I. Thunder and Stone
There is a land where the jungles are so vast they are thought of as a green sea.
There, the great green sea of the jungle rolls high over mist capped mountains and low through sun drenched valleys, endlessly. Its thick emerald canopy's surface rippled in the ever flowing breeze, its fluttering pads and rattling leaves undulated from as far as the eye can see. The land sung. Its music rode the currents of air that made it sway and whistle shivering melodies between the trees. A music that is accompanied by high tunes of colorful birds who fluttered about like flying feathery flutes and low tunes of primates, hairy tailed basses that hollered, pounded, and hooted.
Beneath the surface of the green jungle's canopy, beyond the harmony and song of its bright songbirds and the play of its mischievous furry tree dwellers there lurked silent killers unseen. And even deep in the dark, there were bright quiet things of flowering beauty that were yet poisonous and foul. Worse than the toxic fragrance of an alluring flower, or the silent web makers who make shimmering ethereal traps, is the land of stone.
For the race of man, it is the magnificent stone cities that were the worst trap of all, for here men live and die never to be free of the walls. For this was the land of Aria and this was the age before the rise of the empires of man in the realm of Mundus.
The winds swirled in front of a high cresting mountain that rose like an ocean wave, the green canopy's seas churned as a whirlpool under its shadow. The wind parted the leafy breaks and revealed white lines of immaculate stone far below. The great monster that was the temple of Tzot Asun rose up as the mouth of the beast of the stone city. A massive five stepped pyramid with a stone altar at its peak, a bed of eternal slumber for those unfortunate souls made to lie upon it. A frame of walls etched in white contained and beheld this monstrous masterpiece. These were the walls of Seyvie, capital and namesake to a great kingdom of the nocturnal race known as the Svaari Asun. A land ruled by the king and living god who was called Pac Tuhaal the II.
Down through the leaves of the ever flowing jade sea in this cornered valley lay an earthen path deep within the great capital city. It was tread by the feet of a terrified slave. She was a daughter of man, and her people had not yet a name history would remember for they had been enslaved by the indomitable Svaari Asun for ages beyond their reckoning.
Her hair was long and black, hanging down to the small of her back. Clothed in a grass skirt and a lay of flowers, she strode on with calloused feet. Aside her were two spears pointed at her back, both hefted by royal svaari warriors. She dared not turn or look, she only went forth to the ominous palace of stone.
The imposing structure stood with tall columns and dark recesses, its stonework intertwined with over growth of long rooted trees upon its sides. The flanking trees twisted and coiled over the center atop its crown, forming a tall great tree. In the great tree, perched on shady boughs, were the Svaari Asun royal archers. They were colored in brown and green melding swaths of war-paint, their long bows hung with moss, blending them into their surroundings as invisible sentinels.
The woman ambled forth with an unsteady gate. She clutched the pregnant swell of her belly as she approached underneath a passage of shadow between the palace's white pillars. Her feet shuffled and prodded low as the light dims. Faint immaculate carved arches hung illusory overhead. Deep within lay the thin white outline of a spherical throne. Long roots draped down from a sky-lit passage above, and hung like snakes behind the throne. Reaching out from the throne's deep carved recess, were two legs of a golden hue. The svaari upon the throne was barely visible in the last edge of light from the dying afternoon sun.
The king had awoken and to her misfortune it was because of her. The young woman fell to her knees before the king at the foot of his throne. Her pale skin melded ghostlike with the thick gloom. She bowed her head and fell down upon her hands as the king stood.
Her face grew hot and beaded with sweat. Droplets of perspiration fell down her chin and pattered on the smooth stone floor as if her body itself was tearful for her brave face would not cry. She raised her head slightly, her black hair clumping in tendrils as fissure-like shadows, sticking to her round visage.
The bright honeyed skin of the king's hand emerged from the shady veil. His fingers were nimble and long, yet strong and firm. His arm seemed to reach almost too long as it does with all Svaari, whose long arms reached to their knees enabling them to climb through the jungle with ease.
The lengthy fingers ensnared her jaw, pushing little points of pressure just enough to be uncomfortable. His long angular face jutted in from the dark above, revealing a narrow chin and a forward sloping predatorial face with a long sharp nose and high protruding nasal bridge.
His large eyes were set with great discs of amber deep under the edge of a brow heavy ridge. She turned her head slightly to avoid the vast gaze of his ominous nocturnal eyes. She felt his breath on her cheek, the breath that commanded the night and stone as a living god.
He slowly stood, with his fingers still under her jaw, he wordlessly commanded her to rise. The king's shoulders were draped in a dark green cloak over his hard muscled chest. The living god eased his lengthy oblong ears toward the pregnant swell of her stomach. He pressed his ear to her navel. The tufts of hair that grow atop his ears made her skin itch. The baby within her kicked and the king retracted his head back.
She felt a suffocating cold as if submerged under the crushing depths of a shadowy sea while she watched the king contemplate his desire. The mating of slaves without permission was forbidden, and Pac Tuhaal would punish those who defied his commandments.
He beckoned her to follow him and walked to the far passageway, shielding his eyes from the light of sunset with his palm until he adjusted to the light. Outside the outer columns of the passage, a vast garden where male human slaves were toiling could be observed. Their strong backs glistened in the reddening sun as they tended to the earth.
"Who is the father?" The king uttered.
She did not speak.
She was taken closer, where some of the men glanced over then turned back fearfully. One young man did so with an unguarded moment of a familiar longing which quickly turned into fear at the sight of the Svaari King next to the woman. The King led her down the stone steps into the bleeding light.
"Show him to me." Commanded the king,
He slowly grasped her elbow, lifting her arm, and making her extend her hand. He moved her hand, encouraging her to point out who it was.
"Which one?" Pac Tuhaal spoke
She shook her head, uncooperative. The king guided her hand and watched her expression to try and discern any betrayal of emotion in her face. The king released her hand as she then began to move it upon her own will.
Her finger wandered tremulously as it grazed past the nervous men in the field, hesitantly it went past the man with the familiar gaze, then it crossed the stone-faced guards. With a sudden impulse she continued to point her finger out up toward the central hill, up the steps of the temple, and atop the pyramid, to the egg shaped rock of Asun, and then above to a darkening cloud that pulsed and rumbled on the distant horizon.
"Tzot" She spoke. Tzot, the god of storms, the energy of creation.
"Tzot is the father..." He said coldly, merely repeating her words with a hollow echo, as he released her. She almost fell to her knees as one buckled, but she caught herself, and strongly stood up to face the growing storm.
A flash of blue-white lightning lashed across the sky… she held her belly as the child kicked.
"So be it. Upon the child's birth, you and it shall join the father atop the temple of Tzot Asun. There, you will await him." Pac Tuhaal uttered as he departed, turning his back upon the slave, leaving her to be taken by the icy grip of the guards to await her fate.
She spent her following days in the shadow of the temple where no slave may tread, save for ones to be taken to Tzot Asun. She had never once prayed for something before this day. Before, Tzot Asun only heard her curses but now upon the precipice of her mortality, the sands of time sifting thin through her fingers as her belly swelled she prayed this place would not be her unborn son's home, that someday he would choose his home and be free from the tomb-like walls that had enslaved her.
Upon pains of labor wracking her womanly form she was taken to ascend the temple steps, aided by the temple guards.
The time had come. She was to meet Tzot.
Svaari drummers cloaked in white cotton cloaks struck their deep round drums with a softly growing thrum of intensity.
A fierce wind had gathered dark clouds blacker than the night. The stars were taken by them under the rumbling advance of the swirling dark celestial tempest of fearsome beauty. A great storm was coming. The sky poured, drenching the svaari subjects of King Pac Tuhaal who stood shoulder to shoulder at the steps. The rain formed waterfalls as it rolled down from the temple's steps. The pyramid shimmered like a great fountain in the strobing flashes of lightning.
She reached the temple's height and is placed on a stone slab underneath the gaze of the great stone, the Egg of Asun, symbolic of the All-Stone of creation which Tzot shattered with his strike of furious light, destroying the singularity to create the multitude at the dawn of time. Together these energies were known as Tzot Asun, the will of creation. In the faith of the Svaari Asun, all that existed were said to be shards of Asun resonating with the animate energies of Tzot. The Svaari Asun considered themselves the greatest of all shards.
The child dwelling inside the mother's womb pushed to come into the world. The mother rolled in pain as the tempest above grew in fury. The roaring walls of green jungle that rose above the stone around them tossed and turned in a great turbulent swell, growing to an immutable roar.
The priest stood, his white-gold mohawk drenched to the side of his face, his large ears twitching with each crackling phosphorescent surge of lightning. The rows of drummers pounded, as did the rain, surging to a crescendo. As she called out in pain, the firmament crackled in response.
Spitting water and hair from her mouth, she whispered a maddened plea; a forceful promise:
"Tzot is your father."
Her cry climbed from her lips as she gazed upwards in hopeful desperation and terrifying awe.
The priest's eyes narrowed to black daggers at her blasphemy.
She screamed. The child escaped from her womb. The priest's long arms and lengthy cold fingers removed the child from her womanhood. In one hand the priest held the child aloft, in the other he drew a dagger the shape of a long jagged lightning bolt. The strand of the fleshy cord that connected the child to his mother is severed with a swift strike.
The boy child cried out, awakened to the world. The boy's new-born eyes shut to the violent storm around him. The cold shroud of rain streaked his skin and washed away the afterbirth. The child is placed upon the mother's heaving breast. Her shaking hands find the strength to clutch her child, for a fleeting instant she felt a bold triumph in defiance of her captors.
"So it was in the first moment of creation, during the instant Tzot touched the All-Stone of Asun before the shattering, when all was one singular force. And so shall this moment return when the cycle of time turns beyond the future and bends back to the past. The Father has come to claim mother and child. Tzot has come to return to Asun as one. As all once was, as it will be again." The priest's voice surged forth from his bellowing lungs as the drums pounded like the quaking of the earth,
She held the child close to her chest and looked up with pleading eyes to the father in the sky. The long arms of the priest extended. He clutched the dagger in both hands and raised it over his head, pulling back as a pendulum about to drop. The dagger's rain slick metal shimmered like the lightning itself.
In a deep breath, just as he prepared to plunge the dagger forth, a blinding white light followed by a deafening crack wounded the air.
Lightning leapt down from the clouds, streaking toward the temple's height. The mother's ears rung piercingly. The temple's height was enveloped in the flash of pure power, bathed in a surge all consuming light.
The lightning struck. It appeared as if Tzot himself reached down and touched the priest's dagger.
The priest collapsed to the ground, his robe speckled with blackened chars. The priest lay silent, his dagger stilled, gripped by a burned hand, his soul rose in white steamy wisps from his singed and prostrate form.
The mother summoned her strength. She stirred, sliding her legs off of the altar and toward the steps where the king's masses lay below.
She saw the drummers' hands have fallen silent. Only the rain drums now. She cradled the red-faced furious child as she comes to her feet. She fell to one knee and held the child up for the king to see that he was spared.
"Tzot has spoken" Pac Tuhaal affirmed in shock.
The king slowly, almost regretfully, knelt to their god's decision.