It seemed to take forever for Martin to ascend the white marble steps, he wondered when the ascent would finally end, and turned to ask Xyla, who had accompanied him up how much longer it would take. But when he turned around to ask that question, the god of the dawn had vanished. ‘Great, just what I need.’ Martin thought to himself, as he began to wonder if he had made a terrible mistake coming here.
He remembered a time when his father had taken him and his older brothers to visit Wolfrick Co a few years before his death, he remembered thinking then that when he and his brothers had gotten to the highest floor, that they were at the top of the world. Now, up on these steps, made that experience feel like he had barely gone up a few floors.
It took a long time, or it may have been no time at all, Martin wasn’t sure, and was now starting to see what Xyla had been talking about when she said that this place had no concept of time. but eventually he arrived at wherever this place was, he wasn’t entirely sure. Only that it put everything he had ever seen, including his father’s company, and the mountain fortress of Normanguard to shame with its grandeur.
He found himself standing on the stone floor, looking up at seven thrones positioned in a semi-circle, made of some unearthly material, which it probably was. Martin thought, given the fact that he guessed that they were no longer in the land of the mortals. On the thrones sat seven gigantic figures, all towering above him, even sitting down.
On the far left, sat Berisal, the god of war having taken her usual form of a red headed woman, with dark orange eyes. Along with the warpaint that adorns her face, she was also clad head to foot in silver coloured armour.
Next to her sat Phikarus the god of wind and the sky appears at all to mortals. He took the form of a tall, but frail old man with a wispy white beard.
Next to the frail old man, sat the figure that Martin and Brutus had seen in statue form down in the sanctum. Fender, god of animals and the hunt. A muscular but hairy man, with the head of a wolf and dark green eyes.
In the centre, sat Xyla. Sitting at the head of the semi-circle, looking the same as before, only much taller, it was also apparent that she was the only one that was smiling at Martin, which didn’t help the lad’s already nervous state.
Next along was a Alfdall, God of the sea. A grizzled man with almost turquoise coloured skin, with a long dark grey beard and hair that reaches to his belt, both his hands and feet are webbed, and he has ocean blue coloured eyes.
Next to the sea god was the scariest creature Martin had ever seen, and that was a very long list. Thohnos, the god of nature, looked more tree than man, with roots having replaced both his arms, legs and eyes, and mossy skin covering what is left of his human form.
The last along the line was Desyn, the god of craftsmanship, a short muscular figure, much like a dwarf with a high brow, thick black beard and hair, as well as amber eyes that glowered down at Martin at the moment he came into his domain.
“Greeting Martin Philp Wolfrick. What brings you to our realm, that is so far from your own?” Phikarus said, stroking his thin wispy beard and looking down at the boy from pale clear eyes, they weren’t quite white, but they were colourless.
“So, another telepath appears to us. At this crucial moment between worlds.” Desyn spoke, while he looked down from bushy eyebrows, and tugged at his coarse black beard. But the words he had spoken were the ones that gave Martin cause for thought. He wondered what the god had meant by: ‘The moment between worlds.’ But he was distracted when the war god spoke up.
“Let us see if he is the gift then.” Berisal said, the war god slouching in her white chair, although it was difficult to tell if she had opened her mouth. But Martin was not stupid and realised that they wanted him to prove that he had the power that they sought. But before he could try the wispy elderly man spoke to him.
“By tradition the elder speaks first.” Phikarus said, although this time it was easy to tell that the message was transmitted without speaking the words. And so, with all his concentration, he thought his next words.
‘Yes. I have the power.’ Martin thought, hoping that it had worked, there was silence above him, and against his better judgment he looked up to see if his trick had worked. The seven gods seemed impressed, and a couple nodded eagerly.
“Welcome mortal. Aaah… yes. The gift runs strong in you. It is long since I had the pleasure of speech with one who has the ultimate gift.” Desyn said leaning forward, he wasn’t the only one, Alfdall and Fender seemed more interested in him now as well. But it was the stout god that continued on. “So, you have made your way all th way up here. Not an easy task, even for one with your gifts. What would you ask of us?” Desyn asked, leaning back in his chair, although the other two did not.
“I need your help. In the war that is about to take place.” Martin said, looking from one gigantic figure to the next, although averting his eyes from Fender and Thohnos, who were the ones who scared him the most. Unfortunately for him however, it was the half wolf that answered him, forcing Martin to look up at the monster who had shown himself to him back down in the sanctum.
“That is a lot to ask. But you have not answered our question. Why have you come to us?” Fender asked, although Martin was slightly taken aback by the tone of his voice, he had half expected nothing but a growl to come from the wolf’s head. Not the eloquent, almost to the point of being posh tone that came from the snout.
“I like this world. I don’t want it to end.” Martin replied, despite everything that had happened to him over the past few years. That was still the truth, no matter what had occurred in Broken Mountain Institute. He was not vindictive enough to take away this world out of spite.
“As good a reason as any. There are many who feel as you do, although not all. Some would say that all things must end, so that the next can come to pass.” Thohnos said for the first time, and Martin averted his eyes to the ground, the sight of the nature god, with his roots for eyes and limbs still terrified him. “Would you deny the next world from coming to pass?” Thohnos asked, Martin thought about this for a moment, and was almost swayed until he remembered himself.
“The next world will have to take care of itself.” Martin said, trying to keep his courage and conviction on his words.
“A fair answer mortal.” Alfdall said, nodding slightly, despite how odd he looked, it seemed to Martin that the god of the sea was smiling at him. “But I fear for attempts, maybe you only balance the forces that work to quicken the end of this world. Even we who are all powerful and ride the currents of both time and space, cannot know all things.” Alfdall finished, looking sad at his own philosophy. As Desyn took up the doom predictions in his counterparts’ absence.
“Those who try to hasten the end, may delay it. Those who work to delay the end, may bring it closer." Desyn said, and Martin wondered why he had been summoned here just to be told that all hope was lost by these doom-mongers. But before he could argue that particular point to these so called All Powerful Seven, Xyla responded to his unspoken concern.
“I know that you feel that we are dooming your world, that has treated you so harshly in recent years.” Xyla said, getting up off her throne and walking down to join him, as she did so, she returned to the size that he had seen her when he first arrived at the sanctum, as if to adopt a more reassuring look for the young boy. “But Desyn speaks true young one, from a certain point of view. I’ll grant you.” Xyla said, the last part more of an afterthought more than anything else.
“A certain point of view?” Martin asked, wondering how much more of this wishy-washy bullshit he would have to deal with. All he wanted was for someone to give him a goddamn straight answer for once. At this thought however, an angry grumble came from the thrones above him, and Xyla to looked slightly angered.
“As you wish boy. In my dark reflections attempt to hasten the ended of the world, he has produced you to us at this vital moment.” Xyla said, getting slightly taller, but gaining control of her anger and returning to her human size before continuing. “But you’re coming here may give him all he needs to speed up your world’s ultimate destruction.” Xyla added, contradicting her previous point, but making her overall point as clear as anything.
“I came here for help. Not to debate philosophy.” Martin said, wondering why he was getting angry, he guessed it had something to with the god’s accusation that he might be responsible for his worlds end. At this display of anger, which Martin had expected to be met with equal ferocity, he was sorely mistaken as the sky echoed with their laughter.
“Hahaha! You have much to learn of the mortal boy then. There is nothing else but philosophy to a god. It is no accident that we do battle with our minds, and our voices. There is no distinction between debate and combat to beings such as a god. For us who sit up here alone it is all one and the same." Phikarus spoke up, after he had managed to gain control of his humorous outburst.
“Your mind is your most powerful weapon Wolfrick. That is why you have been brought here to us, so that we can help you hone that weapon.” Berisal said, leaning forward from where she sat, and it seemed to Martin that the god’s eyes were alight with fire. Although it was hard to tell with the silver helmet that she wore.
“Is that all I am to you, a weapon. Something to be used and just discarded afterwards.” Martin said taking a step back in horror as he continued on. “Thanks, but if I wanted that, I would have just remained at the prison.” Martin said, looking around at the group above him, but if he wanted sympathy, he was certainly disappointed, as only Alfdall looked even the slightest bit abashed at the outburst, the other five and Xyla seemed genuinely confused as to why he was making such a big deal out of that.
“Your anger does not change how powerful you could become young Wolfrick, for all our… erm. Bluntness, which I hope that you will forgive us for. We require individuals like you to fulfil our will on your plain of existence.” Alfdall said also getting up and joining Martin and Xyla down on their level, shrinking as well to human size as to avoid standing taller than Xyla, who Martin guessed was their boss. In this form, the god of the sea, looked oddly familiar to him, but Martin couldn’t put his finger on when and whom the god reminded him off.
“How am I powerful, sure I can see into that lunatics mind when I sleep. Something by the way, I wish I couldn’t do.” Martin said, adding the second point as a way to further add to his case that all he wanted was for his visions to end, he could feel the hot tears running down his face, but he no longer cared anymore. “But that’s all I can do. I can’t do what you guys can do. I’m just a kid. What chance do I have against the most powerful being that has ever walked the earth?” Martin asked, looking around the semi-circle of thrones before returning his tear-streaked gaze to the two gods who were seemingly on his side.
“It shouldn’t be you kid; it is hard I know. But that is the way that your hand has been dealt and so, you must work with it.” Xyla said, resting her hand on the boy’s shoulder, before gesturing him to come forward to stand in between all of the gods.
As Martin walked forward, he felt an unusual sensation course through his veins, it felt like fire, only ice cold. He turned around but the two gods were no longer behind him, instead they were back in their high seats, but not looking down at him now, instead looking at him on the level. Which is when Martin realised that he was floating in the air, about twenty feet of the unusual ground.
“We are going to give you a taste of our collective power young Wolfrick.” Xyla said, looking around sternly at her counterparts, as if she expected any one of them to reject the idea out of hand, but when none did, she continued. “Close your eyes, and let our minds enter yours.” Xyla finished smiling which Martin did not return.
Experience had taught him to never close his eyes to strangers, and these seven were about as strange as it got.
“Open your mind to us young Wolfrick, few can withstand the pure voices of the gods. But I sense that you are ready.” Xyla said and not seeing any way around this. Martin closed his eyes and opened his mind.
For a few moments there was nothing but silence, and he thought that he was about to get another command to do as he was told. But then a deep humming noise sounded out from somewhere both close and far away and in a language that he did not understand.
“Cee hwe so tan languished, so sle sipcu coon ca hwepsloth sin. Ip tom sclil ee bestow oo tel ca co tosa ounn si Xyla, tosa ounn si Valu, ou tosa ounn sito pomhwoom si sep. Co ol Shadowbane tel, so sere sito ul, tel hearken ca oo.” A chanting sound spoke in his head. At that moment he felt a white-hot surge through his head, he wanted to scream, but found that all the air had been taken out of his lungs.
Martin found himself standing in a blindingly white room, with no windows or doors, just white walls, that reminded him of Wolfrick Co. he turned around, wondering to himself where the way out was, when his eyes fell upon Xyla. The god smiled at him, making him feel a lot better about the whole situation, despite the pain that he had been in what seemed like no time at all ago. Although he was once again, not sure about how much time had passed.
“Mortal. You have tasted the words of the gods and come out unscathed.” Xyla said, and for the first time seemingly genuinely impressed at one of her subjects.
“What exactly did you say to me?” Martin said, looking around at the pale white room he now found himself in. it was hard to keep a certain note of pride out of his voice, as he was pretty sure that he had just succeeded where many others had failed.
“Ah. I sometimes forget you are not versed in the spiritual tongue as we are." Xyla said, looking at Martin with interest now before reciting the translation. "Long has the gift languished, with no worthy brow to sit upon. By our breath we bestow it now to you in the name of Xyla, in the name of Valu, and in the name of the gods of old. You are Shadowbane now, the Sere of the North, now hearken to it." Xyla finished, seemingly slightly concerned that she had had to translate it to someone she had just given enormous power too.
“I wanna learn more.” Martin said, the demand and pride coming back into his voice, but he was annoyed when Xyla shook her head at him, denying him the right to any more power at this particular moment.
“You have learned so much already, Shadowbane. Growing your gift too quickly would be dangerous.” Xyla said, which, whilst not sitting entirely well with Martin, at least made sense to him, and he nodded, albeit reluctantly at how he was seemingly being held back. “Now I do believe that your friends are waiting for you, and I think they have waited long enough.” Xyla finished. And with that the room went dark, and Martin felt himself return to his friends.