CHOSEN By Lisa Mears Published by Lisa Mears at Smashwords Copyright 2013 by Lisa Mears
Prologue Finally, the time is near. I can’t believe we’re actually going to do this. I cannot begin to explain the feelings I have about our forth-coming adventure. All is in readiness for our departure. I wish we could leave right now, waiting has never been something I suffer gladly. But before I get too carried away, perhaps I should tell a little of how it all began; after all, I am to be the chronicler for my world, of this, our greatest adventure, so it only seems right to start at the beginning. We are a species who inhabit the cold, dark reaches of space; although we are known by many different names throughout the universe – some have even called us gods -- we call ourselves Uthians. We communicate mind to mind and have the ability to change our appearance if necessary, but mostly we remain in a pure energy form for ease of travel. Once, Uthians populated the universe but now only nine of us remain. We believed we were immortal and free to do as we pleased, but sadly this proved not to be true. We cannot reproduce and it took a long time before we realised our destruction was caused by the taking of a life. ‘One for One’ we call it; when an Uthian takes a life, any sentient life, their own is forfeit and they cease to exist. The nine that remain are: Freya, Epona, Isis, Janus, Apollo, Ragnar, Anubis, Helios and lastly me, my name is Minerva; we are all that is left of the once mighty race of Uthians. So long have the nine of us been together we have become like family, and like any family we have our differences. One of our greatest problems is Anubis, he found a way around ‘One for One’ by getting others to do his killing for him. Anubis has caused wars on many worlds and some of the others have said they would like to see him banished but Janus and I explained it would be a much better idea to keep Anubis with us and thus keep him under some control; luckily, our wisdom prevailed and Anubis remains. But for once, we have all agreed on something, our ‘Great Adventure’. It wasn’t easy, we had to come up with rules we were all willing to abide by, but finally we reached a consensus and our journey will soon begin. I suppose I should explain how the idea of our ‘Great Adventure’ started and what it is we are actually intending to do. It all began with a feeling of discontent, none of us remembers who felt it first but it wasn’t long before we were all affected. Discontent soon escalated into bickering and before long outright hostility. Epona, who is the most sensitive of us, came to speak with me. I must admit, I was not the most accommodating. ‘Something must be done about our constant arguing,’ she said. ‘It is ripping our family apart.’ ‘What do you want me to do about it?’ I snapped at her. I saw her cringe and it made me feel bad. But that didn’t stop me from saying, ‘stop your whining Epona, you’ll just have to learn to live with it like the rest of us.’ To her credit she stayed and explained to me her solution and even asked my opinion. This is what she said. ‘We have lived long lives, longer than any other race in all the universes but what have we really accomplished, nothing.’ I couldn’t argue with her, she was right. ‘Perhaps if we had a reason for our existence, a purpose, we would feel more fulfilled.’ ‘Do you have something in mind?’ I asked, intrigued by what she had said. ‘As a matter-of-fact I do. Would you like to hear my plan?’ She was so excited. What I said next was unforgivable and I did eventually apologise, but I know it hurt Epona at the time. ‘Stop being so damn melodramatic, if you’ve got something to say, just say it and be on your way.’ She continued, but I had killed her enthusiasm. ‘I have found four planets which are interconnected by worm-holes, she said. The worm-holes are closed at the moment but that shouldn’t be a problem for us.’ (Helios later explained it as four worlds that occupy the same space in four separate universes). ‘We could become the guardians of these planets and nurture them to maturity. Not forever of course,’ she added hastily. ‘We could make a challenge of it; something like, whose ever planet turns out the best in a given time-frame is the winner.’ I was hooked. ‘What a brilliant concept Epona, how did you ever come up with it?’ Her smile and her enthusiasm returned. ‘You like my idea then, do you think it will work?’ ‘Most definitely’, I said, ‘let’s go tell the others.’ It turned out it was not as simple as explained by Epona, but eventually we thrashed out a working plan which was agreed to by all. The following are the basics of that plan. All of us would contribute some of our energy to form a cloak over the four worlds, thus stopping any outside interference. With all our energies combined we would not be able to drop the cloak unless we all agreed -- which was never likely to happen – so a failsafe was needed. It was decided one of us would remain outside the cloak (Helios volunteered). We would set a challenge whereby the worm-holes must be opened by a certain time by the inhabitants of our respective worlds; if this was not accomplished in the given time-frame it would mean something had gone wrong and Helios would be required to open a worm-hole from outside the cloak. Unfortunately, this would cause the destruction of the four planets inside the cloak, but it was unavoidable if we were ever to escape the cloak. Two of us were assigned to each planet which we could name as we saw fit. We would have no contact other than with our partner and we could interact with the inhabitants of our own worlds any way we chose. Apollo and I have named our planet Elaxier, Janus and Freya have Earth, Ragnar and Isis have called their planet Naturine and Epona and Anubis have Chaos. I don’t think poor Epona had much say in the naming but she seems happy enough. We have finally arrived at what is to be our first permanent homes and I couldn’t be more happy. We have said our farewells and it is time to initiate the cloak. For one fleeting moment a shimmer surrounded the planets and then they vanished from sight.
Chapter One: ELAXIER Daria awoke gasping for breath. Her heart racing, her body wet with sweat. ‘It’s that dream again’, she thought as she lay panting in the dark, ‘what is it trying to tell me?’ Daria had been in an almost constant state of agitation for the past month. Each night was identical to the last; she would fall asleep only to be woken a few hours later by the same frightening dream, filling her with a sense of dread and foreboding. She lay still in her bed, trying to pull the scattering threads of the dream back, in the hopes of remembering enough to finally interpret the message. Daria lived on Elaxier, a planet called ‘The Jewel’ by its people. And it truly was a jewel. A peaceful world dedicated to learning and the betterment of its society. The Elaxi were a beautiful race, tall and strong and gentle natured, each with an ability that was nurtured by the Elders working in the temples of Minerva and Apollo. Most Elaxi abilities were mild and so, after a few years of training they returned to their homes and continued on with their everyday lives. Occasionally an Elaxi would demonstrate extraordinary power these were the ones who remained in the temples sometimes for centuries, learning to wield and control the power, eventually becoming the next Elders. Daria was one of these people. As the sun finally began to send fingers of pale morning light through the branches of Daria’s home, she came to a decision. ‘I will speak to High Elder Timus of this dream, perhaps he can help me with its interpretation,’ she thought as she left her bed to ready herself for the day ahead. Today would be a long day; it was the ‘Festival of the Guardians’ and people would be coming from miles around to celebrate at the sacred temple of Minerva and Apollo. Daria had promised High Elder Timus she would be there to help and to offer dream interpretations for the populace. She had also promised to spend some time with her friends Gilster and Haven, but that would have to wait for later, more likely when the festival was over. But it was vital she speak with them soon, this morning her dream had seemed to indicate they were somehow involved. Daria dragged herself out of bed; tired from the lack of sleep she shuffled around the room like an old woman. ‘Pull yourself together,’ she thought, rubbing her hands briskly across her face, ‘High Elder Timus is counting on your help today.’ Splashing water on her face to try and wake up, she caught sight of herself in the mirror. Dark circles marred the skin under her eyes and her hair was a tangled mess. She looked a wreck. Brushing her fingers through the coppery mass that hung down to her waist, she thought of her mother. ‘Daria, I despair,’ she had laughed, ‘your hair has a mind of its own, it’s uncontrollable just like you.’ It made her sad to think of her mother, dead these many years. Still trying to wake herself, she yawned and rubbed her knuckles in her eyes. Everyone always told her what beautiful eyes she had; large and hazel with golden flecks that reflected the sun, fringed with long, black lashes; they were very expressive eyes, slightly upturned at the corners giving her an almost feline appearance. Looking out the window Daria realised the sun was much higher than she’d expected. ‘If I don’t get a move on I’m going to be late and I’m sure that will please High Elder Timus no end.’ Looking around her room for the temple robes Timus had given her to wear she soon found them in a heap on the floor at the end of her bed. Her home was only a single room but it contained everything she needed. If she wasn’t sleeping or studying at the temple she spent all her spare time with her friends Haven and Gilster, so her tiny room suited her just fine. Shaking the wrinkles out of the robe, she dressed as quickly as possible. ‘I hate these stupid things,’ she thought as she lifted the robe over her head. ‘I always trip over the hem, it’s way too long.’ High Elder Timus had insisted she wear them today because she would be representing the temple. He promised her she would soon have her own robes when he could find the time to have some made, but until then she must wear borrowed ones. High Elder Timus believed Daria would stay at the temple when she finished her training but unbeknown to him she had other ideas. She wanted to travel the world and see and experience everything it had to offer, using her skills as a dream interpreter to help others along the way. Her friends Gilster and Haven would be coming with her, they had made a pact together many years ago. Racing down the spiral staircase encircling the trunk of her tree- home, Daria raced for the temple, robes scrunched tightly in her hands to keep from tripping. She needed to get there fast, the feeling of dread she felt on waking from her dream had not left. She must speak to High Elder Timus soon. Running along the pathways startling people as she raced by, Daria was oblivious to the wonderful day around her. The weather was warm and sunny with just enough of a breeze to keep it comfortable. Spring was fast approaching; already sensed by some of the trees, they had begun to blossom; small flowers were poking their heads up through the ground, grateful for the warmth of the sun after their long winter sleep. Crowds of people dressed in their finery strolled along, laughing and chatting amiably; children skipped ahead of their parents, glad for a day away from their tutors. Daria saw none of this, the feeling of dread growing the closer she got to the temple. Fighting the sense of panic threatening to engulf her Daria pushed even harder. Running around a group of small children she failed to see a fallen branch hidden in the long grass at the side of the path. Her foot caught and she flew through the air, crashing to the ground on her knees. Momentum slid her forward ripping the robe and skinning her knees badly. Coming to a sudden stop she fell forward, gashing her cheek and bumping her head on a rock. People came rushing from everywhere to help her. ‘Are you alright? You took a bit of a tumble.’ ‘Nasty cut on your face, you’d better get that seen to.’ ‘Yes, yes,’ she said, impatiently brushing away the helping hands, ‘I will get help at the temple, thank you.’ She was on her feet and running for the temple again. Not much further. The dread was so strong it felt like her heart was being crushed by massive hands, squeezing . . . squeezing the life out of her. Nearly there, one more bend in the path to go.