First of the lost series, in progress
Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
Only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
Only love can do that.
_ Martin Luther King Jr.
For the first time in five days the sun broke through the clouds, the smoke illuminated the marble towers of the capital city making everything appear to glow. The city seemed to be holding its breath as the besieging loyalist army rallied itself for a final push against the outer walls. The generals were in for a surprise when they found the main gate was already unlocked.
The plan was to let the army into the city and the split it apart. The rebels were no match for the loyalists in the open field but in the labyrinth that was the city streets they could do what they did best. Small groups of men and women were stationed throughout the city ready to start picking off the invaders. Unknown to the loyalists, anyone who could not or would not fight had already been evacuated or hidden shelters under the palace proper.
Now they were simply playing for time, hopefully by the time the army reached the palace walls there would be no need for the fighting to continue. There would be a new Empress on the throne and the line of succession would be re-forged.
Telaena stepped back in from the balcony and made her way out of the residential wing towards the throne room. They had to get all the rituals and ceremonies perfect otherwise the loyalists could claim the coronation invalid and they would start the war all over again.
They only had one chance at this; it was unlikely that Telaena would survive more than a few hours after the ascension. Since she was the last of the Kikori with a direct link to the throne they wouldn’t be able to pull this off again. Even her own children had less of a claim then some of the other applicants, most of whom were a part of the opposing army.
She detoured before getting to the throne room and quietly opened the doors leading to the crystal chamber. She closed the door quietly behind herself before slowly walking to the centre piece of the room. Connected by intricate scroll designs on the stone floor, four large crystals, roughly three metres in height formed a square, each pillar roughly five metres from the other. In the centre of the formation stood a fifth crystal, slightly larger than the rest. The four corners each represented an element. Red for fire, Dark aqua for water, pale blue and white for air and green and brown for earth, the central crystal was a swirl of black, white and grey.
The sun shone through the glass ceiling illuminating the silhouettes of the ancestors encased inside. Each person was at the time the leader of what were now the five high families, the rulers of the Empire.
Stepping over the etchings she slowly walked around the central crystal. The lady of the island, the mother of the very first Empress was encased inside. Telaena had never been in this room before but had heard that sometimes if you listened closely you could almost hear them breathing. She pulled off one of her gloves and ran her hand over the smooth surface. It was completely smooth except for three grooves. She knew that three shard had broken off each crystal as they formed and had been turned into necklaces handed down from ne family leader to another and their two heirs. Now however for the Kikori the only one still in existence was the one around her own neck.
The crystal glowed slightly the closer she was to the other crystal. IT made Telaena feel as if she was connected to the woman inside. Eskera ban Kikori had given up her life for the good of the people and her Telaena stood ready to do the same.
Many would say that she was acting out of revenge, or that she had high aspirations for her family’s future. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Her whole life all she had wanted was to be left alone to her garden, her sewing and to raise her family in peace. The leader of the Senate and loyalist army was the reason that the dream would never come true.
Too much blood stained her hands. She would have happily stepped aside if it meant a better life for her people, but when her mother was murdered and the Senate stepped in the life of the average citizen became harder every year. The Empire was being drained and all the work of the generations before was being destroyed.
She shook her head and laughed at herself, even in her won head she sounded like a martyr and that was not how she felt. She stood facing her ultimate grandmother and gently placed her ear to the crystal. Despite the sounds of the preparations being made in the throne room and the sound of warriors and weapons she could just make out the faint sound of two hearts beating. She closed her eyes and felt a wave of hopelessness wash over her.
Telaena would never admit to those outside that she was terrified. Many followed her thinking she was some sort of prophesised saviour, the Tayaha. They believed that she was going to survive the ascension, despite every person in history even close to her age dying. They believed that she was going to lead them into an era of light and prosperity.
She felt guilty that at times she had played on that belief to get what she needed. Even the High Priests and Priestesses of every order believed it and were here to see her through her ‘miraculous’ transformation. She allowed herself to wallow in a few moments of self-pity before she mentally shook herself, even if she was entitled to a little self-pity she refused to let it overcome her.
A few moments later warm breeze ruffled her skirts and hair, it almost felt like a caress. Then the air turned solid and a hand gently stroked between her wings. With a gasp she turned to look at the intruder to be confronted by the sight of a near substantial shadow. The woman was the same height as her and had the similar features and bright green eyes. She smiled kindly at the young woman in front of her, behind the unknown woman stood four others, two men and two women.
With Telaena’s eyes grew wide as she glanced between the portrait above the old throne and the women in front of her.
“Hello little flower,” the woman’s smile widened as she saw the spark of recognition in Telaena’s eyes.
“How did you…?”
“Know the pet name your lover uses for you? He unlike you has visited with us often. Calondrenariel has told me many interesting tale about you little one. Although is he knew we were actually listening he may have kept some things to himself.”
Telaena blushed; she could imagine the things her once guardian and now consort had said about her. The larger of the two men laughed at her blush. It took her a moment to realise that he was once the Lord of Zeklemon, the current lord was her biggest enemy he had tried to multiple times to either force her into his bed or kill her. She bristled; her wings flaring as she glared at the man, ignoring the tolerant smirk her grandmother shot her way. The other three smiled and the Lady of the Genkilmoen swatted him on the back of the head.
“Pay Saule`, he is nothing like his descendants.”
“I feel the need to apologise for what my family has become. As the lords of fire we have always been hot headed and the attraction to your family has always been there but his actions are unconscionable. Hopefully your grandchildren will be able to bring honour back to my family’s name.” Saule` bowed low to her.
“Thank you, but it is not your place to apologise for him. None of you are responsible for the actions of your descendants.”
“Many would argue that point,” the Lord of the Koreli added glaring at his Zeklemon brother.
“I do not wish to be rude,” Telaena began, “but why and how are you here? I have never heard of you being able to step forward.
“It is not an easy thing to do. At times we have been able to project ourselves into the dreams of our descendants but until today it has never been more than that. A combination of the powers being gathered and your unique presence has made it possible for us to step forward.”
“That answers the how, but not the why?”
“To wish you luck of course,” Eskera placed her hand on Telaena’s cheek and turned her face towards her, she looked into the matching green eyes with sympathy and perhaps a little love.
“We are all very proud of what you have done in your short years. I am also very proud of what you are about to do little flower. When we stood in this room we knew we would not survive the formation of the matrix. The powers that we channelled were more than enough to disintegrate us. If it had not been for Soren we would not be here now.”
“Not that that is necessarily a good thing,” muttered Silviana tel Genkilmoen. Telaena smirked for a moment before her expression turned sombre once again.
“A small part of me hoped you were here to tell me I was in fact the Tayaha and that I was going to walk away from this.” All five looked at her sadly, their answer obvious.
“You have many of the qualities that go with being the Tayaha. But I think you are perhaps not yet ready. Maybe in another life you will become the prophesised one.”
Telaena closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath.
“I think it is a good thing, I hate the responsibility I already have. The last thing I want is more.”
Eskera enveloped her granddaughter in a crushing hug. She gripped the older woman tight taking the moments comfort. She could feel the energy in the room slowly start to disappear. She looked up and saw the other four starting to fade away. The feeling of being alone crept back in as they disappeared to nothing and her grandmother also started to fade.
“Your mother would be proud,” Eskera whispered as she finally joined her brethren. Telaena tried to hold back the sob as she turned back to the crystal and placed her hands back upon it. She was unsure how long she remained there soaking up the warmth that emanated from the crystal.
“Mistress?” a concerned voice asked from her right. Telaena opened her eyes and turned to face the servant standing at the edge of the crystals, robe draped over one arm.
“It is time,” the girl said quietly averting her eyes from her princess’s tear stained face. Telaena wiped her eyes before walking over to the girl and letting her place the robe around her shoulders, folding it in behind her wings. She then reached up and righted several of the combs holding Telaena’s heavy dark hair up. She nodded her thanks before squaring her shoulders and making her way out of the chamber towards the throne room.
The large doors were closed and in front of them stood four volunteers. The ceremony required five; these four would go through the ascension with her, linked together for the rest of their lives.
“I must ask again, are you four certain of this? You know I will not survive. There is also a good chance that you will not survive either. Those who are left standing at the end of this day will not be left whole.”
Mnemosyne, the youngest of the four at one hundred and three curtsied low as she approached. The green of her dress and robes making her red hair seem on fire.
“We are as prepared as we can be for the outcome m’lady. All four of us have agreed to stand with you as you make this sacrifice for our people. There is no greater honour than to stand by your side in this world and if the goddess wills it, into the next.”
Telaena stepped forward and placed a kiss on the woman’s cheek before repeating the action with the other four. She silently swore to herself that she was not going to cry. She had a reputation for being a cold hearted bitch to maintain.
They took position, two in front of her and two behind just before the large stone doors opened to reveal the throne room. At capacity the room could hold around two thousand people, but today there were less than a hundred. Most of them stood in front of the multi-tiered dais that held the Empress’s throne at its highest point and several smaller thrones on the lower levels. There were for visiting royalty and family. On the third level two thrones stood on either side, on these the leaders of the other high families sat. Today only two of them were occupied.
The lord of the Zeklemon was a general in the attacking army and earlier that day the young lord of the Terolmin had been killed helping civilians escape the city. His sister stood next to the throne in the heir’s place, after ensuring the line of succession for her own family Telaena would instate the girl as the new leader of her family. Dramon lek Zeklemon stood next to his Uncle’s throne, Alexandra, one of Telaena’s daughters, stood next to him. They would soon be the new lord and lady of the Zeklemon.
She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders again as she made her way down the isle of the throne room. On either side of those of her family not fighting bowed and curtsied before falling behind them as they passed. This was the hardest part, leaving her family behind to deal with the aftermath. She smiled but did not stop when she saw her youngest granddaughter Megaera almost fall over as she tried to curtsy. The poor girl blushed red right down to her toes when Telaena winked at her.
In front of the dais there was an almost identical inlay to the crystal chamber, only smaller, around the edges of it stood the high priests and priestesses of the People’s pantheon. There were even representatives from other races.
Telaena stopped in front of the design and looked each one of the representatives in the eye. She almost choked up again when she met Lerranen’s eye. Her first husband and Emperor of the Berition Empire smiled sadly at her unashamedly letting tears run down his face. Her second husband and long-time friend Reshmenon stood blank faced as he supported one of their daughters with an arm around her waist. Misa looked like she was ready to fall apart at any moment. She offered her mother a small smile before looking away.
The high priestess of the mother goddess stepped forward and raised her hands for silence. Telaena had always liked the woman, she was a good fit for the role, acting and looking like the mother everyone wished they had had, however there was another side to her, the side that would punish if necessary, for the mother was not all kind. Themia smiled gently at those before her before she began to speak.” The ceremony had begun and Telaena was not sure she anywhere near ready.
“We are here to witness the passage of these five children into ascension and adult-hood. They have chosen the time and the place of their ascension rather than wait for the goddess to bestow it upon them. This action is taken with great courage for it is not without its risks. They stand before us and the goddess with respect and have each been tested and proven worthy.
Do you all understand the journey you are about to embark upon? Do you accept the responsibilities that come with being a true adult? Do you accept that regardless of your worthiness you may not come out the other end of this journey entirely whole or not at all? Knowing all these things do you now give yourself into the hand of the Mother and the Father to guide you in your journey?”
“We do so understand and willing give ourselves into their hands!” All five answered together.
“Then companions step forward you are the guardians and the guides, through you this journey begins and ends.” Themia stepped back as Mnemosyne stepped forward.
“I am the earth, the roots and anchor of our journey. I will keep us from drifting too far away from this plane. Do you entrust to me the way home?”
“We do.” She then turned her gaze directly onto Telaena.
“Do you Telaena Aella Bellona ban Kikori, daughter of the first house, Patron of the Kikori clan and family, grandmother and sister, stand here with full knowledge of what you are about to do?”
Babiryan then took her place, Mnemosyne moving to her spot within the engravings. His robes were so dark the blue almost looked black, making the silver eyes of the nearly seven foot man glow.
“I am the water, through me we are connected. I will find the hidden ways and carry us forward. Do you entrust to me our connection?”
“Telaena Aella Bellona ban Kikori, Princess of Berik, and Hialtara of the Tremekin, wife and consort. Are you prepared to step forward and keep those you care for together? To do what is right and follow your conscience?”
Icantus then stepped forward robes of white and blue a stark contrast to his dark skin. He was dwarfed by Babiryan but his voice was far from meek.
“I am the air, the life and voice of our group. I will sing our story and breathe life into our travel. Do you entrust to me our voice?”
Telaena Aella Bellona ban Kikori, voice of the goddess, keeper of knowledge, mother and daughter do you stand ready to accept the knowledge that is about to be imparted to you? Will you use it for the good of the People?”
“I do and will.”
Lastly Persephone stepped forward clad in a tight dress of crimson.
“I am fire. The destroyer, protector and purifier. I am the one who will strike out at our enemies, the one who will keep us warm and the one who will scourge our path. Do you entrust to me our protection?”
“Telaena Aella Bellona ban Kikori, General of the seven armies, leader of the People’s Rebellion, sword of the Kilmark, do you stand ready to defend your people? Will you take up the sword against their enemies regardless of the cost to yourself?”
“I will.” Telaena then took a deep breath and took her place in the centre circle, just as her grandmother and countless others had before her. She turned and looked at those assembled, the speech she had prepared forgotten.
“I Telaena Aella Bellona ban Kikori stand here not as the last heir of the throne, not as the daughter of our lost Empress. I am at this moment nothing more than a traveller. I ask my guardians to be my voice, my connection, my way home and my sword on this journey.”
She took a deep breath her gaze lingering on her children. She had planned a moving speech about how what they were doing was the right thing to hold back to gathering chaos but it felt hollow and meaningless now.
“There are those here who think I do this for no other reason than power. But that would make me no better than those outside. There are many reasons I could give for my actions here today and in the past but at the end of the day there is only one that matters. I make this journey because I love my people and my family with all my heart. If my actions here today can stop even one person from feeling pain or loss then it will have all been worth it. I just pray that my love will help hold back the darkness.”
She turned her gaze to the back of the crowd desperately wanting to see her consorts face. They had argued the night before and instead of spending what was most likely her last night among the living in the arms of her love she had spent it alone. She nodded to the assembled priests and priestesses and they slowly began to chant.
The chant moulded the energies into a coherent force and the power began to twist around them. As it built Telaena’s skin started to itch. Her vision started to cloud around the edges and it became difficult to breath. It was then that she noticed a figure step out from behind one of the pillars.
She smiled when she realised it was her consort. The smile turned to a grimace as she gritted her teeth at the building pain. It felt like she was burning from the inside out. As Calondrenariel stepped closer she caught his eye and held the contact until the power peaked and the pain became too great. The last thing she saw as the as darkness washed over her was the tear filled blue eyes of the love of her life.
|This book is currently empty.|