Aerosus And That Fateful Night
Aretherra Volume One: Aerosus & the Keys to Ascension
Copyright© Eric L Gardner 2020
I watched helplessly as my mother fell to the floor of our living room. White-hot bolts of energy surged through her entire body. Next to her, my father knelt, with his hands bound behind his back, unable to move or help in her highest time of need. It was so bright, the light flashed upon the faces of a dozen men and their leader, all surrounding my mother and father. As the heat and energy consumed her, my mother’s body shook uncontrollably, I wanted to look away, but I wouldn’t. I forced myself to watch, so I could memorize the face of the man who cast her death sentence. I kept my hands firmly over my ears long after I knew her screaming had ended. Even after this, I could see the crackle of tiny sparks that danced along the exposed skin of her lifeless body. I studied the evil man, the apparent leader of this group of invaders, as he stood over her.
My mother was dead.
I cupped my hands over my mouth, barely able to stop my scream of anguish. My father kneeled before her lifeless body, his hands secured behind his back. Rage and agony burst out of my father with a guttural cry. His wail was loud enough to pour out through the raised windows of our living room, rebound off of nearby houses and echo back to me through the small closed escape window at the other end of my hiding place.
The evil man stood there, unphased by my father’s abject sorrow, uncaring of his role in taking the love of his life. In fact, he seemed almost amused by the catastrophic wreckage he brought to our world. He stepped over her like she was nothing and stood before my kneeling father, who was quietly crying and looking only at my mother through a veil of tears.
Suddenly it struck me, a whisper of rational thought forcing it’s way past the blanket of anguish and torment to the forefront of my mind. Why did my mother try to defend our family? Why did she rush to attack this man when he first arrived? Did she know him? Did she know how dangerous he was?
Standing arm’s length in front of my father, this intruder held up his bare forearms, smiled, and everyone watched as thin white ribbons of energy crackled and popped, running along the skin of his forearm. He then made it stop at will, and the energy ribbons faded until they dissipated near his palms. It was clear he was a Phyrroan, a member of a nation of people who harness and use energy at will. Unless it’s like my father has told me before, ‘Some people can’t stop themselves from showing off; especially bad people, who find great satisfaction in showing everyone else the bad things they can do to hurt other people.’
“Search the home. Find the kid.” The man barked with a deep raspy voice.
If my father doesn’t give me up, he’ll meet the same fate as my mother. But Mr. Evil Phyrroan guy is too arrogant to realize that my Dad doesn’t want to live anymore, not without my mother. All of this happened so fast, and was so surreal that I could not, I did not want any of this to be real.
In all of my 12 years, I had never seen my father lose his temper, raise his voice, or utter an angry word, until that night. Nothing prepared me for the onslaught of profanity that exploded from my father’s infinite sadness. My mother really was dead!
My father was the strongest man I have ever known. Even so, fueled by passion and rage, there was no escaping the powerful, towering men holding him. My father was powerless and bent closer to my mother. After being beaten down by his captors, my father appeared to be bowing his head in defeat, but I knew he was looking at her through blurry wet eyes.
My mother’s killer stood silent and still. He slowly shook his head and lowered his arms to his side. Wisps of black smoke slithered away from her body far above her killer’s head before a slight breeze caught and carried the smoke and tiny ashes through the skylight up into the atmosphere above our home.
Perched high above our living room, looking through a vent upon the most grotesque scene, I knelt, completely frozen. I was shocked, mind, body, and soul. My tears trickled down my face and off my chin and onto my knees. My mind’s eye kept forcing me to relive the final few moments of my mother’s life. In an instant, I transitioned from nausea to infinite sadness, and finally, I felt the same rage as my father. I felt like exploding.
My father remained silent and still, looking only at my mother, still lying on the floor at his feet. I closed my eyes and instead pictured her smiling at me, as she used to whenever she saw me or told me she loved me.
The deep-voiced man continued speaking to my father in a measured and calm manner, as the search party of twelve ripped through our home looking for me. Although I could not make out what he was saying, as I was desperately trying to hear the sounds from every other part of our home. I could be seconds away from being discovered and captured.
I could hear the searchers scattered throughout our home, checking every room, every dark corner, and every possible place where a hiding place could exist. I could listen to the upstairs floorboards creak under the heavy, yet precise and measured footsteps of the search troopers as they poured over every inch of our second floor. I knew it was only a matter of time before they found my special place.
My hiding place has been a sanctuary and room of solace and protection for my entire life. Since I was a child, the search parties came to our home in the dead of night to harass my family and accuse my parents of crimes against the Union. They never found me and my hiding place, a narrow room on the other side of my father’s study. With a slanted ceiling that mirrors our roofline, there was always enough room for me when I was a small child, but these days I have to duck down to fit.
Stacks of old books line the walls of my secret sanctuary, all borrowed from my father’s library. As I completed each of his books, I kept my favorite ones. I neatly stacked them and formed my own collection. Most of these books I had read two or three times, especially the ones about the different and strange people from other lands. I was raptured by the stories and history of the great kingdoms throughout time, from ancient Areth to modern Aretherra. Would I ever see these people, to visit these strange and foreign places?
I’ve recently realized how important my parents’ gift of knowledge has been, my parents taught me everything I know. They gave me more than just the words; they embued their sense of adventure, a spark of boundless curiosity, and an iron will keep going, no matter what comes my way. It might take some people a lifetime to learn what they have taught me in twelve short years.
The deep voice shook me from my reverie. The killer’s voice quaked through my wall and floor, registering a full octave lower than normal men’s voices.
“We know your son is an Ariya. We took a random scan of his blood at the local market yesterday”, he mentioned proudly as paced along the living room floor.
The deep-voiced man reached and clenched my father’s chin with the grasp of his black glove. He pulled my father’s face towards his cold stare. My father remained strong and continued to cast his gaze down towards the floor, and would not give his eyes to the evil man.
He continued, “You have lost your wife. Please don’t make me kill you too. If you tell us where your boy is, I’ll let you come with us, and I promise that we will keep you both safe.”
My Dad remained resolute, seemingly unaffected by his menacing captor, whose deep voice threatened, “What happens now is up to you. It would be a shame if we found your son and had to kill him in front of you before we kill you last. If your sense of self-preservation is intact, you’ll tell us where the boy is hiding, and you both get to live.”
I realized that my father was not looking at the floor at all; he remained locked on my mother’s face. My father loved my mother more than his own life. I had to look away. I closed my eyes tight, desperately trying to think of anything else. I wanted to remember her smiling this morning, but the image faded as fast as I could recall it. Forever haunted and traumatized, I would never forget when my world ended.
The door to my father’s study slammed against the wall. Inches away in my secret hiding place, I knelt, my body shaking as tears dripped from my chin. No longer did I feel safe. I was moments away from being discovered! The searchers were literally inches away from where I knelt, tearing through my father’s desk and bookshelves.
A few intense minutes later, the searchers finally left my father’s office and gathered again in the living room. I stayed frozen, coiled in a ball, with my arms around my legs and my head between my knees, just praying for all of this to go away.
An eerie silence clung to the night air like a wisp of vapor. The deep-voiced man joined again by eight of his searchers, stood in a circle around my kneeling father. He stepped before my father.
“Tell me now or join your wife.” His deep voice echoed with dread.
My father broke his stare and slowly looked up at the deep-voiced killer. My father’s piercing eyes met his as if marking him for death. I knew then that I had been thinking similar thoughts as my father. My parents and I always had a plan in place for this day. It was remote, yet inevitable that I would be found by the radicals in the government, those who would mean to control every facet of our lives, from birth to death with an iron fist.
My father knew that I was watching, listening, and waiting. Hidden from the outside world for most of my life, he knew that I waited for my orders and would obey his command, no matter what.
Closing his eyes toward the sky, my father finally broke his silence to say the words that I had been waiting for since I was a young boy. With these two simple words, my father was saying, “goodbye.”
My father raised his voice and yelled,
“RUN, Aerosus, RUN!”
Without hesitation, I ran to the escape hatch and opened the little window leading onto the back roof of our home. At that moment, I did not consider how monumental this moment was in my life. I was forever leaving behind my books, my house, and, most of all, my parents. As of that moment, I would never see my parents ever again.
For years, my father made me practice my escape plan. A black coat and “go bag” hung beside the window. In a single, rehearsed motion, I swung on my jacket and snatched up the bag. I flung open the door to the crisp night air.
A brisk breeze and stormy night sky met me as I peered from the threshold of my escape hatch. Across our back lawn, far below, I could barely make out the trees on the border the far side of our property. I climbed halfway through the window and looked down. I stopped immediately, frozen by my own emotions, and stunned by what I saw.
There on the windowsill sat my father’s broken pocket watch. It was an heirloom that has been passed down in our family, from father to son, through the generations. The watch had been broken for many years; however, once it was a beautiful piece of precision craftsmanship. My father told me a few years ago that the watch’s design and internal mechanics had no equal. The watch had a cracked face glass, a missing second-hand, and scratches on the back.
My father told me that the watch was priceless and very special. But that sounded like a tall tale, and the timepiece looked like something found in a junk pile. I hadn’t seen it for a few years, and I figured that he had lost or sold the watch since that day. However, as I looked down and saw its cracked face staring back at me, I knew that he was right all along, it was priceless, it was my father’s. I grabbed the pocket watch, slid it into my pocket, and carefully climbed out onto the wet tiled roof.
It was raining, and as I dragged my second leg out of the window, I tried not to lose my footing on the moist surface. I slowly crept down toward the edge, where the roof ends – far above the ground below.
I paused and sat on the roof, looking at the night sky. Low flying clouds threw bolts of lighting between each other in the distance. The silhouette and the glow of the capital city called out from the horizon. I’ve always found solace at night. Only in it’s dark and stillness have I found true peace. It wasn’t lost on me at that moment that no comfort nor peace might ever come again after this night.
My father’s words hastened me back to reality, I felt them push me forward. I had to make it to the roof’s edge, but much to my disadvantage, I had never navigated my roof escape in the pouring rain!
Was I really doing this? Could I run away and leave my home, my father, my Moth… No! I can’t think of her now, not like that! If I ever find that man, I sware, somehow, he will pay!
“Run, Aero! Run!” My father’s voice called out, haunting from my subconscious. I had never been more frightened, more uncertain, and alone. But I’m not missing out on the promise of adventure. As I faced certain death, as a witness to and indeed promised, there were no choices before me. My own free will was gone, so I took a deep breath, the cold, moist air swelled my chest. With a clenched jaw and renewed, but tenuous resolve, I lunged into the night.
My bag was the first to roll down the roof, plunging off the edge, before finally making a dull thud on the ground, far below. As soon as I heard my rucksack hit the ground, my shoe slipped on the slick wet tile, and I began to follow. I fell upon my back and slid down the slippery roof towards the edge. At that moment, my perception of time changed. It seemed that the faster I was pulled towards danger, time seemed to slow down until time was standing still.
But at the moment, I was driven only by instinct. I pushed my hands down and dug my fingernails into the roof tiles. Everything happened in slow motion. I had no control of my body, as gravity was in control. I was going to sail right off the roof and probably break my legs in the process, or worse.
I readied my arms and hands for the edge of the roof, knowing I had to feel the edge tiles as it was too dark and too wet to see them coming toward me at that velocity. Besides, I’m sure my eyes were tightly shut, fearing, and anticipating my coming demise.
Just as I reached the roof’s end, with adrenaline-fueled bravado, I pushed against it with all of my strength. At that instant, when time itself split into infinitesimal increments, all I could sense and feel poured into my consciousness in an accelerated stream of sequential motion. A barrage of mental images and sensations poured into my mind. This flash of exotic memories, infinite knowledge, of places, people, and other worlds funneled into me. To my surprise, everything was fluid and clearly defined in every possible way. At that very same moment, I thought of the many ideas for my roof edge push off to end. Each of my aerial-gymnast fantasies was more elaborate than the next. But only one ended in my fall from grace.
Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next!
Instead of falling, I shot up into the air far above the roof and ground!
I flew up, far over our two-level home. I began to wave my arms frantically in circles, unsure of what was happening to me and desperately hoping to stop my rapid ascent into the night sky. Finally, I lowered my arms and rested them at my side, which halted my rise. I was floating so high in the pouring rain, that I could fit our home between two of my fingers. My heart pounded relentlessly, what was this madness!?
Was I a Xuvi? My parents were not, they couldn’t fly like the people from Xuvia. Could this be a fluke? All this time, all of these years with no powers, no abilities, and tonight of all nights, something manifests?
My heart and mind continued to race. I closed my eyes and continued to think about this absurdity. During all of this, I floated halfway down from where I was, toward the backyard. That’s when I saw the two searchers standing next to my fallen bag.
At once, they both looked up at me. How did the searchers know where I was? Then I saw it, my shadow cast on the lawn by from a nearby street light. What now?!
All I could do was a watch and wait, as the two searchers, obviously both Xuvian, came up to get me. In unison, they flew up to my level and were at my side in no time.
I closed my eyes, thinking of a way, any way to escape before they grabbed me. But no matter what, they would catch me. If I attempted to fly higher, they would too. If I could elude their grasp and head for the ground, and I would be caught by other searchers called to assist in my capture. They had me surrounded. I was done!
I winced and opened my eyes when the two searchers each grabbed one of my arms with an iron grip. The grinned at each other and down we went. A few seconds later, we were standing on the ground, a ways off from the back of my home.
They walked me back towards the house and stopped when a third searcher came out and greeted us with a smile. There was no kindness or signs of humanity in his eyes.
“Wait here. Don’t let the kid go. I will inform the commander and acquire our next orders.” The third searcher said.
In unison, the two grabbers replied, “Yes, sir!”
My two captors remained at attention as we waited. I grew more anxious with every passing second. I found myself getting lost in my thoughts, dark thoughts. I shook my head and tried to break from the spiral of doubt and grief. It didn’t work.
Suddenly I was being pulled up the stairs, my feet bumping on each step as we climbed. The searchers held my arms tightly and halted between two of the massive columns that suspend the overhang. What were they waiting for? Am I about to be executed? Or worse, watch my father meet the same demise as my mother, quickly followed by my execution?
Out of nowhere, the third searcher stood in front of me, just beyond arm’s length.
“Upon his signal, the commander wants the boy inside. He will sort this out personally.” With these words, the third smiled and stared into my eyes.
I wouldn’t give him the pleasure of looking anxious or scared, but I was. I sneered at him silently; my heart beating ever faster, my hands now clenched into fists of rage. My mother gave her life so that I could live. I don’t know where my father is or if he’s still alive, but I know that he too would give his life for mine a million times over again so that I could live. They would die so that I could escape these oppressive, traitorous, and treacherous villains!
My parents have prepared me for this moment for my entire life. They knew that someday, this might happen. I cannot let myself be captured, or worse, taken to my death!
As these powerful thoughts coursed through my mind, I felt a surge of power coursed through my body. This was something new. This was a feeling that I had never felt before.
At that moment, I felt my entire being change. My whole body tingled, and the air against my skin sizzled with a sense of energy. For the first time in my life, I felt powerful!
My body blazed as if lightning flowed through my veins. Excruciating pain surged through my neck and head. I felt like passing out.
None one of my captors noticed me wincing. They stood at attention, holding me in a vice-grip grasp upon each arm. These stupid drone searchers were unaware of what I was about to unleash upon them. Suddenly my body felt completely numb as if my nerves had been burned away.
A wave of energy surged from my spine and out through my arms! My two flanking captors exploded away from me, hurtling through the air until they were slammed against nearby columns. They didn’t get up.
The third searcher spun around in disbelief. Instinctively, I cast my arms in front of me, and before he could do anything, bolts of energy exploded through my fingertips! He was thrown and slammed against the back of the house.
I was in total disbelief, staring at my hands, and then I smiled. None of these creeps were getting up. My fingertips still felt numb, but the pain and heat quickly faded. Soon after, I could feel the temperature and sensations again against my skin.
Then the sickening irony struck me. I had just manifested the same ability that earlier had killed my mother. But how could I fly like a Xuvi and manifest energy like a Phyrroan? Noone can process more than one power these days.
I could hear the deep voice of my mother’s killer in our home, over the faint sound of shallow breathing from the three unconscious searchers. I frantically spun around to look for my bag. Once I had found it, I ran down the steps and sprinted towards the back of our property. As I put more and more distance between me and my home, a chill went down my spine when I recalled what may have been my father’s last words.
As I ran away, I continued to hear, “RUN, Aero, RUN!” in my head.
As I ran away, fresh tears welled in my eyes, I whispered these words between frantic breaths, “I love you, Dad. I love you, Mom.”
The night swallowed me, and the air was freezing, but at least the rain had stopped for the moment. The thick and rain-laden storm clouds still ruled the sky kingdom, obscuring any light from our moon, Lhunoz. The rain may have ceased, but the evening’s downfall had left the ground soft and muddy, and I splashed through puddles everywhere. Even so, I ran faster than I had ever run in my life.
With every step, my legs carried me further away from my parents, my home, and my past. I was drawing ever closer to the capital city, Sutekh-Navois, ever closer to my future.
As I sloshed my way across the field behind our property, my eyes had fully adjusted to the darkness. Soon after, I would disappear into the wall of trees in the distance, the gateway to the vast wilderness beyond. I was entering another world, the Forest of Erebus.
Before bed, my parents told tales of this ancient wood. Throughout the ages, experienced explorers, seeking ancient mysteries and storied fortunes, had entered the Forest, never to be seen again.
The Forest of Erebus was dark, dense, and dangerous. A towering canopy of trees shielded the sky from below. Even on clear nights, when Lhunoz shines bright, the trees obstruct its heavenly light. As the old saying goes, “Those lost in the night of Erebus would not be okay, for the light from Lhunoz won’t show you the way.”
As I made my way through, the Forest of Erebus swallowed me with its looming limbs, full of dripping foliage, reaching out from towering trunks of enormous trees. The dense atmosphere imposed a frightening sense of emptiness and isolation. I was alone. Not just here, but in my own shaken reality.
Though there was so much life above me, the millennium of decay, the soft and springy Forest floor, caught me attention. Eons of birth, life, death, detritus, and rebirth. Over and over again, life raged on, as nature was designed. But at that moment, all I could see were the dead things. I was lost and alone, and my world seemed dead.
In my thoughts and within that place, I was spinning, searching, aimlessly wandering through the darkness. As I trudged along, I felt intense pain and something warm and wet. I must be bleeding. I must have fallen earlier and didn’t notice my injury. I don’t remember what happened and how I ended up covered with leaves in a hole, but I didn’t care anymore!
I was bleeding, soaked, hurting. The storm had returned, and the clouds were in battle high above me. But in the soft soil, tucked in the hollow of a massive tree, was the only place I could feel safe. I’m sure my arms were all cut to pieces, but I didn’t care. I felt warmth for the first time since I jumped from the window.
I was covered from the elements and harshness of the Forest. I pulled dry leaves out from under the nearby roots and covered myself.
As Aerosus closes his eyes, the discomfort, and he feels throughout his body make him feel nauseous. Aero’s stomach growls, reminding him that he hasn’t eaten since lunch with his parents earlier that day. Even in the darkness, Aero could see drops of water washing away the pooling blood in his wounds, and the dark crimson stains from his clothes. How drastically different and forever altered his life would be.
All he could do now was to hope and pray for sleep. Only in sleep can he escape to realms beyond the waking world. Dreams can carry him beyond the excruciating pain he feels in his heart, body, and soul. Aero is taken away to a far-off place. Other worlds that can and should exist only in his dreams. He will not awake until three days from now.
Thank you for reading this excerpt from
Aretherra Volume One: Aerosus & the Keys to Ascension
Copyright© Eric L Gardner 2020