Chapter 1:

Prologue - The Tomb of Caerda - Daughter of Stone

Tombs of the Children of God

Wailing winds whipped across the wavy desert surface, sending clouds of reddish sand here and there. Isolated and untouched, the endless expanse stretched on, assaulted by the midday sun.Bookmark here

Though, on second glance, perhaps not quite untouched.Bookmark here

Beyond a nondescript dune sat a lonely crag that jutted out from the sand a few dozen feet. In its shadow sat two cloaked figures, both moving animatedly around a pile of small, circular stones at their feet.Bookmark here

"I found it!" A woman's voice rang out, echoing oddly against the stone wall beside them. It did not carry over the winds, but her companion stood and rushed over to her nonetheless.Bookmark here

"Give it here." He gasped, his hand outstretched as he pulled the tiny stone from her grip.Bookmark here

His eyes raked over the rock, and a wild grin bloomed across his face. He shook the hood of his cloak back and stared at the woman, who had done the same.Bookmark here

The woman was older and had a sharp, haughty face that carried a soft sneer on her lips at all times, giving her a perpetually unsatisfied look. She was tall and thin, though most of her body was concealed beneath the cloak. Her black eyes were the most vibrant part of her, shining with energy beneath the shadow of the crag.Bookmark here

Her companion looked to be around ten years younger and a head shorter, his brown hair and weather beaten face streaked with signs of exhaustion. Despite this, his tanned face seemed alight with such joy that the tiredness in his eyes seemed to wash away.Bookmark here

He rushed to the circle and placed the stone in a small hole in its form, completing it. He stood back for a moment, eyeing it until, silently, it began to glow golden. He turned to the woman and smiled.Bookmark here

"I suppose this is where we part. Please, see to Adda and the baby. I doubt the Gods will be so kind as to let me leave once I am done." He said grimly.Bookmark here

The two grasped hands, the woman stepping away from the circle as they separated. The man stood directly in the center and spoke aloud:Bookmark here

"I who have cleared the Trial of Earth, demand entry!"Bookmark here

In a flash of light, he was gone, and the stones exploded, filling the crag with light and sound, but no one was there to hear it, as the woman had vanished in a whirl of her cloak, leaving the crag empty and unremarkable once more, as it would stay for eternity.Bookmark here

The light that had engulfed the man resolved into a pool, from which his form emerged silently. He shook himself a few times, then gazed at his surroundings.Bookmark here

Despite the undeniable fact that he was in what looked to be a cave, the area had an atmosphere that a palace would find difficult to match. The space was dark, and filled with an iridescent blue that bled from long, vein-like cracks in the walls. He was perched on a walkway of sorts, and the dip on either side of him was filled with water, which glowed hauntingly. The path ahead was marked only by a tiny golden light that leaked just around a bend out of sight.Bookmark here

He started forward, his footsteps echoing strangely in the odd space, the dripping of water the only sound in the stillness of the place. He rounded the corner, and was greeted with a endless, hallway like extension. On either side of the hall, spaced deliberately apart, were tiny alcoves, filled with stationary flames that flickered noiselessly.Bookmark here

He passed by each alcove, casting his gaze towards the mysterious flames every so often. For what seemed like an hour, he walked on, the way ahead illuminated by flame, yet no definitive end to the path in sight.Bookmark here

He stopped walking, less because he was tired and more because he felt as though he was missing something. He rummaged under his cloak before pulling free a small tome, which he opened and began skimming through.Bookmark here

"Caerda, Daughter of Stone, the third Child of the Golden God. She has a fierce rivalry with Adepta, Daughter of Fire, but holds great affection for Numiro, Son of the Sea."Bookmark here

A simple passage at first glance, but the man knew better. There was no way the Daughter of Stone would allow fires in her final resting place, yet here they were, lighting the way to wherever the path would lead him to.Bookmark here

If it indeed lead anywhere at all.Bookmark here

The man stooped low and grabbed a handful of dirt from the earthy floor, then turned and cast it onto the nearest open flame. The fire went out at once, and up ahead another fire went out as well. He turned around and found that a fire behind him had dissipated also. His heart racing, he picked up three more handfuls of dirt and cast them on open fires, until all had gone out, both ahead and behind him.Bookmark here

He stood still in inky darkness, the only light coming from the corner he had rounded to get in this hall, which had materialized several feet behind him, as though he hadn't moved at all in all the time he spent walking. Chuckling silently to himself, he stood there, trying to guess what he would have to do next. He had passed the first trial by finding the stones that opened the gate to the tomb. This was obviously the second trial, demonstrating knowledge about Caerda. Was this all he would have to do? Would there be a third trial?Bookmark here

The walls seemed to shudder, silently at first, then, with a great scraping of stone on stone they began to draw backwards, extending the room greatly until, with another great shudder, they started to sink into the ground. After a minute of grinding and shifting, the room sat still once more, entirely different from how it had originally been.Bookmark here

From his position, the man could see that he was on the far side of an enormous room, rather similar to the one the gate had brought him to. It was flanked on its left and right sides by small trenches filled with glowing blue water. Its ceiling stood higher that the man thought it should be able to, given its apparent location in the desert, before reminding himself that he was dealing with a child of the Golden God, and she should not be underestimated.Bookmark here

Before him sat a stairway flanked by two enormous statues, each of the same beautiful woman with dusky red hair. It was the figure, the man knew, of Caerda. Her body was as big as a mountain, and built just as strong. Her figure on the plinths was immaculate, and even in stone her eyes seemed to survey her own tomb with an air of casual omnipotence.Bookmark here

He started forward, but stopped almost immediately. The statues had moved, their faces now gazing down at him expectantly.Bookmark here

"Why have you defiled my resting place with your presence, human?" The statues asked in unison.Bookmark here

"I have come to take your power!" The man shouted back.Bookmark here

"Take my power? For what end? A mortal man like yourself has no chance of wielding the strength I once possessed properly."Bookmark here

Both statues laughed mockingly, but, clenching his fist, the man continued to speak.Bookmark here

"I am prepared to give my life if this power can be transferred to my child."Bookmark here

The laughter of the sentinel statues died away, and they studied him for a moment.Bookmark here

"You wish to use your life force to tame the power I held, such... well... perhaps there is logic to that. My powers would require an entire life's worth of training to gain control of them, but if you sacrifice your life, you can fuel the training of another, provided you have someone who can take the power in your stead..."Bookmark here

The statues became still once more, then nodding their heads, they spoke.Bookmark here

"Very well, if your life is the price, then I will allow you sit upon my throne on stone, and pass along my strength to your chosen recipient."Bookmark here

The statues lifted their arms, and the staircase behind them began to rise up, lifted to a height more than three times what it had originally been.Bookmark here

"Is this child of yours a boy or a girl?" The statues asked. "It will make searching for their presence easier if I know."Bookmark here

He stopped, smiling to himself. He couldn't help it.Bookmark here

"A boy."Bookmark here

In truth, he had been hoping for a girl, but his wife's radiant happiness when they had found out about it had washed away any lingering disappointment.Bookmark here

"His name?" The statue continued.Bookmark here

"Jessin." The man said. It was the name he and his wife had agreed on long before they knew the child's gender. Jessa, if it was a girl, and Jessin for a boy.Bookmark here

"I have found him." The statue said simply. "Go now, and sit upon my throne, my power rests there. Do not hesitate as your end draws near, or else your life will be worthless to temper my power!"Bookmark here

With the echoing voice of the statues at his back, the man charged up the staircase, coming to its top in a little more than a minute. Before him stood a simple throne of gray rock, its only remarkable feature was its size. Well above the size of the thrones of even the most opulent of kings, it stood like a sentinel, watching over the vast cavern that stretched out beneath it.Bookmark here

The man looked down the staircase, marveling at the natural beauty of the place he was in. It was oddly warm, despite being bathed in a cold blue light, and it had a surprisingly peaceful aura to it. All in all, not a horrible place to die, if one had a choice.Bookmark here

He turned back to the throne, and, without hesitating, jumped slightly to hoist himself up onto the seat of the throne, the smooth stone beneath him was warm and comfortable.Bookmark here

He had little time to enjoy it, however. A searing bolt of energy rippled across his flesh, burning black patches along his body. He clenched his teeth shut, not uttering a sound as the stone beneath and behind him began to absorb him.Bookmark here

He truly was going to die here, yet for some reason, that thought made him feel oddly happy. Perhaps he would be able to watch his wife and child from the afterlife. He felt that he'd enjoy seeing his son grow into a man, under the watchful gaze of his wife. As his flesh sank deeper into the stone, his head was engulfed, and his mind, for one last moment, flashed to the image of his wife. Short, with silver hair that was parted by two pointed ears. She had dusky brown skin, and the warm, loving smile she gave him was the exact one he had fallen in love with.Bookmark here

Then she blinked, her head tilted slightly to the side as she watched him.Bookmark here

"It took you long enough." She said, smiling and striding closer to him.Bookmark here

"Adda? You... I'm dead... you... you shouldn't be here." He spluttered.Bookmark here

She gave a sad smile, and took his hand.Bookmark here

"Elven women have a notoriously difficult time giving birth. I suppose I'm proof of that.Bookmark here

"But... what about Jessin... is he okay?"Bookmark here

She nodded, giving another smile, before pulling him along with her.Bookmark here

"He's fine, he'll grow up into a fine man without us, in any case. We've done what we can to give him the chance he needs to change our world... all we can do now is watch from here."Bookmark here

She continued to pull him along, but in this infinite space of empty whiteness, it didn't really seem like they were getting anywhere.Bookmark here

Finally, the light around them resolved itself into a small room, where a tiny baby was laying peacefully in a wooden crib, his soft breaths the only sound in the room.Bookmark here

He had messy, dark brown hair, with a large shock of silver hair running along the side of his head.Bookmark here

"Isn't he cute?" Adda said.Bookmark here

"He is... he looks like you... even has a bit more color to his skin."Bookmark here

She giggled, and wrapped her hands around his.Bookmark here

"C'mon now, Den. We're not allowed to stay much longer than this.Bookmark here

Nodding, he turned to her, watching as the room dissolved into bright light once more. They were gone, without a sound, and the sleeping baby they had just been watching over opened his eyes. He looked out into the empty room, his eyes a iron gray color. Then for a moment, they turned a murky mud brown, before turning back, and, with a yawn, he fell asleep once more.Bookmark here

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