Friday, December 19, 2008
Chapter One: Fate Unleashed
A lone man stood in the center of a grey plain, his cloak flapping in the wind. Bodies, the bodies of defeated men, littered the plain like so many scars on a patch of skin. What had once been dry earth was now soaked with the blood of thousands. The sorry remnants of banners drifted on the cold wind and above in the dreary sky flew a cloud of ravens, ready to pick the remaining flesh off the bones of the dead. Storm clouds roiled in the distance, and their dreary gray coloring was reflected in the eys of the desolate man.
Who would have thought...that simply the outstretching of Fate's hand would cause this? he thought as the wall of clouds raged towards him. The gods were fools to trust in Fate. A weak man like him...how could he be trusted to determine the course of the universe? They were all fools! FOOLS!
Because of their foolishness, he was now alone in the world. His followers now lay on the unforgiving earth, their lifeblood poured out for a lost cause. As the rain began to pour down upon the battle field and landed in cool drops on the faces of the dead, the man pulled out his sword and drove the hilt into the moist ground so that the blade angled towards the heavens. After drawing one final breath, he lowered himself towards the keen edge of his sword...
Snow drifted down from the heavens, blanketing the peaceful countryside in cold white sheets. The stars shown down especially clear that night, for it was a special night, and all the universe had awaited it for countless ages. For reasons unknown to them, people across the land felt a surge of hope, but also trepidation. All the spirits in the abyss below sang in anticipation, their ethereal forms flitting about through the darkness. Though it was the most important event in the course of time, it was going to take place in the most unlikely location. In the heart of the countryside, surrounded by thick woods and rolling hills was a small wood house. Golden light seeped through the windows and glittered on the snow; a tendril of smoke curled out from the chimney and slithered up towards the waxing moon. A glow of warmth emanated from the cabin, and to anyone outside, it seemed the most ordinary sight.
Suddenly, a woman’s cry broke the stillness of night and the chorus of spirits below fell silent in anticipation. The wailing continued well into the night and then, almost as suddenly as it had began, it ended. In place of the woman’s cries were the indignant and fearful wails of a newborn child. For a time, there was only the one child, but then in was joined by another in a harmonic duet. Twins had been born! But…was this what the entire universe had been awaiting?
Inside the house, a dark bearded man sat beside his wife, each of them cradling one of their children. Most would expect for their faces to be radiant with joy, but it was not so. The mother and the father’s brows were both creased with worry and their eyes showed fear. It was almost with desperation that they clung to their children. The door to the bedroom suddenly slammed open and a magnificent group of men and women strode in gracefully. These fair men and women were the gods themselves in their radiant armor and fine robes; their hair flowing behind them. The new parents, unlike what most would have done, bowed their heads gravely and placed a hand over their hearts. The gods acknowledged their gesture absently, for they were studying the twins.
“Thou hast produced beautiful children, fairest daughter,” intoned a silver haired goddess. “Thy labor hath brought about the fulfillment of a prophecy uttered in antiquity. Now,” the goddess turned to the father, “the time hath come for thy task to be fulfilled, Fate.”
A sweat broke out on the man’s forehead and his lips quivered. “Holy Kye, surely you know that I cannot make such a choice! What if I choose wrongly?”
“If the path you choose proves wrong, this planet will be cast into utter darkness, and all manner of evil spawn will be born,” warned a younger god.
From the bowels of the earth came a deep rumble which gradually warped into a dark chant filled with foreboding.
“Behold! The Hour of Fate is upon us!” announced Kye, raising her arms triumphantly. “Now is the time for the choice to be made; for you, Fate, to lay your hands on the child whom you deem fit to be the Herald of the Gods, the One who will convey our wishes to the diverse peoples of this land.”
“I cannot do it!” Fate cried, burying his face in his hands.
“The time has come! You must make this choice. Even if you choose wrongly, it would be better than to not choose at all,” another god spoke sternly.
Visibly shaking, Fate stood and gazed down at his sons, his face contorted with indecision. Who would he choose? And when he did, how would they know if he had been right or wrong? All the deities of the land stared at him with perceptive, calculating eyes. Those who did not bare so great a task would have been overjoyed by the gods’ presence, but Fate was not, for he had known since the day he was born that this day would come, and that the gods could not help him in his choice. The new father closed his eyes tightly and he invoked the names of the gods. One of his hands rose slowly and inched towards the firstborn child. The gods watched with growing anticipation and fear, their nimbuses of light flickering with their conflicting emotions. Ever so slowly, as if it were the passing of an age, Fate’s hand groped towards the dark haired child who lay nestled in the crook of his mother’s arm, studying the fair folk around him with bleary, half closed eyes. Finally, Fate’s hand came to rest on the child’s brow, but none dared to breathe yet, in case they should miss something. All pretense of calm gone, many of the gods began wringing their hands in impatience and running slender fingers through their silky hair.
Fate opened his eyes and smiled, albeit nervously. Then suddenly, the entire house was cast into shadow. All the candles flickered out, as if blown by unseen breath, and the fire went up in a spray of sparks. A gasp ran through the room and nerves were wound like lute strings. From the abyss, a frantic, manically joyous chorus shook the plates of the earth. Mountains tumbled down, killing thousands in their wake. Cities with grand towers were leveled by rivers of fire which flowed down from the summits of Cthra Turin. Great waves washed coastal towns off the map in a matter of minutes. All this happened around the tiny cabin, where the most powerful beings in existence were huddled together, locked in companions’ arms in terror, cowering into corners. All the motion came to a screeching halt, nearly jerking the cabin’s occupants to the floor. Silence reigned. The last star in the night sky winked out and the snow no longer glimmered.
“Perhaps…it is done,” whispered a wide-eyed goddess, her knuckles white from clinging to the birch handled spear she held.
As if in answer to her words, the cabin walls blew apart into thousands of splinters which – fortune smiled upon them – flew outwards. A dark inky liquid began to bubble up from a tear in the earth and it stained the snow like blood as it flowed towards the gathered holy beings and the terrified mortals.
To be continued upon request...