Now begins ultimate change.
~ Decree of Generals
Margus left his citadel and world and transferred to the uninhabited moon orbiting the small planet the Valleur called Ardosia.
They chose it after searching first for signs of life in this universe; finding nothing and no other world with promise, this was where they settled after that first renting in space.
A difficult time for them; many sickened, many were soon disillusioned, for it was a dry, barren planet. Yet they named it Ardosia, meaning ‘Second Chance’ and began the work.
Finding water stored in polar ice caps, they proceeded to change their new world beyond all recognition. Today Ardosia was green and fruitful, rain fell as per the seasons of a gentle, benign climate, and life was good.
As a people accustomed to the light, they had not bothered to penetrate the fog surrounding his world, having no interest in a planet with a weak sun. Fortunately the presence of the fog cloaked rebounding signals, and the golden race never realised life thrived in its own unique manner in the ugliness below.
He chose to leave them ignorant, for he discovered something greater. A promise, a goal, a future, a new path, and it lay in the thread between two realities. The secret to the Rift, and freedom. For a long time letting them be caused him restlessness and furious impatience, but in curbing himself … well, he knew what he was about to gain.
Oddly, he felt nothing now. No anticipation, nothing.
After watching long, he should be elated over this chance to destroy them, this approaching event. They were not important, not as they once were. Destroying them was the next step on the path, and an efficient means of evaluating his army of souls.
Therein lay no anticipation either; rather the opportunity to be dispassionate about the future use of his host. He needed to know their strengths and weaknesses before deploying them as he envisioned for the endgame.
Once the Valleur were dealt with, barring Dantian, he would turn in the Rift itself and use the power garnered for the event to unleash unholy retribution on the disgusting rock he was forced to call home, until it was no more.
Therein lay a degree of anticipation. The time drew near to annihilate the filth. He would sterilize this universe when he did so; he would do the future a service. And, yes, there was some thrill in how he would use the Vallorin to control the thread - a small thrill. The man would pay the ultimate price once they were on Valaris. They would all pay the price.
Valaris would be his alone.
Arrayed behind him, in writhing black vapours resembling the human form, were his bound souls. When he released them from the caverns, he permitted them freedom to clear the region about his citadel, a taste of what was to come, a reward for waiting so long.
Even he gazed upon the means of destruction in awe. How they must hate.
How effective they were, swift and silent. That little foray allowed him to depart unseen, and now his slaves probably cowered in fear, thinking he experimented with a new kind of sorcery.
He would do them a favour also, not just the universe. No more killing, no more rape, no more cannibalism, just … no more. They would not feel it. An eyesore would be wiped away and tormented flesh would pass into memory.
Eventually, memory would cease.
He studied his army. They were under his control. He succeeded in that beyond his expectation. A touch from them and death followed. How poetic.
Margus spied on the world below.
For all its initial barrenness, the Valleur indeed transformed it. A few thousand years more and it would be true paradise.
He marked the buildings the Valleur erected; tall and stately, filled with light and air and the music of tinkling fountains and birdsong - inspiring. He studied the glory of the sacred sites. Perhaps he should consider keeping the Vallorin alive to build for him. Perhaps.
Turning to his campfire and meal, he wondered when he last sat outside in the night air without gagging on the stench. The air was thin here, gravity light, but infinitely better than his homeworld.
In the darkness beyond the fire an army of amber eyes stared at him, waiting.
Was that the colour of hate? Amber?
He had not created their form; they evolved into what they were in their desire for eternal revenge. On him for binding them, but he transferred it by promising greater rewards. They hated him still, but he was the key to freedom.
They would do his bidding and he would set them free one day, without holds. He watched the host of eyes. He did not have to feed them or provide water, no women or hard drink, and therein lay his great advantage. An army this size eating would beggar the wealthiest ruler or general. He fed them in other ways.
As he opened his mouth to take in a forkful of boiled potatoes, he slammed hard onto his back, food flying. Cursing, he cast about for the source of the threat. He noted his army did not move.
He stared into a pair of ethereal yellow eyes.
They transformed into the deepest black.
“You will not have Valaris, even if I alone have to stand in your path. I know you, Darak Or. Beware.”
The voice resonated in the air around him, and cracks ran jaggedly across the surface of the moon. His fire and the remains of his meal vanished into one. He dived for his pack. There was nothing of extraordinary value in it, and he could easily replace anything lost, but he would not let it go on another’s whim.
Who did that?
Yellow eyes. Valleur eyes.
Everything stilled once more. Ardosia slept on, blissfully unaware, and thus the threat was not local.
The voice mentioned Valaris. A powerful personality to affect spaces far removed.
Ah. Valaris. The Vallorin. He was awakened. He sensed a threat and sought to prevent it with a show of power. Had he specific knowledge, he, Margus, would have joined fire and meal to fall into the cracks from whence there was no return.
Yet. He did not know yet.
He will know soon I come to Valaris.
A battle awaits. The victory will be so much sweeter.
Margus laughed at the still moon.
His soltakin watched impassively.
The Palace was in a state of uproar. Ardosia was in chaos.
The upheavals began with massive intent months ago when Anastir sensed someone tampering with the sealed Rift. He set nerves on edge throughout the land when he, with the Vallorin’s approval, summoned every ranking sorcerer in the kingdom to attend him at the site of alteration. All Valleur possess the talent of magic, but he required those regarded as masters.
It was swiftly evident that someone in the realm beyond attempted to unseal the mighty doorway.
Anastir and his sorcerers worked together to strengthen the seal, but it was also clear to them it would only be a matter of time before the mind on the other side breeched. Whoever it was had stumbled upon the secrets of rifts, and secrets unlocked secrets.
Thus he set to intensifying the Chaos barrier, the Arcana legend that thoroughly thrilled Infinity when she stepped through to have her suspicions confirmed.
The blue-skinned woman with voids for eyes came as quite the astonishment; not a great sorceress, not even a good one, but secrets revealed could fathom that which should remain hidden.
Many wondered whom the dara-witch coerced or tortured, and no doubt killed, to discover this great secret.
Dantian stepped in then. Disguised as a horned and fanged man, he confronted her. She needed the Arcana as leverage, she said, to force the Immortal Guardians to ground on Valaris.
Valaris! Old wounds immediately reopened.
Dantian was on the point of murdering the witch when she informed him her game would unleash Vannis, the last Vallorin of the realm they abandoned.
Slyly, she intimated she knew without doubt he was still alive. She knew her history and seemed to know people also, for most Valleur of the present desired that be proven true. Vannis remained large in memory. The witch pushed the right button.
The Palace writhed with questions, suppositions, advice, arguments and emotions thereafter. Dantian could not simply seal the Rift and ignore Infinity, had it occurred to him to do so, because too much had already changed.
A decision was made to bargain with the witch, to agree. It would keep her occupied in her realm while they, the Valleur of Ardosia, discussed whether or not to go to Valaris themselves.
Such a choice would forever alter the future. It heralded war.
Uproar died back to whispers, rumour transferred into serious gatherings. They would wait. They would make informed choices.
If Vannis stepped forth on Valaris, and sent a call to arms, they would banish the barrier and fall into ranks behind him. That decision was unanimous from the start.
And now, inexplicably, twelve seers were dead. Two lay in comatose state.
The palace was in absolute uproar.
Varelie, clutching her favourite cuddle bear, slipped unnoticed into her uncle’s study.
The four men were too engrossed in their conversation to notice her, but she did not mind. She wanted her mother, but she also remembered that her mother was in a new place with Valleur angels. She wanted her father to tell her why, because she could not understand why she could not go there to see her. If her father was too busy, just seeing him and knowing he had not gone to the angels also was enough.
Then she could sleep.
Her father sat next to her uncle and his face looked like the time he ate something bad, all screwed up as if his stomach was cramping. Her uncle must have eaten the same thing, because he also looked peculiar.
Tightening her hold on her bear, Varelie wondered whether she should say something. She could remind them to drink the funny milk her nurse gave her when her stomach ached.
She glanced at the other two men in uncle Dantian’s study. She liked Anastir - he always brought her a treat when he came to visit her father - but she did not really know Camot, her uncle’s war leader. She did not really understand what a war leader was. She wondered if everyone had eaten bad things, for they seemed in pain also.
“… no threat at the Rift, my Lord. The dara-witch isn’t even in the vicinity,” Camot said.
“She is on Valaris,” Anastir said. “Five Guardians have answered her summons to game play. Seems her strategy worked.”
Game? Varelie adored games. She wondered what this game of Valaris was.
“If there is no threat, why are seers dead?” Dantian snapped out, causing Varelie to jump a little.
Her father looked down at his hands. “I told you dual futures are spoken of.”
“And that leads to death?”
Anastir said, “If two opposing sets of images cannot find common ground they will clash and, yes, my Lord Vallorin, this can lead to death.”
Death? Her nurse says her mother is dead.
“Varelie woke the other night claiming Ardosia will burn,” her father said.
It gave her quite a fright to hear her name. Maybe they would be angry if they found her listening; maybe she could ask her nurse to explain about death and angels and why she could not go to her mother. Varelie quietly slipped away.
“What does it mean, Dante?” she heard her uncle demand … and ran all the way back to her bed.