Illumination

Synopsis

The world is a constantly changing place and nothing ever remains static. This is especially true for Median, Richard Weignright, as he battles to leave his past behind and move on. A new battle looms, though, as a sect of unfathomable knowledge and power threaten the very balance of existence. The only thing keeping the worlds of the living and dead from collapsing in on each other. Now Richard must fight in ever more surreal and hostile surroundings to save all he tried to leave behind, only his fight is much more personal then he could have ever dreamt.

Extract

Stumbled footsteps sounded through the narrow, dank tunnel. No matter how many times he walked the path never could he find his way, the slippery walls and damp floor hindering his progress always. Soon the darkness gave birth to a bright arch of light; brilliant compared to the sickly darkness that had consumed him. He slowly emerged from the dark tunnel into a low yet illuminating candle light from wall mounted burners each side of the tunnel opening. He was a Dark Seer, young but initialised into The Brethren as one of their newest members. He cautiously stepped into a large auditorium with a high domed roof and incredibly detailed artwork across the lavish walls. Around the room were perfectly sculpted statues of figures in various contoured positions, too excellent to be crafted by any mortal hand. Along the sides of the domed chamber rigidly stood sentinels, cloaked in the same white gowns as The Brethren only with a velvet black trim to their robes, each of them gripping pikes firmly to their sides. He looked up towards the side of the chamber and saw a large, carefully brushed wall painting depicting a single world merging from the Mortal realm, through the Median World to the Other Side. It showed a single horizon with several characters walking through the seamlessly interconnected worlds from the bustling world of the living, through the Desert of Desolation to the darkness of the unknown that lies beyond, each of the figures passing through each one with no apparent struggle or effort.

“Do you like it, boy?” came the harsh, distinctive voice of Earnest, the head of the Dark Seer sect from below the painting, “it represents the vision of what we believe,” he continued as the young heretic followed the voice down to his robed and hooded stature sat upon a golden throne, surrounded by stands covered with assorted gems and coloured stones. In his left hand he gripped the stolen sceptre, held hard against the ground, resistant to any who would dare attempt to extract it from his possession.

“The Other Side belongs to us all; there is no barrier between our greatness and our power,” the Dark Seer added, simply attempting to prove his worth.

“Very good,” Earnest stated, “we think not of these worlds as separate entities but as one in the same. A great fabric which is not crossed but moved through as we are at one with it,” he grinned shortly under the hood and raised from his seat, never loosening his grip on the staff. “Come closer, my son,” he said kindly, groaning with the effort of ascending as his subject complied. “First time in the great hall?” he asked, moving forward with the young man nodding gently, “a lot of power resides here, you should be humbled.”

“I am, my lord. Truly I am,” He responded weakly, afraid of what may happen if he were not.

Earnest grinned again and chuckled placing an old and frail hand on the lads shoulder. “What is your name?”

“Aaron, sire,” he replied quickly.

“Aaron!” he gripped his shoulder firmly and released as he started drifting off across the chamber, banging the staff on the polished floor as he went. “You are one of the newest, are you now?” he asked not expecting an answer. “You see, you are but one of many who would flock to us, already I feel them coming, lost without meaning…I shall give them meaning…Give them their true purpose that they always desired,” he stopped and turned back to Aaron, smiling as he pulled his hood from his head with a free hand. “I am proud of you, though…Aaron. You joined us out of true behest, something we see so rarely now. But willing or not they will come.”

“If I may be so bold…Lord,” said Aaron quietly, his voice quivering, “what is it you intend to do once they have joined us?”

“In the grand scheme, they are not important, just the seeds of our new civilisation,” Earnest turned and walked back to his throne, “and that will be nothing without the right leadership.”

“You do not intend to lead us?” stated Aaron, shocked at this revelation.

Earnest sighed and sat back down again. “However long I may have guided our caste through the dark times, I am far too old for provenance over an entire reality. No. We must take the one with the power of the Other Side. One who has it coursing through their veins. One who could lead us to our divine vision and finally bridge the gulf humanity has placed between us and the Other Side.”

“Sire, with my apologies, of what you speak is not possible for there is only one I know who has touched the Other Side and lived,” he stated firmly, concerned his master had lost focus before coiling back, fearing the repercussions of his outburst.

Earnest turned sharply, staring at him and for several seconds bored his vision into Aaron’s skull before relaxing and nodding calmly. “I respect your honesty but know if you doubt me again I would have you begging for the worst death you could imagine as a reprieve!” he scowled briefly and breathed deeply in. “Not that it matters,” he added quietly to himself, “but know this; there is another, unknown to all but I for the beast of blood gave me the insight to see what was ordained centuries ago and now this is the time. The coming of the impressionable mind of the one who would lead us finally to our destiny,” Earnest lifted the staff and banged it hard against the ground making its impact echo around the auditorium, ringing around the walls awaking his captured Guardians who flooded out around them. More than anyone had ever witnessed in a single place, swirling around them like an endless wave of ether. “Yes, my friend. Our time has come,” Earnest stated, his grin full of malice as he bathed in the radiating power of the Guardians, “our future laid out before us, ready to be taken without pause or a second thought…” Earnest shouted above the deafening sound of a thousand rushing spirits obscuring all sight around him, “and that future…” he slammed the staff against the ground again making the storm of Guardians rise up above his head, merging it into a single cloud like entity which hung over the chamber like a great tropical squall, sparking with the immense power contained within. Aaron looked clearly upon Earnest as he approached him slowly, “that future begins with you,” he finished calmly as all sound apart from his echoing, hollow voice was drained from the room.

“Sire?” Aaron asked nervously as Earnest stepped closer extending his arm, hand stretched open, his fingers like claws extended for a kill.

Earnest grinned maliciously again. “It will all be clear soon,” he said with a haunting calm. Then he struck out with Aaron attempting to dodge only to have Earnest gain a firm grip around his head. His palm pressed into Aarons forehead, fingers digging harshly into his skull with much more force than the old man should have been capable of. “Now kneel before me!” he ordered through gritted teeth, pressing firmly down giving Aaron no choice but to co-operate. Continuing to dig deeper into Aaron’s head, blood started to well up between his fingers, trickling down the young mans face as he started to moan louder and louder with the pain. “Such energy…Such youth,” Earnest stated before throwing his head back, squeezing even tighter into Aarons flesh, now piercing his skull making him scream out as Earnest started forward again. his eyes flashing a deep blood red and a dark hue spread across his body, en-circling him and flicking about his person as though it was a form of parasite roaming free about him. Finally the ghostly hue manifested as a black, wispy mist twisting around his outstretched arm, spiralling down towards the agonised and writhing Aaron, covering his face and eventually burrowing into his head. Aaron began to rapidly age before Earnests eyes, his years draining away as the being rampaged through his body, stealing every last dose of pure life from his veins. With Aarons onset of ancientness a light, off milky substance started to flow through his body, creeping up through his face until it covered his entire being. As it did, Earnest gave one last squeeze, crushing his skull into fragments of sharp marble which scattered across the ground next to him and released the entity as a mist which swooped up from the now statue form of Aarons body and dove into Earnest. It covered his body again and soaked into him, making his eyes glow that same red again as he breathed deeply and seemed to visibly become younger. Wrinkles on his face tightened against his facial muscles, liver spots faded and a blonde tint returned to his hair. He didn’t become young by any stretch of the word but the transformation from someone who resembled a walking skeleton to one not yet out of their sixties was astounding. As the last of the mist soaked back into his body Earnest sighed contentedly and lowered his arm, relaxing his much more supple younger hand. “It has been so long,” he said, his voice no longer old and withered but now with a returned energy. He looked down at the almost headless statue and at the fragments scattered across the polished floor before looking to the others lined along the room. “I’m obviously out of practice,” he looked at his new hand and smiled, “that will soon change.”