The night sky some how seemed darker then usual; while the moon was full and the stars were bright, not a single cloud disrupting the beauty of it all but things seemed somehow… Dimmer, like fog that rose from a hazy slumber.
Bathalio took in the air, breathing deeply, it was cold against his mouth and lungs, exiting far hotter then it had come in, he couldn't help but muse at how the air he breathed, no matter how hot or cold it started, always became warmer the moment it left his mouth and nose.
Bathalio opened his eyes wide, staring into the darkness of the open field. To Bathalio, it might as well have gone on forever; nothing living for miles, dead buried beneath the ground silent and calm. The world was at peace- everything was at peace... Everything but him.
The dark skinned Bathalio felt the shaking start in his feet, just a dull quiver, as though he might have only been shivering from the cold, although shivering always started in the largest part of the body. It slowly rose up his legs and into his hips and waist, it consumed his shoulders until his teeth felt like chattering and the hair on the back of his neck rose and stood as if electricity was ripe in the air.
It took less then a minute for him to identify the cause, his heart slowed and the shaking stopped, though bumps rose along his skin and all the hair on the back of his neck refused to lay down. "I knew you." He murmured softly.. "You knew my visage only." A voice responded, twisted and grated, like the words were strained through a grinder and salt. The voice made Bathalio shudder with distaste. "No, I knew you... I knew you before you became the beast..." He whispered hard, his voice barely choking the words out. "You knew the human, never the immortal.... The human is dead, you stand before the grave. Do not seek me again, we are not endeared." The voice stated sternly, slightly angered by the seeming arrogance of the man in front of it. The shadow of the voice let loose a horrid hissing, pained cry, and disappeared into the clarity. He noted, as the presence left, so did the dim fog like demeanor of the world. He took in a breath of air, now it was warm, not comfortably so, but it did not freeze his lungs and mouth, though when he exhaled it was indeed warmer.
Bathalio began to laugh, a short, shy chuckle at first before it burst into something more, something like the laugh of a madman, like a man to afraid to stop less he begin crying. The laugh continued long into the night, though there was no one but the dead around to hear it.....
- Fourteen years ago -
"You can't do this. Mortals aren't meant to take this path! It twists their souls!" Bathalio screamed, but his words seemed to be ineffective on the half-breed man in front of him.
"I have to do this, the world needs someone willing to protect them, the world needs a Goringae. I have already chosen the crystallized form of my soul. The process will begin in a matter of hours." Stated the half-breed soberly. "There is no going back now." He stood on the edge of the balcony of their temple; balconies had always been his favorite place to stand. High up in the wind where he could see everything below him, the long haired half-breed had even considered falling before; not to die, but because he loved the feel of it. He often jumped from lower balconies, but he would not jump this time. Not until he saw the sign, the glint of the stars aligning so that the Goringae could be born...
"This is idiocy! It saves no one, the Goringae are monsters, they do as they please, kill as the like. No one has ever managed to tame one! They are useless to this fight, it doesn't matter whether one or a thousand become them, the world will be even more dangerous with unjoined Goringae." How could he convince him? How could he make it stop?
Bathalio's hair was dark and short, his skin was burn-tanned, like someone who worked hard labor in the sun, he could only see the back of his friend, the long haired pale man, pale like a person who could not see the sun without reddening. The long hair dyed so many times it shone like a cartoon characters hair.
"Have you thought about what this will do to your emotions? You know very well the Goringae feed off them, they will destroy any link between you and the world, you won't be in control anymore!" Bathalio pleaded but nothing seemed to get through. "Then... I suppose you will have to be." He replied. "The Goringae: Aradesios, will be born tonight." He pulled the band from his hair. The night was calm and clear, There was a flash, not bright enough to blind but bright enough to see from any angle and his friend was gone... Off the edge of the balcony, falling to become the crystallized form of the Goringae Aradesios...
"You bastard..... How could you be so cowardly?" He asked through gritted teeth. "You bastard!!!" His hard scream ebbed into sobs... "You bastard..." Now he was alone, the last of seven, the one chosen to join with the Goringae to control them and bring true peace to the world, to bring balance....
How could he possibly do it alone? "Sarah.... Aarin... Baeraru... Gavasten... Dosadite.... And.... Rahathu.... Why am I the only one...? Why...? You know... I could never... I.. I'm not strong enough..." His voice heaved with sobs, the kind that turned breath into gasps, tears into rivers, the kind that came from a rended heart. His friends, his companions, the only people who ever understood him, and now he was alone...
A memory of seven beautiful goddesses choosing him for this task, everyone's support, and now six shining orbs that he was some how suppose to figure out how to work.. "Rahathu... How could you...?" His sobs continued, the other crystals kept in various safe places on his body throbbed and resonated with the newly created crystal.
Bathalio pulled himself from the horrible mess that he had become and stood slowly. His tears subsided slowly as he made his way down the tower... Damn that bastard, he had left without so much as an 'I'm sorry' or 'everything will be fine'... Of course, that wasn't his way, Rahathu wasn't earth, nor was he water... Rahathu was darkness and death, he felt all release came from that, that he would not be lost, only returned... Nothing was wrong in the first place as far as he knew...
At the base of the tower, directly under the edge of the balcony laid Rahathu's clothes, his ring and the necklace he had never taken off, inside the shirt, where the man's heart would have been, was a small, glowing black orb. It resonated louder with the others as Bathalio neared it; when his fingers touched the cold crystal, it quieted and went dim. Bathalio placed it in a soft velvet pouch and looked ahead...
Now he just had to capture each Goringae in their crystal and join with them..... Bathalio could feel the tears coming up again, but he swallowed them and pushed them down into his stomach before he began walking... It was a long road ahead of him now... There was a lot to do....
- Present date -
"Rahathu! Spirit of Aradesios! I call you forth!" This time he did not let himself waver, when the dimness came over the area, and the presence appeared, he took the orb in his hand. He could feel the air cool and hear the angry hiss of the Goringae.
"Do not use that tone with me." Bathalio spat. The Goringae of death could not be faced directly, he could not be looked at or the one looking at him would die. Bathalio was careful to keep his back to the Goringae. "I warned you not to call me foolishly again..." The grated voice growled as the presence neared Bathalio. "I am not calling you foolishly Aradesios... Tonight, you return, your purpose will be realized." Bathalio shut his eyes tight, and with skilled aim, rammed the crystal into the presence, right where the human heart would have been. "Aaaarghhh!" The wailing cry nearly pierced Bathalio's ears, but he did not waver, he could not waver, he had to hold the crystal steady until the beast was absorbed...
It took so long, it felt like it took forever, Goringae were not ones to take to capture easily, especially not death. The howling was so unbearable that Bathalio could feel the dead wakening, moving under his feet, as though they were being called to aid, or possibly trying to escape the horrid sound...
Finally he could feel he was winning, he gathered the strength in his chest and let out an angry cry of his own, yanking the crystal back. As he did, Aradesios was pulled into it, disappearing into the small orb that fit easily in the palm of his hand. He fell to one knee, his hand burned, his arm tingled, his eyes were still closed and he could hear the resolute hissing as steam rose from the ball so quickly heated in the cold air.
Bathalio slowly opened his eyes, his hand was badly burned and it took a lot for him to release the crystal, he had to pull it from his hand when he got down to the palm; he let out a pained cry as his burnt skin was ripped away. He sat there on his knees, breathing out the pain of his hand before he carefully cleaned the crystal and slid it back into its velvet pouch.
He wrapped his hand with some ointment covered gauze, then bandages. He stood finally and touched his hand to the velvet pouch.. "One..." He counted softly... Five more to go and each with their own level of difficulty...
Everyone would still have traits and traces of his friends, so each would be difficult to face... Especially since he would have no trouble looking at everyone else... No one else could kill him just by looking at them...
His journey was no where near over, and worst of all, he was along... Goringae didn't become any friendlier after being caught, just more compliant, and he still wouldn't be able to look directly at Aradesios...
The walk to the nearest town was a long one. The unofficial cemetery he had been in was well away from civilization, people liked to bury their dead far away now... It prevented unexpected attacks from the no longer so dear, dearly departed; for the most part at least.
When Bathalio finally returned to the town, it was nearly dawn, farmers were already waking up and eating breakfast; but he couldn't think clearly enough to register anything around him. Bathalio just intended to find the nearest tavern, pay for his night and go up the steps.
He had been coming from the opposite direction, so he had no prior knowledge of the town, or of the goings on... There was no way to know that despite being miles from the nearest burial ground, the town had been plagued with death and those who did not wish to stay dead...
A rather unfortunate side effect of the unnatural death Aradesios caused was that the souls would not always rest and often they would wake up, only half as sane as they had died... It was rarely a nice combination as the will to live again and Aradesios' power was all that kept them moving.
When he wandered into town, his hand seared and the bandages speckled with spots of red on the inside, the towns watch caught him first. They grabbed him firmly by the arms, his warmth alerting them that he wasn't dead, but nothing else. "Who are you?" Demanded one man in what had to be the oldest iron armor Bathalio had ever laid bloodshot eyes on. "Bathalio of Acastostle. I come from across the plains seeking shelter and rest." He frittered out, to tired to realize he hadn't been asked his business. He just answered the usual questions. The guard looked at his companion, then back to Bathalio. "What were you doing out there? You must have been walking since midnight." He questioned suspiciously. "I sought a soul long not at rest as is my duty as a Guardian of the temples... Please let me pass, I have been traveling since dawn day past." He pleaded, his hand was throbbing, the light hurt his eyes and the air somehow seemed to thin. He couldn't breath properly. "Don't make any trouble. We'll be watching you." The warned, releasing Bathalio's arms. They had no real reason to keep him, he didn't look suspicious wearing the long brown shirt and rope belt, his pants made of thick wool and his shoes dirty from traveling. The only oddity about him was his now shoulder length hair, looking fairly unkempt, and the six velvet bags of different colors hanging from the rope around his waist. "Then you shall be watching me sleep." He answered, his arms hanging limply at his sides as he wandered on.
He finally found a place to sleep, dropped a handful of coin on the counter and headed upstairs. He didn't even care if his door was unlocked; he needed rest, he felt exhausted and tomorrow he would only have to start his search again.
He woke to the sound of people screaming, it snapped him awake as he thought it was originally from a nightmare. It took only seconds for him to realize it was real.
He flung himself from his bed and took in everything around him, dingy, rarely used bed in a dingy, rarely used room, his belt, all the pouches still there, and one orb resonating… "Aradesios…" He whispered, each orb would resonate either when the Goringae was near or when a disturbance caused by them was near; Since he had the Goringae, he knew which it was.
Bathalio dashed down the stairs and was stopped at the door of the tavern in horror… There were seven people standing in the middle of town, all very close images to those of his friends, surrounding a group of people; Bathalio knew they were just trying to make contact with the people of their village, but the dead did not speak the same language, so it only came out as howls, screams and wails..
"You ass…. You took all these people… Sought them out… Because they reminded you of us…" He muttered before running to the group. Goringae had personality traits and other things in common with the souls that had created them.
Rahathu had never been without his twin brother Dosadite in life; he had never had to be alone before. It was common for Goringae to seek out people who reminded them of those close to them in life; Of course in the case or Aradesios, those people died because when he found them, they saw him, and when they saw him, they were afflicted with the unnatural death.
"Stop!" He called out, running only a few feet from the group, it was a little jarring to see someone who looked remarkably like himself, standing there, dead and confused. The seven figures turned to face Bathalio, and he looked at them with great pity.
"You are dead…You cannot come back. Please, be at peace." Of course nothing could ever be so simple; the moment the words left him mouth, the horrible shrill wail of a woman who looked like Sarah rang through the air like a banshee cry. She threw herself at Bathalio, all fingernails, teeth, wild hair and disheveled clothes from clawing her way out of a grave.
She landed on Bathalio and forced him to the ground, her fiendish wails only raising in volume as her nails dug into his face. Bathalio let out a cry as the dirt caked nails raked over his cheeks and eyes. He raised his hands immediately to throw her off. The second he did, he regretted it; the pain in his hand returned with a vengeance.
He cried out loudly and gripped his wrist, though the woman was not to be deterred for long, she was on her feet again and came at him once more. This time he did not feel like reasoning; Sarah's face or no, this woman was undead, a crime against nature and needed to be relieved of her pain and fear. She was dead, she could no longer have the body she was attached to and she needed to move on before she brought more suffering to others.
"Aradesios! Arise! Banish your fiendish creations, you caused this, fix it damnit!" Bathalio screamed as he felt Aradesios using his soul as an anchor to the world; the black presence appeared quickly and with a loud sucking noise, pulled the souls from their bodies like trees from the earth in a tornado blast. All the bodies fell limp and Bathalio cradled his hand as he heard the voice speak again. "Will that be all mortal? Or shall I suck more life from the plane?" He asked, his voice smug like he knew Bathalio did not want to call him. "Dismissed." He grunted through gritted teeth. The pain in his hand no where near the pain in his heart from having to force people into death…
That was not his style, and it had never been a job he wanted… It was why he was so happy that Rahathu had been the guardian of the seal of death.. He had never once envied the man's power, because his power came with such a wretched job….
The townspeople soon regained their senses and stared at him, they knew what he'd done and while they were thankful, they were also terrified…
He had the power of a Goringae under his command now, and that made him a very dangerous threat. He could see it in their eyes. He sighed and walked past them.
"Don't worry… I was going to leave today anyway…" He answered their fears tiredly. He had not slept well and he was still exhausted, but he had no options. He would not be allowed to stay, so he had to leave.
Even Guardians of the temple were not trusted with such power, it was considered dangerous in any hands, but in theirs it had caused one of the greatest wars their world had ever seen… The one that had prompted six people to relinquish their lives and press the fate of the world into the hands of a seventh…
Though it was many thousands of years ago that the first Goringae had been raised; the war it caused had ravaged the land and people for centuries.
After the last crystals had been destroyed, monsters had sprung to life all over the place. Only guardians were truly equipped to fight them, but they had scrolls and texts which read at the next aligning that the Goringae would have to be raised again to restore the order they had been meant to in the first place…
Bathalio didn't like power, though he was technically the most powerful of all the guardians, he couldn't use it; Bathalio couldn't access his power without the aid of one of the other guardians.
Now he was alone, there was no one to keep him in check, the only thing that kept him on his path at all was the knowledge that if he strayed the whole war would start again; the fight for the power of the Goringae started again…
If only one guardian remained to take the responsibility of the power then there would be no in fighting, but if only one remained, he also had the chance to become corrupted completely.. Corruption: it was something Bathalio hated the very thought of, regardless of how incredibly likely it was…
He never thought himself as one with strong will, or moral guidelines or even strong ethical views; Bathalio did as he saw fit whenever he felt like it. Of all the guardians, he was the one with the least control.
Bathalio sighed as he left the town. He was so tired and he was in so much pain.. Bathalio was so close to hating his friends for the task they had sent him on, how was he ever suppose to complete it? Bathalio shut his eyes as he walked.
There was no way; He had to face his friends in combat, harm them and break them…. How could he ever do that to his friends?
It took Bathalio a full day before he collapsed in the sun. It wasn't to hot, he wasn't dehydrated or hungry; Bathalio was just so tired he couldn't continue. The grass was so soft and comfortable and the wind was so soft and quiet that he simply fell to the ground and fell unconscious. When he woke, the sun wasn't in his eyes and there was a soft cotton sheet over and under him and a soft downy pillow under his head; some kind of sounds like shuffling feet and running water not to far away.
Bathalio opened his eyes and looked over, he could see the skirt of someone around the corner and soft shoed feet padding around in the other room.
Bathalio sat up and groggily held his head.. He felt rested finally, but how long had he been asleep? And who had brought him here to the soft bed and the warmth of the indoors?
His hand immediately went to his belt, feeling each velvet bag in turn and feeling for the crystal inside each. Bathalio was relieved to find out nothing was missing, in fact the only things that he seemed to be missing were his boots; a quick look over the side of the bed told him they were there.
He moved slowly out from under the sheets and slid his feet easily into the boots. Bathalio stood slowly and walked even more slowly into the other room, he was fairly shocked to see what he presumed to be a girl, no older then fourteen scurrying about the kitchen, her hair pulled up in a net and a neat dress of soft blue like lilacs covered only by a slim white apron.
When he entered the room, she stilled and turned to him with a wide smile. "Good morning sir. It's good to see you awake, we thought for a while you might never come back." The voice seemed a little darker then that of a girls, but Bathalio was not one to judge people as people so often judged him… "Ah.. Good morning… Where am I?" He asked walking over to the small round table in the kitchen and sitting down on the wooden chair. The girl walked over to the stove and put some cooked eggs and meat on a plate before carrying it over to Bathalio and set it in front of him. "You're at my fathers house, we're a blacksmith and riding Drizard ranch. You passed out just outside one of our pastures." She replied before walking off again to get him a glass of water. She brought it over and set it in front of him.
Bathalio thought for a moment; Drizards were large creatures, bigger then most horses and sturdier too. They were kind of like a cross between a dragon and a bird, standing on two legs but with two folded arms that often had feathers. The dark haired man frowned, he also clearly remembered Drizards having a mouth full of teeth and long necks to turn around and bite riders with.
"Oh? Did your father carry me here?" He asked, just staring at the well cooked food made his mouth water, the smell made his stomach ache… He hadn't eaten in days, he had been traveling on nothing but the fear of not being able to continue. "No, I was taking the Drizards around the pasture, when I spotted you I slid you on their backs and brought you here. My father's out mining ore for the smithing process. While he's gone, I'm in charge." The young child walked over to the stove and placed the rest of the meat on a plate before putting the pot in a nearby sink. "You seem mighty young to run a ranch all by yourself. You must be very responsible…." He trailed off, wanting to compliment the child but also wanting to learn more about the situation. "Oh, I don't age like humans do, my parents and I have owned this ranch for the last hundred years." She answered. "So, I'm actually much older then I look." She giggled softly. Bathalio smiled, she reminded him of Sarah, her gentle spirits and kind manner. So much like the softness of wind. He was so lost in thought he rather didn't notice when she had called out to him three times. "Huh?" He stammered, looking at the young soft face… Yes, that was what he was really fighting for, even if she wasn't young by human standards, she was a child by those of her kind… Children and their gentle souls were what he really fought for.
"Mister, I asked if you were done? You keep tapping your plate, are you still hungry?" She asked, seeming a little annoyed. Bathalio blinked a few times and glanced down at his plate. "Oh… Yes, I'm finished." He said pushing the plate away and standing up. "Excuse me, but do you have a quiet, open place around here? I know I don't look it, but I am a member of the temple and I could really use some guidance right now." He asked pleasantly. People were very respectful of other religions, so long as they didn't cause harm, so as long as a person didn't go around pushing or causing trouble few ever seemed bothered by requests of any kind. "Yes, there's a large open grass maze out behind the barn, the riding beasts are out in the field right now so it should be very quiet." She offered as she took the dishes to the sink."Thank you. I hope your father will come back soon, no one deserves to be alone for long." He said quietly before he left out of the front door. As the girl said the maze, with some grass cut much lower in a path then others, was laid out like a piece of artwork in the grass. He took a step on the first flat plane and around him the world shifted. It was like he was in the past, or walking through a mage's giant image dome. The images far and stretched like they were painted on domed walls but the sound clear as daylight and understandable as the people talking… He could see every minute detail, every corner of the grand Central Temple and every person in the room…
The Seven Guardians and the twelve major priests and temple caretakers. Guardians were the only ones who spoke directly to the goddesses, they were the only ones with enough of the proper training, they were also the fists and steel of the temple, protecting it from intruders and from within. Priests and caretakers were healers and meant to look after the people and the temples themselves.
Bathalio looked up as he heard his own, much younger voice. He had been practically a child then, now he was much older, his body battered and beaten from many critical and tough battles."How will this change anything? What you're talking about is taking the same route that was taken a thousand years past. It obviously didn't work which means there must be another way." He tried to reason, standing at the great table that stretched nearly all the way around the room, it too built like a ground maze so that people could wander through the open areas to get closer or farther to other people. "You're just being contrary Bathalio, you know this is different. The idea in the past was flawed because the people performing it were also flawed." Aarin's light and milky voice was not as soothing as usual, the man of water seemed content to flow in whatever direction he was pointed, he was usually one of the ones who could calm Bathalio, but now he wasn't even trying. "That's not a point Aarin! We're just as flawed as they were, you can't possibly think you're better then they were? They were trying to end a war, we're trying to end a war, they were pulling the Goringae from another dimension and we're talking about pulling them here again. What's so different between us?" He asked seriously, moving towards Sarah, she was always on his side. Or at least she was usually. "No Bathalio, we may be flawed, but our decision isn't. Goringae are the only thing everyone in the world fears, the only thing that can bring peace." Baeraru's words didn't surprise Bathalio in the least. Fire was always the first to fight and in Baeraru's case, the last to burn out. "So you want to fight hated with fear? What kind of world would that be? What kind of peace would that bring?" He struck out against Baeraru but the man just lashed back. "Better then no peace at all!" He snapped. "Boys, boys, please stop. We haven't come to an agreement on anything and all this fighting isn't helping anyone." Sarah's soft, light voice drifted from somewhere near the middle of the table. She was little more then fourteen, but wind was very rarely ever old; and Guardians were deceptively strong as the goddess herself. "She's right. If we don't come to a decision soon the war will reach its peak. Even if we only spread rumors about the Goringae that will buy us enough time to make those rumors real. The ancient text supply us with no other information Bathalio. I don't like it anymore then you, but there is only so much that can be done. If we don't have any other choices we don't have enough time to make an option B. You understand that, don't you?" Gavasten, a strong masculine name on a strong masculine woman. She was not easily taken down by anyone and in her own home town had been affectionately nicknamed 'the bull'. She was easily larger than any of the men at the table but she was of calm nature and mind. Nothing had ever shaken her and to make her mad was to bring down the wrath of the earth itself. "I… Understand…. But even if you manage to create the Goringae which is suppose to be impossible, or do I need to remind you of the full text? What on earth do you plan to do with the titans? Once they're loose no mortal man can contain them, it's said the gods themselves had to rain from the skies and force the beasts into the earth and that's what created the wastelands. If we pull them out all that will happen is we'll have one more haunted farm land and no one to save any of them. The next generation of Guardians hasn't even been chosen yet, and even if they are chosen next week there won't be near enough time for them to replace all of us before the Goringae devour the world." Bathalio stared at himself, stopped dead in his tracks somewhere to the left of the flat maze. He looked so certain then, so sure that there had to be another way… He was not so certain anymore. "Goringae…" It was the first time the two siblings had spoken since the discussion began. "Goringae are said… To eat the elements and disturb the dead… Those touched by death are doomed to rise, those touched by life are doomed never to be forgiven with death's release." They spoke in perfect unison, Dosadite stood with his eyes closed, though Rahathu's bright milky blue eyes shone brightly even in the well illuminated time only Rahathu spoke. "It may be a bad idea Bathalio, and while everything you say is true. There is just not enough time." He closed his eyes and Dosadite's deep red ones opened, his lips parting slowly. "You know well I am not one for eternal life or granting it to others. If the body does not decay the mind is certain to…. But what must be done is clear." This time everyone spoke in their own somber way, everyone including Bathalio. "But… This is our best and clearest path…" Bathalio was no where near the center of the table, somehow he had ended far out near the edge and far from everyone else, and he was sitting down with his back to them. "So… Who gets left behind? If we're creating Goringae…. I don't want to be the only one left behind. You know I can't stand it…" He said softly.
As real as if he were sitting there all over again, he could feel Sarah set her small, gentle hand on his head. And his own lips moved in unison with her words, though he did not even realize it. "Bathalio… You have the seven fair ladies, and no matter what state we're in, we'll all of us always be linked… You can never be alone again, even if you wanted to. So don't worry, whoever remains human, they won't be left alone… Even if it is you."
The dome flickered and faded away and Bathalio looked down. Beneath his feet was the large round center that meant he had reached the middle. He blinked and looked at the sky, the sun had set obviously hours ago and the lights inside the house beside the barn flickered. How long had he been on his spirit walk? How long had it taken him to remember?
Bathalio shook his head, he was done and he understood. He turned around and nearly fell backwards; in front of him stood the flowing goddess, Lady of wind and mistress to his adored Sarah. The beautiful goddess stood before him in the misty sort of way, she most often appeared in dust or leaves or anything else that could be made unsettled by the wind; to stand in solid visage before anyone as she was now meant it was of true importance. Not forgetting his place, Bathalio knelt quickly down on one knee in a knightly fashion and was met with a giggle that sounded like the air itself; as though it couldn't actually be heard but it could be felt in the heart.
"Stand dear Bathalio. You have taken on a great task and yet to turn away despite all the doubt in your heart. Stand, you are more then worthy to speak to me as Guardian to Mistress." She bade in a sweet way that made it obvious she was the most kind of the goddesses. Wind was often the most protective and swift to act, but her playful and kind nature tended to show itself more openly.
Bathalio stood as he was told and stared at her beauty. Long hair of wind itself and a face that was delicate and transparent. She had no real shape, only an outline, like a strong wind painting an image all sideways instead of blowing properly. "Bathalio… You're hand." She took it lightly, it was as though he was being touched by cool and tender and yet nothing at all. The bandaged hand he had mostly forgotten about was taken into her long delicate ones and she slowly unwrapped the bandages. By the time they were gone, his hand was fully healed. Bathalio just looked at his hand in amazement, the burns had been so terrible he was certain changing the bandages alone would have been agony. Now he was completely healed without a trace of pain or scarring.
"You worked very hard to capture the first Goringae; to hard. You mustn't wear yourself out so desperately. You have a long journey and you must pace yourself Bathalio." The gentle goddess stroked her hand over his hair and down the side of his face. It was so soft and comforting it made his skin rise with the calming sensation that flowed over him. "Lady of the Wind… May I ask but one question?" He requested, his eyes closed as he felt the light fingers leave his face, leaving a sort of tingling feeling in their wake. "You may ask me many kind sir. What you have been asked is more then any mortal should have to take." She replied giving him a sad, but kind smile. "Then… Why was I chosen? Gavasten was more sound then I, Rahathu and Dosadite were more contemplative, Sarah had higher hopes, Aarin was smarter and Baeraru was much more driven." He asked, opening his eyes and pleading for the answer he had never received. "Why, because you are Chaos Bathalio. Did you never read the scrolls of balance? Fire can only balance out water perfectly, earth and wind are counter balanced as light and dark. Only chaos can balance all the elements equally as well as be balanced in turn. True all your friends had traits that you do not. But with everyone one of them you gain back, you will receive their trait. You have already received the gift of insight from your first Goringae, when you receive it's balance you will also receive intuition so you will know what to make of the insight." She promised. She pet his head like a child and twirled girlishly. "Now, you must go get some rest. You can stay here for a few days but then you really must head to Delgayvo City of the lost, there you will find the next Goringae. Please do not forget the strength your friends left you, or the memory of them in your heart." She spun again and with a gust of wind was gone.
Bathalio guarded his face with his arms, as the dust flew around him before settling… She was already gone and her answer made sense.. But for another reason, he felt at peace and serene; he wondered how long the effect of her presence would last.
Bathalio turned around and headed back for the house, he hoped he could bother the girl to stay one last night in her house. He had nothing to pay with but knowledge, and he doubted there was much he could tell her that she did not already know..
Bathalio was surprised when he walked in, there was a large, muscular, angular man in what appeared to be a dirtied apron, loose shirt and torn pants being scolded by the girl from earlier. From what he could hear it was about the state of the man's appearance. Apparently he hadn't tied it up properly and in the mines he had gotten it filthy. "Ahh, I'm sorry. Is this a bad time?" He asked softly. The girl looked over at him and smiled. "Oh! Mister, you're back." She said looking back. "I'll fix your pants later, but you really need to be more careful. Dad'll be mad if he hears about what happened. You know he worries about you as much as I do." She scolded and the person Bathalio had taken originally to be her father. The person nodded and said something low before walking out of the room. "Was that your brother?" Bathalio asked, he hadn't heard her talk about anyone other then her father earlier. "What? My brother? What are you talking about, that was my mother." She said with a confused and curious look on her face. Bathalio was shocked and rose both brows. "Mother? Wasn't that a man?""Haha, seems like he has made the same mistake most people make." A loud, but strangely androgynous and heavy sounding voice. Bathalio jumped and turned around. "Wh-what?" He asked startled by what looked like a tall, slender woman. She resembled the girl behind him. "Our species has always been opposite of humans. Most men stay in the house and cook and clean like wives, but my wife is kind and lets me continue with my hobby of making saddles and shoes for the mounts. I even make them armor from time to time."
Bathalio realized suddenly that the woman talking to him was actually a man, more then likely that meant the man he'd seen earlier was his 'wife' and the girl who had treated him so kindly was also a young boy. "So… That means…" He turned around quickly and bowed. "I am very sorry. I thought you were a girl, will you please forgive me?" He asked politely. The boy just giggled. "Of course, everyone makes that mistake. Please don't feel bad." He made a strange face like he just remembered something and walked over to Bathalio. "Oh, did you find what you needed on your walk?" He asked softly. Bathalio nodded. "Yes thank you. That was a very effective maze out in the back, whoever is maintaining it is doing a terrific job." He complimented as he stepped out of the way so the boys father could walk in the rest of the way. He had to admit, for a species that had the common gender roles reversed, they seemed to be very attractive none the less and even better, they were nice people. "I'm sorry to impose myself again, but I didn't know my walk would take that long… Would it be alright if I stayed one more night?" He asked. "Oh, that would be my mother, she tends the maze on the days she doesn't go out hunting." He replied. He looked to his father at Bathalio's question."Ask your mother, this is her house you know." He answered, helping to make dinner so that his son could go ask. The boy bolted up the stairs and Bathalio decided to sit down. It had been a long week and despite the house he was at being owned by a strange family that stretched his brain in uncomfortable ways, he was much to tired to care beyond being thankful that he might be allowed to stay another night.
Shortly after, the boy bolted back down and looked at Bathalio, his eyes were closed so he poked the man's shoulder. After no response, he turned to his father and laughed softly. "I guess it's a good thing Mom said yes, he's completely asleep."
In the morning, Bathalio wasn't even sure what had happened, he was just going to close his eyes for a moment, enjoying the smell of home cooked food and the soft sounds of people around him; he missed that the most, being around people, even in the temples where there weren't many, there were still enough so that one never really felt alone.
Especially with Sarah around… She had always been there to cheer them up or gather them together, full of boundless energy and an effortless kind streak, the only time Bathalio ever saw her truly serious was when someone was risking the lives of others or it came to a decision on how to save lives… She never played games when it came down to the suffering of innocent people.
Bathalio felt a soft, warm, small hand on his forehead, as if checking him for fever. He shifted and screwed his face before letting out a kind of sneeze that was more half hearted then real; like he hadn't needed to sneeze anymore half way through.
He squeezed his eyes shut and rolled over. "M' fine Sair….. I just need a little longer…" He mumbled, it was much later in the day then he usually woke up and his unconscious mind had associated the warm hand with that of his dear friends thinking he was ill for sleeping late. The boy frowned, not out of anger for being called a girls name but out of sadness.. He knew what the Guardians had done, even in their back woods, far away farm, they had heard that six guardians sacrificed themselves to become Goringae and left one to collect and control them; he knew the man laying on the bed was a member of the Temple of Dragons, he was frowning because he could only feel sadness for the person in front of him. Little doubt that this Sarah had sacrificed herself for this world and been very close to the battered looking male on the bed.
The boy pulled the blanket up over Bathalio's shoulder and walked quietly back out of the room, no reason to drag someone who had it so hard back into a painful reality where they were alone.
It was nearly an hour after midday before Bathalio finally stirred on his own, the light from the window had pierced his eyelids and forced him into the waking world where he was warm, dry and comfortable but hungry.
Bathalio had a familiar ache, knowing that this might be the last time for a long while that he felt so comfortable.
He sat up slowly, his clothes were clean at least, and his hand didn't hurt at all; the blessed ladies always took good care of him. He could not blame them for not stepping in to stop his companions from turning themselves into Goringae, he knew that they had openly left the decision in the hands of mortals saying only:
"Your destinies belong to you, use them well, use them wisely."
Bathalio was not so sure they had been used well or wisely, but maybe if he was able to encounter more kind people willing to let him stay, knowing he had little or no money, maybe he could make it…
Bathalio pulled himself from the bed and made the sheets back up before walking into the kitchen. This time it was empty, the little boy who had greeted him so nicely before was not here; his father presumably either in the mines or wherever his smithy area was; his mother was likely off doing whatever the mothers of their clan did during the day that got them scolded by little boys for ruining their trousers.
He did notice however, that there was a plate with a small napkin over it and a little card that told him to eat well, someone would be back in a few hours, he presumed the boy.
Not one to turn away generosity, he took the napkin off the plate and sat down, he let an almost choked laugh come from his throat… Such a hearty meal, he knew he'd had one yesterday, but after weeks of nothing but the blandest food known to the world, two days straight of good food was a blessing; and there was a large amount left for him too, he guessed because he neither had lunch nor dinner the previous night.
Bathalio ate so quickly he hardly realized when he had finished, save for that his utensil hit plate and came back with the barest scrapings.
He set the fork down and sighed, the meal was outstanding, Bathalio wondered if it was just the natural talent of their family or if it was something kin to farmers and ranchers in general to be excellent chefs. He felt full, a feeling he would cherish and remember, likely until the next time he was full.
After eating, Bathalio stood and took the empty dishes to the sink, he washed them quickly and set them to the side to dry.
Eating alone hadn't taken him more then fifteen or so minutes, and cleaning up had taken him much less time, though the temperature of the food had told him the person who had left it had left some time ago.
Instead of just sitting around uselessly, he sought out the mop, the broom and the mop bucket. Bathalio swept the house and mopped the floors, he cleaned the walls and the kitchen; use to such chores and glad to have them over what he had been doing the last few weeks. By the time he finished all the work, about an hour and a half had passed, he was just coming back from putting everything away when he heard a loud, impressed,
Bathalio came out from the corner and saw the little boy standing there, looking a little dirty but not to bad, his shoes placed near the door looking a little muddy, he caught sight of Bathalio and smiled.
"Who knew temple men were so useful?" He asked with a laugh. Bathalio just smiled and laughed back. "Temple women." He answered jokingly, since temples were role neutral places, everyone did their share of the work and rotated jobs, of course certain jobs required a certain level of priesthood so some things were left to a select group of people. The boy walked into the very clean house and grinned widely. "You did a very nice job, I guess what they say about Guardians is true, not ones to laze about or make others do unnecessary work, are you?" He asked, looking around as he walked. "Nope, to bad we don't always work smarter not harder." He walked towards the other and bowed his head very politely, kneeling down as well. "Thank you very much for your kind care.. How did you know I was a guardian?" He asked, looking up at the boy. "Oh, that was simple, you wear peasant clothes, but you have silk purses all around your waist, presumably for something related to the temple which requires the best, you came here with no weapons and no symbols, but you had a terrible burn on your hand and then you went outside to ask for guidance. Ordinary Priests do not get into the kind of conflicts that burn a mans hand so badly and they do not take such long spirit walks or come back fully healed. Lastly, you showed no signs of being disturbed when you found out about our family, Guardians are taught to respect and show kindness to all and they are the only members of the priesthood punished by the gods themselves for disobeying that teaching." He answered easily, almost as though he'd been expecting it. "That's very good, I don't think I could have figured that out on my own with so little." He said surprised, standing back up, it was custom for members of his specific religion to bow and kneel when giving thanks or accepting a gift. "What I don't know, is which Guardian you are, or how much longer you will have to be on your quest." He stated, though it was fairly questioning. After already knowing so much, it seemed of little importance and Bathalio thought it silly to not say. "I'm the Guardian of Chaos, and I have only caught one Goringae so far; he was the one to give me the burn on my hand… I have yet to hear of any more anomalies that could be explained by Goringae." He replied, not really expecting a lead, but rather hoping for one. "Hmm, well, I hadn't yet been born when the original Goringae were first summoned to the earth, but my parents tell me they were titans which ruled the world cruelly and with no control." He answered, putting his hand under his chin.
"If you go by that, along with the fact that these Goringae would be largely incorporeal, I heard a story from some travelers from the north, a mountain with lush greenery has been bubbling with fire and molten metals. It was never there before, it seemed to rise up over night, maybe you could find one there?" He offered, travelers didn't visit their farm often, but he did have to go into town occasionally to buy necessities and sell their mounts and the metal work his father made.
"It was quiet a while ago, maybe a month before you arrived, it might not be there anymore." He warned carefully. Bathalio nodded, listening, Goringae didn't usually move, once they set up a boundary of power, all they did was move around it in an attempt to widen their area. "Thank you very much for all your help." He bowed again and stood straight, he thought he should probably get going.
"I really appreciate all you've done, I hope your ranch remains blessed until the end of your line." He prayed, it was a very long livid blessing since their kind lived for hundreds of years and there was no telling how long that family line would remain ranchers. The boy shook his head a moment. "You can't leave yet! You're not nearly prepared for travel into the north. Come with me." He took Bathalio's head and tugged him until the taller man followed towards the back of the house to a room Bathalio had found locked.
The boy unlocked it and showed him in, it looked as though it had been a very long time since anyone had used the room, it was covered in dust and a few old webs, the boy released his hand and ran over to a closet. Opening the door alone caused a cascade of dust, though the smaller male just held his apron up to his mouth until it had settled, he pulled out several large, long coats and a pair of long, soft lined pants.
"These belonged to my aunt before she passed away.. She was slender like you, they should fit well." He said as he walked over to Bathalio and handed over the cold weather clothing. "My aunt… She loved to travel, these clothes always brought her back home safe." He stroked a hand over the soft fur lining of one coat. "May they protect you as well." He said softly. He returned to the closet and grabbed a large pack, he folded the clothes Bathalio was holding neatly and set them inside before handing it to Bathalio. "Are you sure this is alright? I don't want to take something precious away from you." He said quiet and concerned, though the pack was already in his hands. "My aunt doesn't exist in clothes of the things she kept, she has already returned to our earth and has likely become something equally strong and wise. Maybe one day I'll meet her again, but I don't think she will want things my parents kept because they could not bare to simply sell them to strangers or throw them out." He said calmly. Bathalio nodded, he understood, the teachings of the Soul were widely accepted by almost all the major religions, a few believed that each soul was new and old souls were taken away somewhere to live eternally though they were for the most part ignored as the idea was absurd, Where would all that energy come from if it wasn't simply cycling?
"Thank you again, you've already done so much, how could I ever repay this debt?" He asked, almost sounding solemn.
"Do your duty Guardian of Chaos and do not succumb like your predecessors, spread peace in this troubled world and always remember you are not alone." He reached up on his toes and touched the technically younger man's face.
"If you ever need a home to return to, you have a room here." He promised with a smile. Bathalio could not believe it, he had only known this boy and his family for a day, he knew they would likely be here long after he died of old age, yet here was this child, this boy who's spirit was so much like his dear Sarah's, how could he ever refuse or question an offer so kind and so full of hope… As though he might actually survive.
He nodded with a smile so sad and melancholy he might as well have been crying. "Thank you." He said softly to mask the desire to cry already shaking his voice. "One last gift to go, and then you can continue your quest." He said, as if knowing Bathalio's heart was breaking.. He lead the man outside to the stables where herds of feathered Dragon birds, commonly referred to as Corik and heavily furred pig and short ox like mounts known as Ogstints were kept in different stables.
"You're going north, you'll want a mount good for the cold weather that won't tire easily." He mostly said to himself as he released Bathalio and walked to one of the stalls, there was a shake and long, soft hair shuffled around the little fur ball with a dry nose poking out and tough, large split hooves, good for keeping its ground in rocky area's and thickly padded for snowy or muddy areas. It was an excellent winter mount but it would over heat easily in any hot weather. The boy lead the mount out of the stables and towards Bathalio. "This is Ormak, he's as good tempered as he is strong. He'll keep you going and prevent you from ever feeling alone." The boy patted the short creatures head and looked at Bathalio. "I'll go get his saddle, you won't need a bridle for Ormak, he's smart, small pats on his shoulder and short verbal directions are all you need." He said before turning around and walking off to fetch the saddle. Bathalio approached the creature whose head hit him about the chest but was still considerably smaller then the Coriks and other regularly used mounts like Wolf Oxen and Badashrew.
Ormak shook its head, looking rather like a new mop as the hair flew all around his head. "Ormak huh? Well, I hope you don't mind traveling a long distance from your home." Bathalio reached up and touched Ormak behind what he was almost positive was his ear. "Maybe one day we can both come back here, or at least you can." He said hopefully. The boy came back with a leather saddle that seemed to be attached to war armor. He put the saddle on first before strapping the armor around Ormak's chest, legs and a helmet on his head.
The boy turned back to Bathalio and smiled. "Oh, this is also for you." He held out a large pack that could easily be attached to Ormak's saddle. "Hm?" He took the pack and opened it up to look inside. "If food is scarce, there's some for both you and Ormak in there, I also packed you two weeks worth of water and a map of the area for four thousand miles in any direction." He said brightly. "As long as you can get that close, you can always find your way back." He said brightly. Bathalio felt that familiar feeling of wanting to cry bubbling back up and he set himself busy by attaching the saddle.
"You've done so much for me… Can you really spare all this?" He asked, not looking up, the similarities between the boy and his dear Sarah were so alike, just the way they held themselves, their body language and the sweet disposition…. He couldn't bare it. "Because, you remind me of my aunt…. If you can, I want you to come back so we can meet again under better conditions." He answered, looking sad for a brief moment, as though he felt the same way Bathalio did. Bathalio was surprised and finally looked up at the other. "Ah, hey… I never did give you my name or get yours." He said, he bowed very formally, his hair falling a bit over his shoulder. "I am Bathalio." He finally introduced, glad for something to break the sadness in the air. "My name is.. Hara…" He answered almost hesitantly, knowing that it was just a variation on the name of the person who was obviously so dear to the Guardian. Bathalio froze up, but released and almost laughed. "Really? Well it suits you perfectly." He said with a smile.
Bathalio walked with Hara from the barn to the back where he was walked with the boy all the way to the edge of the property, he finally mounted Ormak, the feeling of being on such a thick, obviously muscular beast was odd to someone who was so use to walking.
He said his final goodbye and started away.
Bathalio was almost to far to see Hara when he heard him shout faintly. "Come back Bathalio! When you finish your quest, come back here!" The words nearly tore him apart with joy and sadness. He had no expectations of coming back, no expectations of surviving. That the sweet Hara expected him to live, to complete his quest successfully and live to tell the tale, maybe grow old among people who grew about as quickly as ancient trees… It made him feel like maybe he really could complete his task and come back to see little Hara again.