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  • Andrew M. Trauger

Prologue to Book Three

In days of yore when Kreth was young and shadow cloaked the land,

Foul Vaeroloth, the terrible, conceived on blist’ring sands

A five-fold scourge of dragon-kin begat by none alive.

A canyon rifted at their birth—she spawned the Ancient Five.

The pangs of labor seared her soul with horrors none can know.

To ashen dust she charred the trees; the mountains she laid low.

Her forked tongue licked rivers dry; her wings blocked moon and sun.

Five brothers lay beneath her feet—the Ancients had begun.

Consanguine and chromatic kin, together but discrete,

In blood and motherhood the same, in chorion concrete.

But bonds matroclinous could not hold enmity at bay;

Their differences demanded each one struggle for his way.

From time of birth the Ancient Five held hatred in their hearts,

Fomenting schemes destructive with intent to tear apart.

With incongruent destinies the brothers fought and strived,

Each sibling’s machinations so designed to make him thrive.

Pentadic war commenced as brother battled ‘gainst his kin,

A stalemate ‘twixt the Ancient Five that none of them would win.

Thus brothers separated, evil spewing from their souls,

Hell-bent on mass destruction with the whole of Kreth their goal.

Each went a different route inflicting horrors in his wake—

From rubbled mounts and tortured trees to ev’ry poisoned lake.

They spared no man or creature, slaying everything with breath.

Their acts calamitous that brought ‘pon all the stench of death.

For many countless centuries the Ancients scourged the land

Till finally the Five were all remaining in the end.

Then came a time of respite as they paused to contemplate

The impact on their world brought down by cold, unfettered hate.

With all in ruins, desolate, and Nature nearly dead,

The very fabric of the earth lay hanging by a thread.

Aside they set their quarrels and the world they sought to claim.

Five ways they went as each took wing to build his own domain.

Malfastadon the White ripped icy claws through his domain

In gloomy Frozen Pinnacles where he commenced his claim.

The barren tundra shivered ‘neath his cryogenic breath.

The coldness of his soul apparent in his subjects’ deaths.

The western highlands set ablaze with ­conflagrations dire

As breath from red Karashakon consumed the land with fire.

Inferno gripped the continent as smoky plumes arose,

A testament of promised fate for all the dragon’s foes.

A verdant breath most venomous enveloped all the land,

A mantle o’er Pleopias as shores are filled with sand.

Ten thousand miles fell underneath Tortaralon the Green,

Enrobed in noxious vapors frothed and fanned by emerald wing.

The blackness of Falasteron brought shadow with its gloom

As night befell Brianaquay—a herald to her doom.

Acidic spray spewed from his mouth, voluminous and vile,

Dissolving flesh in torrents of his all-consuming bile.

All-tranquil Arelatha rested calmly in repose,

Complacent in sophistic lore of freedom from its foes,

Till storms arose o’er waters deep and lightning filled the skies

As mighty blue Valkyrion unleashed his dread demise.

He scorched the earth with energy tenacious and untamed,

Extinguished life from those who would not bow before his name.

He ruled with terror, for the spark was ever on his tongue,

Demanding fealty or death of all, both old and young.

The years turned to millennia, the Ancients on their own.

Each fashioned his own feodum, established his own throne.

The tortured soil lay prostrate as a canvas at their feet

While vile imaginations rendered terraforms complete.

As centuries elapsed each brother overlooked his kin,

Content to catalyze his realm according to his whim.

Yet slowly through those wretched years the world began to heal.

New life emerged ‘midst darkened days—a ray of hope revealed.

The last of souls lay cloistered, gasping, clinging to new life,

Their expectations founded on the signs of ceasing strife.

Reluctantly, the few surviving remnants made their way

To surface from the shadows of a wing-occluded day.

The will to live remained intact in creatures, plants, and men.

They founded cities, farmed the lands, and spread their seed again.

A hundred generations yielded long-forgotten pain,

Assurance that the Ancient Five would not forever reign.

Unknown to men, ‘top cypress tall ruled proud Valkyrion,

His azure wings stretched east to west o’er virgin Cerion.

A watchful eye and forceful will directed deeds of men

While ever-present scourge of lightning threatened without end.

He raised up princes, toppled kings, and summoned to his side

Accomplices most pliable to do as he prescribed.

For centuries he ruled the land with cobalt claws of war,

Subjecting men to schemes capricious as in days of yore.

In hearts of men remained a spark, a stubborn testament

To courage overwhelming ‘gainst a foe malevolent.

A leader from Vashanti tribes that dwelt in Cerion

Arose with brave ambition to destroy Valkyrion.

An ardent army he amassed from ev’ry kith and kin,

Bravado blended with panache to stem the azure din.

Courageous men stood valiantly in light of certain death

And to the man was slain by streaks of bright cerul’an breath.

A generation passed but reminiscence held the pain

Of thousands who had perished ‘neath the dragon’s cruel reign.

Another from the forest deep, with vengeance in his eyes,

Avowed that he would slay the wyrm on land or sea or skies.

Escorted by a faithful few, he traveled long and far,

Pursuing dread Valkyrion to southern Maz Nabor.

Here cyan son of Vaeroloth raised claw to conquer steel,

But here his breast was opened, here his source of breath revealed.

Almighty lord Valkyrion, his inner parts laid bare,

As arcs of azure current scattered through the ev’ning air,

Reached into wounds with brutal claws and rent his breast apart,

Then held aloft his sordid soul—his evil, beating heart.

With vileness pouring from his veins he cursed his day of death,

His words made living by depravity of dying breath.

Valkyrion avowed return, arriving then divine,

His fealty sworn or consequently crush the world in time.

In heart of Maz lies babbling brook whence hails cerul’an death.

Unlife gives wing to life and forges lightning with his breath.

Arise, Valkyrion! See how your reign comes to an end!

O Terror of the Trees, meet your demise in wooded glen!

From Cerion is born Saení who saves his kin from shock

Of dragon’s roar, and thus revenge the mark upon his back.

Our forest then may flourish, freed at last from bolt and might.

Saení will conquer ancient foe, set Cerion aright.

A shelter is fair Cerion, asylum from the war,

A sacred sanctuary and a stronghold evermore.

For out of dale deciduous flows blood diverse as trees,

Commingled consanguinity, a human Vashantese

With alabaster tegument devoid of shade or tint

Like wispy clouds or moon ablaze, a lucent testament

Of fulminations thundering that splinters mighty oak

And vexes vile Valkyrion with ev’ry thunderstroke.

In days of desperation when defeat is son of doubt,

When darkness closes children in and sends marauders out

Then will Saení strike down his foe and end fell tyranny

With flash of gleaming silver hew the acts of villainy.

When mountains quake and rivers flow with spite for gravity,

When dark terrain ejects the pall of foul depravity,

Then warrior and weapon one, in empyrean veil

Will vanquish son of Vaeroloth and crush cerul’an bale.

— Vashanti prophecy

Translated from the original text by Thariel (c. 2550)

Versified by Claudia Moonbow (c. 3202)

While it is plainly evident from the text that Saení will be of Cerionic lineage, it must be noted that he represents both Vashanti and non-Vashanti alike. I stand as one most keenly interested in the preservation of our people; yet I declare to you, before this Assembly and in the presence of so many witnesses, that our salvation may well reside with a skrub. The world does not belong to us alone. We must be willing to concede that we are dependent upon others for our survival, and while that is a noxious thought to many, I believe the text of this prophecy demands its contemplation.

— Celdorin Tarnistorel, before the Sacred Assembly (Ailurus 2, 3525)

We stand upon a precipice. Our next action will set the course for our people for many generations, or it may end our way of life precipitously. You have proposed that Ordin Austmil-Clay be extradited or even executed for the deaths of eight of our kinsmen, fine warriors all. You have proposed that he should have known his body could and would attract lightning because, as a lad, he was struck and lived. You suggest that now, years later and in this extraordinary and confusing state, he should have possessed the presence of mind to discharge this energy harmlessly into the ground. I say this is utter rubbish. I propose that since he was not slain by that lightning it is obvious enough that the Maker of lightning has designed him to be master of it. For what purpose you ask? Do you think I have the mind of the Maker? I am only his servant, and in that capacity, I submit to the Assembly that Ordin must be made to seek out that purpose.

— Kothalliel, Hierophant Master, at the same Assembly

Look, this is stupid. How is it physically possible for me to go find my purpose when I don’t know what it is? This is rinkin insane. I ain’t the fulfillment of no rinkin prophecy, and y’all are a bunch of cowards. You don’t know what to do with me, so you’re throwing me out like a sack of garbage. Fine. I’ll go, and I wash my feet of this place.

— Ordin Austmil-Clay, in response to his exile

My dear son, I have long known the Maker had preserved you for His purposes. Since you were born, you have shown traits and qualities that marked you for Him. When others would have died in a lightning strike, you survived. And what is more, you turned that terrible event into something good. The testing of your faith through a two-year sentence with the Roark has produced patience, but now let patience work in you so that you may be perfect. Today, as you are leaving the safety of our home to discover this purpose, I implore you to remember your Maker. Your purpose is His purpose. As He made the trees, so He made you and has preserved you for this. I am proud of you, Ordin. Your father would be proud, too. Be blessed.

—Liellyn Austmil, from a letter found in Ordin’s pocket

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