Excerpt for How to Defy Logic, Gravity and Uncertainty by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


How to Defy Logic, Gravity and Uncertainty


Vincent Gilvarry


Book Two

Tales of A Yumi Master


Published by the author

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Cover Created by the Author


Copyright

2017

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INTRODUCTION


Allow your mind to roam further than it has ever done before, beyond the borders of the Milky Way and then 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 has many secrets, and one of those is that it is an inter-dimensional realm where many worlds exist side-by-side, one where universal energies are a common feature of life, where they 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, an inspired creation that still exists to this very day. 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 at the very heart centre of the realm. And during the night, it is illuminated by strategically placed lights designed to reveal those hidden qualities which are rarely noticed during the day.



















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 of Vela-Rishan looks like a mirage of reflected light and magic. It’s a sight that could hypnotise even the most seasoned traveller, but not a young man who has been travelling for the last three hours. That is the last thing on Addric’s mind at the moment.

It is almost two thirty when the shuttle arrives at the transport terminal, and the very moment it lands, he grabs his bags and heads down one alleyway after another. Addric has been here once before and has a rough idea of where his brother lives. Dheago has an apartment that overlooks a square not far from the Old Palace Library.

The back streets of the Imperial City are a maze of passageways, tunnels and bridges as old as time itself, and it is not long before he is hopelessly lost. In desperation, he stops to ask the help of a passing stranger, an old man whose eyes are concealed under the hood of a dark blue cloak.

‘Ah, it is best if I show you,’ he says. ‘It is not easy to find the Old Library at this time of the night.’

Addric follows him down a sinuous flight of stairs that wind their way past imposing palatial buildings surmounted by beautifully decorated towers, a style that harks back to their ancient heritage.

They pass through a pair of highly decorated gates and into a courtyard of elongated shadows. Rising above the inspired work of a master craftsman, a long line of apartment blocks hewn from the undulating wall of stone that is the Askadera itself.

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

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

‘The Imperial City is like a labyrinth and it takes a long time to learn your way around.’

He watches as the old man disappears into the night and then tries to then remember which door is Dheago’s. At this time of the night there is nothing to differentiate one building from the other, as every little detail is identical.

Intuition is one attribute that Addric has in abundance and after a few moments of contemplation, he makes a decision.

‘I think it’s that one,’ he says.

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 throws his bags to the floor and heads for the bathroom. 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.

It is eighteen hours later before he resurfaces, but even in a semi-comatose state, he can hear Dheago tiptoeing 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 take at least three.’

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

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

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

Dheago has never had much of an interest in his appearance, but today he looks the height of fashion. He has always been a good-looking boy, and even though he is only sixteen, he could pass for a man of twenty. He is dressed in 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,’ he said. ‘I resigned from the Jhalian League.’

‘I don’t understand Addric. Why?’

That decision was as much a surprise to Addric as it was to his superior officer, Hector Balinsaya. As he has recently discovered, there are other forces at work in his life, and it seems, there always has been.

As to why he signed up 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 I couldn’t tell him that I got a cryptic message from a ghostly voice in a cave.’

‘Well, if anyone could, it would be you Addric.’

‘I had to tell a few white lies, Dheago, I had no other choice, but a dream of sorts was responsible for this situation.’

Addric has spent many soul-searching months in a world in which he didn’t belong. He presumed that life in the Jhalian League would be an 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, numerous 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 Jhalian League is located on the island of Candohara off the southern coast of Arinyah. It is miles of undulating hills and valleys, and whenever he had the opportunity Addric would spend his free time exploring its many natural attractions.

The primary means of transport in Vela-Rishan is one form of airborne craft or another, all of which ply their trade on any number of local routes. Shuttles are the most common, but there are even grander, luxury class vessels for longer journeys. Addric has always loved the idea of flying and the League had many options to choose from.

‘With a lightweight panel strapped to my back, I could coast through the open sky on a turbo boosted gyro-copter. That is what you call freedom, Dheago, soaring over hills and mountains and then swooping down to get a closer look at the lush green valley below.’

‘But it was only a month ago that I was forced to make an unplanned landing on a high mountain plain. A storm was brewing and I just had to get out of there.’

‘‘The winds were howling, so I stashed the copter under a ledge and 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 when undertaking an outdoor mission, as well as a torch, firelighter and cell phone, just in case anything unexpected happens.

‘The cave was dark and dismal and I had no choice but to sit back and wait, but I wasn’t alone as I very soon discovered.’

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

‘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 wasn’t a firefly at all, but a band of blue light around my finger.’

‘Now you really are going too far,’ says a doubtful Dheago.

‘But the weird part was that I could even see something inside of it.’

‘Like, what was that then?’

‘It was you. You were running up to me and calling out my name.’

‘Me?’

‘Yes, and after that, there was a flash of blinding light, and 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?’ Dheago says.

‘Elegant creatures with soft shimmering wings.’

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

‘I guess so, but the interesting thing is that they bowed as we passed by, as if we were someone of importance.’

‘So, who were they Addric?’

‘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 perhaps,’ 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.’

‘What sort of ship Addric?’

‘Some sort of galleon that glistened like blue fire.’

The colour drains from Dheago’s face immediately. ‘Really,’ Dheago says, ‘I just read about something like that.’

‘Where was that?’

‘At the library, it was the writings of a mystic called Sabrishus. It sent shivers down my spine just thinking about it.’

Dheago is an assistant at the Old Palace Library, and it’s his task to organise a backlog of documents from the days of the old Rishani Empire.

‘Sabrishus described the Spectral Ship as shimmering like blue fire.’

‘And it did, it was a spectral ship, but there was no one else around, other than 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 he should continue or not.

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

Sensibly, Addric should have said no, but he’s a little overwrought at the moment. He has been practicing this speech for days, and if Dheago didn’t believe what he said, 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’re 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 you heard a ghostly voice in that cave.’

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

‘I jumped to my feet and was about to take off.’

‘So, what happened next?’

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

‘Try me,’ he said.

‘The next thing it said was 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 some of the things that Addric has said over the years, 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 then.’

‘Yes, sort of, as I was told.’

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.’

‘And who was it?’

‘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 could be,’ Addric says. ‘It didn’t sound like a real voice. It was as if 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’d 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 isn’t Odin Dobrogost, 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?’

Odin was not a god at all when they first met him. 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 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.

As Addric knows from experience, Dheago is not the gullible type. News like this has to be handled delicately. Up until now, he’s done a pretty good job, but he braces himself and 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 is not dealt with.’

‘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 and that we have no special powers anymore.’

‘He made a point of telling me that our heritage is immutable and it always will be. And even though we don’t 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, but he is determined to see it for himself. 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 is glowing like blue fire.’

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

‘Now what,’ 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 will have company. But Odin also said that he’d be coming with us.’

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

‘Let’s go over that again,’ he 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 as any two people could be.

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

A VOICE LIKE NO OTHER


When Dheago 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 definitely the place to be, especially if you’re 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 against Morpheus, they were famous for a few passing minutes. They stood side-by-side with Emphora and two hundred other people on the grand stage of the Serinada Gardens, but in the back streets of the city they are just a couple of passing faces.

On the way home, they take a detour through the city square and Addric is surprised to see that it’s a hive of activity. According to Dheago, it used to be an amphitheater but today it’s a popular shopping precinct. And even in the early hours of the morning, people are out and about sipping on a fine wine or having a quiet cup of coffee.

They are barely half way across the square when Addric hears a sound that sends shivers up his spine. He looks up only to see that it’s coming from a holographic sign advertising the final performance of one of the most celebrated entertainers of the day.

‘Jala Aleu, I’ve never heard of her,’ he says, ‘but that voice is so amazing.’

‘Where is she from?’

‘I believe that she’s from one of the planets in the Peladion galaxy,’ Dheago says. ‘Jala is one of those performers who only comes along 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.’

Addric agrees but there’s something very unusual about Jala’s voice. As to what it is as yet, he has no idea.

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. It’s a vast sea of nothingness that surrounds Vela-Rishan and a treacherous place as everyone knows, with danger lurking 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, sometimes known as the Holy Mountain. What most people are not aware of 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, 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’s not usual to see lights shimmering in the night sky, but this looks very unusual indeed. As to why it is swirling around the evening star they have no idea, but it looks very strange indeed.

‘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 AT JALA’S CONCERT


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. Along with dozens of other passengers, they have no choice but to wait patiently for a shuttle to transport them 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, you said she’s from somewhere in the Peladion, but where.’

‘I’m not sure, but based on her appearance, she could be from Zesta Leonda.’

As Addric knows from his inter-galactic studies, the Peladion is the closest galaxy to their own. There are nine planets in the Peladion system altogether, and Erania is one of the most beautiful of all. The inhabitants of that planet are definitely human, but those of Zesta Leonda have very different origins.

‘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 convenient method of travelling around the city, and they are usually packed to capacity. As usual, it is standing room only, and when they finally get to the Serinada Gardens, there’s 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 concert. But it’s not long after they take their seats that they hear a most unusual sound resonating through the air.

‘That has to be Jala,’ Addric says.

The only evidence of any activity at first is that of the stage curtains rippling in the breeze. A few moments later, a tall and stately creature with skin like golden alabaster appears out of an enchanted mist. She drifts along like a sensuous disembodied spirit, and 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 deep within. But the final song in her repertoire is the most extraordinary one of all. Jala holds onto one tantalising note for what seems like ages. And everyone in the auditorium, the thousands who made a pilgrimage from all over the realm rise to their feet as if they are one mind and one soul.

It is then that Addric just happens to notice what appears to be an aberration hovering above the auditorium in the sky.

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

‘Oh, my God, Addric, what is that?’

It is definitely not an effect created by the lights as they flash across the sky, this thing is dark and dense, like an open wound in the very fabric of the atmosphere.

‘That looks exactly like the symbols of the realm,’ Addric says.

The symbols that decorate almost every public building in Vela-Rishan are based on the design of three intersecting circles. As they were recently told by the goddess Emphora, these are the sacred symbols that represent the very life force of their world.

‘It’s an omen,’ Addric says, ‘it just has to be.’

Not all that long ago, that they had an encounter with a very different sort of omen. The Stargate is a trans-dimensional portal that travels the length and breadth of the Khavala. And the first time they ever saw the Stargate, it was accompanied by the spectre of an equally terrifying omen, one which came to be known as the Fire-Dragon.

‘This could be what Odin was talking about,’ Addric says.

He inspects his ring closely and looks deep within, only to see ocean waves in a state of constant turmoil. But the strangest thing of all is that they are rolling one way and another as if they’re at the mercy of a power beyond their control.

‘That is really strange,’ he says.

Long after he has left the Serinada Gardens far behind, that image is still at the forefront of Addric’s mind.

‘That was no apparition, I’m sure of it.’

Messages often come in strange and different forms, but unbeknownst to Addric, this one is a call for help, one that has travelled across space and time. It was the result of a decree made by a master of the arcane arts. Demetra is a great wizard in her own right and the Countess of a remote village that has been battling the scourge known as the Volkori. She made a prophecy that a blight would descend upon all realms in the Khavala and that the very atmosphere would appear to disintegrate. 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 them 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 is the Volkori and the other is the future of 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 Addric and Dheago do not 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 from one horizon to another,’ Dheago said. ‘That is really un-nerving.’

‘Jala has something to do with this, I’m almost sure of it, but why?’ Addric says. ‘But 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 would not dare to 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’re 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 the scenario is the same in every part of the realm and people are worried. 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 grandparents and his parents. 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. Dheago is adamant that he packs his uniform away. As a consequence, Addric is now wearing a new cloak, woolen tights, knee length boots and a tailored jacket. He so wanted to keep his boots as they are good quality military issue, but Dheago was insistent.

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

As he gazes at himself in the mirror, Addric has to agree. He is no longer the scrawny little kid he used to be. After twelve months of military training, his chest has filled out and his shoulders are much broader. And for as long as it will last, he even has a light brown tan, something he has never had before.

‘Okay, it’s time to go,’ he says. ‘My grandparents aren’t getting any younger. I’d better be on my way.’

‘Give them my love,’ Dheago says.

‘I definitely will.’

‘You sure you don’t want to come.’

For a ten year old boy to lose his parents was devastating, but Addric’s grandparents were old and wise and they accepted Dheago into their family without a second thought.

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

‘Okay, I’ll see you when I get back.’

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

Dheago escorts him down the stairs to an early morning shuttle. 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 getting just a little too creepy for my liking,’ Dheago says.




































CHAPTER 5

SECRETS OF THE OLD AND WISE


For two boys from the city, Banlu was an adventure playground, a place where they could explore its magical forests, swim in its beautiful rivers and climb to the top of every hill and mountain. Addric always looked forward to those visits, to losing himself in a world lost in the mists of time, surrounded by more mysteries than he could ever have imagined.

His grandparents live in Banlu, a quaint little village of cobbled streets and stone houses on a high mountain plain. They 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 afternoon, wandering along a winding road with a breath-taking vista of rolling green hills in the distance.

Pancilia does the same thing every day, but today, Addric will be at her side. She 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 of the old days, of their lives and families. Mostly, they just take in the view, but from here they have a view of 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.

This day will be no different to any other in their lives. 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 as another calamity is the last thing they want to see. But before she leaves Pancilia does what she has always done. It’s only a little thing but she does it nevertheless.

‘It iao ing their routineo too did Morpheus.431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431431is these things that Emphora loves,’ she says to Addric as she places an offering in the shrine. Pancilia’s offering is usually a flower or a sprig from a flowering shrub.

‘I know grandmother,’ he says.

She knows that Addric’s life has changed. Like all people of her age, she knows things like this in other ways.

‘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 Pancilia places her tribute on the shrine she hears the sound of a tingling 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 was her.

‘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 can’t get that experience out of his mind. He has no idea what Emphora’s message is, but thanks to his grandmother, it has been received on at least one wave length.

















CHAPTER 6

THE TEMPO CHANGES


Tuesday is the busiest day of all in the Sharano household. And from the moment he gets up, Hugo, is always in a hurry. But before he leaves for work, his wife Karinya reminds him to buy a sprig of flowers on the way home.

It’s not compulsory to make a pilgrimage to one of Emphora’s shrines but they do so every Tuesday without fail. It’s an opportunity to catch up with friends and family. And after work, they meet at the transit centre where they board a shuttle to the little town of Sabinica.

Like every other island in the realm, Karossa has an interesting range of natural attractions. And on most occasions, they are lucky enough to get a seat on the outer deck. It’s an opportunity to see one of the most beautiful sights of all. The surface of the ornamental lake usually reflects the light with a pale lilac glow, but today it’s a murky shade of brown.

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

It’s obvious that the other passengers are just as worried. There is something un-natural about the 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’re surprised to see that hundreds of other people are waiting patiently for an opportunity to let Emphora know what they are thinking.

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

‘Something strange happened yesterday, when I was with Grandma,’ 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.’

‘Grandma 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 the sprig 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’s 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 and makes a detailed assessment of the inscription on the margin.

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

It is the result of years of endless searching, Roland places it on a work table and dusts it carefully with a soft cloth.

‘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’s 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 and offers one to Dheago.

‘What is it?’

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

‘Amongst other things, it is known to rejuvenate the spirit. And as of now, the secrets of the ancient world will no longer be a secret. This is one of the finest beverages that 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,’ he says, ‘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.

‘Someone like that is sensitive to subtle energies and can read the energetic patterns of an object, person or thing. And it will save a lot of time and effort in the long run.’

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

The activity in the atmosphere has reached such a point that it’s impossible to ignore.

‘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,’ Dheago says, ‘exactly as Sabrishus said it would.’

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 a supernatural ability to identify both the little and the big stuff, 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 very 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 contemplating the very same problem.

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

The words of his grandmother are ringing in Addric’s ears and it would have been sensible to stay indoors. He told his parents he just had to go and took the first available shuttle to the Imperial City.

‘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 go.

‘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 up to now.’

‘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 some of the faded parchments.

On the border of one particular 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. ‘It is believed to activate a specific energy in psychics.’

‘Vosomor opens an energetic pathway that allows an attuned 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. As he knows, it was not some fanciful tale as everyone in the realm now 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. But 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’s 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 that they hear. This is the sound of someone 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 moves to a table littered with a pile of dusty old documents and zooms in on one in particular.

‘This is what you seek, is it not?’

He places yet another document in Roland’s hand 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 has a fading blue aura and 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 as they now know. 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 a few hours, they eventually give up in despair.

‘We’re not getting anywhere,’ Dheago says. ‘However, there’s a program on my computer that might be useful.’

‘It can translate all sorts of things. Maybe we should try that idea instead.’

The ancient Rishani language is written in hieroglyphs, a form of communication based on pictographic symbols, the only problem is that they are not written in any specific order.

‘How are we ever going to read that,’ Addric says. ‘They’re 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 onto the next.

‘Interesting,’ he says.

‘Based on the way each of those symbols are positioned on each line, this could very easily be a musical score, could it not?’

‘Each staff is separated by what looks like a bar line,’ Roland said. ‘That is a very clever deduction.’

‘So, what do you propose to do?’

‘Play it, of course, what else?’

‘I was not aware 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. A few seconds later, the ring on his finger starts to pulsate.

‘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 are of the opinion 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’re not willing to take. And other than a few brave souls who have stepped out for one reason or another, the communal square is absolutely empty. 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 do 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’ve been here,’ Dheago says in an unusually haughty manner.

‘So, what is this secret that only you know?’ Addric says.

‘On one of the walls in the storeroom, there’s 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 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 places fumbles around until he has located the release mechanism, turns it to the left and a door opens.

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

Even in the muted light, it’s 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 about, until the day that Dheago discovered an architectural drawing of this wing of the Library.


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