Apologies for the two week absence but I’m back with a new story which I think could turn out to be quite something. As ever, your feedback is appreciated. I don’t bite in the comments!
This one is partially inspired by the story of the video game Destiny (though I hope better, not that that would be hard) and All You Need is Kill’s movie adaptation Edge of Tomorrow.
The discovery of the Oracle heralded the Golden Age of our civilisation. It was a time when our knowledge of magic grew a hundredfold and our empire spanned worlds. We mastered death itself and were, for a time, as gods.
From the heart of our greatest empire the Oracle defended us against all threats for a millennia but such power brings with it the attention of forces dark beyond our comprehension. Our worlds were slowly lost one by one until our great foe, the Socateri, visited our home and pushed us back ceaselessly until we were reduced to but a single city.
We would have lost that too, were it not for the sacrifice of the Oracle, which expended untold energy to keep the Socateri at bay and in so doing, was left weakened in perpetuity. Now the Oracle appears to all the worlds as no more than a great tree at the heart of our city and it is dying. When it does, we will die with it and the Socateri’s evil will sweep all light aside.
On the History and Origins of the Oracle,
Seeker Antori, 752 of the Fourth Era
“You are the Chosen,” Protector Artuel declared with the solemnity for which he is famous, “selected from amongst the best Varantis has to offer to stand as light against the Socateri and destined to send their souls screaming back to hell. Come forward, and claim your Mark of Devotion.”
There was a moment of murmuring as, one by one, the Chosen stepped up to the Protector’s platform and took from him their Mark. Each was unique, intended to be a reflection of the lineage and achievements of each of the Chosen. Some were nervous as they approached the table, others confident, still others were nervous but gave it their best shot to appear confident.
Hyrani was not entirely sure what he felt yet he picked us his Mark without incident, carefully avoiding the Protector’s gaze, and returned to the crowd. Artuel spoke again but Hyrani wasn’t listening and instead gazed at his Mark, there was the Oracle tree in the background – it appeared on them all – it was the foreground that changed. Engraved in the metal was a sword, his father’s, and the seal of his house, the griffon. Once the Chosen had flown into battle on the backs of those mighty beasts but Socateri dragons had slain them to the last in a great battle long centuries past and remembered now only in the Histories.
The auditorium was emptying and Hyrani followed the others out in the Citadel, his friends waved at him and he returned the gesture, though he had no wish to join them. His brother had died on his very first quest as a Chosen, today was a day to remember Kyrael and prepare for the morning when Hyrani would leave the city for the first time in his life.
While many of the chosen went to the city’s taverns and brothels to celebrate, Hyrani went deep into the Citadel, coming at last to the training rooms. For a moment he thought they were empty until he saw the Angel. The Silent Killer, for that was her nickname, was fully armoured for she had performed legendarily on the battlefield time-and-again but she never removed her helmet in the sight of others nor did she speak. A thousand Socateri had been slain by her twin blades and though Hyrani had never seen her in action, it was said she showed no signs of slowing them.
Now the Angel seemed to be meditating and he hoped not to disturb her as he picked up his bow and nocked it. The bow had been made for him by Kyrael a year prior to his death and his fingers slid easily in the grooves as though he had evolved to become one with the weapon. Carved of the finest yew and imbued with powerful runes, the longbow was nearly as tall as he was but practice over years had given him the strength to pull back on the string with ease.
The arrow hit true, landing in the centre of the board with a precision he regretted his friends were not there to see. On the spur of the moment he thought to do something he had often considered but, under the careful gaze of a dozen tutors and Chosen, had never been able to. Hyrani pulled back on the bow and fired as though all the fury of the Citadel itself had lent itself to his aim. The arrow shot forth and embedded itself directly in the original, slitting the shaft in two. Unable to stop himself he shouted in joy.
“Impressive, but how good are you in the field?” the Angel had crept up on him without making a sound, if she had wanted him dead, he would be. “You’ve never been have you? A fresh Chosen sent out to die.”
“I don’t plan on dying tomorrow…” he was flabbergasted, the Silent Killer was not only talking, she was talking to him. No one would believe him.
“Some Chosen do, they leave the city to get away from it all,” she gestured around aimlessly, “but no, most don’t. It happens anyway. Your first assignment will likely be something simple, a scouting mission. Ignore your instructions and meet me by Erta’s Falls. Come alone by midday, I shall not wait.”
“That was an impressive shot,” she said as she turned to leave before looking over her shoulder, “oh, and you’re the only one who isn’t drinking.”
Image: The Archer by MichaelBroussard