…and, Welcome Back!

to the new construction for Seeds of Aether, as the last incarnation had become hacked and truth be told, I didn’t want to deal with it.   It seems people have nothing better to do with their time than bring trouble to others.  It’s cowardice in modern form.  I spent the better part of the last couple years working on parts of another story, but my heart was never far from this one.  I have also developed ideas for a few other stories.

With each passing day though, I realize I have more stories, all without endings.  So this website as well as the other one I have is here not to push me to finish, but to give me the platform which helped me so much on the Serpents of Dawn Trilogy.  A place to jot ideas and for those ideas to grow to sections if not chapters of the over all story.  I can’t say for sure why it worked so well but it has and I hope to draw on that success for this book as well.

Prologue – The Vault of Shadows – Part 1 – The Prize

The body of the guard dropped, leaving the rancid smell of smoldering flesh crumbled on the floor beside his already smoking companion.  Melted tissue had dried on the uniforms which was now stained by blood boiled from the inside. The war still waged above in the streets.  The sound of buildings being ripped apart and chunks of granite and marble flying from their holds in foundations had dwindled to a mere echo.  Screams of the dying long since faded.  Blood smeared the finely polished marble floors and streaked the tapestries that hung spaced with precision except for the few that had been dislodged from the trembling earth which only rarely was felt this far beneath the surface.

Stepping over the bodies of the guards, the killer brushed off debris from his finely woven cloak and elegant red silk shirt and moved down the stairs and into the corridor that led to the Vault of Shadows.  The corridor was empty now.  He found it odd to have two mortal guards protecting something they considered so important.  Granted, the Exalted at the top of the stairs had proven quite the trial, but not having one down here seemed pointless.  They had known why he was coming, and the army outside proved they knew that he was coming.

It seemed strange to him that his life had come to this.  Less than forty years ago, it would have been him upstairs standing guard against what he now sought.  He had been, and he knew this without the slightest hint of pride or condescending, the world’s foremost healer.  All of that had changed now.  Now he fought in a war on the side of darkness.  On the opposite side of the conflict above was his closest friend from the days he walked in the light of the creators breath.

Here the battle would truly be decided. Those that fought outside didn’t fight for prize or reward though. They fought for their very survival and their perseverance could not be underestimated.  Even he would never deny the will of the human spirit. Neither could his old friend. He knew the lengths that Ahliarin Nepharin could go and the punishment the woman could withstand. He had pushed those limits himself.  She had actually given him pause for concern on his previous lack of faith in his brethren.  He still had confidence though.

He felt a sense of poetic justice to a point and even a sense of pride for his friends cunning. Ahliarin was quite the tactician much to his surprise.  The war with the dreadlords of the dark and the Exalted raged on above; lasting longer than he expected, but he got what he needed. He had made it to the Vault of Shadows. The secret he searched for was within his grasp; locked behind this door to be long forgotten.

He stood before the vault door in a state of reflection. For forty years he waited for this moment. Knowledge was to be shared for all, not to be hidden in the depths by those who thought they could control it. He felt a measure of anticipation crawl up his spine.

The vault itself was protected by magic but it would take little effort to remove the bindings. Reaching out he tapped his own powers, allowing himself to merge with the elemental waves. Patiently, as he was not in a rush, he went to work on the mystical bindings; today after all was his victory. Nobody had really expected any person to enter this room. The anticipation crawling up his spine had now spread throughout his entire body.

He worked at the layers of mysticism that enwrapped the door. Each of the five elements of life was delicately placed in twisting loops and curves in an intricate mass of confusion. He knew what needed to be done. He had long since performed a ritual that had let him see and study this room through Ahrimans Gift.  He smiled as he slowly peeled away each of the elemental binds that covered the doorway. Then, it was gone.

He laughed a blood curdling laugh that echoed through the halls. Reaching for the door he twisted the long gold handle pushing the door inwards.  Inside the room was extremely plain and void of decoration. They used it for storage of dangerous information. Information that they wanted nobody to access didn’t need an elaborate room. However, for how bare it was it still held a small table and chair off to one side and to the other a medium oak bookshelf filled with different volumes; perhaps the writings of the scholars who had done the research. On the wall in the back was a sword with ancient symbols on it.  There was also a mace that looked to have spikes of bone.  There were rods and cloth, axes and armor he recognized as orcish.  Resting on a wall over the desk was the skin of an ancient serpent.  Nothing in the room had even the slightest speck of dust. What drew his attention was the small artifact sitting on a marble pedestal in the center of the vault.

A small statue of a material he couldn’t quite identify, rested upon the altar.  The statue seemed somewhat plain to him.  It looked nothing like the twisted visage of the one which it was modeled after.  It was smooth as marble but it was not of it.  It was not quite steel and not fully stone.  He had some experience with artifacts and foci but this seemed a little odd to be sealed away.  This was what he was looking for though, that he was sure of.  Unfortunately he had no understanding of the where to start with it.

He didn’t have time to think about it. Pushing his curiosity aside he stuffed the statue down into his pouch. It was time to go. He still took a moment to look at the bookshelf briefly.. On its shelves rested books with no markings, mostly journals pertaining to the research and function of this statue and other items stored within. He opened one of the books to take a quick look; his curiosity fighting back. The page seemed like everything thought by the scholar must have been crammed on the pages just by the sheer tiny size of the lettering. He focused his eyes, looking at the very fine print.

Several different attempts at using the statue of unknown origins have resulted in nothing. It would seem that those that believe it’s purpose of accessing the Aether have given up hope. I stand not so sure as I have spent time tracing it’s origins back as far as I possibly could. While the statue itself is not of Dae’mon creation, it is speculated that the it may be of a counterpart. One can believe that the statue itself has proved to be resistant to any form of damage.

“You can’t do this Arron.” The voice behind him had the ring of familiarity to it. He should not have stopped to look at the book.  Was it fate that had the one person who knew him best be the one to keep him from this? Not that it mattered. There was nothing that Ahliarin could do that could stop him, he was touched by Ahriman, Master of Evil.  That enhanced the power he already had.

Turning he dropped the book and saw his old friend, standing in turn with her forever faithful watchdog companion, Syke Vor’shen. She held the elements, ready to strike.  The killer spat at that name however.  Arron was no longer him.

“The man you knew as Arron died a long time ago, Ahliarin. Lan’drahl stands before you.” He spoke with a certain level of scorn mixed with pride. He had earned his title. He was first amongst Ahriman’s chosen and he would be addressed as such.

“Lan’drahl is nothing more than your sad delusions. You know what the Council said about this room,” she scolded. Anger ran through his mind, her insolence at degrading him boiling his emotions.  He never used to let that kind of thing get to him, but he learned the value of pride.

“Who are they to say who has access to what,” he shouted. “This is my time old friend. A life spent working for something. Something that I now possess.” Who did the Keeper’s think they were to keep this from him? He pointed at the book resting next to his foot. “They didn’t even know what it did. The preconceived idea of what they thought it could do didn’t warrant locking it away.” Especially if it was tied to Aether.

“Arron,” she shook her head. “What you have is bred from pure evil. The very thing you swore to eradicate.” Again, more speculation on what she had been told. She had been converted fully. He remembered when she stood with him to question everything. Now, like all the others, she accepted what she was told.

“A different life we had then, Ahliarin,” he shot back. “Those were ideas of a dream long dead. Dreams that were for that moment. I have new ideas and new dreams and the way to them rests here.  Even those that researched it thought it was tied to evil but not created by it.” His hand now rested on the statue. He didn’t want to risk losing it by weaves of child’s play.

The tower shook.  Even here, beneath the foundation deep in the recesses of its archives the war could be felt.  They both quickly recovered their footing.

“Your blood will be spilled before you can exit even one foot from this hall, that I promise you.” An expression crossed her face, but then was gone. It was all he needed though, he knew that face; a mixture of concern, betrayal and most importantly, fear.

Her beloved pet drew his sword. He had cuts and wet blood up and down his arms so he wouldn’t be at full capacity. Then, he licked one, leaving a small dropping of blood on his chin.

Arron Durin let aether energies fill him. This was his last obstacle and he would not be denied. He wrapped the doors to the vault in waves of air.

Prologue – The Vault of Shadows – Part 2 – The Guardian

It didn’t really matter exactly what happened outside at this point. What mattered was what happened here. Syke Vor’shen let the Blood Focus wash over him. He felt his body change, almost feeling lighter, energy rushing into him, the pain from the scars disappearing. The sword in his hands grew lighter.

The man who now called himself Lan’drahl stood across the hall, at the entrance to the Vault of Shadows. Somehow he had gotten through the bindings that sealed it from the world. He knew Ahliarin had Shifted and was tapping the elements. He still had to approach this cautiously. By himself he stood no chance against Lan’drahl. Remembering the litter of Exalted corpses on the way down he worried that with Ahliarin it might still be impossible.

Suddenly it happened. The large doors that had long guarded the vault flew past Lan’drahl, ripping from their strong iron hinges and soaring down the hall towards them with great force. He rolled underneath coming up with his sword flying in a wide arc. His speed was increased and he felt the strange sense of balance that came with the Blood Focus. Lan’drahl had taken a step back deftly dodging the swing.

He lunged forth looking to impale the dark Exalted with his blade but felt it stop. Something was holding it. The blade lifted throwing him back hard against the wall as a fireball soared under him absorbing into the Shield surrounding Arron’s body. Pain reared through him on impact, but he easily forgot about it in the Blood Focus.

Part of him wanted to look back to check on Ahliarin but he had faith she was okay. To fortify the thought, the other side of the door flew passed him coming to a loud crash deep in the vault; deflected easily by their foe. He lifted himself to his feet, running directly after another ball of elemental flame, hoping that its impact dissolved the shield. He swung, bringing his sword up in a vertical slice that was yet deflected by Lan’drahls own steel. He felt the air around him go stiff as Lan’drahl’s own fire struck him, pushing him back and absorbing into a shield.

A white stream of light shot nearby obliterating the already weakened shield. He turned lunging for Lan’drahl’s chest again, but just as quickly felt himself thrown back into his mistress. They both hit the floor, Syke rolling with his increased balance came right back up to his feet. He felt the air loosen around him, a sign that Ahliarin had lost the shield or relinquished.

“Do you see now,” Lan’drahl spoke, his eyes a fountain of determination and hatred. “My power comes from a greater source and your feeble attempts prove wasteful.”

Something made Syke look to his left and just barely dodged out of the way as he watched the other door ramming into Ahliarin’s back sending her crashing forward again; the door falling to the floor.

Syke wasted no time, he rushed forward sword coming up in a flurry. Lan’drahl dodged deftly, easily avoiding it until he caught it.  Syke felt the blade heat, melting one end and forcing him to drop it as well.  He had to admire the confidence and control of Lan’drahl and his ability to seem so casual.  It added to the sense of peril.

Lan’drahl was intense, focused and determined. He would fight to the death here. Syke had to be prepared to kill him if Ahliarin could not bring herself to. He felt himself get shoved by something invisible. He flew sideways crashing against the wall. The pain shot through his body but in the Blood Focus he was able to push it away. Quickly he was back on his feet, charging again for his foe.

Lan’drahl kept most of his attention on Ahliarin, she would have a shield of her own forcing a sort of stand off but Syke knew that she wasn’t as powerful as him. Syke got the time he needed and dove into Lan’drahl with everything that he had, both of them crashing hard, again Syke deftly rolling to his feet.

That was his mistake, something hit him in the back burning painfully as he fell into the wall. He felt the heat of it, the pain of it, flooding through his body, as he could feel Ahliarin’s pain to stack on top of it. He felt the air around him solidify as he was yanked back, falling next to the charred remains of the guards. Looking at their singed bodies he knew he was at least wrapped in a shield from Ahliarin. She lay on the floor, the scrapes from being tossed around, dripping blood that contrasted the white marble floors.

Lan’drahl stood over Ahliarin, whatever they had done with their magic he hadn’t seen, but as he expected Arron was the victor. He wondered if it was his lack of faith that helped turned the tide. The Vault of Shadows had been penetrated; the statue meant to be forgotten, lost to her old friend.

Prologue – The Vault of Shadows – Part 3 – Victorious?

One could still hear the screams of those who could be considered innocent as they fell to the might of the shadow. Ahliarin stared up into Arron Durin’s eyes. She would never call him Lan’drahl.  Behind the deep brown lie hatred. He stared down for what seemed like a lifetime. He had won.

“You should have let things be old friend. It pains me to have to end your life.” He spoke without the slightest hint of regret. She did all she could, she smiled up at him refusing to admit defeat.

She was still touching the elements, the energies helping ignore the pain even a little. His shield was gone, as was hers and she could still feel the pain that ripped through Syke. He was alive at least. She hadn’t been sure if the shield she gave him would hold.

“Then do what you failed to have Temachus do months ago. Kill me, even though you think there is nothing I can do to stop you at this point. Take my life and all the things I stood by you for will be lost.” Now she was furious, her anger driving every word, taking form in a new hatred for the man she once trusted. All her anger stacked; the betrayal of Arron, her failure, the punishment and torture at the hands of Temachus. All of it become a ball of rage within her, all focused to center her in a new type of calm.

“Compelling!” He grinned. “As I told you before, the man you knew is gone and with it his compassion and caring for things that he had.” She watched as the waves coalesced, he pulled in all five elements into a tangled elemental curtain. She could do nothing. “I wished I could have left you alive,” he smiled again. “Temachus will be overwhelmingly disappointed. You were always his favorite.”

She could feel the tears well up in her eyes. She didn’t know if it was the thought of what Temachus had done to her or because her once trusted friend was willing to give her back to the horror of his acts. Most likely, it was both. A part of her in fleeting hoped that there was nothing to the vault itself. That was the last hope she had that all the fuss could have possibly been for nothing. She knew as Arron did that what they believed of the vault was all hypothetical.

He spoke again and it almost seemed as if a little compassion existed in his tone. “Don’t think Ahliarin, that I will ever forget my dear old friend. Sadly, I feel she died the same day you sided with the bureaucrats.”

Then he grunted, his eyes going wide. A sword stuck out through his chest and the waves dispersed. The sword came out and Syke nodded to the fallen guards at the end of the hall where he had gotten the sword. She pushed, all thepower she could muster with waves of Air, the blast hitting Lan’drahl, throwing him down the hall. He landed with a thud. He started coughing, trying to stand as she did.

She could see the waves of his power surrounding him, panic taking him as he tried to heal what he could. Which wasn’t possible. One could not heal himself; only stave off the wound temporarily.

He pulled out a statue of a man, made of a strange material and she could see the the waves once again surround him, taking each element and merging it with the statue. The statue must be what he had taken from the Vault of Shadows. She felt her breath leave her body. One should not use artifacts they didn’t know how it worked. Especially one so feared as the statue. Syke moved quickly running the sword back through Arron.

At first it looked like everything was okay. Syke, the sword still driven through Arron, stared into his dying eyes, the waves of Power surrounding him vanished. And so did hers. She didn’t let go of it. She tried to tap it again but there was nothing. She couldn’t even feel it. The statue, whatever it was, fell to the floor. The noise of the battle overhead stopped. All was still. The air around her got very stuffy, the pain that she was ignoring rushed back into her.

Syke looked back at her, realizing something was wrong. Pulling the sword free he dropped it and started to run to her and stopped.  The statue melded with the floor, almost as if melting into it.  Time slowed down. A light shot through the floor, multicolored hues enveloping Arron. Aether?  Was this the power he explained to her before his soul was lost? Ahliarin could feel it. It was physical. “This is not the end,” Arron whispered. Slowly what was his very essence faded from existence.

Syke snapped out of his trance and ran to Ahliarin. Something pulled on her. The light pulled on her. She felt herself becoming lighter. It seemed as if she were dying, but the feeling of it felt so soothing. The rapture of it tingled her entire body, taking away the pain. She wanted to surrender to it. Syke tried to pull her up, but she fought. The beauty of this feeling was so overwhelmingly great, she didn’t want to let it go. It felt better then anything, it was like a perfect blend of everything that ever brought joy. It was joy incarnate. She felt herself let go, giving her all to the beauty of the light. Then the darkness took her.