Guardians Watch – Book III

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PROLOGUE

In the beginning, the world was new and raw. Primeval seas crashed against nascent cliffs while mountainous thunderheads dealt torrential rains that scoured barren stone with torrents of angry water. No eyes looked on this new world. No creatures scurried across its surface. There was no will, no thought, no purpose.

Until the day when the first of the beings arrived, crashing down out of the sky in fragile-looking pods that cracked open upon impact, spilling their passengers onto the lifeless world. These beings awakened slowly. They were shapeless, nameless, without memories or form of any kind. They were blank as newborns, remembering no past, knowing no future.

In time, these beings divided into three groups, based on their basic natures. Some were heavy creatures, slow of thought and action, ponderous and weighty. Others were fluid, sliding across the broken surface of the world, gathering in the low places. The last were nearly invisible, flighty and rapid, unable to finish one thought or action before racing onto the next.

One of the heavy group looked down at the stone it sat on one day, then reached down with what passed for an appendage and scooped some forth. Wonder glowed in its eyes, for the stone was like clay in its grasp, and it could shape the stuff, even sink into it with only a thought.

The others looked on, wary and interested. Others of the heavy, ponderous type began to poke at the stone as well. Those who were fluid of form prodded the stone in only a desultory fashion, disappointed, until one among them slid across the stone to the edge of a vast sea that foamed and muttered to itself. The being slid into the water and a wordless cry of delight arose from it. It gestured and a wave arose, taller than the rest, crashing against the shore, clawing its way almost to the gathered creatures before sliding back.

A third being, one of the flighty ones, looked at the stone, then at the sea. Nothing showed on its blank face. Then what might have been its head tilted back and it looked into the sky overhead, surveying the massed clouds. With a leap and a cry it soared upwards, faster than the eye could follow. In moments the clouds had trebled in size, dark and fearsome as the eye of winter, and tongues of lightning flicked down to stab at the stone.

Thus were the three Spheres delineated, Stone and Sea and Sky, and the beings that dwelt within them named themselves. Those of the Stone became known as pelti; those of the Sea became shlikti; those of the Sky aranti. They were the Shapers. The world was their playground, the power that suffused the Spheres yielding to their every whim.

In time they would be called gods.

╬          ╬          ╬

They were the First Ring, the first to arrive on the new world, and the greatest, but they were not the last. More would follow, until Stone and Sea and Sky frolicked with these ageless beings, each moving through its Sphere, endlessly bending and folding and shaping.

In the Stone, the pelti sculpted cliffs as high as the clouds, mountains whose stone faces reflected every color of the rainbow. Volcanoes that blotted out the sun and rained ash.

In the Sea, the shlikti raised up mountainous waves that washed across entire continents. Mighty rivers that roared down the mountains, eagerly returning to the sea.

In the Sky, the aranti howled down rainstorms that turned the planet black, cut only by nonstop flashes of lightning.

The Sky took water from the Sea, snatched it away and raced with it into the heavens, then hurled it back at the land. The Stone absorbed the Sea, hiding it away deep in its bowels. The Sea carved away the Stone with its infinite patience.

Theirs was an existence unburdened by mortal chains of pain and consequence. They neither aged, nor died. They felt no pain, nor even conceived of its existence. Their pride was boundless. They taunted each other, stole from each other, fought and forgot. Over and over, endlessly. It was a timeless, endless existence.

But they could not escape boredom. In time it beset them all, made them quarrelsome. And, at last, one of the First Ring, a pelti, began to wonder. Despite all it could do, it was empty. What was the point of it all? True, the very bones of the earth yielded to its slightest whim, but to what end? The only motive came from it and its brethren. There was no real change, no real growth.

And thus it was that this one Stone Shaper conceived of a new idea. Of another Sphere, yet not a Sphere, that could change and move on its own, that could go beyond the limited imaginations of the Shapers, that would Shape itself.

This one Shaper sat alone, away from the others, and pondered this new thought it had. Pondered for a time that humans would have called eons, but which meant nothing to it or its timeless brethren. And slowly, very slowly, a new idea began to form.

It bent, and scooped forth raw Stone. To this it added Sea and Sky, taking from the Spheres and forcing the three together. Then it breathed on this new concoction, adding some of its own essence. Its creation stirred. The pelti was pleased and turned to show its brethren.

Behold. I bring you Life. It is formed of the Three, and so makes a new.

They gathered around, curious at first, and then concerned. In their multitudes they watched this new thing. It did not have the robust nature of the Spheres, could not be called such, was more a Circle. The time they spent was only moments to them, timeless beings that they were, but time enough for vast changes in the short-lived world of Life.

The first to speak was a First of the Sea, a shlikti.

We do not approve. This steals from our Sphere to make its very being. Destroy this thing now.

But the one who forged the Life demurred. It moves and changes on its own, without our motivation. It is fascinating. See?

Indeed, in the time they had spent pondering, the new Circle had grown and changed. Some types of it now covered much of the land, green and brown that grew across stone faces and up mountains, stretched tendrils down into the water and up into the air. Other types had spread into the oceans, some anchored at the bottom, some floating free. Most Life was so slow-moving as to be almost motionless, but some swam in the water, ran across the land, or soared in the air.

We should watch it longer. See what it does, the pelti said. It is new, and different.

We should destroy it. It is outside us, and therefore dangerous.

So conflict seemed imminent until the pelti who shaped the first Life said, We have not heard from our brothers in the Sky, the aranti. What say you?

The aranti raced and skittered around the Life, sniffing and listening. It is bad and good, it said at last in its many voices. It is, and yet it is not. We do not care.

Still the Sea would not be assuaged and it rumbled in its crashing green voice, threatening and complaining. It takes from us. It takes from all the Spheres without respect. It has broken our law.

Then the Shaper of Life spoke yet again:

But see. Its taking is very short. True, it takes from the Three, but only for a short while. See how it dies? Then does it give up what it has taken, back to the Three, and all is made complete again.

So it was that the Shapers allowed the intruder to exist among them: Stone, who watched over and nurtured in its own rough way. Sky, who cared less and forgot more. And Sea, who watched, ever sullen, nursing bitterness toward the intruder.

From the writings of Sounder Treylen

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