The End of the Beginning
The three of them, as Gish’s corpse cooled, quickly rifled through his clothes. They found a note, written in a tongue none of them knew. They also found a slim, palm-sized device that hummed as if it were alive. It seemed to be a very complicated artifact of the world before the Azure Flames.
“Heirs, place the device into the slot. I shall indicate it with a blinking light.”
They looked at each other and agreed to comply, so they did and placed it into a slot on a machine with that blinking light.
“Accessing. Access achieved. Desired subject is itself an heir.”
On a big screen, they saw a figure of a man covered in glimmering silver tattoos and marked with a sun-like golden icon on his brow.
“Heir is fully-active on all 12 strands. Name unknown.”
“Can you confirm paternity and maternity?” Zacharion asked.
“Accessing. Subject is son of heirs known as ‘Ilker’ and ‘Yanna’.”
Yearling perked his ears up at that. “No wonder that Mistress prefers to use another name.”
Sihaya just looked at him like he’d reverted to being a silly boy, instead of an apprentice to one of the most powerful sorceresses in the whole of Creation.
“Can you determine his current location?” Sihaya asked.
“Accessing network. Network severely damaged. Network stability severely compromised. Searching. Searching. Searching.”
The screen flickered over a map of all the world—maps with severe gaps, filled with the last known images of that part of the world before the Azure Flames hit—before focusing on a part far, far from where the machine told them that they were. Far to the west and north, across hills and plains not seen by any of the Solar or Lunar nations since the days of Ilker and his many wars, did it rest.
“I know that place.” Yearling said, “That’s the land of the legendary White Tower, where the first of the Sea Peoples arose.”
“Close.” Zacharion said, correcting him, “But that land is to the south. This land here is another place entirely, yet your remembrance is not without value.”
“So far away, but why?” Sihaya asked.
“Unknown.” The machine, again, answered unbidden.
“I say that we go to the People of the White Tower. They remain friendly to us, and by now even they would have heard both of Ilker’s death and our mission. I would expect the Archmage to be waiting for us, if he is as far-seeing as Ilker thought him to be.”
“Then this is the point of no return, isn’t it?” Sihaya said.
“No.” Yearling said, “That passed when we left the lands and people we knew for this mission.”
Instead,” Zacharion said, “this is the end of our days of innocence, such as they were. Like it or not, we’re already passing forcefully into becoming men and women. The way we talk, think and act are increasingly like those of our elders- and the memories I’m reliving as I sleep are not my own, so there is more to this than just ordinary changes.”
“A new sun rises.” Sihaya said.
“Like the old, but not the old.” Yearling said.
“But brilliant just the same.” Zacharion said, concluding.