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3,000 years ago The First Destruction
The hooded figures stood silently before the softly glowing symbols on the rough, mortar and stone wall before them. Not a sound escaped their still forms. The long familiar symbols now took on the eerie hue of the unknown. Their new existence beckoned them forward. They waited.
The whisper of fabric shushing against walking feet broke the daunting silence. As one the people turned their heads to the right, where a small hooded figure made its way towards them. The figure’s lowered head, hidden by the deep hood, presented a false image of humility and calmness. Inside the young woman was a roiling storm, waiting for the moment of release.
Dark, deep eyes lifted to meet the questioning, frightened gaze of those before her. Robes swishing, they turned to her, their proud figures a thin shield against the terror inside. The woman’s smooth, graceful forehead wrinkled in concern. She knew what must be done. The sacrifices would be great today.
Sighing, she turned to the man who waited quietly at her side. “It is time.” Her soft words seemed to thunder in the deafening stillness. A great sadness filled the man’s warm, hazel eyes. “Come with us, Kitari!” He begged in a final futile attempt, grabbing the woman’s arms with tender roughness.
The woman’s smile spoke of the loss and deep heartache she already felt. Gripping the man’s arms, she looked into the eye’s she had loved for so long. “You know I must stay, Tarrin. You must go, save our son and those chosen. We all must fulfill our duties, no matter the cost.” Tarrin’s hands slid off her arms and his head bowed in weary sorrow. Unable to bear this Kitari threw her arms around his neck, clinging to him for one last moment. Her husband’s arms were like steel around her, refusing to let go.
Gently, she forced him to relent as she firmly stepped back. “Go now, before she comes,” she whispered. Tarrin nodded, a muscle in his jaw pulsing. Swiftly, his head tilted down, kissing her passionately. Kitari stifled her desire to beg him not to leave, as he lifted his head and without another look, turned and walked away.
Forcing the tears back, she lifted her face to those waiting for her. Her searching gaze met calm, gray eyes looking back at her with deep sympathy. Kitari offered a wobbly smile to her old friend. This last moment of calm was shattered as the ground beneath them bucked as though alive, then stilled.
Kitari grabbed at the stony wall beside her, steadying herself. Robed figures scrambled to their feet around her. Her questioning eyes jumped to her friend’s. The woman’s eyes darkened to the color of a stormy sky as she nodded. Squaring her shoulders, Kitari faced the people who were straightening their robes. These different faces represented countless worlds and species that populated the vast universe. They were the hope of their people. A heavy burden was about to be placed on them. Forcing herself to exude nothing but calm authority, Kitari faced the symbols on the opposite wall. She tapped them as a soft voice murmured a dark velvety language behind her. The voice rose to a crescendo as the symbols’ dull glow became so bright most had to close their eyes and look away. Kitari stepped back as her friend’s voice grew quieter, the last word of the spell barely a whisper. A thin opening had appeared where the symbols once were. A soft white light flowed from it, nothing but whiteness met Kitari’s searching gaze. Satisfied that it had worked, she turned to those waiting. She felt she should offer some sort of encouragement or recognition of the great sacrifice they were about to make, but all her words seemed so empty. In the distance she could hear the screams of her people and the inhuman growls of evil creatures. The heads of those before her bowed as the screams of terror and fear reached their ears.
“This is not the end. The fate of the Universe depends on you all now,” she finally said. The bowed heads around her lifted, determination written plainly on the faces of all. A young man with pale blonde hair and blue markings on his fair hands stepped forward. Lightly resting his hand on Kitari’s shoulder, he bowed his head solemnly at her then with a straight back he serenely stepped into the opening. The whiteness immediately swallowed him and he was lost from sight. The rest all followed close behind, each one bowing to their leader before stepping into the place where they would wait. The young woman with gray eyes was last to go. She hugged her friend tightly. “Be brave, Kitari,” she murmured.
Kitari nodded as she returned the embrace, “Be strong, my dear Celeste.”
The women parted, their deep eyes holding each other’s for a long moment. Each knew what they must do and the terrible fate that awaited the other. With a graceful bow, Celeste walked into the opening. The crack sealed behind her, leaving Kitari to face the anguished cries and taunting laughter alone. She would not hear them long, all would soon be lost.