Prologue: The Day the Earth Died
Earth died quite on accident. My intentions weren’t then what they are now.
I was born close to the beginning. So let me assure you when I say that this is the beginning, a beginning long before the Dark left this world. A story that happened so long ago that even I can’t even adequately place it.
I was in those awkward years where people didn’t know whether to call me a man or a boy. Lucky for them, they didn’t need to decide as I was merely written off as trash. I had been born into a world of power and mystique with nothing but my bare hands. The Psychics (Syches as we call them now) ruled. I was an outcast, useless, unwanted. Any society has no use for those that can’t contribute and I fell snugly into that category. Now, what is a person with no worth to the world to do to survive? I stole. I burgled. I committed all manner of frauds and crimes. To say I was good at these things wasn’t entirely true, but I survived.
Don’t misunderstand my meaning. I was fit, strong, intelligent, and all-around capable. But what does that matter? When others can move mountains? When the laws of gravity can be twisted and controlled at the wave of a hand? The Psychics then weren’t what they are now. There was no force of nature or being they could not control. I couldn’t even put a number on the sheer variety of Psychics, but trust me when I say that having only four left for the longest time was our salvation.
Blood, Conduction, Release, and Metal aren’t so bad all things considered. You’ve never seen a Poison Psychic.
Whatever the chosen method of delinquency, the one factor you always had to be sure of was the who. Just who was I stealing from? You couldn’t defraud a Mind Psychic. You couldn’t run away from a Psychic who controlled Space. Information was key when dealing with beings that may as well have been gods compared to the fool that I was.
On the day of our tale, I chose a Lightning Psychic.
Sorry for all the cutaways, but I must reiterate: a Lightning Psychic. Not one of those pathetic Conduction Psychics who call themselves “Lightening Syche” these days.
I’ll try to focus now.
The day began in a flurry of chatter and panic. The ground shook and startled us from the mountainside. Those with the means lived in a caravan of tents that we paraded up and down the coast with the occasional daring raid further in. The riffraff without means found shelter where they could. We might sleep in the natural alleys that formed between the canvases or scurry off to a cave or overhang to keep us dry for the night.
And so it was that my gang and I awoke as the ground trembled. My crew of criminals numbered four in total. I couldn’t even tell you their names at this point. It was myself, another man my age, a woman or girl slightly younger, and then a young child. No Psychics and no powers.
As we brushed ourselves off and joined the town below (because that’s what it was: our city). People were in a moderate panic. When your average person could just as easily level a city themselves, catastrophe was both expected and not as alarming as it should have been. Still, the people stopped and stared. Turned on the spot. The tent poles trembled, the ground shook, and far off in the distant mounts, a giant shape rolled through. The side of the mountain bulged as if some giant creature was burrowing through it.
People shouted, looked to each other. This was no earthquake. It was probably not an Earth Psychic. It was one of those beasts. Everyone in the world had to live with them, but it didn’t make them any less dangerous. This wasn’t some meager natural disaster, this was a potential catastrophe that had to be addressed.
“I’ll handle this!” a man bellowed, strutting down from the largest tent on the hill. He was dressed like a king, or the equivalent at the time, the greatest warrior of the tribe. “If anyone is up to it, follow. But be warned, we will not stop to aid you as long as this god approaches. Come at your own risk.”
His name was Atasid. How is that for a name I remember! You could call him a mayor. He was de facto ruler of the caravan. A Lightening Psychic famous far and wide. Some sort of hero I suppose. He retired to a caravan that needed protection with riches and the promise of prestige until the end of his days.
And yes, he was the one we were to rob today. What luck we all thought it was. The disaster tossed the town into a maelstrom of panic and the mark himself flung away in the chaos. In hushed whispers and panicked excitement, we moved to the outskirts of the crowd and began sneaking up the hill.
So sure we’d be rich in a matter of minutes.
The typical guards that would stand watch over the chieftain’s tent were away, worrying over the impending doom shaking the mountains. For that matter, who was there to notice us at all? They were all running for their lives, or gawking the other way as the tremors grew.
So we plundered to our heart’s content. Imagine my surprise to find out how true the legends were. Gold, jewels, tapestries, and a nearly inexhaustible list of other baubles just lying around. My closest confidant approached to show me a brilliant sword with a pure gold finish.
And here we were starving in the alleys.
I was too busy stuffing my cheeks like a jarbit and lining my pockets like the greedy orphan I was. Not the easiest task to do as the shaking grew louder. I could hear screams outside as the tents broke down and people began to move what they could.
No matter. Right?
Well, obviously this didn’t work out so well, so there is no use pretending anything else.
Laden with treasures, and ready to retreat back to the mountain, the ground beneath our feet did more than shake. The dirt upturned and we flew into the air amid shards of rock and stone.
The girl I described earlier? Poor thing. It took her head clean off.
Did I care? I must have. Death wasn’t stale then. I hadn’t seen it a billion times over. I must have been terrified, sobbing, scared and pissing myself.
The hunting party lead by our indomitable leader failed to turn the beast and it crashed into our camp. A giant ball of earth and mud, indomitable. It would be hard to describe Earth as anything else.
So there I was on its back. My friend was nearby clutching the pommel of the sword so hard that his fingers cracked. The child with us was just gone. Probably dead. And I was terrified. I clutched on to some jagged piece of something for dear life and let it cut into my hands as we rose further into the air.
Earth was climbing back up a mountain now.
And that’s when a most peculiar thing happened. Out of the sky, the Chieftain himself crashed down in a neon blue haze of electricity landing right besides us. He strode on the churning earth as if he hadn’t called it a god not minutes before.
My first thought was that he had come to turn the beast further from the caravan or in some way punish it for the disaster it caused. But no. Off to the side, having given up all pretense of assisting, I’m fairly certain he saw us on top, and with us, his belongings.
I almost cheered, I almost pleaded for help. Instead, I looked on in stark terror as the chieftain’s hand rose towards my friend. In a fraction of a second, his body convulsed with the madness of storms. His skin singed. His body convulsed. Finally, mercifully, he fell in a blackened husk in a fit of sizzling steam.
And what was that at my feet but the sword? His last act in life was to play keep-away with that golden blade. Perhaps the instinct was correct. It’s why he died in the first place.
But as Earth reached the peak of the mountain and began to descend, it rolled and it bucked. My only instinct was to hold on, so I took the golden blade and jammed it into Earth, as far as it would go into the loose and roiling dirt, and then held on to the handle.
At least that was the idea.
Seeing the hero’s hand pointed at me, sparks dancing between his fingers like twinkling stars, I let go and rolled backwards into the deluge of brown.
And he loosed his power at me.
Of course, what he failed to account for was the sword. Every ounce of that power funneled into that magnificent blade and right down into the Elemental.
What happened next was hard to describe and must be guessed at, because Earth fell apart. That giant sphere of rolling dirt just collapsed on the mountain peak, and I was lost.
My memory was foggy on the rest of what happened, because in the hurricane of stone, dirt, and gravity, I fell down the mountainside and lost consciousness. When I awoke, it was night and at least one person in the caravan had the decency to drag me to the commons tent we used to treat the injured.
No one was around though. Imagine my surprise as I dragged myself out on clawing fingers with two broken legs to find a circle of people formed, performing the last rights and mourning the hero. Either I was lucky or he was unlucky, for while I survived, his body had been torn to shreds by the collapsing Elemental.
Of the mourners, a select few wailed and cursed far louder than the rest. The tracker, one of the caravan guards, some others I barely knew. Yet the people I knew, I knew they had no love of the hero; I was quite sure of that. A curiosity but not too strange. I never pretended to know the intimate details of these people’s lives.
Until the next day that I discovered the specifics. They didn’t cry for the hero; they cried for themselves. The Earth Psychics had lost their powers. They couldn’t lift a pebble.
And I laughed. I laughed like a crazy person. I laughed like I laugh to this day. I laughed at the irony, the justice, and the future that made itself clear to me. These people could bleed. Their gods could bleed. And the Elementals could be destroyed.