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An ambitious people called the Sorlians hope to conquer the planet of Silaris and its four continents: Alania, Terranos, Sorl and Ardania. By wielding a vessel housing a limitless source of energy, a young winged Alanian girl is the key to the planet’s future.

Chapter 1

Black Wings

It was a cold, windy day all across the east cost of Alania. An archipelago composed from thousands of islands, Alania was the largest land mass on Silaris, a watery planet-like world nestled in an unknown part of a universe beyond time and space. Each island varied in size but was interconnected to others by narrow strips of land. When viewed from high above, it looked liked a giant slice of swiss cheese floating atop the planet’s surface.

Located near a vast ocean and surrounded by gargantuan mountains, the city of Kamen was home to a small population of two-legged, lizard-like creatures called the ullitor. Their bodies possessed scaly, hardened flesh resembling the shell of a tortoise and thick protruding bones which shielded their exposed necks. Their heads appeared humanoid insomuch as a crocodile would have evolved into a human rather than the ape. They had two distinct cat-like eyes, a moist nose and powerful jaws. Other than the upright posture and dexterous hands, they shared little in common with humans. The ullitor were physically and mentally superior in every respect, but remained trapped in an early stage of cultural evolution by their rigid social hierarchy, which emphasized the collective good over individual innovation.

An abundance of evenly-shaped gray pebbles lay scattered between the oceanic shores and feet of the mountain range extending along the coast. The layer of topsoil in the area was thin and sparsely spread over a thick slab of granite bedrock. A great number of trees dotted the landscape. Their roots were so thick and strong they penetrated the granite, pulverizing it into tiny rocks as they deepened their reach into the bedrock. The trees in this area looked like a cross between a cyan-tinged willow and an evergreen tree with yellowish bristles. Long thin branches spread out and dropped to the ground like a willow’s hair with an innumerable amount of hexagram-shaped foliage.

Enormous mushrooms towered above the trees in patches of denser soil located closer to the mountains. They had thick, succulent elongated stems that culminated in a cap wide enough to shield over twenty beings from the elements. They outnumbered trees ten to one throughout Alania. Each mushroom’s cap was unique in appearance, varying slightly in form and color from those around it, with more exotic types found elsewhere across Silaris. The mushrooms grew at an exponential rate and were one of the ullitor’s main food staples. Any mushroom cut down for food would regrow within days to several meters in height. Though an abundant resource, a strict limit on their harvest was imposed by the ullitor to avoid a potential famine.

Teams of ullitor worked within city limits building new homes to expand Kamen’s borders. Some tugged carts of masoned stones while others stacked and sealed them together with a pungent smelling substance that resembled mortar but had the consistency of cement. Each home was made of evenly-shaped bricks and lacked any visual appeal. Each was built to exactly the same standard design: a square shaped cubic shell topped with an ugly sludge composed of plant matter gather across the neighboring fields. The workers churned out row after row of identical structures, lined up neatly beside each other with little space in between. Clouds of industrious smoke billowed from Kamen, soaring high into the skies and polluting the fresh oceanic air with its putrid odor. A bird-like creature with broad wings flew rapidly past the city, sailed daringly between two mushrooms and headed up to the mountain tops.

The bird-like creature swooped to a protruding outcrop high up in one of the mountains and landed atop a jagged, rock-strewn surface. From afar, the creature looked like a giant eagle. A closer look revealed another distinct humanoid being with broad wings and an uncanny fragility. Its wings were jet black and feathers were soaked in a dark substance that permeated the space around it, bending light in their gravitational wake. The being was so thin and frail it looked like they would snap like a twig in a playful child’s hands. The wings were much larger than its body, disproportionately so. It was dressed in a blue-dyed cloth tightly wrapped against its entire body with a string. Its arms and legs were extremely long, and bent in-wards at the knees. The being crouched down onto the ground and rested its arms on the icy, snow drizzled surface for support. It looked like duck with puffed up feathers floating on a lake during the winter. It folded its wings around its body.

Standing at nearly a hundred kilometers at its peak, this mountain was an imposing sight from any distance. Mount Velia, as it was named, stretched throughout the Alanian islands to into a series of smaller mountains. As the feathery being waited, shivering its wings for extra warmth, a fellow bird-like creature landed on the outcrop beside it. It was dressed in a similar tunic, but it was dyed a vivid red. It was much longer at the back and looked like a stylish cocktail dress rather than a roughly seamed piece of cloth. The end of the dress formed a long tail that was not tied to the body with string and fluttered against the wind. This creature was just as thin and frail as its counterpart, but had longer legs. Its feathers were a tenebrous, jet- black. Its head was covered with spiked feathers which prominently stuck out, looking like a stylish motorcycle helmet or a flamboyant Mohawk haircut. Both beings shared similar hawk-like facial features. Their eyes were a light purple color and extraordinarily large. Their noses protruded sharply outward like a bird’s beak and had a distinct curvature. In place of lips, they had hardened cartilage with serrated edges, which looked like a separate set of teeth.

As the cold winds began to blow more fiercely, both beings huddled closer together to stay warm. Looking at one another, they began to talk in an urgent, fearful tone. The one in the blue tunic, began:

“I was starting to worry about you Katla.” said the being and paused before continuing. “I hope they did not spot our presence.”

“I did not notice any of them along my way, brother.” the one named Katla answered, revealing the name of her sibling. “We should be safe here for now, Isos.”

“Damn those Sorlians…” Isos muttered depressingly in reply. “I wish they would just be gone from our land…”

“Isos, complaining about it will get us nowhere.” replied Katla. “It only wastes time and time is definitely not playing in our favor.”

“Those pesky Sorlians never seem to stop.” muttered Isos in the same vein. “Do they even sleep?”

“I do not think they do.” uttered Katla faintly, her voice hushed by the harsh wind. “Sleep is something they do not need.”

“So what did you learn about Mamune?” asked Isos, changing the subject.

“Mamune has gathered his minions near the Isle of Dolian. They have also mustered a horde of ullitor with their building contraptions, but there is no way of knowing exactly what they intend to construct.” Katla explained in a barely audible murmur.

“The Isle of Dolian is a sacred place for us!” blurted out Isos hotly. “How dare they try to build something there! For what possible purpose! Even the Sorlians recognized the isle’s importance!”

“I have no idea, brother.” replied Katla calmly. “I know only that we cannot stop it. At least a dozen Sorlians are present at the site permanently.”

“Permanently?!” repeated Isos in disbelief. “It must be really important if they are so vigilant. Perhaps all the more reason we should try to disrupt their plans now! If we scare off the ullitor now and deal a harsh blow, it could buy us more time!”

“At what cost brother!” shouted out Katla. “To risk countless lives to delay something we have no clue is? Either through fierce war, major upheaval, architectural blunder or weather erosion, what they build will never last through time. And if we cannot control the isle, why risk lives to prevent them from erecting a symbol of their dominance? Surely, we can bide our time, even if they intend to hurt our pride?”

“It is a matter of principle, no less.” stated Isos with some pomp, his pride crushed. “If we secede this blow to our dignity and bow our heads now, that just shows we can be pushed around. First we lost our land, now our sacred isle is threatened. What next? The Sorlians will come to overtake our sanctuary? What will we do then dear sister?”

“Isos, do not be stupid in your passion. We cannot let our notions of dignity control our actions because it can be used against us. We have to do the most tactical thing possible and think long-term. said Katla. “The Sacred Vessel protects our sanctuary. Nothing can touch us as long as we are within its borders. This gives us time to plan our actions carefully and in safety.”

“That may be true sister.” replied Isos. “But are you certain the Sorlians will not find a way to break through the barrier, if they are not already scheming to do so? What then? Should we give up? Because if we do, we will have nowhere to hide!”

“Isos, do not underestimate the power of the Sacred Vessel.” said Katla firmly. “It has protected our people since time immemorial. Do you not feel its energy fill your wings, giving us warmth even as we perch here atop Mount Velia? Where no other creature could withstand this deathly cold, we have the ability to whisper and not fear the Sorlians overhearing us. Do you not see that because of this, we have an advantage and with it, a chance to reclaim what is ours, but all in due time. We must consult with Lumenis about what action to take next.”

“Katla do you hear yourself sometimes?” asked Isos seething. “Whenever anything happens, the first thing you do is go running to Lumenis for consul. Did you ever stop to think of your own plan of action? Did you think that maybe Lumenis could be wrong or even powerless to help us?”

“Nonsense Isos!” spat out Katla. “How can you say such things about Lumenis? As the guardian of our land, it has done everything possible to protect us.”

“But has Lumenis succeeded?” asked Isos quietly. “First it was cowardly retreat. And how long has it been since it has promised to find a solution? Years go by as more and more Sorlians overtake our land.”

“Lumenis is not infallible, Isos.” said Katla. “It is not an all-powerful spirit. Its fate is tied to the Sacred Vessel and its powers limited by it. We need to be patient until an opportunity to act decisively presents itself…”Wait…” she muttered under her nose. “I can sense something…”

“Is it the Sorlians?” Isos asked fearfully, his bravado sharply fading away at the thought. “Can you sense them approaching?”

“Quiet!” blurted out Katla worriedly.

They heard a loud hum zip past them. It sounded like an invisible hummingbird had brushed against their ears with exponential speed. Katla felt as her feathers were stirred up by the vibrations lingering in the air in its wake. The unidentified object passed away into the distance. Katla sighed in relief.

“What was that Katla?” asked Isos curiously. “It felt like something incredibly large, yet I could not see anything.”

“I have no idea what it was, brother.” replied Katla thoughtfully. “It felt dangerous. We should head back home. We need to report Mamune’s activities to Lumenis.”

“And we need to eat too.” Isos said anxiously. “The longer we stay, the longer I starve here atop this chilly mountain.”

“Do you have enough energy to make the jump?” asked Katla.

“I think so…” replied Isos confidently. “Besides, the sun will loosen up our feathers a bit!”

Both siblings nodded heads in agreement. They moved apart and turned around to face the edge of the cliff. Expanding their wings outward, they caught the winds and flew off from the outcrop. Drifting along the side of Mount Velia, which extended like an endless serpent across Alania, the winged beings left the city of Kamen behind them.

Descending to a lower altitude, one much more hospitable, they extended their wings to embrace the warm sunlight and glided through the sky. The space around their wings blurred. Displacing the surrounding matter, their dark, feathery appendages revealed a hidden web of infinite pulsating strings of white light. Each string exploded, blasting out numerous smaller strings. Rather than sailing the winds, the winged creatures were contracting the fabric of space behind them. They twisted and twirled through the air in aerodynamically impossible ways. Their wings absorbed the sunlight like a sponge and grew larger, allowing Katla and Isos to fly faster. As they passed through patches of shade, their wings contracted to their original size.

The two winged beings quickly ascended into a spherical cloud, where they reached a set of pillars hidden within. These pillars were called lotaaka pillars, ancient structures used by the Alanians as a gateway to a hidden dimension. Translated from the Alanian language, “lotaaka” referred to “hidden room” or “hidden storage”, a place that served as a refuge from the outside world, but contained a hostile environment known as the Plains of Ogon. It was there that the Alanians now resided ever since their continent was overrun by the Sorlians.

Hovering above the lotaaka pillars, Isos and Katla wrapped their wings around themselves, and began to rotate rapidly in place until they appeared like a cocoon-like silhouette. Their beings’ speed increased exponentially with each revolution until they looked like black specks in clouds. Then, in an instant they vanished into nothingness, collapsing into an invisible rip in the canvas of reality.

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Ivan Samokish

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