|The Legacy of the Last Oracle
Author: Lux Beta PM
Come, follow Her legacy - trust in the power of the Gods. Will you be nought but pawns in the endless game between good and evil? Or will you weave your own destinies into the eternal fabric of fate? Arise, o Chosen Ones, for the time has come - make your marks on history. (Book I in "The Chronicles of the Chosen" series. Rated T to be safe. Chapter 33 is up. Updates every Monday.)Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Adventure - Chapters: 33 - Words: 279,106 - Reviews: 70 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 06-17-13 - Published: 10-19-12 - id: 3066900
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chronicles of the Chosen
The Legacy of the Last Oracle
Prologue: The Prophecy of Pythe
Twelve shall be born to answer our plight,
They shall, against evil and wicked things, fight.
Adore those raised up in the Cascade of Light
For bestowed upon them are great powers of might.
Let not their flames be put out by the night,
Let not the darkness diminish their sight,
Their intentions are gold and their hearts just as white
To help them make all of our misfortunes right.
- Pythe, Oracle of the Most Blessed Grand Temple of Areth, 707 AO
Sophia Elizabeth Holliday first saw what she called "the Lights" on the evening of her fourth birthday, the 19th of March 2001. She had been standing alone in a small path, at the back of her spacious house, when she first noticed their glimmering in the sun. There was about twelve of them - they looked semi-real, and their light caused her eyes to hurt, as though she was staring straight into the sun. She first learned of their influence over the real world when her Uncle Howard, searching, as luck would have it, for her, walked right through them. He babbled something about cutting some cake, but all Sophie saw was that there was now something odd about her uncle's shadow - it now looked somewhat lighter than it should have, and when she noticed that the Lights were now gone a feeling of dread took root in her stomach.
Three days later, a car accident claimed both his life and his fiancée's.
Soon enough, Sophie began seeing the Lights always once every year - never again on her birthday, but always at some point in time. Each time she saw them it would only be for a few seconds, and then they would disappear, only for some misfortune to befall someone she knew three days later. Thankfully, nothing of the magnitude of Uncle Howard's accident occurred ever again, but something bad - a friend's grandparent's physical misfortune, a relative's firing, or something else - would always be hot on the heels of the Lights.
This continued for roughly eight years; Sophie was twelve when she last saw the Lights, but naturally, that was also the year that her life - and the lives of five of her friends - were changed forever.
Chapter One: Sophie Sees the Lights
"Even the brightest light can hide the darkest evil; one cannot judge a book by its cover, nor can one put all their faith in light."
She had been walking back from the library - garbed in a blue skirt, cardigan and pumps all over a white top - on a Sunday afternoon in early July, when they appeared to her. As she walked she had been so engrossed in a book that almost didn't see them, but when she got close enough she stopped, like some divine force had commanded her to. A look of utter dismay flooded into her ultramarine eyes as she looked up from her novel, a grimace forming on her face by habit alone - she was relatively used to seeing them by now, but she still felt sorry for whoever would be affected. They disappeared into the shadow of a passing car, vanishing into the darkness, but Sophie still had to wait to catch her breath, her mind on overdrive with trying to work out who could be the next victim - Aunt Francine had lost her business in a fire, her friend Tifa's mother had ran off to France and Sophie herself had almost lost her own paternal grandfather to cancer, so who did that leave?
Her mind sank once more as she realised that there would always be someone in her life on whom the Lights could wreak disaster, so there was really no point trying to avert it; besides, Tifa and April were the only ones who believed her, but the latter also believed that God was secretly a wizard and the former was most likely just humouring her. Sophie decided to put it to the back of her mind and let destiny take its course, once more walking down the road, although she was now noticeably hurrying to get back home.
Despite this, she was still very nervous over the next few days, doing as little as possible so as not to invoke the wrath of fate; her apprehension of what was going to happen ensured that she suffered three consecutive sleepless nights. The third and final day - Wednesday morning, to be precise - saw her seated in her house's lounge along with her two friends, Tiffany Piermont (more commonly known as simply Tifa) and Aibreann "April" O'Connor. Even though the sun shone in the azure sky outside, the trio of girls were stuck indoors due to Sophie's reluctance to go out; this was a great source of ire for Tifa and April, who were not as content as their shier companion to sit and watch reruns of long-finished television sitcoms.
"Sophie," began April for the sixth time, turning to look directly at her friend; dark blue eyes refused to meet her own inquisitive teal ones. She sighed in sympathy. "Please, if you just told us why we couldn't go out, then I'm pretty sure we'd be a lot more understanding."
"I'll say," snorted Tifa, her fingers entertaining themselves by picking the thread out of an old, frayed dishcloth she had found lying around. "You've been jumpier than usual lately, so spill the beans. What's going on?"
The subject of the conversation nervously brushed her chocolate-brown hair back with her left hand. "I refuse to say," she muttered under her breath, "you'll both just think I'm being stupid. Besides, it's not really that big of a deal - we'll be able to do stuff again tomorrow, hopefully."
Tifa's green eyes, as bright as her hair was dark, thinly veiled her annoyance. Her hooded top and sneakers were as black as her hair, and only her three-quarter length trousers were a different colour - white. "We think you're being even more stupid right now," she stated bluntly, ignoring April's warning glance. "It surely can't even be that problematic. Come on, just tell us already!"
Sophie took a deep breath before beginning her tale. "I saw the Lights on Sunday afternoon." Her response was a derisive bark of laughter and a small gasp.
"Oh my God, that's what this is all about?" asked Tifa, a smirk on her lugubrious face. "Sophie, you really need to get out more if you're going to let a bunch of apparent fairy lights dictate what you do with your life."
"She has every reason to be concerned, Tifa!" replied April, turning back to her friend. She looked like a ditzy owl, her wide eyes framed by waves of strawberry-blonde hair. Her outfit was eclectic to say the least - a pink and white hooded top over a fuchsia tee, with a blue denim skirt and vivid pink sneakers. A bright pink backpack, shaped like a rabbit (complete with two ears at the top), covered her back. "Remember what happened to your Uncle Howard after you told us about Them? What if something like that happens again? What'll we do?" The girl was now pacing anxiously around the living room, trying to think of something to do to prevent the Lights from affecting them; she then turned to Sophie, an unusually annoyed expression on her normally cheerful face. "I wish you'd told us that you'd seen the Lights earlier Sophie, because then I could've done something to protect us."
Tifa scoffed. "Like what?"
"Well, there're plenty of things that we can use to ward against evil. Horseshoes, for example, or white heather. It would've been great to have had both." Both Sophie and Tifa looked at each in exasperation, their eyebrows raised considerably at their friend's lamentations; April was extremely nice, but she had always been a little on the odd side - while thankfully not getting ostracised from most other social groups, it had led to her being labelled "the weird one" by most of the other kids at their school. Sophie and Tifa had always stuck by her though, and if one day she was finally excluded by the others, then they would be right beside her.
"It's fine, honestly," said Sophie with forced brightness, standing up and smoothing her cerulean-blue pencil skirt down. "If you two want to go outside and do other things then you're more than welcome to, but I myself would prefer to stay indoors."
"No way are we doing that," stated Tifa blankly, "over some stupid light things. If we're going outside, then you're coming with us." Before she could protest, Sophie's friends had hooked each of their arms around both of hers, dragging the struggling girl outside. They dropped her on the grass of her parents' well-tended front lawn, where she lay in a state of indignant shock. Both Tifa and April burst out laughing at the look on her face, attracting the attention of Sophie's brother Jason and his friend, Ethan Sanchez, who were dribbling a soccer ball on the smooth asphalt road of the cul-de-sac - Orchard Avenue - that they inhabited.
"Um, what are you guys doing?" asked Ethan, regarding the three girls with a worried frown. He wore a red and black checked hooded top, with ripped dark denim jeans and black Converses. Jason - dressed in a light green tee-shirt, pale blue jeans and simple blue and white trainers - looked at him sternly, the embarrassment in Ethan's voice crystal-clear to him.
"I agree," he then said, turning and smirking at his sister who was still laying on the ground, a very displeased expression on her face, "what are the three of you doing? I don't really mind if you guys want to make fools of yourselves but you shouldn't do it in public. Someone might see you."
"It's all her fault!" said Tifa smugly, pointing at a flabbergasted Sophie who had by now risen to her feet.
"Excuse me, but this is only due to the fact that I have everyone's best interests at heart," she said, facing away from the others with her arms folded angrily across her chest. Her irritated look melted into one of cheerfulness when she saw a smartly-dressed young man exit his house, which was across the street from hers. "Oh, hello Paul!"
Paul Weiss looked up from the newspaper in his hand, his face brightening up when he saw the other neighbourhood pre-teens present. He was dressed in a white shirt underneath a black sweater-vest, with crisp black trousers and leather shoes the same colour. "Good morning everyone!" he greeted warmly, his eyes the same colour as the sky above. "How are we all today?" The others muttered "good" and "fine thank you".
"So, what are you guys doing today?" asked Jason of the girls. Before their self-appointed leader could speak, April butted in excitedly, ecstatic now that she was finally outside.
"Well a while ago we were just sitting in your living room watching episodes of Friends because Sophie didn't want to go outside and so we were stuck indoors and it was really boring and then I asked why we couldn't do stuff outside and then Sophie was really nervous and stuff and then Tifa asked as well and then -", she gasped for breath, "-Sophie said that she saw the Lights again and then-"
"Wait, back up!" said Jason suddenly, looking at Sophie intently as she cringed under her twin's worried gaze. "You saw Them again? When?". Her answer was barely audible in her embarrassment. "Sophie, why didn't you tell me when you first saw Them? We could have warned people that something bad was going to happen!"
"Oh really?" she shot back, trying to salvage her argument for concealing her vision. "And what would we have said? "For the next three days you need to be really careful because Sophie sees these Light things every year and whenever she sees them bad stuff happens"? We may as well have said that I was a complete lunatic!" Her face was scarlet by now and she was obviously flushed from having to raise her voice - something she did very rarely.
"Sophie, please calm down," said Paul, sympathetically but firmly. Sophie took a deep breath and closed her eyes, before opening them again several seconds later. They shone with sadness; she began to apologise before Paul gently interrupted her. "It's fine. Why don't we all go just back inside to your house to watch some TV?"
"Oh, not again," muttered Tifa dryly in distaste, but it went unheard; Jason and Ethan had already ran inside to claim the television, with April flying on her feet after them. Sophie smiled at her as she walked past, followed by Paul, who nodded at her politely. Tifa just made a face behind his back, though she soon relented, following the others back into the house.
The group had been watching a rerun of some football game for the last two hours, but only Ethan and Jason (and Paul, out of his desire to appear hyper-masculine) had been paying any attention to it. Tifa was the only girl remaining in the lounge, entertaining herself yet again with the frayed blanket; the other two were in the kitchen making cupcakes or some other sissy treat, so she had obviously been content to not do that.
"Oh come on!" roared Ethan suddenly, standing up and staring at the screen with murder in his eyes. Jason had moaned in anguish as well, running both hands through his light-brown hair; Paul did the same, although he honestly had no idea why. "That ref is blind! I can't believe he let that point in!"
"Well this is boring," said Tifa bluntly, getting up and heading into the kitchen. April was busy putting icing on twelve cakes while Sophie was busy disinfecting the worktop. "Oh, you're finished, great. These look relatively nice." She went to pick up a cake but April, with a squeal of indignation, swatted her grasping hand away.
"You'll wait until I've finished icing all of them, thank you!" she said, putting a dollop of yellow sugar on the last one before sprinkling it with hundreds and thousands. "There, you can have two, and so can everyone else." April, like a domestic goddess, carried the tray into the living room, where the boys were still watching the game, although the two sportier ones seemed more grumpy now that their team was losing.
"Thank you April," replied Paul as she handed him two cupcakes; Jason thanked her for both his and Ethan's. She put the tray down onto the mahogany coffee table and sat down, Tifa sitting next to her. Sophie had moved onto cleaning the oven, but she didn't mind; she did it most days in order to lessen her mother's workload. She was busy scrubbing the inside of it, the gleaming black chrome shining in the soft kitchen lights, when they went off. Plunged into darkness, she let out a little squeal of surprise, and judging from Ethan's affronted cries of dismay, she guessed that the power cut extended to the living room. Sophie stood up straight, wiping her hands on a dishcloth, as her brother came into the room to check that she was alright.
"You okay?" he asked, looking up at the ceiling lights. "The TV's off as well - Ethan's not best pleased as you've already heard."
"Indeed," she giggled, walking over to the window. The sky, a celestial blue earlier, had considerably darkened - it was only noon, but storm clouds had gathered, obscuring the sun and the rest of the heavens. A frown fell on Sophie's face as she noticed some rain drops on the double-glazed glass. "That's odd, the weather report was adamant that there would be no rain today. Then again, they're wrong most of the time, so this isn't that surprising." She laughed at her own little joke.
"Sophie, where's your house's energy valve?" called Paul, as a cone of light passed through the door; he followed it, torch in hand.
"You carry a flashlight with you?" questioned Jason with raised eyebrows. "Nice, it's good to be prepared." Paul nodded in acknowledgment as they followed Sophie over to a cupboard in the hallway. She opened it up, struggling a bit due to it being firmly wedged in place, and then gazed at the complex construction that was in front of her. After a few moments of deliberation she stepped back, gesturing at the boys to the machine.
"I'll rely on stereotypes here, so you two can try to figure it out. I know how to resolve matters like this only in theory." Her brother looked utterly flabbergasted at the notion, but his raven-haired companion seemed much more at ease. He got to work, using tools from a box beneath the machine to open up compartments and start rooting around. The banging of metal upon metal attracted the others, who all crowded around the closet. Soon Paul came back upon again, a grimace on his face.
"I have no absolutely no idea what's wrong here," he said, placing a hand on the doorframe. "The machine should be working perfectly, but obviously it's not. What I find really strange, however, is this." He pointed to a little valve on the machine, numerous numbers on a small screen upon it.
"What does that mean?" asked Ethan, moving his sandy-blond hair out of his eyes to get a better view.
"This is how much energy the regulator is getting, along with the bill; as you can see, the numbers are still changing."
"Well what's so strange about that?" asked Tifa, arms folded across her chest. "Isn't that what's supposed to happen anyway?"
"Yes, but only when the machine is getting power," replied Paul, a pondering expression on his face. "This machine seems to still be getting the proper supply of power, but for some reason the outlets in this house don't seem to be working despite that." Before anyone could reply, a noise of triumph came from the living room. Jason had went into it whilst the others were talking and had succeeded in getting the television back on, even though there was only complete static on the screen.
"Why is the TV working when nothing else is?" asked April, flicking the light switch on the wall on and off again - there was no response from the lights above.
"Try and see if you can get any channels to work," suggested Sophie, handing her brother the remote. He kept pressing the buttons but the screen gave no response - if anything, the static seemed to only increase in its intensity.
"Wait!" cried out April, putting a hand in front of Jason to signal to him to stop. "I think I just saw a picture!"
"April, it was probably just the static," said Tifa, who was currently flopped out like a beached whale on the couch.
"No, I'm certain that there was something on it," she insisted, staring at the remote. "Try pressing six again." Jason did so, and the screen went dark.
"Great, now it's definitely broken," said Ethan in dismay, his cocoa-brown eyes still sad.
"It's still on Ethan," said Jason, pointing to the green light on the television itself that indicated so.
"Then why is it still not receiving any signal?" said Sophie, crouching down in front of it and fiddling with the buttons. "And why is nothing else working either?" She pressed the main power button on the screen when a ray of light blasted out of it.
Sophie screamed, her hands flying to her face to shield her eyes from the light as she fell onto her back. The others did the same as well, their hands covering their faces with their bodies turned away from the screen. The light was a harsh electronic white - Sophie noticed that it was as though she was staring into the Lights, even though her eyes were closed.
"Make it stop!" sounded a voice, possibly April's; but Sophie didn't really care. Her breath was hard to catch, and her head swam like a piece of jetsam on a tempest-tossed sea. She was dimly aware of flopping onto the floor, her limp body spread haphazardly as someone called her name - before she could make any effort to reply, the Light overcame her senses. She felt the burn of it not just in her eyes, but in her nose and ears and mouth and throat - it danced like sapient fire on her skin, and she heard someone else give the agonised scream that she had only now just realised was ripping from her mouth. She felt something wet seep from her nose, but that was the last thing she knew; the Light - for she was now sure that this was as supernatural as its twelve counterparts - overcame her completely, and she soon was lost in a sea of darkness.
Ethan stirred, a soft moan coming from his hoarse throat as he tried to open his aching eyes. The world was still a white blur, but he noticed that it wasn't as harsh as it had been when he was last awake. There was a faint ringing in his ears and a sting in his nose, like he had been outside unprotected on a harsh December day; though apart from that, he was relatively alright. He could now make out some furniture within the blur, and his vision slowly began to clear as he drunkenly got to his feet. His rubbed his forehead with his hands, and he could now see well enough to know that he was still in Jason and Sophie's darkness-enshrouded living room, although he was now alone.
"Well, this is weird…" he muttered to himself, staggering over to a window to look outside. The sky - once as open as the door to his room - was now a dark expanse; it was completely obscured by a layer of thick stormy clouds, and Ethan let out a low whistle as he pondered what to do. "I guess I should see if I can find anyone else. Jason!" He called his friend's name as he wandered throughout the house, checking every room. His search bore no fruit, but he was now noticeably more aware of what had happened; he ran into the front garden in a panicked state, frantically calling not just for Jason, but for the others as well. A wet blanket of mist hung in the air, his breath joining it as he panted over and over again; his hands latched onto the opposing arm, rubbing them in an attempt to keep his warmth. He was about to try going into another house - perhaps Tifa's - before he saw a lone figure lying on the ground. A surge of happiness washed over him as he raced to the figure, now seeing it to be April; she was unconscious with a small trail of drool from her mouth to the asphalt, but apart from that she looked fine. Her eyes flittered open as Ethan loomed over her.
"Hi Ethan…" she said slowly, a dozy smile on her face. He grinned back at her, not at all worried by her absentmindedness; April was even more spaced out than he was at most times.
"Hey April, are you okay? Does your head hurt?"
"No, it's fine. Can you help me up please? My legs feel a little weak." She gave a small, feline hiss of pain as she clutched tightly onto Ethan's sleeve, but apart from that she was fine - she still held on even as she stood though. Both surveyed the area around them, relatively undisturbed by their predicament. "Have you seen anyone else?" she asked of him, but he shook his head no. "We should head back to the house and see if they're back there yet."
"Yeah, I think we should." April let go of his arm and raced back to the twins' house, followed swiftly be a bemused blond. They entered the house, although April was slightly scared due to the lack of light. She nevertheless went in first, but stopped abruptly when a hurried shuffling sound came from the lounge.
"Did you hear that?" Her voice was the quietest whisper. He nodded and held his right index finger to his masculine lips; she nodded back, the fear shining in her eyes. He signalled to her to crouch down beside him on the floor, and she complied, using her hands to steady herself like a runner before their race. They shuffled quietly into the lounge under the cover of darkness, and it was Ethan who noticed the faltering motion of the curtain. He motioned for his companions to lie low as he crawled over slowly to investigate.
Tifa let out a roar as she sprang out like a tiger from behind the curtain, the cake tray in her hands slicing through the air. Ethan and April screamed and ran out of the hallway, leaving a startled girl in their wake. "Oh… It's just you guys." The two peered around the doorframe at her, and she just raised her eyebrows back at them, although obviously it was very difficult to see this. "Why are you two hanging back there?" She let the tray clatter noisily to the floor, oblivious to their winces. "Have either of you seen Sophie? Or the other two?"
"No, I've checked all around the house and they weren't there, and I was the one who found April, so," shrugged Ethan. Then he narrowed his eyes at Tifa. "You weren't here earlier so how are you here now?"
"I woke up in the garden and then came in here," she deadpanned, and Ethan made a small "o" with his mouth. "Anyways, I think we should all go and see if we can find the others."
"Have you got any idea where they could be?" asked April, picking up the tray and brandishing it like a shield.
"We could always check the park," suggested Tifa, and the others gave their consent. They followed her out of the house's back door, going through the gate in the fence at the garden's back and following the lane to their destination. "You know, you both seem amazingly calm, seeing as how we'll all woken up in an apparent winter wonderland."
"Well you seem alright as well, so why wouldn't we be?" responded April gleefully, back into her normal spirits.
"I think Sophie drugged the cakes and we're all having a collective dream, so I'm expecting to wake up anytime soon. Plus, you two are spaced-out idiots, so I'm not too surprised that this is your reaction." Ethan just stared at her while April was blissfully ignorant as she skipped on ahead. "Hey, the truth hurts sometimes. It's nothing to cry over."
"Hey guys!" cried out the other girl, cutting off Ethan's response. "I can see someone else in the fog!" They both ran to catch up with her; she was crouching over Sophie on the grass, trying to stir the unresponsive girl. Paul was on the bench, lolling to the left. Ethan and Tifa each put an arm under either of his as they hoisted him to his feet, while Sophie gave out a small moan.
"Oh, my poor cranium…" she lamented, her delicate eyelashes fluttering in the frosty air. She fully opened them to the sight of April looming over her, a wide Cheshire-cat grin on her face; suffice to say it was very unnerving. "April, could you please stop doing that?"
"Sorry!" she apologised quickly, helping her friend to her feet. Sophie brushed invisible dirt off her skirt as Paul thanked Ethan and Tifa for helping him. The brunette suddenly gave a small gasp as she realised who was missing from the group. "Jason!" she cried out, gripping the back of another bench to steady her. "Has anyone seen Jason?"
"Sophie, calm down, we'll find him!" cooed April, but she just glared at her.
"How can I calm down? First off, we're supposed to be in early June right now, but instead the weather is more akin to November! Secondly, we're all knocked unconscious by what I can only describe as a supernatural light, and thirdly my brother is missing; to make it worse, he could be anywhere given the fact that we were scattered all over this neighbourhood!" Her voice had risen to a lion-like roar as she stomped away through the fog, calling for her brother. "Jason! Please answer me, where are you?!" She vanished entirely into the mist, like a wandering spectre.
"I'm going to go after her before she does anything rash," said Paul apologetically, running after her through the fog. "Can you guys follow us? I have a feeling she'll find Jason, after all," he grinned at them, "she's usually a very lucky girl, at least for three hundred and sixty-two days of the year." He chuckled at his own joke before going after her.
"Come on!" urged Ethan, when neither girl made any move to follow after several seconds. "We're not just going to wait here, are we?"
"I don't know if I want to follow them," confessed April, an uneasy look on her face. "I have a feeling that something bad's going to happen."
"April, as much as you think you are, you're not a psychic," smirked Tifa, stalking through the mist and expecting them to follow her. "Besides, we'll all most likely wake up soon anyway, and then I can ask Sophie what the heck she put into those cakes. I'm never going to eat anything she goes near ever again." Ethan gave a humourless laugh as they walked together. They soon caught up with Paul, who was standing next to Sophie as she panicked over her brother's absence.
"Where could he be?" she moaned, an atavistic anxiety flooding her whole being. Paul was trying his best to console her but she paid him no regard. It was only when the five came to stand together that something caught Sophie's interest; her eyes narrowed, as though she was looking into the sun, before widening considerably as she gave a horrified gasp. "Jason!"
The others followed her line of sight, to see Jason standing next to a lamppost, with a dark rope looped over him several times. Even from the distance of several metres they could see that he was unnaturally pale, beads of sweat trailing down his brow as he gave shaky breaths. "What's wrong?" continued his sister, stepping towards him with great care. He gave the most discreet shake of his head, and she stopped, curious as to why she had to do so.
Then the rope around him moved, and she saw the giant snake that raised its obsidian-black head to hiss at her.
Sophie fell to the ground like a rag doll, the unrivalled fear that she felt at that moment paralysing her legs. She ignored the grazed skin on her hand as Paul ran to help her up; her attention, along with that of all the others, was focused on the viper. Bile-yellow scales in the shape of diamonds ran the length of its body, and its crimson eyes were the colour of fresh blood; just looking at it made Sophie want to be sick with fear.
"What the heck is that thing doing here?" asked Ethan of no one in particular, his voice shell-shocked; obviously, no one could answer.
"And lo, as the sky burned and the ground opened Her maw, the people cried out for their Saviour." A disembodied, female voice rang crystal-clear throughout the air; it sounded condescending, like it concealed an inner darkness. "They called out to their Gods, but the dark of Chaos stopped them from giving aid. Then, they cried out to Light and his followers, Enlightenment and Illumination - but they too had been subdued in the face of such overwhelming evil. Then again, what could they have done? The scorched ground bore no fruit; all it gifted unto the people were disease and famine. The promised Saviour had not came, and a blanket of darkness came over Gaia as the people fell silent." The voice still hung like a sickness in the air, and Ethan had to swallow three times to find his own.
"Who's there?" he called out, trying his best to sound courageous. "Show yourself!"
"Ice covered the land; He did not want to, but nature took Her course, and so it happened. Life, unlike what the Gods had promised, did not flourish. It was, as Evil wanted, stifled; He was pleased, and called His best lieutenant, Evil Death, to His presence. There He gave to Her promises of greater power, and She was immensely pleased. Then news reached His blackest ears of a prophecy made to bring about His downfall, and He gave to His lieutenant a duty that still She must complete. Twelve would be born to end His reign; six from Gaia, and six from Her brother, Earth. They would be foretold to destroy Evil, which He did not want, and so He plotted until the day that the Twelve Lights would appear for the final time to Water's Champion - that would be when the end would begin."
Sophie was the one who was most traumatised by the oracular words; whoever was speaking knew of the Lights, but who was Water's Champion? It certainly wasn't her - she was the furthest thing from a hero that anyone could be. Her thoughts were interrupted by Ethan's repeated demand to the voice to reveal herself, and she was just as surprised as the others when the voice did just so. Before Jason appeared a perfectly circular shadow upon the black asphalt; even though it was only two-dimensional it seemed to bubble and broil like blood from an angry wound. What was most astounding, however, was the fact that a woman rose from the shadow like a butterfly of death breaking out from its cocoon.
Her hair was a sunny blonde, and it looked smooth and well-groomed. Her unblemished skin was a light tan, the shade of someone who didn't really see enough of the sun, but saw the minimum amount at least. Her features were perfectly placed and sculpted, like those of a surgically-enhanced supermodel; this notion was only supported by her luxurious garments. They were as black as night and consisted of a dress and flat shoes; the dress looked like it belonged to a woman from the Classical Age, for it lacked sleeves and was loose. A black leather belt above her waist held it in, and a hair-braid of skull-like stones held her knife-straight hair in place, just behind her ears. The motif of death continued in the form of her brooch; it was a small, black, grinning skull that held up the top of her dress.
"Who… Who are you?" asked Paul in shock, when Ethan's voice finally failed him. The woman gave a devious grin and looked up at them, showing her eyes for the first time. Many people say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and if that were true, then this woman's soul was a dark and wicked thing that even the most deplorable of humans should not possess. They were obsidian black and made no distinction between iris and pupil, adding only to the sinister aura that she emanated.
"You, like all other lowly mortals, may call me Faith." Her voice, now that it came from a single source, was elegant and intelligent-sounding, but there was an undercurrent of cruelty that no brummagem sweetness could conceal. "Then again, who I am doesn't matter at this moment in time; all that matters is that you surrender your lives to me. What also matters is the amount of pain you'll experience upon doing this; I promise that it shall be relatively painless if you don't put up any fights." She gave another grin as she stretched out her left hand, and each of the six children jumped as a trident appeared in it as if by magic, materialising out of the shadows with an otherworldly whoosh. It was as tall as she was, fashioned from things that looked suspiciously like human bones; an ungodly dark-purple fired blazed ominously at its tip.
"Please," begged Sophie, staring up at the floating Faith with pleading eyes, "we have no idea what you're talking about. I beg you, just let my brother go and leave us all alone!"
A dark fire appeared in Faith's eyes as she glared at the snivelling girl before her. "You know, for the Chosen One of Water, you really are pathetic." She smirked angrily, her rage seething and hissing, like her serpent, under the surface. "I always personally thought - or rather, hoped, to make things more interesting - that you would either be extremely hot or extremely cold; but you've failed me." She let out a derisive bark of a laugh. "Lukewarm is no fun at all, so here, have your brother." She clicked her fingers and the viper disappeared; Jason, momentarily stunned, then wasted no time in running over to his twin. He put his arms in front of her protectively, and the group subconsciously huddled closer together.
"Whatever you want, you're not getting it," muttered Tifa through gritted teeth, her fists white from being clenched into bony fists. Faith just laughed again, their determined resistance to what could not be avoided amusing her greatly.
"You idiots still don't seem to get it, do you?" she asked, giving an astounded smile. "What I want," she said slowly, annunciating each word like a primary school teacher, "is to kill you and destroy your souls." She trailed her fingers along her trident apparently absentmindedly, as the six just stared at her in shock, anger and fear. "I assure you, it's mostly nothing personal. It just so happens that my master and I have been waiting for this moment for a very long time indeed, and you six just happen to be unlucky enough to be those whom I need to kill." She swung her trident in front of her, dark-purple lightning sizzling through the air. "Like I said, it'll be relatively painless, although I guess I can't really promise anything as I'm prone to changing my mind."
"No!" cried out April in a primal urge to escape what Faith had decided was her destiny, but it was seemingly too late; the demonic woman gave another wicked grin as she suddenly flew at the group, the air around her crackling with the raw power that she exuded. She would soon be upon then and then the end would occur.
The words came from nowhere, but their effect was instantaneous; a wall of darkness rose up in front of the group, protecting them from Faith's assault. She crashed into the wall, the strain of trying to break through it crystal clear through her gritted teeth, but it was no loose; she rebounded backwards through the air, landing ungracefully on the asphalt as she stared at someone behind the group with utter loathing in her eyes. They followed her line of sight to see yet another blonde woman standing behind them.
Her hair was a much lighter hue than Faith's, a yellow-white like Scottish sand. Her eyes were a vivid green, almost feline in their appearance, but that was the only exciting thing about her visage; her skin was ivory white, and she was beautiful, but in a ghoulish, macabre way. Her robe was black also, and it was much more elegant than Faith's, like it belonged to a woman of noble birth. It lacked sleeves too, instead hanging over her arms via two thin straps of material, one over each shoulder. There was an equilateral triangle cut out from the front of her dress, through which a pair of black shorts and golden gladiator sandals could be glimpsed. Her face was neutral in its expression, although her eyes were slightly narrowed at Faith in distaste; Paul thought she looked like a high-society woman who had just passed a tramp in the street.
"Oh, it's you," hissed Faith angrily, glaring at the woman. "It's a pity the prophecy never mentioned you, otherwise I'm sure I would have been compelled to exterminate you before now." She got up on her feet again, and brandished her trident once more. "You're a real nuisance, do you know that? Always showing up at inappropriate moments, ruining my plans… I would be inclined to think that you're being that annoying on purpose."
"Hold your tongue, demon," spoke the woman at last, her face unchanging. Her voice was quiet but equally elegant and intelligent. "I am not included in your so called "prophecy" due to the nature of its authenticity - or its lack thereof. It is as fake as the glories you have heaped upon your lord; it was said because it was what he wanted to hear, not necessarily because it was true."
"You dare to speak ill of Lord Shadeus?" said Faith darkly, her rage finally coming over the surface. "You… You impudent, spiteful wench!" Her voice was a barbaric roar as dark fire burst from her being, enshrouding her in it. "I will wipe the ground with your flayed skin!" It was deep and light and normal at the same time, like there were several demonic entities speaking simultaneously. "Your bones will be fed to the darkness that I command, and your pathetic screams for mercy will be lost to the void that I will cast you into!" Faith's form was now gone, replaced by a single huge purple flame that was borne of her indignant anger.
The other woman turned to the kids. "She's too melodramatic for her own good, isn't she?"
"Um, yes, agreed," answered Jason slowly, speaking what he presumed to be the whole group's sentiments. The adult did not respond for several seconds, but she then gave the tiniest smirk.
"Maybe you six will do alright…" she said, more to herself than them. Then she looked at Faith again and narrowed her eyes, the smirk gone from her face. "I ought to get you all out of here and lead her away, before she destroys this entire neighbourhood." She turned to the children and clasped her hands together as though in prayer; they glowed with a dark light. "Don't worry, you'll wake in a safe location." Before anyone could reply, she parted her hands, her own shadow ensnaring theirs.
Jason, Sophie, Paul, April, Tifa and Ethan each crumpled to the ground, falling unconscious for the second time that day. The woman clicked her fingers and they vanished, swallowed by the shadows and spirited away to an unknown place. "My blessings go with you, apparent champions." Then she returned her attention to Faith, who had been blazing all this time. "Are you still with us?" The fire gave no answer. The smirk came back to her face. "Of course, you demons do tend to lose consciousness when overcome by anger. I guess in this case it's a gift, as usual." The fire that had been Faith slowly moved, and the lady's eyes narrowed once more, although she was still certain that she would be alright. "Let's head somewhere nice, shall we?" She too vanished into the shadows, a dark mimic of her appearing directly in front of Faith before it disappeared as well. "If you're so powerful, then come and find me!"
A roar came from the fire as it cleared to reveal Faith, who had finally restored command over her emotions. Her breath was heavy, her teeth gritted, her fists clenched, and her eyes murderous in their gaze. "I can't believe that impudent witch managed to get the better of me…" She stared at her trident, on the ground beneath her, as though she wanted to burn holes in it with her eyes, although she obviously wouldn't harm her most important possession. She sniffed the air once, and sighed in defeat as she realised the trail of her opponent was lost. "Even I'm not talented enough to track someone across the Void this long after they've gone." An aura of defeat hung over her as her trident shot back into her left hand; its right twin snapped out into the air, a red portal materialising out of the matter. "I must succeed in eliminating the others - at least in that case Lord Shadeus will still have his advantage." A new sense of determination came over her as she stepped out proudly in front of the portal, her arms spread out as a sudden gust came from nowhere, great in its ferocity.
"Winds of death, hear me, your most wicked Mistress!" The wind roared in answer to her; it reeked of demise and decay. "Make me swift of foot, so that I may carry out the will of our lord!" It increased in volume and force, the clouded sky above crackling with lightning. "Give me the strength I need to butcher our opponents! Let the earth taste their blood, and let the Gods know that they have failed!" She screamed along with the wind as she flew into the portal, and suddenly there was silence. The wind fell and the clouds parted, letting the sun shine once more. If anyone was to pass through this little cul-de-sac, they would be unaware of what had just occurred; it would appear, to them, to be just another normal summer's day.
So, I'm actually very happy with this attempt at an opening chapter. I've used a more formal style of writing than what I usually use, and I think it's worked very well. For anyone wondering what's going on here, let me elaborate; I am known on this site as Lux Beta, and I am an author of high fantasy - or at least, I like to see myself as one. This is the first time that I've restarted my "Chronicles of the Chosen" series, which in itself was a reboot of a story that I had posted on FanFiction. Please review this story if you liked it, and still do so even if you didn't - I'm always happy to get constructive criticisms. Let me know what I did well in this chapter and what I did not so well so I can avoid making the same mistake again, but still - flames shall be used to stoke Faith's fire.
Have a nice day, and thank you for reading this!
- Lux Beta