The Enigma Chronicles - Sedition
Chapter 19: A Widow's Wrath
Brethren King Eldar, accompanied by a pair of his finest Rhydon Guards, hobbled doggedly through Rota's streets as the denizens scattered about him. The day had darkened into a crimson night, casting the kingdom in a bloody haze. He sniffed the air hungrily and sought his way to the palace gates. His target was within, he just knew it. Eager blood pounded through his cryptic veins, a lustful fire burning in his frail chest, and the unrelenting hunger to taste Aura Guardian blood replenishing his callow soul.
Further ahead, a column of Cameran Royal Knights stood guard in front of the palace gates, faces masked behind the visors of their silver helmets. They did not stir, they did not speak. Swords of the finest temper and keenest edge cocked from their earnest grips, ready to wage battle over all else. Eldar didn't appear too surprised, for ever since Aaron's demise, Rota's soldiers had grown cold and unfriendly... and he wondered if the same had become of their queen.
As he approached the unmoving soldiers with a gimp in his step, he beckoned for their attention and promptly asserted, "My source assures me there is at least one remaining Aura-sensitive presence somewhere in Lunan." He halted before them, leaning breathlessly on his cane, ember eyes drawn to the castle beyond. "Lady Rin has failed to report to the Brethren Court for quite some time... and so we hold suspicion that she his harboring fugitives inside the palace. I wish to personally investigate the matter."
Dumbfounded, one of the knights stepped forward and demanded in a harsh, grating voice, "Under whose authority?"
"Under the authority of the Brethren King!", Eldar sneered back, insulted by the lack of recognition. "That would be me!" He didn't bother waiting around for a reply. His tone became clipped, borderline venomous, as he spat through gnashed, corpse-like teeth, "Step aside... or I will return with an army twice the size of your kingdom... and burn everything to the ground."
The heinous threat did not go unchecked; there was no challenging his authority. Hurriedly, almost frantically, the knights scattered, opening the gates as requested of them.
Eldar extended one last felonious grin to the outspoken soldier in charge, then doddered onwards, his Pokémon bodyguards flanking either side of him as he made for the shapely castle beyond the royal gardens, white walls and spires beckoning him from the nightfall.
The viking ship dipped through the waves, bucking a strong headwind. Standing at the rickety bow, Kota shielded his eyes from the spray with one hand as he looked down at the water. Lunan was several days behind them, but they were not making the time they should have been. The current was fighting them, pushing them at bay from the glorious promise land Azien had spoken of.
"Is something wrong, Master?", Pondo shouted at his elbow, his voice ringing from below deck. The wind howling against the sails made speech nearly inaudible.
"The current.", Kota clipped back, not bothering to turn his head. "It's flowing south and slowing us down considerably."
Chuckling heartily to himself, Pondo shrugged. He maneuvered past the mast of the sails and trotted up the stairs to join his master. "I... suppose we'll just have to be patient."
Kota waved his hand in the air as if to dismiss the notion. "I didn't ask for your opinion, Master Pondo." His voice was steely and unfeeling, like a hollow echo.
Unsure of what to do, Pondo merely swallowed hard and blinked in response. He'd never seen Kota so distraught, yet so firmly staunch. Part of him wondered if Aaron would approve... but out of respect, he forced the suspicion to the back of his mind. After all, if it hadn't been for Kota, they'd have never escaped the Brethren's clutches.
But still... something wasn't right about him.
Overhearing the curt exchange, Kiara stepped up behind Pondo, tapping his burly shoulder and whispering, "What is it now?"
Damien then appeared beside his wife, nodding the question himself.
Pondo turned and kept his voice just below a whisper. "Kota seems unusually ill-tempered.", He sighed in a lax breath, feigning concern for the better. "He's been like this ever since we set sail." Swallowing again, he gathered his wits and raised his finger to the royal parchment clipped to the elders belt. "I fear the contents of that scroll may have... disillusioned him."
Damien cut in silently, "Regardless, I don't see why-"
Finally, after overhearing quite enough, Kota swiveled on his heel with alarming agility, confronting the three with an expression akin to disgust. He growled in a low hum, "If there's something you'd like to remark, why not remark it to my face?"
The three shared puzzled glances, while the rest of the crew scattered about the ship suddenly went mute, taken aback by their leader's shrill tone.
Kota stared at them for a long moment, anger burning in his eyes. "If you must know, I am disillusioned because we were betrayed and led astray by the very same people we sought to protect for hundreds of years!" He raised his voice – it wasn't violent, but it was certainly powerful. "Don't any of you understand? What happened to us was no accident! We were wrongfully persecuted because of the powers we possess – because we are not like the rest of mankind! King Eldar and the Brethren Court eliminated the Ministry in a misguided effort to constitute balance! They saw themselves as inferior to us... and so they began to fear us... and then, finally, they opted to remove us altogether!"
The listening brood lowered their heads in silence. They knew in their hearts that Kota's words were painful but true – and until now, they hadn't stopped to truly reflect on what had happened... or even why it happened.
Kota pounded his fist against the mast and continued, "They shamelessly and brutally tore away at our numbers, in spite of everything we've done for them!" He tore the scroll from beneath his robe and dangled it for all to see, his gazed drawn primarily to the three outspoken followers frozen inches in front of him. "So when you question why I'm so disillusioned, take a hard look at this scroll and understand what society truly thinks of our likes!"
It didn't take long for murmurs of rue and dissent to travel across the length of the ship, interspersing amongst the imputed outcasts and their blessedly loyal Pokémon.
Pondo bowed his head in apology, Kiara and Damien swiftly mimicking the gesture.
Kota untensed and motioned for them to rise. He knew he couldn't blame them for their naivety , so he'd have to usher them to truth at a later time. No matter the cost or strife, he had every intention of rebuilding the Ministry; only then could he instill the vow to one day punish those who had wronged the Aura Guardians.
The abrupt cry sent the crew into a cheering frenzy, while Kota stepped up to the bow to spot the mountainous landmass looming beyond the ocean mist, complete with rolling valleys and cobalt alpines, which Kota took prompt notice of. "Those mountains look promising.", He whispered to himself, picking up a faint but undeniable flicker in the Aura. "I can sense something extraordinary about them..."
Pondo stood patiently behind his elder, awaiting orders.
At last, the wise prophet whirled. He watched people and Pokémon throng orderly across the deck, then furrowed a brow to Pondo. "Is everyone ready to go ashore?"
Pondo nodded quietly, managing a slight smile.
"Then let us celebrate our freedom... and explore our new abode.", Kota murmured.
The ballroom doors were opened by a pair of stately dressed servants in uniforms of rich red, and the ruby sunlight filtering through the glistering windows was blinding, nearly slowing Eldar to an abrupt halt as he and his guards stepped into the grand hall. He felt his bony knees wobble slightly as he shuffled across the majestic marble floor, gaze leveled to the center of the room, where Lady Rin sat by her lonesome at the far end of a long, narrow table.
She raised her head, pushing unwanted strands of hair out of her lifeless eyes. Her face was no longer rosy and fair, instead sickly and frail beneath a shade of ghostly white. She wore a sagging frown beneath tired eyes, bags piling beneath them. Her hair was now a frizzy, glossy mess of chestnut curls, their golden luster long gone.
Smiling, Eldar followed the carpet to the empty reach of the table, then took the seat across from Rin, folding his hands delicately in front of him. Even through aging eyes, he could see clearly that the once-beautiful maiden had lost touch with herself since Aaron's death: she was now the image of despair, a queen without class. And he could only heckle at it.
With a twitching hand, Rin dismissed her security from the ballroom, leaving only herself, Eldar, and the Rhydon Guards posted on either side of his chair. She then released an effete breath from her faded lips, whispering in a raspy voice, "I know why you are here."
"Then I'd rather we skip the formalities.", Eldar sniffed, that fiendish voice sounding out again. He wasn't even yelling, and yet his voice seemed to fill all of the space around and above them, more powerful than ever. "You surely recall what became of your former suitor, Prince Damien, after he vowed allegiance to the traitors." His bony fingers clawed into the table, nails practically digging into its mahogany surface, and he seethed, "If you share his treacherous interests, then you will be dethroned as well."
She glared weakly, eyes landing on the villainous king. "I trust you'll be wanting a name then."
Eldar nodded his head, stiff and formal. "Hand over the accused... and perhaps I'll extend mercy towards you and your people."
Stunned by his use of wordage, Rin blinked, unsure whether to nod or shake her head. "Are you threatening my kingdom?" Her voice quickly found life, audible through a breath of anger. "You have no right to wage war against my people! It's criminal! It's unlawful!"
The villain leaned into the table, unperturbed by Rin's shift in attitude. His voice dropped low, lethal, and he whispered, "I AM the law."
"You are a felon, that is what you are.", She fought back, pounding her fists to the table in a careful but forceful display. "I already played a hand in the death of ONE Aura Guardian. I'm not prepared to repeat that mistake! I will not stoop to your level!" Tears poured down her bony cheeks, nostalgic as the day her lover perished. "As far as I'm concerned, you only desire to see Lunan descend into violent and senseless anarchy!"
Eldar didn't even twitch. He could only grin that feral grin, that toothy grin. "It was indeed part of the appeal, I can admit to that now.", He replied, clearing his throat. "Aaron wasn't the only one trying to set an example."
Rin's eyes widened, startled – she hadn't expected such... brutal honesty. "Just what were you trying to accomplish?", She demanded tearfully, yet hoarsely.
Eldar shrugged his shoulders carelessly. His voice grew chiller than before. "Oh, nothing in particular, to be perfectly honest.", He sighed. "I just love a good thrill, is all."
Rin could only pale as the old man chuckled like a madman, his silty voice scraping through the air like a rusted gate. She could hardly hold herself together knowing that her beloved had died solely for Eldar's jolly amusement, that the Ministry had crumbled to his wicked rule and allowed a reign of mayhem and madness to surface from its ashes.
Eldar soon fell silent. He turned a benevolent smile on her, watching the turmoil projecting from her eyes, and with the utmost patience, he ventured, "Rin, may I share a little anecdote with you?" He stood from his seat and began to pace back and forth in short but unsettling circuits. "Since you're just dying to know the truth, you just might fancy it."
Forcing a nervous lump down her throat, she nodded wordlessly, stiffening readily in her throne for another shell-shocking truth.
But Eldar has something else in mind, and as he treaded his steps caustiously, he began to recount, "As a young lad, I valued so little, for I'd been born and raised into poverty." He looked to the floor in self-reflection. "We were pennyless... unwatned and unsought... cast away by the cruel wretches of the upperclassmen."
Rin darted a suspicious glare at the hobbling king, listening to his story with undettered focus.
Eldar let out a long sigh, then continued in a mellow voice, "My father was a ruthless thief – but his greatest joy was not what he salvaged from his crimes... but rather the sport of the crime itself. He would pilfer jewls and medallions, even chalices of the finest gold." He arched his head in thought, eyes roaming the walls. "The irony was that he'd willingly return those stolen goods after a day's chase through the marketplace... rather than trade those goods to provide for my mother and I."
Rin's stomach clenched. "That's... awful.", She blurted out, unable to help herself. Her heart gave a sickening lurch as her breath caught in her throat.
Eldar shook his head, his gaze unmoving. "No.", He hissed, his smile widening to a prideful expression. "I envied it. I still do." He whipped his head to Rin and shifted closer to the table. "When stirring mayhem is your sole ambition, you find yourself experiencing the world as it should be experienced: without reason or regret." He curled his rawboned fists and sneered, "Survival to the fittest is not only fun... but it's fair. More importantly... it's inevitable. I accept that now."
Rin's mouth fell open. "Wha-"
"He gave me this before he deserted my mother and I." Eldar then uncurled one of his fists, letting a shimmering, silver ring roll onto the surface of the table. Leaning inward, he quietly read the inscription branded into the ring's alloy bend, "'Everything is innevitable'."
Rin was speechless; she could no longer cover her insecurities, for the truth was even more disturbing than she initially suspected. "You... you wiped out the Aura Guardians for self-gratification?" She stared at him as though he were a psychopath – and he undoubtedly was. "H-How could you be so heartless! Because of you, our kingdoms have suffered years of war and destruction... and chaos!"
"Chaos is balance.", He muttered softly, thoughts openly flowing from his tongue. He stuffed the ring back into his sleeve and whispered, "The only thing that stands in the way now... is you."
Rin barely managed a gasp. She'd been snuffed out. She could hide no more. She had to take action and do what the other Guardians couldn't. Eldar would pay for his crimes.
Before another word could be uttered, Rin flipped the table to its side in an impossible show of strength and wrenched Aaron's scepter from beneath her seat, pointing its shimmering cusp at the defenseless king. "I spent eight bloody years training for this day!", She growled through grated teeth, inching her way across the ballroom as Eldar stood frozen in fear. "I promised Aaron I wouldn't pursue my hidden talents... but after you unfairly cheated him into a undeserving fate, my priorities changed for the better!"
A pulsing blast of Aura was then fired from the scepter. Eldar dived to the side with a ragged gasp, barely evading the blast, yet leaving his Pokémon bodyguards exposed to the attack.
The wieldly shockwave fleetly dispatched both Rhydon where they stood, rendering the pair unconscious.
With frightened, panicked breaths, Eldar scrambled to find safety, hobbling towards the door with reckless abandon!
Rin treaded after him slowly, unworried, aiming the scepter from a distance. She fired a second blast of Aura, thus shattering the wall nearest Eldar and sending the old man flying across the room like a cheap rag doll. At this, she could feel unrivaled power tingling within her, a smile curving at her lips as she watched the shiftless king land with a painful thump.
Crippled and hanging by his last thread of stamina, Eldar stabbed his cane to the floor, using it as a support as he attempted to climb back up on unsteady feet.
Rin sprinted towards her helpless target and forced his cane up with her lover's weapon, then kicked up hard with her left foot, catching the wretch under the jaw. The slow sent him sprawling to the floor again as he lost his grip on his cane, and he crawled away like a beaten peasant, backing himself against the wall in tearful, pathetic surrender.
She had him unarmed and cornered now, it was only deserving. "You took my beloved!", She snarled down at him, choking on sobs, her dress torn and tattered as it swished around her in a much-needed embrace. "You took it all! You turned me into this!"
Eldar's back slouched humbly against the wall as though he were sinking into a kneeling position, the crystal cusp of Rin's weapon nudging precariously at his throat. "P-Please, you mustn't!" He whimpered raggedly, eyes pleading into hers for mercy. "Y-You wouldn't harm a weak old man, would you?"
Rin blinked twice, as if coming to her senses, her hostile posture relaxing to a hesitant one. Slowly, she lowered her blade.
But the moment Rin let her guard down, Eldar raised his lanky hand, fingers pinching together as his body adopted a chilling, orchid glow of psychic energy. His unforgiving eyes emitted a sickly flash of purple as the staccato pulse pounded in his temple; as Rin's scepter clattered to the floor, her petite hands now clenched at her throat.
"H-How are you-" A squelched gasp tore from the strangled queen, but was quickly stifled as she was lifted into the air against her will, thrashing and gagging against the unfathomable shift in gravity that throttled her in that same otherworldly glow of tipsy purple. Her skin paled whiter as she fluttered near unconsciousness, like a rouge strung up by the gallows.
"The distant future holds many secrets, Lady Rin. I picked up a few tricks in my spare time." Eldar's thumb and forefinger nearly touched as her terror flew through him, immersed so deeply that it was rejuvenating. "You're just as gullible and spineless as the rest of them!", He cackled viciously, climbing to his feet, the invisible shackles of his mind squeezing the life out of her lissome frame. "You truly thought you could outwit the most powerful sorcerer in all of Lunan?"
"H-Hypocrite!", She choked out, hacking on her final breaths, her feet dangling erratically above his head. "Y-You foul, heartless hypoc-"
In one finishing motion, he jerked his hand back and wrenched down on his psychic reigns, snapping her neck like a twig.
Rin's lips parted for a ravaged huff, her eyes blinking shut. Her struggling movements became still against the binds of his psyche, numb and forever suppressed, thus ending the life of the last Aura Guardian. The job was now complete.
Eldar untensed and carelessly flicked his wrist, tossing Rin's body aside with little concern. He whirled on his heel to reach down for his cane, but froze when he sensed... that the rift in the Aura was still present, faint but definite.
"M-Momma!", A pair of squealing voices echoed across the hall, simultaneous.
Eldar's back stiffened against the shrill cry, his gray hair standing on end. "It... can't be.", He growled beneath his breath, whipping his head to the door to find twin eight-year-olds – one girl and one boy – standing at the ballroom entrance in unmoving horror. "Impossible!"
Alas, the improbable was destined to be, as both children beared the spitting image of the Great Sir Aaron: the same facial alignment, the same scent of Aura. The resemblance was irrefutable. But how could it be so? Had Rin and Aaron conceived heirs on their night of passion eight years ago, the night intended to shamelessly win Aaron's trust?
Eldar had to be sure, he had to be certain! He could sense the wielder's gift among the two of them, and he had to single it out and impede the prophecy before it could ever take root!
As the old man skidded towards them, the young duo merely trembled in his presence, silent and too traumatized to move.
Eldar wrenched the girl aside, sensing no faculty about her, his eyes honing in on the boy over all else. He approached the lad slowly, reaching out to graze his cheek with a skeletal finger. "You carry Aaron's Aura.", He gritted in neither request nor demand, drawing on his own conclusions. "You are the heir. You are the next Affinity Soul. The prophecy... lives, which means... the other six have been survived as well."
No reply, not even a whimper.
Eldar shrunk back, his mind reeling back to the day he first brought baby Aaron before the Tree of Beginning. "The enchantress of time was right, I miscalculated after all. Perhaps... I cannot change what is fated." A peculiar smile bloomed to life on his lips. "The Seven Guardians of Aura are no more eternal than time itself, just as they are no more inevitable, nay more containable, than the ever-dawning chaos..."
The boy shifted slightly, feeling safe for the moment – a fatal assumption.
The bitter smile twisting on Eldar's face froze before the son of prophecy, "But perhaps... it takes someone as cunning and defiant as I to break the bloodline."
As Eldar moved in to engage the helpless youth, the doors burst open and a rescue party of Cameran Knights poured into the ballroom, armed and single-file. While a handful of them scuttled across the hall to stand guard of the girl and her mother's lifeless body, the rest of the infantry pushed towards Eldar in a valiant effort to receive the boy, their weapons drawn and girded.
Outnumbered, Eldar motioned his hand and a psychic barrier materialized from thin air, deflecting the hailstorm of arrows and arsenals lurching towards him. He gritted his teeth and reeled his head in all directions, eyes prowling for an escape route.
As if heeding his silent prayer, a familiar black, swirling portal of shadowy fog opened up from behind him, accompanied by Celebi.
Spotting the nymph from the corner of his eye, Eldar frowned – it became evident that the enchantress had sent for him. Unable to sustain much more from the queen's security forces, the defeated king readied to make a dash for the portal... but not before first throwing a daggering glare at Aaron's boy, whom stood a mere few feet aside him, "Mark my words, child; after I've found and vanquished the six other chosen ones, I will return for you as well... and I WILL kill you."
Gasping in short, panicked breaths, the boy staggered backwards, slipping just out of Eldar's reach.
Acknowledging this, Eldar narrowed his eyes, pinning the child to the wall with a telekinetic thrust. "Until then... you will remember none of this." Feeling a tremor in the Aura, Eldar looked above; the psychic barrier encasing him was beginning to shrivel as more reinforcements flooded into the ballroom. He knew to disappear... and fast.
Finally, once released from the villain's psychic folds, Aaron's injured son slumped unconscious against the wall, his mind a total blank as the wretched hermit responsible deserted his guarded post and dived into the portal after Celebi, never to be seen or heard from again by the dwellers of Lunan.
A fulsome moon peeked over the snowy ridges of the mountains with barely a cloud in tow, its light glittering down on Kota and his people as they migrated across valleys and hilltops, scaling their way to the strip of mountain that divided the promise land like some sort of divine offshoot. There was something about the split in landscape that was just so puzzling, yet so captivating and bedazzling.
An hour's brisk hike brought them to the alpines. Kota moved quickly between thick tree trunks and waist-high flora, his trek obscured by gnarled, low branches and the dappled pattern of leaves' shadows. The heavy tread of his boots seemed alien to the surrounding wildlife, the likes of which he'd never seen. Even the native Pokémon were among the most bizarre he'd ever encountered, many of which hung from the treetops, gauging his every move.
As Kota halted to take in the magnificent sights and smells, Pondo stood nervously beside him, indicating the valley with a sweeping gesture. "Err... Master Kota... this mountain range feels... peculiar."
Kota narrowed his eyes to their said destination and muttered back, "It's what's beneath it that interests me."
Within moments, their stroll into the unknown regions picked up again, Kota leading the way. A wide path of dirt and thinning trees winded before them, the air becoming much chiller.
They were crossing into the eye of the pass now. And once having reached the gradient climb of the tallest mount, Kota slowed his gait and crouched low, eying the obscured mountain cave directly ahead of him. "There, that tunnel will guide us.", He whispered to those huddled behind him. "We'll follow that passage to the root of the mountain."
The cold, hard contact of some dusty floor snapped Eldar fully awake. Slowly, ever so slowly, he pushed himself to his feet, taking in his darkened surroundings. He shivered and craned his neck. As he straightened up, he realized he was in some kind of runic chamber, lit solely by a pattern of crystal arches embedded in the stone walls. There was no sign of Celebi or the masked enchantress, however – not even a trace of the portal he first stumbled into.
He managed to turn his head to the center of the chamber, eyes of amber fixated on what appeared to be some kind of casket. "Ah?", He murmured quietly to himself, hobbling across the tomb to examine the mysterious shrine. A cross between a smile and a reprimand yanked at the corners of his lips as his hands grazed over the sigils engraved in the coffin. "What have we here? A clue, perhaps?"
"The rabble of survivors deserted this tomb some time ago.", A snakelike hiss sounded from behind him, stirring from the shadows. "You won't find them here. Now... please... kindly leave our master to rest in peace. Sleep is all he has left now."
Eldar reeled with the click of his heel to meet the leering gaze of an Arbok slithering its way across the musty floor. "I am no longer with the Brethren, for my true colors have been shown.", The renegade king grumbled back, though arching an intrigued brow. "However... I'd fancy to know the whereabouts of these... survivors you speak of."
The talking reptile froze a mere inches away, arching its head up, the sails of its scaly hood opening fully. "One of them sought refuge from your persecution.", It explained in short, its voice teeming with a blend of regret and disappointment. "We offered her an escape to a remote but untainted land, far from this providence, beyond the seas... beyond your jurisdiction."
Suddenly, before the cobra could finish, a Dusclops egressed from the shadows and bellowed, "But alas, the lying wench went back on her word... and made a mockery of our emperor! She ran off with her people before we could attempt to subdue them."
Eldar cocked his head slightly. "The six of the seven chosen are surely bound to their numbers." He rubbed his bearded chin ponderously, now realizing why Celebi had teleported him to this tomb.
Arbok matched his smile, formulating a plan. "If you wish to pursue them... then perhaps we can draw a pact." The serpent coiled around Eldar's ankles, just as it did to Kiara. "Would you first care to help us awaken our glorious emperor? He can surely help you."
"I simply don't have time for this." Eldar rolled his eyes in ire and curled his fist, hoisting both Pokémon up in a psychic choke-hold. "Or you could show me to them yourselves!", He retorted, wrenching them higher into the air as they squirmed against his sorcerous hold. "I will stop at nothing until I've tracked them down, do you hear me?"
Both Pokémon nodded and squealed their consent, lungs and limbs crushing beneath the power of his mind.
Lowering his hand, he let both Pokémon tumble to the floor, then approached them in a more quiet but lustful manner, "Now, from the beginning, detail this... faraway land you mentioned. Give me the names of the survivors."
Later that evening, near the stroke of midnight, the Brethren Court sat together in a most eerie silence, looks of guilt and regret exchanging from all across the table. The air was silent, almost anguishing, as the mood played to a deserving emptiness. Pale, lurid moonlight washed over them from long, high windows; their royal blue drapes pulled back to let in the meek spectral light.
The silence lifted as one of the forge's serfs entered the court's chamber, bowing before the former monarchs of Lunan. He darted his eyes to Tyrell, swallowed a nervous lump in his throat, then relayed in a whist voice, "Brethren Lord Eldar is still missing, sir."
Tyrell slammed a fist to the table, beckoning the glances of those in attendance. "The cheat is no different than the quietest of plagues, passing through and leaving devastation in its path." He leaned back in his throne, rubbing his temples despairingly. "He fooled us all from the very beginning. We were looking in the face of the enemy without even knowing it. We elected a Kaiser to power... at the sacrifice of every Aura Guardian's existence."
The others shrunk back in their own royal chairs, unable to find their voices. They could only reflect on the unforgivable mistake they'd made – why the Ministry was no more, as well as why half the seats in the room were unfilled: Alessirc, dead; Rin, dead; and now Eldar, revealed for what he truly was.
"What's awful is... we can't undo any of it.", Tyrell continued in a low murmur, mouth parched dry. "Revoking Eldar's laws will not restore the Ministry. It will only raise questions, if anything. We can't afford to make fools of ourselves."
The portly Lord Zara spoke next, his voice less wistful and more analytic. "Eldar harbored his own agenda.", He surmised, biting thoughtfully on his nails. "He probably felt that exterminating every other Aura Wielder would leave him unchallenged. He really made a mess of matters."
"And we were none the wiser.", Queen Petra sniffled, the third of the court to speak her sorrows, her youthful eyes cringed shut. "My heart... weeps. I've never felt more sick to the pit of my stomach than I do now. We're murders, that is what we are."
Tyrell sighed inwardly, biting down on his lip. He let his eyes gloss over the grieving Lords and Ladies, then leaned into the table and whispered, "The people of Lunan must never know what transpired at the Cameran Palace this evening." His frown deepened – yet he knew the only way to cover an ugly truth was with a contended lie. "I will give word that Eldar stepped down as the Brethren King... and that Lady Rin passed away in her sleep."
"What of Rin's children?", Zara questioned, furrowing a brow. "Are they stable?"
The messenger serf stationed beside Tyrell cleared his throat to speak. "I've just received word from the castle.", He detailed as professionally as possible. "The boy is still unconscious. The girl is faring well, but choosing not to recite the ordeal."
Tyrell nodded, having heard similar rumors earlier. "Eldar harassed the boy just prior to his retreat, according to reports from the palace security." His lips curled inward. "The child is an Aura Guardian... like his father... like his mother... and Eldar knew this."
Lord Zara glanced towards Tyrell in a pressing manner. "If the child is to remain safe from Eldar's reach, he must be cared for at a distance... and renamed for his own protection."
It soon became apparent that the duke was already one step ahead of Zara's suggestion. "I will send the boy to live with his great uncle Pyro on Mount Cinnabar.", He proposed, earning a series of consenting nods. "Eldar will not be able to detect his presence there. And under the tribe's watch, the boy's innate abilities will not be so easily unmasked. He'll live a far safer life in blissful unawareness."
From this, there was some dull murmuring amongst the council.
Tyrell paid it no mind. "The girl, on the other hand, has shown no extraordinary mark.", He concluded in a hopeful tone. "She does not possess the gift like her brother does. Eldar won't bother with her. She's free to live a life of normalcy."
"She's free to do much more than that.", Queen Petra weighed in, the others nodding in approval. "I dare say she's perfectly fit to spend her days in the Cameran Palace as her mother's crowned successor. Not to mention a member of this Court."
Tyrell watched his fellow crowns reach a mutual verdict, then stood from his throne to give the official decree. "It's decided then. The children will be separated... for their own good." He flicked his gaze to his messenger and spoke in a low whisper. "Make the arrangements in quiet. Speak of this to no one outside the royal delegation."
The serf nodded, then scurried off to contact the Cameran Palace.
Pulling his duties back into focus, Tyrell reeled on his heel to address the new council of the Brethren Empire. "This session of emergency is adjourned."
Alas, those Lords and Ladies just sulked in their seats, unmoving. Even with reinstated authority, each and every one of them knew deep in their hearts that they could not carry on as normal. Their deal with the devil would scar them for as long as they ruled... and the vacancy left by the Ministry would serve exclusively as that scar.
Kota's insight proved spot-on as the underground tunnels channeled into something else entirely. The rift grew stronger with every step, the air becoming staler. The darkness was thickening, though no obstacle for those with the sight of Aura; through their powers, everything soon became vivid and surreal.
Deep beneath the mountains of the promise land laid an abandoned world of jagged building structures and jutting wreckage that attested to the violent destruction of an advanced civilization. The scenery was dry and barren, seemingly abandoned and left for rubble. Large piles of bizarre, rusted machinery spanned in every direction, while mountains and columns of debris lay scattered about, possibly the shattered remains of a sprawling metropolis.
"What are these queer contraptions?", Damien queried, parting from the group to better examine the futuristic accouterments littered all over the underground city.
"The ruins of a civilization that surpassed our own.", Kota answered staunchly, so sure of his conclusion. "It is the will of the Aura that brought us here. And it is the will of the Aura that we rebuild... so that our descendants may one day exact vengeance against the surface world and all who have wronged us."
Blank expressions formed in response. None would speak out, though none could react with much aplomb.
Kota's lips turned upward in a small smile. "One day, in time, the Aura will rise again."
Everyone shared one obedient nod... then returned their attention to their marvelous surroundings, eager to explore.
As his people scattered to inspect the shambled providence, Kota happened upon a dusty stone pedestal posted in the center of a large clearing of rubble. A small, glittering object sat atop it, beckoning him from the darkness. He approached with caution, noting that it was some kind of ringlet.
It exuded ancient power... defying power... power fated for him.
He took in a sharp breath and slid the ring over his pointer finger, letting its mystic energies fill and ennoble him.
The mysterious ring nestled firm around his mortal flesh. With a slight nod, he drew his hood over his head, feeling oddly nostalgic in that moment, and pressed further into the ruins as the shadows swallowed him whole.
TO BE CONCLUDED . . .
(A/N: Yup, for those of you following my Giovanni Chronicles Saga, you've probably figured out by now that Eldar is Metsuma Rocket's ancestor. Oh, and just to clarify, there is absolutely no connection between Eldar's ring and the ring Kota found in the end of this chapter. That was totally a coincidence.
Next Chapter: In the story's brief – but hopefully inspiring – epilogue, the public practice of Aura Wielding finally surfaces after hundreds of years of ignorance, bringing renewed hope to future generations of humans and Pokémon.)