It is written that in the beginning, the world was whole, and that all beings upon the face of Jord could wield magic, such that no man ever aged, no man ever died, and no man ever grew sick.
It is written that when the children of the gods, the followers of Tiwaz, and Mara, and all of our honorable, true pantheon, came to this verdant land, that at first we were guided by the Tatya Hini, the fairer children. And yet, they found that their magic waned in our presence, and so they betrayed us. It is said that they made war against us out of jealousy and to preserve their own immortality. As a punishment for their arrogance, Holy Tiwaz, our god of Justice, gave his right hand to strike down their greatest champion, and his right eye to pierce the veil they had lain over the location of the heartbeat, the legendary Word of Jord.
It is written that before our holy faith could reach it, the Tatiya Hini broke the world out of wicked spite.
It is written. And it is wrong.
Kamon’s breath came hot in quick and ragged gulps.
His flight had not always been this dramatic as he fled into the Tos’sahiri, deep within the barren desert tundra that stretched beyond the Bear’s Crest towards the beginning of the world, and though he had thought they would not follow him here, they followed yet, and they had horses. It didn’t seem as though he could outrun them, so he stopped beside the barren scrub and squatted down to catch his breath.
His lower robes were in tatters, and his bare chest bore the little scars that came from disregarding sharp and whiplike foliage. He had not regarded it while running. Why should he have? He was only a little cold and the running had kept him warm. His sweat did not cool, it evaporated. Such a power welled within his chest that he knew he could not be resisted, if he chose to fight.
Yet, he did not want to fight. He rose again, his heart still pounding, looking at the pale gray horizon that led into the barren, frozen wastelands where no country lay claim and no man lay tread, where the greatest concentration of those Aphotics roamed. At first he had believed the Church’s teachings and thought little of it, and his task as an Ember took him only so close as his minder would allow. But he had killed his minder, burned her completely, erased her from existence.
It had all been a lie, and he would find the truth.
His breath fogged, rolling condensation out of him like steam. Behind him he could hear the galloping hooves of his pursuer, and he tried to steady his breathing. He tried, as best he could, to look respectable while still having to rest his hands on his aching knees.
Dimly he reflected that, although he might now have access to all of his will, all of his power, he did not seem to have access to endless stamina, or the ability to turn back the clock on his aging body. Freedom had come at a high cost. Nevertheless he straightened to view his pursuer.
She wore the gold and red of the Church, though on her it was more pleasing to look upon. She was tall, and fair, and slender, and Kamon appreciated her beauty as strongly as he dreaded ending it.
“It is not enough.”
“What isn’t?” Her voice was fair, high pitched and heavy with accusation. Her glowing eyes blazed cerulean as she watched him with what he felt was betrayal. Kamon had seen few women in his life, and fewer Embers. The Church kept them separate. Kamon did not know why, but he felt the pull to find out, he could sense the draw of her. He clenched his fist.
He could feel the draw of this place like a living ache within his soul as well. He drew from the ground beneath his bare feet, and the snow melted away to show the blackened soil, the dead grasses of what might once have been a meadow. Black, and white, the vision spread out away from his intense heat.
“Can’t you feel it?” he queried at her, staring up at the horse’s rider.
Black shapes, shadows of light and strange fire, had begun to gather around at the edges of their sight. They were drawn to the uncovered flames like moths to candles. They seemed to worry the rider, and she looked around, hesitantly. Her horse though a trained for combat whinied and took several uneasy steps sideways. Kamon took the opportunity to stride forward, to take steps towards the girl.
She shivered. “It’s… silent… the Word,” her voice trembled. Her heart thundered as it leapt into her throat and he felt it as it was his own. “Why can’t I hear it?”
Yes, he could see her now - she was only a girl. She might not have been corrupted. Even as he thought that, he knew that it was a false hope, knew that the Church had fooled her, just as it had fooled him, and just as it had fooled all of them for centuries. For millennia. He didn’t know what he was feeling, whether it was pity or love or hatred, but he knew he had to take a leap of faith.
Mara. Tiwaz. The endless cycle and fight between the goddess of Death, Mara, who heralded the afterlife, whose dagger all Embers carried, and the god of Justice, of Truth, Tiwaz - who had given his hand to stay the darkness. There was something beyond them. He could feel it.
Beneath the hood, he could only see that she turned her pretty face away from him. There was a glimpse of straw colored hair beneath the crimson cloth. “The Helka said… the templars...”
Behind her, other riders had begun to thunder through the pass, drawn like the Aphotic shadows to the two standing flames, the brightest things for miles.
“Come with me,” he plead.
“Why would you turn from Saule when you carry her light?” She countered, not responding to his plea as she pulled from her power to face the monstrosities. Her hands tightened on the reins and he felt them trembling. The shield bubble that she called up around them rippled with her terror.
She had never fought an Aphotic before. He knew it like he knew his own heartbeat. He heard her sharp intake of breath and the shield steadied as she raised her right hand in front of her, still clutching the reins in her left. The horse tore at the ebon earth as it paced sideways, a firm press of the girl’s legs reassured the stallion. “We have to save them, the aphotics will tear them apart,” resolve and compassion steeled her voice it gave her courage.
Kamon knew it for certain then- she was only a girl and had not been corrupted. Her radiance was brighter and purer in her innocence as he found himself beside her. He placed his hand on the grey stallion’s side to steady it.