For centuries, the magical world of Cabras has been secretly observing and visiting our planet, via a thaumaturgic passageway known as the ‘Mysterium Vortex.’ A utopian land that lies across the distant stars at the heart of the Aurea Spiralis, which has long established a peaceful unity through the aid and ancient wisdom of its many dragons. It is a place that desperately hopes to help Earth achieve a similar state of harmony. Their watchful eyes send messages to a select few holding the virtues of honesty, creativity and love deep in their souls to embark on a journey of profound self-discovery. However, all is not what it seems and the Professor and the Oracle are concerned about a threat to destroy the unity of their beautiful world from within. As the demon captures his mother, a young boy would find himself entering the Cave with a mysterious companion, who together become destined to face their fears. From being stuck in the drab existence of a rundown coastal town, Molly and Jacob would soon see their fates entwined with a spiritual calling from beyond the constellations.
Adrift in Amnesia and Part One: Aurea Spiralis
© Copyright Christopher Sharp 2017. All rights reserved.
Part One: Aurea Spiralis
The Professor stood before the Board. Looking around the interior of Cabras’s lone, gothic-style castle located on the edge of the New Forest, generally used for meetings that included much of the wider community (important matters relating to voting, for example), he noticed, rather curiously, the main chamber was completely bare. All tables, chairs, ornaments and decorations had been removed, as if to somehow harness the vast empty space and channel into the imposing officialdom seated before him. Evidently, today’s meeting was different. The sun was setting over the distant mountains of Cabras-Nord, beneath which the Yanesh meandered its rippling shadows, among orchard covered hills via the New Forest towards Oceania. Shining through tall, arched windows behind the large hall, its light cast silhouettes stretching to infinity, bestowing a celestial air of authority. It was all unduly dramatic, but the Professor played along. ‘Urgent Meeting of Utmost Importance’ was the telegram he received, only a day previously, sent direct from the President, leaving him little time to rearrange his schedule accordingly. The Professor did not allow himself to be unsettled by this inconvenience, standing firm was of the essence to a shrewdly petty move by the upper echelons of the Board. He knew all of this was not necessary. They regularly spoke informally about other important matters, but this new task seemed to have a lot of people on edge, particularly those of high ranking. He suspected the tactics behind the setup and was not about to fall prey to intimidation. The Professor was a mild-mannered wizard, reaching one hundred and forty, whose face bore similar features to that of a man of African descent from Planet Earth: his long beard and dreadlocks only recently producing hints of grey. He was the wisest and greatest of all the wizards in Cabras and never had his selections called into question. Until now.
The hall’s negative space seemed to hang in an eternity away from the stern looks before him, as the Professor was reminded of his last meeting with the Oracle. She had contacted him in secret with regards a troubling intuition that had been repeatedly presenting itself through the constellations above, interconnecting from deep within the inner spiral of Kana. It was all pointing to unsettling times and she was feeling suspicious it might have something to do with Cabras’s next assignment on Earth. When she heard news of the recent contact with the Firekyma and the Professor’s subsequent selection, she felt her Heart put at ease somewhat. Still, the ominous signs persisted, which were laying seeds of doubt as to who the Chosen One might be. There was much at stake and the Professor held true to his faith in the ancient wisdom, reassuring his mystical companion, who reasoned that she too would do well to have trust. The stars were enigmatic at the best of times and the Oracle knew it would be more prudent to concentrate on the positive indications and retain hope towards the unity remaining strong.
After their meeting in the Oracle’s palace high in the Arebas Mountains, they travelled together to the New Forest and the site of the Mysterium Vortex, through which they focused their attention on the subject of Cabras’s latest assignment. ‘What an awful place,’ expressed the stargazer empathetically, as she peered into windows of conflicted sorrow, ‘I hope there are no further delays … but I fear the Board may hold you up, Professor … to which events spiral past the point of no return.’
He turned to his ally, ‘I agree … although I’m worried the signs you read are closer than even the stars suggest. The Board are beginning to demonstrate the very behaviours we had come to fear … and I can sense an air of gamey partisanship all too familiar. This is also why I chose the wizard. It was not just for his potential to succeed me, but because he cannot be corrupted by such things. Of this, I am as sure as the sun rising and setting. I do not know why certain members of our community should be drawn to destructive myths … nor can I tell to what extent is their earnestness to blindly follow a trajectory into savagery and darkness … but we must remain confident in each other … we must believe that he will be the one to lead us in the fight against whatever challenge awaits us.’ The Professor glanced into the Vortex and onto the exact same picture of melancholy before finishing his sentence … ‘and them.’
The President climbed down from his seat and approached the Cabran stood before him. He changed the subject from their meeting to matters of a more jovial nature, as if a decidedly friendlier tact could elicit the results he so desired. He motioned his colleague to walk with him towards the edge of the large hall, the other two Board members looking on, curiously trying to listen in on their conversation, which really bore little relevance to the issue at hand. The President already knew he was a very keen rambler. Nevertheless, the Professor obligingly partook in this pointless exchange, covering everything from picturesque routes to the preferred beer of choice at his local inn.
The pleasantries soon began to grate. He did not suffer such tactics gladly, but he was too amiable and kindly a Cabran to outwardly express this. Besides, he knew that to lose his cool at such a desperate strategy would be hugely detrimental and he could not live with the consequences of where this might lead. When the President could see his repartees were not going to bear fruit, he turned back to where his associates had remained seated and retook his place on the highest spot in-between them. A silence ensued and the Professor nonchalantly concentrated his gaze out of the window, overlooking a grove facing the shores of Oceania.
The murmur of speculative voices faded into the background, as the Professor’s mind wandered to where his feet would often roam: through the vast forest, all the way to the foot of the mountains. A journey that allowed one to encounter all manner of weird and wonderful creatures – from griffins, fairies, elves and unicorns to the more commonplace, such as birds and other woodland animals, with all the wondrous varieties that can be found on Earth, plus many more besides. Other walks would see him take in the endless fields and orchards. Something he found particularly fun at night, as one could frequently pass anything from a solitary Cabran relaxing, reading or contemplating the stars, to a great number of magical folk sitting around campfires laughing, chatting and drinking merrily. All were welcome to join the circle and stay for as long as they pleased, such is the way of Cabras.
The previous day, the Professor had been hiking through the countryside, following a small path he strolled regularly that would lead him to the back garden of his favourite inn: the Drunken Toad. It was a beautiful sunny day, much like today and he ambled peacefully along the grass-covered trail under the shade of varying fruit trees. The sweet smell of fresh apples danced subtly under his nostrils, as he plucked a juicy looking item above and bit into it. He placed himself on a small wooden bench beneath the leaves, closing his eyes and immersing himself in the ambiance of foliage, bristling gently through the spring breeze. He relaxed into a calm meditation, drawn deep within to the still waters of Kana. He could not recall how long he contemplated in this space, for it had been the perfect kind of day, where experiencing inner harmony was the only matter that warranted attention.
Later, while he was walking, he looked out over the grassy hill facing the coast, to the left of which stood the mighty crests of Cabras-Nord disappearing into the distance. He focused above to see, to his delight, a Sapphire Eagle: a majestic bird that nests among the dramatic mountain ranges and regularly flies down to the shore near the New Forest to dive for fish. In silent awe, he stood watching as great numbers of a swirling, glittering, crystal blue formation – a myriad of deeper hues complementing the sky, contrasted by huge wingspans tinged with shining gold – descended the cloud covered peaks in unison to dive for fish close to the bay. He rested again for a moment, observing these incredible creatures take turns plunging into the watery expanse for their food and then taking in the rest of the stunning panorama surrounding him. To his right, were small houses dotted along the meadowy landscape and he could see numerous Cabrans contentedly going about their daily business, before wandering further through the blossoming orchards en route to the inn.
Many Cabrans live in cavernous-style houses built along the hills peripheral to the New Forest. Inside are forged a series of tunnels to form corridors and rooms. They are constructed in a manner that makes them blend into the natural environment, hence a number can be found adorned with colourful plants and some even have grass on the roof! Small chimneys can be seen protruding among discreet lumps in various fields and winter nights give rise to romantic mists of wood-fire smoke across the landscape. The burgeoning meadows become rich with the scent of burning wood in winter and freshly cut grass during the onset of spring.
Orchards and vineyards exude the sweet odour of fruit as the trees flourish, while the many fields and areas of the forest release a plethora of luxurious fragrances from its millions of flowers. Amid these pleasant aromas, dancing as sumptuously as the visual palette from which they derive, dwell other Cabrans in cottages and tree houses located in the New Forest. The cottages are similar to old thatches found in rural England, while the tree houses form a connected village of lodges located high above the ground. In ancient times, these had been used as platforms for stargazing, but much of this was since undertaken from higher altitudes in the mountains, hence they were transformed into homes.
The great river, commonly known as the ‘Yanesh Meander,’ weaves its way for thousands of miles from its source high in the Arebas Mountains, travelling upwards along the Spiral Planes above Oceania, back down into the vast ranges of Cabras-Nord, via groves and meadows through the New Forest to the east coast of the far-flung seas. It is considered a very precious part of Cabras, for it provides food and water for witch, wizard and beast alike. The bay looks to the shimmering curve of a horizon beyond salt-smelling waves, reflecting the azure blue of clear skies above. Its coast glistens in gold under the sunlight, of which a cool retreat of woodland shade is but a short distance away. Much of the year sees a climate similar to spring followed by short, bitterly cold and snowy winters that recycles the old and gives birth to the new.
It had been while the Professor was passing a walled area to the side of one of the orchards that he overheard some Cabrans talking excitedly about a recent trip to Earth, via the magical corridor known as the ‘Mysterium Vortex.’ For many centuries, Cabrans have been observing and secretly visiting this planet by way of a multi-coloured tunnel: witnessing a world becoming increasingly automated, which to them appeared to inauspiciously encircle most of its inhabitants within the age-old decree of an enduring elitist order, seemingly intent on advancing to little more than its own destruction. This extraordinary propensity toward collective self-harm was a feature they found most perplexing.
Studying these eccentric beings from a galaxy far away had only led Cabrans to become all the more puzzled. For they also saw hope for its rather topsy-turvy world: largely through a number of understated individuals who appeared to contradict the established order in deed, imagination and Heart. They admired all who saw heaven in sunsets, who felt a greater connection alone in the forest, or more value to the sound of the river than all the spoils of commerce. They sensed a kinship to the square pegs in round holes: in the many romantics, uranologists, poets, lovers and wanderers. In the eyes of Cabrans, Earth’s assorted misfits and dreamers might not be able to conjure spells, but they understood magic. In such characters, they witnessed souls with a direct connection to higher levels of consciousness, albeit unknowingly … until such time as they should meet and help change the course of an individual’s destiny.
It could therefore be said that Cabras is far advanced of Earth in terms of its sustainable, harmonious and interconnected way of living. When it comes to technology, it remains somewhat modest in comparison. They look upon humanity’s development with a sense of intrigue, peppered with a healthy dose of caution. In truth, most from their world do not wish to adopt man’s disunity with nature, nor do they care for the way authority has come to dominate modern society. Human ingenuity is widely admired, the implementation of it not quite so much. Cabrans might otherwise have ignored Earth, but for the virtues of love, beauty and compassion. However, in more recent times, technology and progress had become points of contention among certain members in the magical community, which was of increasing concern to the Professor.
He recalled overhearing yesterday’s conversation between an unknown group of witches and wizards, who seemed to openly express avid veneration towards a worryingly minatorial way of doing things. He paused and listened curiously to a decidedly ominous response, regarding the hypothetical question as to how Cabrans might achieve an altogether different type of order:
‘In a manner more cunning than the last who attempted it that’s for certain! Essentially, one would have to successfully desensitise consciousness via planes south of an attenuated intellectualism formed from sources perceived as “truth.” Here, to dazzle minds through mechanisms of deception would be inevitable. Veiled among mythic vessels of self-determination, one would soon see the many dock at the harbour of a new mandate in wrecks of division!’
The Professor’s eyes widened in considerable alarm upon hearing this, but as he was about to presume such madness to be mere jest, shortly after, an apparent, would-be protagonist burst into full song:
‘Oh, what a shrewd genius
That sees plentiful encased
In crawling metal capsules
Valiant Hearts befall effaced!
As monuments of banality
Atop the masses will we sit
Indebted by conformity
Regardless if they see it!
To heights of frivolous whims
Shall we lead them to aspire
Where alters of cold hymns
Laud dragons pink called Desire!
Ceaseless products chasing myths
To none will be a saviour
We will reunite the faceless
With the corpses of their labour!
Cast down grey ingot deserts
The invisible shall roam
The sleight of hand of numbers
Leaving ghosts without a home!
The inner depths will we limit
To the stars look no more
In hues of black they’ll see it
Reining faith behind closed doors!
Made dark by endless profits
There’ll be oceans of shadows
As we consolidate power
Before they see its barred windows!
Cities lost in bought detachment
Preserved through the barrel of a gun
Will fleeting pleasures n’ conveniences
Bring happiness to no one!
To satiate we’ll tear down
New Forests of mystery
And ever more will it be
The rule of bland geometry!
Flying machines bellowing fumes
Will overthrow the order of clouds
Of freedom, we’ll even rob the birds
With metal capsules full o’ crowds!
In such advancement do we hail
Soaring over swathes of industries
And our land will pay the price
In vapour belched through chimneys!
We will trade on the currency of lies
Deceit, hypocrisy and bloodshed
We’ll supplant the Unity of Kana
Until all that’s beautiful is dead!’
As the song’s raucous conclusion was met with a cacophony of laughter and rapturous applause, it remained unclear as to how many were participating in such glee – nor the extent of its candour. Though Cabrans loved a melody, while their humour was more than a tad privy to a cheeky sense of irony and mischief, the Professor was feeling some sizeable doubt as to whether this was just a bit of harmless fun. He continued to listen attentively to the exchanges beyond the wall, to which certain voices sounded familiar, but he was reluctant to draw firm assumptions without being able to see – for at least one voice sounded not unlike one of the figures currently seated before him.
Seafarers had recently been returning with reports of dark skies looming across Oceania, which held an eerily familiar air to a terrible tale of old. The Professor tried reasoning with himself that such things could be mere coincidence, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore a multitude of worrying signs. Standing in the main chamber, he tried to put the aforementioned dialogue and concerns out of mind, along with his current wariness. Even so, there was no denying it was getting harder to know whom one could trust.
The Board members decided to temporarily adjourn their meeting in order to discuss their feelings in private toward the Professor’s wilful intransigence. ‘Wilful intransigence!’ He thought to himself, ‘this is ridiculous,’ but then he knew what was at stake here, as did the Oracle. ‘Time is running out,’ was the phrase that began repeating itself in his mind and he knew it was imperative to remain true to his decision. When recently observing events unfold through the Vortex, both he and the Oracle concluded that to delay things much further could result in a significant level of discord that might even disrupt the long held unity itself; a concern of which the Board were appearing increasingly ambivalent at times.
If there was sabotage afoot, then it was to be a matter of urgency to get this latest assignment moving as quickly as possible. However, the Professor could sense he was being drawn into a dangerous political plot surrounding the nature of ‘advancement;’ a quandary he deemed entirely the province of Earth and not something Cabrans were to trouble themselves with. They had long established, via wisdom of the dragons, the ancient, peaceful Unity of Kana – to which man’s general way of doing things was widely regarded as incompatible.
Similar to Earth, Cabras once suffered a period filled with great conflict. Contrastingly, its inhabitants tried to learn from their own destructive times and in turn aimed to share their knowledge and understanding with chosen individuals from a troubled world deemed most receptive. It was after a great struggle long ago that they became aware of a connection to another planet – through the discovery of a curious cosmic passageway – which had been revealed to them around the same time as its most powerful dragon: the Moorian Firekyma.
The Mysterium Vortex is accessed from a certain part of the New Forest and leads directly to Earth. Humans are completely unaware of it, at least consciously. Though Cabrans as a whole study the distant constellations, it is mainly witches and wizards who make the journey across space. It remains unknown how long the Vortex has been there, but it is believed to be their source of existence, hence why Earth is so fascinating, for they have yet to make contact with life anywhere else.
It is heavily guarded by a number of Evren Ghouls and none are allowed to travel through it without strict prior authority. The Ghouls are descendants of a dragon called the Evren Biter and are as tough, ruthless and fearless as they come. They are not the brightest of creatures, but they are very loyal and obey orders to the death. Accordingly, any Cabran attempting to pass through the gates without the proper authority could meet a grim fate indeed. The gate to the cosmic tunnel is the only part of Cabras that retains such an extreme form of security, a security agreed upon by the entire community to ensure it was properly used. Authority rested between the Board, the Professor and the leader of the New Forest Ranxi dragons.
Those most likely to travel the Vortex from Earth are individuals who are considered to possess an innate connection to the very things held dear in Cabras: empathy, creativity, selfless courage and love as forming the foundation of Kana. Most who are chosen are unaware that they possess these qualities. Their journey, therefore, is to awaken the potential that lies within them.
In Cabras, Kana is considered an irrefutable truth residing deep within an individual experience as part of an infinite, interconnected consciousness. It is believed to be the centre of an inner spiral constellation, of which emotions and the intellect are formed, as Kana travels further from the core, deep in each Heart, into its innumerable realisations surrounding the Whole. The way of Cabras, if you will, is to never lose sight of one’s Kana and to be ever mindful that emotions and the intellect form mere, transient orbits around an eternal, paradoxically connected Self.
Awareness of this inner totality is comprehended through an introspective realisation of ‘is-ness.’ It cannot be defined in written doctrines or submission to an unseen, higher power. It negates all prejudice towards gender, race or sexuality; for to be true to your own realised nature is to practice honesty and courage, which would invariably lead one to observe what its inhabitants hold in the highest regard. Thus their equivalent of spiritual faith is rooted in a simplicity quite apart of any religious dogma that has no place in their community.
It is therefore not uncommon for Cabrans to be openly gay or transgender. They are a minority in this respect, albeit notions of ‘minority,’ ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ are alien to them. Such concepts were learned from observing Earth, but most look upon man’s societal hypocrisies and moral contradictions as absurd. The prevailing wisdom simply leans to affinity and that to follow this underlying movement from your inner core will inevitably lead one in the right direction – as much in the current life as in the next. Questions of sexuality, for example, are irrelevant. If you are honest and truthful to Kana, love and compassion will prevail, which is the most important thing. As their saying goes, ‘truth is vibe.’
They do not concern themselves with any deity as such, nor with the idea of an afterlife (though the latter is largely believed in), rather they seek to celebrate the current life as much as possible, through embracing a sense of connection, which treats all living creatures as beautiful and equal – including the somewhat unpleasant ones. ‘A Robin Redbreast in a Cage, Puts all Heaven in a Rage.’ They might not care much for earthly religions, but the poems of Blake strike a chord among many Cabrans.
It is in this far away land – a green and mountainous region comprising many large forests surrounded by a great ocean near the centre of the Aurea Spiralis – that witches and wizards act as guardians of a secret magic. In the mystical land of Cabras, everyone cooperates to maintain peace and unity, but remain ever mindful of the threat of dark forces. A threat, which some have felt more ominous of late, not least the Professor. He was beginning to feel there were few he could completely trust in disclosing his true feelings on this pressing matter. Only three he knew for certain: the Oracle, Atanofea and the wizard.
The Board returned to the main chamber. ‘We still do not agree with your selection of wizard for this particular assignment. Much hangs in the balance, for both worlds, and we remain unconvinced he is the right choice.’ Spoken with a most earnest attempt at sounding authoritative, the President’s words echoed into the distance of the large hall, the other Board members silently nodding as he spoke. This was a very private meeting; only the Professor, the President and two senior members of the Board had been invited to attend. ‘I am aware of your apprehensions,’ replied the Professor, ‘and I agree, both worlds face uncertain futures … which is precisely why I feel he is the right choice. Let’s not forget, he summoned the Firekyma … the first to do so in a number of years … since myself, if I recall correctly.’
‘Blind luck!’ Blasted the President. ‘What’s worse, he, well … he could’ve destroyed a vital port area of the Yanesh, along with putting the lives of his fellow wizards and witches in danger not … not to mention their dragons!’ The Professor knew this was nonsense, as his colleague’s slightly stuttered response already suggested, although he likewise knew to choose his own reply carefully, given the situation. ‘President, we have known each other for a very long time and, with respect, you’ll understand that is an incorrect assertion. The Firekyma cannot be summoned by luck alone and does not kill upon its initial contact. You are also aware it only takes the life of the one who summons it … should it reject that particular wizard.’ After the Professor responded, rather calmly and deliberately formal to the President’s outburst, a hushed silence fell upon the hall, the President coolly put in his place.
The President knew the Cabran standing before him was right, yet he continued to feel determined not to concede defeat. He respected the Professor immensely. However, this startling development had become somewhat personal. He was furious the wizard had conjured the Firekyma, long presuming his son, Apharis, to be the next in line after the Professor. In contrast to the wizard, Apharis had tried and failed on a number of occasions to make first contact with their symbol of unity, which he perceived more as a symbol of achieving the very pinnacle of prominence. Initial contact with this particular dragon is both difficult and extremely rare and the President, ever blind to his offspring’s motives, disapproved strongly of another young Cabran he saw as an unorthodox outsider, something of a drifter, as potentially forming the new Chosen One. He curiously looked upon this as some kind of threat.
Of course, the Professor, being the wise and great Cabran he was, had no hang-ups about who his successor might be. He knew, more than any other, the Moorian Firekyma could see clearly through all inner spiral constellations and deep into the Kana of the one able to summon it. It had little to do with reason, skill or common held notions of ‘greatness.’ Such power could only be shared with an individual who had hitherto unconsciously mastered oneself to form a symbol of a much broader totality. If the Firekyma responded to the wizard, rather than Apharis, then it was because it sensed a profounder strength of Heart and thus an untapped potential without parallel.
In Cabras, to be a senior member of the Board, a General or a President no less carried a significant responsibility, where one must harmonise a near conflicting set of characteristics. On the one hand, you needed to be self-assured, occasionally authoritative and able to make some difficult decisions (much like humans, you can never please all Cabrans!). However, it also required a high level of empathy and understanding. In short, you had to have a disciplined sense of reason and be a very considerate individual to boot that would lay the foundation for a much greater potential. Most of all, you needed to remain ever mindful towards the corrupting nature of power and one’s own vulnerabilities in relation to this. These were not positions for just anyone and indeed there were plenty who did not desire such duty. Those who did had to be sure of their intentions, while holding dear the virtues of Kana deep in their Hearts.
During their last meeting, the Oracle had expressed increasing unease regarding attitudes to power among certain members of the community: an anxiety of which the Professor was now coming to share. He found himself growing increasingly distrustful of the motives behind one or two witches and wizards seeking to attain and maintain positions of influence.
The President came across as a good and honourable Cabran but, as they say, ‘love is blind’ and the Professor was concerned that he may be overlooking a terrible truth unfolding before his very eyes. For certain, it was quite clear the current leader of the Board had become a little distracted by personal and political leanings. However, some of his actions also seemed to contradict such a charge, which complicated matters slightly. The Professor noted he apparently had no issues toward the idea that Atanofea might one day succeed him – a quite talented young witch, the same age as the wizard, of who she was the best of friends. The President might not have appeared to care much for her colleague, but he had long been impressed with her abilities as a witch and the promise she showed as a thoughtful and considerate leader – despite the company she kept.
Confident as she was intelligent and honest, Atanofea was liked and respected by just about all of the community, as was the wizard. Nonetheless, she was considerably more focussed than him and, though he was her most trusted friend, who she loved dearly, she also shared in the Professor’s occasional frustration that he appeared a little too indifferent regarding the significance of his own potential. ‘Why do you keep holding back? Not all paths yield to choice, you know!’ She would exclaim, sometimes telling him outright how selfish she thought he was being.
Although Atanofea’s leadership skills far exceeded any other Cabran of her age, the Professor knew it would be her voice of conscience, alongside the close friendship she had with the wizard, which would prove pivotal to future developments in Cabras. After all, it was largely down to her that he eventually saw it in himself to attempt summoning their mightiest dragon. The fact the President so openly acknowledged her skills and promise, but not her comrade’s, was one reason why the Professor knew there must be something else at work here. There could surely be no logical explanation for a senior member of the Board to feel such animosity against any Cabran, able to initially summon the Firekyma, after so many years, therefore why did he? The pettiness surrounding any paternal jealousy seemed too ridiculous for comment.
The wizard was among the most likeable in their community: handsome, polite, articulate and a tremendous communicator, retaining an incredibly understated courage. Something of a mysteriously free spirit it’s true, but this was partly the characteristic required for being a chosen wizard (or witch as future Oracle). Ever loyal to his friends while maintaining a gentle manner towards all living things, he was highly thought of by the Oracle, who he lived with, for a time, learning about the stars and constellations. This Cabran showed little regard (if at all) for competitiveness, acquisitiveness and success: qualities connecting directly to the Heart of the Firekyma and deep into the prevailing wisdom of their world – since the dark times.
This was of course in considerable contrast to the President’s son, Apharis, with the appearance and assuredness of your typical jock, possessing no doubt in his own potential and to who being the best meant success whatever the cost. An over-confident fellow was Apharis, consumed by ambition, who appeared to champion a more alienated way of doing things to achieve and maintain order. He was presenting himself increasingly as a vociferous advocate of a ponderous conception of civilisation as forming a new direction for Cabras:
An order where one must always succeed at the expense of another; an order where there must be winners and losers; an order where superiors exert authority over inferiors and rich over poor; an order upheld by fear and subversion where peace is never far from the threat of war; an order where resources are not shared equally, but ‘purchased’ by an arbitrarily conceived system of exchange that worked to favour a select few, who in turn controlled it from the shadows; an order overseen by those who know best.
Such ‘power behind the power’ was precisely what Apharis seemed increasingly obsessed with, much to the denial of his noble father (who bought his son’s line that his intrigue was all nothing more than innocent research to make their world a better place). Perhaps this was how Falgore came to be? A thought that sent a shiver down the Professor’s spine. Could Cabras be teetering on the edge of another war after so many centuries of peace?
The President would often speak of the possibility of threats to the security of Cabras, an important factor for any head of the magical order to keep in mind. Yet he persistently focused his presentiments on the notion of external entities intruding, but this was all rather vague. For one thing, an outside force had never invaded them, although the Vortex did leave this open as more than just a hypothetical possibility – albeit an incredibly slim one. Even so, the Professor was growing ever more troubled at how familiar his tone was starting to sound. Over the many years of watching humanity’s endless wars and conflicts, much of it caused by religion, greed and a lust for power, the Professor would often wonder if the upper echelons of the Board were becoming overly influenced by a particular human outlook and manner of doing things – if so, to what end?
The clock in the hall seemed to reflect the perpetual stalemate, which had become this morning’s meeting, as the Professor fixed his concentration on the slow tick … follow tock … follow. Elongated shadows stilled among silence were interrupted by the faint sound of feet repeatedly hitting the ground that grew louder and louder, as all in the room turned their attention to the main door. Suddenly, a witch came bursting into the room. It was Aqnomora and she had been sent to urgently inform the Professor of a mysterious object that had been spotted on the horizon.
They rushed out of the main building, down to the shoreline to see a ship was approaching. The Professor took hold of his telescope and, as he peered through he saw, to his surprise, the ship of Tovozahr returning. This wizard had led an expedition, which departed more than a year ago and had not been seen anywhere since. ‘Well, I’ll be …’ smiling to himself, ‘It’s Tovozahr!’ He excitedly exclaimed to the others. While the increasingly gathering crowd cheered the return of Cabras’s most celebrated seafarer, the Professor turned to a look of sudden apprehension, for the boat appeared to be travelling too fast to anchor safely in the harbour.
The Professor kept a watchful eye on the vessel drawing near. He monitored keenly through his telescope and became suspicious when he could not see any Cabrans on the ship’s deck. By now, there are usually crowds of seafarers gathering on top to greet those on the shore. Still it continued to approach at too great a speed and the Professor immediately ordered all to move away from the shoreline. The ship eventually ran aground close to the main beach.
All stared in considerable confusion and trepidation waiting for crewmembers to emerge, but no seafarer could be seen from where they stood. ‘What should we do, Professor?’ Asked an anxious Aqnomora. The senior members of the Board had convened behind him and the President whispered, ‘could this be as we feared, my friend?’ Some wizards quickly fetched small boats to go and inspect the ship. The Professor led a team, requesting Aqnomora to accompany him. She was the most qualified Cabran in healing and medicine and he suspected her services were likely to be required in no small measure. Little did he know they were about to encounter something entirely more sinister.
A couple of boats docked at the large ship that was grounded a few hundred metres from the main shoreline. The Horkos Goklir was Tovozahr’s vessel and the most revered in all the land. It had the highest topmast to survey the endless depths of Oceania; the hull was made of the finest wood and had been encrusted with gold unearthed from the caves of Cabras-Nord, as a tribute to those who perished among the underpasses during darker times. The main sail was adorned with the image of the Firekyma entwined with the Aurora Serpent and Cabras’s symbol for the unbreakable Unity of Kana. It was the largest and most majestic of all the fleet. Many Cabrans stood shocked at the sorry looking wreck before them.
Oceania forms the largest area of Cabras. For generations, numerous seafarers have travelled many months along its endless expanse. They discovered a cluster of uninhabited, active volcanic islands dotted across the seas. Ancient maps mysteriously found centuries ago on one of these archipelagos, appeared to suggest there exists a barren land comprised mainly of deserts toward the southern tip. The maps were accompanied by drawings that seemed to depict cities of great pyramids populated by curious, shadowy figures, but any such land remains as yet to be discovered. Tovozahr was endeavouring to locate this mysterious place and his ship disappeared. Rumours later emerged that he was in fact searching for something altogether different. Few really believed these lands existed; although the intrepid wizard appeared quite convinced they did, at least on the face of it.
The Professor ordered the others to wait as he climbed aboard. He felt an uncanny sensation take hold and gripped tightly to his staff. While he carefully climbed the ladder, he noticed the grand ship had been stripped of its gold and the wood smelled rank with rot and seaweed. The masts looked heavily weather-beaten and the sails were torn and mouldy. As he reached the main deck, he could not see a single member of the crew, but then something troublesome caught his eye: blood on the floor by the steps leading south into the main hull.
He called down to Aqnomora and the accompanying wizards, ordering all to have wands and staffs at the ready while he led the way. He carefully traversed the creaky steps down into the main part of the hull. Everyone came over with the same eerie sensation and Aqnomora was the first to notice the disturbing odour of death emanating in their midst. No sooner was she about to warn the Professor of what she could sense, they were all faced with tremendous horror: Tovozahr and his entire crew, including wizards, witches, dwarves and musicians from the enchanted folk were dead.
They looked at each other in sadness as much as shock at the putrefied, lifeless bodies of their fellow Cabrans. Many of them were friends; such was the closeness of their community. Straight away, Aqnomora could tell this was beyond her ability to heal, but she nevertheless followed the usual routine checking each crewmember for signs of life. All were deceased and it was not immediately clear to her how they met their fate. The others searched the ship to look for clues. However, there seemed to be no sign of a struggle; the blood on the deck was the only small trace they could find.
The ship itself had an air of cold malice about it and all on board began feeling sick and uneasy. Could this be the dark times drawing near again? What neither of them noticed was a small book, which had been locked in the drawer of Tovozahr’s desk. If the Professor had found it, then he would have known the threat that would soon be upon them. They left the ship and returned to shore with the shocking news. Later that night, a mysterious Cabran would enter the vessel and locate this very book.
Aqnomora arranged for the bodies to be carefully removed from the Horkos Goklir and taken to a special area of the Healing Chamber, where she could perform a number of autopsies to try and ascertain the cause of death. Screams and cries broke out among the crowd as friends, family and partners of the crew received news regarding this mysterious tragedy. The Professor turned to the Board members from the morning’s meeting. The President thought better of arguing the point further here and returned to the chamber to consider matters further, the other members following close behind, after orders were given for witches and wizards to survey and secure the area with their dragons.
As the Professor looked back over Tovozahr’s doomed vessel, he recalled the recent lyrics expressing a particular verve – through recognisable flaws and vulnerabilities – to which he was now feeling certain a similar malice lay at the centre of Cabras’s conflict many centuries ago. He soberly made his way back to the main chamber, in full knowledge that a continuation of his earlier reception would await. He looked again over his beautiful land, since blighted by the blackened ship of the community’s most celebrated adventurer. A flock of swans were making their way across the skyline, nearing the end of their long journey, all the way from the Arebas Mountains across Oceania to nest along the Yanesh River under the cool shade of the New Forest. The flock glided over him towards their springtime home in the woodland close by, seemingly unconcerned at the sinister threat looming beneath.
The Professor reminded himself once more in time being of the essence, for this was an ominous sign of what lay ahead and he was now growing increasingly worried the Board’s delaying his plans would lead to tragic consequences. ‘I hope the message reaches them soon enough,’ he quietly uttered to himself, as he walked to the entrance of the main hall. As he approached the vestibule, the Professor could hear an argument between the Board. He sat outside the door and listened with some curiosity. The senior witch member appeared to be stating the case in favour of his decision that was currently being met with some furious disagreement by the senior wizard, while the President thoughtfully paid attention to what both parties had to say.
‘The Oracle and the dragon leader are in agreement,’ insisted the witch; as her colleague reiterated his suspicions vis-à-vis the chosen wizard and argued the position strongly that the President’s son was surely the right Cabran – for a task that required the characteristic of a winner, not a hopeless daydreamer. In vain, she argued the point that competitiveness was not necessarily the quality needed in this instance and appeared to support the Professor’s confidence in the wizard summoning the Firekyma. Here, the President, trying to remain impartial now intervened. The issue of the Chosen One continued to be a sore subject for him and he ordered them to stop bickering. Though he felt the same way as his senior wizard colleague, in his mind, he was coming to realise that it was looking impossible to reverse the Professor’s decision, irrespective of how much he wished he could.
The President changed the subject, enquiring about the current situation regarding the security of the Vortex. The other Board members confirmed the Evren Ghouls had been made aware of the recent discovery and their guard was on a higher alert for potential threats. This had been shored up by an added presence of witches, wizards and dragons. The President felt reasonably satisfied that they were suitably protected against any threats and prepared himself to return to the other important matter before their meeting had been interrupted.
The Professor drew a deep breath and slowly re-entered the hall. The Board had taken their seats, once again looking down upon him in their sincerest attempts to intimidate. He remained unfazed, concerned much more with the growing conspiracy involving saboteurs, possibly from the Board itself, which did not bear thinking about. He was starting to wonder if the wizard was the only target of Cabras’s mysterious antagonists. If he was to be the Chosen One, then he would soon form a symbol of a much wider totality and could this truly be their terrible aim – to destroy the Unity of Kana itself? The Professor recalled another detail of his last conversation with the Oracle, alluding to a furtive veil among the stars, not unlike that reported by Cabras’s very first mystic, who helped reveal the dreaded Falgore in times long past. Unbeknown to him, across the meadow, events were already unfolding.
Aqnomora was busy inspecting the bodies of the deceased to look for clues. She had dealt with many gruesome situations previously, but this task was making her feel uncomfortably sick. The corpses were significantly decayed, although she felt sure they had not been dead a very long time, which left her quite baffled as to what exactly could have caused this. There seemed to be no logical explanation for such degradation in the hulls of a ship as well equipped for sea travel as Tovozahr’s. The odour of death became overwhelming and she went outside to get some fresh air.
She picked some fresh Fecphion and ground into a fine, aromatic paste before spreading some under her nose to protect her from the stench. Aqnomora then took a deep breath of the spring, country air and headed back inside the Healing Chamber to continue her investigation. While she was inspecting the body of Tovozahr, she noticed a curious looking mark of a black, ghost-like shape and she could be sure there were two distinctly menacing eyes glaring from the head of this apparition. ‘That’s a strange looking bruise,’ she muttered to herself, giving little thought to the malice it represented, of which she would soon find herself faced.
The sun was setting through the large windows of the hall. As night was drawing in, small fires could be seen glowing across the hills and the Professor thought how nice it would be to join Atanofea and the wizard (both of who were babysitting his dog, Rufus, while he attended this meeting) for a pint in the Drunken Toad. Only yesterday, he was talking to the young wizard who mentioned a good band were playing tonight and the Professor was struggling to hide the fact he would rather be elsewhere. Not that he was in any way trivialising the situation. Far from it, but in such times, where great peril is potentially facing you, he reasoned a drink with your friends was as good a remedy as any.
He knew he could not back down and was not about to. It did not matter what threats they may try throwing at him, it was practically impossible to discredit the Professor, such was his standing in the community. The Board were aware of his position and he felt it was not in the President’s nature to stoop to such tactics. In this, he remained confident (and reassured) in the knowledge that he must stay true to his decision. There was another uncomfortable silence in the chamber, neither side seemingly wanting to budge. The President again recounted many tales and even harked back to the dangers of ‘the likes of Falgore’, but it was all rather equivocal and none of it really made any sense.
The Professor was acutely aware of the old accounts when a dark magic grew unnoticed within the land of Cabras. However, he also recognised, as did the Oracle of the present time, the long held peaceful unity of their world was facing a similar threat from within. Contrary to the Board, who always seemed convinced of enemies invading from remote lands. ‘Phantom terrors’, as the Professor would refer to it (in private of course). He did not fear the Board, but he likewise saw their value in maintaining a ‘Cabrans’ Unity’ and sought not to unduly upset them (which did not seem hard to do of late). Both he and the Oracle knew that help was to come from the most unlikely of places – to which the Firekyma-summoning wizard was key, in more ways than one. In this, he was to stand firm; the very survival of Cabras’s unity depended on it.
During the last century, only the Professor had successfully summoned – and in the second meeting been accepted by – a Firekyma, hence his standing amongst the magical community. As a figure of unity, everyone, including the Board, respected him, but he was getting old and felt ready for one to succeed him and in the young wizard he saw a potential that held the unique qualities to take his place. All he needed to do was realise that which shone within. No more holding back, initial contact had been made and, whether the wizard liked it or not, too much depended on him now and consequently why this assignment was so important.
The Professor had become a master without parallel, possessing an insight matched only by the Oracle, who had openly expressed her approval for his selection of wizard for this particular task. This was a most unusual turn of events. The Oracle did not involve herself in these types of affairs but, like the Professor, she knew worlds hung in the balance. She also knew he was making the right choice … to save Cabras.