The Bringer (Part One)

March 25, 2009
Our story begins on the planet Gisli. It is a beautiful planet⎯lush and thriving. On it live a most peculiar people⎯the Gislin. The Gislin are a proud but peaceful race, with a culture steeped heavily in tradition and religion. Countless years ago, when the Galactic Syndicate was formed, Gisli opted to remain independent. As a minor planet with little importance, the Syndicate allowed Gisli its freedom and promised to never meddle in its affairs. The Gislin, being stubborn and old fashioned in their ways, severed communication with the outside world shortly thereafter. Consequently, when planets under the Syndicate’s control continued to advance in technology, Gisli remained the same. In fact, over time the culture began to revert as the leaders called for a return to the old age, an age before guns and bombs and space travel. Because of this it is also the only planet in the expanse of the galaxy that is completely united as a whole. There hasn’t been a civil war in over 2,000 years. That time is referred to as the Dark Times, but nobody likes to talk about that.

There is something else that makes Gisli stand out from all the rest. Every planet that can support life is alive, yet Gisli’s life is also linked with that of the Gislin. On other planets the people and organisms that inhabit it depend on the planet itself. Without them, the world would go on just fine. On Gisli, however, the Gislin not only depend on it, but it depends on them. One cannot live without the other.

On the northwestern hemisphere of Gisli, in an especially lovely place, is the capital Solaris. That is where the royal family lives, along with the Sage. A Sage is born to the King through the royal bloodlines every hundred years, and it is the bridge that connects the Gislin to Gisli.

Sages are set apart from the people in a number of ways. The people of Gisli are a fair folk, the most fair some might even say. With skin like fine porcelain, flush lips, wide glittering eyes and chestnut hair, their beauty is only rivaled by that of the Sages. They are born with fine golden hair, so light its almost white. Their eyes are a startling and piercing grey, they have white-feathered wings like that of an angel’s which sprout from between their shoulder blades, and they are always male. But something else other than their appearance sets them apart, for they have a unique bond with the planet in which their life’s energy is linked.
A Sage can harness the power of Gisli, while the planet will thrive under the correct direction of its Sage. When properly trained, he could give life in its most raw and pure form. Their bodies seemed to emit a light, an energy that would cause tree boughs to bend their way and flowers to bloom in their presence. They were revered, adored, and treasured.
Sages are healers, as well. They have a great deal of life stored up in them, enough to power ten lifetimes. One with exceptional talent can take a spark of life and make it roar into a fire of vitality. With the blessing of the Sages the Gislin have no fear of barren land, sickness, or injury.
In a sense, the Sage is the compliment to the King. They are equals yet not rivals. Both use their power to govern the planet and keep its people happy and healthy. He could accompany the King in his visits throughout the lands. Sages have no jurisdiction and fly wherever they are needed. Together the King and Sage quell any discord or disorder in the land, keeping the peace.
Once a new sage is born, the former will leave to live out its life as an elder in the land of the prophets. There it would study the prophecies and prepare for its end as its wings withered and its eyes turned a milky white. When a Sage retired and arrived at the Valley of Prophets, the oldest elder would travel back to Solaris and train the new Sage until its eighteenth year. During these years the boy would be taught all he should know; from simple things like how to fly, mend a wound, or make a tree grow to maturity before sunset, to more complicated things like how to shape a tree without cutting it down, carve the earth with the wind or call forth the rain. Once the elder had poured all his knowledge into the boy, he would then transfer the remaining energy of his life into his body and die. This was the way of the Sages. This was the way of the Gislin, before the Second Coming of the Night, and before the birth of Raelin the Bringer.

It was 11 years before the next birth of a Sage, and Roland was twenty years old. He stood in his room in front of a mirror, thinking for once he looked older than his years. He looked grown up. He’d never saw himself as grown up before. It was an unsettling realization. The crown was heavy on his head, and under it thick brown curls tumbled over his blue eyes. His features were square and conventionally handsome. He put his hand to his face and drew his fingertips across his beard.
“King Roland,” he said aloud. He didn’t like the way it sounded. The words felt awkward in his mouth. In his head, he was just Roland.
With a sigh he took the crown his father had passed onto him earlier that day during the ceremony and placed it on the dresser. Then he began to shave.
As he wiped the last of the lather off his face his mother stepped into the doorway. He saw her figure in the mirror and turned, giving a quick, modest bow.
She glided across the room to him and put a hand gently on each side of his face. “The King bows to no one, my son.” Roland glanced away with an uncomfortable smile. “To think, this very day, twenty years ago…”
Roland put his hands over his mother’s.
“Come,” she said. “Time is short, and you will be late. The new queen is to be named.”
Roland grimaced inwardly. This was the part of the day he had been most dreading, for every hundred years, eleven years before the next Sage would be born, the King must meet his future wife; the wife chosen to him by the elders, a girl of true royal blood who would bear the Sage. It was customary for the girl to be ten years younger than the King. After the passing of a decade, when she was twenty and the King thirty, they would be married. A year from then, as prophecy had been foretold and fulfilled century after century, she would give birth to a boy with blonde hair and grey eyes.
Roland’s mother took him by the arm. “Let us meet her.”

She looked terrified, as any other ten-year-old girl would be if she were staring her future husband in the face. Roland tried offering her an apologetic smile, but she blushed and quickly averted her wide eyes to her dinner. Roland did the same.
The sounds of polite and proper conversation mixed with the scraping of silverware against dinnerware filled the room. All throughout the royal dining hall nobility smiled and nodded approvingly at Roland and the girl, talking lightly of prospects and politics.
Roland hated politics.
On one end of the long, rectangular table his parents nodded their heads ever so slightly toward him. On the other end the girl’s parents chatted excitedly with those around them. How lucky they were. How lucky their daughter was to be picked as future queen. How thrilled they had been. How thrilled she had been with she found out the news. What more could a girl ask for? What more could she aspire to be?
How little parents know of their children, thought Roland.
All around the table the conversation was the same. Roland. Roland’s future. Roland’s choices.
He knew better. They were never his choices. It was never his future to begin with. Freedom was forfeited the moment he was born a prince.
He felt the girl’s pain. His heart reached out to her. To suddenly be thrust onto the tracks of destiny at ten years old was the last thing she wanted. A child should never be shown so early what’s at the end of the road, where the trail leads and where the journey ends. Roland knew.

The moment she was informed she had been picked all the magic and mystery in her life choked, sputtered and died. He had ripped this poor girl’s childhood from her fingers with his very existence.
“Every girl in the Royal Court would kill to take my daughter’s place,” her mother said.
Roland cleared his throat. The girl idly scratched the wood beneath her seat cushion with her fingernail.
At last dinner was over. Everyone stood and pushed in their chairs. A hush swept through the dining hall.
The girl curtseyed, and without ever taking her eyes from the floor said, “A pleasure to have met you, Your Highness.”
Her voice was so soft. A child’s voice. Roland was not sure how he was to respond so he turned and left the hall without a word.

“I cannot believe how rude you were tonight, Roland.” His mother paced the room, her hands clasped behind her back.
“You act as if you don’t even want any of this.”
Roland sat on the edge of his bed. Fury was building quietly beneath the surface of his eyes, eager to spill over the edge.
“You do realize how special you are,” his mother continued, pausing to look him in the eye. “You are privileged. Do you understand the responsibility you’ve been handed as King? I should think you would, having lived all your life in this palace, in this family, in this kingdom. Who do you think you are Roland? What kind of King will you be?” She paused.
“I raised you better than this.”
Roland stood up, his anger boiling. He tried to find the words that were fighting their way out of his mouth, tried to put order to them.
“You didn’t say one word to her!” she shouted. “The whole night she looked scared to death!”
“She’s scared because two weeks ago she found out she was to marry me when she grows up! Me, a man in her eyes. She’s just a little girl!” Roland yelled, his anger fully blossomed and aflame.
“This is the way things have been done for longer than you can even comprehend,” his mother said flatly.
Roland glared at her. “Well then maybe it’s time things changed.”
“Mind your tongue,” she hissed, “You dare speak blasphemy? This is how our ancestors did things. This is how we will do things.” She sat on the bed as Roland paced back and forth through his room.
“But I was never given a choice! Neither was that little girl, we never said this was the life we wanted.”
Roland’s mother sighed. She stood and approached him, taking both his hands in hers. His anger abated as a wave of helplessness overcame him.
“This is not a choice, my son,” she spoke softly but with power. “This is a privilege, a gift and a birthright. You are the King. It is your responsibility to rule over Gisli, for the good of the Gislin. It is your duty and your honor to ensure the peace and prosperity of our land and people.”
Roland swallowed and she let go of his hands. They hung limp at his sides. She turned and crossed the room but before she left called over her shoulder, “In ten years time you will marry the girl, and she will bare to you a Sage.”
Roland crossed the room in two swift strides and slammed the door.
“I will not stand for this backwards kingdom with its backwards traditions!” he yelled as loud and as viciously as he could. From beyond the door nothing answered him but his mother’s soft footsteps ascending the marble staircase.

That night Roland lay in bed thinking and feeling helplessly trapped. He couldn’t run away. They would surely find him before he got far enough from the castle to where the people didn’t recognize his face. His anger boiled to the surface again, making his heart pound and his limbs tingle. He never wanted this. No one asked Roland if he wanted to be king. No one asked him if he wanted all the weight of the world put on his shoulders, if he wanted every aspect of his life scrutinized analyzed, surmised and then analyzed again by billions of critical eyes.
He didn’t want to be a king. He didn’t want to call all the shots, make all the hard decisions, and tell people what to do. He was just Roland, and all he wanted to do was live out his life on his own terms and marry a nice girl he picked himself because he loved her, not for who their children would be or what the elders would think.
Then Roland had a thought. He sat up, running his hand over his messy hair that poked out in every direction. Just because he had been handed this lot didn’t mean he had to handle it the way his father and father’s fathers had done so. He was the King now, it was his game and he could bend the rules, even make up new rules if he felt he should.
Swinging his legs over his bed, Roland grabbed his cloak and swung it over his shoulders. As he dashed out his chamber door he nearly knocked over a servant girl in the hallway. She bowed immediately, her tousled brown hair nearly covering her blushing cheeks.
“I am sorry sir, I mean, your Majesty. I did not see you coming. Please, forgive your servant.”
Roland put a hand on her shoulder, and she looked up to meet his eyes, alight with the fire of a brilliant idea. Her cheeks blushed deeper.
“Not to worry, miss,” Roland said in a rush. “Would you happen to know about what time it is?”
The girl straightened her skirts. “It’s the witching hour, your Majesty.”
“Perfect.” Roland said under his breath with a half grin.
“If you don’t mind me asking, my lord, what are you doing running though the castle halls so late at night anyway?”
“Oh, just going to see a friend,” Roland said. “And what are you doing, colliding with kings at such a late hour?”
The girl blushed anew. “I couldn’t sleep. I was taking a walk.” She straightened her skirts, becoming increasingly more self-conscious. The King. She was making small talk with the King. It was hard to collect her thoughts into something interesting and witty while his deep cerulean peered down at her.
Roland tried to stifle a laugh. He couldn’t help but find gentle amusement in the young girls deeply blushing cheeks. “Forgive me for asking, I didn’t mean to pry. But I must be off now,” he said, turning to leave. “Sorry for interrupting your walk. I hope you find sleep along the way.” The girl gave another quick bow.
Before he came to the staircase, he looked back at her. She was still standing in the corridor, her back to him. While his back was turned she had taken a step toward him, and then remembered she was headed the opposite direction and stopped awkwardly mid step, turning around and stopping again.
“Miss,” he called out. She turned immediately.
“I didn’t catch your name.”
“Oh,” she said, “its Jocelyn.”
“It was a pleasure running into you, Jocelyn,” Roland said with his crooked smile. Jocelyn smiled back.
“Goodnight, your majesty.”
Roland bounded up the stairs.

Roland knocked softly on the ornately carved wooden door in front of him.
“Come in, Roland,” a gentle voice called from beyond the door.
He turned the unlocked doorknob and entered the little room. The friendly smell of old books many times read and paper greeted him. There was no bed in the chamber, but two large overstuffed chairs and a large wooden desk with countless doors shoved into a corner. Different colored books of all sizes filled the bookcases that lined every inch of wall space, and more books and stacks of disheveled papers were starting to pile up on the desk, most of the floor space and one of the chairs.
In the other chair sat Luscious, his sandy, shoulder length hair draped around his face as he read a large leather-bound book that rested in his long, slender fingers. His electric steel eyes never left the page as Roland walked through the maze of knee-high book stacks. He made his way to the chair opposite of Luscious, placed with its back facing the half buried desk. In all his life, Roland had never once found his friend sitting at that desk. Its purpose was not so much to be a place to work, but rather a thing to pile other things on and contain the many mysterious items a Sage would accumulate throughout his life.
Roland sat on the old, comfortable chair he had sat in for countless nights. “Tell me, Luscious,” he said, “how is it you always know it’s me?”
Luscious closed his book and looked up, an amused smile on his lips and a playful mood dancing in his eyes.
“I’m a Sage, Roland,” he said. “The trees in the courtyard told me you were coming.”
Roland stared back at him with his lopsided smile, and leaned in.
“Trees don’t have eyes, old friend.”
“Old?” Luscious exclaimed, taken back. “Why, I look younger than you, little King. I’m not old.”
Roland chuckled softly. The Sage’s strange, silly sense of humor was something he had grown up with.
For as far back as he could remember, Luscious had looked the same, as if frozen in time. Roland was just now coming to a point in his life when he looked older than him. Yet, there was one thing about Luscious that didn’t quite match the rest of him: his eyes. They held a look of timeless age and wisdom, the look of a Sage.
“I knew it was you because no one else knocks on my door in the middle of the night. Unless it’s an emergency, in which case the person would probably barge in and tell me the bad news rather than knock politely.” He paused for a moment, taking in Roland’s appearance. “I hope nobody saw you running about the halls and courtyards,” he said, motioning to Roland’s unruly hair. “You look like a madman.”
Roland’s thoughts shifted briefly to the servant girl, Jocelyn. There was something about her; something striking in her features that he couldn’t put his finger on. Perhaps it was her eyes. He tried to remember what they looked like, peeking out from behind her dark bangs, but the image fled his grasp. He would have to make a note of noticing them the next time he had a run in with her.
“So,” Luscious said, bringing Roland out of his thoughts like a soap bubble around him had just been popped. “What’s on your mind?”
Roland shifted forward in his seat, resting one elbow on the armrest and the other on his thigh. “Well,” he began, “I had an idea tonight.”

“Go on,” Luscious said, leaning forward as well.
“It’s something I don’t think any King has ever asked to do before, and I wanted to run it by you and see what your thoughts are on the matter.”
Luscious leaned back into his chair, placing the heavy book onto his lap and crossing his arms.
“Something no King has ever done before?”
Roland nodded.
“In that case,” said Luscious with a rogue smile, “let’s hear it.”
“I was thinking,” Roland began, “in ten years, you will be sent to live in Ardis, with the prophets. And, well,” he broke from the Sage’s gaze, wondering if this was such a good idea. It seemed so as he bounded up the castle stairs. Now he worried Luscious would disapprove of his plans.
“And well...” Luscious said. “Go on.”
Roland cleared his throat rather awkwardly. “I would like to accompany you when you visit the lands, before you have to leave.”
There. He said it.
Luscious lowered his head without breaking eye contact and said nothing, waiting to hear more, so Roland kept talking.
“I would like to know my people, face to face, personally. And I want them to know me. I wish to be more real to them, someone solid and living, rather than an idea in their minds.”
Luscious said nothing.
Roland felt a need to fill the silence.
“Does that…sound like a good idea…Luscious?”
A smile started in his eyes, creasing the corners, and spread to his lips. It was a smile of pride in his friend.
“I think,” he said, “that is the best idea I’ve heard in over 82 years.”
“Really?” Roland said with a gleeful smile.
“Yes, Roland, really. I would be more than happy to have you come with me on my journeys throughout Gisli.”
The Sage picked up the book from off his lap and placed it on the nearest pile. “But I would like to inform you that you were wrong in your assumption that no King has ever done this before. In fact, there was a time quite long ago when the King almost always accompanied the Sage throughout Gislin. But as time has gone I’m afraid Kings have become a rather lazy lot, and would prefer being holed up in their castle to eat drink and entertain the rich and lucky few.” He paused, tapping his index finger on the tip of his nose, a quirk Roland had always known Luscious to have. “This is the only idea you had tonight? Or is there more.”
Roland stared intently at the book his friend had set down, thinking. He was thrilled that Luscious agreed with his idea, and he knew his friend was less of a stickler on tradition than most Sages in history, but the other things he was thinking were radical, bordering on insane. He felt it might be better if he kept this particular idea to himself.
“There is more, isn’t there.” Luscious said. “Out with it, c’mon. You want to tell me Roland, don’t go making any rash decisions without my hearing of it first.”
Roland looked up at the man who had been his closest friend since he could remember. He didn’t want to tell him, he almost knew what he would say. Yet, part of him whispered in the back of his mind that maybe he didn’t know.
The pained, uncomfortable feeling on his face made the Sage’s smile disappear. His eyebrows narrowed. “What are you thinking, Roland?”
The king sighed. He must tell him now. Luscious would know if Roland kept something from him. He always knew. There was no fooling a Sage. They were too old.
“I have decided,” Roland said with more conviction than he thought he could, “to wed whomever I please.”
There was a terrible silence. The look on Luscious’ face went from concern to stifled anger in an instant. Across from him, Roland patiently waited in turmoil for what his friend would say.
“I cannot let you make this decision, your Majesty,” was all Luscious said.
Roland winced. He didn’t call him by his name. He knew he should have kept this one to himself, but what better choice did he have? Luscious was his only true friend. If he did not stand by him the day he announced it to his kingdom, then who would? He had taken a risk. But it seemed all too clearly that it was the wrong risk to take.
“But it’s just a silly tradition! I know you, Luscious; of all people I thought you would understand. After what happened to your daughter-“
“Do not dare equate my daughter with this!” Luscious’ voice thundered in the tiny room, making Roland flinch. “You are tampering with things you don’t understand. There is reason behind our traditions, and breaking them bears consequences beyond your very comprehension.” Papers began to flutter unnaturally in the room, and for the first time Roland felt afraid of his friend, afraid of his power. Luscious took a breath to calm himself, and spoke again in a more even tone. The papers stopped fluttering. “I don’t want to ever hear of this boyish idea again, do you understand? You are the King. You might not like it, but there is nothing you can do about it, so you might as well start getting used to it tonight. This is one thing you do not have a say in, your Highness. We will not speak on this matter ever again.”
Roland said nothing. He stared at his hands on his lap.
“You should try to get some sleep,” Luscious said. He rose and opened the door to his room, motioning for Roland to leave. “The sun will be up in little less than an hour.”
As Roland passed his friend, he saw that the Sage was shaking all over. His hands and shoulders trembled.
He couldn’t bring himself to look him in the face, and walked out without saying a word.

Roland stepped out into the courtyard feeling childish and embarrassed. He stood on the marble, not thinking a single thought because he was scared of the thoughts that would come, and scared that they would bring with them tears. He silenced his mind. The world before him was washed in a dim grey in the moments before sunrise. The trees in the courtyard stood quietly in the dim light. There was no wind. There were no shadows. The silence was suffocating as the world died in this brief moment between times, waiting to be reborn with the rising of the sun.
To his right was the balcony rail. Before it stretched all of Solaris. But Roland did not turn to face it. He let out his breath slowly when he realized he’d been holding it, and feeling very much a fool, made his way to the staircase.
He had never seen his friend so upset. Not in all his life.

Join the Discussion

This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

Nico Matt said...
Apr. 2, 2009 at 4:19 pm
Captivating and exciting. I've always loved the alternate universe stories and yours didn't dissapoint. Great work, keep it up and I can't wait to see what happens.
Site Feedback