Chapter II - Aidan, Spirited Away
My name is Aidan Piersson. I started out life as the youngest of two children to a happy couple of beach goers. Before all of this happened, I was scared witless of the sea. It got to the point where even a picture of the ocean made my palms sweat. Some people find calm listening to the ocean waves lapping on the shore, and while staring into the deep blue abyss. I was not one of those people. As a matter of fact, I made it a point to avoid anything related to the sea, much less deep water in general.
Then by some twisted work of fate, I became the very thing I feared most: the sea itself. Back then, I had no idea Erenos existed. I lived a life—an existence—far removed from the one I live now. I was just an ordinary person, doing the best they could to juggle work and life. Sure, I had problems like anybody else, but for the most part, phobia aside, I was happy.
I still remember waking up to the sun beaming through my apartment window that morning. The eve of that fateful boat trip, before everything in my life turned upside down. Off in the corner of my bedroom, my suitcase laid packed and ready for the boat trip my parents had invited me to join. Yet I still laid in bed, staring at the phone beside my pillow, exhausted and anxious.
You can still cancel, I told myself, Just tell them work called, the servers went up in flames, and you have to take care of it. You don't have to do this. You don't have to get on that boat. They'll understand. They won't think any less of you.
A part of me wanted to text her right then and there, to give her that excuse so I wouldn't have to face those open waters. I couldn't bring myself to do it, to lie to my mother like that. My mother would have seen through it, and I'd never hear the end of it from my father, for chickening out like this. As I brushed the strands of brown hair out of my eyes, I recalled what she said to me over the phone:
"Aidan, you have to make a positive change in your life. If you want to get any better, you need to face your fear head on. You can't let this phobia of yours control your life forever. Don't you want to have be able to come on beach trips with us? What you're doing isn't healthy. I love you very, very much, but you need to take this step!"
My mother was completely right, of course. That didn't stop the unease I felt about this trip. The very thought of getting on that boat, and being stuck out on open water, with no way back to land made me panic like never before.
The sound of my phone's alarm, accompanied by buzzing, filled my ears. I grabbed the phone, and swiped the alarm off. With a sigh, I pushed the covers off my body and sat upright.
Look, you don't even have to be on deck. You can just hang out in your bunk until the trip is over. That way, you can still at least save face.
Shaking my head, and gritted my teeth and walked toward my closet. As I grabbed a towel and showered for the day, I did my best to push my anxiety and apprehension as far back into my mind as I could. Several minutes later, I slipped into a t-shirt and a pair of jeans, and focused on positive thoughts.
You're going to enjoy yourself. Everything will be fine. We'll all have a good time, and you can finally put this to rest. Nothing is going to happen out there, Aidan. Just relax and have fun.
I had no idea what laid in store for me on that trip, and the forces I would soon encounter during that voyage. That night would forever alter the course of my life.
Later that afternoon, I stepped into a parking lot, duffel bag slung over my shoulder. My eyes glanced toward the nearby buildings in search of my family. As I took in deep breaths of salty sea air, a familiar fear welled in the pit of my stomach. Shudders rippled across my skin, while my heart raced.
Taking in a deep breath, I shifted my attention to the concrete beneath my feet. If I could just find where my parents waited for me, maybe, just maybe, I could get through this without having a massive heart attack. All I had to do was not focus on the ocean... or the other boats leaving the marina...
I perked my head up at the sound of my mother's voice. Glancing around, I spotted my parents and my older sister waving at me from across the dock. My father motioned for me to join them. I ran as fast as I could, my mind screaming.
"Aidan, over here!"
My sister resumed off-loading their jeep. Sweat poured down my face. I couldn't stop the panic that blared in the back of my head. As I stopped to catch my breath, my mother made her way over toward me. She hugged me tightly, even as my body trembled in her arms.
"I'm so glad you could make it, Aidan."
I forced a smile on my lips.
"Y-yeah, me too, Mom..."
Way to go, Aidan! Boy, you sure have this under all under control! Mom is sure going to feel confident that you won't scramble off the boat the minute we leave port. Speaking of the boat...
"...So, uh... w-where is it?"
My mother pulled away from me. She pointed toward the farthest dock. Off into the distance, at the very far end of the pier, a large white motorboat sat ominously in the water. The shape towered over the other boats in the docks. I stared back at it, like a deer caught in headlights.
I swallowed hard, frozen where I stood. My breathing quickened. The sight of it made me want to vomit. I squinted my eyes shut. Right then and there, my mind screamed at me to run away. In an effort to save face, I took several deep breaths to calm down.
It's alright, Aidan. Calm down. It's just a boat. Nothing is going to happen. Just go off-load your things and help Dad out.
"Aidan? Are you alright? You're turning pale."
My fingers tightened their grip around the shoulder strap. I sprinted toward the boat. Nausea welled inside me. I ran below deck, past the galley, and toward the guest cabins.
Why am I doing this to myself? This is a bad idea. This is a really bad idea. I need to get away from here. I'll drown out there on the ocean!
C'mon, Aidan! It's just a boat! You made it this far! You can't quit now. You can get past this. Just take a moment to breathe...
I wiped the sheets of sweat on my forehead. With my back against the bed, I peered up at the small lights on the ceiling. My fingers clenched the comforter. For several minutes, I sat there, trying to slow my breathing and my pulse.
I don't know if I can go back out there. I'm having enough of a heart attack just getting my things on board. I hope Mom and Dad won't be too upset if leave them to it...
"Aidan, you down there? Dad needs you to help him off-load some stuff!" My sister's voice rang out through the lower deck.
Oh fuck me.
Against my better judgment, I forced myself back onto my feet. I ran out of my room. My stomach churned. I didn't get far before the urge to vomit caught up with me. As I ran back up to the main deck, I grabbed the railing of the boat. I hung my head off the side and gagged.
The world spun around me. Coughing I pulled myself away from the railing. Unable to focus, I collapsed into a heap on deck. I closed my eyes and started hyperventilating
Why can't I be normal? Normal people don't do stuff like this. Normal people don't get scared of the ocean. They go on boating trips and enjoy themselves. This shouldn't be so hard. I should be able to do this. What is wrong with me?!
Footsteps tore me away from my thoughts. I looked up at the faces of my mother, father, and sister. They peered back at me with concern.
"Aidan? Is everything alright?"
I shook my head between shallow gulps of air. I was not doing well. They could see that I wasn't doing well. The fact that I was on this boat, and preparing to embark on the most terrifying thing I've ever done in my life, was more than I could handle.
Crissy and my mother looked away. My father knelt and put a comforting hand on my shoulder. I turned my eyes away from him, ashamed. Out the corner of my eye, I watched Crissy disappear below deck along with my mother.
"Son, you need to get it together," My father said to me in a hushed tone, "Don't let the fear get to you. Take five and come help me finish the off-load."
I nodded my head between breaths. He patted my shoulder, and then stepped away. The sun's beating rays blared into my eyes. I sat back up. It took several minutes before I calmed back down. Even as my body shook and my dread increased, I pushed myself to step over the railing and back onto the docks.
Don't look at the ocean. Just whatever you do, don't look at the ocean. Don't stare at anything else but that jeep across the way. Just focus on helping Dad out so you can get this over with.
My heart fluttered. I gazed down at the wooden planks of the pier, ignoring the sickening slosh of the water below. I ran toward the jeep. Inside, my father inched a large, cardboard box out of the back seat. I grabbed the other end of the box, and slowly lowered it onto the concrete. My father closed the door, and with a beep from his keys, locked the door.
"Good, you came just in time. Aidan, help me load this onto the boat."
On the count of three, we lifted each end of the box off the ground. I grunted and inched my way backwards toward the pier. The wind toyed with my bangs, making an already difficult task even harder. As my eyes caught sight of the ocean, my knees weakened.
"Here, I'll lead. You pull."
We whirled around. I faced away from the ocean, and walked backwards toward the boat. Glancing over at my father, I let out a sigh of relief.
After several minutes of inching our way along the wooden planks, the two of us lifted the box onto the boat. The two of us climbed over the railing and inched the box over to the wheelhouse. There, the two of us left the box. My father patted me on the shoulder.
"I knew you could do it, Aidan."
I said nothing as my father stepped out of the wheelhouse. Instead, I rushed back through the main deck. There, I made my way back into the galley and into my cabin. I laid down on my bed.
Okay, Aidan. Hard part's over. Now all you have to do is just hang out in this cabin until the trip is over.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get comfortable. Even moored in the harbor, the swaying of the boat made me nauseous. Everything whirled around me. As we finally set sail, the ill sensations only worsened.
The boat rocked, and I tumbled on either side of the bed. The urge to vomit swept over me. I stumbled into the nearby bathroom, and threw up. Without a doubt, I was the most miserable, seasick person on that boat.
I didn't join my parents for dinner that night. Instead, I laid down inside my cabin, nauseous and on pins and needles from the whole affair. Shaking underneath covers, I clutched the sleeves of my t-shirt. As I tried to lay down and get some rest, a knock on my cabin door jarred me awake.
"Aidan? You still awake?" My mother's voice called out.
I slapped my hand against my forehead. Wiping away the sweat that drenched my face, I glanced over toward the door.
"Yeah, Mom..." I groaned.
"Are you decent? I have something for you."
The door to my cabin opened. My mother stepped into the room, clad in a lavender bathrobe. In her hands, she carried two bottles: a water bottle, and a vial of pills. She handed them to me. I read the label—Benadryl.
"Crissy said you weren't feeling well. I thought this might help." My mother smiled. "We left you something in the fridge as well. Hope you feel better, Aidan."
I glanced up at her and returned a small smile of my own.
"Try to get some sleep. I know it's been a rough go for you today, but just want you to know how proud of you your father and I are, for taking this step."
I nodded at her, too tired to continue the conversation any further. She turned to leave my cabin. Before she did so, my mother said one last thing to me:
"Good night, Aidan. Carpe diem."
She disappeared through the doorway, and closed the door behind her. Despite the vertigo, I sat up in my bed, and took the Benadryl. Then I laid back down.
They say that you don't appreciate what you have until it's gone. I never saw my mother again after that. I never forgave myself for not telling her how much I loved her.
That night, I tossed and turned in my bed. Unable to get comfortable, I sat up. As ocean water sprayed the window outside my cabin, a familiar dread reared in the back of my mind. Tired, exhausted, and anxious all at once, I turned to the nearby sink.
Where the hell did it go? I thought I had my water bottle over here...
I pushed the covers off my body and searched the area. Rolling around on the floor, the water bottle shifts back and forth. Irritated, I knelt down and picked the water bottle off the floor. As I sat back down, I unscrewed the cap and took a sip, and within moments, cool relief traveled down my throat.
Two more days. I just have to survive two more days of this. I can do this.
Rain droned against the deck above me. I pulled myself back on my feet. My stomach growled. Grumbling, I slipped out of bed and grabbed a spare bathrobe hanging from my cabin door.
As I turned the knob, a flash of blue light erupted from outside. I raised my hands and shielded my eyes from the intense rays. A loud crash followed. I fell down on the floor. The groan of metal shook around me.
Startled, I grabbed the doorknob and pulled myself back onto my feet. My pulse quickened. Goosebumps rippled across my skin. Adrenaline rushed through me. I turned my dread toward my family.
What was that? Are Mom and Dad okay? Is Crissy alright?
Flickers of blue light pulsed through the window. I rushed out of my cabin. My bathrobe fell on the ground, leaving me in a white shirt and a pair of shorts. Passing through the galley, I climbed the ladder up to the main deck of the ship. There, floating at the very end of the bow, an orb of glowing blue light shimmered in the storm. A gasp escaped my lips.
For the longest time, I stared into the light, mesmerized by its radiance. Something called out to me, urging me from the depths of my soul. A voice, ancient and otherworldly, beckoned me from beyond the light. I could not make out the words. Water sloshed around my bare feet. I paid no attention to my rain-soaked clothes, and the soaked brown bangs that dripped in the storm.
Like a moth to a flame, I walked closer it. A part of my mind cried out, pleading for me to run away. I became a passenger in my own flesh, unable to resist the force that took hold of me. Voices called out from behind me, also screaming at me to get away. They sounded so distant to me. Everything grew distant, from the ocean waves to the cries of family and crew that night.
I stood mere inches from the light, gazing back at it. My mind went blank as I reached a hand toward the light. Time slowed to a crawl. The light intensified, and in a flash, it collided with my body. I flew backwards through the air. The light melted into my chest, until it had vanished completely.
My body collapsed on the deck. I tried to open my eyes, but they refused to obey. I heard my mother crying out at someone, but I could not make out what she said, or who it was directed at. My heart throbbed in my chest. Every inch of my skin burned hot and uncomfortable.
What's happening to me?!
Energy seared down my skin, branding my flesh. Unimaginable pain, like being set on fire, surged through me. Nothing, not even the rainstorm, cooled me down. I pushed away the hands of those around me and began to rip off my shirt. My eyes burst open, burning with the very power that infested my being.
Lines of energy traced my body. Parallel patterns formed along my arms and legs. It streamed up my face and into my eyes. Screaming, I ran toward the edge of the boat. The sound of my mother's shrill cries filled my ears. I plummeted into the water below. As I sank into the murky ocean depths, an aged voice spoke into my mind. It uttered these words to me, words that I will never forget:
Now you and I shall become as one...
The world faded into blue, and I knew no more.
As I slept in darkness, the light spirited me into the depths of the ocean. Having gotten what it came for, the light sped through the ocean of Earth, before departing for the ocean of stars beyond. It disappeared beyond a dimensional crevasse, until it came upon another world.
The blue light, floating in the heavens above a ring of islands, spiraled into the dark depths at its center. It ventured deeper and deeper, until only a sliver of moonlight breached the waters above. At the very bottom, an ancient temple, framed by crystal, arose from the ocean floor.
It glided through the water, until it reached a room. An ornate trident, implanted in a stone slab, rested in front of an empty throne framed by silver and crystal. Behind the throne, the light floated before a chamber.
Like globs of flesh, the walls of the chamber shuddered and gasped. Formless shapes slithered up, down, and across the pulsing mounds along the walls, like pools of quicksilver in the darkness. Those shapes slunk toward the spiral shape at the center. As the blue light entered the chamber, the silver liquid amassed at the spiral.
The light sank into the liquid, dragging my unconscious soul down with it. Silver mass gathered form. A protective shell formed at the center of the room. Leylines of blue energy traced the surface of the tiny chrysalis, driving out the darkness. Like a perverted womb, a fetal shape took form inside it. It was here, inside that form, at the very bottom of the Abyss on Erenos, that my rebirth and metamorphosis began.
I would not awaken—nor become aware of any of this—for another 50 years.
Chapter I - The Sea God's Summoning
Footsteps pounded against stone. Absolute chaos abounded. Panicked voices echoed through the halls. Temple guards raced through the halls, fending off blackened demons. A woman, clad in ornate white and blue robes, rushed down the spiral stone steps. Monsters trailed behind her.
Within the sanctum of the temple, she stood before a large metallic statue. Blank eyes stared back at her. Grooves traveled down the statue's face in parallel lines, and moved down his body in mirrored patterns. Among these patterns—the spiral of a nautilus shell, drops of water, and the head of a trident—adorned his shoulders, knees, and palms, respectively. The statue held an ornate trident in his left hand, while he held out his right in offering.
"Haidros, give me strength," The woman whispered.
Blackened shapes swarmed the sanctum. The woman closed her eyes, turned over her palms, and began to sing. Notes echoed through the halls. The monsters froze in place. They clasped their ears shut with clawed hands.
One after another, the monsters turned on each other. Carnage ensued around the woman. Its brothers defeated, a lone demon hobbled toward her with maddened eyes. Before the monster could strike the woman, a man's voice rang out.
"Crawl back to the void from whence you came, Netherim!"
He pointed a cerulean staff. A pool of water formed around the monster. The Netherim let out a shriek as it began to sink into the water. It swiped and clawed at the watery prison around it. The man narrowed his eyes, and swung his staff. With one final cry, the Netherim drowned as the pool vanished into thin air. He turned his attention to the woman.
"Lennus," The man said, "I've been looking all over for you."
Lennus lowered her arms. She rushed toward the man, and embraced him.
"Almand, you have to take me into the shrine below."
Almand held onto her shoulders. Feeling her clutch his own blue robes in earnest, he looked down at her.
"You know I can't do that, Lennus. That part of the temple is forbidden to all but the High Father and the Temple Song Maiden. I recognize your ability, but you're still an apprentice! If he finds out what you're planning to do—"
"—The High Father is dead. The Netherim killed them both, Almand. I watched it happen. There is no other option now... we must find the Light of Haidros. We must summon the Erenoi. They're the only ones that can drive the Netherim back. An apprentice I may be, but I am still a Song Maiden. I can help you initiate the rites."
"And if the rites fail? What then, Lennus? The Sea God's wrath will send Vednas spiraling into the Abyss, and and the Light of Haidros will be lost to us forever. Are you willing to risk this?"
Lennus narrowed her eyes up at him.
"I am aware of the risks. If this should anger Him, so be it. I will gladly pay any price Haidros asks of me if it is to protect Erenos."
"I've made my decision. Show me the way, or I will find someone who will."
Pursing his lips, Almand released his hold on Lennus. He turned away from her and closed his eyes. As screams, shrieks and war cries grew louder and louder, he knew he did not have long to decide on their next course of action. Almand opened his eyes and glanced back at Lennus over his shoulder.
"...Let us make haste, then, before the Netherim finish what they've started this night."
"Thank you, Almand."
Almand turned around. He held up his staff, and pointed it at the sea god's statue. Its eyes glimmered a holy blue. The base of the statue moved aside, revealing a hidden staircase. The two of them rushed into its depths. Crystal lights glowed around them a soft blue, illuminating the way.
Shrieks filled the hallowed halls. The shadows of Netherim poured out of the darkness. Lennus dared not look back, nor did Almand. At the end of a winding hallway, a shining blue light cast away the darkness. The two of them made their way into a spiral-shaped, crystalline chamber.
Carved into the floor, the image of an ornate trident laid inset against a set of ocean waves. Silvery, organic shapes jetted out from the crystal that made up the chamber, like the tentacles of a kraken rising up from the sea. In the back of the chamber, a silver statue, depicting the same figure that guarded the entrance to these secret chambers, stared back at them with blank eyes.
Cupped in the statue's open palms, a blue flame pulsed in anticipation. The grooves on the statue's hands, shaped like the head of a trident, glowed in response to the light. Power unimaginable radiated from the flame. It brushed against Lennus' skin, sending shudders throughout her body. Lennus stared back at the light in awe and reverence.
"The Essence of Haidros... the High Father and the previous Song Maiden never allowed me into this chamber. I've never felt anything like this before. It's like being in the presence of a raging squall and a gentle tide all at once. Such raw power..." Lennus whispered.
Behind her, Almand pulled a thick steel door shut, and bolted it down. He raised his staff at the door. The crystal at the staff's head glowed. A barrier of water formed around the outside of the door. Blackened shapes bounced against the barrier. Almand turned around and gazed at Lennus.
"Are you ready, Lennus?"
"As ready as I will ever be."
Lennus glanced over at Almand and nodded. She closed her eyes, and held out her hands toward the light. Her voice echoed in song, the notes ringing all around her. Almand lowered himself onto his knees, and planted the end of his staff into the ground. He closed his eyes.
"Lord Haidros, Ruler of the Depths and Master of the Waves, we beseech You, O Holy One. You who guards the seas of this world from Your place beyond the reach of mortals, we offer this prayer unto You for protection and aid. Show us the path of salvation..."
Sheets of blue energy, like ocean waves, rose up along the walls of the chamber. Lennus' song grew in intensity, the waters moving in harmony with her voice. The grooves that covered every inch of the statue's body glowed the in response to the blue light, which intensified with the crackling of energy around them. An unnatural wind swirled around Lennus and Almand, like a raging hurricane.
"...and honor the ancient pact! I invoke the rites of the Erenoi in Your name. Lord Haidros! We implore You! Rise from the depths and walk this world again!"
A whine of energy filled the chamber. It drowned out Lennus' song. The eyes of the statue burned with blue energy. The pulsing light rose up from the statue's cupped hands. An explosion of energy rang out. Waves of blue light surged across the walls. One after another, Netherim burned in the light, dissolving into nothingness.
Unearthly silence hung in the air. Lennus opened her eyes. The blue light shot up and disappeared up the shaft of the chamber. Almand rose onto his feet and looked up, stunned by the events that had just unfolded. Lennus walked up to him.
"Did it work?" Lennus asked.
Almand pursed his lips.
"I don't know, Lennus... but something tells me that we'll find out soon enough..."
Motioning his hand over the head of his staff, the barrier of water guarding the door vanished with a splash. The pair unbolted the door, and made their way out of the chamber. No sign of the Netherim remained. They rose onto the steps leading back into the sanctum. As their feet touched the marble floor, the statue of Haidros slid back into place, hiding the holy chambers beneath once more.
Days later, Lennus and Almand stood among a crowd of acolytes, priests, and hydromancers. Torches and braziers cast the holy sanctum in a warm, orange glow. Before the Statue of Haidros, a lone figure peered into the crowd. Ornate white robes, lined with gold, flowed around him. He carried an aged tome in his left hand, the cover decorated with a human face. An ornate staff glimmered in his right hand, the crystal white tip mirroring the warm light.
"We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of High Father Valas and Song Maiden Dialna. For generations, they have guided the Order of Haidros. High Father Valas stood by our side in good times and bad, as both mentor and confidante. He gave his life in service to the people of Vednas, and to Lord Haidros most of all. We shall never forget his sacrifice on the night of the Netherim's attack on this sacred shrine..."
Lennus bowed her head in respect. As the figure went on with his speech, her eyes began to mist. In spite of her own sorrow, she listened intently to the figure's words. Almand turned toward Lennus.
"You think the Archminister will announce their successors?" He whispered to her.
She glanced back at him, her gaze annoyed.
"Shhhh, I'm trying to listen!" Lennus snapped.
Almand shook his head. Not wanting to irritate her any further, he turned his attention back to the Archminister's speech.
I forgot how much Song Maiden Dialna meant to her. We lost two great people in the attack, but... why? Why are the Netherim suddenly appearing again? Almand thought.
"Song Maiden Dialna, too, gave her life in service to Haidros. She taught our apprentices how to command the power of song. Her determination in the face of adversity, and her dedication to her duties, were second to none. To the people of the Vednas and the Southern Seas, she was a beacon of fortitude who could calm the very waters that are our home.
"Although the loss of our two leaders fills us with untold sorrow... we must move on. We must not allow the Netherim to drive us into despair. In the face of this menace, we must unite and stand together as one. Standing among us now are two brave individuals, who have shown their dedication and worth before Lord Haidros and the Gods of Erenos."
The Archminister looked intently at Lennus and Almand. Almand's eyes widened. He gently elbowed Lennus, and motioned for her to shift her attention. Lennus gasped in surprise. All around them, the entire crowd turned their gaze toward the pair. With so many eyes on her, the apprentice shifted her weight in discomfort.
"Lennus Arendis and Almand Navarre, step forward."
Lennus drew in a deep breath. Glancing at one another, they nodded their heads as the crowd moved away from them. They stepped toward the Archminister in silence. Lennus and Almand dropped onto their knees in silence. Underneath the hood of his cowl, the Archminister curled his lips in a gentle smile. He pointed the head of his staff at Almand.
"Do you, Almand Navarre, solemnly swear to dedicate your life in service to Haidros, and to train, guide, and protect the people of the Southern Seas in His name?" The Archminister asked.
Almand closed his eyes.
The Archminister turned his attention to Lennus. Dread and anticipation welled inside her. She dared not move, nor did she dare to shift her gaze away from the marble floor. As the Archminister pointed his staff toward her, his deep voice rang out once more.
"Do you, Lennus Arendis, solemnly swear to dedicate your life in service to Haidros, and to pass on your widsom and song to the people of the Southern Seas in His name?"
Lennus felt the Archminister tap his ceremonial staff on the tips of her shoulders. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched him step back toward Almand, and do the same. The Archminister then walked toward the center of them, and planted his staff into the ground.
"By the power invested in me by the Five Gods and the Eren Orthodoxy, I hereby name you High Father Almand and Song Maiden Lennus of the Order of Haidros. May the hand of the Sea God guide you and your apprentices on the path toward wisdom and enlightenment."
All around them, the crowd quietly offered their applause. The Archminister motioned for the two to rise. Lennus and Almand rose onto their feet, and turned around. What began as a solemn gathering had turned into a moment of celebration. Some time later, the gathering dispursed, and all, save for Lennus, Almand, and the Archminister, remained standing in the temple sanctum.
"Thank you for coming on such short notice, Archminister Seranno," Almand said.
Seranno held up his hand.
"It is I who should be thanking you. In the face of such danger, the two of you acted with courage and conviction. I could ask for nothing more out of Valas and Dialna's successors. As Archminister of the Eren Orthodoxy, it is my duty to oversee the five sects. I could not leave the Order of Haidros without leadership. However... that is not the only reason I came here."
Almand raised his eyebrow. Seranno turned around.
"There are matters I wish to discuss with the two of you... in private. Please come with me."
The Archminister held up his staff. The crystal head glowed a cerulean blue, and the Statue of Haidros slid away. Following the Arch Minister, the two of them made their way down the very halls that had before swarmed with Netherim. None of them said anything to one another. Even in the crystal blue light that abounded the passage, Lennus sensed something had changed since she and Almand last came here.
Lennus gazed at the robed silhouette of the Archminister in confusion. As Seranno opened the door that lead into the shrine where the Essence of Haidros once stood, a shudder of dread ran down her spine. Without the Sea God's power, the chamber felt silent, empty, and foreboding. Seranno stopped before the Statue of Haidros in the back of the open space.
"The two of you performed the rite of summoning, did you not?" Seranno asked.
"How did you know?"
Seranno laughed. He turned around and gazed at the pair intently.
"I saw the Essence of Haidros depart from my place in the Temple of the Five Gods. However, His was not the only one vanished from our world that night."
Lennus' eyes widened.
"You mean... the other four divine essences departed Erenos as well?" She shook her head. "How can that be? Our intent was to call Haidros back to the world and drive the Netherim back to the void!"
Seranno shifted his gaze toward Lennus.
"You have heard the stories, yes?" Seranno shifted his weight. "Surely, Dialna must have said something to you regarding the ancient myths."
Lennus pursed her lips. Almand gazed back at him, his expression blank. He stepped toward Seranno.
"Long ago, when the world was still young, Haidros, the God of Water, emerged from the depths of the ocean. Wielding a mighty trident, He carved out the land and the sea, giving birth to the islands we live on today. When His task was complete, He went on to assist His Brothers and Sisters in creating our world of Erenos. Before He and the Five Gods departed our world, Haidros left behind the Abyssal Trident, the essence of his power, and a promise to his creations: 'When Erenos lies on the brink of destruction, when all hope seems lost, call My name, and I shall answer'"
Seranno nodded his head at Almand.
"Yes, but there is more. Each of the Five Gods left behind the essence of their power. For generations, the temples of the Eren Orthodoxy have safeguarded them. Their power has kept our world in balance for aeons. Without it, our world will enter a state of decline, and eventually fall back into the void. The Netherim despise the Gods all they have made, and seek to bring about Erenos' destruction. Now that we are on the subject of the Netherim, what else do you remember?"
Lennus spoke up.
"Whenever the Netherim, spawn of the void, returns to consume Erenos, the gods will send forth their children, the Erenoi, to redeem it. For aeons, our world has been governed by the struggle of these opposing forces. It is said when the Netherim invade the world once more, the essences of the five gods will depart this world. There, they will return to the divine realm, and a new generation of Erenoi will return to protect Erenos once more."
Seranno smiled at Lennus.
"Very good, Song Maiden Lennus. I see that the two of you know your history well. Valas and Dialna will rest easy knowing that the Order of Haidros is in capable hands. Now then, back to the matter at hand... when you performed the rite of summoning, the Essence of Haidros departed the world, and the other four soon followed, despite only one of the Five Gods being summoned..."
Almand's expression turned solemn and grave. Lennus looked back at him and turned pale. The gravity in Seranno's tone intensified.
"This is a sign, my children: a sign that the cycle of the gods has begun once again."
"So then we have initiated the turning of the wheel..." Almand shook his head. "By the gods... I had no idea."
Seranno, sensing the fear in Almand's voice, offered a comforting gaze.
"The gods work in mysterious ways. You were not wrong in performing the rites. Had you done nothing, the Netherim would have destroyed Vednas, and the Essence of Haidros would have been lost forever. They would have then moved on to the rest of Erenos, and all would have been for naught."
"Archminister..." Lennus and Almand uttered.
"It is out of our hands now. All that we can do is hope... and pray," Seranno said.
Almand closed his eyes and shook his head.
"But what will become of our world? Without the essences of the five gods, Erenos will be destroyed!"
"I'm afraid only the Gods Themselves know the answer to that question, High Father. We will find out what the gods have planned for us soon enough..."
For the longest time, the three of them said nothing to one another. Seranno moved to exit the room, while Lennus and Almand followed. The wealth of information offered by the Archminister both enlightened and terrified them. Up until that point, neither of them understood the gravity of their actions on that night. The three of them made their way back into the sanctum of the temple.
The next day, as the sun began to rise over the waters surrounding Vednas, the two of them escorted the Archminister to a steamboat moored at the nearby city of Aquias. Priests from beyond the Southern Seas awaited them. The two of them helped the Archminister board the boat. As the boat set sail to lands beyond the Southern Seas, Seranno called out to Lennus and Almand one last time.
"May the Erenoi protect us," He called out to them.
"May the Erenoi protect us," They responded back.
Within moments, the ship made its way out of the harbor, and the two of them began the journey back to the temple.
Beyond the fabric of time and space, the blue light sped through the stars. It left behind the world of Erenos, and instead came upon another—a world not of magic and steamworks, but of science and technology. The light streaked through the skies of this unsuspecting world, as if in search of something.
The light plunged into the waters of this new world. It sped by the marine and ocean life around it. Far above the surface of the water, the metal keel of a boat tore through the waves. Propellers cycled behind it, pushing the boat forward. Somewhere, deep within the boat, the light found the object it sought out—a soul.
The world the light had entered? It was none other than our very own Earth. And the soul it found on that boat? That soul, it turned out, was none other my own.