The Chronicles of the Chosen Ones
By Lux Beta
The Legacy of the Last Oracle
Prologue: The Prophecy of Pythe
"The rise of the Twelve shall come in the Dark Days,
When hope is all but lost and order has fallen to chaos,
When evil reigns over all and we teeter on a knife's edge.
I look into the great abyss and see them.
They are the Chosen Ones.
They could be our saviours or they could fall to ruin,
For what they do is up to them and only them,
But one thing is assured.
They are my legacy to you, my legacy,
The Legacy of the Last Oracle of Gaia,
And the fate of the universe will rest in their hands."
- Pythe Delpheri Gardeis, Oracle of the Holy Temple of Areth, 778 PO
Sophia Elizabeth Holliday first saw the Lights one oddly bright and hot evening in the middle of March, at the bottom of the garden behind her spacious house. They were twelve floating spheres all different colours that shimmered and sparkled beneath the setting sun, and it hurt her eyes to look at them. She first learned what exactly they could do when her Uncle Howard came searching for her, walking right through them as he babbled excitedly to her that it was time to cut the birthday cake and no, she couldn't stay out here in the garden because her twin brother was waiting for her, and no, she was very funny but he couldn't see the magic balls. She paid no attention to his words, watching as the Lights swarmed to his shadow, and dread – though, being only four, she could not quite understand why – took root in her stomach, before he led her back to her party inside.
Three days later her Uncle Howard and his fiancée died in a car crash, and Sophie knew exactly what the Lights were capable of. She began seeing them every year, sometimes on her birthday, sometimes not, always for a few seconds before they would vanish again, only for some other misfortune to be hot on their heels.
This continued for the next eight years. Sophie was twelve when she saw the Lights for the last time, but this was also the year that her life, and the lives of so many others, were changed forever.
Chapter One: Sophie Sees the Lights
"The end of the Age of Light is nearing – the Dark Days will soon be upon us. This is what has been foretold to me by the angels of the Gods Themselves, and so I have written."
She had been walking back from the library on a Sunday afternoon, at the very end of June, when she saw them again. Her nose was buried in a book until something compelled her to glance up to see them floating in the air in front of her, and a look of utter dismay flooded into her eyes, a grimace forming on her face; she would still never get used to seeing them. They disappeared as quickly as they had appeared, but Sophie still had to wait to catch her breath, her mind on overdrive trying to work out who could be the next victim.
Her heart sank as she realised that there would always be someone in her life on whom the Lights could wreak disaster. Besides, Tifa and April were the only ones who believed her, but the latter also believed that she could use magic and the former was most likely just humouring her. Sophie decided to put it to the back of her mind and let destiny take its course, once more walking down the road.
Now, however, there was a swiftness in her step that hadn't been there before. Fate cannot be outrun though, no matter how fast she tried to flee from it.
Sophie was very nervous over the next few days, doing her best to avoid invoking the wrath of destiny; three sleepless nights were her reward for her piety. Wednesday morning saw her and her friends, Tiffany Pieremont and Aibreann O'Connor (or just Tifa and April to those who knew them), holed up in her lounge; the world outside was nothing short of radiant, the perfect example of the first day in July, but Sophie refused to leave her comfort zone. The other two girls, however, were not going to stand for that.
"Sophie," entreated April for the sixth time, her voice as soft as it had been the first. "Please tell us what's wrong. We want to help you, really, we do, right Tifa?" She turned her head to face the black-haired girl; she had commandeered a whole seat to herself, as usual, sprawled out over it as she stuffed celery into her mouth. "Right, Tifa?" Her teal eyes, as wide as an owl's, stared at her friend unblinkingly. "Right, Tifa?"
"Yeah, sure, whatever," she drawled, picking up the remote and flicking through the channels – she let out a frustrated groan and left it on some stupid cookery channel where they were making God-knows-what. "Just spit it out all ready."
Sophie brushed her brown hair back with a trembling hand. "I refuse to say," she muttered, not looking up from the floor. "You'll just think I'm being stupid anyway." Tifa and April shared a look, both, for once, alarmed by what their friend had said – who was this bitter girl and what had she done with Sophie?
"We think you're being stupid just now," deadpanned Tifa – her eyes, as bright a green as her hair was dark, did a poor job of hiding her annoyance. She ignored April's nervous glances to-and-fro as she sat up in her chair. "Whatever it is, it can't be that bad-"
"I saw the Lights three days ago!" she blurted out as fast as she could, as if that would lessen the evil in her words.
"Never mind, it is that bad," whistled Tifa, taking a hearty bite of her snack as April's face slackened in horror.
"What?!" she squealed; her face would have been almost-comical if it had been another place, another time. "What?! Sophie, why didn't you tell us that?" The brunette opened her mouth to reply- "I mean do you even remember what happened to your Uncle Howard when you first saw the Lights? Huh? Do you? What if something like that happens again, what'll we do?" Now she was up on her feet, pacing about the living room like a hen who had lost her eggs as Tifa laughed and Sophie descended even further into misery. "Oh, I wish you'd told us sooner!" Her voice was unusually annoyed, and so was her expression as she turned to look at her two friends. "I could've done something to help us!"
"Like what?" Tifa scoffed, before changing the channel – television was unbearably boring these days.
"Well, um, there're loads of things I could've done, I could've got a horseshoe to ward off their evil. Oh, why didn't I bring one with me?" lamented the strawberry-blonde. Tifa and Sophie shared a look – even after knowing her for their whole life, April still surprised them every day. Not that that was a bad thing or anything.
"You don't have to do that April, really, it's fine," smiled Sophie, but forced wasn't the word for her expression. She stood up and smoothed down her blue skirt. "You can go outdoors if you want, but I'm staying-"
"Oh no you're not, I'm not letting a bunch of fairy lights control me," laughed Tifa darkly, as she got up from her seat and shot like a whippet over to her friend – food wasn't the only thing that made her move quickly. "April, action stations!" Sophie spluttered in shock as she felt her arms being pulled at her sides, as both girls dragged her outside and into the warm, sunny air. She hissed at it like a cat, the light stinging her eyes, before they dropped her rather unceremoniously onto her parent's well-tended front lawn. Both girls burst out into peals of laughter at the indignant look on her face.
"What're you girls laughing about?" inquired a pleasant voice from behind them. Sophie's twin brother Jason was coming up the pavement towards them, followed, as ever, by his right-hand man, Ethan Sanchez. They had been thick as thieves ever since Ethan had moved to the cul-de-sac of Orchard Avenue eight years ago, but the two couldn't have been more different. Behind them, apparently not a part of their group since there was a good distance between them, was the third pre-teen boy in the neighbourhood, although Paul Weiss was arguably the most bearable out of all of them.
"Yeah, what are you even doing?" chuckled Ethan, Tifa glaring at him; she had never been able to understand why the others didn't find him and his high-pitched whine of a voice as obnoxious as she did.
"Don't be rude, Ethan," muttered Jason tiredly as he looked up to his right, as the blond bowed his head in apparent shame. "You have a point though."
April looked back from twin to twin nervously, but the truth was too hard to contain. "Sophie was really really quiet and me and Tifa were really really worried and then we kept asking her what was wrong and then she said that she saw the Lights a few days ago and now I'm really really worried that something terrible is going to happen and I have no salt to ward it off!"
Jason looked at her. "Thank you, April, I think..." Then he turned to his sister with a much more convicted expression. "Is this true, Sophie?"
"Yes." Her answer was barely audible as she raised her head and looked into her brother's eyes; it was like staring into a mirror, both as blue as the deepest of all oceans. "I'm sorry, I would have told you, but..." She began snivelling, just the tiniest sniffle, before she burst into tears. "No one would have believed me and I'd have looked like a total idiot!" That was something she would never let happen to herself, not even if she lived for a hundred years.
"You did what you thought was right, Sophie," broke in Paul. His voice was gentle as he walked around the other two boys and took her hands in his, pulling her off of the ground. "Let's just try to forget about the Lights, okay? What'll come will come, and nothing will change. I promise you." Sophie smiled back at him shyly as he beamed back at her – the sea met the sky as they stared into each others eyes. Then, before it looked weird to the others, he broke it. "Come on, let's go inside your house and watch some television until you feel better, huh?"
"Not again," muttered Tifa dryly, her distaste loud and clear for all to hear.
"Not a fan of TV, Tifa?" chortled Ethan as he walked up beside her in what he probably thought was a suave attempt.
"Shut up Sanchez," she snarled, her face as red as a beetroot, but he didn't hear her, instead running after Jason into the house, April flying on her feet after them. The more civilised trio walked in at a slower pace. "It's unbelievable how much he annoys me," she admitted to Paul and Sophie, rubbing the back of her neck just beneath where her hair ended as though the skin there burned.
"You do an excellent job of hiding it," he said in a teasing voice, and she whirled around to face him with eyes blazing like green fire. "What?" he asked innocently, holding up his hands. "I'm just telling the truth, aren't I?"
"Yeah, well, don't get lippy with me, Weiss, it'll only backfire on you." Before he could apologise she stormed off into the house, the very earth shaking with her footfalls like boulders falling from the sky. "You hear?" she shouted at him, before slamming the door shut.
"Tifa can be terrifying sometimes," he shuddered, cringing as Sophie let out an airy laugh.
"Really? I don't think she's frightening at all. Tifa's just Tifa, just like April's April, I'm Sophie, and you're Paul!" The boy with the short, silky-smooth black hair was glad that she was back to her normal self – he couldn't bear to see most people morose, but Sophie most of all. It was like she was the sun and her sadness was a wall of clouds blocking her out, but once she overcame it nothing could dim her brightness. "Where were you off to anyway?"
"Inquisitive as ever," he chuckled back – she laughed along too, but if it had been anyone else but Paul who had said that to her... "You do know that curiosity killed the cat, don't you?" His warning may have been playful, but Sophie thought she could detect an undertone of seriousness to it; you could never tell with Paul, she had lived to learn.
"Maybe so, but he has nine lives, doesn't he?" There was something positively feline about her smirk as she burst out laughing at his poker face. "Oh, come now, I'm just trying to be funny! Besides, you've known me for as long as I've been able to walk, you know what I'm like." She paused before persisting – she just had to know. "Come on, where were you going, you can tell me!"
"I was going to my grandmother's house," he replied with a tired smile.
"Oh, how sweet!" cooed the brunette girl, before something caught her attention – and not in a good way. "That's odd, there's shouting coming from indoors," she frowned, before looking to Paul in worry. It was at times like this that she liked having taller people around; they made her feel safe.
"It sounds like Ethan and Tifa are at each other's throats again," sighed Paul in exasperation. "Come on, we better get going." The two moved swiftly indoors, Sophie cringing as she opened her front door and the screaming match became ten times louder.
"You've done it now, Sanchez!" prophesied the black-haired girl, and the blond, tanned boy returned her glare with one of equal ferocity. "You've done it now, I swear!"
"I haven't done anything!" he countered angrily, before they recommenced screaming at each other, determined not to let the other win.
"And what exactly's going on here?" asked Paul, rather dryly, of April, since Sophie seemed too horrified by the drama unfolding in her front room to speak.
The strawberry-blonde, however, looked like she was at the cinema, watching some kind of Disney film – all she was missing was a bucket of popcorn. "Well we all ran in and Jason and Ethan wanted to put on a football match or something and I didn't really mind because I was just going to go and dance in the kitchen but then Tifa came in and she didn't want to watch football or soccer or whatever it was so she and Ethan started fighting over the remote and each of them kept changing the channel and then there was like a crack or something and then the screen went black and both of them are blaming each other for breaking the TV but to be honest who cares because there're more important things in life like finding the fairies in Briar's Woods, right?" April could have put a machine gun to shame.
"Thank you, April," replied Sophie gratefully. She was about to turn and discipline the two when her twin beat her to it.
"Both of you be quiet!" he roared like a lion, and Sophie wasn't the only one who jumped; twins weren't identical in all aspects, after all. "I'm trying to fix the TV here!" The other five fell totally silent. "Thank you!" he said emphatically, before crouching down in front of the appliance. "It shouldn't be broken yet, it's only a month old and Dad used his bonus to get us a good one..." He tried pressing it on and off; there was no response until the third attempt, when the screen lit up with crackling static. "Now we're getting somewhere!"
"Um, guys," said April, but no one replied to her.
"It must have just short-circuited because all of the buttons were being pressed at the same time," reasoned Paul as he sat down on the plush carpet next to Jason, the brunet's twin joining them. Mechanics were his forte, but then again, it wouldn't have needed a genius to figure that particular thing out.
"Guys..." wheedled April in a high-pitched whine, but still no one acknowledged her. Now she was the only one still sat on a seat.
"The channels aren't working though," frowned Tifa, before she noticed the rather withering stare the girl across from her was shooting in her direction. "Don't give me any looks, I'm not to blame for this at all, it's all Sanchez's fault."
"My name is Ethan," fumed the blond darkly, his naturally-tanned skin turning red as Tifa laughed scornfully in his face.
"Tell that to someone who actually cares-"
"Guys!" screeched April in a voice far too deep and angry to be her own; five terrified twelve year-olds spun around to face her, and she stared at them harshly before her face relaxed into a smile. "Thank you." Her smile promptly reflected her true emotions – it became nervous as she bit on her fingernails. "Um, there was something on the screen a minute ago..."
"Like what, April?" asked Jason softly, going to sit next to her on the couch since he could see how scared she was (it didn't matter to him that April got scared by a lot of things). "Tell me, what did you see?"
"Well, when you put the TV back on, there were like, these words in the static, and it was really creepy," she blurted out, as if afraid that acknowledging the presence of the forces of evil would call them out into the open. "Like seriously it was really really really creepy-"
"Well they're not there now," said Tifa bluntly. Then she realised how scared her friend genuinely was. "What did they say, April?"
The girl was too distressed to notice how soft her friend's voice was. "I made sure to remember it exactly because I thought they might go away," she made explicitly clear to Jason, who nodded at her before she took a deep breath. "Day falls to night, light to darkness, as the winds blow in the sky, the lighting and fire rain down, and the deep waters drown the world. That's what the words on the screen said." Despite her fear she looked rather impressed with herself. "I'm sure of it."
Before anyone could begin to try and decipher what that meant, a new voice giggled – from out of the television. "Very good, April." There was a moment of nothing but silence before a ray of white light, as bright as the sun itself, burst out of the screen, and six screams filled the air as the kids fell to the ground, the Light pounding and searing through their brains before it gave way to an unnatural darkness that accompanied their sweet oblivion.
Ethan stirred, a soft moan coming from his hoarse throat as he tried to open his aching eyes. The world was a dark blue, and there was a faint ringing in his eyes and a sting in his nose, like he had been outside on a freezing day in the middle of December; apart from that, he was relatively all right. Now he could even make out furniture within the blur, and his vision began to clear as he drunkenly stumbled to his feet. Rubbing his forehead with his hands to try and dull the ache within it, he saw that he was still in the twins' living room, alone in the darkness.
"Hello?" He knew there was no point but it comforted him all the same. "Great, just great..." he muttered angrily to himself, staggering over to a window. The sky outside was now a dark expanse, totally obscured by a layer of rolling storm-clouds that seethed with thundery anger. He let out a low whistle as he considered what to do. "Jason!" He cried out, deciding that finding the others was the best course of action; he checked every room in the house, but there was no one there, and so his search led him out the front garden. Now he was much more aware of what had happened, his state panicked, to say the least, as he called out to the others through the wet blanket of mist that hung in the air, his breath joining it as he panted over and over again. Just before he gave up, he saw someone lying on the ground at the very edge of the lawn. "April!" She was unconscious, a small trail of drool seeping out of her mouth, but apart from that she looked fine.
Her eyes flittered open as Ethan loomed over her. "Hi Ethan..." The smile on her face was dozy, but he grinned back at her, not worried at all by her absent-mindedness; April was the human equivalent of a goldfish. "Are you okay?"
"I should be asking you that," he chuckled, helping her to her feet. She tottered on them unsteadily, like a newly-birthed fawn, and so she had to clutch onto his arm to support herself – but he didn't mind.
"Where...where are the others?" she asked sleepily. He was about to reply before she gasped, her eyes becoming alert in a flash as she pointed over somewhere behind them. "There, look!" There were four more silhouettes in the fog, all of them lying on the ground. "Quick, let's go!" Unsteady seemed an unknown word to her as she raced over to their friends, and within minutes all of them had been roused.
"Right, can someone please explain to me what on Earth just happened?" asked Jason angrily – he felt threatened when not in the know and he didn't like it, not one bit. "Please?" Now his voice was a pathetic beg as he looked from one person to the other. He could feel his blue eyes begin to sting, and it was that which jolted him back into action. Clearing his throat roughly, he began, "Very well then, it seems up to us to formulate and figure out what has happened." He looked up at the sky. "Obviously, when were trying to fix the TV, the charge must have been amplified or something by the weather in the sky – that's it, that's what happened."
"Let's hope it was a simple as that," said Sophie with a nervous laugh, before she stopped. "Wait, listen, do any of you hear that?" she asked in the barest audible whispered; she motioned for them all to be quiet. "It sounds weird, like...like...I don't know, like something slithering almost, but..." Her laugh was ten times more nervous now, a frantic panic in her eyes as she began to giggle. "But...but that's impossible..."
The snake slithered its way out of the mist and into their view, and Sophie let out a scream so loud that it could have shattered the very cosmos, never mind the eardrums of her companions. "What is that?!" she screeched in terror, hiding behind Paul as her body shook harder than a pneumatic drill. He was rather white himself, and it seemed as if Ethan was the only one of the six not scared witless.
"Never mind that, what's it doing here?" he muttered to himself. It was far enough to outrun, but now even he felt nervous – its eyes were ill-yellow, its body like blood streaked with darkness, stretching off into the mist behind it as it hissed and bared its sword-sharp fangs, sliding towards them across the tarmac..
"And lo, as the sky burned and the ground opened Her maw, the people cried out for their Saviour." A disembodied, female voice rang crystal-clear throughout the air; where had they heard it before...?"They called out to their Gods, but the dark of Chaos stopped them from giving aid. Then, they cried out to Order Himself, but even he had been subdued, and the universe and all of creation fell to evil. The scorched ground bore no fruit; all it gifted unto the people were disease and famine. The promised Saviour had not came, and a blanket of darkness came over Gaia as the people fell silent." The voice still hung like a sickness in the air, and Jason had to swallow three times to find his own.
"Who...who's there?" he called out, trying his best to sound courageous. "Show yourself, now!"
"Ice covered the land; nature took Her course, and so it happened. Life, unlike what the Gods had promised, did not flourish, and it was, as Evil wanted, stifled; He was pleased, and called His best lieutenant to His presence. There He gave to Her promises of greater power, and She was immensely pleased. Then news reached His blackest ears of a prophecy made to bring about His downfall, and He gave to His lieutenant a duty that still She must complete. Twelve would be born to end His reign, born from spirit's glory itself; six from Gaia, and six from Her brother, Earth. They would be foretold to contest Evil, which He did not want, and so He plotted until the day that the Twelve Lights would appear for the final time to Water's Champion – that would be when the end would begin."
Sophie was the one who was most traumatised by the oracular words; whoever was speaking knew of the Lights, but who was 'Water's Champion'? It certainly wasn't her – she was the furthest thing from a hero that anyone could be. Her thoughts were interrupted by her twin's repeated demand to the speaker to reveal herself, and she was just as surprised as the others when the voice did just so. The snake dissolved into shadows like sand through a sieve, and a woman rose from the darkness like a butterfly of death breaking out from its cocoon.
The only way to describe her was as perfect in every way; she was the most beautiful creature that any of them had ever saw before. Her long hair was the colour of golden sunlight, and her skin as white as virgin snow, but her eyes were as black as her garments that fell to her feet yet showed her slender arms. Many people say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and if that were true, then this woman's soul was a dark and wicked thing that even the most deplorable of humans should not possess. They were obsidian black and made no distinction between iris and pupil, adding only to the sinister aura that she emanated.
"Who...who are you?" asked Ethan in shock, when Jason's voice failed him.
The woman gave a devious grin. "You, like all other lowly mortals, may call me Faith." Her voice was sweet and airy, intelligent to say the least, but there was something not quite right about it that no amount of niceness could conceal. "Then again, it matters not who I am – at least to you. You'll be too dead to care who or what I may be." She gave another grin as she stretched out her left hand, and each of the six children jumped as a trident appeared in it as if by magic, materialising out of the shadows with an otherworldly whoosh. It was as tall as she was, fashioned from things that looked suspiciously like human bones; an ungodly dark-purple fired blazed ominously at its tip.
"How did you do that?" asked April, wide-eyed in wonder like a young child at an amusement park.
Sophie looked at her like she was insane before turning back to the woman. "What on Earth are you talking about, you psychopath? Who are you? What did you do to my television?"
"Weren't you listening, you idiot?" hissed Faith; Sophie visibly flinched and fled to hide behind Paul, but he did not look all that happy with her decision. "I am Faith. I am a demon – well, an archdemoness to be precise, we can't miss out the details, can we?"
"She's cuckoo crazy," whispered April to Jason – he cringed as Faith let out a snide laugh.
"Why don't you speak up, I'm sure there are people on the other side of the planet who didn't hear you." Her cackle rang throughout the air. "As I was saying, I am a demoness who has the rather pleasant task of killing the six of you – it's nothing personal, I assure you, but I would take up any problems you have with fate and not I."
"That won't be necessary." The youths turned to see that there was another new arrival; at first they thought Faith had somehow teleported behind them. Then they noticed that this woman's hair and skin were lighter and her robes more luxurious. "Faith."
Muscles in the demoness's face twitched. "Lilienne Ombrus, as I live and breathe. What a pleasure, I assure you." Her tone couldn't have been more scathing as she glared at the other woman – eyes as green as a cat's stared back. "What brings you to this backwards planet?"
"It is time," was her simple answer – she didn't sound that nice either, to the youngsters, but anyone was better than Faith.
"Time for what?" asked Paul in bewilderment, looking back from woman to woman. "Okay, can somebody please tell me what's going on-"
"No," sighed Lilienne irritably, before she clicked her fingers; at once the six slumped down onto the ground, but their bodies dissolved into a strange purple light before they hit the ground.
"Wait, what, no, bring them back!" shrieked Faith, as if Lilienne's actions had physically wounded her.
"I don't think so," she smirked. "We've waited for these urchins as long as you have – just try and stop me."
"I will!" roared the archdemoness, summoning a ball of crackling black fire into her palms which she swung at Lilienne; or rather, she tried to. The woman vanished in purple light as well, and Faith's screams would have disturbed the deepest of slumbers before she tried to calm herself down. "Don't worry, don't worry, there are still six left..." Her glare gave way to a grin as she giggled darkly to herself. "They'll be nothing without even one; that's all I need, just the blood of even one, and twelve years of preparations will have been for nought..." Her cackle rang out in the air before she vanished in a flurry of shadows, and Orchard Heights returned to a semblance of normality as if no one had ever been outside that day.
Hello there dear reader! Let me start by thanking you for checking out this story; it means a lot to me, really, it does! Now let me also give you a bit of a background about it for you – this is actually my third attempt at this story. Last week, I deleted my prior version of it (which was almost finished) since I decided that I could do much better than I was doing, and I think I hopefully have. If you can spend even two minutes just to let me know your thoughts then I would be much obliged, so go on, click on the review button – you know you want to.
Have a nice day, and thank you for reading this!
- Lux Beta
P.S. On Thursday, I'm also going to start uploading a story called 'The Shadow of the Long Night', and I suggest you read that as well – who knows, perhaps the stories of these two series might intertwine some day...