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       Eldnium, p.1

           Enoch Pyle, Jr

  They are the silent rulers, creeping through the shadows of space, only reaching out their hands to pluck what they desire on rare occasion. And while some worship them as gods, never knowing what they truly are, others lead a vicious rebellion against them, because they know the truth: that those who rule are not gods, but tyrants over their own creation. And the war against these creators, who are known by many as The Control, must thrive, or all hope is lost.

  This war divides the nations. It reaches from planet to planet, star system to star system, galaxy to galaxy. It has persevered since the beginning. It has brought death across billions of lightyears. It has conquered the masses. It has run like a machine at the hand of The Control with no challenger to oppose them.

  You may have seen them with your own eyes and never even realized it. You may have felt their presence in the blind corners of a dark room. The hairs on the back of your neck may have stood in salute to the caress of their breath. They may have fooled you into feeling loved while they stole those whom you care about from your grasp. But deep down, you are not fooled. Deep down, it sickens you.

  And so we fight—each of us, even you and I—against their reich, tearing worlds apart, both physically and emotionally. Those who worship The Control fight on one side, aggressive and determined. Those who oppose The Control fight on the other side, peaceful and accepting. These opposing forces sow turmoil amongst themselves on a million worlds throughout the universe. And it is this constant, unending war that keeps The Control hidden in the shadows…that keeps us fighting a war we feel can not be won.

  But on the dark side of a world called Nau, a prophecy was made, claiming that a hero would rise, a master of time and space, with power enough to bring The Control to its knees and set the universe free. But this would be a hero among many, for every world bears its own hero, a creature with unique power and ability.

  The Control has searched tirelessly for each hero on each planet for thousands of years. On some worlds, the rulers and kings capture and kill the hero themselves, afraid of such power. But on others, the hero is welcomed with open arms, requiring The Control to sweep in and kill the heroes with their own cruel fist in an effort to prevent the prophecy from coming true.

  But some heroes are not killed. Some are taken, and no one knows why.

  So the rebellion was born to protect these heroes, attempting to reach each one before The Control, so that the universe can finally be saved. Sometimes, they are successful, taking the hero to a safe place, where they can master their abilities. Other times, they fail, and the hero is brutally slaughtered by The Control. And sometimes, the hero is taken for reasons unknown.

  At times, all feels lost. At times, we feel we’ll never be free. But one thing remains. One thing gives us hope. One thing strengthens our will to continue the fight.

  The Prophecy of Nau insists, a hero will rise.

  Part One

  A Hero’s Fate

  The Beacon

  On a hillside, nestled near a dark and wicked forest, there once stood a castle, larger than any ever built before it. Its frosted, glass stones glistened in the light of the two moons, and sounds of music and laughter echoed from it, dancing down the hill with flickers of torchlight and shattering against the wall of trees at the forest's edge.

  The castle stood strong and mighty, its walls never scarred by battle, for no army ever dared to strike against it. It was known across the land as Delv, home to Durian Rāz, the King. The song that sailed from the castle screamed his praises, and his subjects adored him. This was just one of many parties, a feast for the kingdom.

  But on this night, as the largest of two moons began to touch the horizon, a hooded figure rode horseback out of the dark forest and up the cobbled path leading to the castle gates. Misty breath huffed from the horse's nostrils, and its hooves beat against the cobblestones like hammers against the hide of a drum. The figure upon it rode silently, its brown and tattered robe fluttering in the wind.

  As it neared the castle gate, two armored guards stepped forward, their chain-mail rattling against the steel plating, and one called out, "Halt!"

  The hooded figure raised an arm, without slowing its approach, and revealed a glowing emblem on the palm of its hand. The guards' eyes widened. "Open the gate…quickly!" the first guard called, and the second pounded against the gate with his fist, signaling to the gatekeeper to spin the giant wheel that would draw open the massive, iron doors.

  The figure rode faster, slipping through the gap in the still-opening gate with great speed and agility. It stamped across the courtyard, the dancing people scurrying out of the way to avoid being trampled, and it didn't stop until it was at the foot of the stage, where Durian sat with his Queen, presiding over the festivities. The horse whinnied and reared, kicking its front legs into the air and pounding back down upon the dusty ground. The figure didn't speak, but stared at the king and queen, whose eyes widened in horror.

  The king jumped to his feet, his brow furrowed and his eyes filled with rage and fear. He bellowed, "Guards! See the peasants back to their homes!" and two dozen soldiers drew their swords and funneled the people out of the courtyard with little resistance.

  Durian walked to the edge of the stage and looked down at the hooded figure, still perched upon its horse, a jet-black steed with white eyes. The king spoke in a trembling whisper, his voice deep and rough, "He has come?"

  The thing on the horse didn't speak, but spun with a flourish and galloped back through the castle gates, leaving the King to his fears.

  The Queen stepped toward her husband and said, "What will we do?" She gripped his arm, as if pleading for reassurance that everything would be alright.

  The king stood frozen with fear, sweat glistening on his forehead, his posture cold and void of life. "Have your servant bring me my riding robes," he told her. And then, "Laralt! Assemble the Dragons!"

  Above them, in the twinkling sky, a star burst open, lighting the courtyard with a great flash of light, ten times brighter than that of the sun. The queen let out a startled cry, and then the flash was gone. In its place, however, a large, glowing disk remained nested within the heavens.

  "Durian, what is it?" The queen asked, trembling.

  "Our hero has been born this very night. This star will lead us to him."

  A group of cloaked men rode up to the front of the stage, and the king mounted the one, rider-less horse, swinging his leg over its back and settling into the saddle with a familiar grace.

  The queen put her hand on the horse's snout and looked her husband in the eye, her own eyes filling with tears. "Will you kill him?" she asked, her voice quivering. "Durian, you must. You must kill him."

  The horse snorted and shook her hand away. "If the gods allow it," the king replied. "If the gods allow it."

  He pulled against the horse's reins and turned the great beast toward the castle gate, galloping away at full speed.

  A Hero is Born

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