It’s all there. Every last bit of it.
Images of Zerom’s coming. The fall of Nefol. The Migration from Ceiswyr. The battles with Zeromus. The fall of the Islands. And now the coming of a new leader to the Spiral lands.
The images didn’t stop there. To Zemi’s growing trepidation, they spanned even into what appeared to be their future. Battles in the Spiral. A frantic flight into a deep, forested land. A tall pillar of blue stone, much like the Vision Stone that NaDo spoke so frantically about.
What is this?
A light shown around the stone in the image. People were lined up, walking into it. The ones furthest away had wings, but as the people came closer to the light, the pictures showed people who were stripped of wings and a great looming darkness over them all. On the other side of the light was a round shape, the image of a different planet.
What does this all mean? Is this what’s yet to come?
Zento gave the images a couple of glances. Not making any sense of them, he simply shrugged and peeked further down the stairwell, leaving the Dreigiau to his thoughts.
“Look! Look at this!” AsaHi’s voice resounded from the narrow walls. Her excitement broke the Arweinydd’s concentration and he reluctantly turned to follow the rest of them. As they rounded the final corner, it was as if they walked into another world.
This has to be the Stone Lair.
The chamber was enormous and naturally weathered from the heart of the stone over many, many thousands of years. It was the same blue stone that the key was made of.
The same kind of stone that NaDo claimed the Vision Stone is made out of.
Everywhere Zemi looked, the walls seemed to glow and pulsate with an inner life of their own. Tiny streams of water trickled down the face of the walls from minuscule cracks far above, forming clear, reflective pools in lower parts of the cavern. Once, long ago, a river ran through the underground passage, sculpting out many caves and tunnels through the blue stone, leading deeper and deeper than imagination could comprehend.
Though no sunlight provided nourishment, plants grew everywhere. Strange, wondrous plants of many colors that reared tall above Zemi’s head. Treelike growths stretched up into eternity, vanishing beyond sight into the vaulted ceilings of the Lair. Flowers swayed, dripping petals down over the cool surface of the pools. The sound of scampering things darted through the wide glowing leaves, leaving them to wonder after the sounds.
This place has so much life.
“Zemi, look!” AsaHi exclaimed, rushing up to him. She lifted one hand up, showing him the familiar form of a blushing red flower. “It’s a Cred! How did it get here?”
“I,” the Dreigiau gaped at it with a loss for words.
That’s impossible! Those flowers only grow with the nourishment ofArweinyddpower. I know – I grow them myself!
His teal-flecked eyes shot up to the pulsing stone of the walls around them, searching. For the first time, he could feel it. Whatever secrets that Aur hinted, there was something really there for him to discover.
“Zemi? Are you okay?”
That has to mean that this light…
The Dreigiau didn’t answer to the call of his name. His mind was focused, struggling to connect. To understand the feelings that welled within his chest. With a glazed-eye expression, he shuffled closer to the nearest pillar of blue stone.
I have to know. Who are you? Where did you come from?
“What’s he doing?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he’s upset about the Cred?”
“Zemi? Where are you going? Are you sure we should mess with anything in here?”
Their voices began to fade away, replaced by a soft thrumming, almost like a heartbeat. It rose and fell with the pulsing glow of the blue stone. As he came closer, Zemi felt his own breath and heartbeat begin to slow, falling into the rhythmic cadence.
You saw into the future. Can you show me the way?
The world dimmed around him as he reached out. The blue light filled his vision as the thrumming filled his ears. His fingers brushed the surface, meeting with a familiar jolt. Zemi felt the burst of pure power rush through his body. A deep rumble vibrated through his being, shaking the chamber as his form was ripped away.
The senses of sight and sound and touch were no more. The Earthian means of interacting with the world that he studied and strove so long to imitate was wiped away.
Nothing but energy was left.
Something like a voice came to him from within the brilliant white nothingness. He gathered up enough awareness to focus on it.
~It was a long wait, Zemi Dreigiau. You came here, just as it was hoped.~
Memory roused within him. The images that on the wall in the stairwell. Struggling to find his own words, he answered.
Then, this was all preordained?
Tiny specks of light drifted across his vision, swirling and capering. Space around him seemed to stretch into endlessness. His own light blurred and shifted. He found it difficult to hold on to even that.
~No. It was simply one.~
One? One what?
~One path out of the Infinite Ways.~
A flourish was felt rather than seen. Realization came to Zemi, that was where he was now.
The Infinite Ways. The place where the past and present and all worlds that might have been meet together.
It felt strange to acknowledge it. As if the knowledge was coming from somewhere beyond himself.
How did I know that?
~The same way that you know about the Time Before and the Mistake, though you did not experience them. This place is a part of the essence of allArweinydd, though so few of our kind step into the Ways. Those who do often find themselves lost to it.~
A flicker of surprise rippled over his awareness.
Our kind? Do you mean that you areArweinydd?
There was a momentary pause. Then the space around him began to grow brighter. One by one, the tiny specks of light expanded, growing in strength until they were vast before him. How he wasn’t consumed by the enormity of them, he didn’t know.
Zemi flinched back, struggling to hold on to his own light. To not get lost in the draw of the Ways or the power of the Others. For the first time, Zemi felt truly small.
~We are all that remains of the essence ofArweinydd from the Time Before. We gave our life light to power the chamber of stone that you saw upon the Living World. It was there that we sheltered those who survived the Mistake.~
You mean like Aur and the Dragonkin?
There was the sense of confirmation.
~As well as some of the Earthian tribes – though they do not remember. And, one small group of youngArweinydd. Including yourself.~
There was no answer to his surprise. The voice simply continued.
~ The balance of Chaos and Creation must be maintained. If it is not, things fall out of order. Paths in the Ways begin to merge and overlap each other unnaturally. And all can be lost. ~
Zemi felt a shudder ripple through his form.
~ The wars of the Dragon,Arweinydd and the Sygni pushed this existence into the Mistake. We gave all that we could to maintain life in the aftermath. We cannot allow such a thing to happen again.~
No, of course not.
The voice paused. When it spoke again, the weight of the words were heavy upon him.
~It’s in your hands to bear the light of Creation and to maintain the balance and protecting the life of the Earthians you lead. This is, above all, the most important.~
I’m trying. I’m doing my best. But it’s impossible to protect my people if I can’t fight against the Chaos. Can you help me?
The voice did not answer at first. When it did, the words were not at all what Zemi was expecting.
~Zemi Dreigiau. Look around. Look at the vastness of possibility and potential. The endless could-bes and might-bes. Do you not understand yet that though you are a great power among your people, you are but a fragment of all that is? There’s so much more to the events of time than merely your own efforts.~
Puzzled, the Dreigiau searched for a response. He found none.
I don’t understand. Does that mean you won’t help?
~We will help you to achieve the part you are here to play. But you, alone, cannot hold up the fate of the world.~
Hold on. That goes against everything Earthians write about. There is always someone to save the world.
It was almost the sound of laughter.
~Yes, that’s their vision. There’s rarely a single champion that can overcome everything on his own.~
I know! I have lots of great people with me, too!
A slight sigh.
~Zemi, I don’t know how else to tell you. But, the champions of creation who are meant to battle the Chaos of Zeromus have not yet come.~
The Dreigiau’s tone lifted with incredulity.
What do you mean? We have plenty of great warriors right here!
~I understand that and agree. But, Chaos won’t be overthrown until Creation has found a balanced foothold against it. Right now, that just doesn’t exist, and it may take time.~
Are you saying that I’m not good enough for the job? That I can’t take on Zerom?
~I’m saying that it may not be your purpose to defeat him. You have a purpose that is just as important in paving the way to bring about those who will.~
Miffed, the Arweinydd retorted.
Who are you to tell me what I can and cannot do! I am Zemi Dreigiau!
A shaft of pale white light shown from directly below, between the drifting clouds of the Ways.
~Zemi, wait! Don’t go back yet! We haven’t been able to tell you everything!~
The Dreigiau already decided. If the shaft below as the passage back home, as the voice seemed to indicate, that was exactly where he was going.
I’ve heard enough of your talk. I look around the Ways and I am convinced. I can choose my own path with or without your help.
The voice grew more distant. Slowly, Zemi could feel a sense of his form again. And heaviness.
~You must protect your people at all costs! You must take them to the world beyond!~
Heaviness flooded through him, pulling him down. Down. Down through the shaft.
~You must take them to the Vision Stone before it’s too late!~
Once again the world flooded into his senses. Earthian senses. The vision of the blue stone walls and lush gardens. The smell of flowers and leafy brush. And the vast sound of his own roar as it filled the Stone Lair.
Zemi’s head snaked back, Dragon jaws opening wide. His wings unfurled, stretching vast within the immeasurable flow ofArweinydd energy. The Others, despite his rebuke against them, were filling him with new power and strength. Once again, he was the great white wardragon. Once again, the ground trembled under his feet and quivered at his roar.
Once again, he was the Dragon Patron.
And with the newfound power, he would rise up to challe-
“ZEMI!” AsaHi’s sharp shout rose to his ears.
“Huh?” his head snapped around to see the girl hanging off the end of his tail.
She gripped the tufted fur with determination, brows lowered as she glared up into the face of the gigantic Dragon. “What are you doing?”
The Dreigiau’sears folded back a bit. “I was…”
“You scared us to death, Zemi!” Zento walked forward with a similar frown. “It’s great that you’ve got your Dragon form working again. But could you at least warn us before you go on a rawring rampage!”
“Uh… uh…” Zemi shook his mane out, slowly coming back to his senses. “Sorry.”
“So what happened? What did you find?” SoYa asked, daring to walk closer, too.
“I…” The more senses that returned, the more he felt his hopes sinking.
“Zemi?” AsaHi asked, face turning concerned.
“Just… give me a moment,” the Dreigiau rumbled, lowering his head to the ground. “And I’ll tell you.”
If there was one thing the Others were right about, it was the fact that he couldn’t do this alone.