part III

It had been ten days since Tanith’s last successful vision, though not for a lack of trying. In fact, the Order of Sages had performed at least two divination rites a day for three months, since the ancient Cretan obelisk triggered Tanith’s vision and uncovered the prophecy.

A few months after being chosen as the Order’s ninth sage, she was assigned to the recently uncovered ruins west of the long-extinct Elysium Mons volcano. It was common practice for the Adarai to partner with Doctor Redrick at all newly-discovered Cretan sites to examine and often remove any magical items left by the aliens many millennia ago, and Tanith was part of the site’s small artifact appraisal team, acting as both trainee and the Order’s representative.

It was the evening of her third day at the site.

After an uneventful afternoon of examining a handful of recently excavated artifacts, Tanith had started her night with a bit of meditation and was just about to crack into an Adarain text on gateway summoning through induced states, when the Doctor’s assistant, Ari, burst into her quarters requesting her assistance.

They hurried through the twists and turns of the covered site until they reached the chamber. At the end of the room, past the heaps of half-buried containers, tablets, and unknown objects lining its walls, stood Doctor Redrick, beckoning to them under the yellow glow of stringed utility lights.

And there it was. Two and a half meters tall. Its polished black surface covered in white Cretan script. And a small, blood-red flame gently flickering atop its pyramidal point.

Tanith had seen Cretan obelisks before, lining certain halls and chambers of the Temple, but most were dull with age and none of them emitted anything, let alone some sort of flame. No, there was something different about this one. Something that felt restless.

“Was it--was it like that when you entered?” Tanith asked, steadying her nerves in an attempt to project how she thought a more seasoned sage might react.

Doctor Redrick shook his head, staring at the flame with an almost youthful sense of reverence, “No, ma’am. It lit up when we approached it. Never seen anything like it.”

Tanith swallowed and nodded. If the man who’d been digging up the ancient ruins and artifacts of the Creta for the past seven decades found it perplexing, then she was unquestionably out of her depth.

She looked to Ari. Raised as an Adarai herself, Ari might have a little more insight into the nature of the object, but she was just as mystified as the Doctor. “It’s... strange. I couldn’t find any reference to active obelisks in any of our texts.”

“Are you sure?” Tanith asked, uncertainly.

“I checked the database twice.”

Tanith nodded wearily and returned her gaze to the obsidian monument. She stared into its crimson flame. It flickered softly, reflecting in her eyes. She felt a warm, tingling sensation crawl up her back, through her neck, and over her head. It was reaching out to her, washing over her, reading her as much as she was reading it. And without looking away, she asked, “Did you...did you touch it?”

“Yes,” Ari said, “Nothing happened.”

Tanith nodded slowly, almost entranced. Then she stretched out her hand and touched it.

She awoke on the dirt floor, shivering, Ari and Doctor Redrick standing over her, shouting her name and asking if she was okay.

They pulled her to her feet, and Ari asked, “What happened? Are you alright?”

Tanith struggled to speak, as what she had seen, what she had heard, what she had felt, was still coursing through every fiber of her being. But, after a pregnant moment, she spoke through unsteady breaths.

“It’s a warning... a--a prophesy. Something is coming.”