Submitted Date 02/29/2020

Ethin drove the skimmer through the silent countryside. The black landscape flew by quicker than his eye could register. Just blotches and blurs in his peripheral vision. The night was unusually dark. Some strange haze has filled the sky and dimmed the Lesser Light. He'd never seen anything like it. Undoubtedly more of Arkon's dark science. It wouldn't slow them down, though. Not when they were this close. He glanced at the HUD readout. They were moving at top speed and had only two staviks to go. We'll reach the temple in a few minutes. We're almost there.
He stole a glance at the old mentor sitting next to him. The ancient Tribute of Arnor and warrior-priest was quiet. Though he was well over six hundred revolutions he still looked no more than four hundred. To have lived so long. How much of our world have you seen? How much have you learned? There's so much more I need to learn from you, old friend, and I fear there is no more time. He studied the man's face in detail. Not wanting to forget one single detail. Each wrinkle. Every subtle change in skin tone. This will be the last time I see you, won't it, old friend? I fear there is no time left for us. He did not move. He didn't even blink. His breathing was slow and steady. Sleep well, my friend.
"I'm not asleep, Ethin. In case you were wondering."
Ethin snapped his head back looking ahead as if caught looking at a forbidden painting.
"Actually I was. I don't think I have ever seen you so peaceful. I'm ashamed to say part of me was wondering if you had passed into the After Time."
Damiron opened his eyes and stared forward through the skimmers window into the ever-darkening landscape. "No, my dear friend. The Creator is not finished with me just yet. I still have a little time left, as we all do. I was merely communing with him. It is His greatest desire that we all commune with Him. Yet so many of us fear it. We fear His love for us. He wants nothing but good for us and so many of us only give him lip service."
Ethin looked over at his mentor, "If that's true, then why does He want to cleanse the earth? The diviner says a great cleansing is upon us. That He will wipe the earth clean of all corruption and abomination. I have a hard time seeing that as love."
Damiron sat silently contemplating. "My friend, the Creator only wishes … "
Damiron immediately stopped as the sky went from a near pitch-black to almost midday. He turned and looked at Ethin. The entire sky was ablaze with light. Ethin stopped the skimmer and opened the hatch. He and Damiron both stood and turned to look behind them. There in the distance, some ten staviks away, in the valley where they had left the Shadow Hunters was the mushrooming cloud of a massive merculite explosion.
He felt Damiron place his hand on his shoulder as they both stood quietly and mourned the loss of his men - his friends. Many a day he would come to the great warrior-priest seeking advice on leading his men. Many a night he would spend at the man's feet learning how to lead and how to serve. Now, as a single tear made its way down his weathered face, he wanted nothing more than to be that young man sitting at his old master's feet. He wanted nothing more than to go back to the innocence that he once knew; to the simplicity that used to be.
After a few minutes, the light began to subside and the sky grew dark again. They stood watching the cloud dissipate in silence. The land for a good 5 stavik radius would be scorched and unaerable for tens of revolutions. Damiron watched as a tear ran down Ethin's cheek. He'd just lost his men. He was sworn to protect them and keep them safe and now they were gone. Another drop ran down his cheek and another. Ethin wiped his cheeks and looked up. Water was falling from the sky.
Damiron sighed, "The cleansing has begun. We have little time left. We need to get to the temple now and place the key in the vault."
Ethin slowed the skimmer at the base of the mound in front of them. A hill shaped like a beehive at least 200 cubits in height stood there. Its sides were as smooth polished steel and shimmering in the light of the Lesser.
He stood at the side of the vehicle looking at the great construct. The water was falling from the sky much quicker now. It was as if the Creator had opened the heavens and was draining all the water from them. He was wet to the bone after only a minute under the deluge. "I'm not ashamed to admit that this amount of water falling from the sky concerns me greatly. Please tell me this is the Temple of Knowledge, Damiron."
Chief Tribute Damiron en Tillandra the Great Warrior Priest of the Dominion of Arnor and Chief Consult to the Dominion of Lemuria walked towards the shimmering structure. He was as drenched as Ethin was. The water falling looked like a sheet hanging from the sky.
"Yes, Ethin, this is the Temple of Knowledge. This is the place where the remnants of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil were placed and studied by the generations of Cain the son of Adam and Eve. He is my ancestor, Ethin. I must try to undo the great evil that my family line has brought upon this world. We are the ones who discovered the science to "improve" human DNA. Life extension, cures for sickness, accelerated healing, strength increase, agility increase, intelligence increase. All of it was us. We believed our creator had not done a good enough job. After Adam and Eve, our race declined. We lost the spark of life the Creator had given us. We no longer lived as long as our ancestors. Each new generation had a shorter life expectancy than the previous and sickness increased. Death took us more often and sooner than before. And then we decided the best way to improve the Creator's design was to combine our DNA with those of other creatures. The Serpent Guardians were created. We are the ones who corrupted the human genome."
Ethin walked to his mentor's side who was now standing at the doors to the temple. They were massive double doors at least 30 cubits high and 25 cubits wide. Intricate writing was scrolled across them and at the center of each was a sigil. The left contained the sigil of the Dominion of Arnor and the right the sigil of Lemuria. Above them and centered between the two doors was a sigil of unknown design.
"What is that third sigil, master?" Damiron held his head low. The water ran down him like a miniature waterfall. He could almost see his tears flowing and mixing with the pure water of heaven.
Damiron looked up at the sigil. "That is the sigil of the House of Cain. My house. It is also the sigil of the Arkon's Science Counsel and his house as well. It is my shame – our shame. He walked to the door and placed his hand on several of the glyphs. They glowed a faint blue and a low-pitched hum emanated from each. They formed a musical tone. The key to open the door was harmonic. The doors slowly slid open enough to allow them to walk through. Through the doors, a hallway led to the center. The walls were all lined with the glyphs. He'd never seen anything like it before. They felt ancient as if they were from before the beginning. The faint blue glow stemming from them lit the hall all the way to the center.
Ethin stood there behind Damiron his mouth agape at the sight before him. At the center of the room was a translucent, spherical energy field. It had the same faint blue hue to it as the glyphs. It pulsated rhythmically like a heartbeat. The air was thick with static energy and he felt a strange force trying to penetrate his mind. He stood there staring at the sphere. His eyes focused on the blue glow. His heartbeat began to slow and match the sphere's rhythmic beat.
"Ethin, don't look at it" His master's voice sounded a million staviks away. Something grabbed him and threw him to the ground. His mind cleared and his heart began to beat faster. "Get up and put your back to the sphere. Don't look directly at it. It is a portal created by one of the Arkon's science teams long ago. You must know where it is you want to go or else it will draw you in and send you to any number of unknown worlds. Many of which are not suitable for humans."
"I felt it calling to me. It wanted me to enter it and wanted to take me to amazing places. It showed me beautiful worlds the likes I have never seen. Is it alive?"
Damiron came closer to him and touched several of the glyphs on the wall. "Not as we know it. It has a sort of consciousness but not a sentience per se. It's difficult to explain but to keep it simple it's like a rudimentary Artificial Intelligence that operates the skimmers. Let's hurry now. We need to open the vault and place the key in it."
He turned and moved towards the door. Standing there about ten feet into the hallway was a Serpent Guardian. The creature locked eyes with him and lunged at him. He had just enough time to duck out of the way but the creature's claw still managed to slice open his right side. Blood began to flow and pain seared through his body. He landed on the floor with a thud but immediately leaped to his feet. He quickly looked around the chamber to locate the beast and Damiron. The later was at the opposite side of the chamber activating glyphs. A massive bang sounded from the entranceway. The faint blue glow was gone. Damiron had closed the chamber doors and opened the vault doors at the far end. They were sealed in with the beast. He pulled his sword and dagger from their sheaths and prepared for battle. The key was safe now. No matter what happened, this was going to be his tomb and he wasn't going alone. Damiron entered the vault with the key and sealed himself in just before the beast got to him. Ethin was right on it and attacked.

Per Aspera Ad Astra - Brian L. Knack


Please login to post comments on this story