The sky crashed down upon me. Jagged rocks rained from above, and they created a tomb of stone and pain. I died that day – tendrils of blackness passed before my eyes, and I fell away from this world. My soul went to a place between life and death, and I floated without feeling or emotion. A voice echoed around me, a plea that repeated over and again – it called for help.
“I cannot help,” I said. My voice was drawn from my thoughts – I spoke without a mouth, and heard without ears. “My body is broken, and I have passed on.”
The blackness of the realm around me became alight. My ethereal eyes became open to colors and shapes beyond imagination. A silent rhythm led a dance in the shifting shades of infinite beauty that lay before me.
“Where am I? Who speaks to me?” I asked.
“I am Aura, the living planet that you have called home. I have chosen you to be my messenger, and the one who will alter the path of events for cycles to come.”
“What is this place?”
“You bear witness to my forge. Crystal is born in this place, and my essence is stored within. The cataclysm of old has wounded me, and each day that passes brings me closer to the end. I can wait no longer. From Aura will come Orin, and you will be the catalyst that changes the future of all.”
“I am but a simple man, a worker of the Arcane tribe. This task is beyond me.”
There was a silence beyond all description. In the moments that passed, I was left to wonder if I would be lost forever within the timeless chaos of this space. The colors around me began to separate – they moved to form into hundreds of orbs that each bore a color of its own.
“In your rebirth, you will become the one that I need. Bring your people to the surface, and through the love that you bear them, keep them safe. Teach them to trust in the crystal that hides within my bones – and create a new era of life.”
“The surface? But--” I could not finish the thought before each orb in turn became like a wild, living smoke. These crazed serpents of many colors flowed into me with seemingly sentient minds. Each came with a distinct emotion – a feeling of powerful control that intertwined with my being. When the last of the orbs had melded with my soul, there was naught but blackness around me.
Sudden pain wracked my body. I took a breath, and knew that I was alive once again. Surrounded by sharp stone and the wetness of my own blood, I struggled to move but found that I was too weak to break free. Dark dust caused me to choke as I struggled to breathe. The chosen one, I thought in despair. How will I change anything from my grave?
“Live,” Aura called out to me. “Rise, my Orin, and fulfill your destiny. Feel my strength.”
A yellow light began to glow against the rock before my eyes, and I felt myself fill with a supernatural power. My arms and legs bulked against the weight of the rubble, and I struggled again to free myself. This time, I rose with ease and stones clattered down around me.
Disbelief and fear rippled through me. I looked to my body through a shade of yellow-brown light, and saw that my arms were swollen to an incredible size. The tinge of color that clouded my eyes melted away, and I watched with amazement while my body returned to normal.
Visibility was dim in the rough tunnel, but the torch I had carried before the accident was still lit. The flames gave life to the shadows of the jagged stone along the walls, and they filled the air with a charred smell that hung heavy with the dark smoke. I took a step, and felt the intense pain of my still-broken body. My jaw tightened, and I ground my teeth while I allowed the feeling to fade. I closed my eyes, and thought of a singular word.
Intense light filled my eyes, and my pain was lifted. A bright blue hue now covered the world around me, and power coursed through my body and over my skin. I held out my arm and saw the miraculous mending of my wounds. Washed away were the fresh gashes and marks upon my skin - even the scars that I had bore since childhood faded away. My rebirth was complete.
I knew not where to go from here; my inner thoughts turned to Aura and her words of a new destiny. The surface, I remembered, and at once I understood the path set before me. Great gifts had been bestowed upon me by the will of a dying world, and my people were to restore her to the glory she deserved.
It was told that hundreds of cycles ago, the Tek'ra tribe had nearly destroyed the entire surface of the planet. They had brought about the silence – the story recanted a place in the skies where the Tek'ra had called home. Their city fell from the heavens, and destruction covered all of Aura in endless blackness.
My people were forced to survive in the caves of Arc, where we delved deep to escape the poison that lingered on the surface. Generations had survived through the use of rare crystal. Found in the depths of solid stone, an occasional living piece of Aura had provided us with light, water, and fresh air to breathe. Entrances had long been sealed off, but through the will of Aura we would now return to the land above. The Arcane people are going home.
When I returned to the refuge, the sights and sounds around me felt like memories from another life. I called upon my brothers and sisters to gather around, and I prepared to deliver the news that was still fresh in my thoughts. For a while I waited, until the whole of the Arcane tribe stood before me in confusion and anticipation.
“You must show them the truth,” Aura spoke in my thoughts.
“There are some that may never believe,” I replied.
“That is always the case. They will see, in time.”
I looked over the crowd – the people looked upon me with strange expressions. Aura began to fill my mind with images of the brilliant future that she had sought for us all, and instruction was given to me as an extension of her own will. I climbed onto a large stone that rose high above the gathering, and stood over them to address the whole.
“People of Arc, I am no longer the man that you once knew. My name is now Orin, and I have been reborn as a living instrument of Aura. I am the spark that will begin an inferno – it is the will of our planet to see the Arcane restored. We will rise once again. Follow me, and I will bring a new era to this land.”
My words echoed from the walls of the enclave – they boomed into every ear and churned in the minds of every surviving Arcane. When the echo was lost, there was no sound except for that of my own heartbeat pounding within my ears. I must show them the truth.
“Behold, my people,” I said. I focused my thoughts, and saw shades of deep crimson appear in my fiery eyes. My hands outstretched, each palm flickered with growing flames. A gasp was heard across the crowd, and they looked on while the pyre licked over the surface of my body. With arms and shoulders coated in hot flame, I spoke again to a more receptive audience. “Fire, water, and air will be ours to command. Crystal will wake to our will and work to our purpose. Even light and shadow will no longer have power over us. These gifts, Aura has allowed me to share with all Arcane, if we work to preserve her life. Who will be the first to receive such a responsibility?”
“I will,” a voice came from the rear of the crowd. I recognized him well, for he was the leader of our people. He carried a shining scepter of transparent crystal, which he leaned upon with the forced shuffle of age. The people parted to ease his approach, and they remained silent in reverence. “I have always believed that Aura would see us returned when it was time – and your power is beyond anything I could have imagined. I will put my faith in you, and ask that all others do the same.”
The ancient leader offered up the token of his office, the scepter that had passed through the hands of those who led before him. He set it against the stone, and was immediately met by brothers to carefully return him to the crowd. Reflections of flame shone in the scepter, and as my eyes locked with the shining crystal I felt as if it were part of me. I willed it to rise, and it floated to my extended hand. The fire that surrounded me traveled through my fingers, and encompassed the relic within my grasp.
“Then it is agreed. I will waste no time here while a new world awaits our coming,” I said.
A clamor broke out from amongst the crowd – the tumultuous chaos slowly evolved into a repetitive chant of approval. They called out the name that was once my own, and cheered the future that was laid before them. A feeling beyond anything I had ever known filled my body, and I spread my arms wide. I felt the power within me flow like a torrent of water, and it exploded into the air around me. Energy traversed the enclave – the colored smoke that had filled my soul once again moved by the will of Aura herself.
“They are not like you, Orin,” Aura spoke to me. “The same power I have given you would be too great for them to control. Without the forge to harden their soul, they would perish in the transformation.”
“The Arcane need only enough power to rise, and they will survive as they have before, through their stubborn nature.” I replied in understanding agreement.
The promised gifts of Aura flowed into each of the Arcane, and they were granted limited control over the elements. They were as children given new senses, and had no concept of how to use the new gifts. In time, I knew they would learn to master their talents through training and focus.
I leapt from the stone, and felt command over the air that moved around me. I summoned a powerful gust of wind to swirl around my body and slow my descent. Without a sound, my feet touched the floor and I began to move toward the oldest area of the settlement.
I did not have to turn around to know that the people had rushed to follow behind. The air was filled with an energy of excitement, and we filed into the narrow tunnel that had been long forbidden. Sound echoed from the walls while we approached the rock barrier that had sealed us underground for countless cycles. Boulders of immense size had been cut from the terrain around us to create a blockade against the poison skies that once were. Visions had shown me the natural beauty that stood beyond, and I longed to see it with my own eyes.
My pace was not slowed by the solid wall of rock – before my eyes the world became a dance of color as I shattered stone with invincible fists. The voices of the Arcane were drowned out by the crashing thunder of rock that parted to my will. In mere moments a path had formed, and each strike brought the Arcane closer to the freedom they deserved. Light sprang through cracks ahead, and I knew my task was near complete. With a final blow, I let loose a powerful scream that shook the walls and caused the remains of the barrier to explode into the sky.
For the first time, my people were greeted by the light of the twin suns. They recoiled from the scalding light, and attempted to adjust their eyes to a brightness they had never before witnessed. My own eyes welled with tears of joy at the scene before me. I stepped forth into the tall grass, and felt the heat of the outside grace my skin.
Foresight did no justice to the reality of this land. The tall mountains and sheer open space around me were as if legends had been given life. Around me were open fields and hills, and in the distance I could see trees of varied colors. Even the smell of the fresh air on the breeze was intoxicating.
“My people,” I said, while turning to the cave mouth. “I have brought you to the surface as promised. We must now work to become worthy of such a gift.”
Slowly, the Arcane emerged from the cave with eyes shielded from the sun. I looked up to see the great white mountain of Arc that was the foundation of our ancient history. I smiled to see my people born once again from the same monumental piece of Aura. The crowd stood in silence, and looked to me for guidance.
“Listen to me now – Aura has given you the ability to control her crystal, as well as the elements. From here, we will grow an immense city that will be beyond your imaginations. We will create a university that will allow us to learn and control our newfound power.”
“You have done well, Orin,” Aura spoke to me once again.
“Thank you, Aura. I will guide the Arcane into the new era, and make you proud.”
“No, Orin. You cannot guide them, but you must protect them.”
“I... don't understand.”
“Your final task is now at hand. Your people must survive.”
Before I could speak, a harsh scream erupted from the trees in the distance. I turned and saw that strange people had begun to emerge from the forest. They charged toward us, and in their hands they carried strange devices. Hundreds of strangers came out of hiding, and filled the field with a cry of anger.
Panic filled my throat. These outlanders came straight from the nightmare tales that our people recited for the children – fables from older times when the tribes on the surface fought in constant battle. A true war was upon us now, and I knew that if we did not reclaim the land of our heritage, then it would be lost to us forever.
Air churned around me, and a cyclone lifted me from the ground. My eyes blazed with a blue light that coated the field of battle. The tribe ceased their charge, and held their devices to their eyes. Small projectiles darted toward me, but the few that connected with my body bounded from my hardened skin as if they had struck solid rock.
I called flames to my hands, and allowed the fire to creep up my arms and flow down my back. In a quick moment, my entire body became a living blaze. I welled an inferno inside of me, and spewed forth a liquid flame that eliminated the front line of warriors. The garb they wore did not burn with ease, but my winds helped to fan the heat and create a wall of wrath.
The resolve of my opponent was absolute, and even with the destruction of their first assault, they continued forth. Still pouring from the trees, there seemed to be an endless supply of this new enemy. They approached close to the barrier I had created, and fired thick waves of bolts through the air. Protect your people, Orin.
My head turned to the cave mouth, and through burning eyes I witnessed my failure. Though I had stopped the darts with nothing but my own skin, my people had not fared as well against the onslaught. Those who had been struck lay bleeding on the ground.
Another wave was dispatched from the weapons of the enemy. A mix of emotion overtook me – anger, fear, and desperation filled me at the sight of Arcane blood spilled.
My final task.
Air sped over me while I willed myself to the cave mouth. With great speed, I overcame the projectiles and threw myself into their path. I spread my limbs wide, and felt each of the bolts as it struck my skin. My feet touched the ground, and I spun to face my enemy. The field was overspread with the incoming army, who gathered behind the wall of flame.
The Arcane had retreated into the cover of the cave, but I refused to follow. Our destiny, and the destiny of the planet itself, lay jeopardized by this impossible force. I stood against the wrath of a thousand strikes before I could feel my power wane and my skin become softer. Exhaustion started to overtake me, and I struggled to maintain my focus.
“It must be done,” Aura said. My eyes dropped to the corpses of the slain Arcane by my side. The people I swore to protect. An endless storm of weapons fell upon me, and one by one, I felt them begin to pierce my skin. I held my arms wide, and refused to move – when I could no longer stand, my knees hit the ground and I felt my own breath failing.
“You see it now, Orin. You were my vessel, my conduit to the people. You cannot guide them, but you can still protect them,” Aura said.
I closed my eyes, and felt my soul tear away from my body. Vision came to me once again through ethereal eyes, and time itself seemed to slow. My essence expanded outward, and covered the surface of the cave. The incoming attacks connected with the wall I had created, and they fell to the ground.
My body collapsed onto the ground at the cave entrance – once my soul was separated there was no going back. My field of vision changed, and I could see the entire surface through formless eyes. I saw the whole of the great mountain and the lands that surrounded it. In the distance, the Warwin Rush churned with the violence that landed it within the stories from my old life. The outlanders, the Arcane, the entire battlefield – they all seemed so small from these dizzying heights.
A barrier had once trapped my people, but had protected us from this madness. They required a shield once more, to give them the time they needed to hone their skill. I became a force for the Arcane that stood against the new terrors of the surface. Trust in my people left no doubt that the they would make themselves into the very race that Aura foretold.
The force of my soul pushed the attackers back into the trees from whence they came. My essence encompassed the tall mountain of Arc, and held off any influence that the world could summon.
I watched my people emerge from hiding and gaze upon the majestic thing that I had become. They could not understand, and they tended to my body with tears. They wept at the sight of their fallen hero, but they did so in peace.
So it has been for generations that I have watched the Arcane flourish and prosper in my great ring of safety. Long have they forgotten Orin, but the teachings of Aura live on. The mountain of old has become a memory, and from the white stone they constructed a city that once existed only in my visions.
I wait for the day when they are ready to bring about the era of peace that will heal our world. A new day will dawn, though how it will come about remains a mystery to me still. When they are ready, I will fade away with the knowledge that destiny can change in a single moment. While any man may leave behind a tale for others to tell, I know that when my long life is finally over, I will still remain a legend of Aura.