Moments of Clarity by Carole

Prologue : Harbinger

The future is but an echo of the present and the
present but an echo of the past and, as such, I ask
you to stretch your eyes back across the sea of time
to such a place where a ripple in yesterday began.

Once, long ago, when civilization consisted of rude
huts and villages instead of industrial towers rising
against the sky, a day occurred, dropping into the
deep that would change what the world would come to
know as history. In the eyes of most, it was an
unremarkable day, but to a group that thought
of themselves only as the People, and to beings beyond
mere mortals, it was indeed significant.

Let the past lend clarity to the present in this tale,
through the eyes of a child; a boy of the People on
the Day of the Sun, ignorant of his power over the
face of the world...

***

Ireto scrambled to his feet after his elusive brother.
Zinair grinned at him widely from around the corner of
their home, sticking his tongue out in his sibling's
direction, a red swash of color against his sun
darkened skin. Before Ireto could call after him, his
tongue already forming the sounds of curses his father
was wont to use after a poor hunt; the child darted
out of sight.

As pain flared up his leg, Ireto muttered to himself
about the twinkling-eyed, personal monster he had been
sent to look after. Looking down, he could make out
stains of maroon turning the dirt to a muddy paste.
Not that a simple thing like a skinned knee would slow
him down for long, or so he thought,
until a high-pitched giggled pinned him from behind.

"No wonder your mother's waiting to clean you up for
tonight." Chenia did not even bother to hide the smile
on her lips at the sight her cousin presented, the
smears of dirt painting him in strange and outrageous
patterns.

Ireto glared at her in childish fury, secretly
thanking any god that was listening that none of his
or her companions were in sight, but instead engaged
in preparations. It was bad enough being insulted by a
girl, but Chenia was both a few good finger widths
taller and a year older than he, not to mention her
undisputed place as ruler among the younger girls.

Chenia was the great possibility of the village, with
her perfect unmarked skin and unusual height, making
mothers consider making marriage arrangements for
their sons. She was, however, only nine and would not
be a woman for three years yet. None of these facts
mattered much to Ireto, for he was too young to care,
even though he prided himself greatly on his nearness
to manhood. Chenia, unlike her cousin, cared a great
deal, and seemed to go out of her way to make everyone
remember it.

With immense dignity that would not have looked out of
place on a monarch of a great country, Ireto brushed
the dirt from his knees, grateful that no stones had
wedged themselves beneath the skin. The whole effect
was ruined by the obvious fact that he was not of a
great noble house.

Chenia raised a single eyebrow in response, a look she
had perfected from her mother. "They say that the gods
can see into your heart, so I don't think using mud to
disguise your face will be any help for tonight. Of
course, any errors on their part are bound to be an
improvement."

He turned away to hide his scarlet cheeks, not
realizing that Chenia was merely repeating nearly word
for word her sister's statement to her
husband from few minutes before. It seemed as if
he could never win with her, so instead of returning
the insult, he walked off in a huff with a step that
would have clacked angrily against the ground if he
had been wearing shoes. The irritating giggle followed
him, trailing at his heels like an over friendly dog,
but Ireto would not turn and give his cousin more
satisfaction with a further response.

It was with such a mood, greatly damped from early
morning enthusiasm when his father, usually tolerant
of such things, had told him to grab his brother and
go outside so his parents could break bread and
prepare in peace, that he nearly trampled over Zinair.

"Ireto! What took you so long?" That was, at least, an
approximate translation of the hurried and stumbled
words and gestures, completely ignoring that he had
been the one to run off from his keeper.

Without waiting for an answer, Zinair launched into
another tirade of syllables. "I want to see the
temple. I went to Mama and she said I could if you
went with me."

"If Mama said so, I suppose I could," Ireto sighed.

The grandmotherly woman was the oldest in the village,
who adored all the children and they adored her in
return, in spite of some of her mutterings about
various adults including parents. Often, most
teachings about the People came from her lips, as the
priest did not bother with such things, concerned more
for keeping the blessing of the gods upon the present
generation rather than the next.

Ireto was also unsurprised about the sudden change of
activity. Zinair flitted to and from different games
constantly and he had anticipated the Sun Day for
weeks, like most of the People. It would have been a
lie to say all, for there was one who would not be
showing his face until the morrow. Not that its evil
stare would be missed by any.

Zinair scampered on ahead, his smaller body passing
between legs that had to move aside for his larger
brother. The temple waited at the village center,
rising before Ireto's eyes like a majestic god above
the ramshackle buildings surrounding it. Unlike the
homes of the People, the temple was stone, expertly
cut, crafted and placed. Stonework was not a skill
that any of the People possessed, but one tale Mama
told, said that the gods had built it for the People
after they had been driven from their homes lifetimes
past. Ireto could not help but believe, for who would
abandon such a wonderful place as his home? Any with
such skill could surely have defended it.

Today, the structure was not only decked with finely
carved lines and masterful architecture, but also with
cloths and ribbons of every color the women could
create or the men could capture. Some ribbons clashed,
yet the overall effect was one of celebration, just as
had been intended as the decorations were removed from
storage and the older ones replaced.

Zinair's mouth formed a red "o" on his face, for this
was his first time viewing the work the villagers had
done. Ireto's mother had been worried he might try to
purloin a few of the more reachable rainbow colors.

She was, as was frequently the case, entirely correct.
Zinair scurried forward, intent on the sky-blue band
waving in the breeze before his eyes. Ireto, though,
was forewarned and prepared, reaching out and grabbing
the struggling youngster.

Zinair huffed in defeat against strong arms, whining,
"I only wanted to touch it."

"So that green strip Mother found last year magically
made its way under your bed?"

"That was a year ago. I'm older now."

"Not old enough. Come on, I'll get Mama to tell you
the story." The perfect distraction, or so Ireto
thought.

"No, I don't want to hear a silly story."

"Well, it's either that or take you home so Mother can
bathe you in the river."

Zinair followed, his hand still in Ireto's grip,
dragging his feet at every opportunity. He almost
escaped at Ireto's distraction when Chenia waved in
his direction, snickering, but the two soon found
themselves at Mama's abode.

"Now what have you boys been up to?" Friendly eyes
took in the scene before her. "Led you on a bit of a
chase, did he? Well, you'd have to clean up anyways, I
suppose."

"Yeah, well, he tried to take one of the decorations
again."

"Zinair, I thought you were old enough to know
better." The tone was not so much scolding as
disappointed and the boy hung his head in shame.

"I wasn't going to keep it. I just wanted to look at
it up close."

Mama nodded sagely. "Of course, dear." She looked in
Ireto's eyes knowingly, realizing that he had come to
her in an act of desperation, as his bloody and soiled
body could testify. "I suppose you boys want me to
tell you the story, right? I never know why you
bother, the priest will do it tonight anyway."

"But you do it so much better. I can't understand most
of what he says."

"Truth be told, neither can I. He does it in the older
tongue, lad. I suppose I can spare the time, since I'm
ready as I am now."

She sat herself gingerly at the ground, leaning
against the wall. Zinair crossed his legs in front of
her and Ireto tucked his right leg under his left, not
caring about dirt. At this point, it would make no
difference.

After waiting for the pair to settle themselves, she
began to speak, her voice clearly telling a tale she
had spoken a hundred times.

"In the beginning of all days, the world was dark, for
nothing had yet been created. Out of the darkness came
two sparks. These sparks grew and became Garashu, Lord
of Light, High God over Heaven, and his wife Alvinah,
who was the delight of her husband and his wise
counselor."

Mama's voice took on a dramatic tone as she continued,
ignoring Zinair's fidgeting movements, merely asking
if he wished to hear the rest or not. With great
restraint for someone his age, he remained totally
still for a moment and returned his attention to the
story, at least for several seconds.

"Now, none save these two existed in all the world
and, bored with the silence that was broken only by
their voices, Alvinah went to her husband, saying,
'Husband, might we not create other beings so that the
vast emptiness around us be filled?'

"And Garashu agreed, so both spoke names and called
into being the lesser gods, gods of air, earth and
sea. Now, heaven was filled with powers and the world
was no longer silent for it rang with the voices of
Heaven. Perhaps the greatest of these powers and the
most beautiful of these voices was the Lord of the
Dark, though he was not called so then and he was
second only to Garashu and Alvinah themselves. He
loved his creators then with all his heart and became
their closest friend amid the company of gods, for
none were so beautiful or quick as he."

"Among themselves, they spoke and looked upon the
empty world. 'Let us create creatures to inhabit it,'
the gods said to each other. And Garashu spoke and the
sun blazed in the sky. Then Alvinah spoke and the moon
appeared. Next they named all assortment of stars and
oceans, finally calling forth a variety of creatures
to set upon the world."

"The world was new and, in trust, they gave it to the
guidance of the Dark One so that he might set all the
things they had made in the proper places, setting him
above the lesser gods in this matter. At first, he was
overwhelmed by the great honor, but as time passed he
witnessed the amazing wonders the creators had wrought
and his heart grew bitter, for he could not call forth
life, though many other miracles were done by his
hand. So, he began to plot in secret, to lie, an act
never before conceived of, and to tempt other gods to
his cause saying, 'Why should we not be Greater Gods
ourselves?' and plying them with promises of power.

"Finally, when he had judged himself and his allies
equal in might to all others, he challenged all and
said that he was match to those who gave life and
light itself. Those who had not given in to false
promises rose up against him and battles waged upon
both the sky and earth and the steps of powers created
valleys and uprooted mountains. After many clashes
between them, Garashu and Alvinah called out,
preventing the destruction of the Dark One's allies,
for he himself had fled to avoid the wrath of those
greater than he.

"In the silence, they called another name, summoning
the one responsible for the divide of All. 'You have
brought war into the world and turned your face from
us and from those even who fought for you. But, we
love you still and ask that you repent and mend this
rift, for we would not destroy you.'

"In pride and in anger, he refused.

"Garashu said, 'You have brought strife to Heaven and
destruction to the world. If you will not repent, then
you cannot remain.

"But Alvinah raised her voice also. 'For the love we
feel for you and for the love of what we have made, we
would not have either be made incomplete by returning
you to the void. Heaven is barred from you. Go with
your followers into the dark places of the underworld,
to dwell amid the world-dragons, for they will heed
you not and will not fall to whispering tongues.

"So, the gods were cast down to dwell beneath the
earth. The lust for revenge has twisted them into
diabolic things and are gods no more, eager to destroy
the souls of the People to hurt their creator.

"And now I'm quite out of breath and that's all any of
you are getting out of me for today." Mama waved a
hand to the other children who had gathered during the
recitation.

Ireto nearly jumped out of his skin as someone ruffled
his hair from behind, something he
always abhorred. He jumped around in an instant,
unsurprised to find Chenia and her irrepressible
giggle.

He growled under his breath. Someday he'd like
someone to show her just what that tongue and
generally annoying natter and habits felt like. It'd
be even nicer if he was watching.

Still, he remembered the manners and respect for
elders that his parents had been somewhat
unsuccessfully trying to drill into him. "Thank you,
Mama."

Voices echoed his in a cacophony of confused sounds.

"You're welcome. And the lot of you should probably
go. It's getting a bit late, you know."

"Yes, Mama," came the dutiful reply.

***
Later
***

Darkness was almost upon the People, who stood out
front of the temple, save those chosen by lot to be
sentries. The last rays of the sun were like the
paintbrushes of giants, creating swaths of red and
yellow against the horizon, despite the clouds
breezing in from the north.

Ireto was busy resisting the urge to scratch at the
itch on his leg, rather than paying attention to what
the priest, an older man in his twenties, was saying.
As such, he was not watching as the ceremonial flame
was extinguished, to be lit again on tomorrow evening
and every night there after until the next Sun Day
when the People were safe from the evils of the Dark
and needed no flame to protect them.

Instead, Ireto was one of the first, other than the
sentries, to spot the figure about to enter the
village.

The figure itself was familiar; indeed it should have
been for he had seen it continuously throughout his
life and feared it at a comfortable distance. While
other youngsters threw rocks at the man's house, Ireto
believed that being half a village away from the
occupant was the most prudent course. He would ignore
the label of coward to reduce the chills that crawled
at the base of his neck, just as they were doing now.

So, indeed, the man was familiar but his presence was
unexpected as the sentries nodded to him in passing,
not calling out for fear of interrupting the
ceremonies; perhaps as unexpected at the wail that
erupted from the burden in man'sarms.

Heads turned and the ritual words faltered as a babe's
cries for love and affection reached the ears of the
gathering. Bewilderment reigned, for everyone knew
that a quest for love from that one would be futile,
since he seemed to have no heart but a black void
instead.

The man did not even spare a glance; he cared not
about their approval. Ireto knew that he was one of
the People, but had no care for their laws and seemed
to think himself above them. He was a killer without
peer and had saved the village from destruction at the
hands of raiders more than once, fighting like the
Dark One himself and returning from battle with never
a scratch, though good men died. Thus, he remained, a
protector and, perhaps, because no one wanted to
remove him.

Suddenly, a great wind rose up from the north, the
direction of the oncoming clouds that no one had been
looking up to see. Decorations around the temple flew,
cast from their places. Ireto felt a sting on the top
of his head, followed by another on his arm. Slapping
at it as one would a fly, he found no insect
responsible. That was the last moment of peace.

Pellets of ice fell violently from the sky, crashing
on the people below. It seemed that the man and the
babe had already reached shelter, and the sounds of
the child were drowned out by cries of pain as people
rushed to their homes and the temple for sanctuary.
There would be no celebration tonight, nor any for
many after. It was obvious to all that the Dark One
had found their village and there was only one
possible explanation. Ireto hid shivering in the
temple next to Chenia, fearing that Garashu had
abandoned the People after all.

***

A natural event, perhaps, but in the eyes of the
People, something much more. For only the presence of
a Demon could explain such an occurrence. A Demon, or
the child of one. Millennia would pass when all the
world would have forgotten these beginnings as the
People were swallowed unmourned by time, when this
child would finally die at the hands of a Champion of
Good, but the beginnings are there...

This lonely day would shape one who would shape
everything after, echoes and ripples in an endless
sea. In such a place among the People, a child grew to
become a boy, accused of being the mating of his
father and one of the gods of the netherworld. Alone
and unloved, except by the one who raised him. In
time, a boy would become a man, who would become a
monster, who would become immortal.

This monster would find others of his kind,
terrorizing people into cities with walls and thus to
civilization. As his father did, we will call him
Caspian and, as one of one hundred and thirteen
others, he escaped from the confines of the abyss.