"Sparrow..." Lisbeth mumbled in her sleep, tossing and turning. Ever since the day of the battle, when Eva and Ren had left, she had been having dreams. Frightening dreams. They haunted her day and night, sticking in her mind and causing her to become more and more angry.
Now she dreamt of a reunion between everyone, a nice change from the nightmares. Eva and Sparrow smiled at her while Ren amused them all with voice impressions and funny poetry. But it was not to last. The dream-sky darkened, and a shadowlike form darted over to Sparrow and touched him with a long, clawlike golden finger. The blind mage disappeared, and then everything dissolved into gold dust.
For the second time in her life, Lisbeth found herself in a pitch black void. Except this time, Sylvan didn't come out of the darkness. Instead, a figure enrobed in white and gold, with long, flowing white hair and blank eyes the color of the inside of a lemon approached her, a smile on its face.
"Who are you?" Lisbeth felt small and self-conscious next to the elegant being in front of her.
"We are Genesis, all-knowing and all-seeing." It spoke in a grand, rumbling tone that sounded neither feminine nor masculine. "We are here to deliver our message."
"Are you a Guardian?"
Genesis seemed to shrink back at the word. "Nay, Demon-Extinguisher. We are something else. We were created by one of them though, with the help of Xantheon."
"Well..." Apprehensive, Lisbeth floated backwards a bit. Anyone associated with the Demon King had to be sketchy.
"Yes, the message." It nodded. "The Master is not who He seems to be. True, He says that he offers protection and passage to Auraena upon death, but what kind-hearted protector would allow demons to exist? Surely a Master as benevolent as yours claims to be would keep sickness and war from painfully torturing the world you inhabit."
"Stop..." Lisbeth shuddered, a chill running through her body. "You have a point, but before you go on...I need more explanation about yourself."
"Fine, Ward of Sylvan. We will grant you that. We are the embodiment of shifting magic. Not a Guardian, not a demon, but something in between."
Another shimmering form appeared beside Genesis. His skin was tan, and his hair matched the taller being. He gestured wildly, trying to send a tacit cry for help.
"Be gone!" Genesis waved its hand, making the man disappear. "Nevermind him, he is of no importance. Anyway, as We were saying, We are not entirely Guardian or Demon. We are immortal, and our many forms have existed for hundreds of centuries, long enough to know the Master's true motives. He wants nothing but slaves to cater to His every whim. His Guardians see to telling you foolish creatures to do His will."
"But doesn't He test us to see if we truly love Him?"
"Nay, you are but a mere pawn to Him; easily sacrificial. If He sees that you have no use, He will have you disposed of. And how can you be sure that Auraena is a good place? It may be an eternity of service, an unending afterlife of waiting on the Master hand and foot. Do you want that?"
"No..." Lisbeth felt queasy. She didn't know the right answer to that question. Her mind was reeling, the being in front of her confusing her more with each word it spoke.
"We can free you from that fate. We will free everyone from that fate. We have a new tool to help us spread our message and liberate all of Arianoch." Genesis stepped to the side, revealing an all-too familiar face.
"Sparrow!" Her heart shattered like a vase hit with a hammer. "What have you done with him?"
"It's not a matter of what We've done with him. It's what We are going to do." It shifted into shadow and flew up his nose. Sparrow's eyes shot open and began to glow yellow, widening to an unnatural extent. His tattered blue and gold clothing was replaced by white robes with gold and silver decoration, crisply contrasting against the backdrop of the void.
"We feel...invigorated." His voice was now mixed Genesis's, an eerie tone that would haunt Lisbeth for years to come. "Now We will begin our conquest."
"NO!" Lisbeth nearly fell out of her bed. The gentle crackle of the fire and the twittering of the birds were the only things disturbing the early morning silence.
The sky was nice and rosy, the sun just starting to peek over the horizon. Lisbeth wiped her sweaty b.row with the hem of her dress and glanced in the mirror. I look like an absolute mess.
She picked up her hairb.rush and began to run it through her hair, which was teased and tangled from all the tossing and turning she had done during the night. Was it all just a dream? Please, let that just be a nightmare and nothing more.
"Eva?" She turned around to see her old friend standing in the doorway.
"Look, I'm not here to apologize. Something big's come up." Eva put one hand on her hip and carelessly b.rushed back her bangs with the other.
"What is it?" Lisbeth stood up in a hurry, nearly knocking over an array of little trinkets sitting on a nearby table.
"I'm not sure, but Mother said to come get you. She says that Isolde told her it's important."
"Well then, let's go."
The two nodded simultaneously and went outside to get their horses.
"This is bad, this is very, very bad." Lalune paced in front of the three teenagers that were waiting for any sort of explanation.
"Spit out the situation, Mother!" Eva groaned, tapping her foot.
"Yes, We agree. You've been going on like this for at least an hour now!" Len said, biting his lip and chewing on it. Lisbeth said nothing, but inclined her head in a 'go on' gesture.
"Very well." Lalune let out a sigh. "I had a troubling dream. More of a nightmare, really."
"Really?" Lisbeth fidgeted, trying to get comfortable. "How interesting."
"Yes...interesting." Eva fixed the younger girl with a stare and a raised eye( )ow.
"Anyhow, back to the information at hand." Lalune said, coughing slightly. "Genesis has awoken."
"Genesis?" Ren asked.
"Who's that?" Eva's eye( )ow arched even higher.
"A malicious being, neither a he, she, or even a they. It was locked away by Hymnira, Larne, and Shicah, three of the five Guardians of Magic. This...thing sought to poison the minds of all of Arianoch with its lies. Alas, I do not know more than that. Which is why I'm sending you all to seek out the help of the Enlightened."
"Yes. They're a group of elvish scholars who study the Books of the Master. You'll find out more than I could ever tell you. I've already packed three bags for you with all the provisions you'll need." Lalune gestured to three rucksacks sitting near the door; one red, one light pink and cream, and one dark pink.
"Nice. Color coordination." Eva rolled her eyes. "Orion's great, but does everything I own have to be some shade of red? And I thought all elves were stuck-up, gem-obsessed creatures. They don't seem the scholarly type, if you ask me."
"No time to talk, dear. You should hurry. The Enlightened are nomads, wandering near the coastal cities inhabited by the...other elves." Her mother ushered the three towards the exit, bidding them a fond farewell and stuffing a fresh cookie in each of their mouths. "You be safe now. Don't get into excessive amounts of danger."
"We won't." Ren said around the chocolate chip cookie in his mouth. "We can't guarantee that these rascals won't, however."
Eva punched him in the arm.
"Come on, we'd better get started on this journey. These Enlightened people could be hard to find." Lisbeth rolled her eyes and smiled. It was just like old times. Except that Sparrow isn't here to share in the fun.
"Ex-cuse me?" The elf lady turned around to face Lisbeth.
"I said, do you know where the Enlightened are?" Lisbeth repeated her question with a huff. When she, Eva, and Ren arrived in the elvish city of Nakitasu, they expected a bit of haughtiness. But the natives far exceeded their expectations. Eva and Ren had gone to the other two 'sections' of Nakitasu, as it seemed like the best way to cover more ground.
"Why are you, a poor, filthy human, even talking to me?" The lady, who was practically dripping with gems, curled her red-painted lip, revealing nearly blinding white teeth.
"Um, I need info. The fate of Arianoch depends on it." Lisbeth was about to slap someone. Hard.
"Uh, I'm the Nazaire YoungGoose, a rich, high-class celebutante. I have no interest in...are you talking politics? Or are you talking war strategy? Either way, I'm way out. And I'm done talking in this hideous common language. Ana kiuzo ne aniu." With that, Nazaire stalked away, muttering something in Saniesheza.
Lisbeth tried elf after elf, but no one was particularily useful. When she met up with Ren and Eva at the Fountain of Esiratu, she was sure her ego couldn't be deflated any further. Ren, however, had a smile as big as the palm trees dotting the city scenery on his face.
"We found a nice human woman who has seen the Enlightened wandering around the outskirts of town."
"Fantastic, a lead. Just what I needed." Eva said with a cocky grin. "Let's find us some scholars!"
"This is nice, it's just like old times." Lisbeth laughed.
"Yeah, I guess I should probably apologize for the whole yelling thing now. I was worked up."
"Hey, is that the Enlightened's portable village thing?" Ren pointed into the distance, where round, yellowing tents could be seen.
"By Orion, I think we've found the elusive little buggers!" Eva shouted, and then let out a hearty laugh. "Come on, run faster, you weaklings!"
As they approached, they could see men and women of many different ages walking about in robes of white, with colored stripes at the hem.
"Hello?" Lisbeth called. "You are the Enlightened, correct?"
The scholars surrounded them, murmuring in Saniesheza. This lasted for some time before a man with a purple stripe parted the crowd. His skin was a rich, dark color, and his hair was dark, tied back into a low ponytail. He looked young, but his teal eyes showed wisdom far beyond his years. His high rank was apparent from the way the other elves moved out of the way without complaint.
"Yes, that is correct. I am the Master Scholar, Sakivure. What ( )ings you here, humans?" He looked Lisbeth straight in the eyes, seemingly studying her. She shifted around, uncomfortable.
"Well, Sakivure, we have been sent by my mother, the witch Lalune, to find intel on the being Genesis." Eva bowed.
"Genesis? You don't mean..." A woman came up to stand beside the Master Scholar.
"This is Naiba, my wife." He put an arm around her waist. "She's one of the top Scholars here."
"So...what do the stripes mean?" Eva looked at the purple hemline of his robe.
"They're an indication of rank. Purple for the Master Scholar, blue for the Scholars, the married or older folk, red for the young Wise Maidens, and green for the Wise Lads, who are likewise youthful." Naiba explained.
Sakivure stroked his chin. "What were you saying about Genesis?"
"We need to find information about it." Lisbeth said. "It might be coming back."
"Coming back? That shouldn't be possible!" He said. Then he stopped. "Unless...no, that can't be right. I'll take you to Leilana. She specializes in study of the six Books of Lore, and should be able to answer any questions you may have."
The three were lead to a nearby tent, where a Scholar was reading a thick tome. Her rich, chocolate colored hair was ( )aided into a fishtail-style plait that fell just above her ankles, and her skin was a lovely tan shade.
"I need to write this down!" She mumbled, taking a quill pen from its inkwell and grabbing a piece of parchment off of her messy desk.
"Yes, Sakivure?" She stood up quickly and curtsied.
"I would like to introduce you to..." The Master Scholar turned to them. "I'm sorry, I never asked you who you were."
"For once, we're not famous." Eva winked at Lisbeth. Ren laughed.
"I recognize one of them." Leilana said, walking over to them and placing a hand on Lisbeth's shoulder. "Although I haven't seen her since she was very young."
"What?" Lisbeth's eyes widened.
"This is Lisbeth, Master Scholar. This is my daughter."