part II

Agrona Mirela’s relationship with the Adarai had always been a complicated one.

The favored acolyte of the Church’s founder and original Flamen Martialis, Rolan Maarten, Agrona was chosen to lead the Haematites after his death nearly 40 years ago.

Eder remembered the story well, as his mother had told him the tale many times when he was a boy.

It was late one night when the moons were high and the wind was still when Agrona was summoned to Rolan’s private chambers. The frail, white-haired man dismissed the many high-priests surrounding his bed and beckoned Agrona to his side. He grabbed her hand with his, pulled her in close, and told her that, four short years ago, something miraculous had happened.

That after all the failed attempts to contact the Creta with interstellar transmissions and doomed ships aimed at the stars marked in their ruins, their faith had finally been rewarded. Where the Federation and the general public had long given up on the Creta by accepting the idea that the ancient architects had simply died out eons ago, the Haematites had remained steadfast in their belief that their one true creators were still out there.

With wonder swimming in his cloudy eyes, he said, “We were right.

It was on that night that Agrona learned of the existence of the Adarai.

She listened in shock, as Rolan began to describe the group of self-proclaimed sorcerers who alleged to have uncovered the hidden energies of the universe at the dawn of human civilization using artifacts very similar to those found in the Cretan ruins on Mars. Though even more shocking was the fact that Rolan openly admitted to assisting the group in effectively co-opting the Church in secret, when they had arrived on Mars those four years ago.

When Eder was young, he took his mother’s shock for that of awe, as he had experienced himself when first witnessing true magic. But, as he matured, it became ever more clear that her reaction to Rolan’s confession was that of horror and disgust.

Whereas Rolan had seen the Adarai as the living embodiment of the almighty Creta, a direct link to their gods, Eder had come to believe that his mother saw them as proof of the exact opposite. A flawed representation of the seeders of life, not a direct link to the divine. Imperfect. Fallible. False.

Eder had never dared express his belief that his mother’s faith in the gods she had dedicated her life to had failed her that night. He didn’t have to. He saw it in every facet of her being. Her cold eyes. Her thin lips. Her sharp shoulders.

And he couldn’t blame her. At 27, the age he was now, she was to become the head of what was then the fastest growing Church in human history. How could she abandon all she had worked for? Shatter her identity at the expense of losing it all? She would not.

But Eder knew she had never forgiven them, the Adarai. For worming their way into the organization she had dedicated her life to. For stealing the heart of the dying man she loved as a father. For taking the spotlight from what was to be hers without her even knowing.

Her disdain of the magic living among her only shaped her into the rigid glacier of a woman she was today.

Yet, despite all this, he had known that his appointment to the Salii would please her. Not because of the honor it bestowed upon their family name. And not for all of the knowledge her son would soon have at his fingertips. But rather that part of her had now infiltrated them.

For months, Eder had expected pressing questions about the inner-workings of the Adarai he had been training with, as she, despite being the Church’s leader, was only permitted information the Council deemed necessary to its operation. But the questions never came.

It was only when word of the prophecy and his supposed role within it came to light that he understood.

Surely having been informed of her son’s fabled function in the prophecy weeks before he was, Agrona must have been smiling ear to ear. For, now, she was no longer simply a pawn in their game. Her family had become essential to their grand destiny. Now, they would listen to her. Now, she had the power. Because, within her grasp, was an indispensable element loyal to her and her alone.

Or so she believed.