I was running down a dark corridor, almost out of breath I looked back the way I came from and became overwhelmed with terror as I saw the creature I was running from. I looked down the corridor felt relief from seeing two women running, then one of them looked back and me and shouted something with tears in her eyes. I turned around and saw the creature right next to me…
I woke up from the strange dream sweating and trying to catch my breath.
"That dream again?" said a familiar voice and as I looked up I saw my teacher standing next to my bed with a cup of tea, that he slowly put in my shaking hands and helped me to raise it up to take a sip. "You are awake now. The monster can´t hurt you anymore." He whispered as I drank the tea and felt my body calming down.
"Master…" I started, as my teacher put his hand on my head.
"What is it?" he smiled and kneeled to me.
"How did I get here?" I asked and the smile of my savior and teacher vanished.
"This question has to be answered after preparations. I will summon you once the time comes." He stood up and headed to the door. I watched him leaving and then I fell asleep, waking up with the others of the abbey to start my daily duties.
"I knew I was an outsider. I had no previous memories before waking up in the abbey and the monks taking me under their wing. From my awakening here passed two winters. I worked in the gardens and in my free time I watched the mainland under us. I should probably explain, though that is only the explanation I got from the head priest. Our order lives on a flying island and the order´s mission in this world was to seek knowledge. I often looked down and watched us slowly fly over mountains, forests, seas, villages, even one city. I saw people of all different ages and shapes, even their skin went from ash grey to white, brown, black and even few were green. When I asked my teacher about these differences, he only said "they are all the people of the Land" For some reason when I got that answer I felt warm around my heard and I was happy. I also saw the threat of this world. The danger that has threatened those on the ground. Big monsters and mutants, wandering in packs or alone throughout the world, viciously attacking anything that moved and was not one of its own kind. "The ground is dangerous. That is why we live here in safety to serve the people as best as we can." The teacher once told me. I did not agree with him, but it was not my place to tell him.
"Ruins!" called one of the priests and pointed towards a strange mountain range. These mountains were reaching up high, but unlike the other mountains these were thin and had holes in them. As the island came closer I realized that these are no mountains, but strangely shaped buildings, long abandoned. Five priests ran into a shack on the edge of the island and in a few minutes they brought out a strange metal object with a thick rope tied to it and threw the object over the edge.
"Brace yourself!" Shouted my teacher and everyone did just that. I hit the ground and grabbed the grass, hoping it will be enough. It was, though for a moment I felt that I am flying as the island stopped its movement.
"All the priests started running towards the main building, while the younglings like me continues their work. Me though… I just watched in awe how the priests changes from their everyday robes to a new kind of clothes. These were tight; sturdy… each of the priests also carried a weapon and rope with a small anchor. Every third priest also carried a backpack that was empty. They then started descending down to the ground and to those strange buildings. I just stood on the edge and watched them. Once they reached the middle of the rope, they threw their ropes and created a small rope bridge that connected the main rope with the closes building. Then they slowly made their way inside. I watched the group searching the building, each time they have found something interesting they put it to the third priest´s backpack. I slowly started understanding what it is that they do. Hours passed and I was still watching them, no one came to ask me to join the others in work, they did not consider me as one of them and I knew that well. Through the numberless holes in the building I could spot the priests moving around the building and each time I saw one, I felt excitement and joy, I wanted to join them… then the evening came and I have sensed that something is wrong. I looked down to the ground and I saw a small pack of monsters entering the building the priests were in. I stood up and started shouting warnings, but none of them heard it. I felt desperation and helplessness, but then I made up my mind. I ran towards the rope and started slowly climbing down to the rope bridge. It was harder than I expected and twice I lost my footing, almost falling down to the certain death, but I made it to the rope bridge and crossed it to the strange building. First person I have spotted was one of the priests, Priest Paul that sat next to the bridge and was sleeping. I nudged him with no response. I took a deep breath and kicked him with all my might. He woke up and screamed in pain, holding his leg in the spot I hit. He looked around and once he spotted me, I could see shame in his face, but that was replaced with anger as soon as he realized who he is looking at.
"You little…" he muttered. "You not only dare to descend here, but you also wound me?" he snarled.
"There is no time brother Paul. Monsters are in the building!" I explained and the priests' eyes widened. "We need to warn the others!" he stood up and started running to the insides of the building. I followed him through a broken wall to the inner room. It was as big as the biggest room in the abbey, though there was a big hole in the middle of it. The hole had a railing around it, though much of it was gone by now. I looked down the hole and saw that there are many other rooms like this one all the way to the bottom. I looked up and saw the same stands for the way up. It was a masterpiece of architecture for sure.
"Demons are coming!" Paul shouted. "Everyone get back!" With that Paul took out a strange stick from his pocket and by sweeping it on the floor it started a fire and it gave out a strange red smoke. He threw this stick down the hole and repeated his warning. He shouted until the first of the groups returned.
"What did you see?" asked the high priest Grach when they came. Paul looked uncertained. I stepped in front of him. "I saw a pack of monsters enter this building." I said.
"You…" Grach looked at me and then at Paul. "I see how it is now. You did well to come." He smiled at me and I grinned back at him. He was twice the height that I was as a child and I sure felt happy for the praise. "Brothers, retreat to the abbey and wait till we return. Brother Paul and the two others nodded and started walking towards the rope bridge. "You too our little savior." Said master Grach.
"Can´t I stay?" I asked. Grach looked at me with his strict look and watched me for a moment.
"Alright. After all you risked your life coming here and climbing up would be dangerous for you with just the three priests to help you.
"And so we waited for the others. With each moment passing I could hear more steps in the distance but also I could hear growling and barking. The priests were closing in, but so were the monsters.
"Brother Grach…" I looked at him.
"What is it young one?" he looked at me with his face full of worries. When he saw my face he smiled. "Don't worry. Everything is going to be just right." He struck my hair and reached for his weapon, once again having that worried face, looking down the floors for any clue of the others. Finally the others came.
"That was a close call." Shouted my teacher as the head priest Grach and the others started crossing the bridge.
"What are you doing here?" Asked my teacher and kneeled to me.
"I saw the monsters and came to warn you." I explained.
"Good boy. Thank you." He smiled, but as he was about to hug me one of the monsters jumped from the hole they came from. I pushed him to the side with all of my strength and to my joy it was enough. Though what I did not expect was the beast hitting me instead. The strength of the hit was so overwhelming that I found myself flying towards the hole in the middle of the room. I just barely managed to catch to the railing surrounding the hole. I looked down and saw the endless fall to the darkness. I tried to pull myself up, but a sharp pain on my chest reminded me that this might be the end for me. My fingers started to slip and I closed my eyes before the endless darkness devours me.
"No!" I heard my master shout from the darkness far beyond my reach as last of my fingers lose grip and I fell. I fell, unwilling to open my eyes and then it came. I hit something that whined on the impact and then I stopped falling, my head and upper body lying on the whining something, while my lower part of the body became numb. I gathered all my strength and opened my eyes. My head was turned to the left and I recognized one of the beasts under me. My falling body hit it and for some reason it was unable to get up.
"At least…" I whispered and then the darkness truly took me in its everlasting embrace.
"I once again saw the narrow street. The two girls running in front of me and a great monster trying to catch us. I shouted something at them and they looked back at me at the moment when the best landed its hit… and I woke up. I lied in a room I have never seen before. I looked around and saw strange red and white tubes going from a small bag that was hanging on a rod into my arms. I tried to reach for one of them…
"Don't!" I heard a voice in my head. "They keep you alive. You have taken quite a beating."
"W…" I said.
"Don't say anything. You will soon feel better and then we can talk." With that I felt something cold entering my body and soon I fell asleep again.
"I woke up once again. This time the tubes and the bag were all transparent. I felt… alive. I reached for the tube once more, but there was no warning this time. I pulled it out and with strange mixture of awe and fear I watched a needle coming out of me. I rapidly removed the other one too and sit up, looking around.
"I was in a small room, where was just the bed and the strange rod with a bag on each side of the bed. I tried to stand up. My body was shaking, but my will to get out of here and find out what is going on somehow overcame the fainting feeling and soon I have reached the door. these door were different to what I knew from the abbey. There was no handle, just a strange metal holder.
"Push it aside." I heard the strange woman voice in my head. I did so and I was rewarded by the door opening to the side. On the other side of the door I saw… my master.
"Master!" I shouted and threw myself at his sleeping body.
"What!" he shouted as he woke up "Ah… boy… I feared I lost you…" he still wore those strange clothes instead of his robes. I now realized that I am wearing nothing and stopped hugging him, instead sit next to him.
"Are we back in the abbey? I had no idea there is such a room." I smiled, my mind racing and trying to imagine what else could be in the innards of the abbey. Teacher only shook his head.
"No… We are still on the ground. The abbey… left…" I felt sorrow in his voice.
"Then…" I started, but then the dark corridor we sat in got filled with light and a strange young girl, in similar clothes to the ones my teacher wore walked towards us.
"You are still in the Apalian Headquarters." She said with a smile. I immediately recognized her voice as the voice that spoke inside of my head.
"You…" She bowed low in front of us.
"I have been waiting for… seven hundred years … for your coming master." She said, making a strange pause between and after the number.
"Master?" I asked… who? Master?" I looked at my teacher and at the girl.
"No… I mean you." You were quite lucky that your blood reached my floor and I could send help to acquire your body before it´s too late. It would be quite tedious to wait for another circle for you to find us."
"Us? Is there more of you? No… wait… What do you mean for me?"
"The girl looked at me with her strangely barren eyes. "Please follow me." she bowed and started walking down the corridor.
"Do you understand teacher?" I asked him as he helped me get up.
"I don't. But… My order has never met with such a being or find such a place."
"That is correct." I heard the girl say. "Facilities such as this one are hidden to the ordinary souls. The facility activates only while in a direct contact with the Chosen soul or in the times of emergency, such as this one."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Please follow me. Everything will be explained if you follow me." We followed the girl through the corridor to a staircase there the girl pointed at the door. "I can´t follow you here, make your way two floors down." With that she disappeared. We looked at each other and then decided to follow her instructions. We slowly descended the metal staircase two floors and there we found the girl waiting by the door in another white light corridor.
"Please follow me." She bowed once again and led us down the corridor to the door at the end of it. The door silently opened and we entered a huge room that was… mostly empty to my disappointment. As the girl reached the middle of the room, strange objects started to rise up as well as a table with five chairs. She sat down in one of them and gestured us to sit as well…
"We sat down at the table and looked at the girl. My master was saying nothing, only watching the girl intensively.
"Master." She started as she bowed once again. "Have you found any other places like this one?" she asked and I shook my head.
"I understand. You must have a lot of questions. I will try to explain as much as I can." She nodded.
"You can call me by my designation, Guardian. I have been placed here to watch over the echo."
"Eco?" my teacher asked.
"Echo, it has nothing to do with ecology." Guardian shook her head. "How much do you know about the Chosen ones?" she asked. I shook my head again, but the teacher nodded. "The Chosen were the heroes of the ancient times, leaders and great warriors, but much is lost…"
"Guardian nodded. "That is what they made people of this world think, what my creators made you think. Their souls are immortal, according to data I have from the Black mage, he was the very first documented reincarnation of a Chosen one. Each time they died they came back with all the memories of their past, being born to this world in another body."
"Unbelievable." Teacher leaned forward and looked at me. "Are you telling me that he is one of them?" his jaw dropped as he pointed at me, looking at Guardian that only nodded.
"The tests I ran when his blood dropped on this facility told me so and I have run a multiple tests during his recovery to confirm it."
"What is that… Echo?" I asked.
"The Echoes are just what it sounds like. They are the echoes of the person you were. And my mission is to protect them, until you come to reclaim it." As she said that a small object levitated towards me.
"What do you mean by that?" I asked.
"As I said, the Chosen are immortal and they keep their memories of their past lives. So the Chosen created facilities such as this one and hid fragments of their ego in these echoes."
"My… past…" I whispered as I slowly reached for the strange object, but my teacher stopped me.
"Won´t it stop you from being yourself?" he asked Guardian, she only shrugged.
"I do not have this information."
"Lad…" teacher looked at me. "Are you willing to risk all you know? Your very being?" he looked into my eyes. I searched for my mind. What do I have to lose?
"I…" I started. "I don't even know my own name…" I looked at the object. "You found me on the roof of the abbey, taking me in as a child and I then grew under your wings, but I still don't know who I am. This… at least could give me…" I had no idea what it could give me and I could not even imagine it. I feared this object, but I also wanted to know. I closed my eyes and touched the object.
"It was a strange feeling as if I was floating in the sky with nothing to worry about, I just watched the land under me, as it slowly turns. Then a strange man in white appeared in front of me. "Hello." He smiled. "If this is the first time we see each other, I… we are Yang. It is not our original name, but a name me and my friends decided upon. We are one of the chosen and you have just reclaimed an Echo fragment. No need to worry about your precious memories, we too decided to keep those to guide us in the future when we reclaim the echoes." He gestured to me and I flew towards him, stopping at the arms-length from him.
"This Echo and all other echoes have answers to a limited number of questions. Please ask me anything and I will answer as best as I can. If you already asked these questions at the other Echoes locations, just say Skip." He grinned and waited as if he stopped in time.
"What is going on?" I asked and the person that deemed to be me started moving again, also the surrounding changed. I saw five people, three men, and two women sitting next to a strange device. A man in black stood up and pointed to the device.
"This is it," he said with an unhidden pride in his voice. "This will end our suffering."
"Are you sure?" asked one of the women.
"…Yes…" the man answered little uncertain. "If the numbers are right, this should extract the memories from our souls."
"Extraordinary…" the other two men nodded, I saw the man that supposed to be me nodding.
"What about the other lives we live, won´t it just cause a loop of new memories?" the other woman asked.
"I thought of that too, this should connect to our souls and delete all these past life memories, just leaving the new ones until death." He stood up proud of his invention.
"What if we decide to revert it?" the second man asked.
"Why would we?" the man in black chuckled.
"Who knows… he shrugged. "The world might need us… Who knows what the future brings…"
"The black man stood there and thought for a moment. then the person that proclaimed to be me stood up and walked towards the first man.
"Why don't we divide our memories into fragments?" he offered. "That way we can´t regain all of our memories at once. If our new self deems it unnecessary to have this knowledge, they can easily return it." The black clothed man laughed and slapped my back.
"That is why you are my dearest friend! You always think of a way to make my plans work!" he nodded. "Then it is decided. I will divide our memories into fragments and hide it among the four continents. If there is a threat to this world and our future selves deem it necessary, there will be a way to revert this and then return to this peaceful life…"
"The strange place disappeared and my past ego appeared in front of me. "Any more questions?" he asked.
"Where are the other Echoes?" I asked, but the other me shook his head. "I am sorry, but I do not have that information. Do you have any more questions?"
"Who are the others?" I asked and once again I met with my other self just shrugging. "I have a feeling that you will know sooner or later, why spoil it?" he grinned.
"What else can you tell me?" I asked, feeling irritated by the smug that guy had.
"Who knows… Oh I know, you know!" he laughed.
"Skip!" I felt angry now and then it all disappeared.
"You alright?" teacher stood next to me as I opened my eyes, finding myself on the floor, my head hurt from the fall.
"Yes… thank you teacher." I nodded. Teacher seemed relieved.
"You remember…" he whispered.
"Ay… I sure remember you." I stood up and almost fell back on my ass as the world turned, fortunately the teacher held me.
"I suddenly knew about this facility. It was a strange feeling, as if I always knew. I knew all the rooms in here, I had knowledge that did not belong to me, yet it felt only natural I would know it. "I know magic…" I whispered.
"You what?" asked the teacher.
"Its… hard to describe, but the echo… held the knowledge of magic… or at least a fragment of it." I was about to think of fire, to prove myself, but then I felt a strong memory, that discouraged it, so instead I made sparks. I felt it exhausting me.
"Guardian." I looked towards the girl that guarded this facility.
"Yes master?" she stood up and bowed.
"Register a Chosen awakening. Name: Yang." I ordered her.
"As you wish." She bowed and I knew she did just that. If other chosen make it here, they will know I have awakened here.
"Yang…" teacher whispered. "Is that your name?" he asked.
"It is according to the Echo." I nodded.
"What do you plan to do now?" he asked.
"Probably to take you back to the abbey, than to find other echoes…"
"Teacher, when you found me... how was I…" I asked him, he only looked aside.
"You were badly hurt. We tried to save your life and after weeks of healing you we finally managed to save you."
"I see." I nodded. That explained the loss of memories. Death was the reset button.
"You see what?" he asked. "Please talk to me!"
"Why I don't remember a thing of my past." I gave him a thin smile then turned to Guardian.
"Please prepare two rooms for me and my honorable teacher. We will stay here for a while."
"As you wish master." She bowed and disappeared.
"Master… I am sorry for asking after such a long time, but what is your name?" I asked him, feeling embarrassed for not knowing or remembering his name after two years of him being my teacher. I have been told to call him "Master" or "Teacher" and I have never heard other priests call him his name…
"Oh… Paul. My name should be known only to the inner circle of the order as for the traditions but I believe this situation is special enough for me to make an exception." He smiled and shook my hand. "I don't know what to say…" I shook his hand and thought about the meaning of this.
"Anyway, what was it that you gained from that Echo?" he asked.
"I gained the knowledge of magic," I answered and once again made a spark in my palm.
"Outstanding! An ancient art that is nowadays only known and is practiced only by the nobles." Master Paul nodded.
"Also I saw the Chosen ones, all five of them." I continued. "They created a machine that would separate their memories from their soul. According to… my memories after I die, I should lose all my memories, but with the Echo, this new knowledge should stay with me."
"I see." He nodded.
"It also explains why I remember nothing from my past." I felt almost happy as I said that aloud. "The day you saved my life, I must have died and you brought me back to life, that way I lost all my memories!" I was smiling now.
"Paul only nodded.
"And so you plan to continue collecting the Echoes?" he asked. I stopped smiling and thought about it for a second.
"Yes." I nodded. "I have no past and now is too late to walk back on it. Even if it is not good for me, it might be a good thing in the long run for…" I did not finish as Guardian appeared in front of us.
"Your rooms are the ready master. I also prepared something for you to eat from the rations Yin prepared for visiting Chosen. Will your companion eat too?" she asked.
"Yes." I nodded. "We will eat together." Guardian bowed and started walking towards the staircase. "Please reach the next floor, I will be waiting there for you." She smiled and disappeared.
"The dishes served to us felt like something that would be served to a king, both in number and rich taste. Paul started talking about how lucky we are to have such dishes served to us, but I got lost in my thoughts, just barely touching the food, thinking of the future.
"We have stayed in Guardians hospitality for two more days than I used to improve my magic control. I had no known and then we said goodbye and thanks to her and left. The entrance to the strange underground was locked behind an ordinary door… at least that was how it looked from the outside. Inside these doors was metal. Guardian also shared with us that the door is protected by magic to project thought of unimportance to the people other than the Chosen. Paul and I got a parting gift from the Guardian. We were given provisions that would last us for a week, Both of us also got a weapon, a sword each that I sensed something strange from, later on discovering that they are enchanted by magic.
"When I asked Guardian, if she knows about a city or where the abbey traveled to she shrugged.
"I am sorry Master, but I am not allowed to guide you on your journey…" she bowed and smiled slightly. "…But those magical beasts seemed that they are running from something." She added as she closed the door behind us.
"What that a clue?" asked Paul.
"Definitely." I nodded.
"Strange person this Guardian. Also, I could not see anyone else there, do you think she lives there alone?" Paul asked me as we were climbing up the ladder to get out of the underground portion of the building.
"If so, how long is she in there like this?" I asked.
"Do you think…" Paul started asking, but then stopped, thinking about it himself until we got outside of the building.
"Do you remember where from the demons came?" he asked and looked around the small clearing that was surrounded by a deep forest.
"They came from there." I pointed to a forest to our left as I remembered the angle the bests closed towards the building and saw the place where the anchor impacted the ground.
"Should we then go where she pointed us to or should we go the other way?" Paul watched me with unhidden curiosity.
"The thing the beasts were running from might be and ally, but it also might be an enemy." I shrugged. "I don't think she would send us towards danger after giving us these supplies.
"Lead the way then." Paul nodded and we headed into the forest.
"She would not send us towards danger…" Paul repeated as he cut off a beast pawn, following another slash that separated its head from the body.
"I did not think so!" I shouted as I clumsily dodged the attack of another beast and tried to stab it from the side, missing the attack and having to jump back to dodge another of its attacks. Paul ran towards me and assisted me with taking down the last of the bests.
"I thought the Chosen were strong and wise…" he lamented. "From all the books we collected, it seemed so! Instead, they are clumsy with no foresight!" he hit my head with his fist. It was nothing serious.
"The Chosen might be such creatures, but as you well know I have only limited knowledge of the Chosen myself! Truth to be told, it is a wonder that I could speak after I lost all memories of my previous life!" I held the spot he hit and looked at him angrily. Paul grinned at me and started cleaning his sword and so did I, copying his actions. Four beasts attacked us as we walked through the woods. I, by some strange fluke, managed to take down one of the beasts and take the third occupied long enough for Paul to come and save me.
"Can´t you use magic?" he looked at me with his measuring look.
"It is not a question of whether I can use it, but if I can use it in combat." I lowered my head. "Light!" I shouted and made the magic pour through my body. The result was a globe of white light that shuns its white light all around us.
"Oh yes! Alarm more of these beasts to our location!" Paul shouted and threw a small stone at me to release the orb from my control and make it disappear. I did so and sat down to gather my strengths.
"Glorified torch!" shouted Paul as he sat down on one of the corpses of the beasts.
"Sorry…" I lowered my head even lower now feeling depressed for being such a useless person. Suddenly I felt a hand of my shoulder and as I looked up I saw Paul´s grinning face.
"Don't worry kiddo. I am sure that with some more practice you will get stronger. I am just releasing some stress…" He stopped smiling and looked around us.
"Something is coming." He whispered as he reached for his sword.
"I would not do that." Said a voice from behind me. As I looked behind I saw a man with a bow and a knocked up arrow, aiming at us. I looked at Paul, and saw another three people walking from the surrounding vegetation as if they were there all along and just now decided to appear to our sight. Paul let the sword slide back to the scabbard and raised his arms.
"Who are you two?" the man asked and still aimed at us.
"Two travelers that got lost in the woods," Paul said as he looked behind, spotting the other three people.
"Is that your handiwork?" he made a gesture towards the beasts.
"What if it is?" he asked and frowned and his muscles stretched. The archer relaxed and returned the arrow to the quiver.
"Then we would be the ones to owe you our thanks." He smiled. "We were tracking this pack for a week now."
"How did you find us?" Asked Paul, still not letting his guard down.
"That is the thing…" the archer scratched his head. "We are tracking the beasts and then a strange white light appeared. We decided to investigate…" the man explained and I could feel Paul´s cold gaze upon me.
"I would say, that it would be a reflection from our blades as we slew the demons, but as you can see there is no light coming down through the tree branches." Paul shrugged.
"Anyway, there must be another group of these beasts around. At least last time we spotted them they were at least eight."
"Then I think you owe us double." Paul grinned.
"Oh?" the archer now walked towards us.
"We met the rest of the pack in the ruins about a day this way." Paul pointed out the way we came from. "We were camping in these ruins and then the pack attacked us. Fortunately, the building we camped in had narrow corridors, so it was easy to take care of them." Paul explained.
"It really seems like we owe you double." The archer rubbed his chin.
"Where are you coming from?" the archer did not stop his interrogation.
"Porok, but we got lucky and until the ruins, we hired a flying island to transport us."
"Lucky indeed." The archer circled us as his companions surrounded us.
"You must be monster hunters from a city right?" Paul asked as he crossed his arms.
"That we are." One of the companions grinned.
"Could you then get us to the city? We will leave these bodies to you as a payment."
"These bodies are just enough to pay for your lives." Snarled another man.
"Then we will pay you through a friend that lives in the city," Paul said and watched their reactions.
"I don't like you…" the archer narrowed his eyes. "Something feels wrong about you two." He looked down at me as I was still sitting on the ground.
"Who is this?" he asked.
"My name is Yang…" I said with more than a hint in my voice.
"Do you know this man, Yang?" the archer asked me.
"I… I do. He saved my life twice in fact." I nodded.
"Did he now?" the archer looked at Paul.
"Yes… I hired him to get me to the city…" Oh… and what city is that?" the archer smiled as he reached for a knife by his hip. At that moment Paul braced his sword and I reached for mine as I realized that I made a mistake.
"Who are you two…" the archer snarled as he caught me under the neck and pushed a knife to my back.
"We are…" Paul started, but the archer made a gesture and one of his companions hit him so hard Paul dropped on the ground.
"I want the kid to answer me that, I can´t trust a word that you say, stranger…" the man turned me around to face him, knife at my neck he looked into my eyes.
"Who are you and what are you doing here?" he almost growled the question.
"He is from the abbey." I said.
"A monk!?" shouted one of the three companions.
"Yes…" I nodded.
"And you?" archer asked.
"I don't know…" I said.
"Don't give me that." The archer pushed the knife and I felt blood dripping from my neck to the clothes.
"I am not lying. They found me, took me in… Then during the search of the ruins, I came to warn them that the beasts are coming… that day he saved my life for the second time. Unfortunately, the Abbey flew away and we stayed behind…" I told them the truth, hoping it would calm them.
"Brother, we should kill him. He is a monk!" one of the companions pointed at Paul. Archer looked at him than Paul and then his gaze ended up at me again.
"What do you want in the city?" he asked.
"Safety I guess…" I shrugged. I don't know. He is my guide and teacher." The archer stood up, releasing his grip on me. He was still watching me, but he was saying nothing.
"Skin those beasts." He ordered after a while of silence. "I will decide what to do with these two once we are ready to move on." The three reluctantly walked to the beasts and I watched them with interest as they were skinning the beasts.
"Are you selling those?" I asked.
"We are." Answered the archer.
"Is there any other use? Bones and such?" I asked.
"There is, but we are too far from the city to transport the meat safely. As for the bones… we would need a carriage. As these beasts are not as light as you probably know." He pointed down at the scabbard that stile had some blood on it from my cleaning.
"Sun above us moved on and they were finally finished with the beasts. Master Paul just sat next to me silently, eying the four men.
"We will take them to the city." The archer decided.
"Brother!" one of the men protested.
"My decision is final. They seem to have their own food and it will be safer to travel in six rather than four." The archer decided in a voice that I knew from the father Grach, a voice that does not accept no for an answer.
"As you wish… but if they cut our throats during the night, don't come crying to me." he spits on the ground and the group started moving to the west.
"The journey was long, but the day we ran out of supplies, we have spotted the white walls of the city. It was enormous. The island with the abbey would be nothing to the city in front of us.
"The city of Babylon." The archer said as he saw me watch it with wonder.
"Is that the city?" I asked as the group laughed, even teacher Paul smiled.
"You must have told the truth that you have no memories of your past…" the archer laughed. "These are just the outer walls. Two days inwards we will reach the inner walls of the true city." He explained.
"I just stood there and watched it in awe.
"No time to waste." I got slapped back by one of the company members. "Let´s go." And we did. We just reached the gatehouse of the outer walls as the earth beneath us shook. Every one of us panicked.
"An earthquake…" exhaled Paul as the earth stopped shaking.
"A what?" asked the archer.
"I read about such an event in some old books. It should be natural for some parts of the world to shake like this, but it should not be here…" Paul looked around.
"It seems that the walls survived without a problem, what a relief."
"We left this strange event behind us as the guards let us through and we continued our journey to the inner walls. We walked just half a day through the endless fields and orchards, I have spotted a couple of villages in the distance, but we did not take any of the turns on the crossroads towards them. Then we spotted an object in the distance on the road and it seemed it was heading our way as it did not take any turns that it had on the way towards us. When the object reached us, we saw it was a carriage pulled by four horses. The coachman ignored us, but from the back of the carriage jumped down a well-dressed man and approached us. He bowed slightly and looked at us.
"Are you those who just entered our city-state when the earth shook?" he asked.
"We are." Answered the archer. "We were on a mission by the guild to hunt down the monsters that…"
"Yes… yes… we know. But it was a group of four, who are the other two people?" he gestured the archer to skip his talk.
"We met them in the woods…"
"I see…" the stranger looked at me and master Paul. The man bowed low. "As I have been ordered, I would like to invite you to my master´s residence as he would like to speak with you." He said and gestured towards the carriage.
"Who is your master?" asked Paul.
"The city lord, who else…" said the man. Paul frowned and looked at me.
"I guess we have no other choice but to accept the invitation…" he exhaled and started walking towards the carriage. I was just about to walk as well, but something held me on the spot. I looked at what it is and saw the leader of the group that got us here holding my sleeve.
"Be careful kiddo." He whispered. "I don't trust that friend of yours, but if you are in need, ask for the Blake brothers." He released me and I could join Paul in the carriage. Just before I entered the carriage I looked at the group and waved at them. "Thank you!"
"The party that got us here disappeared behind the horizon as the carriage carried us towards the unknown. I was just watching the side of the road. We passed by big herds of animals, teacher educated me that they are called cows and they are a vital part of this city's economy for its milk, meat, hides, and horns. I won´t lie, I really enjoyed this journey, seeing so many things for the first time… or at least for the first time as far as I remember… I thought about it for a while and almost did not realize that we stopped.
"It was a two storage building with stairs to its right side to the upper part, there were ten rooms, probably for customers to spend the night.
"We will be changing horses and coachman. There should be some food ready for you and as soon as you eat we will continue on our journey." The servant stated and opened the door of the carriage so we can exit it. We entered the inn and immediately we have been shown to a table and served a dish of roasted meat with potatoes.
"What do you think about this?" I asked Paul as he started eating.
"It is highly suspicious." Nodded Paul. "But as we are in the City, we have no choice but to agree to this. City lord has a great reach and we cannot afford to offend him." He explained.
"Do you think it is because of me?" I asked as I ate a piece of meat.
"It might be, but I doubt it. We were here just for half a day and we get the carriage to transport us? It could be my order too. Maybe the abbey passed by and asked the city lord to look for us." He smiled. "Don't think about it now. Eat up before it goes cold."
"Once we finished the dish and drank some water the servant came back for us and we were back on the journey and with the first daylight we were entering a city that grew on this side of the Inner wall. Paul woke me up so I could see it and it was truly something to see. For the first time, I saw a city from an ordinary person´s point of view. I once saw a city from Abbey island. Back then it was a great sea of buildings filled with ants. Now I could see the inhabitants as they walking through the streets and in seven hours we were going through the Inner wall gate to the true city ocean.
"Who are these?" I asked and pointed at a strange couple of people that were talking to each other on the street. They were a little taller than ordinary people and their skin was green.
"Some people…" Paul shrugged.
"But… they are green…" I watched behind us as we passed them.
"Ah… this… Some people are a little different, but we are one people." He shrugged. "Some live longer and have pointy ears, some have fur and tail, or beast features, but they are all People of the Land." He explained. I nodded in understanding his explanation. Soon I saw who he was talking about as we passed by a crowd of people that were watching our carriage as is passed them.
"We are close to our last stop," Paul said as he looked out of the window.
"How do you know?" I asked and looked as well.
"I have been here before," Paul said as he stretched his arms with a clacking sound.
"I could see nothing, but in an hour we entered a park and soon the carriage stopped in front of a beautiful marble mansion.
"A new servant walked to the carriage from the white stairs that lead to the mansion entrance, opened the door of the carriage and waited for us to get out. Once we did, he examined us and approached us.
"I have to ask you to leave your weapons in the carriage. Also, I have to search for you."
"Do as you please." Said Paul and handed the sword to the servant that brought us to the city, I followed his actions and gave my sword to the servant as well. The new servant then searched for us. Once he was finished he nodded. "Thank you for your patience. Please follow me now. The city lord is waiting." He said and walked up the stairs. We followed him inside the mansion and through the labyrinth of rooms inside of the building. Then I sensed something strange behind a big double door that the servant lead us towards. The door opened on their own and the servant stopped by the door.
"Please enter." He bowed and we entered.
"It was a medium-sized room without windows, yet the chandelier in the middle of the ceiling gave enough of its strange white light to the light whole room. The only other furniture in the room was a table and three chairs. Two of them were on our side of the table and the third one was on the other side. All chair was empty.
"Please…" I heard a strange metallic voice, "Take a seat." I looked around for the source of that voice, but I saw no one. Paul just took a deep breath and walked towards the table, I followed him, not knowing what to do. When both of us sat down, out of a sudden I could see a person on the other side of the table. It was a man, his hair blue, skin pale white. He wore an expensive-looking suit that fitted him perfectly. I looked at his face and for a heartbeat, I was unable to breathe. His face was hardly human, it was as if I was looking into the face of a monster, its blue fiery eyes watching me. The stranger´s mouth opened, full of teeth in some twisted grin and then the visage of a monster disappeared, replaced by an ordinary human face with normal blue eyes and blond hair, his skin caught a little tan from the sun, but he looked like any of the people I knew from the abbey. Human.
"What a surprise…" Said the man as he leaned back in his chair. "A High Priest of the Church of Knowledge and a child." He said and watched us intensively.
"What a surprise, a monster ruling over a city…" said Paul in a similar tone as the man opposite us.
"You know… were it not for the chaos you two brought to my city, I would have ignored you, just two new ants in the anthill." He said and made a bored gesture with his hand. A carafe filled with water and tree glasses appeared in the middle of the table. It started flying and poured some water from itself to the glasses. The glasses then levitated to each of us as the man opposite us sipped from the glass.
"What do you want from us?" Paul asked.
"Did you know…" the man started as he laid the glass down. "The earthquakes in these parts are rare… And I mean really rare. So far there was only one in the history of this city." He looked into my eyes intensively.
"What does that have to do with us?" Paul asked, I just sat there and took a sip of the water.
"There was another earthquake, first of its kind in another city…" he said. "It destroyed good half of that city and then a stranger destroyed the rest of it. Hundred thousand souls extinguished in one day." He frowned.
"Who did it?" I asked, curiosity taking over my better judgment.
"That is still to be known." The man said and emptied his glass, the carafe flying towards the glass to refill it.
"Well… thank you for the refreshment and the information, but we will be leaving…" Paul said and stood up. The door behind us closed and in an instant, the man stood in front of /"What kind of a priest of Knowledge are you to be served a mystery in front of you and you just passing on it?" the man tilted his head on a side and then looked at me. "Unless you know of something…" The man disappeared and I felt a cold touch on my neck as something touched me. I looked to the other side and saw the man´s arm as he was now examining me. "Who are you child?" he asked.
"I…" I started as he turned my head to the left.
"I don't care about your name," he said as he lifted me and examined me again. "What are you? Your smell is different to the other creatures I have encountered…" He let me sink back into the chair and once again he sat in his chair.
"He is the Chosen." Whispered Paul.
"Is he?" asked the man and once again he appeared in front of me, his face just an inch from my face, his eyes were now burning with strange blue fire, watching me intensively. "But he looks like an ordinary child…" he looked at Paul.
"I don't really understand it myself…" Paul shrugged. "But we found ruins…"
"I see…" the man sat on the table next to us.
"There is such a place beneath this city too." He said and watched our reaction. Paul acted calmly, but I was unable to hide the excitement of the thought of having another Echo reclaimed.
"You were not lying…" muttered the man. Then I felt a force grabbing me by the neck and I started choking as the man pinned me to the wall.
"Tell me one reason why I should not kill you." He hissed, the strange bestial face once again visible.
"I was unable to speak and in a moment I felt as I was about to pass out.
"He has no memories of his past." Was the last thing I heard before the darkness embraced me.
"I woke up and stared up to a white ceiling. I slowly looked around myself and saw a small room with me lying in a bed, in the corner of the room was a chair and the stranger that assaulted me sat there, watching me intensively.
"What are you?" I asked him as I got up and sat in bed.
"I guess that telling you that will make things easier." The man nodded. "I am the lord of this city and its protector by the wish of my mother." He stood up and slowly walked towards me, his face once again becoming the one of a beast. "This face you see is just a distant echo of my real self. And this.." he turned back human. "Is a gift of the Gods to those of my mother´s line to be able to communicate with you." He stopped next to me and his fiery eyes once again watched me, sending a chill down my spine. "Put on the clothes I prepared for you. We will be leaving to see that Echo of yours." He said and walked out of the room.
"I was once again sitting in a carriage as it was rolling down a street. Both Paul and the city lord were inside with me, both of them watching me, not saying a word. And so the carriage was slowly closing to our destination. After half an hour the carriage stopped and we had to get out.
"The carriage can´t get us any further." The city lord explained as we stared at the ruins of a city block.
"How far?" asked Paul.
"Nine blocks." City lord said. "We need to get to the epicenter." He pointed somewhere to the rubble.
"Lead the way." Paul nodded and so we started climbing over stones that used to be part of a wall, jumping over gaps in the ground as the earthquake tore it open.
"Why don't…" I started asking as I stumbled over some ruble, just to realize it resembled a leg, being caught by Paul. "Thank you." I nodded gratefully. "Why don't you use those powers you have?" I asked the city lord.
"Why do you think?" He said and jumped over a broken wall.
"I gulped and climbed over the wall he disappeared behind, to find the Door.
"They have an aura around them." Said the city lord. "If it was just standing here in a house, we would have never found it. But with the earthquake, It was the only thing that stayed untouched." He touched it and flinched. "If I am correct, the place you seek is behind this door." He let me approach the door and as I touched them the door opened. Behind them was… Guardian.
"Guardian." I felt relief and somehow happy at the sight of the girl in front of me.
"Master." She bowed. "Please follow me." She said and started walking towards another door at the end of a small staircase. I was about to follow her, but a cold hand stopped me. "I will go first." City lord said and pushed me aside to follow the Guardian.
"Guardian stood at the end of the staircase. As we reached her, she opened the second door and a small room opened. She walked in and waited for us to enter as well. When we got inside the door closed and the small room started shaking, my body feeling a strange pressure for a brief moment.
"Who are you girl?" City lord asked.
"You are not authorized." She said.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"You are not authorized." She repeated.
"How long have you been here?" he asked, visibly forcing a smile
"You are not authorized," Guardian repeated. "Please seek an administrator to authorize you." She looked at him emotionless. Once again I felt a strange pressure and then the door opened. Guardian stepped out of the room and we followed her to a similar room that we found the first Echo in the first time.
"Guardian…" I stopped and looked around. "What is this place?" I asked.
"A vault." She answered.
"What for?" Asked the city lord.
"You are not authorized." She said to him.
"Girl… stop messing with me and answer me." He growled. And his face changed. In an instance Guardian held a strange object in her hand, aiming at the city lord. "Please calm down or you will be dealt with." She said in a calm emotionless voice. City lord to my surprise calmed down and looked to the corner of a room as if he just spotted something interesting.
"How long have you been here?" I asked Guardian as we walked towards the table in the middle.
"The chronometers were damaged during the centuries, but it should be around two millennia." She answered.
"But you are just a child," I said, in my mind trying to explain what she said.
"My apologies master. I chose this look from the archive to look of similar age as you. If this look displeases you, I will terminate the…"
"It's alright! Sorry… And thank you." I scratched the back of my head, feeling a little embarrassed. I did not really understand what she meant, but I did not want her to terminate anything.
"We reached the table and the Echo started levitating towards me.
"What is that?" The city lord asked. "Is that the Echo?"
"You are not autho…" Guardian started.
"Not asking you kiddo." He didn´t let her finish.
"Yes." Paul nodded. "Now we will see what secrets it holds." With him saying that I touched the Echo.
"I saw a man, just a little older than me, he was wearing strange yellowish-brown fatigue with a cap of the same color. He was on board a ship and his strange face with thin eyes was watching a crowd of people in the harbor as if hoping to see someone. The difference in the appearance of confused me, but the memory contained the information that poured into me. Asia, Japan 1943, Earth.
"In the next moment, I saw him running against a machinegun fire in a human wave to defeat his enemies. Reaching the enemy line and then killing the people that wore more greenish uniforms. Again and again, I charged the enemy lines, and once again I came out as a victor, all the memories of my school life being just an echo of a life that I lived long ago… The battles slowly ate my humanity, listening to the officers about the enemy, how they will take our women, and make us their slaves… I fought for the future and for the possibility to have a family.
"I was now disembarking a ship in the harbor that I left in the beginning. Now the left sleeve of the uniform was empty and I have been told that we lost the war, that I am dismissed. Tears in my eyes as I hear those orders and the country leader talking about the end of the war, preparing myself to become a slave in some factory on the other side of the world…
"That day never comes. The city that got destroyed by the enemy got rebuilt and I was one of those who helped, helping the engineers and thanks to that I got enrolled on an architecture school. The missing hand was a handicap but I worked hard and soon I was fulfilling the commissions given to me. A thought of feeling lucky that it turned up like that poured into my mind. I saw countless other veterans just begging in the city streets or becoming slaves of the underworld.
"There was a hole in the memories… It was as if they're supposed to be something, yet all the faces, all the places were gone… For a second I felt great happiness and then nothing, just the darkness.
"The technology of my country moved on and I started enjoying this new world that my country changed into. I enjoyed going to some dark room, watching moving pictures, some of those pictures inspiring me in my work.
"I was just walking in the evening after watching such a… movie… Thinking about something as I fell and… died.
"I saw myself once again, this time I saw something more familiar. People of the Land… Elves, dwarfs, orks, beastmen, humans… I was an assassin and I got paid well, the terror of the continent, the shadow of the night. I saw the training I went through to reach such a reputation. I killed mages and then studied their way of magic… hole again…
"I got careless and walked into an ambush in some dark street. A hit to the back of my head, a dozen stabs and a throat cut. I have been left in the street, robbed of the little money I had with me, once again thinking of how I got here. Then someone picked me up and took me inside a house. I recovered, healed myself to be able to speak again and I hungered for vengeance. A middle-aged woman that owned a tavern that saved me talked me into a change of profession.
"I have done a couple more jobs to earn more money and during that, I thought of a new plan.
"I stood behind a bar and watched an elven child playing by the table and I felt the warmth in my heart. I smiled and slowly walked towards her.
"Master!" she smiled at me and pointed at the door. "Can I go play outside?" she asked.
"Sure." I nodded and followed her outside. People were working all around us. An Ork came to me and looked to the river that flew almost next to the inn. There was a great stone bridge across the river and as I saw it I felt pride. "Is that what you plan for the future?" he asked me. I answered him something, the vision did not let me know what. "If that is so." Said the ork and smiled. "I will happily pledge myself to you."
"Thank you." I looked up to him. "Your help is welcomed."
"The vision ended and I was standing in the middle of the room, just staring to the emptiness, my mind once again filled with knowledge and memories of someone else, yet it felt like it was mine all along. All the years in the elementary school, my military training, the academy, all the time I spent training to become the master assassin, yet it was just a fragment of who I was…
"Yang…" I heard Paul. "Are you alright?"
"Yes…" I whispered. "Just overwhelmed by the information." I looked down at myself. A weak body, but young. It could become a great tool… I shook my head. "That is not my way."
"What was it?" Paul asked.
"My origins… I guess…" I shook my head and sat down in the chair Paul prepared for me.
"Is that all?" the city lord came to us, annoyment dripping from his words.
"Guardian," I said as I leaned back in the chair. "I authorize that guy for the basic information," I said and closed my eyes, hoping that the city lord will stop bothering me while I am trying to recover from all the information.
"Understood." Guardian nodded.
"So… what is this?" I heard the city lord asking her.
"Who build it?"
"You are not…"
"What am I authorized to know?" he asked.
"Toilets are on every floor, third door to the right," Guardian said without emotions.
"Are you mocking me?!" City lord shouted as I smiled.
"Correct. For a dragon, you are truly stupid." She said.
"A what?" both I and Paul said. Guardian looked at us.
"A dragon. It is just a whelp, 200 years old. The species thought to be…"
"Extinct…" I finished her sentence. I knew that, it was part of the latest Echo, knowledge of the races of this world.
"How do you know that?" he looked at me, his eyes fiery once again.
"Please calm down or you will be pacified," Guardian warned him.
"The Echo… The knowledge of the dragons and other races poured into me." I once again sat down.
"What else?" City lord walked towards the table and sat next to me. "Tell us." He demanded.
"Alright…" I exhaled and started telling them what I saw.
"Outstanding." Murmured Paul. "And you are saying that you are from another world?" he asked.
"Than it seems my mother was right." Nodded the city lord, now calm and collected. "She told us that the Chosen are still among us, but they forgot everything. That one day you will return and she…" he looked at me. "She decided to take care of this world in your stead."
"What do you mean?" I asked him.
"I said too much." He shook his head. "And it will be better for you to hear it from her herself. I already contacted her to come and she will. Until then… You will be my guests." He decided.
"Thank you." I nodded gratefully.
"Also…" he looked to the ceiling. "Sorry for my behavior. I got carried away as I was under a lot of stress lately…"
"No problem." I nodded.
"As an architect, you might give us some tips on how to prevent the buildings from being destroyed when the next earthquake comes." He smiled as he started walking towards the elevator.
"Guardian," I said.
"Yes Master?" she appeared next to me.
"Is this facility always active?" I asked her.
"Negative." She said. "It activates only when the Chosen are nearby to conserve the energy." She said.
"How long can the… generator run?" I asked her.
"With current fuel, 500 years." She said.
"Then let it run," I ordered. "at least until I decide otherwise."
"As you wish, master." Guardian nodded.
"We all then headed towards the elevator and I brought us up to the top floor.