Prologue THE JOURNEY BEGINS
The Guardian K’eth arrived back in the ancient city of Atlantia, called the New Hope of his people but to remain was a death sentence to them all. He had accompanied his son, Karstien, and his allies back to the place where they could return to their time in the far future. The emitter cuff the Oracle had created to protect the Prince from the time energy of the ice and the dangers of existing twice was slowly losing power. K’eth had realized that another day and it wouldn’t be functioning at all, but he was grateful for the protection it had offered while he was traveling through the aura of corrupted time that radiated from the toxic magical ice which covered most of this hemisphere.
Princess Allura, dressed in furs, was standing next to Master Miner Midus. They had nearly 300 citizens rapidly excavating the ancient starship that would carry them home. K’eth had to admire the clever deception of his father’s generation to hide the ship in plain sight beneath the façade of a watchtower and the fortitude to never speak of the truth of its nature after the children who were rescued were made to forget.
“Guardian K’eth, the ship will be cleared in a tenday, perhaps a few days more, but we were unable to salvage the city shield beyond the pavilion. All families are now sleeping within the palace where they can be kept warm and protected from the toxic time magic,” the princess revealed to him. “Scholar Rolf is managing the loading of supplies we may need when we arrive at wherever we are going.”
K’eth took a deep breath before he answered, “We are going home, Princess. We are finally going home.”
Would the devastation of the Cataclysm war still be evident? He wondered and worried about their home world being habitable, or would they be forced to settle on one of the other three habitable worlds in their system? He only knew what his father told him, they had fled to escape the catastrophe that was predicted by his mother and her acolyte, The Blind Oracle. An event to come in the opening days of a new war. Adamos had taught Kaleth that after the Remnant of the Tear of Heaven’s Hope fled, their kingdom and their enemy’s kingdom had been destroyed and none had survived.
The twenty days since Prince Damien’s defeat had been a frantic rush to get the city prepared to be abandoned. Atlantia, once called the new hope of their people, was now a time bomb waiting to kill them all if they hesitated. Prince Karstien’s human Oracle Daisy had planned the evacuation and prepared the ancient starship, the Tear of Heaven’s Hope, for the journey. It launched from where the Watchtower had once stood. The ship had originally carried just over 5,000 Aetherians, mostly children, to safety from their ancient home world. It was carrying far fewer Aetherians home; only a dozen children, four hundred and five young adults, and most of the remaining 1490 Aetherians probably would not survive the first half-millennium home due to age and being partially human. It grieved K’eth that his long-time friends would not be able to explore their home as he wondered what awaited them on the world their forefathers fled.
Once the Tear launched, the Guardian ran the last set of scans the Oracle Daisy had asked for. The ship seemed to be in perfect working order, in spite of the fact, it had sat unused for over ten thousand years. The tech his father and the house of Odini had built into the ship was amazing, even to him and he had grown up with it. The Oracle Daisy had pre-programmed everything on the ship to carry his people home, it still amazed him how well the tiny human had understood their technology.
They were returning to a world he had left as an infant. Everything checked out as gold. The computer would begin waking a select few, as they approached their home world’s system. The first awake were those he and the princess most trusted. K’eth physically inspected the 1908 sleep sarcophagi. All were working perfectly. He paused at the one sarcophagus that concerned him most. The occupant was pregnant, during sleep neither would age. The unborn baby’s scans were fine, but the mother was weak, barely registering as alive after being gravely wounded in the battle against Prince Damien for the city.
K’eth knelt next to Daisy’s sarcophagus, placing his forehead against it and prayed. He couldn’t feel her heartbeat. He knew he wouldn’t be able to feel it while she slept, but its absence was like an open wound. Healer Myles had said that she might not survive, and the healers’ goal was to keep her body alive to save her child, Kaleth’s child. It was what she, as the Oracle, had ordered. He grieved her willingness to sacrifice herself to save their daughter. As his soul reached for hers, he felt a flutter of warmth and light reach back. It gave him hope.
His father Adamos’ words came to him, ‘Hope endures as long as love lives.’
“I’ll be here when you wake up, little flower,” Kaleth promised.
He drank a sleep and healing potion, then turned on the machine that would entomb him for nearly three thousand years. His last conscious thought was of her, just like the time before, and then the Guardian Lord Kaleth slept. When he woke, he would no longer be called K’eth. His son Damien was banished by time and distance and would be dead when they returned to this world, so he would not need to keep his identity a secret any longer.
Almost 3000 years later, he stretched as he awakened. Kaleth’s first thought were of Daisy, just like last time, only this time he wouldn’t have to wait hundreds of years to see her. Unsteadily, he rose and carefully walked to a healing bed. The longer the sleep the longer the recovery, he remembered his father teaching him. Elder Healer Myles was the first one to awake, Kaleth was the second. Myles was off checking the conditions of the other sarcophagi. Kaleth looked over at the ones containing the 21 chosen to wake up first besides himself, the Healer, the Princess, and the Oracle, if the Oracle woke up. He shook his head, he would not let himself think that way. She would live, his oracle father had promised him, they would have a life together, Kaleth reminded himself as he reclined in the golden glow of a healing bed, waiting on it and his rejuvenation factor to strengthen him. As the last full blooded Aetherian, he healed much faster than others.
Kaleth focused his mind and soul on Daisy, “I am here, my love. Are you?”
He thought about every moment they had spent together, they seemed so few. He remembered the first time he saw her, when she was fighting for his sons, how she had wept over her failure. The way she looked lying asleep in the wildflowers after the battle. Their first fight and first kiss seemed only moments apart. That kiss had sealed his heart as hers, even though he had thought in those moments he may never see her again. Yet his father spoke of her often, Adamos had called her his little flower of hope. Kaleth had seen her only once afterward for almost half an hour, mere days before his murder. Then she had come to Atlantia to save his people, and at first, she resisted his love because his murder by Damien several millennia earlier had broken her heart. He thought about what had happened that night on the ice when she had saved him. Her love had allowed her to use the ancient magic of the Oracle stone to save him from death by time poisoning. The same magic that had healed him and protected her, had created a life. A special child now grew within her, a child of light.
He would not be able to court her as he had planned. The magic had fused their souls together, there would be no getting to know each other, as they now knew almost everything about each other. Looking through her memories, he did not understand most of it. Her world, her life, and her science was so strange. She was so different from him. None of that mattered anymore. He would love her and only her as long a she lived, it was the way of his people. He loved a human and it didn’t matter to him that she would not live as long as he. He would cherish every moment, no matter how few they were, as long as they would be together. Kaleth wondered if his father, Adamos, had somehow known. He felt a flutter of warmth and light reach out to him, and knew she was still alive.
Kaleth whispered, “We made it, Daisy, we’re home.” Comforted, he slept and strengthened.
Daisy could hear voices coming from another room. She struggled to sit up and gaped at her hair. It had changed from being dyed lavender back to its normal warm caramel brown color. She didn’t know the healing beds would remove her artificial hair color. Meara will be peeved, Daisy thought tiredly but amused. Her foster sister had picked the color to match Daisy’s eyes as part of their time-camouflage. When she noted that when they went to rescue Atlantia, it wasn’t this long either. As a trembling hand pushed it back, she touched her ear. She reached up with both hands in her shock; her breath struggling to get into her lungs. Her ears were pointed, like Karstien’s ears, like an Aetherian’s ears.
She could see her reflection in the golden glass of her healing bed, except for her ears, she looked mostly the same. Her mind reeled with the implications... if a human could be made into an Aetherian... disease and even death could be conquered.
You need answers, her mind demanded of her.
She felt muddled, like she had been dosed with a sleeping potion but Karstien wasn’t there to dose her. He should be back in their time of origin, in the far distant future. Placing her hand on her stomach, she didn’t even have a bump, but she could feel the warmth of life. A child made from love and magic after just a kiss. Shakily, she rose and started toward the voices. She was sure one of the voices was Karstien’s true love, Princess Allura. The other was familiar and yet not. Daisy only had to walk into the next room, she would make herself get that far. Her legs resisted moving, but her will compelled them to bear her weight, and her feet move forward.
One more step.
“What do you mean you don’t know how this happened, Myles?” Allura was asking, “She isn’t human anymore, she’s Aetherian... No, I don’t have to see the scans, I only have to look at her.”
“What about the baby?” The voice was familiar but different, less gravelly than Kaleth sounded before, his tone was worried, “Was it affected?”
"No, the child was always Aetherian, but somehow the Oracle has been made into an Aetherian as well," Myles answered silently.
Daisy realized she could hear the healer in her head. Her wandering mind tried to figure out how that was possible but then Presbyt Healers were different from humans and Aetherians. She had never met one until they arrived in Atlantia, though Karstien, Davin, and Ezra had told her many stories about the one they knew named Mykel. She would have to study them too. Myles was explaining how he thought her unborn daughter’s magic had something to do with her change.
Just two more steps.
One more step.
Daisy clutched the door frame. Allura looked at her shocked and gasped in surprise, “Daisy?”
Myles and Kaleth both jump to their feet.
“I’m sure I can figure it out...If you’ll... show me...the... scans,” Daisy said weakly, suddenly her vision swirled into darkness and she felt herself start to fall. Someone caught her. Her last conscious thought was knowing it was Kaleth. Just like Karstien, he never let her fall, they always caught her.
Kaleth held her gently and carried her back to the healing bed. He laid her down and brushed the hair off her forehead before he kissed it. He could feel that she was the same Daisy who had squeezed his fingers only moments before the battle against his son, Damien. But everything about her had changed! He watched her sleep. Days ago, he had considered himself blessed to have a few years to love her, now they could share millennia. It was more than he could have ever hoped for and brought him no small amount of worry.
“Well, we know her will power wasn’t affected,” he stated matter-of-factly as he re-entered the room.
“How is she even able to stand? It has been less than half an hour since she was taken from her sarcophagus,” Allura demanded surprised.
“Karstien told me once, she has the strongest will of anyone he had ever met. That she never quits on any task or problem till she has answers. She never gives up. Never stops trying. Tomorrow, we won’t be able to keep her in that bed,” Kaleth explained seriously.
Myles made an unhappy sound, ‘She must rest. She can work later.’
Kaleth nodded, he felt the same way. He may know everything about her life from when their souls fused on the ice, but that didn’t mean he understood her. Daisy was unlike anyone he had ever met. Her life was a puzzle to him.
Allura laughed at Myles’ unhappiness, and Kaleth’s worried scowl, “Oh, you don’t know the Oracle, Healer Myles. Karstien and Meara both warned me of the same. She is going to be your most challenging patient.”
Daisy awoke again several hours later, Kaleth was working at a console next to her bed. She watched him, noting how he looked younger, and that his scars had mostly faded. His tattoos were gone too. His hair had grown back, and he had his beard trimmed neatly. However, the worst scars on his left cheek and neck were still visible, as were the ones on his forearm below his sleeve. The healing sleep seemed to have benefited him well. He looked as handsome as the first time she saw him, and she sighed sleepily. He turned, and amber eyes met lavender ones for the first time in almost 3000 years.
“Good morning, my lady.” He kissed her gently and put his forehead against hers as she whispered back, “Good morning.”
“I love you,” they said at the same time.
“How do you feel, little flower,” he inquired, even though he could feel her with his soul.
“Exhausted... Why do I feel so tired?” she asked.
“It is normal after a sleep that long,” he explained as he straightened back up.
She yawned and frowned, complaining, “But I have work to do.”
Shaking his head, Kaleth insisted, “It can wait.” Kaleth decided Daisy was almost child-like in her half-asleep state and he found it endearing.
“What?” She blinked at him, and once again he felt amazed at how beautiful she was. She swayed sitting up on the side of the bed. “You’re staring at me.”
“I can’t help it,” Kaleth admitted.
“Your voice sounds so different,” she murmured, “And your scars faded...” She reached out and traced them with her fingertips.
He smiled at her, “It healed, they healed too, well partly.” He rubbed his cheek by his goatee.
“And your tribal markings, the tattoos?”
“The beds see them as contamination and removed them.” He explained. Her eyes looked like jewels as she blinked at him again. He couldn’t resist the urge to run the tips of his fingers along her cheek, there were no traces of the energy burn she got when the portal exploded. “Drink this, Myles said it would help you and the baby.”
As she gulped something that tasted like the health shakes the doctors used to make her drink to gain weight, Daisy took his hand and pulled him toward the bed. He sat on the bedside then, she snuggled into his lap, leaning against him, listening to his heartbeat and its echo. She couldn’t resist the desire to listen to it, it was soothing, and then she yawned once more, thinking about the dream she just had, or was it a vision?
“How is Asha?” Daisy asked sleepily, unaware they were gathering an audience.
“Asha? Who is Asha?” Kaleth wondered aloud, pushing her hair behind her pointed ear so he could see her face. The sleeping potion mixed with the healing potion and caloric drink was already taking effect.
She smiled up at him lethargically, her love shining in her lavender eyes. “Our daughter. In my dream, I was in the Room of Light with Adamos. He said the Oracle stone and the sarcophagus would change me, make me stronger, and that Asha would be a great healer to our people, a gift of love and ancient magic,” Daisy paused to yawn again, closing her eyes, sighing out, “And our love will bring hope... and be a light when... the... the darkness returns.” She was asleep after the last word.
Kaleth kissed the top of her head but couldn’t bring himself to lay her back down just yet. He looked up; Princess Allura was standing in the door, smiling, so were several of the first awake, who overheard the exchange. Kaleth wondered what kind of a mystical legacy his father had left for him and his people in the form of the Oracle and their child, the Healer.