“Please, help me understand my heart. Still my mind to not only replenish my life, but also that of my planet.”
Prince of Triaxeyn
Zrahnz dove forward and then rolled to the side. His head came up in a flash and lowered again. Clutching the ionic-tazer, he initiated a backward roll and took position behind a rock formation. He had lost track of his partner. After taking a deep breath, he eased around the side of the boulder, noticing movement to his left.
Instinctively, he dropped into a defensive crouch, sending four ionic blasts toward the enemies. He did not wait to check the accuracy of his shots, running to his right and diving behind their damaged shuttle. His breathing was labored as he tried to steady himself.
He noticed more enemies still advancing as he changed position. When he checked the energy level of his ionic-tazer, he had enough power left for only four blasts. He searched for his partner again and tapped the com-tag nestled in his ear. Nothing. How did they become separated? He had trained for this and now he might have gotten his partner either captured or killed.
He ground his teeth at that thought. After taking another deep breath, he counted. Zrahnz eased around and noticed the position of three enemies. He offered a prayer, wiping the forming sweat off his hands onto his uniform. When his count reached ten, he leveled his ionic-tazer, and leapt from his position, shooting.
One and then another enemy dematerialized as his well-aimed shots hit them squarely. His movement never ceased as he concealed himself again.
Zrahnz checked his surroundings and then rested a hand on the three chazrens on his belt. Those he would use only if he had to. The handheld grenades were more effective if an enemy was within twenty meters. It was his hope that his partner was alive, and that together, they could end this.
When he leveled his weapon again, the tremble in his hands was worse than before. He blinked, trying to clear the haze from his mind. Focus, he thought, willing his mind to follow his commands. Please, focus.
His surroundings became a blur as a pain erupted in his abdomen. He clenched his eyes shut, doubling over with the excruciating waves of heat. It felt as tiny molten blades jabbed at his insides. No, please, no.
He heard the blasts echo in his mind and the screeches that accompanied them. He could do nothing; there was only the pain, the confusion, the helplessness.
He screamed, despite his best efforts to remain quiet. He could taste the blood in his mouth from biting through his lip. Another scream escaped him, louder than the last, and then, nothing but white.
Zrahnz gasped, springing up and reaching for his weapon. His surroundings were still a blur as he tried to scramble to his feet.
“Easy, my Prince, easy,” Raydren said, attempting to lower him again to the ground.
Zrahnz grasped his arm with one hand and delivered a side-chop with the other. When Raydren ducked the chop, he rolled to the side and leapt to his feet, grabbing a chazren from his belt as he did so.
Raydren’s eyes widened. “Training exercise complete. Terminate!” he shouted, diving toward the Prince.
Everything in the dream room faded as Zrahnz thrashed, trying to break free from his tight hold. The chazren he had been clutching disappeared with the rest of the items in the training program.
“My Prince, please, the exercise is over. The pain is over, you’re here with me. It’s only us, Zrahnz, can you hear me? Follow my sound and come back to me, please, come back to me.”
Raydren bit back his emotion, cradling the prince in his arms. His episodes were coming more often and the level of pain was increasing.
“Zrahnz,” he said again. “I’m here with you, I’m here.”
His motion calmed when he heard Raydren’s soothing voice repeat his name. Zrahnz blinked his eyes open, trying to clear the fog from his mind.
Raydren kept one arm wrapped tightly around him and with the other, pulled a subdermal-injector from his belt. He placed it against Zrahnz’s chest, emptying the remaining medicine into his bloodstream.
Zrahnz’s body tensed with the injection and then went limp as the medicine eased the pain and lifted the haze filling his mind.
“Ray—Raydren.” The pain and suffering etched the word. “Raydren…help me…please, help me.”
“I’m here with you, my Prince. We’ll find a way, I promise you. We’ll find a way. I’ll never leave you. I’m here.”
A Dying World
He gazed out over the vast expanse with his hands tucked behind his back. His long dark hair was pulled back in a braid with laynstar stones dangling from the ends. He had donned his sapphire and onyx robe with silver piping up the trim and the Triaxeynian symbol embroidered across his chest.
Soon, he would deliver a speech to his people. It was his duty to offer encouragement and inspiration to the masses with each new moon. Albeit, he knew not how he could achieve such an objective when he felt defeated in every meaning of the word. That defeat showed prominently in even his usually taut stance.
Zrahnz closed his eyes, taking a deep and steadying breath. There were too many matters occupying his thoughts, too many uncertainties with no resolution. How was he to inspire his people when he felt he was but a shell of what he used to be?
His life had been spent in the pursuit of scientific and technological advancement to save his people and reinstate Triaxeyn’s position in the galaxy. The onus was upon him to regain the honor and prominence of his peoples.
Now, there was virtually nothing left. What once he thought was truth was merely a meticulously crafted illusion set in place to end all life on his planet. This is what they desired and it had almost come to pass.
At that, he shook his head, focusing on his planet again. It was nothing more than ash, a desolate rock afloat in space. A pained chuckle escaped his lips with that truth. That was exactly how they had orchestrated it.
He pounded a fist on the transparent wall in front of him. He was frustrated with himself more than anyone else. His inaction had allowed this treachery, this genocidal attempt. Had he not been consumed with his personal struggles, his mind would have been clear, he would have known. Now, it might be too late. He could not save the planet. Already the atmosphere was deteriorating. The toxins they injected those many decades ago had not only destroyed the vegetation. It had begun killing his people.
The only relief he could feel was with the completion of the dome and the beginning of the terraforming project. He prayed that the decision had not been made too late. Had they understood the science behind the attack earlier, more could have been done to save his people. Now, there were less than two thousand Triaxeyns yet alive. Of those, fewer than three hundred were of procreating age. More was needed and it was for him to do so.
Zrahnz straightened his sash and ran his hands over his long hair. When he brought them down in front of him, he noticed the trembling had returned. He clenched his eyes and fists, focusing his mind. It cannot be, he thought, releasing a deep sigh.
“What you have done to poison this world will not take the life from me. I will heal this planet and save my people.”
He spoke the words and tried desperately to believe them. The pains he suffered were excruciating and the injections and herbs were no longer easing them. He knew this to be tied into the Galactic Coalition’s attack upon Triaxeyn. His mind was such a muddle some cycles, he thought himself going mad. Even the usually curative sex had grown more painful.
“I’ll have need of Itanya,” he said, taking another deep breath.
He shook his head again in an effort to clear his thoughts. He had to focus on Triaxeyn and his people. His illness was infinitesimal compared with that of his planet. Yet, he knew not how to save either.
“Your people have gathered, my Prince.” A deep voice sounded from behind him.
Zrahnz smiled wistfully, lowering his head. “My people, Raydren?”
He turned to face him. Q-1 Raydren was the eldest member of the guard and the one person that he truly trusted. He had been more than his mother’s personal guard; he had been like a father to him. Throughout his childhood and even now, he felt a comfort with his presence and knew that he cared for him as well. Never did Raydren allow his position to prevent him from providing honest counsel. And that was something the Prince sorely needed.
“When my grandfather ruled Triaxeyn, there were hundreds of thousands of denizens. We were a proud people, though the Galactic Coalition tried to hinder our efforts for growth. When Grandfather died, everything changed. Already the Council had turned their backs on us, but why would they attempt to annihilate our people? Why do we die and the Kaylohrns thrive?”
Raydren nodded, leaning his ceremonial spear against the wall. He motioned to the overstuffed chairs and took a seat opposite the Prince. He understood his anger and trepidation. He had lost most of his family due to the workings of the Council and still many were sick and infirm.
“Your grandfather was an honorable and strong leader. He was feared and respected by many members of the Galactic Coalition. When he acquiesced to the wishes of the Spirit Council, he did so for the betterment of Triaxeyn. Though the Great Masters of our temple advised against it, King Aoran saw no alternative. He couldn’t have known of the betrayal that would follow,” he said, resting a hand on Zrahnz’s shoulder.
“Once your mother and I returned to Triaxeyn, a pall covered our planet. That’s what truly took the life from him. He loved your mother, and loved you as well. Your grandfather felt the guilt of disallowing your mother her prince, and the devastation of the Galactic Coalition’s rejection.
“I petitioned for the Rites of Bond with your mother. Our connection was evident and your grandfather knew the same.”
Zrahnz’s head snapped up. “You? You loved my mother?”
“Yes, then and now. But our bond wasn’t allowed. After the details of the Kaylohrn agreement were publicized, Triaxeyn suffered. I’ve remained at her side from that cycle to this, and will do so until the Spirit Wielders beckon me to them.”
“Did—did she love you as well?”
“She cares for me within the confines of her position, nothing more.”
When Zrahnz appeared about to speak, Raydren stood, continuing.
“The Kaylohrns aren’t greater than we are. In all ways that matter, they’re much less. It was by their manipulations that our queen was shamed and labeled a Shriahti.
“It was by their manipulations that the Galactic Coalition turned their backs on us. Their king and queen were heralded as true and honorable leaders when they presented their second born before them as if he were the first.
“The priests offered blessings over that debauchery and labeled it the Rites of Heirdron,” he said, picking up his spear and facing Zrahnz again.
“You are no kahtdrol, my Prince. We stand now in the capital city of Triaxeyn named for your line. You are Zrahnz Uleryn, son of Alyahna and the grandson of the great King Aoran Uleryn. You are the true leader of this world; your bloodline is pure. Regardless of the mendacities told by those of the Spirit Council, that truth remains. The Galactic Coalition doesn’t recognize Triaxeyn as anything but a nuisance. Had they their way, we would’ve been destroyed beside our sister planet, Orenz.
“We’ve been denied a place at their table and the protection of their fleet.” Raydren walked forward, locking eyes with him.
“Why then do we abide by the rulings that they foist upon us?”
Zrahnz’s brow creased as he digested that truth. When a look of incredulity crossed his face, Raydren nodded.
“Your people await you, my Prince.”
Oracles of Xy
Ezbel opened her eyes, releasing the side of the Flaizryn. When she removed her hand, the images in the crystal scrying pool wavered and then diminished. She severed the connection of three, allowing her sight to return to that of the worlds.
The laynstars embedded in her temples brightened and then pulsed thrice with the dissolution of the merge. With a heavy sigh, her eyes reverted to their original topaz color.
“You have broken the connection.” The frustrated voice of Krayne sounded in her mind. She nodded, though she was alone in her tower of Xy.
“There was nothing left to see,” she said, pulling her silken robes around her lithe frame, and taking a seat on her dais. “He is becoming aware of the truths he has been denied far too long.”
“Is it time for such an awakening? Have the confined energies caused Zrahnz irrevocable damage?” Zal asked the others extrasensorily.
Each Oracle sat in their towers on their separate worlds, yet connected through the eons by their minds and spirits. Ezbel was the center, and her astral tower rested between the worlds of Kaylohr and Triaxeyn. Krayne’s tower was in orbit to the east of Triaxeyn, while Zal’s was in orbit to the west of Kaylohr. When connected through the Flaizryn, they kept watch over the twin planets and far beyond.
Ezbel waved a hand over the mirrored panel to her left, observing the Prince of Triaxeyn addressing his people. A smile crossed her face, noting his strength and the aura of awakening that surrounded him.
“This was always meant to be,” she finally responded. “The agonies of the confined energy will soon consume his mind and body. For now, there is time for him to be made whole. He has nearly reached his twenty-fifth cycleid, and the time is upon us. Within him is where the true power lies. He must release his energies, and draw the essence from his Eylul. Only then will Zrahnz discover the many mysteries of the Xryntahn and the power of the Orbs of Trenihgea. Had the Great Masters of the Triaxeyn temple not been slaughtered, these truths would have been known long ago, and their position in the galaxy would not have withered.”
“That is not what those of the Orark or Fridoa have desired,” Krayne said. “When they could not destroy Triaxeyn, they worked against Zrahnz’s awakening. Had they their way, both mother and child would have died once the Kaylohrn prince received the Rites of Heirdron.
“It was their influence of the Star Guild that caused this to be. The Orark and Fridoans deceived those of the Coalition with the enticement of fortune and prominence. They know nothing of the Orbs of Trenihgea or the power contained within them. This battle was waged a century past and neither the Fridoans nor the Orark will relent. We should have obstructed their manipulations and changed the outcomes for those of Triaxeyn.”
“I care not for the Sorcery of Orark or the Fridoan Order,” Ezbel said. “Although their agenda was known to us, not all could have been prevented. Through their manipulations, we learned the hearts of those on the Galactic Coalition and the Kaylohrn leadership as well. They have shown their true selves and will answer for their iniquity.”
Zal and Krayne could not disagree. They paced the marbled floors in their towers, recalling all that had transpired over the past century and recent decades.
The Sorcery of Orark was an order of cognitive manipulators. The chaos they wrought throughout the galaxies had nearly ruined many worlds. The “shadow whisperers” was the term the Oracles had branded them.
The Orark never revealed themselves to those they influenced. They remained in their collective on Egregor, existing within a rift between galaxies. They conveyed their psionic projections through murmurs and dreams, causing their victims to believe their squalid insinuations were merely thoughts in their own minds. And through those intimate suggestions and manipulations, impiety had seeped into the hearts of far too many.
“But how can we then castigate the offenders if we allowed such an intrusion?” Zal asked.
“It was necessary to learn their hearts,” Ezbel said. “Over these many years, the influence of the Orark has diminished, and their minds were uninhibited. In that time, they all could have come true with the knowledge and teachings that were stolen from the Triaxeyn Temple. Had that been so, already the awakening could have taken place and the schemes of the Orark and Fridoans would have been defeated.”
Zal nodded with that truth. “Hourn was a young priest of the Triaxeyn temple when this treachery began and the Great Masters were slain. They would have passed this knowledge to him. With their deaths, so did the knowledge and prophecies die. The priest is devout in his teachings and his connections with the Spirit Wielders.”
“He was, and still is,” Ezbel admitted. “Both Hourn and Faiziq have been faithful leaders of the Triaxeyn Temple. They are now aware of the Orark and Fridoans and can sense their presence. The spiritual implements are in place not only within the temple; Hourn ensured that the deflecting crystals were embedded in the materials used to construct the dome. Triaxeyn will not fall prey to the persuasions of the shadow whisperers. They will lead as it should have been with King Aoran Uleryn.”
“Zrahnz cannot lead without first discovering the true Eylul, his life mate,” Zal said. “Her essence is essential to not only the Xryntahn, but also the true puissance of the Spirit Wielders.”
Ezbel waved a hand over the mirror’s image and the scene shifted. She summoned a past memory and stared intently at the vision of the woman on the ship. Her curly raven tresses were tucked behind her ears as she sat on the crates, weeping. Had Ezbel a true heart, it would have ached at the desperation she felt from the woman.
When she flicked her wrist, the image shifted to the present. The same woman was laid upon a bed of plush cushions awaiting Zrahnz. She smiled at that image.
“Zrahnz was drawn to his Eylul, and she awaits him now. In time, they will discover that she is more than what she appears.”
“They cannot awaken the Xryntahn as they are,” Zal said, her voice edged with annoyance. “He needs the Szrantah. Once those energies intertwine, they will be drawn into the Laynstar and Trenihgea, infusing them both. Through that connection, his power will be beyond that of all those of the many worlds.”
“It will,” Ezbel agreed. “And we will guide him to it.”