The New Age

The New Age

image One of the most important elements of Xilon biology has long been the species' ability to use their internal energy. Made up of raw power, it was only natural that they would eventually learn to harness the forces inside of themselves for a variety of uses, ranging from mundane, everyday situations to earth-shattering explosions. Of course, gaining control of such an extreme natural element was not an easy task and came with a great price that all Xilon, from the beginning of existence to the very end, will forever tell the story of...a dark saga that keeps them in control of their energy in spite of any temptations, for fear of suffering the same fate as the one whose actions gave rise to the Ionic Era.

A good natured but fearsome hunter born into one of the rougher Risean tribes, Leo Zakryn Illyrius Zenon grew up with a tight-knit family in the South Risus ice desert. Although young, he was a popular figure within the community and the best at his job, but was also known for being unpredictable and for having a wild, raging temper that often landed him in trouble with the elders.

While on the hunt one afternoon, he and his pack encountered a group of soldiers out on a training exercise from Graeden Learning Center. Their team leader was a tall, stern looking aljzrac from Aareflyn City, Gemini Jonderian Tiber Zenon. Or, as his friends seemed to call him, Jonde.

image The stranger was only a few centuries younger than Leo, who felt instantly drawn to the Zenonite although he had no idea why. Their types rarely mixed well; the hunters found the warriors too rigid and self-righteous, and the warriors found the hunters too wild and immature. Yet something was there; they both felt it. The moment was short lived however, as the groups went their separate ways.

Nearly two decades later, Leo was visiting Aareflyn for his cousin's binding ritual to a Zenonite girl. On his way home, he stopped for a drink at a recreational center and found himself seated across the table from a familiar face. Jonde looked as surprised as Leo felt, not because they had run into each other again but because that intense bond was still between them. It was so tangible, Leo could have cut through it with a skinning blade. All around them, the air seemed alive with electricity.

image From across the table, Jonde formally introduced himself and leaned forward, extending his arm for a customary greeting clasp. Leo reached out to accept and the moment their skin touched, the world seemed to explode. In the briefest moment, Leo felt his entire life flash through his mind, but the familiar memories were mixed in with new ones - new thoughts and feelings that didn't belong to him at all. In that instant, they had become one. Out of all Xilon throughout time and space, they had met each other, two halves of the same genetic whole. Araa jale maen, or soul mates...a rare and much desired phenomenon in their culture, and they were among the few to find it.


Aside from living together in the heavily populated community of Aarajaermon Park, life went on essentially unchanged for the two Xilon; they were content with following their old routines. Leo continued to hunt for the people of South Risus with occasional trips to explore the wildlife on other worlds, and Jonde joined the Watchmen, serving the universe as a member of the revered ranks of the Guardians.

image While his mate was away, and unbeknownst to Jonde, Leo spent much of his free time on a new hobby. A conversation with a Terran natural scientist had gotten him interested in the possibility of using his own biological makeup for more than chronospacial leaps. Although strongly advised against it, he had begun to experiment with low level energy emissions, using elevated emotional states to concentrate the flow of his internal energy on a particular body part, and releasing that energy through the skin once enough pressure had built up under the surface.

At first, Leo easily managed minor, inoffensive acts such as lighting up a dark room or powering a dead energy source, but his curiosity quickly got the best of him and became downright insatiable. He expanded to more complicated maneuvers, becoming frustrated by the limitations that he encountered and, in response, pushing himself ever harder for impressive new breakthroughs. His actions became something of a concern to the elders, who felt that use of their species' biochemistry should be restricted to the traditional time/space jumps, and that the youth's fascination with harnessing it was incredibly dangerous, involving too many elements beyond their understanding or control.

But Leo would not - or perhaps could not - back down. He was no scientist and had no real aspirations beyond his life as a hunter, but he knew that what he was doing was important. By the time Jonde returned from one of his lengthier missions, his partner's obsession was all that anyone could talk about. Angry and deeply afraid, the Council ordered Jonde to stop the hunter before something terrible came of his mad experiments.

image As he entered their home, the soldier immediately understood the concern of the elders. Half of the main room was in shambles. Leo was standing against the far wall, sending out small blasts of energy, causing household items to explode or completely vaporize. He was so wrapped up in his game that it was a moment before he noticed Jonde standing in the doorway, but Leo finally stopped his activities, his face lighting up as he crossed over to greet the Zenonite. When confronted, Leo waved off the warnings with his usual casual air, claiming that the elders were merely afraid of change, and that what he was doing - if perfected - could be a huge gift and help to their people. Jonde couldn't argue with that. Harnessing their internal energy would be a valuable advancement for the species, especially to the soldiers on their missions abroad. In fact, it was surprising that no one else had made the attempt. Right or wrong, though, Leo's behavior would get him into serious trouble and Jonde insisted that he stop for his own sake, admitting that his actions had great potential but that some sciences were better left untouched. After a long argument, Leo relented and agreed to find a less controversial way to pass the time.

image But in spite of his promise, the Risean was unable to let it go. Over the following months, he convinced others that his fascination with the subject had come and gone, but when alone, it was all he could think about. It felt like something was burning inside of him, consuming him, and the only way to sooth it was to push forward and find new ways to physically let it out. His fixation began to scare even him but he continued on, driven by an inexplicable certainty that once he reached his goal, life would never be the same. It was his destiny, he was sure of it.

This went on for some time without interference, until Jonde was accosted by members of the Zakryn clan while on his way home through the park. They were looking for Leo, who had been missing without word for days. No one had heard from him and Jonde's subsequent efforts to uncover his mate's whereabouts were equally unsuccessful. It wasn't uncommon for Xilon to get caught in cosmic rifts or to suddenly disappear as a result of biological anomolies. The phenomenon was known as axedalenai (lost in time) and it could happen to any Xilon, anywhere, without warning. Sometimes those who were missing would surface trillions of years out of their time and far removed from their own realities with no way of getting back. More often than not, they were never heard from again. It was one of the only natural threats to the species, and one of their worst nightmares.

image But Jonde did not have to worry for long. A surge of white light behind him announced the return of his missing partner. He whirled around. "They've practically been tearing apart South Risus looking for you. Where have you been?" Leo gave him a smug smile. "I was hoping you'd be back. Come on." Jonde reached forward to stop him. "Hold it! What's going on?" He only then noticed that the hunter was carrying a long coil of dragon's cord. "What are you doing with that?" Leo sidestepped him and held the cord out of reach. "That's what I want you to see. I have a theory. Lukanen, northwest peak." And with that, he disappeared.

Completely at a loss, the solider followed Leo to Terra Firma. Lukanen was a large, colorful mountain range in the Northern hemisphere, spanning nearly 3,500 miles. Full of beautiful lakes, high cliffs, deep valleys, lush forests and cozy villages, it was a favored recreational location. The northwest peak was the highest summit in the region and its lodge and surrounding park were popular meeting places. The two of them had spent plenty of time there, but this was different. Something was going on. Something, Jonde assumed, he would be happier not knowing about.

Arriving in Lukanen, Jonde found his mate near the edge of the northwest peak and a wave of concern washed over him. Leo was wrapping the dragon's cord tightly around his upper body, covering the shoulders and neck. Dragon's cord, so named for the elements used to create it, was the one and only way to secure a Xilon. They were strong enough to break through any other rope or chain, but this one material could keep them bound. It was hard to find, and used only in the most devastating circumstances involving a genuine criminal or traitor. How Leo had even gotten his hands on it was beyond him, but what he was doing with it was far more disturbing. The way in which he was binding himself could prevent him from releasing his wings, and he was dangerously close to the edge of the cliff. With their crystallic skeletal structures, it took a lot to damage a Xilon body but even they had their limits, and freefalling from such a height could result in a shattered spine and ribcage at the very least, possibly even death if his primary heart was compromised.

image But Leo couldn't have looked more pleased with himself as he strapped on the bindings. "You see Gem, I've been thinking. I don't believe I'm incapable of revving up my throxin levels to use externally. I think the reason I haven't yet managed it is that I don't have the right motivation. I haven't pushed myself in the right ways. What I need is a momentary rush of life-or-death desperation to conquer this once and for all." Jonde shook his head. "I refuse to believe that you're this insane." Leo smiled. "Oh come on. It's not insanity, it's progress." His mate stared at him, incredulous. "Progress? This is potential suicide! If you really want to pursue this dangerous science, go ahead. Ignore the elders. But do it in a controlled environment!" Leo began backing towards the cliff's edge. "Controlled environments just aren't working for me." Jonde stepped forward and reached out, motioning him back. "Leo, don't you dare." Surely he wouldn't really go through with such a blatant act of madness to satisfy his own curiosity. He was obsessed, true, but basic survival instinct would kick in.

"Don't you want to know?" Leo pressed excitedly. "If I can master this...learn to use it in ways we never have...our race would be unstoppable. We already rule the universe, this would make us gods!" Jonde inched towards him, now worried that he had completely snapped. There was a determined gleam in Leo's eyes that he didn't recognize and certainly didn't like. "Gods? I think you're getting carried away." Leo shook his head like a condescending elder pitying a child's naive view of life. "Gem, if we can control throxin, use it outside of our own bodies, we can do anything. Anything. Don't you get that? This could change our entire existence! It's worth the risk. The first step is learning how to build up and project enough energy. And if I can't do it safely from home with comm crystals and appliances, I'll just have to try something a bit more drastic. I'm not going to die. I'm going to make history." And with that, he ran the last few steps and flung himself backwards over the side of the north peak.

Jonde stared blankly ahead for a moment, frozen in shock. The idiot had done it; he'd actually tossed himself off a cliff with no way to fly. Then reality kicked in and Jonde rushed to the edge to look down at Leo's form, rapidly growing smaller as he fell towards the sharp rocks below. Jonde knew that even if he jumped off and flew down after him, he would never be able to catch up before impact, but instinct propelled him forward anyway. He streaked downwards like an arrow, waiting to uncase his wings until it was absolutely necessary.

image Meanwhile, Leo was nearing the bottom of the valley at an outrageous speed. A painful and perhaps fatal collision was imminent. The throxin pumped through him like a thousand gallons of adrenaline, resulting in a rush stronger than he'd ever felt in his life. This was something new, something powerful. And as he hurtled towards the ground, it seemed to explode out of him, engulfing his body. It was the most incredible sensation. When the Xilon moved through time and space, the universe bent around them, but they were always inside of it. Now, it felt like the universe was inside of him and he was releasing a part of it from the core of own soul. As he considered this thought, Leo realized that he was no longer falling; he was suspended in the air, a few feet above of the bottom of the valley. The energy was acting like a forcefield, keeping him comfortably in place.

As he processed this fact, Jonde appeared above him, looking absolutely livid. With the threat of danger gone, Leo found that he was able to draw the energy back into himself, and flipped down to the ground, laughing. "Did you see that?" Jonde, however, was not amused, eyeing Leo furiously as he unwrapped the dragon's cord from around his chest. "I saw you take a dive off the highest cliff on Terra Firma. What were you thinking?!" Leo shrugged. "I was going on instinct. Sometimes you have to throw the rules out." Jonde grabbed his head as if extreme pain had taken hold. "Leo, you could have killed yourself!" His mate smiled again. "But I didn't. And now..."

Leo raised his arm and reached out towards a large boulder a few feet away. With a soft blast that was barely visible, the rock floated up into the air and spun around, drifting towards the couple and slowly circling them. "You're doing that?" Jonde asked in disbelief. Leo nodded. "I just needed the right mental kick to figure out how to use the energy properly." Jonde snorted. "A mental kick like plunging to your death?" In spite of his anger, however, he had to admit that he was impressed. Few had even dreamed of using throxin externally and certainly not in such useful ways. Leo's new abilities could be a powerful gift to the Xilon, but it didn't change the fact that he had gone against the elders, lied to his family, and become so obsessed that he'd risked his own life. "It's over now then? You've got what you'll leave it alone now?" Leo gave him an incredulous look. "Why would I do that? This is just the beginning; imagine what I can do now!" And try as he might, Jonde was unable to persuade him otherwise.


image They barely made it through the next few years. It soon became clear that Leo was no longer in control of himself. His need for the energy projections were like an addiction, a burning thirst that could never be quenched, and it only grew stronger with time. He found his passion all-consuming and went to dangerous lengths to build up his nuclear power. Tensions ran high between the couple, and relations were not much better with the Zakryn clan, who were displeased with Leo's compulsion to use energy the point where half of the game they tracked was being obliterated every time he lost control. They declared him beyond help and banned him from the hunts.

Jonde was concerned with his mate's unhealthy fixation on "going further," constantly pushing the limits with more dangerous experiments and a widening blast radius as he gained the ability to release astounding amounts of energy in one try. Jonde wanted to trust his partner but he knew that playing with fire would eventually burn the house down, and voiced his concerns on a regular basis, which led to heated arguments and even brutal fights on occasion. During one of these furious sparring matches, Jonde landed a number of near-crippling blows to Leo's torso and in return was half-kicked-half-blasted clear through the wall of their house. Things were getting ugly, and while they were bound as soul mates by forces beyond anyone's control, a definite rift was growing between them.

The turning point came only five lyren after Leo's first string of experiments. How far he had come in such a short time. He had reached a whole new level and could now accomplish feats through natural, biological means that other Xilon still relied on outside sources for. Perhaps it was all of the excess throxin running through him, but Leo felt that the end of his journey was near. He sensed it in every cell of his body, this powerful certainty that he would soon reach his goal and that all of Xilon would be forever changed by it. He knew what he had to do; one final step to prove to himself and to his people the true potential that they possessed. He was going to destroy a planet.

Not an inhabited planet, of course. Leo was not so consumed with his obsession that he was willing to endanger innocent lives. He had chosen the distant world of Ka-Laen. In their own time, the swirling, clay-based world was teeming with primitive life forms, ranging from single celled organisms to animalistic tribes of bipeds. But far down the timeline, after trillions of years of seeing growth, evolution and various civilizations, it would be abandoned and of no use to anyone. An unnecessary body in space that would not be given a second glance if the face of the planet suddenly changed. It was the perfect location for his ultimate test. Picking a date that he knew to be safe, Leo left for Ka-Laen. But as a dark twist of fate would have it, even the elders with their preconceived notions and anxieties would find out too late that they had tragically underestimated the young Risean, almost as much as he had underestimated himself.

image Mere hours after Leo's departure, Jonde received a message to go immediately to the elders of Aareflyn City. Upon arriving, he was informed that Leo's abilities were beyond what anyone had imagined, beyond devastating. A young Kappa Crucian watcher named Rafa had visited from the future with terrible news. Precisely thirty minutes after the hunter's arrival on Ka-Laen, the entire planet would be destroyed. Not just in the era he had chosen, but its entire history would be rewritten. Leo would lose control of his throxin levels in a way that no one could have predicted, tearing open the timeline itself. Every single day of the planet's existence would simultaneously experience the apocalypse. Not a single microscopic organism would survive. When Jonde pressed for information on how the youth could know this, Rafa simply replied "It's already happened. I don't even know if it can be averted now."

Jonde didn't need the elders to tell him what had to be done. Within seconds, he leaped through space, into Universe Prime and to the abandoned planet of Ka-Laen, using his genetic bond with Leo to find him as fast as he could. But as he touched down on the planet's soft, barren surface and saw his mate a short distance away, he knew at once that something was wrong. Leo's body was glowing so brightly that Jonde could barely make him out. More disturbing was the look on Leo's face...a mixture of fear and regret, a horrified realization that something was happening far beyond his own designs or understanding.

image As Jonde rushed to close the distance between them, time seemed to slow down. At first, the Zenonite assumed that it was merely an effect of the stress, an in-the-moment phenomenon where one's perception shifted to accomodate the surrounding chaos. But as he neared the renegade hunter, he realized that his altered perception was not psychological. Time really was shifting in ripples around them, slowing down before the inevitable blast, like the sea receding from the shoreline just before the tsunami rolled in. Jonde fought against it but the cosmic currents were too strong. He had no idea what his intentions hurl Leo and himself into Daxxus or the Fresian Rift, perhaps. They might die but at least it would prevent the alternative.

Jonde was only six feet away when Leo shut his eyes, clenched his fists and let out a bloodcurdling scream. The light surrounding him exploded like the universe itself had turned into a nuclear tidal wave around him.

image The blast radiated out from Leo's body at an unbelievable speed, spreading out across the face of the planet. A great tear in reality seemed to encompass him, through which could be seen the destruction of Ka-Laen's entire existence. Civilizations burned, the skies turning the same blood red with fire on every day of the planet's long history. Jonde dropped to his knees and turned away, shielding himself more from the sight of it than from the explosion itself. It was the most horrible thing that he had ever seen.

And then it was over. The act itself had taken only seconds, yet it felt like years. Jonde found himself lying on his side on the smouldering ground, his face pressed into the burning dirt. How he had ended up that way, he had no idea. Pulling himself up, he could see that the skies were on fire, the landscape around them reduced to ruin. A few feet away, Leo lay on his back, motionless, eyes closed, skin black with ash and singe marks. Their clothing had been reduced to tatters.

image Jonde shook his partner, whose skin was pulsing with residual energy. Leo slowly opened his eyes and looked around them, taking in the destruction that his obsession had caused. Just as slowly, and without a word, he stood up and took a few steps through the wasteland, staring at the carange surrounding them with an empty expression. Leo wanted to cry, or scream, or react in some way that would show how he felt. But he could manage nothing. It was too much to accept; his brain wasn't capable of processing what his eyes were recording. He turned back to look blankly at Jonde, but his mate's expression wasn't one of anger or judgment. It was one of remorse. Sorrow. Fear, even...perhaps for the universe as a whole or for their own personal futures, it was hard to tell. Maybe both. Either way, words could never be enough. So they remained as they were, Jonde sitting on the ground, Leo standing a few feet away, squinting against the storm of ash and fire that spiraled slowly around them.

The next few days moved so quickly and were so chaotic that, in their state of mutual shock, Leo and Jonde were barely able to acknowledge what was going on. A massive council met, made up of the most respected elders from the central worlds as well as the leading members of the Watchmen. They discussed and debated without rest until one of the most troubling decisions in their history had been made. A large crowd from all over the system gathered in the courtyard of the Council's headquarters in Corinthia to hear the result of their deliberations.

image Leo was brought before them, bound tightly in dragon's cord and surrounded by soldiers. He looked as much of a wreck as he felt, not having cleaned up, eaten or slept since the disaster days before. His chemical makeup had become so completely unbalanced that he was almost the equivalent of a walking, talking dimensional rift. The elders insisted upon both the chains and a fully equipped escort, fearing that if he so much as raised an arm too fast, the events of Ka-Laen might be repeated.

It was a difficult situation for all involved. Under any other circumstance, Leo might have been treated as a patient rather than as a prisoner. But in light of what had happened, far too much was at risk, not only for their kind but for all of existence. As the senior Xilon of their time stepped forward to announce solemnly that for his crimes and the physical, universal danger that he now presented, the young Risean would be executed, only Jonde, watching blankly from the front of the crowd, took notice of Leo's subtle flinch. Neither of them had truly expected any other outcome, but hearing it said was another matter. It made it real. But there was nothing more to be done.

With the sentence passed and official arrangements made, Leo was given a final hour in the Corinthia holding cells to tie up any loose ends. He found the strength to face his family and their farewells were the hardest to cope with. Then it was only him and Jonde and the soldiers that surrounded them. They sat on the floor of the cell together, exchanging knowing looks and a sad smile. Soul mates rarely had to speak out loud to be heard. They could read each other as easily as they could their own minds. In spite of all that they had been through, they were together in the end. And they always would be. Leo could see it in his partner's face as clearly as the thoughts running through his own head.

image At the middle hour of the day, the enormous crowd reassembled to witness the first execution in civilized Xilon history. No individual from their world had been put to death since the early days of tribal warfare. Leo would be the first (and as time would tell, one of the few) Xilon to ever be given a death sentence.

The Risean took his place atop the large marble steps, resigned. The Watchman chosen to carry out the sentence stepped up behind him with a spear, ready to drive the weapon through the nkree, the heart that controlled the life force. It was the cleanest, fastest and least painful way for one of their kind to die, and would prevent the unstable levels of throxin from taking hold. But Jonde stepped forward and grabbed his arm to stop him. "Let me. It should be me. I share in the guilt here; this is my job to do."

The surprised soldier glanced back at the elders, who nodded, and the Zenonite took his place, putting a hand on Leo's shoulder as he raised the spear. "Whatever you've done, I know what was in your heart. Because it is also in mine, araa jale maen." And with one smooth motion, Jonde grabbed Leo around the chest, pulled him level with his own body and swung the spear around to slam through both of their hearts at once. A wave of cries went up from the crowd and the council members behind them sprang quickly out of their seats in horror. But it was too late. Both the hunter and the soldier were breaking into particles of light and within seconds they were gone, fading away into the skies of Acadia Minor.

But the young couple's tragic end was not to be in vain. Shortly after their deaths, three Kappa Crucian scientists acquired and intensively studied Leo's medical records from his brief time in the Corinthian prison. In-depth biological and chemical scans, as well as many other tests, had been vigorously performed during that period and gave them a clear outline of exactly how to approach the subject, the body's limitations and the ultimate breaking point.

image After centuries of determined work, the ambitious intellectuals developed a system to safely make use of what the Risean had once tried to do. In a controlled, carefully monitored environment, over a significant length of time, the trio was able to assist one brave member of the Guardians to harness the external uses of throxin without becoming overpowered by it. Less than a single generation later, the abilities that Leo had pioneered became commonplace on the Xilon worlds, taught to all children during their earliest years of schooling so that they had time to perfect the craft as they grew.

With a powerful new way of using their chemical makeup, the Xilon were able to do more than they had ever dreamed possible, reshaping the very cosmos. Travelers abroad were able to prevent disasters in ways that they had never before imagined. Meteors speeding towards planets destined to survive could be diverted with a single blast. Devastated cities could be re-powered with a single surge. The possibilities were endless. And yet throughout the years, the Xilon remained humble, never abusing their gifts, always carefully monitoring themselves. Because no matter how much time passed, the story of Leo Zakryn would never be forgotten, held in the hearts of every Xilon as the critical first steps into a wonderful new age and heeded as a warning by all those who dared to push the limits too far.

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