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 jungle rolls high over mist capped mountains and low through sun drenched valleys. Its thick emerald canopy's surface ripples in the ever flowing breeze, its fluttering pads and rattling leaves undulate from as far as the eye can see. The land sings. Its music rides the currents of air that make it sway and whistle shivering melodies between the trees. A music that is accompanied by high tunes of colorful birds who flutter about like flying feathery flutes and low tunes of primates, hairy tailed basses that holler, pound, and hoot.
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 lurks silent killers unseen. And even deep in the dark, there are bright quiet things of flowering beauty that are 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 are the worst trap of all, for here men live and die never to be free of the walls. For this is the land of Aria and this is the age before the rise of the empires of man in the realm of Mundus.
The winds swirl in front of a high cresting mountain that rises like an ocean wave, the green canopy's seas churn in a whirlpool under its shadow. The wind parts the leafy and reveals white lines of immaculate stone far below. The great monster that is the temple of Tzot Asun rises up as the mouth of the beast. 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 contains and beholds this masterpiece. These are the walls of Seyvie, Capital and namesake to a great kingdom of 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 leafy breaks, amidst the ever flowing jade sea in this cornered valley, lay an earthen path deep within the great capital city. It is tread by the feet of a terrified slave. She is 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 is 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 are two spears pointed at her back, both hefted by royal svaari warriors. She dares not turn or look, she only goes forth to the ominous palace of stone.
The imposing palace stands with tall columns and dark recesses, its stonework intertwined with over growth of long rooted trees upon its sides. The flanking trees twist and coil over the center atop its crown, forming a tall great tree. In the great tree, perched on shady boughs, are the Svaari Asun royal archers. They are colored in brown and green melding swaths of war-paint, their long bows hung with moss, blending into their surroundings as invisible sentinels.
The woman ambles forth with an unsteady gate. She clutches the pregnant swell of her belly as she approaches underneath a passage of shadow between the palace's white pillars. Her feet shuffle and prod low as the light dims. Faint immaculate carved arches hang 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 melds ghostlike with the thick gloom. She bows her head and falls down upon her hands as the king stands.
Her face grows hot and beads with sweat. Droplets of perspiration fell down in patters on the smooth stone floor as if her body itself was tearful for her brave face would not cry. She raises 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 emerges from the shady veil. His fingers are nimble and long, yet strong and firm. His arm seems to reach almost too long as it does with all Svaari, whose long arms can climb through the jungle with ease.
The lengthy fingers ensnare her jaw, pushing little points of pressure just enough to be uncomfortable. Suddenly his long angular face juts 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 are set with great discs of amber deep under the edge of a brow heavy ridge. She turns her head slightly to avoid the vast gaze of his ominous nocturnal eyes. She could feel 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 commands her to rise. The king's shoulders were draped in a dark green cloak over his hard muscled chest. The living god eases his lengthy oblong ears towards the pregnant swell of her stomach. He presses his ear to her navel. The tufts of hair that grow atop his ears make her skin itch. The baby within her kicks and the king retracts his head back.
She feels a suffocating cold as if submerged under the crushing depths of a shadowy sea while she watches the king contemplate his desire. The mating of slaves without permission is forbidden, and Pac Tuhaal would punish those who defy his commandments.
He beckons her to follow him and walks to the far passage way, shielding his eyes from the light of sunset with his palm until he adjusts to the light. Outside the outer columns of the passage, a vast garden where male human slaves are toiling could be observed. Their strong backs glisten in the reddening sun as they tend to the earth.
"Who is the father?" The king utters.
She does not speak.
She is taken closer, where some of the men glance over then turn back fearfully. One young man does so with an unguarded moment of a familiar longing which turns into fear at the sight of the Svaari King next to the woman. The King leads her down the stone steps into the bleeding light.
"Show him to me." Commands the king,
He slowly grasps her elbow, lifting her arm, and making her extend her hand. He moves her hand, encouraging her to point out who it was.
"Which one?" Pac Tuhaal speaks
She shakes her head, uncooperative. The king guides her hand and watches her expression to try and discern any betrayal of emotion in her face. The king releases her hand as she then begins to move it upon her own will.
Her finger wanders tremulously as it grazes past the nervous men in the field, hesitantly past a man with the familiar gaze, then across the stone-faced guards. With sudden impulse she continues 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 lashes across the sky… she holds her belly as the child kicks.
"So be it. Upon the child's birth, you and he shall join the father atop the temple of Tzot Asun. There, you will await him." Pac Tuhaal utters as he departs, turning his back upon the slave leaving her to be taken by the icy grip of the guards to await her fate.
She spends 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 began to strike 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 creature 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 forms waterfalls as it rolls down from the temples steps. The pyramid shimmers like a great fountain in the strobing flashes of lightning.
She reaches 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 rising 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. 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 climbs from her lips as she gazes upwards in hopeful desperation and terrifying awe.
The priest's eyes narrowed to black daggers at her blasphemy.
She screams. Her child escapes from the womb. The priest's long arms and lengthy cold fingers remove 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 connects the child to his mother is severed with a swift strike.
The boy child cries out, awakened to the world. The boy's new-born eyes shut to the violent world around him. The cold shroud of rain streaks his skin and washes 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 surges forth from his bellowing lungs as the drums pounded like the quaking of the earth,
She held the child close to her chest and looks up with pleading eyes to the father in the sky. The long arms of the priest extended. He clutches the dagger in both hands and raises it over his head, pulling back as a pendulum about to drop. The dagger's rain slick metal shimmers like the lightning itself.
In a deep breath, just as he prepares to plunge the dagger forth, a blinding white light followed by a deafening crack wounds the air.
Lightning leaps down from the clouds, streaking towards the temple's height. The mother's ears ring piercingly. The temple's height was enveloped in the flash of pure power, bathed in a surge all consuming light.
The lightning strikes. It appears as if Tzot himself reached down and touched the priest's dagger.
The priest collapses 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 summons her strength. She stirs, sliding her legs off of the altar and towards the steps where the king's masses lay below.
Her ears are still ringing. She sees the drummers' hands fall silent. Only the rain drums now. She cradles the red-faced furious child as she rises to her feet. Knees buckling, she falls to one knee and holds the child up for the king to see that he was spared.
"Tzot has spoken" Pac Tuhaal affirms in shock.
The king slowly, almost regretfully, kneels to their god's decision.