This is the prologue to an extremely long story I've been working on for several years now. It's meant to get you interested in what may happen in the main story, so any comments or suggestions are welcome.
Across a scape of black sand and hovering rock he flew, his senses outstretched to touch every grain and stone in sight. He was of no tangible form, yet he felt as he did at any other time, if not a little more acutely aware. He could hear, with impossible clarity, the gentle breeze that wisped the black sand around him into dunes; he could see, with hawk-like detail, the brilliant azure that stained the skies around, a somewhat distant sphere of stone to the left horizon; he could taste, with astounding flavour, the floral sweetness that tinged the air, faint yet noticeable; he could feel, with incredible intensity, the pull of the wind against his bodiless form, a warm wind that pulled him along his path to soar ever higher over the landscape.
He saw a sea of black sand, twisting black rock of impossible shapes, floating stones of nearly perfect rectangular or spherical shape, and a great vastness so different from the scope of his home, Lakkah. It was there, high above the black seas, that he halted his flight, holding in an intangible hover. His hearts soared with the brilliance of this world which he had visited so many times before, a world that most only ever got to see after death. But he was one of a fortunate few individuals in the world that got the honor to see it not just in the waking world, but also in dreams. He was a tor’al, a shaman.
Just as he was readying himself to continue his journey once again, a cutting sound suddenly exploded into his world, overtaking him in a wave of confusion. Quickly, he felt his grasp on the vision slipping and his intangible form fading. In a matter of seconds, his abstract world faded to blackness. After a moment, he realized that the sound that had pulled him from his vision belonged to a man he knew very well, forcing him to snap his eyes open once again. When he did, he found he was sitting cross-legged upon flat stone, his somewhat lengthy body dressed in a rough tabard of light browns, some blues, and a stripe of red. His skin was of a dark complexion, almost soot black, and in his right hand was clutched a small wooden totem. Upon the totem was a small symbol carved into the cylindrical shape, blue paint following the curves of the carving to form a brilliant mark; the mark of the ancestors; the mark of Oe.
With that, he stood up, still somewhat weary from the vision he had been traversing. Before him stood a man dressed in thick chitin armour, a tabard similar to his own just poking out from the chestplate. Upon his head was a mohawk of white and silver feathers that stood tall above his head, his dark red skin complimenting its colour; the shaman noted that his own feathers were not unlike his friend’s skin colour. The man’s eyes were a jungle green, a long scar flanked by several smaller ones marking the right side of his snout. In his arms was held a heavily-modified assault rifle, something he was known to carry with him wherever he went.
“Do you have a reason for disturbing my meditation, Kiir’el?” came the shaman’s question with a tinge of annoyance.
“Oh of course, oh great and powerful Yvar.” Kiir’el answered. “I would never dare to disturb you without a good reason.” his tone was mocking, something common of him.
Yvar humoured him with a chuckle. Though the two followed glaringly different paths, his a shaman and Kiir’el’s a warrior, they had been good friends since childhood. It was because of the ancestral gift that had been bestowed upon Yvar that he had not followed the same path, as it was not a lie to say he enjoyed a good fight. But his destiny had been chosen before he had even entered the world, and he was not one to defy his ancestor’s will.
“What did you want?” Yvar asked in a more friendly manner.
“Lee’noe is ready to set off, and you know how she gets when she’s kept waiting.”
“Yes,” Yvar said with a chuckle as he turned to a small shrine behind him, reaching for a small, brown satchel. “I am familiar with her temper. I need but a moment to retrieve my things.”
“Okay, we’ll be just at the road.” Kiir’el answered as he turned to leave. He stopped, however, and glanced back. “Don’t take too long, I’d rather not be knocked on my ass by a woman….” he paused. “Again.”
With another chuckle from the shaman, Kiir’el rushed off, leaving Yvar alone. The young shaman, after throwing his satchel on, approached a small set-up of items forming a shrine atop a flat stone pedestal. Several totems similar to the one he had held, and quickly pushed into his bag, sat atop the flat stone, each one inscribed with a different symbol. He had carved them all himself, each one creating a different aura and energy, energy he could sense by simply standing near them. He grabbed the four others, throwing them into his bag and reaching for a set of tools in the centre of the pedestal. There were three in total; one was a writing utensil made from the ear bone of a livestock animal, a to’ko; one was a pouch containing several small jars of ink, one red, one black, and one blue; the last was a gauntlet made of a metal and wood frame, a stone attached to the centre of the forearm bearing the symbol of the ancestors. Two small boards of a light wood were too attached to add to the device, each one carved intricately by his own hand. He took all three of the objects, placing two of them in his satchel and the third, the gauntlet, around his right hand and forearm. With all his things gathered, Yvar raced off down a short and snaking path that declined toward the slightly distant settlement, tall buildings of metal and stone and hide marked with the colours of his tribe. He followed the path through the town as the sun had begun to set to his left, its blazing grin setting the buildings alight with an orange glow. A massive, spikey frond of rocky cliff tore upward from the ground nearby, providing half the settlement with shade while the other half was bathed in the sun’s glow.
Yvar quickly came upon a straighter path, this one marked more clearly than the ones he had previously followed. Now, he had clear view of the two final buildings that marked the end of his settlement’s reach, each one of them being guard towers in case of attack. Though his tribe had never really been attacked, save for the odd irkave’ kel that strayed their way, Yvar agreed with the wise wariness of the outside world that his chief harboured.
At the end of the path, which was marked by tall posts bearing a stonecut symbol of his tribe on each, two warriors stood. The man, which Yvar would recognize anywhere as Kiir’el, gestured with his arms wildly in mid argument, his female counterpart doing the same. It wasn’t until Yvar approached did he learn what the fight was about.
“I’m sorry princess, I didn’t realize the world revolved around you!” Kiir’el hissed, though his tone betrayed some amusement.
“I didn’t know you two moved as slow as a one-legged to’ko!” the woman countered, her thickly accented voice taking a somewhat deep, but still feminine, tone.
“Patience, Lee’noe.” Yvar cautioned as he arrived. “Doomed is the irkave that runs too fast to see the danger in front of his nose.”
The impatient woman gave a half sigh, half growl.
“Great, I get a lecture!”
“You cannot improve without first being taught, Lee.” Yvar said pointedly, yet also kindly. “Besides, we have plenty of time yet to make our journey.”
With a growl, Lee’noe conceded the point, dropping the argument.
“Now, have you everything we require?” Yvar continued, his calm tone something he knew to soothe Lee’noe’s anger.
Lee’noe nodded, turning toward a small steel, wood, and hide cart with a pair of large, dark-shelled to’ko harnessed to the front, their six legs stoutly protruding from their thick, chitinous hides. On the back of the oddly-shaped cart was a short tower of supply boxes tied in a net against the rear of the vehicle, a roof made of steel struts and hide stretched across the top. The cart was taller than it was wide, leaving space enough for four passengers plus the cargo. Lee’noe was the first to climb aboard, taking the driver’s seat and gesturing for her two companions to join.
“If we head off now we should be able to make it before nightfall,” Lee’noe was saying as Yvar climbed aboard, followed closely by Kiir’el. “That is, if we don’t run into any… complications along the way.” she exchanged a worried look with Kiir’el, though Yvar did not share it.
The shaman noted that Lee’noe looked especially ambitious when worried, it changed her angular features into some sort of ferocity. Her sharp mohawk of maroon feathers stood out against her light grey skin, her deep blue eyes sending beams of thoughtfulness and intelligence that Yvar picked up as a powerful aura. He could tell, simply by being in her presence, that she was a woman of tenacious ambition and ferocity, yet kept a more sensitive, intelligent side hidden within; it also helped to have known her since childhood. Her body was clasped in a lighter set of chitin armour, leaving her left shoulder exposed with just leather to protect it while her right was a larger shoulder pad made of the skull and skeleton of one of her past kills. She was a hunter by trade, but she often served as a warrior during times of need, such as then. She had been assigned to guide Yvar and Kiir’el toward their destination, as she had both discovered the sight they were headed to see and had an intricate knowledge of the area.
“The ancestors are with us,” Yvar assured, taking a seat to the right and just behind Lee’noe. “We will arrive safely.”
His words seemed to ease some of the worry in both his companion’s eyes as they readied themselves for travel, Lee’noe grasping the leather reins before her. Then, with a powerful whip, she sent the car in motion, the stout to’ko rushing off at top speed along the gravel and stone path. The sun was ever further dipping behind them as they made for a distant set of mountain ridges, the spiked stone splaying upward like a set of teeth at a dormant fault line. Yvar expected the trip to take several hours, and thus he prepositioned into the wider back seat, sitting as still as possible and closing his eyes. Within a few moments, he opened them to find himself among the sea of black sand once again.
A sudden jerk forward made Yvar jump from his pleasant vision, thrusting his mind back into reality. He found that the cart had stopped, yet they had not arrived at their destination. Instead, they were still on the road, albeit much further down. He could hear the frantic grunts of the to’ko just in front of the cart, and his senses quickly picked up the anxiety that spread between the creatures. He climbed into the front, meeting gazes with Lee’noe.
“What’s happened?” he asked, glancing around the environment briefly.
“I don’t know, they just… stopped. I don’t know what’s got them worked up.”
Climbing down to the ground, Yvar stepped onto the road, closing his eyes and focusing his senses. He was partly aware of the footsteps that landed behind him, heavy ones that could only belong to Kiir’el. Ignoring his friend, Yvar reached with his senses, feeling for any disturbance that might betray the presence of danger. After a moment, the peaceful stillness he felt that clung to the rocks of the world began to shutter. It was faint, but he felt the change, though he wasn’t sure if it indicated danger.
Opening his eyes once more, he stepped off the road a short ways, crouching down near a collection of coarse gravel and rocks. There, he grabbed a handful of stones for each hand, resting on his knees and focusing his senses once more. He felt a much stronger connection with the peaceful rock now, feeling for any irregularities that he could sense. After a brief moment, he felt the disturbance again, this time stronger. His senses warned him that the source was not far away, and the very rocks told him it was not friendly. Without opening his eyes, Yvar stood back up, pressing the rocks and gravel in his hands tighter. He sensed the disturbance like a vibration, separate from the calm vibration of peaceful stone. He felt it moving from location to location, moving with such speed that he knew it could only be one thing. The to’ko had sensed it too, and they were right to fear.
“Irkave,” Yvar called over his shoulder to his friends, opening his eyes again. “Adult, close, and very fast.”
Instantly, Lee’noe slung a long rifle from off her back, checking the magazine for ammunition and locking it into place. She then stood up from the highest point of the cart, which was her seat, and looked down the iron sights to survey the landscape. Kiir’el did the same with his assault rifle, looking wary but battle-ready.
“Patience,” Yvar warned again. “Let us avoid confrontation unless absolutely necessary.”
“Alright, but if I see the white’s of its eyes I’m taking the shot.” Kiir’el answered, his rifle raised and ready.
Yvar brought his right hand before his eyes, insuring his gauntlet was secured, then walked farther from the road.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Lee’noe warned from her perch.
Yvar ignored her warning, stepping over a small dip that descended down a hill for a short distance. There, he spotted a flash of movement among some large boulders. A moment later, a dark shape rushed by, coming to a sliding halt in the middle of the open. Yvar eyed it, his right hand tensed as they met gazes. The dark brown beast below beared four legs, each one tipped with steel-rending claws. Its chitinous shell was jagged and barbed, it mandible mouth parted to have its two jaws spread horizontally in separate directions. It stood still, too far away to tell eye colour yet close enough to be upon Yvar in a few seconds. Its tail was tipped with a chitin blade which whipped back and forth slowly, signifying that it was wary.
For what seemed like a long moment, the two of them merely stared at each other, predator to prey; Yvar wasn’t entirely sure who was which, however. The creature then twitched, scanning him once more, before relaxing a little and stalking in the opposite direction, turning its tail to him. Yvar let out a sigh of relief, the deadly predator apparently deciding he wasn’t worth its time in chasing. Moments later, the creature disappeared over a bend between boulders and rock, allowing the to’ko to relax. Yvar turned back to his friends.
“She’s not interested in us.” he confirmed. “Let’s move on, in case she might change her mind.”
Lee’noe nodded, slinging her rifle back on her back and taking her seat once again. Kiir’el waited for Yvar to take his seat before climbing aboard as well. Moments later, they were traveling again, following a curving road that snaked through rather tight passageways between stone and fanged cliff. For some time, they traveled in similar environments before finally coming across a massive tear in the rocky ground, the mountain above splitting diagonally to pierce the sky with its fang-like edges. Between the mountain and the torn ground was a dark crevice with just enough light to allow Yvar to observe plant life growing within. This place was nothing new to him, as he had known about the abandoned oasis before him for several years. It had once been owned by a different tribe that had, only a few times, interacted with his own tribe. They vanished several years before, however, their settlement within the oasis left empty and items left where they had been. Yvar had always wondered what caused this, but has ancestors never answered his questions about the subject; he assumed they had been killed in an attack of some sort, most likely by a particularly ravenous irkave’ kel or, perhaps a pack of irkat, a smaller cousin of the irkave race.
“Are we descending?” Kiir’el asked as their cart arrived at the edge of the sudden drop into the oasis.
“That’s where I found it.” Lee’noe answered, hopping down from her seat and approaching the cliff edge. “See that strange glow?”
Yvar followed his friend quickly, following her gaze down into the shadows of the oasis. He found, to his amazement, that she was correct; a light, blue glow emanated from a collection of huts and tall trees, overgrowth swarming the area.
“What is it?” Yvar inquired, his gaze fixed on the glow.
“See for yourself.” she answered with a smile, a smile that told him she enjoyed withholding information from the man she thought knew everything; he always thought that strange about her: she seemed to think he was all-knowing, when in reality he knew little more than she did. Being shaman had no bearing on that.
Lee’noe marched for the back of the cart, fumbling through something out of Yvar’s view. He didn’t care to pay attention, however, his gaze drifting back to the glow amongst the shade. He barely noticed as Kiir’el joined him.
“I heard there are a lot of dangerous creatures down there,” he began. “Probably a few irkave too. Maybe some ralin…”
“Is that the voice of fear, El?” Yvar asked teasingly, tearing his vision to rest on his friend.
“Just caution.” Kiir’el answered, giving his friend an unimpressed look.
“You’d be wise to fear,” Lee’noe added from some distance behind them, approaching. “An oasis can often be more dangerous than the desert.”
She tied a short cloak around her neck so that it hung by the leftmost side of her back, covering her left shoulder; the cloak was a faded but dark grey, a finely-stitched symbol scrawled across it -- the symbol of her and his tribe. Once her cloak was secured, Lee’noe reached onto her belt, upon which three pistols were holstered at odd angles, and handed one revolving pistol by its barrel to Yvar. Yvar paused a moment, almost contemplating it, before raising his hand in rejection.
“As a tor’al, I am sworn-”
“Yeah, yeah,” Lee’noe interrupted, reminding herself. “You don’t use guns.” she holstered the gun back on her belt.
“You see what I’ve had to deal with?” Kiir’el said, pointing at Yvar with his thumb.
Lee’noe gave a chuckle, turning to lead her two friends toward a decline, similar to a ramp, that cut into the stone at the cliff edge. From there, the three of them traversed in relative silence along a rocky and steep path until they finally reached the bottom of the oasis, stepping onto soft but firm grass. Yvar had rarely experienced the pleasant softness of dirt upon his feet, and the same could be said for grass. The air of the oasis was starkly different compared to the desert: it smelled of sweet herbs, water, and life, something that Yvar found quite present to breathe. Taking a deep breath, Yvar briefly closed his eyes and focused his senses, sending tendrils of his own aura outward to feel the environment. He sensed vibrant and diverse life, both plant and animal, each of their auras painting an extra-sensory image in the shaman’s mind. The world there felt calm, peaceful, and tranquil; though the stone of his world often felt this way, which was why he chose the path of the earth in the first place, this oasis had not the slightest tinge of danger beyond the common feeling of which that could be found anywhere. As he sensed around the world, his mind exploring more and more of the territory, he was suddenly and abruptly shocked by a blue haze that leapt into his mind. This haze shattered his concentration, flashing before his closed eyes images that passed by so quickly he could not identify them.
Yvar gasped, his eyes flying open as he staggered, nearly losing his balance from being torn from a trance so abruptly.
“What?” Kiir’el was the first to ask, Lee’noe turning around in concern just ahead.
“There’s something…” Yvar began, his mind racing to match his twin hearts. “... there’s something here.”
“Told you.” Lee’noe said after a moment, gesturing for the two of them to follow as she stalked into the treeline.
“Good or bad?” Kiir’el asked as they began walking again, following after Lee’noe.
Yvar didn’t answer at first, pulling his totem with the mark of his ancestors inscribed upon it from his bag and clutching it tightly in his left hand.
“I don’t know, but it is powerful.” Yvar answered finally.
For a short time, they followed Lee’noe through a mess of overgrowth and root, avoiding any brightly coloured plants that might seek to do them harm. They followed a seemingly convoluted path before they finally broke into the open, a small clearing of trees marking the edge of a thin river that twisted through the oasis. The water raced swiftly by, crystal clear and shimmering in what minimal light there was. Lee’noe immediately approached the sandy shore at the river’s edge, leaping to a rock that poked out above the rippling water. Kiir’el then stalked ahead of Yvar, doing the same once Lee’noe had hoped to another rock. Yvar paused, however, crouching down before the water’s edge and slipping the four fingers of his left hand into the river. The water was incredibly cold, a coldness that would bother and irritate some people; to him, however, it was a calming and pleasant coolness. As he touched the rippling waves, the water whispered to him of what the oasis held, of the diverse life he already sensed, of the lost artifacts hidden beneath its dark contours, of the strange entity that resided within. Yvar realized that the water too had known of the thing that created this blue glow, a glow that now wasn’t too far away and shone through the treeline on the other side of the river. Yet the water had not told of any malice in this strange entity; instead, the water seemed content, as if almost purified by the presence of the blue glow.
Cupping his left hand, Yvar brought a pool of water to his lips and drank, connecting himself and his soul with the aura of the oasis. His right hand then scooped up a handful of sand, connecting his soul to the very rock and dirt that formed the oasis floor; though he was most connected to the earth, Yvar too shared a strong bond with water, the element of life and healing. Releasing the sand in his hand, Yvar followed after his friends, who had by now called to him to catch up. He crossed the river quickly, following Lee’noe into the treeline that was illuminated, dimly, by a blue glow. For a few minutes, the three of them navigated through thick brush, at one point climbing through a half-collapsed hut dominated by curling vines and roots.
Yvar’s hearts were thumping in his chest as he finally broke through the treeline to view the source of the glow. Though his jaw dropped, he made not a sound, his eyes scanning the tall, silver construct in disbelief.
“By the ancestors…” Kiir’el muttered, his voice just as awestruck.
Before them was a tall, polygonal spire of what appeared as polished metal that floated in a silent hover above a larger collection of metal structures that had somehow been raised from beneath the ground. The land around the construct was disturbed and torn, a blue glow emanating brightly from a large orb of what appeared to be solid light hovering low above the structure’s base, just between the spire and the foundation. Instantly, Yvar was struck by a strong energy that nearly pushed him back, an invisible aura that he had both never felt before and somehow recognized. He knew it to belong to the ancestors, though why he had come to such a conclusion he was unsure.
“So… what are we looking at, Yvar?” Kiir’el asked, his eyes glued to the blue majesty before him.
“I say it’s some sort of artifact,” Lee’noe answered, knowing the question wasn’t directed at her. “left by the ancestors maybe.”
Kiir’el scoffed, “Yeah, right. I doubt ghosts can leave something like this behind.”
Before Lee’noe could make a rebuttal, Yvar spoke.
“No, she’s right.” he said plainly, his eyes glued to the blue orb as he felt himself drawing nearer to it. “We were meant to find this.”
Everyone was silent for a moment as Yvar approached, stepping up the sloping foundation like a staircase to bring himself close to the orb. His eyes scanned over its dazzling brilliance, the hard-light containing what looked like tiny, blue stars. He raised his left hand to touch its surface, unable to resist inspecting the incredible sight before him.
“You sure you should touch that?” Kiir’el asked from somewhere behind.
Yvar hesitated, knowing his friend was correct in favouring caution; but the longer Yvar was near the orb, the more he wanted to place his fingers against it. Disregarding caution, the young shaman pressed his fingers and thumb against the blue surface. At first, nothing seemed to occur, the light feeling more like cool glass than anything else; a blue haze too swirled around his hand like azure smoke, twisting around his fingers and wrist. When he was about to pull back, confused as to why nothing had happened, he felt a strong shock surge through his body, forcing him to gasp in surprise and stagger. He closed his eyes briefly, only to find them suddenly filled with swiftly-moving images; this time, however, he was able to discern what they were. First, Yvar saw a sharp symbol belonging to a clan he didn’t recognize; the instant he saw the symbol, however, he was overtaken by a powerful dread and fear, something that almost made him drop to his knees with the sheer force of it. Then, the image of rows upon rows of unified soldiers flew into his view, a tall man dressed in steel armour standing tall on a pedestal before the army and flags bearing the same sinister symbol hanging in the background. A second later, another image flew into view, displaying the capital city of clan Oe, the religious leaders of the world, in flames, the corpses of inumerous priestesses lying mounds all around. He was struck by an overwhelming horror and dread once again, a feeling that was only intensified when the next image, of horrific torture, rape, and murder at the hands of these same soldiers flooded his mind. To Yvar’s relief, however, the next image was of a heroic man bearing jet black chitin armour, his feathers jet black to match, riding on the back of a blood-red irkave’ kel, an assault rifle wielded in his right hand as he charged into battle. Yvar’s relief was short lived, however, as the next image depicted this warrior’s demise at the hand of a menacing, sinister figure, his black silhouette backed by marching, unified soldiers and a blazing inferno, the sinister mark shivering in the background. The next images were of the greatest capital cities in the world, the cities of clan Irkar, Trinar, and Sev alight with flames, corpses littering the oases in crimson pools.
Finally, when Yvar could take no more horror, the last image appeared in his mind followed by a feeling of relief and determination; before him was the image of several warriors, each bearing the affiliation of a different clan. There stood a priestess, her stance powerful and heroic and eyes alight with ferocity and determination; at her side was the same warrior he had seen before, the one that rode the irkave into battle; next was a vee’tah, a healer, her feathers an oceanic blue and eyes showing a kindness beyond measure; beside her was a young man, his body lengthy and agile and gaze telling of both mischief and a good heart; beside him was a young girl, one bearing the royal armour of clan Trinar’s konok, their leader; and last was a pair of warriors, one female and one male, that both beared the mark of clan Irkar, the female bearing a slyness tempered by wisdom and the male a courage complemented by experience. Together, all the warriors stood as one team, their weapons raised, expressions determined, and bodies silhouetted against one glowing symbol: the symbol Yvar knew so well, the symbol of his ancestors.
With that, the images faded, leaving Yvar with the knowledge of what he had to do. As soon as the images vanished, his vision returned, followed by gasping breaths as he fell backward to land on his back. His friends rushed to his aid, lifting him up and supporting his weight with their bodies.
“What happened?” Kiir’el was the first to ask. “What did you see?”
Yvar took a moment to breathe before answering.