Prologue

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She stood prominently on an outcrop of stone, looking down upon the army below. They took heart at the sight of her and she could feel their spirits rise. She raised a hand, saluted them as equals and entered the woods behind her.

They were waiting for her, intangible beings that seemed to be made of fog just inside the tree line.

She was the only one with a solid form, a solid connection to the tangible world in this time where solidity was a danger. They could all feel it, an ominous presence pushing with growing force from every side, every plain; pushing in on their territory, on their bodies, on their minds, on their Life-Spirits. They were fighting a silent war within themselves, and they could all feel that they were losing grip.

The battle below today would have no impact on the mountain. This was the final stand.

The woman looked carefully at her band, her kin, her heart-kin, her Scelto. They were weak, the war within had caught the Scelto unaware, too early, too soon to react, to protect. They were forced to fight on two frontiers.

As the sun rose she led them through their village, up the mountain to the crest hidden today by the low clouds.

The armies below did not stir.

As they moved through the village the Faithful tried futilely to prevent them. Begging, pleading, questioning. There was nothing more they could do.

The sun was well above the mountain when they reached the last of the trees. The woman's face showed no fear, no apprehension, as she left the cover of the woods. The faces of her companions weren't visible.

They broke from the cover of the forest and reached the absolute peak of the mountain. There was a light, fresh breeze. They turned their faces to the sun, opened their arms wide and waited with small smiles on their faces.

A windstorm took the place of the gentle breeze, voices whipping within. Voices crying out, telling of never-ending pain, malicious voices, voices of madness, the voices of those long dead, voices of those still alive, voices speaking premonitions. Voices that spoke of the horror of all horrors, voices of the immortal realm.

The Faithful cowered at the tree line, afraid to leave the comforting cover of the forest as the windstorm sucked colour, joy, emotion, warmth into its core.

The woman and her companions were forced awkwardly to their knees, their arms remaining outstretched, their faces towards the colourless, warmth-less sun, smiling still. Just beyond conscious sight there was a battle raging; a battle between love and indifference, between emotion and an endless void, between change and stagnation. A battle between Life, and immortality. The armies faced one another silently, waiting for the order.

The windstorm, now opaque, was surrounding the companions. The voices grew louder.

The battlefield stood still, feeling the voices, feeling their Life-spirits wilt.

Down from the mountain floated a melody, a melody that was felt not heard. A melody of strength.

It drew pictures in the mind, brought forward old memories, carried familiar scents on the breeze. It told of difficult struggles and of love and simple rewards. It spoke of hope and faith, the future and changes. It remembered the beauty of simple things, of children, of the aged. It told of emotion, it spoke of Life. It was of Bliss, it was the song of the Scelto. It sent warmth through the body, a refreshing, cool warmth right to the Life-Spirit, right into the coldest corners of Life.

The Faithful rose one by one uplifted by the melody and entered the whirlwind.

The armies waited….

The voices were still….

The whirlwind faded….

The Faithful stood alone on the crest of the mountain.

The rival army faded into the horizon without moving a step leaving no sign that they ever existed.

The bewildered cry of loss drifted desolately down the mountain to the soldiers.

Beneath the sounds of the army and the tears of the Faithful the song of the Scelto echoed quietly through the mountain woods, whispering words of hope to be carried on the wind.