part IV

Tanith considered Danya’s words, as she got ready for bed. She had sent an anxious Alva away after explaining that there was no cause for concern, as the sage was not upset and probably hadn’t even heard her grousing. And while there was undoubtedly relief in Danya’s reassurance, Tanith couldn’t help wondering why her visions had stopped.

After the event at the Elysium dig site, the obelisk had proven itself to be a dead end. Its red flame had mysteriously extinguished itself, and the object refused to react to any of the Order’s other eight members no matter how many different rites and rituals they tried.

There were countless attempts to share the vision with the other sages through shared states and group ascensions, but they had all failed. And despite Oda, the sixth and now eldest sage, assuring her that the rest of the Order had all felt something shift the moment the prophecy was triggered, Tanith couldn’t help feeling frustrated, as it became abundantly clear that Tanith alone was to be its herald.

As she slowly combed her long hair and began to braid it, Tanith spoke the words of the prophecy under her breath as if to coax them into speaking back to her:

The ancients awakened. Uncover the three. Life’s only salvation: The Knowing. The Wielder. The Key.

It had become part of her nightly routine. First, speaking the words aloud, then closing her eyes and sifting through the images their rites had successfully evoked in the intervening months.

The desolate red plains. The darkening sky. A storm as black as death. And the empty void.

Then Doctor Redrick. And Eder Mirela, a schoolmate she’d grown up with and son of the Flamen Martialis, the Church’s leader. And the girl, Zero, who she discovered was Doctor Redrick’s granddaughter.

Tanith had seen these images and these people during almost every rite until now. Had something changed? She wondered as she crawled into bed. What does it mean? What must they do? And why can’t I see it?

But there were no answers to be found in the dark of her room. She yawned and closed her heavy eyelids and fell swiftly to sleep.

And there were Phobos and Deimos, hanging above the horizon in the twilight. Below them, the mouth of a cave cut into a bluff, its darkened entrance growing ever closer in the fading light until all was black. But something sparked, twinkled against the rock walls. A flash of energy burst in mid-air and, within it, formed a rift. The air grew cold, and the ground shook. Dust and stone fell from above, as the rift crackled and grew, a void of nothing held between it. But something stirred. Something within the nothing. The void shifted, expanded beyond the boundaries of the rift. And then it spoke. A language no human had ever heard. Should ever hear again. Terrible and thunderous, its words echoed, and the cave collapsed around it.

And Tanith awoke, clutching her chest, gasping for air.