Pathway to Sydara: Guardian of the Gate

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XVI

The young Nizain Ziaxe continued his training with the mysterious hermit Naje over the course of a few days after the new King of Sargenia’s coronation. Ziaxe continued to be pushed to his body’s natural limits until his body grew and grew. His once skinny, weak form was transforming into the hardened, muscular form of a warrior day by day.

Then the day finally came where Naje decided that Ziaxe was ready for the next part of his training.

Ziaxe woke up early that day, anticipating another long day of physical training, but instead Naje was waiting for him outside sitting on a tree stump. The heavily bearded hermit told Ziaxe to take a seat on the tree stump opposite of him, and Ziaxe complied with his master.

“Good morning, boy,” said Naje. “Today I have decided to do something different. I believe that you are growing strong enough to control the Darkness and Light. Controlling these two energies is a major part in your role as the Nizain. It is your duty to be able to balance these two powers and use them together. This will naturally be difficult since these powers are conflicting energies. This conflict is represented with the conflicts of the Kingdoms of Light and Dark, a constant rivalry that only the Nizain can end.

“So today I have decided to start off in teaching you about the Darkness. I believe this will come easier to you since you are a born Vidian despite what you would like to think. I hope though that becoming dependent on the Darkness will not interfere with learning about the Light.”

Naje paused for a moment. “I will try my best to diagram what you need to know.” He picked up a stick and used it to draw a picture of a stick figurine in the dirt. “Darkness is an energy that surrounds us. It has been around since the beginning of this world, given to us all from the Dark God Ziavaxe. In those ancient times, the Ziaxes, the followers of Ziavaxe, learned ways to summon this power and use it to their will. They did this by allowing the Darkness to become one with them.”

He pointed to the line that made up the stomach of his figurine. “The Darkness resides in the stomach and must be channeled through the body for a person to use. It has been used to do a lot of things over the thousands of years it has been controlled.

“The principal form of Dark energy though is lightning. When the Darkness is simply channeled to an extraction point like the hands it will come out as dark lightning. It takes training and skill to focus the energy to the point where it can take on a different form. So to begin our training I want you to produce dark lightning.”

Ziaxe listened intently to all the information his master told him. Everything was making sense. He remembered how back in the poor district of Berania he had had the instances of feeling like he had a ball of fire burning inside of him. That ball of fire was his Darkness wishing to be released. Now that he was learning to control that energy within him he hoped that he would not be overwhelmed by it again like he was when he fought Kycan.

He focused on what Naje said. He must channel the energy from his stomach to his fingertips. His eyes peered at his fingers as he tried to feel the familiar ball of fire in his stomach. After a few moments he felt the fire though it was not as wild as it had been before when he was angry.

He wasn’t sure how he was supposed to channel this fire, but he found that using his willpower affected it. He willed the energy to move from his stomach to his right arm. It felt as if a warm bodied snake was slithering through him, and he cringed slightly. Naje understood what he was feeling and encouraged him on, reassuring that this was what he should be feeling.

As the warmth made its way up his arm, it felt as if a boiling wave of water was crashing against the insides of his arm, a feeling of tension like a dam holding back the forceful wave. Ziaxe held out his hand, opening his palm to the sky, and willed another push of the energy.

The push ended the tension, breaking down the walls that held the energy inside of him. A spark of lightning escaped his fingertips, a dark, purple colored explosion that disappeared almost as soon as it had arrived. Though the result of his efforts was very small compared to what he was expecting, he was nevertheless amazed. He stared in wonder at his hand, unable to grasp the idea that he had produced a spark of lightning. No human should be able to do something as strange as that, and yet he had discovered the way to do it.

“Hmm, interesting,” murmured Naje, his eyes focused on Ziaxe. “That came easier than I expected. But, as I said before, I’m afraid this may mean that it will be harder for you to summon the Light if the Darkness is this easy. But anyways, let me show you an example of what the Darkness can do.”

The hermit raised his right hand and almost instantly thin strands of Dark energy came out of his fingertips. The strands moved up into the air like shadowy ribbons flowing in the breeze. “You see,” he said, “the Darkness has more forms than simply lightning. You can will it to take on forms that you wish it to take. Though some forms will take more energy than others, the Darkness will always respond the way you will it as long as you stay in control of it.”

He looked Ziaxe straight in the eyes. “But be warned, boy, the Darkness is very dangerous. If you give in to its seductive lure you will lose yourself and become of the Lost Vidians like Gurgan.”

“I understand,” replied Ziaxe. He had felt the seductive lure of the Darkness before the other times he had encountered it. He understood the danger.

“Now I will tell you about the other abilities the Darkness gives us,” said Naje. “The Darkness allows us to intrude other people’s minds and in some cases allows people to see the future—I’m sure you remember this from your meeting with the Treemen Seer. The Darkness has always been a violent force that gives its user knowledge that they could be happier to live without. The knowledge someone gets from invading another’s mind or seeing the future is never anything they can peacefully live with. Seeing how someone thinks of you and seeing your own death are the worst things a man can experience. I will teach you the basics in these two abilities, but I do not approve of overusing them.

“Now the main ability that nearly every Vidian knows is the ability to become one with the shadows. You have done this before to escape from the Beranian Dungeon and to go through the culvert in the Great Wall. During both of those times Gurgan has been the one to open up the shadows for you to become one with, but now I will explain how you can do this yourself.”

Naje looked over to a nearby tree where the morning sun gave it a spreading of shade over the grass. “To become one with the shadows you must will the Darkness to awaken and allow you to momentarily join with it. As I’ve told you before you must be very careful to not let it overwhelm you.”

He raised a hand towards the shade, and Ziaxe watched as the shadows under the tree began to move. Like a featherweight dark cloth flowing in the breeze, the shadows moved towards them. It was as if the shadows were moving in a mindless motion forward, focusing only on the man directing them. Soon the shadows reached Naje’s foot and Naje began to vanish into the shadows, appearing to disappear in thin air.

Ziaxe sat in amazement at the sight. After a few moments of feeling as if he was truly alone, Naje reappeared and the shadows crawled back to under the tree.

“See, boy?” said Naje. “That’s how it is done. A normal person would never even notice you hiding in the shadows though an experienced Vidian will be able to sense you. It takes some energy to stay in the shadows, so you cannot stay like that forever or you will be overwhelmed. Now try it for yourself.”

Ziaxe did as his master instructed and lifted a hand towards the shade under the tree. He focused on doing everything that Naje did, willing the Darkness to come to him. He had no trouble getting the shadows to move to him, and once they touched him everything around him transformed. He reentered the Dark world that he had been in during his fight with Kycan in the poor district. All the details and beauty of the world of Light became bleak and lifeless in the world of Darkness.

A few moments passed in the Dark world, and he felt the Darkness begin to call to him. It wanted him to be under its control. It promised unbelievable power at the small price of losing his human life. A part of him lusted for that energy; a part of him wished to stay in the peaceful Dark world.

But the other parts of him reminded him of the beauty of the Light world, of a world full of wonders where miracles happen everyday. A world full of death and violence; a world full of hatred and murderers. Why would he want to return?

No. He knew this was just the Darkness willing him to stay. His world was the one of Light where he had lived all of his life and planned on living in until the day he died. It was the world of his friends, enemies, and his Nizain responsibilities.

He willed the Darkness away and slowly returned to his world. He saw Naje again, and the man gave him a nod of approval. He probably doubted Ziaxe’s ability to control the Darkness, but Ziaxe was confident in himself.

“Good job, boy,” said Naje with a slight smile.

Ziaxe couldn’t fight the grin that came over his face. He was still getting used to the idea of this new magical world of Light and Darkness. It was unbelievable to think of all of the possibilities of these energies.

Later that day, Naje told Ziaxe that he had to go into town for supplies. Ziaxe was allowed to stay at Naje’s house, but Naje enforced the rule of not practicing with the Darkness on his own. Ziaxe agreed, of course, but the temptation to test out his powers was as unbearable as ignoring a freshly cooked meal right in front of you.

When Naje left, Ziaxe sat at the table while Gurgan slept curled up like a dog on the ground by the back door. Twilight was approaching outside and the sky was covered in a white sheet of cloud.

Ziaxe looked around the room, pensively. His eyes drooped as he focused on the fireplace with a distant stare. Out of pure boredom, he held out his hand and summoned the Darkness. A small spark of dark lightning flickered above his hand. He willed the lightning to take shape as a wisp of dark smoke that moved around in the air like a small snake. He experimented with the dark snake and willed it to move up his arm like a real snake. He was amused by this lifeless creature that slithered up his arm to rest on his shoulder.

Then he realized that this small tendril of smoke was nothing compared to what he had seen before when the Power of the Nizain took him over at the Beranian Castle. He had produced Darkness that frightened the giant Gilart and the unbreakable wall that was General Virok. He had been training hard over the past few weeks, so he should be able to summon even more energy.

Throwing caution to the wind, Ziaxe summoned more of the Darkness, feeling the familiar ball of fire grow in his stomach. As he focused, his tendril of Darkness grew slightly bigger and bigger, its length and width increasing amazingly.

He smiled with a wry face as he reveled in the power. All his life he had been weak. He now had the energy to get revenge on those who treated him wrongly. Alben, Kycan, Gilart, Virok….

Wait.

This was all wrong. He would never have thought like that before. Sure he despised his uncle and Kycan, but he had never once considered murdering them. He was shocked at these horrid thoughts of killing; he had never killed a person before anyways.

He tried to cut off the Darkness, to make it retreat back into his body, but the Darkness was now swirling around him in multiple threads of dark lightning. Bolts flew around his head, arms, legs, and everywhere else they could. The Darkness seemed to have a mind of its own. It was thinking that this young man had no permission to rule over it. It was a free, deadly spirit that did what it pleased.

Ziaxe panicked as his vision began to change and he felt himself enter the world the Lost Vidians see, the world that Gurgan lived in. He had been too cocky, too sure of himself. He was about to scream for help when the Darkness overwhelmed him.

Hours passed as night overtook the land. The world was a sullen expanse of land that knew neither time nor beauty. For the Lost Ones, it was a plain of nothingness. The trees were a light shade of grey, and the animals that passed were faceless four-legged creatures that all looked the same. The Darkness of the night would blind any of the Ones of Light, but to the Ones of Darkness everything was visible. Everything was grey and white as if it was all a drawing on a plain piece of parchment.

The Lost Vidian wandered the woods, looking for a reason to his existence. Whatever he was before he lost himself he couldn’t remember. None of the Lost Ones could. He looked at his arms and saw the strange dark bolts of lightning dance around them. They appeared in a grey color that was clearly visible with the Who was he?

He came upon the borders of a walled city. He heard voices that he could vaguely understand and saw faceless figures guarding a gate. A wave of Light poured from the gate and looked like a mist of shadows against the white background of the land. This Light was evil, the Lost Vidian knew. It would burn him and devour him like all Light does to Darkness. The sweet, calm Darkness around him was his comfort and safety in a world dominated by Light.

He wandered mindlessly then for another hour that felt like another day. Then he saw another faceless figure in the distance ahead of him. It yelled to him, saying something that sounded familiar yet was not. The Vidian didn’t know whether he should panic or not. He didn’t feel any dangerous Light on this figure.

The figure slowly approached and continued to say whatever it was saying. After a few moments the figure was right in front of the Vidian. The Vidian was crouched and looked up at this grey figure. The figure crouched down to his level and continued to speak, this time more urgently and concernful.

Then the Vidian felt a strange feeling in his chest, a kind of warmth that gently burned inside. It was as if there was a small fire that was thawing a frozen part of him. He had no idea what was happening, but then he caught a few of the words the figure was saying. He heard “Ziaxe” and “Gurgan.” These were names that he thought he knew, but didn’t know why he knew them.

It all came back to him in a rush of warm air. He was a young man named Ziaxe. He had been given the Power of the Nizain. He had been given a dangerous task to learn to control these powers. He remembered his friends from his hometown: Kron, Venna, Nea, and Srion. He remembered the new friends he had been making ever since his journey began. He remembered his new enemy that he had to stop no matter what. Virok….

As all these things came back to him, his vision began to change. Where there was grey and white there was now all of the colors of the real world in the shadow of night. He was surrounded by trees that rose around him, and a light blanket of snow was forming from a light sprinkle of snow from the sky. In front of him was his master, Naje, staring at him directly with worry filling his eyes.

Ziaxe was speechless as he realized what had happened. He had gone from a Lost Vidian back to a human. Tears filled his eyes and he collapse forward into Naje’s open arms.

Ziaxe’s journey with Naje back to Naje’s cottage was all a blur. He was so enveloped with emotions of sadness and despair that he could not control his flow of tears. Naje led him to one of the chairs in the cottage and sat him down.

“Boy, that was very foolish of you,” said Naje, his worried eyes become stern and solemn. He paused. “But I am glad you are fine now.”

Ziaxe slowly began to calm himself down. “I’m sorry, Master,” he said, his voice crackling as tears ran down his face. “I just thought I could control it.”

Naje brought another chair next to Ziaxe’s and sat down. “Ziaxe, the Darkness cannot simply be controlled.”

Ziaxe turned to look at Naje, shocked to hear Naje say his name for once.

“Only fools believe they can control it completely. There are thousands of Vidians in this world who have lost themselves because they craved the power. But you must listen now. A wise man does not crave power. He only asks for enough to protect those he cares for.”

They were silent for a moment.

Ziaxe nodded. “How did I come back from being lost though?”

“Well it is strange that you were able to easily come back with just me talking to you. It appears though that your own Light was enough to save you.”

“My Light?”

“Yes. It could have simply been just the Power of the Nizain releasing its Light to save you, but I think it is more than that. I believe that you were born with Light inside you as well as Darkness.” He reached out to Ziaxe and touched his chest lightly. “You felt warmth here didn’t you?”

Ziaxe nodded.

Naje smiled. “While Darkness comes from the energy of your stomach, the main source of energy for any person’s body, Light comes from a different source. It comes from the one place that gives a person determination and hope no matter what the circumstances are.”

“What do you mean?” asked Ziaxe.

“I mean it comes from your heart, Ziaxe, the source of all Light.”

Ziaxe lifted his head, amazed at this revelation. At that moment he knew that no matter what happened as long as his heart still beated within his chest he would have the power to overcome and obstacle.

“But remember, boy,” said Naje, his voice taking on an edge, “connections are the Nizain’s downfall.”

Ziaxe’s heart dropped to his stomach.

“Long ago, Ziavaxe put a curse upon the Nizain and his descendants.” Naje stood up and looked out the window. “The Curse of the Nizain. The God of Darkness takes someone that the Nizain loves, and makes a powerful Zauk-soul out of the person’s energy… leaving the loved one… dead.”

The words rang inside Ziaxe’s mind. He felt cold and terrified.

Naje walked to the other side of the room until he was on the opposite side with his back to Ziaxe. “I am glad you survived, but remember,”—a tense silence overcame them—“love is a dangerous thing for the Nizain.” The hermit spoke as if he understood this deadly curse more than anyone else.

He left the room, leaving Ziaxe in the silence of the night, with the shadow of Gurgan lurking in the Darkness.


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