The Test

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Fantasy Realm
Iton, who lives in the mystical place called Syneria, seeks his destiny and thus his reward. Will he survive the test?

Submitted: August 02, 2016

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Submitted: August 02, 2016

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Dark fuzzy figures drifted from the shadows of morning.  The early light glimmered off their black shoulders and the objects they carried.  As they continued forward they became clearer to the eye.  With them drifted their heavy footsteps, but they really were not so heavy. 

For some reason Iton’s hearing was keen on these strange figures which appeared to be men.  Their breathing too was harsh to his ears like a constant windstorm in their chests and through their nostrils and mouths.  They did not move quickly, though.  They moved with the lubricated dexterity accustomed to their kind.

The light was still poor and the armored men carried torches to light their path.  Others among them held bottles stuffed with rags and lit the bottles with the torches of their comrades.The flaming bottles were tossed with glee to open stone windows while the men moved steadily and spread out down different cobble paths.  All of them traveled forward quickly on sure and silent feet, lighting their bottled rags and catapulting them into the unsuspecting homes of their sleeping prey. 

It was not long before the crash of breaking bottles or the roar of flames joined the discordant chorus of panicked screams of people.  White-haired folks dressed in thin pants or long tunics spilled from their dwellings.  Some even ventured to fly in escape on their white wings only to find a far worse fate than they imagined.  Their screams in fear of fire turned to wails of mercy for their lives.  The armored men who followed the arsonists awaited the tide of people flushed out by the fire and smoke.  In the ready were their gleaming weapons eager to cut or impale flesh and break or crush bones.

The dark gray stone streets to which thousands walked or flew over for centuries turned to blood as the unsuspecting people fell at the hands of the intruders.  Great fires devoured structures, gardens, livestock, and people.  The brilliant light of the fires seemed to dare to out shine the rising sun.  The people who remained found there was no place to hide, run or fly.  Fire blocked them at every turn.  The stench of burning flesh dominated the air.  Thick smoke made it hard to breathe while on the ground and impossible to fly through the air safely. 

The armored men earnestly pursued on their hunt.  Their eyes gleamed bright and their pace quickened upon the few shocked townsfolk who tried to flee in vain and only left to fight.  Without weapons or the knowledge of their use, the white-haired people faired hardly a match to the seasoned wits and skill of the armored men.  By nature the white-haired people lived in a peaceful society that solved their problems through discussion rather than with their fists.  They lived just so for hundreds of years and without fear of either man or beast...at least until now.

The armored men cut them down in all manners.  Arrows flew to meet them as they flew through the air.  Many were struck in the throat, chest and abdominal regions.  On the ground where they lay moaning, the men kicked, stomped, stabbed, lacerated, and clout the helpless townspeople.  No matter how much the people groveled or begged for their lives to be spared they met with denial.  Neither their children nor their old were overlooked in the slaughter that took place.

With a gasp, Iton looked wildly about him clutching the coverings of his bed, which was a soft mat made of feathers and interlocking vines.  Stone walls in shadows stood about him, but there stood no one else in the chamber.  His ragged breathing slowed.  He shut his eyes and released a long quivering breath.  Iton willed his heart to slow to its normal rhythm and licked his dry lips. 

A frightful dreamscape was all, he reassured himself half-heartedly.  Twas no moreNay … the truth is now in silence.

In his heart, he knew what the real truth was.  Though all seemed quiet, it wouldn’t remain so.  The dream felt too authentic and even worse the emotions Iton endured were heightened.  He felt present in the dream experiencing all he witnessed.  Still, he trembled in the horror of it because he knew he was apart of it or would be in the near future.

Iton forced himself to relax his tense shoulders, and they fell.  He also released the covering of his bed that he clenched in fists.  The tattered and shredded covering fell in a bunch to the floor. He stood with a slow absent grace.  Unsure of what he would see, he went to the only window in the chamber on legs that felt foreign to him. 

Numbness set in and tingled at his movement, but he ignored it drawn by a stronger power to look and confirm the situation with his own eyes.  The only window in the spacious yet empty chamber offered a view of a plethora of stone shadows in the night.  Not one burned with an avid flame.  Tiny flickering lights were all he could see--sleeping fires of the many homes that stretched before him.  All seemedas it should have been.  The magnificent edifices of dark gray-blue stone (much like the streets) were carved from the very mountain the city he saw sat upon.  The city was silent and did not burn.

Nay, the time has yet to come, another voice said in his mind with a surety that made him shiver.

But, Syneria lived!  It didn’t suffer the eternal sleep of death.  His people remained in their homes.  No screaming, shouting nor wailing took place.  Tension thick with panic and fear failed to choke him to death.  The streets remained clear and uncluttered with the maimed bodies of his people.  It failed to run with innocent blood.

Still, his hands shook and sweat stood out all over his body on the cool night.  Clenching, his jaw Iton shut his eyes again.

For what amount of time shall Syneria remain the innocent paradise it is, Iton? the other voice asked.  He had no answer for it.

The same wretched dream claimed him every night for the past several days.  With that known he couldn’t consciously pass the dream off as some inconsequential thought conjured while he slept.  The realism of it and sheer intensity that he experienced in it grew as if he were right there in the midst of the onslaught.  The images he saw remained the same each time, but the feelings he endured escalated to his terror and agony. 

Iton knew the dream couldn’t be dismissed.  It warned him of what was to come, and it worried him.  Iton knew not the day or why it would come, but previous experience had taught him well.  Many times he suffered from dreams that gripped his soul in terror, but none he could recall were as vivid or foreboding as the one just seen.

He turned away from his window that showed a wide expanse of Syneria silent in sleep.  He left his chamber decorated with only his simple bed with the coverings torn and stained with his blood.  Even now, blood fell in fat droplets from his nose to his chest and slid down to stain the thin pants he wore in sleep. 

Iton paid little attention just as he paid no mind to how he injured himself again by clenching his fists too tightly.  His nails dug into the palms of his hands spilling more of his blood.  Barefoot he walked into a wide hall of stone.  As he walked with his eyes glossed over with a milky sheen, torches lit by themselves.  Sweat sprung and poured from him again making his upper body glisten in the torchlight.

Iton...Iton...Iton... a voice unlike any he heard before called. 

Echoes collided in his mind calling to him repeatedly, even overlapping one another.  He knew without any doubt he must obey.  The voice commanded, and he couldn’t resist even if he chose otherwise.  Somehow that wasn't so bad.

Softly, his feet slapped the cold stone floor and torches continued to set afire of their own accord.  The torches seemed to almost lead in the direction he was to go.  Iton didn’t know where he went.  In his conscious mind he knew this was unusual.  He believed he should have questioned as well at least why he traveled without knowing why or where. 

Nonetheless, he did not.  It was, after all, the nature of his life as a keeper of the Great Temple of Knowledge--Marratesh.  Strange and unexpected things happened to him all the time, especially in connection with Marratesh.

He paused for a moment and turned his head to the right.  From behind the heavy woolen tarp that appeared to be black in the dim light of the torches, he heard a low soft purr keenly with something like the coupled sound of an echo.  For a moment, he saw beyond the opaque tarp and within the dark chamber. 

His eyes, a search light in the dark, found the dark creature within that purred.  It rose its head and its large ears twitched on top of it.  The other who curled near it slumbered silently and never stirred.  Satisfied, Iton turned away and walked forward.  The voice he did not know (yet grew more familiar somehow) beckoned him.

Iton...Iton...Iton...

While walking, the space in the hallway grew and changed as did the texture and color of the stone walls.  They turned from the common mountain rock of the area to a grand yet foreign element that appeared smooth and a glowing, pulsating white.  Torches no longer were necessary in this sacred part of the temple.  The element—Marra—generated its own illumination for Marra, as the Synerians believed anyway, was light.  It glowed magnificently like the sun.

Fascinated, Iton touched the walls of Marra and felt it sing a song only his soul knew at his bloodied fingertips (but no trace of his blood was seen).  Trembling with a mixture of awe and delight, he exhaled deeply.  There was great power in the walls and something more fundamental.  It eluded him for the moment as his attention drew elsewhere.

Iton’s eyes began to pulse with the light of the walls.  The song Marra sung for him still rung his ears.  His mouth remained open and widened in an “o” when stairs leading up appeared as the section of wall he touched vanished.  He stared at them stunned for he had never known stairs to be there before. 

Marratesh only stood on two levels and he was on the second.  In examining the path, which led up toward another level, he realized once again that even after his many years as keeper of Marratesh there were still things he didn't know about the mysterious temple.  Each day presented itself as a new and challenging learning experience toward his ultimate goal of enlightenment.

The Marra of the walls and floor continued to pulse up the stairs showing him the way.  The voice, neither masculine nor feminine, called to him still, but the voice grew in strength.  He felt the Marra singing in his bones and such peace filled him.  Both the voice and the peace he felt grew stronger as he made his way up the stairs. 

A sense of curiosity and knowing washed over him at instantly and became undeniable with his every step.  Had Iton done this before?  With each step he made he became certain that he had.  No recollection of it dawned on him except for the eerie feeling of having done this all before.

Iton climbed the last step and found himself in a center of stones ranging from the palest yellow hue to the deepest purple.  The clear stones were no more than small rectangular blocks a meter extended from the floor.  The whole chamber, with its strange circular walls (the only place in the temple with them) pulsed with white light in rings toward the stones around him where it stopped.  Frowning he held his arms out in front of him with the palms facing toward the wall.  His fingers splayed and something like an electrical current passed between the fingers.

The pulses of light around Iton flashing in rings from the walls and floor increased until it was one great continuous white light.  The brilliance of it reacted with the stone hues in some way for a rainbow of light surrounded him and filled him at once.  A warmth he found more comforting than the pleasant song of Marra possessed him like a mother’s embrace. 

Amazed beyond anything he could imagine he stood on legs that felt as if they would not support him.  His hands trembled and blood spilled generously from his nose.  He paid no mind to either.  Iton knew that something floated in the rainbow of light.  He could feel it just as he felt that he was no longer alone.

Be not afraid.  Fear lives in doubt—a voice said from all around and yet within him as well.  The voice was no stranger.  Iton did not fear.  He only wanted understanding.

Knowledge lives in those who seek it and in those who embrace the unknown.

He fell to his knees with his arms lifted toward the warmth that surrounded him.  Iton felt willing to embrace whatever there was to know.  The warm sensation faded gradually that reminded him of his touch of the smooth Marra stone earlier, which made up the floor against his bare feet.  He ceased to hear Marra’s song, too.  The chamber, for that matter, vanished from view.  There was only the luminous resplendence. 

Such beautiful, radiant light held him in this new place.  He hovered basking in the wonder of it.  Here, thousands of voices sang their own songs.  However, there was one consciousness and knowledge abound ready to be learned, which he never knew flowed within.  All he had to do was join it...embrace the unknown.

On the other hand, in all the euphoria Iton experienced (he could find no other way to describe it that was close enough), he considered why he was brought to such a place where he could no longer feel the sensation of his own body.  His reason for being there had nothing at all to do with the absolute utopia and bliss he sensed within.  It had nothing to do with what he desired or how worthy he was to be given such an opportunity either. 

Iton was not as he had been.  He felt if he remained there he would be forever altered.  In doing that, there stood a greater price to pay.  From his early lessons as apprentice to the temple, Iton learned that Marratesh never fulfilled the selfish wants of humankind.  Its motives were known only to itself.  The truth was clear to him even in the midst of his utter joy to be a part of something so free of the boundaries of flesh.

Therefore, Iton looked beyond the pleasure of his own want to become a part of the greater consciousness and instead sought to discover the meaning of why he was brought there.  The more he searched for those answers the more difficult it became to ignore the tempting pleasure he felt in this new realm of existence beyond flesh and bone that was weak and limited. 

There was nothing that he couldn’t discover—no knowledge out of his reach.  He would be a member of the light...an entity of pure energy.  He grasped thinly that there were more worlds than he could contemplate.  Iton was enticed and did not want to ignore such a plausible existence.  He desired to give himself up to his new opportunity to explore a realm he only in theory thought existed.  Nonetheless, he became more aware there would be a price.  He sensed that it was one he did not believe he cared to or was ready to endure.

Iton also learned in his early lessons that Marratesh was a place that could give not only knowledge of pleasures undreamed but of pain to equal or exceed expectation.  Marratesh was...life and at the same time it wasn't.  Explanation of it still eluded him, and the mystery of the temple would remain intact centuries after he passed on.  Like his apprentice, Iton still learned it seemed.  A lifetime would not be enough for him to understand all that Marratesh was and all it could reveal.

See...the strange central voice above all the others uttered in an echo within him and all around him.

See and fear not...all shall come to pass...no fate may be set...with each choice there follows many paths yet to tread...

The total bliss of the strange place nearly deluged his every sense to hinder rational thought, but Iton still wanted to know (with a child-like curiosity) why he was there.  As overwhelming as the pleasure felt, it could not submerge his curiosity over what the voice needed him to see.  Somehow, he knew it had nothing to do with the utopia he felt.  What he needed to see was beyond that.

Suddenly, a flood of illustrious light brighter than any he experienced so far took his vision.  It filled him with an instantaneous liquid heat.  He cried out in an unfamiliar voice in the sheer inundated rapture of it.  So much, in fact, it seemed almost painful, yet he endured.  The memory of Iton’s first love swam up unexpectedly. 

Vilea was a lovely Synerian woman, of course, who imbued the essence of enchantment.  She stole his heart with her engaging eyes the color of rich tilling soil and when he heard her siren's call he was hers forever.  A pity though, that her interest in him was more short-lived. 

Another man captured her heart with whom she knew passion while with Iton she knew only brotherly affection and comfort.  Vilea married the other and bore him strong sons.  She remained the enchantress and caused him to wonder many sleepless nights.  If Iton married her would he too know the joy she now bestowed her husband?

The thought of her went away to his relief, and was replaced by the memory of his parents instead.  However, it wasn't so much a thought as it was he was with them.  He stood in his parents house (the house he was conceived, born, and raised in) watching his parents go about their daily routine. 

Mother prepared the morning meal of fresh chevanq bread and doemao tea as Father prepared his notes for the class he would teach on his favorite topic—The Water of Life.  They moved about ignorant of him standing before them.  He tried speaking to them, yet they could not hear him.  When he attempted to touch them, his hands passed right through them.

Tears welled in his eyes for he had been the love of their lives—the sole fruit of their joining.  Iton had three brothers and two sisters who died while still infants before he was finally born.  Both parents believed after losing so many children that Mother’s womb was cursed to be barren, but were pleasantly surprised when Iton was born well-formed and seemingly without imperfection. 

Mother conceived their only son well passed the age of conceiving which had been unheard of amongst their kind, and the birth had been hard for her.  No other siblings came after him, but his parents loved him dearly because to them he had been a gift they always wanted.  They encouraged everything he ever wanted to do and were there whenever he needed them either just for companionship, or just someone to talk.

Iton had loved them both very much, but over the years somehow he had grown away from them.  He stopped seeing them in the pursuit of his own desires.  He forgot about them, frankly.  When he needed them (once he remembered who was always there for him, who never judged him, who always listened to him) they were gone.  The flash of them vanished as well while he remembered that he had lost them forever to death.  Death took them by fire just as he realized how important they always had been to him and how he in return neglected them.

THE PAIN!!!

Iton curled into himself feeling something break inside.  It hurt more than he could stand to see that again.  He saw how she told him she met another in Syneria’s main court, Armana Gardens.  Characteristic of Syneria the morning proved vibrant.  The sky gleamed a bright blue and a flock of red saxira sailed overhead. 

There were a few people about.  Some of them sat on the lush grass while others drifted in flight just above the many bushes and shrubs that bordered the explosion of flowers and plants of varying textures, colors, and heights.  Iton always loved the garden because of the way it smelled turned earth and fragrant goodness only natural things could bring forth.

Vilea was one who strolled about the flowers.  It was her favorite morning activity.  She wore her cream hair up and a gray tunic that made her appear somber.  Iton watched himself glide down toward her on feathered wings.  Upon landing lightly on his feet, he swept her into his arms for a kiss she didn’t return.  Clenching his jaw, he saw himself draw back in surprise by her rejection of his affection.  Iton saw how her expression struggled with some painful thing and watched as he drew back more frowning.

Using a serious voice Vilea told him that she was sorry but really never thought it could happen.  For so long she’d known exactly what she wanted.  She wanted Iton because he was sweet and kind.  He was safe and comfortable. 

Vilea enjoyed being with him very much.She believed in her heart that Iton was the one she was supposed to marry.  The dreams had told her so, but suddenly they changed.  Iton only represented a good man to marry, but she would never hold any passion in her heart for him and passion was what she wanted.  She found that now in another, but she wanted to remain friends.

The pleasure cut through him with painful acuteness.  The joy was agony and one could easily be turned into the other.  He cried out again in a voice he didn't recognize.  Just after hearing that Vilea the woman he wanted to marry didn't have any passion for him though she liked him, dumped him for another man, Iton saw his parents for the last time.  He saw himself again, and he was being asked to come and see his parents at their home he could never seem to visit on the far side of Syneria.  Always he would decline because Vilea consumed all his free time.  Vilea was all he ever wanted. 

Overall nothing else mattered to him except his passion for Marratesh.  The temple stood the only thing that even surpassed his love for her.  But, when he lost her so suddenly without any warning or a fight, there felt to be nothing but the Marratesh to drown the pain.  Soon though he realized he needed human attention, but by the time he realized where that could be found he saw the night sky lit with a flame that came from his childhood home.  The entire house took to flame. 

Iton’s parents were no where to be found.  He tried to enter the house, yet the flames grew too hot, too high.  He could still hear their screams.  They haunted his dreams...the ugly scene where he could do nothing but watch, as his parents burned alive.  He could do nothing.  That certainly didn't stop him from blaming himself. He was not yet keeper of Marratesh and would not be tested for the power within for another 7 years.

The light that filled his world left him.  Darkness filled the void and there was no warmth there.  The cold cruelly nipped at him numbing him straight away.  Still Iton did not fear.  The time of knowing arrived.  He passed the test and his reward for enduing it all would come.  The cold chilled him inside and out, as it should have.  He trembled all over with the abrupt change, but knew that in life nothing remained the same.  This was the real knowledge Marratesh had to give.


© Copyright 2017 Amy F. Turner. All rights reserved.

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