I was invited to join the Prossia blog tour through Masquerade Crew again, and since I don't have to time right now to sit down and hash out posts, I thought I'd just join in the fun with a cover reveal and an excerpt today.
I'll be reviewing the book tomorrow so do check back then. (Also, check out giveaway at the bottom!)
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Aly came back into the store with a firm grip around the woolen cover that was wrapped around her after taking a bath in the garden springs. The warmness of the lake behind her pappai’s hut helped calmed her nerves a little, and she knew she could handle the draft. She had no other choice but to handle the draft. Besides, there were still exams before war. An odd way to think, but such was the way on Gooliun.
The mastra’s tents were still slippery and dripping water onto the store floor when she walked inside. She made sure the front portal was fully closed so dust from the outdoors wouldn’t slip in. After blowing off all the candles in the kitchen, she strolled down to the room that was calling, and the bed that was waiting.
Aly’s room was a very small resting board placed right behind the kitchen. The only thing that separated the two rooms was a thin curtain set between the kitchen tub and a piece of green oak wood that served as a hanger for the few robes she had. It was basic, but served its purpose.
Aly’s toes, even though they were short in length, seemed to clutch onto the furriness of her bedroom floor. The carpet was warmer than the plastic-like material of the kitchen floor. She bent over to take off an anklet she had woven, and let the useless fie cover drop onto the floor.
After placing her anklet onto the small table by her bed, Aly picked up the woolen cover and threw it over the wooden bar of the ceiling so it could dry. The exhausted Goolian finally fell into the furs of her bed since all of her night routines were completed. Sleep was her second favorite event of the day next to singing, sparring, and daydreaming.
The mastra wasn’t able to shut her eyes when she thought about how she was supposed to sleep during the war. Would the armed forces acquire some sort of transportable device for them to sleep in, or would they just have to sleep in the grass? Aly laughed at the thought of that. Then again, it probably did make sense. After all, she would be outdoors, and she could get exposed to possible infections from sleeping on some sort of weeds.
“And what if a night beast was to attack my camp as I slumber?” she thought as she sat up. “Nay, what if the Cyogen attack my camp as they slumber? Would they torture me, ravage me, skin me, dissect me as I remain—”
. . .
Aly looked as terrible as the rest of the Young Ones in the learning board the following morning. Some hadn’t cleaned up, some didn’t change clothes from the day before, and none of them looked like they had gotten any sort of sleep. No one even bothered letting the leavened covers on the walls open so some sunlight could come in.
Catty nearly crashed into her seat right across from Aly when she came in. She gradually leaned over to her friend, and managed to poke her on the head.
“An absence in sleep for you as well, yes?” the spunk asked in a gritty tone.
Aly buried her head into her folded arms, so the spunk figured Aly’s silence meant “yes.”
“Truly, I would doubt any of us did,” Catty continued. “It was the delivery’s error. After my pappai had returned from your hut the prior night, he said we were expected to receive those letters a near six hours before they had arrived.”
Aly banged her head into the wooden desk.
“Truth’s Grace, thus I am glad no such thing happened, if that be the case. I fear my studying would have suffered dearly,” she confessed.
Catty was about to agree before she cut herself off along with everyone else in class. Everyone in the room heard their instructor’s footsteps coming from ten meters, so the Young Ones counted the time it would take for him to reach the portal. He entered in right on the dot.
Master Slew was close to two meters in height and around his early fifties. His white tents were longer than most in the board, and neatly groomed. He was quite athletic looking even though he always came in with a robe similar to that of Master Quongun’s. He was dressed very decently for his stature and one so young, and a lot of the females had a little crush on him, Catty being one of them.
“A fair morning class,” he began. “As all are well aware, or should be, today marks your exams day. This shall be the judge to whether or not you will progress to your final year of beginner’s session in higher ed.”
Aly rested her head in her palm and yawned, but Catty nudged her back up.
“Yet,” Slew continued, “I am fairly sure, perhaps due to the lack of sharpness in your eyes, that you are aware of the Call To Arms, as well. Truly, some of your beloved, let alone yourselves, shall no longer be seen beyond a few following days. The Rule of Education knows that a grand deal received letters from His Honor around the evening time. Being considerate of the possible troubles of unmanageable stress, the Rule has thus delayed your exams until further notice along with teachings for the next five days.”
Cheers flew throughout the entire board and Master Slew had to cover his ears. He ordered everyone to settle down, but the students didn’t bother. Catty and another student eventually whistled and shut everyone up. Slew smiled and winked at Catty. The spunk blushed, and Aly rolled her eyes when she noticed her friend’s silly embarrassment.
“Now then,” Slew continued. “To my understanding, a grave deal of you has plannings to make, yet before this, it is my hope that we shall all keep the ones that are to fend for us in our thoughts, and pray that Truth’s Grace guides and finds favor with them. As for the ones that are to depart, may the Great Philosophy smile upon you always, and we shall see you all after you have brought us the peace and victory won.”
Slew actually looked at Aly and smiled, and the Young One looked down when she felt herself doing the same. Several Young Ones, including Aly, received good fortunes and prayers before Master Slew finally yelled, “You are free to go.”
The Young Ones stormed out of the building like Little Ones ready to play danker ball all day. Some stayed around the area, having nothing better to do, and some made small discussion circles around the ones leaving in several days. Then there were some like Aly and Catty’s “entourage” of four that headed for home, as usual.
The four didn’t say anything on the way back home since the feeling in the atmosphere was too odd for joking and gossiping. So, with every step, silence followed. Catty acted like she tripped over a rock on the road just so the mastras could have something, anything, to laugh over. Aly asked if the spunk was okay. Catty made a fake laugh and giggled, but no one took the bait. The stroll back home went quiet again, immediately.
The spunk eventually groaned and flung her hands into the air when the silence became too much for her.
“Enough with this!” she started. “Be of cheer, Mastras. Frowns make of little use, yes?”
The others nodded their heads, smirked, and went back to walking in silence. Catty’s ear shot out, and her lip pouted.
“You lot bring a fowl spirit indeed,” she whined. “Truly, you are the main few who should have stayed home.”
Aly glared at Catty, and the look made the spunk lean away a little.
“Well, I only try to make a point,” Catty insisted.
Aly wasn’t in the mood to argue with Catty, so she still didn’t say anything. Since she was the daughter of their tribe’s field lord, Catty was going to be immune from this form of civil servitude since her destiny of working in some form of simple agriculture logistics was already given at birth. Catty was a lively heart, but a spoiled one as well.
“I understand you and Master Shanvi must make preparations for the travel to the Capital, yes?” Catty asked Aly. “Surely he must be growing delirious doing all the packing by himself. You are not taking much, nay?”
“Nay, we shall only bring one bag with us, I believe,” Aly said. She got quiet again, and the other three scratched their heads as they looked at each other.
“Perhaps . . . well, perhaps we can travel together along the way to the Capital then, yes?” Catty asked.
Aly and the other mastras halted almost on the same heel, and all of their ears perched up to direct attention.
“I mean, I shall be traveling in my pappai’s company as well since he wishes to go, and I would think it fair that I serve also,” the spunk finished.
“This one has lost her wits, yes?!” Aly proclaimed. “And beyond this, you mean to hold such news to yourself this entire morning?!”
“Truly, I did, for fear of a reaction similar to this,” Catty said, rolling her eyes. “What troubles you fools? We are all ten and seven years in age, and the law permits us to volunteer for service by now if it would be our wish. And beyond this, I may see different creatures from other worlds and the like.”
“Truly, how I wish to have the luxury of you,” Aly nearly growled. “You are offspring to one of the tribe’s wealthiest lords. There is no place for you in battle.”
“Need I remind you that I am the highest rank in our combat courses? It would be a grave dishonor for me to leave my skills to waste.”
Aly looked like she was about to say something else, but bit her lip instead.
“Have we not been prepared for such events as this ever since we were of good age?” Catty insisted with a pout lip. “Have we not always wondered why we must learn the bases of combat when there is no one to test our skills against?
“Beyond this, it would be an honor to our families and planet, yes? Has not the tribe taught us to treasure such values? The Cyogen will seek those that have the will to fight or not. Truly, my gravest apologies for not wanting to lie down and cower in hopes of others managing my well being when I should manage my own.”
Aly held her head down. Catty was the shortest out of everyone, but the other three felt like she was towering over all of them. The spunk was truly the better. The words embedded into their heads at an early age apparently left the deeper impact on the one of noble birth. Honor Truth’s Grace, love your family, and put all things before yourself as an honorable form of servitude to the Planet Gooliun. That was the way of things for the generations beyond generations.
“What use will it be to talk her out of it, Mastras?” one of the other four spoke up. “Truly, we know if the spoiled ones such as Catty are ever in want, they shall have it. Which reminds me, have you not asked Master Slew for a get-together yet, Little Mistress?”
The other two mastras gasped and covered their mouths. Catty’s yellow eyes dimmed in anger as her cheeks flushed.
“I told you, it was a mere infatuation,” the spunk hissed. “Truly, a grave deal of other mastras share similar admirations for Teacher.”
The female continued, “Truly. And I suppose this was the case when you informed me that you wanted to give him your purity head beads.”
Everyone stood mute for what seemed like forever. Aly stared straight at Catty, and Catty could only look back at Aly.
“Catty, you wish to MATE with Master Slew?” Aly asked. She tried to keep a straight look, but ended up howling right into Catty’s face. The other two eventually did the same.
The three started perking their lips and mimicking Catty and their teacher dancing down the road, hand in hand, happy as a bug. The yellow-eyed spunk, on the other hand, slowly calmed her nerves, and even smiled. As her smirk eventually morphed into a devious grin, the temperature made a sudden drop. The three laughing gave the warning no mind until they felt the sudden spark of combustible energy fire out of her hands.
A small yellow ball of plasma exploded from Catty’s fingers as she held it up in mid-air. Laughing turned into choking and clearing throats, but Aly just rolled her eyes and sighed.
Catty rolled the sphere without any effort between her fingers. The other two mastras stared at the ball with nerves pinched, and rolled their tongues back into their mouths. Satisfied with the silence, the spunk tossed the sphere into the air and allowed the other compounds to break it up until it finally disappeared. Maybe such individuals could be useful in the battlefield after all.
. . .
Aly and Catty left the other mastras when the dirt road split in two.
“Come now, Mastra,” Aly insisted as she held Catty in her arms and tried to stop giggling. “Truly, I begged for your pardon.”
“Shut up, I say,” Catty ordered. “Such apologies are pointless as you remain in the midst of laughter.”
“Be that as it may, there was fowl play in your act as well. You may have suffered a great deal of troubles had an elder seen you toying with your inner being as such.”
“You only speak foul since you cannot control your own. Speaking of such, who are you to speak of losing tempers? Truly, you are what the aliens are rumored to call a ‘ticking time bomb.”
“Nay, I have kept my ease under control very well for some time, and this one should learn to do the same.”
Catty wasn’t in the mood for debating, so she left the dispute where it stood. She was more interested in what looked like the tribe’s unannounced desertion, anyway. No Little Ones playing danker ball in the square, no grownups doing laundry, no one was even in the fields. Aly didn’t take the twitch in her spine lightly, and sped up her pace to her home.
“Odd,” Catty said. “I wonder where all have gone off to. One would think the lot of us were hiding from the Cyogen already, yes? Perhaps there is a council at the temple?”
“Would we not have been informed about it this morning while we were still at the board?”
“If that be the case, then I would cancel the regular visit, and prefer to hurry on home instead.”
With Catty finally going her separate way, Aly entertained herself with the comedic events along the way home from the education board. By the time she reached her hut and opened the portal door, the control was gone. Aly entered the store and burst into laughter, falling to her knees as her stomach ached from the excessive gaiety. She didn’t even pay any mind to the customers in the store.
The other Goolians stared at the Young One while murmuring to each another about how surprised they were over Aly’s childish entrance. Her pappai had raised her to be so proper, after all.
Shanvi hopped onto a pedestal and peered over the heads of the customers at his bar. His Young One was on the floor, almost in tears, and the look that several people made at him indicated that they were faulting him for Aly’s rudeness.
“My apologies, Masters and Mastras” Shanvi said as he rubbed his blue vested belly and cleared his throat. “Aly. Aly, enough of this! Alytchai!”
Aly choked on her own saliva when she heard her full name, and her blood went thin when she saw a store full of people staring straight at her.
“Oh. I- I am so- I just returned from- my friends and I . . . my highest apologies,” she pleaded.
Shanvi accidentally slipped out a giggle before he hopped off the pedestal he was standing on. He excused himself through the crowd, helped Aly up off the cold store floor, and smiled.
He proclaimed, “Now that I have all’s attention . . . and yours, Aly, you have some guests, dearest.”
Aly studied the room in deeper detail. The store was designed to hold ten people comfortably, but she counted a total of thirty bodies scrunching themselves inside the tiny room. There were always a good number of people at Shanvi’s store to either buy goods or hear Aly sing, but the crowds were never like this before. While she was busy wondering what the special occasion was, Shanvi grabbed her hand and escorted her to the back portal with the crowd trying to follow them.
“You may go and meet us around back with the others,” Shanvi told everyone before he opened the door.
“Others? What others do you speak of?” Aly asked. “Pappai, if I may ask, what—”
The mastra’s speech was cut short when she saw the entire village of Kutenbrya stretched out across the open fields after Shanvi pushed the door away. From the smallest of Little Ones to the eldest of the Mature Aged, everyone was there. Some were sitting on the rooftops of neighbors while others were looking out of nearby hut windows, and they were all looking at Aly. It didn’t take her long to understand what was going on, so she spun around on one heel and tried to shove her way back inside the store so she could hide.
“No need to fret,” Shanvi said as he caught Aly by her frozen stiff shoulders and rubbed them. “You have sung for every soul here at least once, yes? I believe you can do so now. Truly, this was unexpected, yet perhaps everyone had the same mind set.
“Aly, lives shall forever differ in the manner of only a few days, and we are blind as to what will come of us or the tribe. Heed these faces. Some of these you see now will . . . this may be the last time to gaze upon them again.”
Catty, who came back to find Aly since no one was at her home, poked her head around the corner of Shanvi’s hut. When Aly noticed the spunk, she gave Catty a subtle look that indicated Aly needed her friend to rescue her. However, Catty could only shrug as she shoved through the crowd so she could get to her own parents.
“People are troubled, Little One,” Shanvi said as he guided her gaze back to his eyes with two fingers under her chin. “Yet Truth’s Grace has blessed you with a gift to help others smile even when all is wrong. Offer them something to smile about now, yes?”
Shanvi gently pushed Aly to the front of the deck, and a stream of sweat slid down her side as her lips quivered. Aly looked out again and saw her other two friends with their folks. Like Catty, they looked just as surprised, but they still offered an encouraging smile for her.
“Come now, Mastra,” she scolded herself. “Truly, just breathe.”
Aly took a deep breath, and the spectacle began. A gentle wind from the east made its way across the field, brushing against the tall strands of green and tanned wheat. Beasts and buggers muted their sounds, and flaming beetles hovered across the deck with their rears blinking soft, blue lights around the area.
Alytchai’s eyes caught the glare of Gooliun’s first sun, making them brighter than ever. The wind from the east blew a soft rhythm into her sparkling blue tentacles as they started to wave into the breeze. She opened her mouth, and sung like that of an angelic aura. No one’s mind, as often as they had heard it before, could’ve possibly fathomed such beauty in the brinks of sounds.
Folk who were standing felt weak in the knees and had to sit down as their mouths dropped simultaneously. They were in a daze, a trance, in complete hypnotic states. No one spoke, blinked, and some even forgot to breathe as she sung. The words she spoke were of comfort:
The morning’s bright colors are no longer more, yet resides a new hue in the air to adore. No pinks or blues, nor reds in this theme, yet a new branch of colors are replacing this scheme.
T'is gray and black and all flakes of fear too, no longer fresh, no longer new. War is near, the world seem so old. Its wrath so damp, so cruel, so cold.
Yet smile in joy during feel of the days. If only this feeling could always be at stay.
For now the noons are bright and clear, not a frown in the sky, not one is near.
Worry not of this nature, offer it no might. Stress cares for later, they retreat as the night. Truth’s Grace shall be with us, in this time of fear, and bring with it joy, love, hope, and good cheer.
The wind kept sending its soft breeze after she finished, and the eyes of all were filled with what Aly promised them: joy, love, hope, and good cheer.
. . .
The evening gave way to a festival held around the village’s temple, and a huge camp fire’s flames soared overhead as the Goolians made their prayers or sat in front of the warmth. Normal attire was replaced with what the Goolian creatures considered formal clothing, brightly colored, beaded, and light.
Aly, like most of the Young Ones and Little Ones, headed over to a grand circle not too far off from the mass to get entertained by the old stories. She went and sat by Catty and their other two mastra friends, who already had their eyes set on an elder Goolian in standing in the center of the circle. He had similar qualities to Shanvi, but far older, and far more powerful with his inner being. The age in his eyes was shown by the marvelous glow about them, but they still failed in comparison to the brilliance in Aly’s.
He began with, “Gather around, Little Ones, and I shall tell you the tale of the glories of ages ago in the times when the known world was in continuous quarrel with the nations. With one force were the followers of the Divine Truth’s Grace, the Eastern Alliance, and then those who would oppose the Philosophy that said such things as justice and honor were only abstract, if even evident. Such was the lie of the Planet Cyiaus that housed the Cyogen, and on that rock did the Cyogen embark to test its lie against its neighbors of Planet Ioweth and Requely. And then there were the weak ideals of the Prossia, a pacifist group from all rocks with hopes of ending such a glorious tale by laying down the arm without the will or strength to fight.”
“Truth’s Grace,” Catty whined as she leaned back. “This again?”
“What troubles this one?” Aly whispered. “Truly, such a story is fitting, given the circumstances.”
“The circumstances remind me that we heard this story for the hundredth time less than a month ago.”
“Perhaps. For it is a good story.”
“Nay, I say it is a boring story.”
“Silence, fools,” one of the other young mastras said as she popped Catty’s thigh with her hand. “You two draw attention from the crowd for being too grand in volume.”
Aly and Catty looked up and saw three elder Goolians supervising the circle glaring at them from the other side. They quickly acted like they were listening to the storyteller the entire time, and made extra sure they didn’t glance back over at the scolding grownups.
“History tells us of the wages this great war gave to the nations stretched out amongst the known world,” the storyteller continued. “The night sky lit up as the plunders of flying towers would plummet back into earth as if meteor showers. The rainbows of light from the technologies of others soared across the vast skies only to run through the hearts of many. For great was the number of all who fell during those dark years.
“And for two and a hundred of our years, the war waged on without the heed of Goolian beings, and the fate of the Honorable Eastern Alliance and the Galactic Order were at threat. For the forces of the west held might in their tactics and weapons, and no fool would bother the heeds of Prossia. Yet our time did arrive, and the Eastern Alliance called for our aid.”
More people started showing up, and stood behind the circle of Young Ones and Little Ones. Catty yawned and rested her chin in her palm as the elder Goolian kept blabbering about an old war she heard about around thousands of camp fires and had studied in her education board for years. Aly elbowed the spunk in the side when Catty snorted too loud, and Catty returned the gesture by slapping Aly’s arm.
“Truth’s Grace, Mastra,” Aly grumbled through her gritting teeth. “Why not be more obvious of your boredom?”
“Truly, I doubt such a feat is possible.”
“Enough! He nears my favorite part of the story.”
The two felt a hand on both of their shoulders, and they got stiff as green oak wood. The other children leaned away from the two as if they were trying to avoid the threatening aura of the Mature Aged Goolian with long orange tents squatting down between Aly and Catty.
“Am I to see two Young Ones perform less behaved than the Little Ones they share their company with?” the elder mastra asked. “And must I separate this pair in a similar fashion as such?”
“Nay, Mastra,” the two Young Ones said.
“Thus I shall make this my final warning then, very good?”
“Very good, Mistress Cattalice,” Aly said as she bowed her head at the Goolian.
“Apologies, Mammai,” Catty answered back.
When Catty’s mother left the two alone, Aly crossed her arms and tried scooting away from the spunk. Catty didn’t make a fuss this time and looked at the ground instead, embarrassed upon knowing that everyone was probably looking at the teenage girl that just got publically lectured by her own mammai. Even though the little scene was going on in front of him, the storyteller never lost his rhythm, and kept going.
“And once the Galactic Order called for aid, the glory of the Goolian planet shifted the tides of the war in favor to the devoted followers of the true Philosophy, that justice and honor does have its own form. It is true, and it is the Truth’s Grace. And thus Truth’s Grace was eminent by our faith within.
“And we saved the souls of Ioweth and Requely, and returned them to the favor of Truth’s Grace. With all but the darkness of the Cyogen left, the Goolian race led the charge against the colossal rock sphere that was Planet Cyiaus. And victory was blessed to us!”
The crowd listening let out a large tribal cry.
“And thus dark times have befallen amongst our precious galaxy once more, and our glory has once again been pleaded by others who would rely on their . . . technology. Truly, how history repeats itself, yes?”
The sarcasm in the elder’s voice stirred chuckles and giggles in the crowd, and the storyteller smiled at his joke before he continued. Aly lost a little bit of her put-off mood, and uncrossed her arms. She folded her hands into her lap, and leaned forward a little when she could tell the storyteller was actually about to say something different. Catty tilted her head when she realized the same thing.
“So, fret not over the concerns of your own flesh and blood. This is not the way of Kutenbrya, nor is it of Planet Gooliun alone,” the storyteller said.
Another tribal cry was shouted.
“Gooliun does not heed to one individual. For do we not all heed in the fields? Do we all not harvest? Do we all not go to arms? Unity, community, family, fighters, warriors! We have been born for this task, this glory, this destiny, and this honor! The darkness of the Cyogen wishes to annihilate us? Let us tend to their memory. So take charge Kutenbriuns. Take charge soldiers! Take charge Gooliun! For the world is ours! The future is ours! And glory awaits us in the stars!”
Cheers roared into the darkness of the sky. Aly was thrilled. Her favorite story just got turned into a rallying call. How fitting. Catty nodded with a look of passable approval as she clapped her hands after subtly wiping an eye. However, it was the sound of drums booming throughout the village, and the Young Ones lining up so they could perform their tribal dance that finally got the spunk fired up.
After going through the dance line with Catty and her other friends for several rounds, Aly sighed heavily with relief. Satisfied with the much needed morale boost, she excused herself from the dance line that was now turning into an entire village dance floor. Shanvi caught eye of his Young One trying to slip away, and caught her before she was able to make her escape.
“And where is this one going?” he asked with a smile.
“If I may, I was off to the fields. Truly, nothing more.”
Shanvi studied the mastra’s expression for several seconds, and nodded when he could tell she was feeling fine. The sounds of music and laughter eventually faded away into nothing more than the sounds of the night creatures as Aly walked out into the fields. It didn’t take long for the Young One to find her favorite spot, and was gazing up into the pattern of crystals floating milos beyond milos away called stars.
Aly’s mind eventually slipped into daydreaming, and she thought about the endless possibilities waiting for her beyond her known world. The realm of wondering was gone, and the dimension of reality was finally going to reveal itself. No more mysteries, but only fact, and a sudden chill ran down her spine. She chuckled to herself because the chill wasn’t one of alarm, but of anticipation. Finally, the world would be hers.
This wonderful epiphany was more than enough of a source for the Goolian to close her eyes, and start a happy little tune. The gentle breeze picked up its pace again, and the creatures of the night quieted down in reverence to the mastra’s enchanted voice. Sailing across the wheat was what the song did, soaring. As the song floated higher and higher, ever peacefully, Aly smiled.
The Young One’s song was contempt with all things about her. Her faith would strengthen her, and her upbringing would aid her. No, victory was theirs. Victory was hers. There was no way Gooliun could lose. There was no way the Cyogen could win.
Just then, Aly’s ears twitched because she thought she felt the direction of the wind change. She paused for a moment and opened her eyes to look around. No, everything still looked normal. So the Young One shrugged, closed her eyes, and started singing again. She only got to carry her song for a few more seconds when she felt the wind change again. The mastra opened her eyes again, and raised a brow.
An odd, gentle hum rolled across the fields moments later, and Aly sat up on her knees to see what was going on by the temple. She could still see the light coming from the flame, but she couldn’t hear anything else. The drummers stopped playing, the people stopped dancing, and the Little Ones stopped laughing. They must’ve heard the hum too.
“Be damned, what ruckus was that?” Aly said to herself.
The ruckus came again in full force. The hum was more like a groan the second time, and it made Aly’s teeth shutter. The Young One looked all around her, hoping the source to the sound was nearby, but everything still appeared the same. She looked up, and was about to jump into a fighting stance when she saw what looked like a glowing rock in the sky moving towards her.
Aly stared at the object in confusion. Goolian hearing was exceptional, but she never recalled being able to hear meteors before, and the light coming off the rock looked odd.
“A comet, perhaps?” she said to herself. “Truly, one has not been announced. . . nor this close.”
That thought went right out the window when the groan came again. This time, the sound was heavy, hoarse, agonizing. The ground shook, forcing Aly flat on her rear. She wanted to run and hide underneath her pappai for protection, but she was too far out in the open to make the sprint.
Shanvi was standing beside Catty’s parents while he looked out towards the fields where he knew his Little One was. Catty strolled up beside her parents to see if they knew what was going on, but they were just as dumbfounded as everyone else was. Shanvi was about to make a sprint for the fields, but another groan shook the ground, and people had to hold on to one another so they couldn’t fall.
“What awful noise is this?” Aly thought to herself as her bright gray eyes widened. “Is it thunder?”
The mastra remembered being taught about thunder in class since thunderstorms didn’t happen on Gooliun due to its troposphere’s makeup. According to what she remembered, a source of light would streak the sky, and booms would come off it seconds later. Yes! It was thunder! That had to be it, but then she remembered the educators said the light that made the sound was fast and disappeared.
The groaning from the rock started mellowing out with a series of other sounds eventually. The bright object, once a somewhat passive member in the gorgeous purple and pink night sky, was starting to turn into a decent sized, menacing, eyesore amongst the stars. The Young One watched the object get closer, and bigger, and closer, and bigger, and closer . . .
Aly’s jaw dropped. Even if she had laid all the way flat on her back, she couldn’t see th whole thing. The object’s sound was steady now, shoving the breeze into another direction for one final time. It was beyond massive, beyond reasoning, and so dark. In that instant, Aly realized she had never seen black before, until that moment.
The object moving across the sky was smooth in design. Smaller specks of red and blue lights popped on and off of it seconds later. It had solid, hollow-looking extensions protruding off the sides of them in perfect horizontal rows.
The mastra finally knew what the object was. It was one of the great flying towers the old storyteller had just talked about. It was a sentient-created object made from a world that was light years away from her own. The protrusions on the sides were cannons, cannons that would blanket the sky with what the storyteller called “the rainbows of light from the technologies of others.” These rainbows were actually lasers, rockets, and missiles that would run through the hearts of many. “For great was the number of all who fell during those dark years,” she remembered.
The Young One eventually shook her head, blinked twice, and shook her head again to make sure she was actually seeing all of this. Since her mind had to shut itself down because too much information had just overloaded it, Aly couldn’t do anything beyond staring in silence as the massive dark tower soared across the omnipotent sky like it was its playground. As far as she could tell, the sky turned into nothing more than a secondary relevance that’s only purpose was to serve the master of the stars’ will, that being the flying tower.
The Goolian’s brain decided to work again a few minutes later, but its thinking capabilities were still in shock. The epiphany kept running through her head like a Little One’s song-game that tricked a singer into repeating the same lines over and over again. It was a spaceship. It was a spaceship. It-was-a-spaceship.
A bug that landed on her forehead was the only thing that eventually shook off Aly’s trance. After rubbing her head several times, due to a hard slap, the Goolian went back to looking at the large object towering over her again.
Odd. Her first-encounter experience wasn’t as pleasant as expected. At least she wasn’t too scared because she knew the ship was a transport from the Allies, and not the Cyogen. So, this was how it would begin.
The Goolian took in a deep breath, and placed her hand to her chest when she realized her heart was trying to pound out of it. She inhaled and exhaled heavily, hoping the horrible site hadn’t managed to put her into mental shock. While Aly was trying to come to grips with what she just saw, the large ship flew on by overhead.
The Young One closed her eyes and prayed that she’d be stronger the next time she saw such an event. After several mumbles, Aly opened her eyes, and her face went pale. Her jaw muscles clenched, nearly cracking her teeth as the rest of her body tensed up. Her throat went dry as small creases tightened around her watering eyes.
The ship passing by had managed to cover the other many vessels coming into the atmosphere. Aly tried to get up, but her numb limbs made her stumble back onto the ground. The sky’s once glorious pink and purple blanket above was shredded by more black glowing rocks, with numbers that were too many to count.
The closest vessel threw a dark shadow across the fields, engulfing any other light left. It eventually swept over Aly’s bright gray eyes, and an unexpected tear managed to streak down her cheek. This was the real picture of what the war was going to bring her. It wasn’t going to bless Aly with the world. No, it was going to end it.