A/N - Fated Rising is currently being re-written and polished for self-publishing. Follow the link on my profile for updates, artwork and extracts on my website.
‘The Life tree stretches out, covering all realms. In sight and unseen. Should it be corrupted from the heart, no patch of land nor will living being will be spared.’
_ The Forest King. Protector of the Tree of Life.
Twisted and gnarled the Life Tree had become; the source and supplement of power, of magic and of life itself for both the immortal plains and the mortal realm. Near a century had come to pass since a single Guardian, those chosen at birth and sworn to protect the tree, had forsaken their sacred duty and struck the tree where it was most vulnerable; the heart.
Corrupted by ill-intensions, the Oath Breaker had gained immense power from the heart, from the first root though at great cost. A purely selfish decision which would cause ripples for centuries to come, the wings of a butterfly upon a once still pool.
Oath Breaker offered a choice to the untainted Guardians, to choose the path of indulgent power at the expense of life itself, or to be executed. By the time those loyal to the tree had reached the central chamber, the Oath Breaker was far stronger than even a legion of Guardians. With the assistance of the King of Thunder and Storms, those who stood against him were cut down. Obsidian flames tore through any and all who approached the first root.
Too late did Oath Breaker come to realise his mistake through ignorance and the need for death, for revenge. For every Guardian who was slain, whose blood stained the roots of the central chamber such a deep red it appeared pitch-black, the Fates would gift another with one of the four elements; fire, wind, water and earth.
Discovering his misjudgement, he sought to imprison the remaining Guardians who had not submitted to join the perversion to the Life Tree. He shattered their sap crystals, granted to them when they spoke their oaths, severing their connection with the ancient, beating Tree of Life and its eternal roots. When he was finished, only one remained, untainted. It would grant him the foresight to identify any, and all Guardians who were born and who would seek to subvert his seat of power.
For decades the Guardians were tortured, punished and played with. In a huge feat, a woman whose name was Rain, managed to break free with the aid of an Archon, the winged guards who were blood pledged to serve the one who resided over the heart. A courageous tale all of its own. Rain fought to deliver the crystal into safe hands.
Those loyal to the Oath breaker, made considerably more powerful and yet only shadows of their former selves, pursued Rain until she took her own life, the whereabouts of the crystal unknown and lost with her last whispered breath.
Enraged, Oath Breaker had her body strung up as an example. All who opposed him, undercut him, would suffer the same fate. With his source of clairvoyance gone, he commanded his Shadows out into the world to seek any who showed talents, any who could bend the elements to their will. A time known as the Witch Hunts came, where children were taken from their home and distraught parents, stolen from the streets and brought to kneel before the Oath breaker.
A beings whose hair matched the stained floor of the central chamber, and who wore a mask shaped as a sharp, midnight beak. He came to be known by another name; the Raven, who would eat the flesh from your eyes and pick your bones.
He offered those spirited to him a choice, as he had his fellow guardians during the fall. Submit, receive the depraved power given through death, or perish themselves.
The Prince of Chains approached the crudely crafted throne. Made from petrified wood, carved into the spine of the Life Trees itself and darkened with malintent. Tightly entwined roots formed the floor, and spiralled upwards to form the walls of the central chamber, deep inside the tree. His footfalls echoed. The roots beneath his feet seemed to pulse deeply, inflicted by illness, it struggled to force life through its veins. Its bark was tinted to a red, unnatural hue. Every year that past, more of the roots and the land with them were poisoned.
Cloaked figures lined the wall, on either side of the throne. The Shadow Guardians who had chosen to reject the path of life, and allow death to possess them. Imbued them. Each a honed and deadly weapon. Lacking the moral compass of the original guardians.
Raven sprawled in his deadened seat, though only a fool would overlook the barely contained violence which danced behind yellow eyes, at odds with his casual pose. On a dramatic sigh, Raven rubbed his temples with a thumb and forefinger. “Each time you return empty handed you disappoint me. Do you wish to follow in your father’s footsteps?” Teeth abruptly bared, he clutched the armrests of his throne harshly enough to crack nails, and appeared ready to pounce.
“No,” came the curt, and unapologetic reply. The prince refused to be baited with mention of his estranged father. “Discovering the whereabouts of the last crystal is no simple task. Not since your people… lost it.”
There was a pause, the silence between the flutter of a hummingbirds heart. Oath Breaker launched from his throne with an animalistic cry, claw encased hand outstretched. Searing pain surfaced in the Prince’s head, spreading from the nerve endings in his neck to scold behind his eyes. He dropped to one knee, through the sheer force of the instant agony. Limbs locked in place, a prisoner in his own head, Raven pressed the razor tip of his metal talon to the prince’s forehead.
“You are bound to me, wearer of chains. Do not forget it.” Smoke swirled beneath the taunt pallid skin, His debased soul as it clawed to be free of its cage.
“Take… my mind,” the prince forced words through clenched teeth. Spittle coated his lower lip. His jaw strained, bones grinding. “And I will be no use to you.”
As swiftly as the rage had come, Raven released him and took up his seat. “It is the upmost importance, imperative the traitor’s crystal is found and returned to me. Do this, and I will see you are given the power to restore your people.”
The vice in his mind, though faded, had left its mark. He felt the presence of the Oath Breaker, slumbering in the corners of his conscious, primed to strike. There was nothing he would not sacrifice to rebuild what had been lost. Even himself.
“I will see it done.”
An edged smile stretched Raven’s darkened lips.
“Do not fail me, Storm. Last of his people.”