the sound of a little bell.

‘That has never happened before.’

That was Emphora.’

‘Yes, it was,’ Rosalita says. ‘She works in mysterious ways.’

‘Emphora has spoken, and not just to us, but to you Addric as well,’ Pancilia says. ‘Not loudly but quietly as she always does.’

‘Her messages never come in the way you expect them to.’

Addric knows Emphora, and he wouldn’t be surprised if it she really did have something to do with that.

‘She did the same thing last year,’ Rosalita said, ‘just before the Coronation Ceremony.’

‘She did,’ says a surprised Addric.

‘She did indeed, my boy.’

Long after he has left his grandmother’s world far behind, Addric cannot get that experience out of his mind. He has no idea what Emphora’s message is about, but thanks to his grandmother, it has been received on at least one wave length.


CHAPTER 6

THE TEMPO CHANGES


A visit to one of Emphora’s shrines is an opportunity to catch up with friends and family. And when work has finished, his parents Hugo and Karinya, meet at the transit centre, where they will board a shuttle to the little town of Sabinica.

If they are lucky, they will get a seat on the outer deck. It’s an opportunity to see the ornamental lake, for one thing, and on most occasions, it reflects the light with a pale lilac glow, but today it is a murky shade of brown.

‘Addric, I don’t like the look of this at all,’ Karinya says.

There is something un-natural about a strange discolouration in the atmosphere. The recent threat to Vela-Rishan is never far from their minds and as a consequence, a trip to Emphora’s shrine is more important than ever.

As soon as they disembark from the shuttle, they make their way to a little grotto, not far from the energy barrier that protects everyone from certain death. But on this particular evening they are surprised to see hundreds of other people waiting to tell Emphora what is on their mind.

‘Oh Addric, we will never get anywhere near it,’ Karinya sighs.

‘Something strange happened yesterday, when I was at Grandma’s,’ he says.

‘What was it?’

‘It was at the little well at the top of Banlu Road. Just after Grandma placed an offering in the shrine, we heard a sound like a tingling bell. She said it was Emphora’s way of letting us know that our prayers have been heard.’

The very moment before Karinya is about to lay a little bunch of flowers on the shrine, the light changes, and discolouration in the atmosphere intensifies. Parents with children just turn and run, and within minutes the grotto is deserted.

‘Let’s get out of here,’ Hugo says, ‘I don’t like this at all.’


CHAPTER 7

THE PROPHECIES


As the curator of the Old Palace library, Roland has always believed in the existence of a master text. It’s a vital document, and one that will provide the key to understanding the long-forgotten manuscripts of the old Rishani Empire. This is a collection which has been housed in the library for centuries, but without the master text, they are impossible to translate.

Thousands of parchments are scattered throughout the library, and Dheago has been assigned the task of finding that one important document. He has spent months wading through numerous faded parchments, looking for one that is just a little different to the others.

After endless hours of pouring over yet another pile of dusty old manuscripts, he is exhausted. He is all but ready to give up, when he is attracted to yet another faded old parchment. He studies it closely, and realises that it has one element he has never seen before.

‘I think I’ve found it at long last,’ he says to Roland. ‘I think it’s the very thing we’ve been searching for.’

‘This has to be it,’ he says as he holds it up to the light, and it’s written in old Rishani as well.’

Roland has been doing the same job for over fifty years, and time has etched deep lines into his aging face. He removes a pair of spectacles from his pocket, investigates the inscription on the margin.

‘I can’t believe it, after all this time, this it is my lad. How wonderful, Dheago, we have found it at long last.’

This is the result of years of endless searching, so Roland places it on a work table and dusts it off carefully.

‘I suspect it will reveal a lot more than we might imagine,’ he says.

The discovery of this text is the key to a language that Roland has never been able to decipher. He has great expectations that it will reveal the secrets of a thousand generations. The master text disappeared centuries ago, and he always feared it had been lost or destroyed. He scrutinises it closely and then sighs with contentment.

‘For an old man like me, this is the discovery of a lifetime.’

His fingers move across the surface, as if he is searching for a secret panel in a hidden door.

‘You have achieved something of a miracle Dheago, but this is not the time to delve into its secrets. It is the end of a long day and that calls for a celebration.’

‘And I know just the thing,’ he says as he heads for a cupboard in the far corner of the room.

He polishes two glasses, and fills them with an amber coloured liquid that glistens like liquid gold.

‘What is it?’ Dheago says.

‘Vosomor, a rare treat and a gift from a Yumi Master. This is the food of the gods, and equally as precious.’

‘Amongst other things, it is known to rejuvenate the spirit. But it is one of the finest beverages you will ever drink.’

Dheago takes one tentative sip and he approves.

‘Oh my god Roland, this is beautiful.’

‘Yes, and it’s the only way we will be able to decipher that parchment.’

‘Roland, you’re not saying that Vosomor gives you special powers, are you?’

Roland always said that when they found the master text, he would call upon the services of a medium to help decipher what they had found.

‘As to whether that is either of us, is yet to be seen, but Vosomor does have the power to open up an energetic pathway.’

Under normal circumstances, that would be the domain of an oracle, someone who can interpret signs and symbols. It’s an ancient method of identifying the unknown, and a technique that has been used by the high priestess of the Temple of Portia, since time immemorial.

‘A high priestess is sensitive to subtle energies, and can read the energetic patterns of an object, person or thing. But it will save a lot of time and effort in the long run.’

‘But we may not get that opportunity,’ Dheago says.

‘Have you seen what’s going on out there Roland? All of this could come to nothing?’

Only yesterday, the sky had a yellow tinge, but now it is infused with very visible, electrostatically charged particles.

‘Something un-natural is about to happen, exactly as Sabrishus said it would.’

Up until a few months ago, Dheago had never heard of Sabrishus. He had no idea that he was just one of many Yumi mystics who left a wealth of inspired ideas documented for posterity.

‘How did he know that something like this would happen?’

‘Oracles have the ability to identify both the little and the big things, my lad.’

In the first book of Sabrishus, Dheago found a description of an event that referred to the imminent destruction of Vela-Rishan. Sabrishus made a prophecy that a winged dragon, and a glowing blue portal would appear in the sky. He even stated that the Gods of Space and Time would resume their ancient heritage. Dheago knows exactly what that means. He and Addric are the descendants of the Gods of Space and Time.

‘He made several references to this situation, but like everything else, it’s all so convoluted.’

‘Somehow or other, I don’t think that will matter,’ says a voice at the door.

Addric has spent the last two hours, gazing through a shuttle window, and contemplating the very same problem.

‘Addric, what do you mean by that?’ Dheago says.

‘I just had to speak to someone,’ he said. ‘I have spent the last few hours studying this situation, and I don’t like it at all.’

‘Come inside and close the door,’ Dheago says, ‘before anything happens.’

Addric collapses into the nearest chair, and Roland places a glass in his hand. He looks it over approvingly, and swallows it in one gulp.

‘That is exactly what I needed,’ he says, ‘but what is it?’

‘Vosomor, it’s a rescue remedy, or at least that’s what I tell everyone,’ Roland said. ‘And it is believed to have a range of interesting properties.’

Over the next few minutes, Addric listens with interest as Dheago tells him about the master text.

‘It’s an old manuscript, a really old one, written by an oracle called Sabrishus. His prophecies have been creepily accurate, but Addric, he describes this situation in detail. This is how he said it would begin, and almost to the very day.’

‘This is all very interesting,’ Addric says as he scrutinizes one of the faded parchments.

On the border of one document he happens to notice a symbol that resembles an arabesque pattern, a series of inter-twining tendrils that twist together to form a circle.

For some unknown reason, he feels compelled to touch it, and when he does so, a familiar tingling sensation ripples up his spine. It’s a sensation he recognises immediately, but one he hasn’t felt for some time.

‘Roland,’ he says, ‘that isn’t the only thing that’s been going on around here, is it?’

‘What do mean by that Addric?’

‘You would like to call upon the services of an oracle. Wouldn’t you?’

‘And Vosomor isn’t just any old drink. Is it Roland?’

‘That’s true,’ he says. ‘Vosomor opens an energetic pathway, one that allows the mind to see the future, amongst other things.’

‘It has been used by the oracles of the Temples since time immemorial, but only when all else fails.’

Roland is aware that the very use of the word has triggered an unusual response in Addric. He had listened with interest to Dheago’s stories about what they had experienced the year before. But it was not some fanciful tale because everyone in the realm knows about it.

Roland gets to his feet and takes a deep breath.

‘We really are in a predicament,’ he says, ‘maybe more than we realize.’

It is time to put Addric to the test. If a question is asked, an oracle must reply. And it’s obvious from the look on his face, that Addric is considering this issue at another level.

‘We have reached an impasse,’ he says, ‘and it’s possible that there is more to this situation than meets the eye?’

He takes a deep breath, and clasps his fingers to his face, as if he is about to share news of some importance.

‘I have a message,’ he says.

‘He is actually going to do it,’ Roland cries. ‘Copy this down Dheago, quickly.’

Addric’s eyes have a distinctive glassy look, as if he is gazing into the world beyond, but when he speaks, it is not his voice they hear. This is the sound of someone else, communicating from a nonphysical realm.

‘There is someone calling to you across space and time…she is not known to you yet…but she needs your help…not all is apparent…more will be revealed. You must seek her out…you must travel to a place called Ra-Silonay. And it is there that you will find an answer. Do this or nothing will be as it was ever again.’

Addric files through a pile of dusty old documents, until he finds the one he wants.

‘This is what you seek, is it not?’

He places it in Roland’s hands, and then collapses into the nearest chair.

‘Dheago, get some water, quickly,’ Roland says.

Addric passes out for a few moments, and then sits bolt upright, and releases a volcanic gush of air.

‘What just happened?’

‘It appears that you have psychic abilities as well,’ Roland says. ‘I asked a question of the oracle and you provided an answer.’

‘I did.’

‘Yes, and I got every word you said,’ Dheago says.

Addric just happens to notice that the ring on his index finger is unusually warm to the touch.

‘This is an interesting development,’ he says. ‘There is definitely something going on here.’

‘So, where does that leave us now?’

‘I have no idea,’ Roland says, ‘but whatever happens, I would not be surprised if both of you will be involved.’

‘You said so yourself Addric, you must go to Ra-Silonay.’

‘But I have never even heard of such a place.’


CHAPTER 8

SOUNDS WITH AN ENERGETIC RESONANCE


Vela-Rishan is not the only realm in the Khavala. It is just one of many, but as to whether Ra-Silonay is one of those, is a mystery they have yet to resolve. They search through one parchment after another for some clue as to its location, but after several hours, they eventually give up in despair.

‘We are not getting anywhere,’ Dheago says. ‘However, there is a program on my computer that can translate all sorts of things. Maybe we should try that idea instead.’

The ancient Rishani language is written in hieroglyphs, or pictographic symbols, but the only problem is that they are not written down in any specific order.

‘How are we going to read that,’ Addric says. ‘It’s all over the place.’

‘To read something like this, it is essential to set up an energetic rhythm,’ Roland says.

‘And just what does that mean?’

‘The symbol you pronounce first, automatically illuminates the next one in your mind, and then the one after that.’

‘These are not words, but sounds with an energetic resonance. In other words, you perceive the meaning in your mind. It’s very similar to divining.’

‘Which mean what?’ says Addric.

‘It’s what you just did.’

‘These documents are fluid translations from a higher source. Interpreting their meaning, however, is not always easy.’

‘This is a very curious system, if you ask me.’

‘Okay,’ Dheago says. ‘I’m ready to go. Let’s see what we have got.’

They watch closely, as the computer processes one line at a time, and then moves on to the next.

‘Interesting, but it looks just like a musical score,’ Roland says.

‘So, what do you propose to do?’

‘Play it, of course, what else?’

‘I didn’t know that you had a talent for music,’ Addric says.

‘I don’t, but this computer does.’

Addric wanders over to the door, conscious of the fact that there is something about this situation that doesn’t feel right.

‘I’m not sure you should do that Dheago.’

‘What could possibly go wrong Addric? We hear a musical version of the text. What harm could there be in that?’

‘But what if it isn’t music at all, Dheago?’

‘What else could it be Addric?’

‘I don’t know, it’s just a feeling I have, that’s all.’

‘It’s that thing out there. It’s all too weird. This problem started after Jala’s performance, if you remember.’

‘So, you keep reminding me,’ Dheago says.

‘I am absolutely certain that Jala has something to do with this. But I don’t think she is the source of the problem.’

‘I believe she might be some sort of messenger, and the real source of the problem lies somewhere out there, in that Ra-Silonay place.’

‘So, you believe that if Dheago plays this as music,’ Roland said, ‘it might exacerbate this situation.’

‘I am only being cautious Roland. What if it triggers something even worse? What if it exacerbates this situation?’

‘It couldn’t do something like that, could it?’

‘I for one don’t want to find out,’ Addric says. ‘I think it’s time we spoke to someone else about this.’



CHAPTER 9

A PRODUCT OF RISHANI INGENUITY


Venturing outdoors is a risk that they are not willing to take. And other than a few brave souls, who have stepped out for one reason or another, the communal square is deserted. The city is in lockdown, a situation they have to endure every few years. On the rare occasion, Vela-Rishan is subjected to the fury of the winds known as the Black Titans. They can be as destructive as they are lethal, and when they appear, everyone follows an established routine.

‘We have to get to the Palace, and report this to the Supreme Council,’ Addric says, ‘but how, that is the question.’

‘There is another way to get around the city,’ Dheago says curiously.

‘And how is that.’

‘I have done a lot more than shuffle papers around since I have been here,’ Dheago says in an unusually haughty manner.

‘So, what is this secret?’ Addric says.

‘On one of the walls in the storeroom, there is a decorative panel which conceals a door to a hidden stairwell.’

‘It does,’ says a surprised Roland.

‘Yes, and it leads to an underground city, in fact.’

‘What underground city?’

‘The old one, below the city, of course,’ Dheago says. ‘It took me ages to work it out, but I did eventually.’

They follow him into a storeroom, packed to the rafters with documents that have never seen the light of day. And when they get to the rear of the room, Dheago pulls on the release mechanism, turns it to the left, and a door opens.

‘If you want to see more, follow me,’ he says. ‘This is the entrance to another world.’

Even in the muted light, it is possible to see evidence of the skill and ingenuity of their ancient Rishani ancestors. In the years following the cataclysm, most of the population lived underground. After things settled down, they moved back to the surface. And over time, it was simply forgotten, until the day that Dheago discovered an architectural drawing of this wing of the Library.

‘I didn’t have much to do that day, so I decided to check it out.’

‘And you have kept this secret to yourself,’ Roland said.

‘I was going to tell you about it, but you left early that day, and did not come back for a whole week.’

‘Ah yes, that week, I was in dire need of a change of scenery.’

‘Yes, you spent a whole week in Arinyah, and couldn’t talk of anything else for ages. Nevertheless, now that you are here, you can see for yourself.’

They make their way down a stairwell, punctuated at intervals by a series of air vents and light shafts. The lower door opens automatically, and a whole new world is revealed.

‘Wow, this is truly extraordinary,’ Addric says. ‘It really is an underground city.’

‘Welcome to the world of the ancient Rishani.’

Once upon a time, this would have been the hub of commercial activity, with row after row of market stalls, and a ceiling that reflects the light in an ever-changing pattern.

‘Truly a miracle,’ Roland says.

‘But if you go that way, you can see where they lived,’ Dheago says. ‘Come on, let’s take a look.’

Every street has a curious blue metal gate at the front, and a diamond-shaped peep hole at eye level. Addric steps up to take a look, and to his surprise, there’s a house on the other side.

‘It’s all very interesting.’ ‘Dheago says, ‘but that isn’t why we are here,’

They venture down another street, and eventually come to an open area surrounded by a low stone wall.

‘Another interesting feature of this place.’

At regular intervals, the ancient Rishani constructed a system of light wells and air shafts that double as stairwells.

‘And they go to almost every part of the city, but some even go deep into the Askadera itself.’

‘You mean that the mountain is hollow,’ Addric says. ‘That’s something I didn’t know.’

‘Apparently, it’s riddled with secret passageways, and if I am correct, this one should take us to the Great Hall of the Dome.’

‘Let’s hope it does,’ Roland says. ‘I wouldn’t mind breathing some fresh air again.’



CHAPTER 10

TRAPPED IN AN UNDERGROUND MAZE


Dheago spends ten frustrating minutes trying to open the door to the stairwell, but no matter what he does, it just won’t budge.

‘It’s supposed to open automatically,’ he says. ‘Something is wrong, and I have no idea what to do.’

‘Perhaps it opens manually,’ Addric says.

‘Not as far as I know. Apparently, they respond to body energy or something like that.’

‘The Rishani forgot something important,’ Roland says, ‘like an emergency escape plan.’

‘Why don’t we go back the same way?’

‘Unfortunately, the doors only open from the inside.’

Addric’s instincts are one of his most powerful attributes, and they are working overtime on this problem.

‘I have a feeling that there is more to this place than meets the eye. There is something very odd about all of this.’

‘Such as,’ Roland says.

‘The ancient Rishani were brilliant architects, which means there has to be another way out.’

‘There is a way to find out,’ Dheago says. ‘I saw a metal plaque back there, inscribed with a maze pattern. It could be a map of some sort.’

They make their way back to the square, only to find that the plaque is too high up to see.

‘As to whether it is a map is impossible to tell,’ Addric says.

‘What we need is a ladder, or something like that. I’ll scout around and see what I can find.’

He wanders down a side street, but it’s all a little eerie, as if someone is watching his every move. He stops to investigate one of the garden gates, and realises that it doesn’t have a handle.

‘But it has a plaque decorated with a maze pattern.’

He tries to force the gate open at first, but it’s to no avail. He moves on to the next gate, but no matter what he does, it just won’t budge. At that moment, Dheago appears with a metal bar in one hand.

‘What have you got there?’ Addric says.

‘I don’t know, it looks like a spear of some sort.’

Addric examines it closely, if it is a spear it is very unusual. It has a crown at one end, and below that is a series of incised ridges, separated by three flattened bands. The other end is octagonal with a section shaped like a four-pronged key.

‘Other than that, there is absolutely nothing else in this place at all.’

‘I have been trying to open one of these gates,’ Addric says, ‘but I haven’t worked out how.

‘What’s the point of a gate that won’t open? How would you get in, especially if you came home late at night?’

‘Beats me,’ Dheago says.

‘I have a feeling that this pattern is some sort of key,’ Addric says. ‘I’m going to try something.’

He places one finger on the plaque, and follows it around from one end to the other.

‘If I am correct, it should, theoretically, deactivate a locking mechanism.’

His third attempt fails miserably, and he is getting a little irritated.

‘Let me have a go,’ Dheago says.

‘You might as well, it’s not happening for me.’

The very instant that Dheago puts his hand on the gate, his ring starts to glow.

‘Addric, look, my ring has been activated.’

‘Now I see what’s going on,’ Addric says. ‘If we concentrate on the same task at the same time, we can solve this problem, and hopefully find a way out of here.’

They swap hands and positions, but still nothing happens. Five minutes later, Addric really has had enough. He kicks the gate and then tries to force it open. And a few seconds later, he simply vanishes.

‘Oh, my God,’ Dheago cries, ‘he’s gone.’

‘Addric, where are you?’

‘I’m here, I’m a little winded but otherwise good. I knocked my head on a wall.’

‘A wall,’ Dheago says.

‘Yes, come and have a look for yourself.’

‘And just how do I do that?’

‘It’s an energy gate, just step through.’



CHAPTER 11

THE WALL



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