The Curse of the Pirini Lilapa
Guardians of the Core Book 2
by Michael Thies
Genre: Futuristic Fantasy
Some look to the sky in superstition, others look to the sky in fear, and yet, some look to the sky in contemplation. For in the weeks and days before the suns converge, plots perspire, deities die, and families are fractured as no one is safe from their harsh and heinous gaze. . .
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“And this time is not much different. Except for your age and experience. Deimos came into the world during that time . . . I only gave you the tool to stop it.” She walked around him, her white robe dragging on the air as if it were earth.
“The other Guardians . . . Have you seen them as well?”
“No. My eyes have only laid sight upon you, Edwyrd.” She stopped in front of him and looked at him with dark blue eyes. A hint of purple hid in them as well. “And you wonder why that is?”
“Yes,” Eska admitted. He stood, hands behind his back, not removing his gaze from hers until she started her circular path again.
“They did not need the help that I bestowed upon you.”
“Why was I chosen, though?”
“The Other . . . the Third One himself birthed that demon, and only Ancient Power can fight Ancient Power, so I gave you the greatest secret that my husband ever told me.”
The Other. The Third One—that is whom she had scantly referred to last time. Never once was the real name mentioned. Never once was it written in the history of books. Never once was it allowed to be said if myths were true. It referred to one being—the Third Ancient. Guardian Eska stood in silence as he processed her words.
“Some names are sung for sorrow. Others given for greatness. And yet there are those who are merely fit for fate,” Zeph said.
“And which of those am I?” Guardian Eska did not like the question, and knew he would like the answer even less.
“Fate,” Zeph responded, cold and isolated.
“Is there any way someone can change their fate?”
Zeph laughed, and twirled. Her gowns caught on her body, and before he knew it, she stopped in front of him. “You who says you must learn to accept death. You ask this?”
“Death is not fate. So I ask you again, is there any way someone can change their fate?”
“Everyone must die eventually, Edwyrd.” Her smile fell to a grim line. There was tension. And pause. Just long enough for him to feel his own mortality in the rise of his skin and the lack of air. Then she continued, “Unlike death, however, every man can mold the clay of his fate. Nothing is ever set in stone. The question is, why would you want to?”
“My role began with Deimos then?”
“No, no it did not. Your role is just beginning, Edwyrd.”
“And this?” Eska cupped the necklace in his hand, laying it out for her to see again.
Zeph came closer and laid her transparent hand on top of his. Somehow Eska could feel her. Perhaps he was the only one that could. He saw through the white her ghostly hand offered. He saw straight through her eyes that stared at him.
“The necklace will help you stop it once it begins.”
“Help me stop what?” He spoke without thinking, lost in her trance and faint embrace.
Zeph smirked. “That you should already know.”
The Trials of the Core
Guardians of the Core Book 1
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Zain Berrese sat on the leather couch of the apartment listening (half with a piqued interest and half with mild annoyance) to his friend Zakk Shiren. Their apartment had a huge main room with a kitchen located on the left side and carpeted rugs and even a fireplace. More importantly though, there was wall space. When they first moved in with each other five years prior, the walls had been white and bare. Now the walls were still white, but the space was anything but bare, and Zain couldn’t help but notice all of Zakk’s trophies as his best friend continued on.
“Guardian of the Core can do anything. Eska has his own power. Through Gazo’s, I already know we’re Denied, but there I could gain a different power.”
Could do anything? Could have Power? Zain flexed his fingers, thinking of the possibilities. How Zain dreamed of having Power, but he knew he couldn’t cast. At the age of eighteen, he and Zakk were tested for power, as was every other Gazo’s student. Neither had been found to be blessed, but both remained eligible to continue their standard training.
“I would constantly train. I would be able to protect people … people who need protecting. So that no one would need to go through what I went through,” Zakk said.
“We have all lost someone …” Zain looked down at his right hand and flexed it.
“You didn’t lose your family at the age of six though.”
Doesn’t mean that my loss was any less important. But Zain didn’t say that; he figured that growing up without parents meant Zakk was never taught to be as respectful to people as he should. Or as modest. Zain looked to his collection that surmounted to nearly three-quarters of Zakk’s accomplishments, accomplishments that would never have been possible without Zain and his family. He kept his gaze there, reminiscing about how their training at Gazo’s started.
When he met Zakk eighteen years ago, it was at a park in Konmer, Zain’s hometown. From what Zain could remember, Zakk had seemed normal. But for six years, they only continued to stay in touch by picking a place to meet or Zakk saying he had been dropped off by his parents, who always seemed really busy. Little did Zain know at that point that it was all a lie.
In fact, Zain never found out until he mentioned his enrollment in Gazo’s Premier Fighting Academy on his thirteenth birthday. Zakk had come over, along with Jarson and Lyle (both of whom joined a few years later, but Jarson was the only one to still continue in the program). Zain received one sword made of steel and had a leather grip. It was the ruby pommel that was most important to Zain though, because it was a symbol of his father’s craftsmanship.
Zain’s father had brought wooden swords for all the boys to play with, and during their friendly melee, Zakk pushed Zain down a hill and pounced on top of him, hitting him three times with the wooden sword. “Why do you have everything?” One stroke. “Why can’t I have what you have?” Second hit. Harder this time. There was a shift from horseplay to outright hostility. “Why do you have family?” Zakk hit him the third time, then he collapsed and started crying.
Zain wasn’t hurt; he had learned roughhousing with his older brother, Jamaal, but he was confused. “What are you talking about?”
And that is when the truth spilled—how Zakk’s parents had been murdered in the Konmer Killings, where a group of five men killed over twenty people with swords and axes and fists, how Zakk had been living at his home until people came and kicked him off the vacant property, taking him into child custody. His foster parents cared nothing for him; they simply took him for a tax advantage. They hardly gave him food, but they gave him a roof and water in exchange for an occasional hit or chore. Zakk confessed to even stealing food from Zain’s family when he could so that he wouldn’t starve.
All of it made Zain cry. “Why didn’t you ask to stay here?”
“I didn’t want your family to know what happened. I didn’t want their pity.”
“Well, what do you want, then?”
“I want to train at this school with you. Gazo’s, is it? I want to be able to protect people before it’s too late …”
“Zain! Zakk! Where are you?” Jarson called.
“We have to go. I’ll talk to my parents about it.”
“Don’t tell them about my family.”
“But, why? You told me.”
“You’re the only one I’ve ever told. Don’t tell them. Lie if you have to. Please.”
Zain didn’t keep it a secret though. He couldn’t. He knew Zakk didn’t want to continue living like that. They agreed to enroll Zakk into the program under their sponsorship only if he allowed himself to stay with them. Zakk agreed and, in time, came to forgive Zain for telling, but ever since then, they had been advancing together through the program. Originally Zain wanted to do it just as a way to stay in shape and to learn to defend himself, but after Zakk’s confession, he championed his friend’s vision to protect people, no matter the cost.
The five large trophies, as tall as Zain’s forearm, stood as testament to his triumph over Zakk during the years. Fifteen other trophies of similar height stood on Zakk’s side of the wall. Zain would have never known Zakk was a natural fighter from the way he hit with the wooden sword, but there was a passion that ignited when Zain told him that his parents were enrolling him. He wondered if it was because he had betrayed Zakk’s secret. Now Zakk was going to compete at the Trials hosted by Guardian Edwyrd Eska, if the letter was correct. Great . . . …
“Zain, what’s wrong?”
“There must be something. Are you not happy for me?”
“I am … It’s just that … Kendel couldn’t complete his training session today. I can’t advance yet.”
“We don’t always need to advance together.”
Yes, we do, is what Zain would have liked to say, but instead he said, “I guess not.”
“It doesn’t matter anyways though.”
“What do you mean by that?” Zain looked at his friend, who stood the same height, with the same dark-skinned complexion, and the same dirt-brown eyes. Where Zain had cropped hair like his brother though, Zakk had long braids that extended past the shoulders. Zakk also had a tattoo of Viper, the sword he used to win his first tournament—a sword he’d had made using the money from Zain’s family.
“Guardian Eska is arranging my transport to be at Lake Kilmer tomorrow.”
“It didn’t say that in the letter.”
“A separate telecard told me that.”
An awkward silence crept into the apartment. Zakk stepped from the kitchen to the main living space and picked up the letter that Zain had left on the small glass coffee table in front of him. Zain looked at Zakk and sighed. “Are you coming to eat with me and my mom tonight?”
“I can’t. I have packing to do. You’ll be okay here, by yourself?”
“I’ll figure something out. Take care.” Zain threw on a wind jacket specially stitched with Gazo’s logo and headed to the door. At the threshold, he paused and turned back. “Hey, Zakk?”
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