00B – Prologue

F’gortee tren, tseemahen b’yim kam dolmishtahenij t’gortee mahlahin.
T’gortee mot, tomot kat erthsheegah bregortee mahlahahl bohoorenij.

Sometimes, one must take a look back to what has happened in the past.  At such moments, it is only there where one will find a way into the future.
– translated by Korov’ev from Signs and Portents, a book of D’ni proverbs


As the Guild outpost faded into view, Geran’s excitement returned tenfold as a grin spread across his face.  He often wondered offhand what exactly happened within the Link – if the mind and body were suspended or if such things as powerful emotions traveled through the void unaltered, like a current of electricity transmitted through a wire.  He felt such a force could conceivably transcend time and space; it certainly felt like it could now.  Even today, at 179 years of age, the Art still mystified and fascinated him in many ways.

Almost immediately, he was greeted by a telrov of the Guild of Messengers, with more Guild members, Masters and attendants in usual attire milling about in the background, the quiet drone of multiple conversations echoing off the marble walls of the great outpost.  They had been the ones that had summoned him from his office in Sahru to come back to Teshafee.  He had wanted to stay with his wife Veora during this crucial time, but she insisted that he get back to work as she would be attended to by others in his absence.

That hadn’t put his mind at ease one bit.  He had wanted to be here for this very important moment.  Thinking on that caused a pinch of guilt within his heart.

“Greetings, Guild Master,” the young guildsman said nervously, bowing slightly.  “Welcome to – I mean welcome back to Teshafee.”  The young man looked up quickly, then back to the floor, clearing his throat and stuttering out,  “I-I hear there is great news from your home.”

Geran laughed inwardly to himself.  Such a large Age, such a diverse mix of D’ni peoples – yet such a small, tightly-knit community.  News traveled fast around here, even without the Messengers’ assistance.

“Why yes, there is,” he replied, a hint of amusement in his voice.  “Did the entire Guild attend the birth or did some reluctantly stay behind to tend to the outpost and its business?”

The telrov’s head shot back up to stare wide-eyed at Geran, thinking he had overstepped his bounds.  However, a quick wink from Geran told him all was well, and the recruit smiled awkwardly.  Clapping the young man on the back, he followed him down the steps from the arrival platform through the massive stone hallways.

“This is a great day, young apprentice.  There is no need for chain of command or authority in this instance.  We should all celebrate the continuation of life freely today.”  The young man nodded eagerly, still looking slightly away.  “What is your name, my new friend?”

“Reh’sal, Master.”

“Well Reh’sal, esteemed telrov of the Guild of Messengers – have you heard if it is a boy or a girl?”

This question was returned with a sly smile and a shy glance from the young man.  “I have been strictly ordered not to reveal that information to the father, even if he begs me to say.  I was told he would have to find out for himself.”

Geran laughed.  “Well who ordered that, I wonder?  You can answer that, yes?”

“This order comes from the Grand Master himself,” was the reply.  Geran quickly looked to him with a confused stare.  “Truly!  He also sends his regards and congratulations.”

“Indeed,” Geran mumbled, still a bit in awe that one of the Grand Masters would think to congratulate him.  Surely there were many births in any given year, even though D’ni couples didn’t have many children.  The fact his two children were born so closely was unusual.  He briefly wondered if this was done for every birth brought to the Grand Master’s attention.

Geran soon parted company with Reh’sal on his way out of the building, getting a firm handshake and warm regards from the young man before he trotted off to his other business within the outpost.  He was sure he’d see the apprentice again, as he would need to Link back to Sahru soon and the Book was stored in the outpost’s library.  The fields there needed constant tending and care, the workers required constant supervision – not to mention the near-unimaginable amount of paperwork that needed to be done.

He groaned inwardly at that last thought.

Stepping through the main doors of the outpost, greeted by each Messenger he passed, he stopped just outside and stood in place, breathing in the fresh air of Teshafee.  He smelled the flowers blooming in the gardens, the scents of food and cooking fires drifting up from the village surrounding the lake.  The evening sun was setting below the natural rock wall that encompassed the land, shielding the area from most of the harsher elements of the Age.  Taking it all in, he decided that now was not the time to think about his work waiting for him so far away.  He grinned, put on his protective goggles to shield his eyes from the sunlight, and hurriedly made his way to his home.

The dwelling was modest, something you’d see in one of the common neighborhoods of the cavern like Bevin or Ru’shantee.  Still, it was a comfortable life he led with his wife and son, Tomus.  This was another reason he hated to leave: carrying a child and raising an eight-year-old, no matter how many friends and family offered assistance, was still a daunting task for a mother.  And Tomus could be quite a handful in his own right.

Pushing the front door open, he called into the house, each room warmed by fire-marble light and the smell of cooking drifting towards him.  He soon realized how hungry he was, having not eaten since early in Sahru’s day, which was about three hours longer than a Teshen day.  Before he could check on the meal, a blur of activity came right towards him and hugged him around his midsection.

“Father!” Tomus squealed happily.  Geran was just as jovial as he knelt to meet his son and hugged him close.  He could swear that the boy had gotten taller in his absence; he would grow to tower over his father someday, that much was certain.

“Hello Tomus!  I have missed you,” Geran said happily, peering directly into the boy’s blue eyes.  He shyly looked down as Geran ended the embrace.  “Where is your mother?”

Tomus smiled and gestured for his father to follow, leading him further into the house.  Even though he knew well where his wife would be, he gladly let his son lead him where they needed to go.

Shorah b’shehm, Geran!” a female voice came from the kitchen.  As they passed the door, Geran caught sight of a couple of friends from the village cooking dinner at the hearth.  Geran had time for a quick hello and a wave to them before Tomus dragged him away.  The women could only laugh at the sight.  Many in the village had offered their assistance to Veora while Geran was away, something for which he was eternally grateful.  He would have to catch up with them later as Tomus would not let him wander.

Climbing the stairs, they eventually came to Veora’s door.  Anxiety soon filled Geran’s senses.  He had had this same moment with Tomus when he was born; the utter excitement and exhilaration that comes with the anticipation of meeting your child for the very first time.  There was nothing in all the Ages that could compare with such a moment!  Taking a deep breath, Geran slowly opened the wooden door, peeking inside.

Veora lay on the bed they shared, looking very tired, but blissfully peaceful as she cradled the newborn in her arms.  She whispered soothing words to the child as it cooed in its sleep.  She glanced up to see her husband standing in the door with a very broad smile on his face.  She quietly gestured for him to come in and grinned as well.

Geran gingerly stepped into the room and walked over, Veora noticing how he took great care not to make a sound and wake the baby.  She glanced at him, smirking in amusement, before looking back down to the child.  Tomus slowly followed into the room behind his father.

“Geran,” she whispered, not looking up, “meet your newborn son.”

Geran quickly stifled the urge to scream with joy loudly into the night as he sat in a chair next to the bed, staring intently at the sleeping boy.  Tears began to well up in his eyes as he placed a hand gently on the child’s head.

“Hello, Lothias,” he whispered.  The boy squirmed a bit in his mother’s arms before settling again, a quiet acknowledgment.  Geran beamed with pride as he leaned in and kissed his wife.  This moment would be remembered until their final days.

Wiping the stray tears from his eyes, Geran looked back towards his eldest son.  He found that the boy had a blank look on his face as he stared at his infant brother.  He could not quite read what Tomus was thinking, but there seemed to be no joy, no elation, no pride – no emotion at all in his glance.

“Tomus?” Geran said.  His first son slowly looked up to his father, the same blank expression covering his face.  Again, nothing Geran could read.  “Would you like to say hello to your brother?”

Tomus looked back down, pausing for a long moment, before he slowly shook his head.  He quietly backed up towards the door, turning and disappearing before his father could call him back.  This was not a good sign at all.  Exchanging a worried glance with Veora, Geran knew they would have to talk to Tomus very soon.

Returning his attention to Lothias, Geran quietly bent down to kiss the baby on his forehead – a silent vow that he, along with his brother, would be protected from all evils so long as he carried a breath, by any means necessary.

Nothing was more important than that.  Nothing.