Voices. Women? No, one woman. I feel a light sting in my arm. My head gets cloudy…
“Mokuzai, I confer upon you the title of Guardian of the Song of Tempest. May you carry the lore proudly.”
“There are no limits to the honor I feel in being privileged to guard and pass on your lore, Elder Gogyou.”
“I know, Mokuzai. I know.”
My body is on fire. I can feel molten lead where my blood should be. What are they doing? Why are they doing this? So many questions. I can feel my blood spattering against the backs of my teeth. I didn’t know I could scream like this. Somewhere in the far reaches of my mind, I jot down the sounds my grinding teeth, hoarse throat and straining limbs make. Somewhere in that garbled mess, there's a song. Of that, I am sure.
My eyes dart wildly about as I search for the source of my torment. Is that? No, it couldn’t be. A fox’s paw? MY paw? Tears stream down my face, leaving droplets on the eyewear of my tormentors as I thrash in pain. Sweet, merciful blackness consumes me again…
“You think you can do this? I always knew you as a prideful rogue, Elder Mokuzai, but this? This is madness! The Cheldrun know only hatred and greed. Don’t throw your life away.”
“The compromise is ours to reach, Elder Ash. The Dusk Sages have gone. This is our duty; our task. The Dusk Sages gave us the tools. It is our responsibility to use them. We are no longer children to be coddled. The Zipsum are too fleeting and the Anakarix are too passive. The Gogajin prefer to negotiate with their fists, the Jevuum are too prideful to accept anything but total victory, and the Vorax, sadly, are too few to be heard. This task is ours, and I am making it mine.”
“I hope, for your sake, you aren't destined for martyrdom, Elder Mokuzai.”
“Do not hope, old friend. Trust.”
I lay on the floor of my cell, barely breathing. Everything hurts. With great apprehension I slowly look down at my hand, and begin crying in relief to see the five fleshy, chapped, scarred and weathered digits I knew so well. I painfully assume a sitting position, crossing my legs and resting my hands on my knees. I begin to think. What were they saying? Whiterock? White. Rock. Why was it important? Energy. They were experimenting with its energy. They move things with the energy. Changing them into energy and turning them back. They were experimenting with this energy on Karians. They didn’t like how it responded to Zipsum, Gogajin, or me. They said something about more tests- wait. No, the tests with me were stalled. Why?
Someday, this sort of thinking was going to get me in trouble. Pfft. Who am I kidding? It got me into trouble already.
I still my thoughts, close my eyes, and listen. Muffled noises echo down the corridor. My ears begin picking through them: hard-soled shoes on tile floor, the click of Cheldrun weapons… my guards are restless… And a voice, “Inform the executor of today’s test. Tell him we have a Vorax.”
My eyes bolt open in horror. Of all the places for the sad song of the Vorax to be sung, this artificial hell of steel and stone had to be the most profane. A rumbling begins to fill my cell in tune with my angered breathing. Feverish images of a Vorax enduring the tortures they had subjected me to flood my vision. These Cheldrun have betrayed my trust, luring me with promises of diplomacy and then shackling me as a guinea pig for their foul sciences. They forced me to break my most sacred vow, and now this? It is not my nature to judge all by the actions of few, but these Cheldrun, these…. Goshi…
I rise to my feet as the Song of Tempest pulses through me. My limbs begin quivering with building energy. Indoors, it is but a pale whisper of an echo of what it would be, but for a former Guardian, one of the strongest the Song had ever seen, it was still quite potent. The roiling thunder begins shaking loose paint chips off the walls, begging to be unleashed. I hear the guards approach, roused by the sounds of the brewing storm. The safeties on their weapons make a pair of audible clicks as they round the corner. The air fills with the smell of ozone while thin ripples of electricity begin dancing across my body. Panic fills their expressions when their gaze meets the white-hot glow emanating from the eye sockets of my snarling visage. The storm lashes out, and one of them is left twitching against the back wall, dead. The other raises his weapon, fires, and a dart sprouts from my chest. The effect is instant, and I collapse unceremoniously to the floor as the remaining energy arcs wildly through the bars of my cell as it grounds itself in a final thunderous crack.
Terrible way to end a song.