The walk down the long corridor from his chambers to those of Dice’s high spot in the Temple was a long anticipatory journey for Anapa. For far too long the High Priest had been exactly that…the highest authority in the Gemin religious sect. His job had been protector of secrets and a slave to the twelve – now thirteen – Stones that were the deities of all Gemin and its twin planet, Gamgijar. And now…now as he headed toward the golden doors that housed the latest “highest power”, thoughts ran through his mind on how he got from his humble beginnings as a Sect Usher to this very moment where he was about to speak to the god he’d only been imagining since his very own childhood.
He stood staring at the only set of golden doors in the entire temple. They were created exclusively for Dice’s homestead. He put his nose up to the door and exhaled. The condensation of his breath slowly dissipated as it melded into the gold. He couldn’t see his reflection on the door at all. Reflections on gold were reserved for the Royal Family, and for The Stones. If he had to be honest with himself, Anapa had never seen his reflection. Or, if he did, he can’t remember what it looked like.
The golden doors had no handles on them. So he just pushed the one door in to enter into an ante-chamber. His talons clicked along the floor as he first went forward and then softened as he was confronted by two Waryn standing guard at Dice’s inner chamber doors. Without a word, the Waryn allowed Anapa passage to see their Lord.
The room was brightly lit. Not by conventional candles, but by the light illuminating off of Dice. The closer he got to Dice, the brighter the light. He had to shield his eyes with his hands so he wouldn’t be blinded.
“There’s a way to squelch the light,” said Anapa to the source of the light without actually seeing Dice.
“You mean that there’s a way to switch this off?” Dice asked.
Having never before studied the history on the art of switches and electrical mechanisms, Anapa just nodded and said, “Indeed,”
This progeny has a quirky way of speaking, thought Anapa. This is most certainly not the King’s tongue he uses.
“You must be the almighty Anapa that I’ve heard so much about,” Dice whispered this more than he said it out loud.
“I see my reputation precedes me yet again,” was Anapa’s reply.
“Not so much your reputation. I’ve been told you’ll be my trainer. My father tells me that you hold all the answers that I’ve been looking for, so I’ve been waiting for you to show up.”
“I possess most of the answers, admittedly, but not all. Our plan is to educate you in the way of the Gemin. And soon,” Anapa slowly approached Dice – or where he thought to be – as he was carrying on this bothersome small talk, “But first, Qef,” said Anapa. That very last sentence made the room the two were cohabiting immediately darker.
Dice looked at his arms and his hands in amazement. It’s been a few days since he’d seen anything but light. It was immediately refreshing for him to be able to not see anything for a few seconds while his eyes adjusted.
“Your eyes will automatically adjust to dark and light in time. Your surroundings will not affect your vision as you learn to tame the radiance,” Anapa had already begun his tutoring.
“Do you think it would be a fashion crime if I flitted around with sunglasses on?” As soon as Dice let this question escape his lips, he looked over to Anapa who was standing in a fog of confusion. Anapa had no idea what sunglasses were. Dice had to remember that he was not of this world. And this world didn’t know what a pair of sunglasses were. He made a quick mental note to change that. Not only could he be the flying light bulb here, he could also be rich if he could set up a Sunglass Hut in the courtyard! “Never mind, Anapa. Dumb question,”
“You have questions, I have answers. There is no such thing as a dumb question,”
“I’m not sure I need a full-time tutor, though. Why can’t I just go live in the castle? Why am I stuck here in the side of the mountain?”
“Your presence would be a major disruption in the Royal Court. Take no offense to that. The Court could use a little spice, but you would have to be protected at all times. That would loosen the security on the Royal Family.” Anapa answered as pleasantly as he could without being overly impertinent
Dice nodded as if he had agreed, even if he did agree a little hesitantly.
“The mountain you refer to is a symbol of our religion. Within that symbol is where we hope you will eventually seek refuge,”
“You mean with the stone guys?” asked Dice.
“So you’ve been inside of the mountain. The name of the sacred pyramid is ‘Mount Idres’. How did you come to be inside of the mountain that not even I am allowed to venture?” Anapa was a little curious at this point. No one had informed the High Priest of the sole religion on all of Gijar that the newcomer had been to a place forbidden by all except Royalty. And then he immediately remembered that the child standing in front of him is not only their Prophet, but he is born of royalty. He attributed his lack of temporal organization to his advanced age, “No need to answer that, My Lord. I have no need to understand.” That was fine by Dice. He didn’t know if he wanted to answer Anapa’s question, nor did he know the answer himself. He only knew that his Mother and Nicandro led him through a tunnel to what looked like a stage with bones all around. He wouldn’t even know how to get back there from the castle if his life had depended on it…which it no longer does.
“I’m not even sure how to get back to the Guardians at the door. So don’t be offended. I’m sure my Father and Mother took me there for some sort of judgment thing like they do in the movies,” replied Dice.
“The movies?” Anapa had a puzzling look on his face.
“That’s right, I keep forgetting where I am. I’m guessing you don’t have movies here. Do you have television or radio?”
“I beg pardon, My Lord, for I’ve never heard of such things.”
“It would seem that not only are you teaching me, but I’ll be teaching you as well, Anapa,” said Dice as he turned to head toward the door, “But for now, I’d like to find my brother. Where would the Waryn take him?”
“I suppose they would take him to Mount Idres, My Lord. That is where they send all prisoners for judgment,” Anapa answered.
“Judgment? For what? He didn’t do anything but fall out of the sky. I’m sure he didn’t even know how he did it. I know the first time I did it, my mind was blown.”
“You possess such quirky expressions, My Lord. Your mind was blown? Yet you still function.”
“I’ll teach you my slang one day. My brother…where would they hold him?” asked Dice trying to get back to the point on hand.
“I would imagine he would be well into the Abyss by now,” Anapa muttered.
“He’s in the Abyss?” asked Dice out loud and then went off through the chamber doors without announcing his plan to depart, surprising Anapa as he stood alone. It took Anapa a moment to release that Dice had left in such a hurry that it took another moment to realize why. The fool was going to Mount Idres to potentially save his brother.
Anapa lifted his talons and flew out the opened doors after Dice. The old Priest had an advantage over the young Prophet in that the Priest never walked anywhere if he could help it. He let his massive wings transport him. Dice wasn’t used to his wings being his mode of mobility yet, so as Dice was running down the stairs to the bottom of the Temple, Anapa has just flown down to meet his Prophet at the exit doors.
“Out of my way, Anapa,” bellowed Dice as he was running through blue priests who had all bowed at the site of the Prophet.
“My Lord, I did not state for certain that your sibling would be taken to the Abyss to parish. I simply stated that as an option. My foolish old mouth tends to broadcast what my brain is processing. I apologize profoundly if I gave you the wrong information.
“So he’s not in the Abyss?” asked Dice about his brother Marcus.
“I simply am not aware of his whereabouts, My Lord. However, I would be delighted to do some research to locate him for you, if you so desire.”
“I desire! I would like to know where the Waryn have taken him. This is his first time here. He’s my brother. I don’t want him to feel lost and alone knowing full well that I’m here. “
“I will report to you my findings. On your leave, My Lord,” said Anapa as the Priest bowed before Dice.
“Yeah. Sure. Leave.” said Dice.
Anapa spread his wings and flew back to the top level of the Temple to get to work on finding Marcus. His first encounter for information would be with the Waryn Doyen to question him. Why deal with the entire horse when you can just go straight to the horse’s head?
As soon as Dice was out of the Temple and into the air, he encountered Nicandro.
“I heard your thoughts. You’d like to know what happened to Marcus,” This time, it didn’t disturb Dice that his father had been listening in on him. That saved him the trouble of having to repeat the entire conversation he had with the Priest to the one guy he knew he’d get an answer from. If there was anything about Nicandro that Dice could trust, it was Nicandro’s innate ability to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, so help him God, which was weird to him to think as soon as he thought it.
“I would like to know what happened to him, yes,” replied Dice with a matter-of-fact tone.
“He’s back on Earth where he belongs. He doesn’t belong in the Purge, or here on Rayelm.”
“The Purge? What is that? Sounds like something I do after I eat cold pizza.”
“The Purge is what you see all around you here on Gijar. There is only one way onto this realm as a mortal; through death. There is no other way. Come with me down to the surface,” and without waiting for a response from Dice, Nicandro flung his wings around to take a nose dive to Rayelm, lying below the floating rocks of Mount Idres. He found a perch in a tree that reached for the Gijarian Sun. Dice floated gently down to perch right next to him, now intently paying attention to what his father had to tell him.
“See below you, this is the town of Rayelm. It’s only one town among thousands here on Gijar, and among many hundreds of thousands on the twin planet of Gamgijar,” Nicandro pointed at the dark orb in the sky, “This is where Earth comes to dream, or to lay in wait for their next journey.”
“Earth, you mean all the people of Earth? Almost like when I dreamed and came here?” asked Dice.
“Not almost, Dice. It’s exactly like your experience. Not just the humans, but the animals, the birds, the bees, the horses, and the trees. If an organism can dream, or die, then it winds up here to Purge. The nightmares are handled on Gamgijar.”
“What happens on Gamgijar? I thought it was a dead planet,” Dice asked.
“The planet itself has long since died. The activity on the planet still bustles. There may not be a soul, but the activity on Gamgijar remains and is important. That is where the elements of evil and darkness lurk. The stuff of nightmares resides on the south side of Gamgijar, where the ground is molten lava, and the sky is nothing but steam. Crelle faces the Gemin Sun at all times. There is no relief of night since the Sun beats on the surface constantly. There has been only one ruler who presides over Crelle in her castle in the sky. Her name is Empress Kahi, the First of her kind, the Supreme of all Crelle, and Mother of the Yerad.
The surface of Crelle is impossible. Composed of molten lava, slag and ashes, it’ll obliterate anything that it encounters; except a Yerad. The Yerad are built for the extreme temperature conditions you’ll find on the heated turf. Their smooth, hairless exteriors were designed to withstand the beating the sun places on the other side of our twin planet. We do not get the pleasure or displeasure, as it were, to witness the other side of Gamgijar for the planet does not enjoy rotation. All we will ever see here is the dark side – Billige. That side of our sister planet never visits the Sun.
Crelle, however, was meant to be insufferable. It is the sanctuary of dark dreams, all evil thought and those that harbor them. I believe the humans on Earth call such a place ‘Hell’. I suppose in many millennia of interpretation and languages lost, Crelle has somehow turned to Hell. It serves the same purpose. Those that do evil will wind up on the surface and are fodder for the Yerad. “
“I actually saw a Yerad once, down in the tunnel to see The Stones. I remember him distinctly because he was like no other creature I’d ever seen,” interrupted Dice.
“That’s correct. The Yerad are considered the lowest forms of life on our planets because they’re mortal. Their life expectancy is the shortest of us all. But they are the most brutal and must be kept far from immortals. Their position is to annihilate immortals and then serve them as a meal.” Continued Nicandro, “When coming face to face with a Yerad your chances of living are slim, except when tamed by the Waryn. Such is the case for those that serve the Royal Gemin in the tunnels. “
“Are those the only Yerad on Gijar?” asked Dice.
“That we’re aware of, yes. They’re a loyal group, and their loyalty lies with their Empress on Crelle.”
“Great. I only like monsters in the movies.”
“Sometimes you’ll want monsters on your side. Especially when the war begins.” Nicandro replied.
“War? There’s going to be a war?” Dice was perplexed.
“Oh yes. You’re going to transfer their loyalty to your…our…cause. The Gemin were a peaceful race at one time. We were to govern over those who had come to purge; nothing further. We were not to interfere with those that come to Gijar or Gamgijar in their continuing journeys. Simply maintain and heed over the souls. That was fine until our Mother of Queens, Sokara, became infected with the virus. The souls that populated Rayelm and the lands beyond knew not where they were. For all concerned, they merely believed they were in a dream state. Just as you were to dream and wake from it, these souls are experiencing the very same observation. What you see before you,” Nicandro then pointed at three men walking the cobbled streets of Rayelm West, “those men right there were once alive on Earth. They are now shadows of a former existence. I believe you would call them ghosts.”
“Get out! These people are ghosts?” Dice asked in bewilderment.
“In essence, yes. They are phantoms of their former selves they once were physically on your Earth,” was Nicandro’s answer.
It was at that moment that the pair – father and son – could see Anapa approaching from the Temple from high above them. “I have located Marcus,” Anapa said as he landed on the branch of the tree across from where Nicandro and Dice were. “I fear you’re not going to like the answer,” he said a bit hesitantly.
“He’s back on Earth, right?” asked Dice.
“That he is, My Lord,” answered Anapa, “he has been reunited with Sokara.”
Dice wasn’t sure what to say next, so he looked at Nicandro for words. Nicandro had no words to offer him this time. They both looked back at Anapa as if they just told him that Marcus had landed on Mars. Anapa looked back at them both in bewilderment and with little encouragement.