How it all began...
As the pink blush of alumoon blossoms blanketed the trees the Peoples of the Tri-Land gathered together for the annual celebration of Year’s Start. Winter’s fierce breath had come and gone in one last blast of icy-cold, taking with it the unfulfilled desires of the previous year. Life poured into the land with enthusiastic bursts of cheerful green, infusing the seven races of Llayentia with joy. It was a time of celebration, a time of new beginnings.
A kaleidoscope of brightly colored tents, booths, and people lay sprinkled across the petal strewn meadows of the Unity Clearing. From tent to tent, and person to person, greetings and gifts were cheerfully exchanged. Showers of petals drifted softly to the ground like fragile slivers of cotton-candy confetti. Glidarth’s whirled through the sky in complex maneuvers, their brilliant wings mirroring the festivities below.
Wagons bedecked with ribbons streamed into the clearing, bringing with them exotic wares from faraway places. Traditional favorites and delightful new flavors were sampled along with stories of the passing year’s triumphs. Bards traversed the field carrying tales of long ago and singing ballads for the highest bidder. Lovers, entwined in gentle caresses, gazed into each other’s eyes, renewing heartfelt promises of eternal love.
Zarum, appointed seer for the Glidarth, took in the merriment with wistful yearning while gliding towards a wide balcony specifically designed with his people in mind. His festival-dyed wings pulled in as he landed with a running step. Although he wouldn't get to join the festivities right away he smiled. Life was good and the Peoples of the lands knew it. He knew it. Jauntily starting towards the meeting halls, he checked himself mid step. A foreboding chill grasped his spine. Numbness spread upwards from that stabbing cold towards his brain before he cut off the connection with . . .
He pivoted, staring down at a celebration that not only sealed the ancient ties between the seven races but served as a gentle reminder for them to reconnect with their god, Kyron. A steady stream of traffic filtered through, visiting both the tents for the various religious sects and the pavilions offering goods of a decidedly less spiritual sort. Zarum set his mind to skim the surface of their thoughts, flitting from one group to another, searching for the source of evil which surely walked among the people.
Nothing. No sign. Everything is as it should be.
He shrugged broad shoulders against the pervasive chill before turning away, thinking that perhaps he had imagined the evil. After all, Long trips under the heat of the sun were known to addle the brain. Walking once again towards the meeting place, he stretched the ache of the journey from his wings with a satisfied murmur. After the grueling trip, a chance to rest was pure pleasure. Snapping them tight against the lean muscles of his back, he stepped through a low doorway.
Before him stretched rows of arch-shaped openings, their only adornment intertwining spirals of primitive design. They beckoned, welcoming him into a labyrinth of caves, the Seven’s traditional meeting place. He paused, allowing azure-flecked eyes to adjust to the flickering torchlight.
These caves remain as they have for eons—he ran a hand over the edge of the timeworn carvings with appreciation—simple, mostly unworked by the hands of man. As Kyron intended.
He strolled past the break-fasting table where piles of fruit, meat, and nuts invited consumption and his stomach rumbled its agreement. Placing his unity gift near an empty spot in the center, he savored the satisfying way the silver bowl, filled with exotic fruits, shone softly in the low light. Zarum stretched his aching wing muscles once again. Remembering the extensive flight it had taken to gather those fuzz-covered delicacies. Moving at a languid pace towards the far end of the overburdened table, he gave the appointed seat a leery stare.
~As usual I’m the first one here,~ he sent while seating himself on the cushioned edge.
~Guard that food with your life,~ Sulansthia jested.
~And you thought we chose you to head up the proceeds based on your negotiating abilities, ~came Lillium’s lighthearted response.
Zarum’s pulse raced with anticipation at the teasing smile in her words. He knew better than to believe he had been chosen because he excelled at negotiating, of course. It was the year of the Gildarth; his race’s turn to be the mouthpiece of the Seven.
Zarum shifted, uncomfortable in the formal high-backed chair, then switched it out with a lesser x-stool from the edge of the garland bedecked cave. He supposed this was why they put the extra chairs in the cavernous room. They had no need for more chairs; there were only the seven of them. Always had been, and always would be. Seven seers, sent to represent the seven tribes of men. Sprawling, content now in the lower-backed chair, he allowed his wings to fan open.
They turned out fantastic this year. He thought, admiring the fine leaflike veins that had been painted on.
The unfurling spring-leaf design was, without a doubt, the best he’d ever gotten. The expensive artisans who had forced him to sit for hours while they painstakingly dyed his leathern wings were well worth the extra d’yroap. Even the brown velvet tunic and matching pants they had provided faultlessly accentuated the leafy design. A creamy bloused poet’s shirt swirled around his wrist in loose ruffles, adding contrast and dramatically playing up his swarthy countenance. He flicked at the lace, watching the way tiny glints of metal beads caught the light. With long slender fingers, bedecked in glittering metal rings, he plucked a lemon striped grape and popped it into his mouth.
~Mmmmmm, the carlt grapes are sweet and tangy this year,~ he tantalized the late comers, letting them feel the burst of pleasure he experienced as he bit into another one. ~It’ll be a good year for wine if this keeps up.~
~Zarum! You’re making my stomach growl!~ came K’lammat’s sharp reply.
~Precisely the point my quick friend,~ he shot back sardonically. ~Best hurry before I finish off all the good stuff.~
Sulansthia entered the room, Lillium’s petite hand casually resting in the crook of his elbow. The sharpra male laughed in a low rumble at whatever Lillium had shared, his amber eyes crinkling in delight. Zarum took him in for a bare fraction of a second—bare-chested again, a tribal hero in the flesh—before moving on to Lillium’s perfect figure. She sparkled white in the torchlight, an elegant snow princess in a bead encrusted gown.
What a pair those two make, Zarum kept his thoughts private as he considered the mistaken whispers concerning the two. Some believed they were to wed. He knew better.
If she leaves the Seven for anyone—it’ll be for me, Zarum's musings turned possessive.
Sulansthia sat heavily in the seat next to him, his muscular body dwarfing the chair. It creaked as he leaned forward to take one of the petite carlt grapes. ~He’s right, they really are delicious,~ he sent after popping one into his mouth. Leaning forward with a grin, he bashed forearms with Zarum in traditional sharpra style.
“How are you?” Zarum’s voice was rich and deep, the voice of one comfortable with himself.
Sulansthia shrugged one massive shoulder, “Prrretty good. All things considerrred. Harrrd winterrr this yearrr.”
Lillium seated herself with restrained poise on Zarum’s other side, forgoing the freni-kyn kiss of greeting. “Well it can’t have been too difficult. You seem to have had no problem hunting. Did you catch that one?” She gestured towards the spotted cloak he had slung over the back of his chair. Like the rest of the Freni-Kyn race, Lillium cared about clothing styles; the pattern, the cut, even the fabric it was made from. A gown design based on the graduated spot pattern had already begun forming in her head.
At that reminder, Sulanstia reached into an inner cloak pocket to withdraw a handful of tribal necklaces; pointed claws gleaned from his own hunting trips, polished until they shone. Among them a solitary necklace of triangular wooden slivers stood out. He plunked them down in the center of the table without ceremony. No need to tell anyone who the carved one was for. K’lammat, a vegetarian like the rest of the M'hakru race, would never wear something made from animal parts.
Lillium could not help but admire the way Sulanstia’s chest hairs entwined the matching string of claws he wore around his muscular neck. Leaning forward with controlled grace, her delicate fingers chose a necklace from the jumbled mass. Knowing the primitive design contrasted oddly with her shimmering gown, she put it on anyway. In turn, she opened a bead encrusted pouch to retrieve six tiny vials. Among the freni-kyn, her people, scent was most prized gift worthy of giving or receiving.
Zarum watched her hair sway about her heart shaped face as she placed them next to his bowl of fruit. Everything about her was entrancing. Pure white hair floating languorously, each delicate filament throwing off occasional sparks of light. Inch long white eyelashes with tiny dots on the tips resembling butterfly antennas. Full peach colored lips, all but begging to be kissed. Perfect hour glass figure . . . At that dangerous train of thought he hastily shut the speculative thinking down. He did not need that type of temptation. Not as a Seven.
His mind shifted to their first encounter, to the sheer psychic force of her passion for dance and as though that was not enough, to the first time she walked in the room.
“Kyrrron’s bells, don’t encourage herrr!” Sulansthia exclaimed. “She alrrready has a big enough head.”
Zarum shut down his ruminations with a mental jerk, wondering how much they had overheard.
Lillium smiled broadly, enjoying the attention without a word. Men were drawn to her. She had long since grown used to the bombarding energies, even reveled in them most of the time. After all, she was an entertainer first and foremost. Performers need an audience. That hers watched because of physical appearance instead of dancing abilities did not bother her in the least.
A spicy-sweet smell wafted through the room, rescuing Zarum from any further embarrassment by drawing all attention to the doorway. Stooping his angular form to avoid the low curve of the arch, Ellerinth entered. Exquisite spirals of breal blossoms swayed with each step as the frevell man carried an overfull container to the table. Against the contrast of those graceful stalks his strict black suit stood out in stark relief. The expensive fabric, its singular artistic touch, shone aquamarine when the light caught it.
Clapping her hands with delight Lillium leaned over the lime-green spires, flashing them with a glimpse of her ample bosom. She closed her eyes, drawing in the heady scent before turning to hug the frevell in a rare act of enthusiasm. Not that she wasn't enthusiastic towards other people, just not him. “All the way from the Western Frevell Reaches! Wonderful Ellerinth, absolutely wonderful!”
Discomfited, Ellerinth gulped and averted his eyes while his sculpted features reddened at the compliment. In a nervous gesture he was completely unaware of making he tugged down the edge of his suit. He jerked out a nod, as though his muscles were controlled by someone else. Stiffly striding to the seat next to Sulansthia, he did not bother hiding disdainful thoughts concerning Lillium's disconcerting lack of inhibitions.
Lillium giggled, quite enjoying the perceived compliment.
Not that she ever actually does anything with anyone. Not that any of us does. That would mean risking death, or worse, insanity, Zarum’s private mulling turned somber.
Zarum shifted his attention to Ellerinth, whose behavior mystified him.
He’s the oldest of us all, almost sixty, yet he acts like an awkward schoolboy.
Ellerinth had the mental age of a twenty year old, with a youthful body to match but it still created a paradox in Zarum’s mind. Zarum shook his head, unable to fathom what it must be like to live sixty years before being considered an adult. Why, the frevell had been a Seven for over fifteen years. He had already found, and begun training, his replacement.
I’m guessing he did that because of the whole maturity thing, might not be so eager to release his seat now that he’s come of age.
Distracted by an intense itching sensation across his shoulders, Zarum lifted his hand to scratch but checked the movement. The feeling wasn't his own. Jerking as though bitten, Sulanstia reached up to scratch at the three inch long ruff of banded hair growing along his shoulder. Unsatisfied he turned to scrubbing his back against the chair. The strip of hair running from the nape of his neck to a point ending at the small of his back itched intolerably. The others shifted uncomfortably, each sharing the intensity of Sulanstia’s itching and resisting a compulsive urge to scratch their own shoulders and backs.
“How do you deal with it?” Lillium’s voice was laced with compassion. “The spring molting would drive me crazy.”
He shrugged again but stopped when he heard Lillium’s thoughts concerning his well-muscled shoulders. Swallowing, he said, “I brrrush, and brrrush, and brrrush. Would you mind keeping scrrrutiny of my body to a barrre minimum Lilly? I haven’t got a rrreplacement yet and don’t need to take the mating temptation home with me.”
They all understood how he labored to avoid the unmated women of his home village and their attempts to bond with him. His trips for a replacement had been fruitless. None held enough of the gift to be considered worthy of becoming a Seven.
Lillium nodded her understanding while the rest of the Seven sent out waves of mental discomfort. They hated the way these two races talked of sex as though it were the most natural thing in Llayentia. Though the sharpra and freni-kyn held vastly different views on what was appropriate behavior, they were not opposed to sitting down for long, drawn-out debates on the subject.
They heard Epherema’s mind before seeing her. Lillium found it reminiscent of water running over pebbles and the others sent their agreement. She moved into the room on slippered feet, hesitant, silent, eyes shifting from turquoise to pale yellow in embarrassment at the comparison.
Nearly as tall and lean as a frevell, Zarum concluded. And more strikingly foreign.
Almond shaped eyes outlined in varying shades of dark blue patterns created an even more exotic cast to her watrelk face. Though the blue colorations resembled inkings he knew they were a part of her skin. Her gown, with its deeply cut diagonal bottom edge and heavy overlay of iridescent beads, shimmered cool in the torchlight.
“Epherema that gown is perfect. Absolutely perfect! There couldn’t have been a better color with your hair.” Lillium stood to give her friend a tender embrace. She tucked back the violet hair Epherema hid behind, revealing double tip ears dripping in cascades of overlapping pearl strands.
Epherema glanced for a split second into Lillium’s face. Her lips rounded to a soft smile before her gaze dropped back to the ground. Of all the seven she had been the hardest to become acquainted with; even her surface intellect remained sheltered behind the natural shyness of her race, the Watrelks.
Epherema looked towards the rest of the people at feasting table. She started to move forward then hesitated before finding some inner well of resolve. Gliding to the table, she laid a huge bowl-sized shell down. Entranced by the liquid fluidity of her movements, they watched as she pulled aside the protective wrapping to reveal a bulky pile of shrimp. The crustaceans were easily as large as her long slender hands, pink and succulent. Her blush at their psychic wave of appreciation caused the blue marks surrounding her eyes to deepen; turning not quite black before fading.
Sulansthia slapped his muscular abdomen in approval as a loud growl of hunger went up from it, then turned to glare at Lillium.
Spreading her hands palm up the universal how-can-I-help-it gesture, she sent on a tight band, ~If you don’t want me thinking about your body so much wear more clothing.~
He rolled his eyes at the ridiculous recommendation. What need had he, a sharpra, of excess layers of clothing? “I’m starrrving! Wherrre arrre K’lammat and Marrrna?”
Marna’s sturdy form answered from the doorway, “I’m here, and he’s late—again. You’d think the race known for its quick reflexes would be the first one here. And yet, every single year, without fail, he’s late.”
Marna strolled with quiet confidence to the table. He shoved at the unruly blond hair falling forward over his eyes without thinking, exposing the high forehead of an average h’euman face. As usual, believing that every day should be a celebration of life, he wasn't dressed for the festivities. He wore the same sturdy clothing that he wore every single day. A blackened leather apron over a roughly woven shirt and pants befitting his station as a blacksmith.
Realizing that she had never seen him without the apron, Lillium wondered if he was hiding behind it, if the rugged leather length somehow made him feel more secure in his manliness.
Marna’s slate-gray eyes flitted to her face as he replied back in a tight beam of thought, ~I heard that. And no I’m not. I’m plenty secure in my . . . manliness. It’s just comfortable.~
Instead of being embarrassed, like most of them would have been at the leak of a personal thought, she smiled winningly and threw him a flirtatious kiss.
Zarum glanced back and forth between them, wondering what he had missed.
“No doubt K’lammat is distracted by butterflies or some other wonder of nature,” Ellerinth turned sarcastic, arching his stick-straight eyebrows. “We are allowed to start without him. What say you Zarum?”
“Fine by me.” Zarum gave a casual shrug of his shoulders. His rings threw prisms of light across the walls as he reached for the closest dish. Placing a small handful of the striped grapes on his simple stoneware plate, he passed to the right.
They all began to fill and pass along while chatting over news from the Tri-Lands. As they finished loading down their plates, K’lammat arrived. He paused at the archway. They scarcely had a chance to take in his simple brown woven clothing and dusty oilcloth boots before he became a blur of movement. Too late, Zarum jerked a protective hand over his full plate. K’lammat sat with an over-loud satisfied sigh, his platter piled high with food pilfered from their plates.
Zarum removed his hand to see one lone grape lazily spinning in a circle. He glanced down the table. From every-one else K’lammat had taken a small portion of their food. He alone had lost all of it. Revenge for taunting with the flavor of grapes and starting without him, he guessed. In the center of the table a woven basket of kor nuts rocked back and forth; K’lammat’s gift. Picking up the remaining grape, Zarum flung it at K’lammat with driving force, “Forgot one!”
K’lammat’s callused hand shot out with amazing agility, snatching the speeding grape from the air as though it were in slow motion. He tossed it into his mouth with a laugh.
“I really hate it when you show off,” Ellerinth gave a slight sniff of disdain while reaching for the shrimp plate.
“Well if you hadn’t been ‘distracted by butterflies or some other wonder of nature’ you might have been able to stop me,” K’lammat mirrored Ellerinth’s stilted voice with precision, bringing muffled laughs from the rest of them.
The serving dishes made the passes around the table again as the cheerful chatter turned to their own lives of the last year.
K’lammat, the exact opposite of Epherema in personality, skillfully drew her out with informed questions regarding her homeland. His plain, almost flattened face, with its late day shadow of a beard, contrasted sharply with her long exotic one. Epherema couldn’t help but be entranced by the gentle m’hakru nature, despite his cavalier entrance. She found his short stature and rough features, with its atypical heavy jaw and flattened nose, odd, even a touch frightening. But she kept that opinion to herself, having become an expert at hiding personal thoughts when she took up the mantle of Seven.
“Can I ask you something?” Her slim cheeks flushed to a pale pink.
“Sure,” he mumbled around the huge bite of shrimp stuffing his mouth.
“Why do your people surgically alter their ears to curl forward?” Immediate regret turned her cheeks a deeper shade of pinkish-blue while her eye markings blackened with embarrassment.
He dug through his memory for an answer, “Actually, I don’t know. Kind of weird and silly when you think about it. Not that any of us have a choice, since it’s done at birth.”
Appalled at having ventured to mention another person’s body parts, she let her gaze drop to her plate, hiding her color-shifting eyes behind patterned eyelids.
Catching the embarrassed thought he patted her hand with blunt fingers, “Hey don’t worry about it.”
She looked up at him with eyes gone from pale yellow to deep orange as he turned the conversation back to her homelands for lack of a safer topic.
At the other end of the table Sulansthia fought the urge to use his shape-shifting abilities to mimic the variety of races represented around him. Though this was the perfect time to practice it felt obscene, in some vague way, to do so during the Unity fast-breaking. Marna, picking up his anxiety, sent him a go ahead but Sully shook his head in disagreement. Practice could wait. The Seven were chosen from the different races for a reason. To undo that choice by imitating another race felt wrong. Instead he imprinted his mind with the physical aspects of the surrounding people.
Lillium, on the other hand, was unconscious of creating illusions of other hair colors as she chatted away. She did it habitually; picking up a piece of green fruit her hair seemed to turn that color; sipping the purple juice shifted its shade again. Zarum, finding this little personal habit intriguing, had to pull his eyes away from her when his mind began going places it shouldn’t again.
At the other end of the table Epherema paused in mid bite, looking up at him with stricken alarm written across her face. Though it would be agonizingly embarrassing, she needed to talk with the two of them soon. It was imperative that the find their replacements.
As the meal drew to an end Zarum gave the toast they had all been waiting for. “To Kyron; may he rule and reign forever. To the Seven; may they always listen for his voice. To the Peoples of the land; may their prosperity grow.”
With this, they all raised their glasses in heartfelt agreement. The time to begin had arrived.
They filed into the next circular shaped cave where a symbolic candle and bowl of water sat alone on the bare stone floor. Unnecessary tokens; mere focusing tools for preparing their minds to receive, both from each other and from Kyron. Forming a circle around the items, their minds linked in unity. A wind of no visible source began blowing through the simple cave and these same elemental symbols grew. In the end water, fire, and air spiraled up to the ceiling, seeming to expand from the stone floor itself.
The Seven watched as time spread out in front of them and shared mutual surprise when the foretelling passed beyond the current year. A multitude of years stretched before them like water spilling from a basin. Their minds skipped along the top of the relentless flow of time-water until they reached a bump, a glitch, a flaw in the pattern. As their focus turned to this blemish, time slowed, becoming almost normal speed. In unison, their minds zoomed in on one singular future moment.
They watched as an undernourished infant was born. Silently witnessed the difficult labor and a birth which almost ended before it began. Gasped for breath as the birthing attendants fought to breathe air into its still small body. Felt the fear driven anxiety of its mother as she watched from across the room. Owned her guilt, as though they, not she, were the ones whose lack of discipline led to this tiny one’s struggle. Were tossed around by the tumultuous wind of relief sweeping the room when the infant drew his first strangled breath; screaming out against the anguish of life pouring into undeveloped lungs.
Time skipped, hopping forward in jumps of focus. The Seven stood in silent witness while this handicapped child grew, in outward appearance normal. Observed the cruelty he was dealt early in life by circumstances and uncaring family. Felt the curious twisting of his young mind by some malevolent influence, though none were able to find the source. Noted the underlying oddity of view that left him an outsider as he caught up with his peers in size and intelligence. Cringed as he used his uncanny insight into other's thoughts to his own advantages.
Recognizing the seer gift within him, they remembered their own temptations, their own struggles with morality. When to use something which came natural. When to shut it down. When to ignore it. With growing dread, knowing in their hearts how corrupt he was, they watched as he became a trusted advisor for one of the Rulers of the Tri-Lands.
Time sped forward in a rapid jerk before slowing again. Before them a noisy festival unfolded, filled with gifts and giving, love and promises, much like the joyous festival outside the Seven’s ancient cave. Dread filled them. And still they watched, bearing witness to this terrible future, this possibility, this certainty.
They gasped in shock as he slipped poison into the toasting cups of all but one of the seven rulers; his own. The seers fell to their knees in unison, feeling the electric current of awareness coursing through these same rulers who stumbled to their feet after taking the first sip of the Unity toast. The sound of goblets falling from hands gone numb disjointedly clattered in the seer’s disbelieving ears.
At the leaders’ first sip of the Unity toast, they fell to their knees in unison. Whispered denials left their lips, unheard. Together the seers lived the electric current of awareness coursing through the rulers. Goblets fell from hands gone numb, a disjointed clatter in their ears, in the seer’s disbelieving ears. The leaders stumbled to their feet, knowing their fate.
They lived the knife of pain cutting through bodies as the poison shot to the nerve regions of their brains. Shared the looks of betrayal when the rulers all turned to the one unaffected king, moments before life fled their bodies on silvered wings.
The surviving king’s whirlwind of confusion, anger, sorrow, and shockswirled through the seer’s heads. Sobs wracked their bodies as the man rushed to his friends, his fallen comrades. Soon, slipping forward in time, they felt these anguished emotions replaced with a burning rage-filled resolve to find the murderer and kill him, or her. They watched, tears streaming down cheeks gone numb with shock, as the traitor was found, publicly sentenced, and executed.
Too late. The tainted seed of hate lay sown within the People’s minds; its corruption spreading in an ongoing creeping tide throughout the midst of the lands. In a retaliatory strike this same lonely leader, who had lost his best friends in one grief ridden night, was struck down via a hired hand sent by the owner of the Red Pelican Trading Post. The owner’s bitter joy, at the assassination of the one he believed responsible for the death of his father, was short lived as he was forced into hiding. Death became his primary commodity and the first Assassin’s Guild was formed from the dust of a business which had once provided goods to all the lands. Heartfelt horror filled the Seven as their once peaceful peoples were driven by revenge. War ravaged their lands, overflowing until Kyron’s worlde, Llayentia, lay corrupt. Spoiled. A seeping cancerous wound.
Heartache for this dying world and its wounded Peoples settled in as time spread out before them interminable, a relentless ongoing wave of anguished sorrow. They watched their Peoples, their beautiful diverse Peoples, reject peace filled unity by segregating into warring factions. Race fought with race, each one striving for an advantage, turning their natural skills and abilities to unwholesome use in order gain the upper hand. People were mutilated, slaughtered, en masse as well as individually, for no better reason than the shape of their ear or color of their bodies. They grieved anew when the perverse lives of their peoples mutated their very genes; changing the races into tainted shadows of their former life-filled glory.
The M'hakru, once altruistic, peaceful, nature lovers, turned their natural ability of speed to the art of war. Deliberate inbreeding as mercenaries had the unexpected liability of instilling cruelty into the bloodlines of their people. Eventually, without the ability to do even the most menial of labor, they turned to capturing their opponents as slaves; tying the very people they sought to eliminate to their survival.
The Sharpra, natural hunters, became barbarically tribalistic, warring amongst themselves as well as with anyone who dared approach their villages. After incessant in-fighting dangerously reduced their numbers, laws were enacted to help stop this spiraling downward decline. Employing their shape-shifting abilities to infiltrate the rest of the lands, they turned to using stealth and deception to expose valuable information. Loyalty to their own people became the single most driving force in their behavior, causing supernatural ties with their mates.
The Freni-Kyn, fun loving entertainers with an Achilles heel in the very hair that made them unique, were nearly wiped out until they turned to the one form of entertainment that could help them survive. Prostitution. Restructuring of their whole society—so that only those who excelled in this form of entertainment were allowed to mate or given political influence—caused their bodies to change, mutate, over the passage of time. They became the living physical standard of the People’s preferred beauty. Lacking emotional closeness, even with each other, a driving need to fill this emptiness with unending sexual partners became prevalent. With birthrates climbing at an alarming rate, they sought means to control when and who gave birth, leading to the curse of the preral cycle and the preral sickness.
The Watrelk, a reclusive water people with a willingness to help the other races through oversea trade, shut down the water lanes, refusing passage to outsiders, and closed themselves off even further from the other races. Their land-bound cities, abandoned for the safety of the ocean, became islands of interconnecting watercraft; a motley mass of boats, ships, and rafts. Eventually the other races built their own vessels, causing splintering within Watrelk society. Out of this disagreement the Watrelk Pirates were birthed; a vicious group of killers, who, determined to jealously protect the seas from invasion, turned to trafficking in slavery and drugs with the m’hakru.
The Glidarth, free-spirited traders and metal smiths, refused to give metals to the other races after mutilation of their wings became prevalent among the warring factions. Withdrawing to their mountaintop fortified megatropolis, they became isolated, turning in upon themselves. Sorrow at this restriction of their freedom turned them to the fixated comfort of food. Gluttony restricted the use of flight even further, leading in turn to overwhelming urges towards self-mutilation and suicide.
The Frevell, without muscular stature to ensure their survival during the wars, withdrew to distant secluded cities. They became negotiators, using their superior age and knowledge to help others govern the lands. Their laws multiplied, becoming so redundant as to be useless, a dagger to their own throats. Eventually it became impossible for them to accomplish anything of significance. Society stagnated, technology drew to a crawl, and a people once known for its ingenious conceptual inventions left off creating, with one exception. Their knowledge of genetics played a heavy hand in the inbreeding techniques taken on by the m’hakru and freni-kyn.
And H’eumankind? Well the h’eumans simply multiplied and warred and imbibed in the perversions infecting all the races, accepting every sordid atrocity, until their towns became as varied as the individual races. Some few, outraged at the barbarism, left for isolated areas; creating pockets of strange ingrown societies based around the principles of science, religion, technology, or magic. Each pursuing these interests without regard for the consequences.
The scene shifted forward again. Finally, after foreseeing the horrifying debasement of their Peoples throughout time, a collective sigh of relief escaped their lips. Another child was born; the face, the race, the very sex, vague, smudged, oddly shadowed; as though open to change, to chance, to some shifting unforeseeable facts. This one, this tiny hazy infant, destined to bring unity; to heal the ragged wounds of their Peoples. Unity spread in a silken wave through the land once again as a result of one birthing.
All this, all the calamity, all the hope, depended upon one thing; a single birthing. One birthing would begin the Rage Wars. One birthing would restore unity.
The fire, water, and wind abruptly ceased spiraling. Zarum, his mind the central focus of the energy, fell to the floor in psychic shock. The rest of the Seven staggered to him when his mind ceased, grief spurring anew. Finding his body alive, they wrapped their arms around him in mourning until his thoughts joined theirs again. Lying in a jumbled heap on the cold stone floor, the seven wept for their peoples and the monstrous evil looming before Llayentia. Outside, unaware of the grieving hearts of their prophets or of the malevolent changes that lay ahead, the seven tribes of Kyron continued in merriment.
As the new day dawned, the Seven forced themselves into partaking of a feast which had been carried into the adjoining room while the seers stood transfixed by the overwhelming vision. The ash of their grief flavored the now cold food; drowning out its wholesome goodness. It did not matter. They devoured the food as fast as they could shove it in. Their bodies required the renewing energy after the overload of psychic power spent the day before. Never had they heard of a foretelling lasting beyond the next year’s events. The debilitating toll it exacted on their bodies left their limbs shaking with weakness.
Marna spoke aloud, “We’re supposed to emerge with next year’s planting recommendations and Kyron’s blessing, not with this . . . this . . .”
~Cursing.~ The word rang through their minds in heavy mutual agreement.
~Yes . . . A currrsing, yet not one. A warrrning and a prrromise of hope.~ Sulansthia’s speculations felt oddly convoluted.
Their minds linked once again, Marna answered Zarum’s thoughts. ~Agreed. We can’t tell the people about this.~
~If we were supposed to change history we’d have seen how to do it, ~ Lillium’s mental voice held deep sadness.
~So what do we tell them then?~ Ellerinth’s normally crisp thoughts were soft, hesitant.
~We give them hope, ~ Epherema sent decisively.
~A foretelling of hope, ~ the Seven enjoined, none able to tell who initiated the idea.
They remained sequestered all day, sending out for food when necessary and raising the concerned eyebrows of the outside helpers. Never before had the prophecy been postponed.
~Already things change, despite our desire to keep it the same, ~ Lillium sensed.
Silently they worded their foretelling. When the time of unity came again to the lands it would be recognized. Their cryptic words might very well be what saved the lives of the unity bearers. By their very decision to hide the truth, they signed a death sentence to their own prestigious calling of Seven. In the end the Seven would exist in stealthy secret. A memory only. Just as they had foreseen.
When they emerged the next day Zarum stood on the announcement platform with the seven tribe leaders. Afraid of making eye contact, he stared out over the heads of the people and gave the cryptic foretelling without speaking of the next years weather, then followed with the customary year-beginning blessings. The Rulers glanced questioningly at each other before lifting their cups in toast to these cryptic words; none of them understanding the meaning. Afterwards people milled about in confusion, unsure what to think of their seers' odd behavior.
A multitude of years came and went. The calling of Seven took on a mysterious dark aspect. Knowing what storm lay brewing, the choosing of a predecessor became a laborious process. Each year the Peoples of the Tri-Land area were given the same exact foretelling along with a blessing. It came to be expected, though the Seven refused to explain themselves. The Seven who had witnessed the alarming vision moved on with their much altered lives, but not before leaving an accounting of the events they had seen and precise instructions with the next Seven, who in turn sent it on to the seers who followed them.
Initiation into the calling of Seven required a mind to mind reliving of the vision through the memory of their predecessors and written accounts. Sickened at the vision, almost from the moment of accepting the calling, the seers who followed continued repeating the foretelling in grim determination. The races could not be allowed the luxury of forgetting this prophecy. It must be told. It must be made indelible in the minds of Kyron’s peoples.
When the long expected Day of Betrayal arrived, two hundred fifty-three years later, the Seven of that time were executed for not warning the rulers. They had foreseen their own deaths at the previous year’s celebration and set in place what was needed to care for their families, as well as passed on their mantle of sight. The foretelling became a distant memory to most of the races of Kyron as the Seven were forced into hiding.