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In the world of The World of Acuthan

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Chapter 7

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Joziah looked up as he heard his uncle approaching.

"Nephew, what happened to you? You're hurt". Fillian was genuinely surprised by the physical condition of Joziah. While waiting for an answer he peered through the wall more closely at the same picture he had seen when first entering the area. The bodies of his brother, half-sister, niece, and nephew remained largely preserved by the conditions within. He noted the Red Hand agents and their failure to achieve their mission. He felt the shock of the situation but he had to focus on the present.

Wincing in pain Joziah forced himself to stand, pushing away the help offered by his uncle. "I saw them as they fled into the chamber. Saw the whole thing play out again through this wall.  The flight, the magic, the deaths. The courage, the love. I wasn't able to make it past this point before my mother put the wall in place. But then, I was never meant to". He turned to his uncle. 

"I don't understand what you're saying to me Joziah". Fillian could see the assuredness of the young man in front of him.

"Well, I do". With that, Joziah walked through the ice-wall.

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The action that Shelendra had witnessed in the multi-coloured chamber was chaotic. The two men entered carefully and appeared to be methodically scouting out the area. And then the chaos. Joziah had suddenly sped off like a runaway carriage at the races, and Fillian chased after him like a bad comedy actor in a cheap play as he slipped and cursed, falling over his own feet. But, she thought, it did serve as yet further confirmation regarding her husband.

Her belief in what he was had completed its own journey, now solidified into knowledge. There were too many signs, and more recently evidence, to ignore. She also believed that Joziah was becoming more aware of his own nature. As such she had already put the next phase of her mission in place. The team had been assembled and was outside the caves waiting for Joziah to emerge. By the end of this night the artefact will be secured.

She identified a hiding place she could use for when the two returned. But for now Shelendra wanted to keep a closer eye on them until they made their way back out. She skulked her way along the direction they had taken. In these caves and chambers the movements of her husband and his uncle had echoed loudly as they pounded their boots across the cave floors and splashed through surface puddles. But Shelendra had for years been trained in the art of concealment and moving silently, and she was exceptionally adept at it. Following her target, she made only the merest sounds of soft taps and echoes, before they evaporated into silence.

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Joziah passed through the ice-wall like it was a motionless waterfall. It felt wet to him, but as he emerged on the other side, he was completely dry.

He moved first to his mother's body and knelt beside her. No tears threatened his eyes. Much of the ceiling collapse remained in place, littering the floor surface. However, Joziah noticed not a single block had touched the bodies of his family; he was impressed at the power his mother had. 

He began to move all of his family closer to the ice-wall. His focus was to take them out of this place and perform the Ascent Ritual that was customary for the Koushan Mai of his particular church. At least in this way he could confirm their souls had found their way to The Nightlands, the afterlife of the Koushan Mai. Although true to his faith, he did not have the sight to know if they had already managed the ascent.

Attending to his brother and sister was the most difficult task given the nature of their deaths. As he gathered them gently he recalled how they sat together, faced away from the terror behind them. And, as their mother and father had asked them to, they sang. It was the song they had all sang to him as a baby. He could remember the tune and through his visions, and awakened memories, he now knew a few fragments of the words.

He also thought of his father and how he had the courage to do what he did. He would have known that the fate of Folen and Mythra would have been infinitely worse with the Red Hand than the quick, painless death he had gifted them. He wondered if he could do the same, but he suppressed that thought instantly. The separation from his daughter was breaking his heart somewhere inside him.

Having finished moving his family he sat down beside them. He looked up and imagined the endless fields of the afterlife under the always night sky littered with stars, and prayed for them.

Rising from his prayer he stood before the ice-wall again. Fillian was on the other side staring back at him. After the smallest of nods, Joziah placed his hands palm out onto it's now solid feeling, cold surface. His hands were placed almost exactly on the same points as his mother's when she had produced it, and with a simple command from his mind it was gone. He looked to his uncle and beckoned him over.

"How are you feeling Joziah?" Fillian could not see or sense any strong emotion from his nephew and that unnerved him slightly.

"I am coping. Being in the company of my family is already showing me the level of courage that I should aspire to. A level I have lacked in my life. We need to take them from here and carry out Ascendance. I have decided to speak with one of the local nomadic groups. They are peaceful and have strong spiritual beliefs, including respect for other cultures different to their own. I believe they will help me". He began to cover over the bodies with some of the fallen rocks to act as a temporary mark of respect when his uncle spoke.

"What about the artefact Joziah? We need to search for it. Given your accounts to me of your visions, there is no indication that they hid it anywhere before reaching this chamber. The wall and collapse has prevented anyone from ever being able to gain access here. I think you must be the first. So it may well be somewhere in here". His voice was calm but his expression indicated his eagerness and urgency.

"You're right, the artefact is here. I can feel it". No question came from his uncle so Joziah walked over to where his mother had been when she nodded at him through the ice-wall. Sunken into the ground beside some rock formations and collapsed ceiling, he could see a small icy, dirty bowl-shaped structure. Within that he saw a darker outline of an object. His uncle followed him over and looked directly down upon it.

"Is that it? I'll dig it out". Fillian quickly unsheathed his sword and began to jab at it. After a few moments, Joziah squeezed his uncle's shoulder and manoeuvred him away.

"That won't work". To emphasise the point he indicated there was no mark left by the blade. Kneeling down, Joziah closed his eyes and reached his hand down, as it became engulfed in the softest pale blue flame, and into the sunken structure. He grasped the object inside and lifted it free.

In his hand Joziah Kai held a book.

 

 

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