Roloss wiped his brow; for all the tales of Riders not being affected by the whipping winds, thin air, and frigid temperatures of their natural habitat, the sky, he knew that they were all lies. Or at least, most of them. He was a tall man, even for a Rider, and sleekly muscled, with a tuft of red hair on the top of his head. His dazzling ice blue eyes which matched the creature below him, squinted into the sky, searching. He was the hunter today, and today there would be victory for him.

For a fortnight the battle had raged on, the forces of the Grand Covenant drawing ever closer to the hated city, the center of the destruction and despair that had smothered the land for seventy-three years. Sklant. That city was the home of Sendura, one of the three great Guardians that had been sent by Erron and Erra to watch over their land and people, and ensure it's survival. Sendura had rebelled against her masters, and had begun to destroy the careful balance.

One of the other three Guardians had challenged her, and defied her rising power. City by city the Guardians fought, sometimes in the flesh but more often using hordes of soldiers, smashing up against each other in great waves. City by city, province by province the fourth kingdom, Setnal had been taken from Sendura, the people liberated from her grasp. Today, if their luck held, Sendura would be resoundly defeated, captured, and taken from them by the most merciful twins - Erron and Erra.

Roloss was a hunter today, and the low clouds didn't help matters. It would take all of his skill to finish off the last of the opposing Riders, a particularly clever Petr ul'Pol. Roloss had worked both with him and against him before, and he knew that this would a challenge. ul'Pol had performed a textbook maneuver to enter the cloud, but where and when he would come out was a mystery at the moment.

Which would be solved shortly. Pulling on the leather reigns, Roloss merely thought about where he wanted to go, and Vean'xul, his dragon-mount shot forward, throwing him back into his saddle. The cloud drew closer, and the pair entered into it. When they had passed the median point, Vean'xul began to beat her wings back and forth as they crossed through. When they cleared it, a neat little portion of it had been dispelled. But more importantly, an outline of what could only be a dragon, large and curvaceous, could be seen.

Roloss smiled grimly, and pulled together the pieces of the waltor. The waltor was comprised of a large glass sphere, open on one end, with a thick, angry iron spike running through it. On the end of the spike stood a crystal of the deepest ruddy red, and two brass tubes connected the crystal to a brass trigger. He cleared his mind of all extraneous thought, focusing on the bone deep hate and anger that he had for the Setnalese people, but above all for Sendura. Channelling that energy, he fired the waltor. A scream of sound, energy and light burst from the end of the crystal, and pieced the clouds, vaporizing the water content as it went.

Suddenly the outline grew darker, and a wounded dragon came charging out of the cloud, straight towards Roloss. Closer and closer they came, and while Petr ul'Pol tried to pull together his waltor, his dragon's left side was spouting rich blood, a stream sprinkling on the ground far below. The dragon's thrashes grew more and more frantic, and the creature took a dive to the ground, to try and land before it was too late. Roloss watched and listened as the painful screeches of a dragon and the pitched screams of a man faded into the distance below them. Rubbing a gloved hand over the glistening ice-blue scales of Vean'xul, Roloss reflected on the life of his opponent, said a short prayer to Erra, and pointed his animal towards the covenant's camp.

He felt the back of his neck; it was as if someone was watching him. Turning, his eyes scanned the sky for signs of pursuit; there were none. A heavy presence settled over him, and he jerked the reigns to stop Vean'xul from descending any further. A touch on his mind and he felt warm, as if he were bathing in the hot springs of Halix. Roloss pulled open his mind, and felt that other presence fill it. He wasn't sure what was going on, but he was sure that either way the presence would get it's way. His mind's eye expanded, with his senses exploding in all directions. He felt the air twisting cooly around him; felt the cloud as it lilted on it's journey through the sky; felt even the few bugs that flew here beating their wings.

What's going on? he wondered, not sure if anyone would answer him. In all of the tales he had heard about this sort of thing, Roloss had rarely heard of an answer to that very fundamental question.

A rolling chuckle resounded from the recesses of his mind. It wasn't a single chuckle, but one made by hundreds of voices, each a slightly different pitch. You are to be the next Guardian, Roloss of Hult. He stopped, unsure of how to continue. This was definitely not in any of the stories that he had heard.

You are to be the voice of Erron. The Guardian of Nature. Roloss's mind raced, trying to grapple with that thought.

That means that you are...his thought trailed off. For as long as anyone living could remember, Tolran had been the Guardian. There had been previous Guardians, but that had been centuries ago. Older even that the oldest mage.

Yes, it does. Sendura has won a small victory even now. But it will be her last. Come lad, let us go to her tower and finish her for all time. There can be a new Guardian chosen to replace her.

Roloss agreed, and pushed Vean'xul downwards, spiraling ever faster towards the city.

The city of Sklant was a vast blight on the world. Huge forge pits bit into the soft soil of the green earth, belching fire and smoke at a vast pace. The squalid populace lived in great blocks of buildings, each one identical to the next, and all of them forming a vast wall between the high city walls and the iron tower of Sendura. The iron tower seemed driven into the very ground it stood on, and the tower twisted and wrapped around itself as it rose ever higher. At the very top was the remnant of a great midnight black globe, which while once whole and complete, lay now open and naked to the world.

As the tower summit drew nearer, Roloss made out the shapes of over a hundred mages, all facing a single woman. She pivoted in a crystal case, in the very center of the black floor. With a thud, Roloss found himself perched on one of the smaller shards, and jumped down from Vean'xul onto the dark marble floor. He strode across it, and held his hand up when several of the mage's apprentices scurried over to him. He was taller than everyone in the globe by at least a hand.

He walked across the midnight black marble to where the battle mages stood. They were dressed from head to toe in white, and their long hair stood against the whiteness of their clothing by all being a deep scarlet. Streaks of brown, blue, orange or white filtered though the hair, and all were focused on her. Roloss pushed through the groups, being careful that he did not lose sight of Sendura. He didn't know quite what to do, but he was sure that Tolran would help him through it.

Below the small dais on which Sendura pivoted, lay Tolran's clothes. Without knowing quite what he was doing, Roloss rummaged through his predecessors clothes, looking for a ring. Under the tunic, he found it. It was fairly small, just as Tolran was and unblemished gold. Roloss slipped it onto his pinky, where it expanded and then contacted to fit him. It felt slightly cold, but right on his finger.

Just as with his mind, he felt an awareness spreading, this time through his body. Tingling, he stretched his fingers and felt the sheer power that lay before him. Sendura laughed, a cold, hard laugh that could pierce even the toughest of skin.

I will destroy you just as I destroyed him. You are weak. She spat. Sendura drew in breath, her stringy black hair shaking slightly as she did so. Her right arm rose, and her pointer finger shot out, revealing a similar ring to Roloss's. Without warning, a beam of silver light expelled out of her ring, but it was quickly stopped by a wall of golden light from his. Roloss had no idea what drew him to that blocking spell, but whatever it was, he thanked greatly. Back and forth the two pushed, Sendura slowly gaining ground against him. He began to draw deeper breaths, trying not to panic and let himself be destroyed in the process.

Don't panic Tolran told him soothingly. Let me do this. Roloss released his own mind's grip on the ring and it's power, and felt it being filled by someone wiser and more experienced. It was only then that he added his own mind to the wall. The ground lost was regained ever so slowly, and new ground gained by both of them together. Suddenly, the silver beam blinked out, and Sendura was enveloped by that same golden light. She screamed as it fell into her pasty skin.

Roloss advanced, eyes blazing and moving in for the final blow.

Making sure that Sendura was not going to attack him, he twisted to find the sound of the voice. He looked around, and then down. Below him, a seemingly young child took Roloss's hand and led him back to Sendura. Snow white blond hair and eyes twinkled out to the world. She cannot pass away. If her power falls into your hands, you will transform into what she wanted to become, ruling over both halves of our world. I forbid it.

With a flourish, the little boy, whose white robes seemed made out of starlight itself, walked to Sendura's weakening body and pulled her ring off of her finger. He slipped it into a pocket, and giggled slightly, patting it.

Will she die? Roloss asked, unsure of what to do next and not receiving any help from Tolran.

No. She is with Erron and Erra now, until that time when she will rise again. I will keep this ring. Let the Setnalese return to their homes. This war is over.

That moment felt no different than the previous one, but yet Roloss knew that something was different. He let out a great cheer, amplified a hundred fold. Great white flames shot out of his hands into the afternoon sky, signaling to all that the war was over.

The child raised his hands to focus the air around him, and turned to
Roloss abruptly. Do not let the great balance tilt. Nature, if unbounded, will overrun Humanity. Watch, learn, and control.

Those last words grew faint as the child departed from the broken globe just as mysteriously as he arrived. In the celebrations that followed and for the rest of his extended life, Roloss would never forget those words, and he used them as his guiding principles.

A/N - Well, this is long promised original prologue. Please Read/Review and tell me what you think. As far as I can tell, all of this is mine, and any resemblance to anything is purely a mistake on my part, and will be corrected. What else...oh yes...this is really hard, to come up with all of this. Please review? Thanks. -C.