Chapter 1: The Death of Men
(Southeast Corner of the Isle of Romney, Perion, Present Day)
Almost as far south into the Ocean of Mohers as one could go before reaching Carnac, the Isle of Romney had been both temperate and tropical—but that was before Radin had opened the First Seal terrorizing the world with the Blood Night. Radin had left Royvan Miral specific instructions to find the Second Seal, no matter the outcome of the battle of Axum. Royvan didn’t know who to follow, Talemar or Radin, but both wanted and needed the Second Seal, so it didn’t matter. The only way through the decaying bleakness of the Blood Night was pressing through it—with whatever will remained. It was as if they were lost deep in the bowels of a dark, dank cavern, the entrance sealed shut with debris. The only way forward was forward was deeper into the mountain. They were committed now!
Looking up to the pale red Blood Night sky Radin had brought to the world, Royvan Miral contemplated the words that kept coming to him in his dreams each night:
And there shall be but seven trumpets, bearing seven messages,
For all the worlds to hear, and all men therein.
And each message shall be sealed up in itself.
And woe unto the men of the worlds, for once the first is uttered,
What will be will be swiftly, and nothing in Creation shall hinder.
Often, he contemplated that second line, ‘For all the worlds to hear, and all the men therein,’ wondering if Radin’s words had been the catalyst of terror on other planets of Humanity. Shaking off the thought, bringing himself back to the world that mattered most to him right now—theirs—Royvan mustered the reserves of his resolve.
Looking to Kerrich, Levi, and Ham, each in turn, he knew their world was forever changed, and prayed for Radin’s soul. If Radin still lived, and that was a big if, he was surely being tormented by that great and unholy thing that took him. That moment had changed them all—Royvan especially so. Royvan Miral was neither a man of faith nor religion. He was a believer in what he could see, touch, and feel in the here and now. But now, they had first-hand knowledge of the extremes of what existed and interacted with them in their world; it had changed everything for him. This was it, and there was no denying it anymore, for any of them. He had all the motivation required to do what Radin had asked of him—even if Radin had never made the request at all. He didn’t know if he was now a man of faith or not. Am I now? He contemplated the prayers he’d offered for Radin. He wasn’t sure what to believe in except that his unique skills were needed now more than ever. People were counting on him and he trusted in those people that at least one—if not many—had the proper intentions of getting Humanity on the other side of this…unmaking of Creation.
Tracing his fingertips over the stone sculptures of a ring of Nine Men, half buried and weathered by the relentlessness of time, Royvan Miral recalled his knowledge of ancient Ferian. It was a dead language dating back more than a thousand years and didn’t always provide direct word-for-word translations. Some of what he was reading had no meaning in today’s tongue:
‘The Death of Men awaits you with the coming of the morning. East, as far East as the morning, you will find the doom of all men, for your age and the ages to come.’
It was a terribly inaccurate translation, he hoped, but the best he could afford from his memory of the dead, hieroglyphic language.
The ring of statues reminded him of the second ring on the holy grounds of Axum, but these were clearly not the same men as those depicted in Axum. The architectural style was vastly different as well. This ring was of a totally different time-period.
“What does it say,” Kerrich asked, dismounting to get a closer look for himself.
“Don’t,” Royvan Miral warned. “Get back on your horse. And tell Quin to get ready; we’ll need a Portal...and a ship.”
“East.” Royvan wasn’t in the mood for details. It could only be one of a few places from the other pieces to this puzzle he’d been putting together over the last several years. Even before he found the First Seal, he had found clues to the location of the second, the fourth, and the fifth. And this wasn’t the first time he’d seen similar warnings of the ‘Death of Men’ associated with the Second Seal. It terrified him, but they were already living in a world of darkness, and the only way through it was through it.
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