IncarnateSubmitted by Spam at 2006-09-25 21:38:11 EDT
Rating: 2.0 on 2 ratings (2 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
As soon as he opened his eyes, Geras knew he was still dreaming, knew that it was the same dream he’d had since childhood. The air felt different, more oppressive somehow. The same dream, different details.
Forcing himself through the syrupy resistance of the atmosphere, he sat up and swung his legs round so he could perch on the end of the stone block that all the Novices slept atop. He stayed there for a time, forcing the viscous air into his lungs, before rising to stride across his spartan cell and don his only garment, the cowled white robe that indicated his rank, lowest of the order.
Dressed now, he left his the room and pulled the door to, slowly, to minimise noise. He realised his attempt at stealth was pointless but even in the dream there was something about the stone serenity of the chapterhouse during the pre-dawn hours that encouraged silence. He padded through the darkened corridors until he reached the doors to the main courtyard where he placed his hand on the varnished surface and closed his eyes.
After a second or so, the massive oaken panels swung outward effortlessly at his unspoken command and, even after two years at the seminary, Geras was still amazed at this, the most simple of all the Universal Channels. It was the only one that he had been able to learn.
Everything in the dream was the same as it was in the real world, he acted the same, had the same thoughts, explored the same surroundings. There was one just one small yet profound difference.
Nothing ever moved.
Even now, in the moon slashed courtyard outside the Novice’s Chapterhouse, there was absolute stillness. No cloud slid through the heavens, no trees rustled in the breeze, even the stars ceased to twinkle and pulse. Geras looked up and noticed abstractedly that an owl was frozen mid-flight in the night sky, wings flared, locked forever swooping down for the kill. Across the courtyard the night sentry sat static and unseeing, illuminated by torchlight that didn’t flicker.
Always the same.
Geras knew the only way to make it stop was to continue his aimless stroll until he felt tired enough to go back to bed and wake up.
“Why did you come here?”
He thought the question over before answering, a trickle of sweat running down his temple. Faculty Quarters were strictly off limits for all students and despite the fact that the Academy Administrator had asked him to visit before morning classes, Geras still felt like he was trespassing somehow.
“My village,” He said after a time, “They could see I was different. They grew scared of me.” He raised his hand almost unconsciously to indicate his hair, prematurely bleached the purest white.
The Administrator nodded tacitly, it must be tough, he thought, for this boy to have gone through all he had at such a young age. He felt a pang of guilt about what he was about to do but brushed it aside immediately. It would all work out in the end. Time willing.
“And so why did you come Here? To this school?” He asked gently.
“My mother said that I was marked. That my hair was a sign. She thought I had the potential to become…” He floundered, not wanting to utter the word.
The Administrator stood up from behind his desk and began to silently pace up and down his office with his hands clasped behind his back, weaving between the mountains of paperwork that dotted the creaking wooden floor. It would haven taken years, Geras thought, to have written them all.
“Yet the Elders report you have shown no aptitude for any of the Seven Disciplines in the two years you have been here.” It wasn’t really a question.
“Why do you suppose that is?”
Geras remained helplessly silent, unable to come up with an adequate explanation. He had ability. He knew he did. He could feel it sometimes, bubbling beneath the surface. He just hadn’t worked out a way to release it yet.
The Administrator watched the emotions play on the young mans face and realised intuitively what was going behind those eerily lavender eyes.. He sighed, stopped his pacing and turned to face him fully, weighed down by what he had to tell the young man.
“The Elders have requested you leave the school unless your studies markedly improve. You have one week to find your discipline, otherwise, I’m afraid we’ll all have to bid you farewell. Do you understand?”
“Do you have any questions?”
Geras looked as though to speak and then hesitated. Something had been gnawing at him about the kindly Elder ever since he had first been initiated and he realised that if he really was to leave in a week, he could ask what he wanted without fear of reprisal.
“Yes child?” The Administrator urged, sensing indecision.
“Well it’s not realty related sir, and excuse me for asking - but why is your robe different to those of The Seven?”
The saintly old man took an involuntary glance down at his plain black gown and tried to hide his surprise at the question he knew all the novices had thought of at one point, but none had never dared ask.
“I wear the robes of my own Discipline, child.” He said finally.
“So how come you’re the only one?” Geras blurted out the question before he really thought about it, and instantly knew he had gone to far.
The old man just smiled sadly and gestured to the door.
Geras knew when he was being dismissed.
Today’s lesson was to be a practical demonstration and as such was taking place away from academy grounds, it being the Order’s primary rule that only the Universal Channels were to be used within the compound. White robed novices and first level acolytes were all seated on the dirt beneath the huge oak that shaded the clearing and the class watched in fascination as Elder Theus, Master Incarnate of the Pyre Discipline, made his preparations to channel heat into the stack of firewood in front of him.
“Now Class, I want you to note how I draw the warmth from my surroundings, and store it up before passing it all onto the wood at once. This way, it’s possible to release enough heat to start the fire in one go. I want you non-Pyres to pay attention too as the principles are the same for all Disciplines.”
Theus closed his eyes and bowed his head, turning his palms outwards to give him a conduit through which to channel. He was the youngest of all of the Elders and his hair still showed traces of auburn amongst the grey, a fitting pigment for a Fire-Incarnate.
A slight breeze flowed through the glade and the students all felt the temperature drop slightly as Theus literally sucked the heat out of the air. He did it slowly for their benefit and this always made it harder to keep the channel focused, even such a simple one. His brow furrowed with concentration as he felt the elemental forces build within him. Almost enough.
It was the height of summer but the air was chilly now, crisp, and those furthest away from the Elder pulled their cloaks tighter to ward off the unnatural cold. The students in the front row however, began to sweat, drowned in heat shimmering from their teacher in visible waves that twisted the air.
Just as the grass at his feet began to brown and smoulder, Theus began to slowly raise his hands from his sides, still with palms upwards. By the time they reached shoulder height, a barely visible nimbus of yellow flame engulfed them.
With a sudden movement he bought his hands together over his head and opened his eyes, focusing all of the forces pent up within him onto the stack of twigs between himself and the class. There was an audible crack as his hands made contact and an instant later the stack exploded into flame, showering the class with sparks and burning embers. Those students not caught by surprise still gasped in awe at this supernatural feat they all hoped they would one day be able to master.
Theus grinned sheepishly as the class finished beating out the last of the rogue splinters of burning tinder spread from the explosion.
“Sorry.” He said ruefully, “Over-cooked it a little there. Rhius, could you please?”
He gestured to the purple garbed Elder who sat observing a little away from the class. Rhius shot his younger colleague a withering look and with a negligent flip of his hand, summoned a gust of wind to douse the remaining scattered flames.
And Geras watched miserably, knowing he would never be able to duplicate any of what he had just seen.
The afternoon was beautiful and he had dawdled on his way back to the compound, his thoughts a mess. He was finished. The outside world wouldn’t accept him because he was different and here at the Academy it seemed he was also an outcast. In his two years training he’d made no progress and the friends he had made when he had joined had all graduated to higher ranks within the order and now avoided him. New Initiates also kept their distance, not wanting to associate with what they perceived to be such failure. And so it was that, with nobody to turn to for guidance, he walked alone and unseeing, terrified of the dark blanket that had been spread over his future.
The strike came without warning and Geras was on his knees before he knew anything had happened, his head swimming. A blooded rock the size of a fist dropped next to him and he fought through the starburst of pain and tried to shake off the blur in his vision so that he might locate the thrower. He raised himself up and. gradually, his sight began to clear. Recognition bought with it no surprises.
Marduk and Enlil were walking across the meadow towards him with a belligerent gait that Geras knew all too well, the former carrying triumphant grin on his face as he congratulated himself for his accuracy. The two brothers followed the Air and Lighting Disciplines respectively and although they had started at the academy at the same time as Geras, they were both now well on their way to being granted the full rank of Incarnate.
They had carved a reputation for themselves within weeks of initiation as ruthless bullies and novices and acolytes alike took care to avoid him. Predictably, they had singled Geras out as weak enough to be able to torture with impunity and spent their free time trying to make him as miserable as possible. Today, they needn’t have bothered.
“Hey Grayhead, aren’t you a little old to be taking strolls in the country?” Marduk sneered.
As ever, Enlil chimed in a second after: - “That’s probably why you’ve failed at every channel you’ve attempted – you old fogies can’t kept your head on the job”
Geras’ silvery hair had always been of great amusement to the brothers and normally such comments would wound him with memories of the abuse he had taken as a child. Today though, he had other concerns and Without even acknowledging what had just happened, he turned his back and continued on his way, quickening his pace in a futile attempt at escape. He starred fixedly ahead, refusing to look back and give them the satisfaction of seeing the fear on his face.
Frustrated, the two began to follow, talking loudly to each other.
“Is he turning his back on his superiors Enlil?”
“I Think he is Marduk, I think he is. Perhaps we didn’t attract his attention before. What do you suppose we should do about that?”
“Maybe we should do something a bit more flamboyant.”
Something terrible in the tone of the last comment forced Geras to face his tormentors and his pale eyes widened in terror when he saw the two of them standing with palms up and heads bowed, ready to channel. It was too late to run.
“Please… Please leave me alone.”
The two laughed and continued to draw in their force with evil expressions. The air began to dry and crackles of static discharged at their feet. Geras felt the panic rising as he realised how far the two were going to go.
“STOP!! THIS IS FORBID…”
The cry was cut short as an unnatural gale tore through the meadow, knocking Geras to the ground and rolling him across the sun-baked dirt towards the two brothers. The sky darkened as the wind grew stronger and twigs, branches and then stones whipped past him as he clawed ineffectually at the earth to anchor himself. His fingernails tore away and he screamed as he was pulled inexorably closer to his attackers.
And then Enlil unleashed his will upon him and the pain of these abrasions seemed a minor distraction compared to that utter agony that followed. Geras lay helpless as Enlil channelled raw electricity into him and every muscle in his body contracted, stretching to breaking point. He began to twitch and spasm, the anguish made the more unbearable because of his inability to scream. .
No more. It was too much. This had to stop.
He felt a tooth crack and shatter as he clenched his jaw with the pain and something snapped inside him. His strangled weeps grew in his throat, grew to a roar as an unparalleled wave of anger surged through him. This had to stop.
His vision faded into a red fog as the capillaries in his eyes began to burst under the enormous strain. He felt the roar grow. This had to sop. This had to stop now.
This had to stop now
THIS HAD TO STOP NOW.
and it did.
Just like the dream, it all stopped. Except, in a flash of lucidity, Geras realised that it wasn’t a dream. That it never had been.
It was ALL real.
And a thunderous explosion of silence reverberated across the valley as all motion in the universe ceased and Geras rose up from the grass, glowing with an incandescent fury.
He knew now. Understood it all. He was not Air. He was not Fire. Was not Earth.
He was neither Lightening, Water nor Light nor Dark.
He was none of the 7 Disciplines.
He was something else.
He was Time
He strode purposefully towards his torturers who were locked into stasis, still in the midst of their channel. Both had frowns of concentration on their faces and crackly fractals of visible electricity were still frozenly spewing forth from Enlil's upraised hands.
Geras’ mind was blank with rage as he approached and an idea of terrible vengeance came to him unbidden.
Engulfed in an glowing nimbus of darkness, he released his grip on Time, channelling the lost seconds of the entire world into the pair. Motion began again. Slowly. The brutal gale of before was dropped to a rustling breeze as reality gradually crept back to it’s natural course. Marduk and Enlil lost all control of their channels as in their time-line, they watched with disbelief as Geras translocated himself from the ground and rushed towards them at super-quick speeds.
He stood implacably, pouring millions upon millions of seconds into the two and watched as they began to gradually change. Their flesh greyed and their skin wrinkled and cracked. Hair thinned and whitened and they began to shrink visibly, stooping over as the years ebbed the strength from their muscles. Their Eyes, once dark and penetrating, began to whiten until the two saw everything though a milky film that leeched across their corneas.
And then it was done and time resumed. Azure returned to the sky and birds began to chirp in the trees once again. Somewhere in the compound, a raucous laugh carried on the wind.
Geras collapsed to the ground in a crumpled heap, sapped of all strength, ignoring the terrified cries for mercy croaked out by the two blind geriatrics in front of him.
“Shut-up Grayheads” he whispered.
And then he gave in to the darkness of total exhaustion.
Watching all from his place of concealment, The Administrator smiled a smile of heartbreaking joy.
For he had finally found a pupil.