The fall of the Kharsdahan Theocratic Utopia plunged the land into chaos. Caught in the maelstrom, four brave souls volunteer to escort a caravan of refugees to a land of salvation prophesied long ago.
Ridyan the Shifter, Syieva the Deviant, Meshala the Elemental and Brenale the Binder, have vowed to escort their charges to the safety of the land beyond the mountains. But in the ruins of Kharsadi City, a strange cult has emerged - and with it a menacing army of unparalleled dead.
Can Ridyan and his companions escape the grasp of the Cloud Born, or will they fall victim to the plans of the evil Chafha and their master, Aegast?
Read The Cloud Born, the stunning debut novel to Davis Michael Orser's epic fantasy series The Chronicle Of the Cloud Of Time, today!
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Do you want to know the secret of perfection, the goal behind creating a world without sin?
It’s all about symmetry. One side matches the other in uniform strokes, movement unfettered by individualistic tendencies. I am High Prelate Romules Cynkwe, Overseer of the Balance, Justice and Genesis Prelates, and today I mark in this journal the importance of the last week in our history. It’s not every day that the very core of our existence is shaken, even less that it would affect us all this much.
It began as every other day in Kharsdahan, the Cradle of Humanity. The first sun, ForteAurora rose from the western horizon and began its trek towards Amaljurz, the first Great Mountain. As all the days before it, the mountain’s shadow cast the land in darkness as the deep red sun passed behind the tall peak, and as it would make its way behind Kievalla, Milyusk and Fhirmar. When the four Great Mountains said their goodbyes to the sun, it would fade behind the eastern sky and allow for WhiteShade, the bright white sun to emerge from the west and begin the same journey.
Though the day went on as normal, High Prelate Cynkwe found himself staring at a document that starkly defied the norm.
“I have undeniable evidence that says the rumours are true. High Prelate Allaula is guilty of smuggling illegal students into her university.”
“What of it, Sipinn? I already knew the facts. I’m staring at them.”
“But these are not any ordinary students, Cynkwe, they have high Cloud Prowess and I have reason to suspect at least one is a dormant.”
“I’m well aware of the situation. Ridyan Milyean-scars, Syieva Coldistrlle, Meshala Gyeins and Brenale Dlase have already been identified. Their sins have weighed on my mind like a sack of coins on a scale. But until the meeting of the High Prelates, my hands are tied Sipinn. We need a distraction, and to that extent I can’t help but notice a lack of a genesis to our party. Where is Vilarie?”
“I’m afraid the incident involving the last outing caused her to enter forced sabbatical. We will need to find a new Genesis.”
“Damn the Mountains, I thought she could handle the Justice Chyskare ceremony. I suppose age does have an influence on one’s tolerance of despair.”
The two left the office of Inquisition in the Grand Palace and proceeded to the Genesis Dormitory where a host of selected women stood, anticipation was in the air. The elegance of the dorm’s main auditorium exuded more brilliance than normal today with several specially grown displays of flowers. The blossoming young candidates for Genesis selection stood stretched out across the far wall.
“I don’t particularly feel like examining them all, Sipinn. Did you have any that stood out from your glance at the attendant charts?”
“Well yes I did, but if you pass the important things to me, wouldn’t that make me High Prelate in action?”
“A world where you’re High Prelate would be a sad one indeed. Very well then, I’ll see to it myself.” Cynkwe broke off from the usual path down the centre of the auditorium and approached the lead Genesis adviser.
“Excuse me, what was your name again?”
“Ah, High Prelate Cynkwe.” The lady turned in surprise. “I am acting Genesis instructor Culrissi. I was appointed by High Prelate Anshan to assist in the increased recruiting. What did you need?”
“What I need is the brightest of your students to join me right now as my new Genesis Prelate, effective immediately.”
“That’s quite the tall order! All right, you see that one three pillars over? She’s something special, and I had hoped to have her for my own assistant to be honest. She’s yours, just be easy on her all right?” Culrissi sighed and went to continue her conversation with two others.
Cynkwe trotted down towards where he was indicated, and pointed towards the girl who seemed as timid as a new born walk.
“Name?” The hurried tone caused the girls to her left and right to panic for her.
“I’m Navia, High Prelate. To what do I owe the honour?” She stepped out from the line and looked towards Sipinn, who just rolled his eyes.
“Recite the tenants of the Prelates now, and follow me as you do so.” Cynkwe started off towards the door without regarding her further.
Reluctantly, Navia pursued while stuttering over the first few of the tenants. “’One shall never use the Cloud to harm another. One shall never cause a situation in which the Cloud is defiled. One shall never house a Cloud trade in the same body as an inherited Cloud power. One shall never seek to raise one’s Cloud Prowess, or steal from another’s. One shall never ascend the Great Mountains.’ I believe that’s all of them, High Prelate.”
They turned a corner and headed towards the higher floors of the Grand Palace. “Yes, good work Navia. Now why do you suppose we ask in our tenants for no one to ascend the Great Mountains?” Cynkwe turned his head to see her with the question. “Well I’d guess because there is something important up there that we are sworn to protect.”
“Correct again, Navia. If only Sipinn could have been blessed with your mental faculties, I’d be a better High Prelate.”
“Please ignore Romules, Navia. He can be a prickle rat sometimes, and often forgets that I’m around when he issues insults.”
“First of all, you’ll both address me with my last name, and secondly insults are often intended to be issued at those present.”
When they got to the top of the steps Romules sighed and looked out the windows overlooking Kharsadi City. One could clearly see the four Great Mountains looming in the distance. “We can never take for granted the life we are given by the Mountains. That is why each person we protect is crucial. I want you to tell me what you value most in this world, Navia.”
“With all due respect, High Prelate, I don’t value anything over another. The world is equally important to itself as it is to me.”
“An answer like that is likely why that woman wanted you as her assistant. And also why you’ll become my Genesis Prelate. Now let’s go to that meeting of the High Prelate Council.”
“Yes, he’s always this eccentric.” Sipinn whispered to Navia as they made their way down the hall.
The Grand Palace’s main board room was unusually tense as the members of the High Prelate Council sat behind their podiums. Each council member was placed just as the eight districts are situated directionally proportionate to Kharsadi City. To the north sat the podium of High Prelate Anshan, ruler of Khar-Ty. To the northeast sat the podium of High Prelate Meganevain, ruler of Khar-Su.
To the east sat the podium of High Prelate Allaula, ruler of Sen-Khar-Gi. To the southeast sat the podium of High Prelate Lievrineau, ruler of Dist-khar. To the south sat the podium of High Prelate Tursu, ruler of Vega-Khar. To the southwest sat the podium of High Prelate Gyesia, ruler of Khar-La. To the west sat the podium of High Prelate Cartauns, ruler of Khar-De. To the northwest sat the podium of High Prelate Eshay, ruler of Khar-Vi. The districts consisted of all the populace that outgrew life in Kharsadi City, and for the last several hundred years the districts have grown to require leadership and direction individually. High Prelate Cynkwe stood with the Grand Prelate Serros, in the centre of the room and called the meeting to order.
“Thank you all for coming today. I understand that you all are hard at work to prepare for the festival approaching, but we had to call this meeting urgently. You see, I have reason to believe that the tyrannical heretic Aegast is plotting to overthrow our government.” Cynkwe turned his gaze across
three hundred and sixty degrees to catch every single reaction to his statement.
“That’s preposterous! You call us here in the name of your latest inquisition when we could be doing important things?” High Prelate Anshan scoffed.
“It’s no laughing matter, Anshan. I have evidence that he has smuggled in resources from the Conglomerates.” Cynkwe nodded to his Balance Prelate Sipinn, and he obliged by laying the Balance Chyskare out on the table in the centre of the chamber. The metal sphere hummed and then released dust that formed images in the air. Shapes of men moved into display, one holding some tomes while the others handled weapons. They left the sight of the floating frame and it then absorbed the dust again inside of the sphere.
“That tells nothing about Aegast or the Conglomerates, Romules. You should know your place before you presume to fabricate lies in the name of justice. Allaula on the other hand, has had consistent and accurate premonitions regarding a coming shift. Perhaps the two of you can compare notes and fight this threat together?” High Prelate Gyesia shot a glance across the room to Allaula in mockery. Allaula just
shrugged and remained silent.
“Enough! All of you give me silence while I speak. I am too old for these games. Cynkwe did not bring us together for this charade, rather I formed this meeting to discuss the fact that soon I will need to retire.” Grand Prelate Serros quieted the room with his interruption, and no one dared to speak.
“Good, now that I have your attention, I will be resigning as Grand Prelate soon after the end of this Festival of ForteAurora. You will need to decide amongst yourselves who you would like to nominate to fill my position. That being said, the Savissk sect is not a threat we can dismiss. It is likely
they will try to gain a seat of power here and try to grab control from amongst you. If that should occur we do have contingencies in motion.”
“What sort of madness is going on here? You can’t be serious, Serros!” High Prelate Meganevain said.
“The Grand Prelate can choose what he wills to do, even ForteAurora and WhiteShade must rest some time or another.” High Prelate Cartauns was calm despite the uproar that spread behind the other podiums.
“Cartauns is correct, and I will support Serros in his endeavours.” High Prelate Allaula coldly responded.
“What sort of contingencies do we have if the districts fell apart?” A curios High Prelate Eshay asked.
“We have plans to give each one martial law in the event that the government should collapse.” Serros replied, between coughs.
“If anyone has information regarding Aegast and the Savissk sect, please see me afterwards.” Cynkwe announced and then left the meeting.
Well this just keeps getting better and better.
The East Road bustled with people as Cynkwe, Navia and Sipinn traversed the well-kept cobblestones.
“Why couldn’t we have hired a walk-drawn carriage?” Sipinn complained.
“I told you, I don’t trust walks. I trust even less those who breed them, let alone force them to work.”
“That is very odd of you to think like that, Cynkwe. You praised me earlier for trying to
enjoy everything in the world. Are we allowed to have hate towards anything as Prelates?” Navia tried to hide the fact that she was sweating in her new Genesis robes.
“Very astute of you to notice the inconsistency, Navia, however I do not hate walks. I just don’t trust them. Anyway, we are already at our destination. Liven up, both of you. We are about to make a major arrest.” Cynkwe took a sudden right turn and went down a narrow street. They left crowded and heavily populated East Road behind, they walked down the sparsely populated street and came upon a small group chatting amongst themselves with one in the centre of the group. They were making motions
as if they were abusing the person, and deriding her. Cynkwe shoved the closest person to the ground and held his hands up to tell the others to cease and desist.
“Miss, are these people bothering you?” As he spoke to the woman, he sent a message with his Cloud Prowess to Sipinn. “Get the Balance Chyskare ready.”
“Yes! They have been mocking me because I was born with no Cloud Prowess.”
Cynkwe looked each of them in the eye, and nodded to Sipinn, who then put the metallic sphere of the Balance Chyskare on the ground in the midst of the group. Every one of the assailants was copied in images of dust in the air above the orb. The past five, ten, fifteen minutes were rewound and displayed for everyone. Then each person’s life was played in the dust play, showing critical choices of those men that would have made them guilty of crimes.
“Navia, do you know what this means?” Cynkwe signaled for Sipinn to put the Chyskare away.
“It means they are guilty, High Prelate.”
“Yes, and so now you will see first-hand what we do with people who don’t follow the laws of the Cloud.” Cynkwe pulled out his Justice Chyskare, a large staff with many ornaments on it. The ornaments slowly lit up as he activated his Cloud Prowess, and everyone who had spoken ill of the woman including the one Cynkwe had shoved, was judged. The orbs shot out fluidic Cloud beams that pegged each of the criminals, and they all fell to the ground unconscious. The woman thanked the Prelates and ran to her home. Sipinn brought out metallic rods with spiked tips and stuck them in the ground.
“Chyskrii for Folding, that’s what those are right?” Navia asked.
“Yes, these are the Chyskrii we’ll use to transport their bodies into the Cloud.”
“Has anyone come back from there alive?”
“We have no answer for that question, Navia. We have no time to stand idly by, we have a new lead I must follow.” Cynkwe helped finish opening the Folding portal for the clean-up, and the judged men were sent into the portal doomed to an eternity of recycling energy.
They came upon the home of a sculptor, and knocked on the business’s door. The sign indicated it was open, and Cynkwe went in without waiting for a response. Navia looked around the storefront, and found several intricate statues including one refined portrait of a walk and its baby wingings. Savage blister rats, a row of bristalch plants and a rare exotic lightning tree were among the other valuable statues for sale. A rugged dark red haired man walked from the back of the shop. He smiled at the three Prelates. “Welcome to the Welck’s Family Sculpture Shop. What can I do for the High Prelate of Inquisition today?”
“I see my reputation precedes me,” Cynkwe said while handling a small replicate of his own face etched in stone.
“Yes, I try to carry every High Prelate. Yours is certainly popular!” The shop owner responded in semi sarcastic tone.
“Let’s get down to business. I have a witness that places you in the vicinity of the Savissk Temple sect during Kievalla and Fhirmar thirty shadowpassings ago. I don’t know what sin you’ve committed but I will have no further need to keep your business going well if you are caught breaking the law.”
“Anything I’ve done, I did for my children. If it meant going somewhere to get the help that I was denied from this ‘utopia’, then so be it. I will not lie before you because I know all too well what the Balance Chyskare will say. I am guilty of nothing in the eyes of the Cloud however, just in the eyes of corrupt officials.” The man snorted, and picked up his chisel.
“Gregor Welcks, you are found guilty of treason and heresy, assisting the heretics of the Savissk Order and making a horrible portrait of me. You will come with us or face worse punishment.” Cynkwe turned to leave while Sipinn and Navia grabbed the man to escort him by force.
We will have to torture him to get what answers I seek. But it will have to wait until after the Festival of ForteAurora.
The Festival of ForteAurora came to a climax three days later, with roaring applause from the masses in front of the Grand Palace. Hundreds of thousands assembled below the balcony where the Grand Prelate and the High Prelates stood, overlooking the city. The rivers to the left and right of the Grand Palace babbled with praise as well, for it happens once a year that everyone assembles for this festival.
Grand Prelate Serros stepped up to the edge and cleared his throat.
“Greetings beloved children of the Great Mountains, we are here to call the closing of the time of celebrations. I shall read from the Passages Written by the Elders to start this.
‘‘In the beginning there was the Greater Mountain Kharsdahan. And each day, there were two suns to play with the Mountain. ForteAurora, fraught with desire and haste, adorned herself in fiery red light to make herself faster. The other sun, WhiteShade, held a manner of contrite calmness and burned himself a solid white fire, preferring to move slower. Kharsdahan held many conversations between the suns, but never at the same time.’
‘ForteAurora grew jealous one day, and made herself faster to try to catch WhiteShade so they may all talk together. Kharsdahan could not withstand the presence of both suns at once, and the Great Mountain broke into pieces! From the fallout, Kharsdahan bore four children with his last breath. The haste-full Amaljurz, the beautiful Kievalla, the smart Milyusk and the powerful Fhirmar. The four Great children of Kharsdahan pleaded with ForteAurora to slow her speed, so they might last longer than their father. She agreed, and the mountains rejoiced. When WhiteShade came around, he saw an unusual sight behind the old remains of Kharsdahan. An area behind it that was fertile and flourishing with hope. And each time he talked with the Great Mountains, darkness did cover the land.'
And so this is how we tell the days and years since then. When ForteAurora rises to speak to the Great Mountains, we have thrice the hours between each shadow passing, as Forte Aurora greets Amaljurz, Kievalla, Milyusk, and Fhirmar. When ForteAurora passes beyond the horizon, the day is half passed. WhiteShade brings the brightest shine with his arrival, but slowly passing by the Great Mountains brings longer shadow passings. Thrice the hours with each pass, with one hour of light between each.
When WhiteShade leaves our horizon, one day has passed and the new day begins." Serros almost broke into a coughing fit but contained it with a sip of water, and continued.
“What we can learn from this passage is that as we should not take the example of ForteAurora, and instead be patient in all things. Patience has run its course upon me for many decades, and soon I will fade from memory and time. But take heart, for as ForteAurora listened to the petitions of the Great Mountains, so your petitions will be heard from us. Thank you.”
The elderly man left the balcony abruptly, which took everyone by surprise. The High Prelates stepped up to answer questions from the crowds, except for Anshan. He followed the Grand Prelate.
The Grand Prelate was in his chamber, resting on his bed when a soothing song came through the doorway.
“Render the Cloud above all things, it feeds, clothes and soothes us. Forbid the taking of one’s life, for that Cloud has been housed within. Knowing that we are all Cloud too, do unto others as what is done to you. By the Great Mountains we do say, Genesis, Balance and Justice this day.”
A woman sang this hymn as she entered the chamber and poured the Grand Prelate a drink. He felt soothed by the ballad and waved for her to stay.
“You know, I appoint every person in this place to his or her station, and I can’t recall ever appointing you. What is your name?”
“It’s Culrissi, Grand Prelate. And that’s because you didn’t appoint me. I am here to kill you.”
“Very well then, I suppose I underestimated the Savissk Order after all. You deserve the chance to change things as you’ve been ordered to.”
She stepped out from the shadow of the doorway and looked the old man in the eye. The dagger she held in her hand reflected candle light and told him his time was short. He breathed deeply and relaxed his shoulders, then asked her. “Are you sure you want this blood on your hands?”
“The sun can't always be bright; there must always be a shadow cast. I have lived for a world where there can be no more darkness, for I will be the last shadow standing.”
“Those words have been spoken before, but not by someone young like you.” His final words said, Culrissi drove the dagger into Serros, and he collapsed on his bed.
“Well that wasn’t as epic as I thought it would be. Like plucking a winging from its nest.”