Second Moon, Summer, 1127
We have been traveling for nearly two weeks now, with no end in sight. On the second day, we abandoned the roads and entered the vast sea of sand, beyond any sign of civilization. Myn and the other guardians have gone silent, and Ryu grows more distant each day. It all started a few nights after we entered this barren wasteland. He appeared to be having some kind of nightmare, of what, I still do not know. He hasn't said a word, but Myn seems to know something. I do not know what to think anymore; what to believe in. I write this now so that I might not forget this, should I succumb to madness in this unending desert. I write this so that I do not lose hope.
~Nina De Wyndia XIV
I: Age of Man
~ Earth's Tomb ~
I awoke slowly, not quite aware I was even awake. Like so many of the past few days, this one was spent drifting in and out of sleep in the searing heat, which seemed to be getting worse as the journey drew on.
At first, I was filled with a sort of excited anxiety, but that quickly melted away when the third day produced nothing of note. The week since then has been nothing but the same routine of travel by night, and rest by day. Everyone seemed to be content in remaining silent, leaving me with a lot of time to think about what I had gotten myself into.
I had made the decision so easily, wanting to discover the world's secrets. I wanted to learn everything I could, in hopes that I could make a difference. Somehow, I thought this would help bring an end to the war that was ravaging the world, but now, I wasn't so sure.
Ryu, while mysterious, was starting to look rather normal to me. He spent his time while we traveled huddled in the corner of the wagon looking rather depressed. When we had first rescued him from his imprisonment, he was just as he was in the castle. He spoke to me openly, and rather sheepishly when he would remember I was a princess, but ever since we entered the desert, he began to change.
It all started one morning when he seemed to have a nightmare. I could still recall those screams as if he were crying out right now. They were twisted and tortured, unlike anything I had heard before. When he awoke, he looked at us with eyes that had a look of madness in them, like he was seeing ghosts.
At first, I had tried to speak to him about it, but he made it clear he did not want to. He didn't speak much since then, but no one else seemed to mind his behavior, so I let it go. I suppose there was plenty reason for him to be defensive. While we had liberated him from imprisonment, he was still technically an imperial now in the company of people from the Allied Nation of Wyndia.
Myn had been quiet the entire journey into the desert. His only concern each day was whether or not we were being followed, but Yuri always informed him of our freedom of such troubles. I can't help but wonder at Yuri's behavior. Something about this desert had him worried. Something that caused him to have words with Myn on more than one occasion. He was in fact having words with him right now, which I listened too closely while pretending to still be asleep.
"There is no need to go this way," Yuri spoke softly to Myn. "We escaped easily."
"This isn't about escaping," Myn replied. "You know, as well as I."
"I know that what you're doing is madness," Yuri replied.
"Madness would be to ignore what's been happening," Myn shot back. "The situation is changing gravely. There's only one way to be sure."
"You're just being impatient, which is unlike you," Yuri said.
"Impatient!" Myn responded, as if insulted. "Listen to the winds, Yuri, and tell me this is unwise."
For a moment, the two were silent. I could hear the wind whipping by us, but heard nothing in their wisps. I wondered what Yuri's gifts allowed him to hear.
"No matter what they say, this is unwise," Yuri said. "You would seek council with a traitor."
At that, I could barely stifle my reaction. Just where were we going? Who was it Myn was wanting to meet at our destination? I couldn't recall any traitors to Wyndia in the past century of history. Was it something beyond that?
"I seek council with the only one who can help us now," Myn replied.
"If he helps us," Yuri warned.
The two were silent for some time after that, so I decided to get up finally. I stretched and came out of the cabin of the wagon slowly.
"Good evening, Princess," Yuri said as he saw me exit the cabin. He wore a fake smile, trying to appear as he always did.
"Good evening, Yuri," I replied. "Anything to report?"
"Nothing but sand and sky as far as the eye can see," he said with a weak chuckle.
"You should rest," Myn said.
"I just woke up," I replied. "I'm plenty rested as is."
"Get your rest, Princess," Myn insisted. "We will be arriving at day break."
"Where will we be arriving to?" I asked.
"You will see when we get there," he said.
I wanted to press Myn for a real answer, but one look at Yuri's troubled face told me to just wait, and get rest while I could. I returned to the cabin after one last look at the distant horizon.
Inside the cabin, Joachim was seated against a wall, meditating. I had gotten used to him spending long hours like this. He said that as a warrior, he meditated often to calm his fighting spirit so that it may be stronger in battle. I didn't understand such things, but knew that his people, the Fullen, were proud about their warrior tradition, and balance with nature.
The other two inhabitants of the cabin were as silent, although not in meditation. Cassandra was seated up straight with her cloak shrouding her face. Like Yuri, she had voiced concern over Myn's decisions since entering the desert, but had resigned herself a few days ago. Now, she simply sat quietly and waited for whatever was coming to happen.
Ryu was laying on his back with his eyes closed. I could tell he wasn't asleep, because he wasn't thrashing about. No, he was probably just thinking to himself about what was happening, and trying to figure out what he could.
Sighing, I sat back down on the roll out futon I had been sleeping on earlier. I was starting to long for the busy noise of home.
- x -
Once again, my sleep had been met with nightmares. The same twisted voices and images haunted me, becoming on clearer than before. Every since awakening, I have remained laying on my futon contemplating what I was witnessing in my sleep.
Something about this desert had to do with the nightmares. That much, I was sure about. As we continued on our journey, the nightmares became more intense, even lingering beyond sleep at times. Each time I'd look at Myn or Yuri afterwards, they'd glance back with knowing eyes, but said nothing. This frustrated me, but I was in no position to demand answers.
I wondered what Myn and the others planned to do with me. I was by all means, their prisoner. Myn, however, seemed more interested in taking me with him than imprisoning me.
I pondered the possibilities when the voices came back. My mind was filled with their loud echoes and indecipherable language. There were so many of them. Hundreds, thousands. All crying out, but for what? What did they want?
As the voices got louder, I pressed my hands around my head and fought to shut them out. I groaned from the strain, but slowly, the voices faded away. I exhaled a sigh of relief as I relaxed.
Finally opening my eyes, I glanced over to the front of the cabin and saw Nina looking at me with worry. Under better circumstances, I would try to calm her, but I couldn't even fool myself, let alone someone else. I was starting to wonder if I was going insane. Maybe I got chrysm poisoning when I was in the mines? I've heard many stories about how mad people have gone from prolonged exposure to raw chrysm.
As dread started to creep into my mind, I rolled over to look at the wall. That was something I had never considered as part of my future. A shining bright young star in the military academy, thoughts of chrysm poisoning and life in an insane asylum were never a part of my days.
A sudden weight dropped behind me startled me. I didn't turn to see who it was, because it was obviously Nina. Besides Joachim, she was the only one who spoke to me during this trip, and the weight was quite light.
"It's going to be okay," she said.
I didn't say anything. I just listened, and hoped she'd go away soon. I could feel myself on the edge, and was worried I'd lash out at anyone given the slightest push.
"I know you don't want to talk about it, and that's okay," she continued. "Myn says we're going to be there by day break. I'm sure whatever's happening will be answered soon."
She sounded hopeful, rather than confident. I envied her for that. While she had hope, I had nothing but fears now. My life had become so complicated in just a matter of weeks.
Nina left me to myself, and I spent the rest of the trip in more silent contemplation. When the wagon came to a stop, Myn announced it was time for all of us to get out.
I had to shield my eyes from the light of the rising sun when the front of the wagon was opened. How long had it been since I had seen real sun light? I had lost track of the days. When my eyes finally adjusted, I gasped at what I saw.
A massive chasm opened the Earth where our wagon had stopped. It spanned further than I could see beyond the horizon in any direction forward and to the sides. The rocky edges look scorched, and the twisted and broken remains of long dead trees were spread throughout.
"What is this?" I asked.
"You're looking at the Earth's Tomb," Myn said.
"The Earth's Tomb?" Nina asked.
"Yes," Myn answered. "This is where the Earth is buried."
"I don't understand," she replied.
"You will, Princess," Myn assured her.
I looked down into the chasm with a sense of unease. Something about this place seemed strangely familiar, but I'm sure I've never even heard of such a place before. Beyond this feeling, my eyes could see no safe way down from the cliff face we were by.
"How do we even get down?" I asked.
"You cannot enter, unless allowed to," Myn said.
"Allowed to?" I asked.
As if to answer for Myn, a storm of sand whipped up from the chasm, creating a massive wall of sand and wind. I could no longer see the chasm beyond the wall, and jumped back in surprise at its sudden arrival. When I looked back at Myn, he was gazing into the sand storm like he had been expecting it.
The sand storm towered over us, casting its massive shadow. The sands of the storm reached out, gently swirling around me and the others. As the grains grazed my body, I felt an eerie chill to their touch. It was strange, but it almost felt like the storm was searching us for something.
After a few seconds, the curious winds retreated from the others, but remained on me. They continued to circle me, searching, probing, feeling. Through the noise of their shipping gusts, I could begin to hear the voices that had haunted me begin to whisper.
The voices whispered for a moment, and the sands finally retreated back into the wall formed by the storm. The winds suddenly died, leaving behind dead silence and the falling sand. A second later, the winds returned, spilling forth in a violent punching gale. The sands spread on us like a wave, and we were helpless to escape. I felt the force of the wind grip my body tightly and suck me into the storm.
I could do nothing, see nothing. All I could do was hear the muffled screams of Nina and Joachim as the storm covered me in darkness. I felt my body twist and turn through the violent winds. Sand and rocks blanketed me, but did not harm me as I traveled quickly, carried by the wind of the storm, until I was spat out violently at the other end.
I exited the storm much how I had entered, suddenly, and roughly. Blackness became a sudden blast of light as I came barreling out of the sand storm onto the rocky surface of the chasm floor. I rolled several times before coming to a stop, and felt several people doing the same around me.
After taking a moment to let my dazed mind recover, I looked around me. Everyone had made it out of the storm looking unharmed. We were inside the chasm now, completely surrounded by massive rock walls. Light filtered in through the cracks in the Earth above us, barely enough to really see anything.
We were inside some kind of massive chamber, almost like a cave formed by the valley of the chasm. Like the surface, everything inside was dead, except for us. Dried out tree roots and massive bones were all that remained of whatever had once lived in this region.
"We have been granted an audience," Myn said.
"An audience with what?" Nina asked.
Before Myn could say anything, the walls around us began to rumble. The chamber seemed to roar gently, as if alive.
"At nol byyr o sirg tacy, Myn" a low, menacing voice bellowed.
I became alert at the sudden voice and looked for its source. There was no sign of movement around us, and the voice had come from all directions.
"Tnyhy vol ri hyolir ti hytehr, ertas riv," Myn replied in the same tongue.
Myn's words were met with silence, but I could have sworn I had felt something creeping around us. Still, my eyes saw nothing in the faint light of the chamber.
"Lehysu uie di rit cyor tnal biu?" the voice said, shaking the walls.
At that, I felt the presence shift to me. I could actually feel like something was looking at me, but could still see nothing.
Myn said nothing as I felt the presence in the chamber examining me. He stood with Yuri and Cassandra as if waiting for it to be finished. Joachim and Nina were glancing everywhere, obviously as stumped as I was.
"Ny byohl tny cohk ij kargl?" the voice grumbled.
"Uyl," Myn said.
A giant yellow eye suddenly shot open, delivering a piercing gaze upon me. Sand blew out as the creature the eye belonged to snorted. Before my very eyes, the wall in front of us revealed itself to be a massive beast, looking like a dragon from a fairy tale.
The creature moved its head forward into the light, revealing a face of rocky scales. Dirt and sand sifted from its face as it set its gaze on me. Its head was large enough to swallow us all whole.
"Tnal al tny biu vy vyhy phicalyd?" the creature said. Strangely, the voice still seemed to come from the walls all around us, rather than from the creature's mouth.
"See for yourself, but he does not speak the ancient tongue," Myn said.
"Al tnal they? Di uie rit erdyhltord cy?" the voice said.
When no answer came from any of us, the head pulled back slightly.
"Pity..." the voice said. The dragon looked down an me with curiosity in its eyes. "Tell me, what is thy name?"
"My name is Ryu Jenso," I answered.
"An interesting name," the dragon mused. "Your family?"
"I never knew my parents," I answered. "I was adopted, when I was a baby, supposedly. My adopted parents said my first name was all they found with me."
"So, you know not your heritage?" the dragon inquired.
"... I guess not," I answered honestly. I was coming to grips with the idea that I wasn't just a simple imperial orphan.
"There is uncertainty in your heart," the dragon said. "Do you feel for your adopted parents?"
"Of course," I answered quickly. "They raised me as if I was their own son. I... I am their son."
"Indeed," the dragon agreed while giving me a curious look. "Your will is strong." After a short silence, it turned and looked at the others. When he saw Princess Nina, he moved in to examine her closely.
"You are of royal blood," it said.
"Yes, I am Princess Nina of Wyndia," she answered.
"Nina... so, the Star of Hope shined brightly upon your birth."
"Yes, it did. How did you..."
The dragon ignored her and cut her off by quickly turning back to me with a more intense look than before.
"Tell me. Do you know who I am?" it asked.
"Do you know what I am?"
The dragon turned to look at Myn, and its eyes squinted as if angered. It did not speak to him, however, and returned its gaze to me. It moved in close, until it's eye was mere inches from my face. I could feel its ancient breath blowing on my whole body. The eye remained there, looking into mine as it spoke.
"Does this trouble you?" it asked.
I thought about what it was asking. Did my lack of knowledge trouble me? Did the situation trouble me? What did it mean? I decided it didn't really matter, because the answer was the same, no matter which it was. I wanted to know what was happening, no matter what.
The dragon's eye continued its unblinking stare.
"Do you know why you are here?" it asked.
"No, I do not," I answered. "I know nothing of what is happening to me."
The eye seemed to leer ever closer to me, as if trying to see what was behind my words. I could feel it looking through me, like it was actually entering into my body and mind. Memories were forced to the surface, playing before my eyes. My childhood of being bullied for being different. Then, meeting Kai and becoming fast friends. Enlisting for the military at a young age despite against my parents' wishes. Seeing Nina for the first time on that flaming battle field. That memory was the first time I had felt something beyond my own body, and when this whole thing began.
At once, the memories stopped and I was again gazing back into the dragon's eye. It regarded me like it always had, with its piercing gaze.
"You have been brought here, because a great journey awaits you," the dragon said. "Your arrival is one we have awaited for over a thousand years."
The dragon's words were unnerving to me. To think my birth was preordained over a thousand years ago was ridiculous. But I was also witnessing something I never thought possible, so I kept quiet, and listened.
"I must admit, I once believed you would never come," the dragon said, almost sounding amused. "Only Yua has been around as long as I, and that is a very long time to wait."
The dragon pulled its head back from me and looked over at Myn and the others again.
"The answers you seek are not mine to give," it said. "However, they will come, when you are ready."
"I don't understand," I said. "Why have we come here, if you won't answer my questions."
"So eager," it replied with what sounded like a grin. "You have been brought here, because I remember the last time you answered the call of fate."
"What?" was all I could say.
"This planet has seen much," the dragon said. "This will be the fifth time you've come."
"You're saying I'm... reincarnated?" I asked.
"In a manner of speaking, yes," the dragon said. "In time, you will understand. Return to me, when you can speak the old tongue."
"Why was it so important for me to come here?" I asked. "Why couldn't Myn, or the others, tell me any of this?"
At the question, the dragon glanced over at the others and almost appeared to smile.
"I believe Myn wished to restore my faith," it said. "Among other reasons."
"Restore your faith? Faith in what? Who are you?"
"Faith in you, child. For, you see, I was once like Myn, a human vessel. I waited and watched as the world tore itself apart in war. Millions died over petty disputes and ravaged the land which I was tasked to watch over. I waited for you to come, but you didn't answer, even when the world looked to be on the brink of death.
"It was then that I made the choice to end the war myself. I bonded with Sa Ryong and ruptured the Earth. The armies all perished in the quake I set upon them. Such catastrophe had never been seen before, and not since then, and still, you did not come.
"When the world was little more than ash and rubble, my crimes were evident. It wasn't until I saw how the people suffered when I realized ending the war so swiftly was a mistake. While my wrath had been set upon the armies, it spread throughout the entire world. I was a fool to take such power.
"The other Endless were outraged by my actions. They split me from Sa Ryong, and sealed me in this tomb to await the time when you would come to pass judgment on me."
"You've been waiting for me to judge you for something done over a thousand years ago?" I asked.
The dragon chuckled at my question.
"I do not expect you to understand the gravity of my decision now. You have yet to even begin your journey. As I said, return to me, once you have learned the old tongue. I'll be waiting."
The dragon looked over to Myn and spoke in the old tongue. "Siik ojtyh nac, Myn. Tny vihsd nol lejjyhyd o sirg tacy jih tnal dou."
"There is the matter of safe travel back to Wyndia," Myn said in reply.
The dragon looked at all of us and chuckled. With a mighty roar, it summoned a violent sand storm that flooded the chamber, and swept us into its winds. This storm carried us upwards to the surface, and dropped us on the desert floor before fading away.
"Well, that's great," Yuri said. He got up and slapped the sand off his coat. "What's your plan for getting us out of this one, eh?" he asked Myn.
Myn didn't answer Yuri. He helped Nina to her feet and took a look around while I did the same.
"He knows we have no way of getting out on foot," he said.
"Yeah, and after a thousand years of solitude, he doesn't seem keen on doing us any favors," Yuri said.
"I'm sure he's not going to just leave us stranded here," Cassandra said.
"Is that so? Take a look around!" Yuri shouted and spread his arms to the great expanse of chasm we were in. "There's nothing but dead Earth for miles!"
"Be quiet!" Myn shouted.
Yuri didn't object further, leaving us in silence. I couldn't see anything, and the blazing sun was already beating down on me. I hated to think how the Princess was doing. Wyndians aren't known for their tolerance of heat, having come from the cool high altitudes of their mountainous region.
As we watched and listened, nothing but the sound of the passing wind could be heard. The chasm stretched beyond the horizon in every direction, revealing a precarious path of jagged rock and sand dunes.
"This place is completely dead," Joachim said.
"It has been for over a thousand years," Myn said. "It's not called the Desert of Death of nothing."
"But I have never heard of such a place as this," Joachim said. "Something so large should be in many stories."
"Sa Ryong protects this place," Yuri said. "It uses the shifting sands to deter travelers."
It was then that the ground began to shake. We were knocked off our feet as the shaking became violent, and a giant serpent sprang from the chasm.
"There's Sa Ryong now!" Yuri shouted over the quake.
"Sa Ryong... how magnificent," Joachim said in awe.
Sa Ryong flew over us, revealing itself to be a giant sand worm that was bigger than the largest whale. While massive enough to break the rocky surface of the chasm, it looked like the Earth itself was moving with it, opening and shifting with its movements. After arcing over us a couple times, it turned to observe us with its eyeless face and circular mouth of gnashing teeth.
"Two giant creatures in one day," I remarked. "I expected this kind of thing to come gradually."
"This is only the beginning," Myn said.
Sa Ryong whelped and groaned as it came down to us. I didn't understand it, if it was trying to communicate with us, but once it was near, it spoke as plainly as anyone else.
"Yiggy says you need to return to Wyndia," it said.
Yuri snorted and laughed. "Yiggy? Man, putting up with that name for a thousand years is punishment enough."
"Perhaps," Sa Ryong replied, although it didn't sound too concerned. "Come, I will take you as far as the edge of the desert."
We all remained where we were as Sa Ryong dove under the ground. A moment later, we were lifted onto its head as it rose from the Earth again and began to glide over the splitting surface.
I was amazed beyond belief at what was happening. I had heard storied of the Endless, but that's all they were, stories. I had always thought they were nothing more than legends told to children to get them to behave, but here I was, riding Sa Ryong, the God of the Earth, the legendary serpent of the great desert.
As I got used to the ride, I slowly crawled over to Myn, whom was sitting calmly with his legs crossed.
"Who was that back there?" I asked. "This... Yiggy."
"A very old guardian," he answered. "The oldest of them all."
"What's his real name? He never did tell me."
"He is the man born from the Earth to watch over it, and protect its knowledge and wisdom," Myn said cryptically. "His name is Yggdrasil."
A/N: After years and years, here's a new chapter to give me a break from my Evangelion fic. It feels good to write something less convoluted, although I forgot how much effort it takes to write things in first person, especially when doing a story from two distinct points of view. I hope you enjoyed this entry, especially if you're a long time reader that has managed to come back.