The sun was already beneath the horizon, its rays still glowing on the clouds in the west, filling the sky with one final blast of colour before dusk would set in. The warm orange light reflected off the crumbling brick homes of a small village about a day's walk from the main city of Zechar.
The light, however, gave no indication that a young woman ran through the quiet streets, her breathing heavy but controlled so that the sound would not give her away. The armed guards that patrolled the west gate did not notice as her invisible form scaled the short stone wall and dropped lightly on the other side. She became visible as she continued to run, faded at first, then in full colour, her sandy blonde hair escaping its long braid. She finally stopped at the top of a grassy hill that overlooked a deep valley, and inhaled deeply, drinking in the view.
Glorious colours streaked the sky. Amyra gasped, sucking fresh, cool air through her small round mouth. Her face was smooth, and tanned by long hours in the sun, her nose small and straight. She wore a simple, dirty undyed cotton dress that had been hemmed and patched several times, but still, somehow looked beautiful on her. She untied her braid and let her golden hair be carried on the wind, her wide hazel eyes entranced by the beautiful sunset.
Amyra, daughter of the village healer, was considered the most beautiful girl in the village. Her father thought her beauty was connected to her Gift. She could bend light - create illusions and make things invisible. She found it useful when the rude Goran soldiers took notice of her, or when the guards closed the gate at sunset. She also loved brilliant colour and light - always waking up to see the sunrise and escaping to this hill to watch it set. Though she did not intend it to, this Gift from Ayam probably made her look more beautiful in the eyes of other people. She had never really been trained to control it well. Her father, a Gifted healer, had taught her all he knew, and since there were no other Gifted people in the village, it would have to be enough.
On this hill, Amyra could be herself. The light did not judge her. She was not a Gifted freak, or a prize potential bride, or the daughter of a healer. She was Amyra. A child of Ayam. She sang a soft, haunting melody, the wind raising goosebumps on her arms. The lyrics thanked Ayam for his gifts in the old language. She did not understand most of the words, but she knew that Ayam did.
Things were rough for her people. Though Ayam's Gifts had once been as common as blond hair, their powers were fading. They were in a foreign land, under the crushing force of a foreign king. Every few days the Goran soldiers would choose one of their people - a criminal, or sometimes an innocent person on the street - to be tortured mercilessly and killed, using increasingly horrific methods, just to keep people frightened. They had barely enough food, and winter was coming. If only Ayam would free them.
More and more, there were murmers of the chosen one: a new king who would set Ayam's people free. It was easy to see why these ideas were popular: Amyra thought that these rumours grew mostly out of desperation - a hope for the people to cling to. But there were writings and prophecies, too. Ayam cared for his people. He would send light when things were darkest.
Amyra's voice gave out. Still she continued to watch, standing until the colours faded from the sky. Then she collapsed to lie on the grass, watching the stars appear.
Suddenly a wave rippled through the tall grass around her. Amyra sat up and automatically became invisible, feeling uneasiness in the air.
She could see a white light shining from behind a tree. She stood up and quietly walked towards, it, her invisible feet making almost no sound.
The source of the light was a tall woman whose entire being shone brighter than the moon. Amyra had to squint against the brightness. Then the woman turned her face to stare directly into Amyra's invisible eyes.
"I see you, Amyra."
The voice was soft, but it had enough power to shake the ground. Amyra's legs buckled and she fell to her knees. She gave up on her disguise and let the light reflect off her as it wished.
The shining woman walked towards her. Her hair, skin, and clothes were all white as snow. The fabric of her clothes seemed to move more like water than linen, flowing around her feet as she stepped. The only sparks of colour were her eyes - deep oceans of violet that seemed to hold ageless wisdom. They held Amyra's gaze, though she tried to look away.
"Stand." The voice was still soft and lovely, but this time it gave Amyra strength to obey.
Violet eyes sparkled when she smiled. "Ayam is with you, Amyra. You have shown great devotion, and your heart is pure and strong."
Amyra opened her mouth to protest, but no sound came out.
"He has a special task for you."
"I am his servant," Amyra choked out. "I will do anything."
The white woman laughed. It sounded like a song. The air hummed with power and magical melodies. "It is a great honour, but it will not be easy."
Amyra swallowed, but remained silent.
"You will carry his child."
Hazel eyes widened in shock. "B-but how-"
"Do not be afraid. Light has already entered your womb."
As the woman spoke, she reached out a glowing hand to touch Amyra's belly, which also began to glow with magic. It continued to shine in Amyra's sight even after the hand was taken away.
"Your father has found a good husband for you - a human father for your son. His name is Fasoj, but you must not be intimate with him until after the child is born.
"Your son will have many names, but you may name him Jorusem. His power will be greater than anyone has ever seen and his life will restore light to the world."
Amyra did not notice the tears that fell down her cheeks in streams. "Okay," she whispered. "If Ayam has chosen this task for me, then I am honoured."
The woman wiped Amyra's tears. She could barely feel the shining hand as it touched her skin. It felt like the faint flicker of a flame or a warm breath of wind. The white woman smiled one last time, then turned and walked away, light slowly fading.
Amyra was frozen in place as darkness descended, fresh tears spilling over her cheeks.