~THE ELEMENT RISING~
Caticix the Hallowed had never felt so fortunate. Somehow they had survived what would have been the greatest farce in Ecclesian history. The Advocate and a member of the Hallowed killed by a group of children? It was embarrassing, laughable!
But somehow Ezekiel Profas had come through. To be honest, Caticix had completely forgotten about that day a year ago, when the fat old man came barging into Acedia, speaking of rebellion and what was it? Ah, yes, his antics.
She let out a heavy sigh. In the end, it all worked out for the better. The rebels had failed, and any remaining force that survived were nothing more than angry ants, now that Paul Psyches was dead and gone. Caticix, of course, felt the need to dispose of his corpse herself. No ghosts would haunt her—she would make that certain.
Caiaph was standing by the corpse as she walked in. He was dressed in his Advocate's mask and garb. "Getting sentimental?" she said, smirking.
Behind his mask, Caiaph snorted. "If only. This man has caused me more grief than his twin ever did."
"I know it," Caticix frowned, "but don't go making this into some funeral. He doesn't deserve it."
Out of the shadows came a voice, low and scratchy. "Paul Psyches. You speak of him as you curse a villain. What has he done that has so hardened your hearts?"
Immediately Caiaph drew his sword, and under her white robes, Caticix fingered her dagger, ready to strike.
The Advocate spoke into the darkness, "Name yourself, stranger."
"I would so do," the voice said, "though I fear it would mean naught to your ears."
"Then show yourself," Caticix retorted.
From behind her came a man shrouded in a simple brown cloak. At best Caticix could make out the bottom half of the man's face, which was strong-jawed and very hairy.
Caiaph was the first to address him directly. "Did you know this man?" He gestured to the corpse of Paul Psyches.
"Not at all," the cloaked man said, "though I have heard a great deal of great things."
"Whatever you heard was a lie," Caticix said immediately.
The cloaked man said nothing.
"Do you know me?" Caiaph said.
"You are the Advocate," the hairy man said slowly, "Leader of Ecclesia, ruler of Kastmaria. You slayed the Queen Kastmaria on her very throne and cast out her family. You are the shackled man's deliverer."
Caticix raised an eyebrow, thinking, He got most of it right—but Caiaph had no hand in any slaying. Queen Kastmaria's murder was Saul's doing.
"What is your business here?" Caiaph demanded.
"The Amram Empire shall rise again."
Caticix felt her heart stop. "What did you say?"
Abruptly the man threw off his cloak. He was completely naked under it, but suddenly he was not a man anymore. Hair sprouted all over his body, like grass growing unnaturally fast. He threw his back forward, and a crunching sound radiated the hall. Down on all four limbs, he began to roar and howl. Giant claws burgeoned from where his hands used to be, and his face mutated grotesquely. His nose and mouth extended forward with a sickening scrunch.
Along the creature's back were bright-red tattoos of some sort, more hideous than any picture Caticix ever did see.
"What manner of monster is this?" Caiaph breathed.
Then in the blackness around them appeared icy-blue orbs floating in the night air. It was too late when Caticix realized—they were eyes. They were surrounded by the beasts.
Caiaph began to shout in earnest, "Guards! Zealots! Come to your Lord's aid!"
Out of the dark came another voice, this time a woman's. "There is no one to save you, Lord Advocate. No one to hear your screams."
Before Caticix could act, a tall woman burst from the shadows, a massive, two-handed sword in her hands. She swung at Caiaph who parried in surprise. The woman, showing no indication of slowing, swept under the Advocate's relatively short weapon with her own, disarming him.
Caticix tightened her grip on her knife, raised it, and lined up her shot.
The woman would die where she stood—
Caticix saw movement to her left. The creature was charging her. At the last second, she brought her knife up, felt her weapon bury itself into the behemoth's flesh. Even so, she fell under the creature's weight and went crashing to the floor.
She looked up at the woman who was now standing over Caiaph, her foot pressed against his chest. "It is over," she said. The woman reached down, wrapped her fingers around Caiaph's mask, and ripped it off.
Surprise flickered across the woman's face.
"Not who you were expecting?" Caticix rasped.
The woman glanced over to her. "No," she said simply, then turned back to Caiaph, "However, unfortunately for you, I am disinterested in the 'who.'"
The woman held up the Advocate's mask and frowned at it. "This is all I require." She handed it to one of the monstrous beings, which took the mask in its mouth and bounded away.
"The Advocation falls," the woman said, "Ecclesia belongs to the Amram Empire."
A/N: I would like to take this time to thank EVERYONE who helped me write this story-thanks for the support! Just as important, however, I'd like to express my gratitude to everyone who read it-. I really, truly hope you liked it. At least a little.
Look for the sequel, The Element Shining, Part 2 of the Element Trilogy, coming September 2011. It's gonna be good! (I hope)
Many shall fail, yet death shall not—and when the sun runs black, all will see the Element shining.