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Earth Chapter 5: Consequence 2
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The features of the Shadowsun struck with pristine clarity - his skin was smooth and his beard barely visible, his eyes gleaming with a peculiar mix of white and green, his hair an interweaving of fiery red and black, bound tightly in a knot behind his head. The hushed gasp of the onlookers was palpable. Goosebumps crept over Earth's skin when he first laid eyes upon his King's face. It was widely acknowledged that the Shadowsun could be no more than twenty-three years of age, yet the man who sat before them appeared scarcely old enough to have reached the Eve of Aging.
“It is him,” the whispers began to spread about the square again.
“Does it matter?”
As the cheering intensified, the once separate shouts merged into a single, exuberant shout of the crowd. The pebbles had become waves, and the pool had transformed into a sea of celebration. The air filled with laughter, and tears emotion mingled the sense of power and unity. It was as if all the barriers that had once separated them had been washed away, leaving only elation and hope. Nothing else mattered but the pleasure of living in such relief.
“All hail the Shadowsun!” echoed over the deafening roar. People were beside themselves. Unbridled in their rush, they tore down the Cor Blossom strands here and there and tossed them about the sky. The mood was infectious. Vibrant yellow stars shot down from darkness at the speed of snow with the entire assembly in revelry. Some danced. Others wept while embracing strangers with kisses and hugs. Young and old men alike took up the Ballad of the Dark Walls as the cavalcade gallanted about the motionless ebony vanguard for whom they sang.
The King's conquest of his people was not acknowledged with even a flicker of emotion. Instead, he surveyed the tumultuous crowd, searching intently until, to Earth’s startlement, the Shadowsun’s gaze locked with Earth’s. He felt a stunned clown. The moment was so surreal that he had forgotten to cheer. Now, he stood quite transfixed, pierced by the soul of this otherworldly prince, a moment so holy, extreme, so terrifying that whatever strange pull toward this enigmatic lord had stirred this crowd now exerted an irresistible pull on Earth. It was as if the King knew him. But how could that be?
Earth lowered his head in reverence.
When he raised it, the King again scanned the crowd, his great air of command for whatever reasons of his own unwilling to end the celebration yet unable to accept it. Did the great lord sigh? But then a lift of his right hand in the sign of blessing used by the priests of the Forgotten who dwell in the caves upon his lonely mountain and instantly the clamor subsided. The last petals fell several moments later, well after the King began to speak.
"Listen well, friends! For I bear ill tidings. A tragedy descends upon Ambra.”
Fragile joy shattered into a million primal fears. A woman cried out. The King's voice grew somber as he spoke.
“As the only living son of a shattered lineage, of old given reign in the Ambra Coast to be protector against the wild lands to the North. But we have failed you.
“In the great library kept within the City of Dark Walls, in my father’s fathers’ city, for the sake of whose stewardship I have been forbidden to ride out all these many years, in that great library upon the annals of the Shadowsun are chronicled the ancient Cullings of the Madgyi. There are passages in those tomes which are written in scripts that even our wisest cannot read. But what can be read tells us much.”
A few murmurs rippled through the crowd, but the King continued his conviction evident.
“In the days of our forefathers, the Madgyi descended on our lands. With their metallic monsters and sorcerous weapons cutting a swath of destruction wherever they went, their Culling methodically exterminated our people and left behind only barren wastes. Our ancestors fought bravely, but nothing stopped them. They were relentless.
“The first Shadowsun to take the throne did so before the last Culling ended. But we know little of value beyond this. Whatever arcane mysteries or secret knowledge was at play in those battles, we do not know. It is only written that at last the Madgyi retreated beyond the Foer Drihm Wall, where they remained until this day.”
The King paused, his eyes scanning the crowd. He sighed and went on, his voice low and ominous. “Or they were.”
It wasn’t a surprise. He’d prepared them for this blow. Nobody moved or spoke. Determination rippled through the throng. They would take heart. They would stay true. But what the King said next tickled the ears of them all.
“Now, the Madgyi stir once more because of the folly of my father. They have massed their forces and crossed the Foer Drihm Wall. A new Culling is already here, more wild than ever. We were not ready. But we shall face them all the same. For I have not come here to speak to you of the past, nor to seek your pity or your forgiveness. I seek to fulfill my destiny, to settle the cost of my father’s wrongs.”
He allowed a moment of silence to pass, trembling under the weight of his words. None in the crowd dared break the spell.
“I seek to lead you,” he said. "Doubt may cloud your mind. Perhaps you question my right to rule? But there is no time. The wicked forsake fidelity, but those who take heed fight back! Our enemy is strong, and we must at least meet strength with wit. See past my birth. Judge me for who I am. Join me! Stand with me! The Madgyi have their dark wonders? What of it? Their Culling? We still are alive and we still are men! The right measure of the draw, the right eye to the target, the symmetry in formation, and our battle shall be righteousness no matter its end. Our sacrifice shall then be the aroma of glory before the Throne the Forgotten!”
The story of Earth continues…