A Place In Time

A Place In Time

image The mist cleared from the battleground slowly as the sun rose in the west. The latest fight had taken its toll on Kythera. She was not prone to wearing out easily but after so much chaos, she was finally ready to return home.

Kythera had grown up amongst the Athalites, a species not her own. In values and spirit they were like one, but biologically the differences were impossible to overlook and, although she loved her people dearly, her missing past had always haunted her. She had spent most of her life with the feeling that a great revelation regarding her purpose in life was just out of reach. Her adoptive mother had once told her, "we found you alone on a planet far from here, with no other life forms in sight, so we took you with us hoping that your true family would one day come for you." But Kythera sensed that there was more to the story and had long believed that a much bigger truth had been hidden from her. Yet try as she might, she could get nothing more out of her family.

Her suspicions were not unfounded. Unbeknownst to Kythera, the Athalite royalty and their trusted council members had been watching over her since she had first been taken in so many years before. As ancient genetic cousins to the Xilon, they understood better than anyone that she was to have a very special place in the future of their galaxy, and had secretly been preparing her for it for her entire life.

image A young adult now, Kythera surveyed the blood-soaked land around her. Many of the Horde were already dead or dying and the rest had fled from the ferocity of the onslaught. Not a bad day's work. The Horde were unspeakable creatures of nightmare, feared throughout the galaxies that the Athalites controlled. What drives these monsters? she asked herself silently. Why do they attack so many innocent life forms? What do they want? Of course, she knew well the answer to the last question...they wanted nothing more than death and destruction. They lived for it, plain and simple, which made them even more worthy of fear and loathing. Animals, rabid with primal hate. But she was here to prevent that, alongside her fellow warriors of the capitol city of Liathar. And in spite of any questions about her own past or future, this feeling of purpose was enough to sustain her for the time being.

Kythera had always been different from those she lived amongst. The Athalites were strong like her and bore beautiful wings similar to her own. But there the common attributes ended. Unlike the Athalites, she had no beautiful golden scales, and through her translucent skin shone a glow that never went away, which she had not witnessed in any other life form. The Athalites had always treated her the same as any other, but she could not help but feel out of place.

image Mulling over so many thoughts, Kythera climbed up onto her beautiful horse and gave chase, following the renegade Horde who had escaped, taking them out one by one as she swept over the landscape like an avenging angel. Their thick exoskeletons offered little defense against her determination and skilled technique, and were certainly no match for the Acharite arrowheads that she had fashioned from the asteroids surrounding Liathar; just one more thing to set her apart from her people. The Athalites could not venture near it without growing deathly ill, while she remained unaffected by the strange and powerful metal.

As she ran down the last of the vile beasts, Kythera made up her mind to find out who she really was, where she came from and what had been kept from her since birth. First, she would wipe this plague of monsters from the face of the planet, these soulless monsters who had so long hunted the people that she loved and owed her life to. But once her duty was done, she would seek out the truth of her own existence.

image Battle after battle she had endured against the Horde. They were a strong and relentless enemy, but even numbering in the millions, they had come to the wrong galaxy. Against the fierce Athalite warriors, their army rapidly diminished. Kythera had been at the front of the war for so long, her name had become legend amongst the people of Liathar and the worlds that they watched over. The Horde were finally on the brink of extinction, and Kythera had played a key role in their demise. Her contribution would not be forgotten, but there was much more to come.

The war raged on for a few more years, until every last member of the Horde was either dead or on the run, having fled far from Athalite space. Kythera's hands and clothes were stained with their blood and she felt no remorse. They had terrorised her people for as long as she could remember, and she had been every bit as savage as them in her pursuit of revenge and justice for those who had died at their hands. With the war over, Kythera tried to settle back in amongst the people of the plains, but she had come too far, seen and done too much to adapt to a calmer, "normal" life. Moving on, she felt, was her only path.

As the three moons of Liathar rose high into the night sky, Kythera took one last, longing look upon the village where she had been raised, the place that had become her home, where she had learned to hunt and fight, where everything that she could think of mattered. But life was long and everyone had to grow up at some point. She had resolved to follow her own road, no matter where it ultimately led. Now, she decided, was the time to explore her origins.

image Kythera flew up into the darkness of space, visiting countless worlds along her journey through the stars, but looking for one planet in particular, a place that her mother had told her of as a child. The place where, in Athalite mythology the first of their kind had been created by the cosmos and set to roam freely upon the surface. Named Saphirnica, it was a place of immense importance to the Athalites, a place of pilgrimage and discovery.

Kythera had never had much interest in history, mythology or theology. As a youth, her interests lay in the physical realm of combat and action, and trained by the best of the Athalite warriors, she had become most adept at both. Now, however, on her way to dig up the past, she wished that she had paid more attention to her early studies.

After searching through space for the better part of fifty solar years, she found a planet that bore a strong resemblance to the one in her mother's tales at last. Not so promising from space, Saphirnica appeared to be a bleak and barren world, with little water and no visible life. But something about the place seemed to call to her. Touching down on the planet's surface, Kythera climbed the highest mountain range that she could find and wandered across it for days before stumbling upon a cave. Strange markings of a language that she was unfamiliar with were etched into the walls, covering the cave's interior, which ran miles deep into the mountain. Intrigued, Kythera followed the twisting passages for hours until she came to a large, brilliantly lit cavern. In the center of the cavern was a pool, deep and clear, and she noticed a large crystal orb resting carefully in the shadow of a boulder.

image Upon examining the crystal ball, which felt both alien and familiar all at once, Kythera could see nothing particularly special about it. Giving up, she placed it onto the ground and lay down to sleep, exhausted from her long journey. But her rest was troubled and fraught with unsettling dreams. When she awoke, she suddenly felt that she was no longer alone. Looking once more into the crystal, Kythera could make out something reflecting inside of it...or someone. He looked strong - a warrior, as far as she could tell from his clothing and the weapons that he held. And he looked just like her - the same oddly colored hair, full of streaks like the mist after a storm. The same warm glow and unusual eyes. Her hearts sped up as the stranger began to speak.

"Kythera, I am Isejor Xhefr of the Xilon. I know that we have never met, but I have been watching over you for a long time. You have been given a great responsibility and you alone must see this mission through. The Horde was a formidable foe, that much you know. Yet you faced them without fear day after day and saw to it that they were removed from existence, before they could spread their evil across the multiverse. For the love of your family and friends, you chose to fight and came out victorious. You have proven yourself a thousand times over, child. But before you can return to your place of origin and reunite with your own kind, there is one more task you must perform for our beloved cousins. You must travel to Heironis, a world of darkness and terror, the kind of which even you have not yet seen. There, you must defeat a terrible menace before it sets its sights upon the planet that you call home. In the early days, the brave Athalites cast this creature out and contained it in a chamber on an abandoned world. But it has only grown more powerful with time and has found a means of escape at last. It is up to you, young one, to destroy it. You are the only one who can. This monster spawned the very beasts that you call the Horde; imagine the horror that would befall the people of your world if this abomination were to descend upon them. There is only one element that can destroy it, and you are the only one capable of wielding such a weapon. Do you accept your task?"

Kythera was speechless for a moment as she looked into the glass. A stranger stood before her, telling her of a destiny that had been hers before she was even born. How could she possibly refuse it now? Did she even want to? Fear of the unknown was simply not in her nature. "I am Kythera of the Athalites and I do not back away from a challenge, nor do I flee from my duty. How am I to find this place?"

"Follow the cave in which you stand," the elder instructed her. "A fork in the passageways will take you to Heironis. But take care, for this monster feeds on the power of our kind. Look to the eyes for the source of your victory. I have seen what may come to pass and what may yet be averted. The fate of many civilizations, young and old, is dependent upon your victory." As the final words were spoken, the crystal's surface grew dim and Kythera was alone in the barren caves once more, lost in thought over all she had seen and heard. Finally, the young warrior picked up her weapons and stalked deeper into the mountain.

Hours later, Kythera came to a fork in the tunnel. She followed the second path, which led to the depths of a carved room hewn from the very mountain in which she stood. Large pillars supported the ceiling and smooth slabs of rock formed the floor, cool under her feet. She was not prepared for what came next.

image A bright blue light began to shine ahead of her and within that light, a doorway appeared. Through the opening, a terrible creature emerged. She could see the resemblance to the Horde once, yet also vast differences. This being had a tough, metallic black skin and sharp wings. Rows of painfully sharp teeth and claws gave it a look more lethal than any creature she had yet battled and its eyes glowed like fire. This was truly a different kind of foe...the beast would be far tougher to kill than the rest of its savage kin.

The battle between them began at once as Kythera threw herself at the monster. They became locked in perilous combat, a fight that raged for three days, neither side giving quarter. Eventually, Kythera could feel herself tiring, weakening for the first time in her life, yet the foul beast before her showed no signs of weariness. This could very well be my final battle, she found herself thinking. But no sooner had the depressing thought crossed her mind when Isejor's words echoed from within. "Look to the eyes for the source of your victory," she remembered with sudden clarity. Breaking away from the creature and rolling quickly across the room to put some distance between them, Kythera swiftly pulled two of her precious Acharite arrows from her quiver. She drew the string and let the deadly weapons fly, piercing both of the monster's eyes. There was a blinding flash and an unbearable screeching noise as the beast slowly began to collapse in on itself, slowly crumbling into a pile of scales.

image No sooner had the creature hit the floor and turned to ash than the crystal lit up once more, seeming to call to her from the safety of her weapons pack. Kythera pulled out the sphere and saw the same young man looking out at her from the depths of the strange transdimensional glass.

"You have fought most bravely, child. Your actions these past days have saved more lives than you could ever know." Kythera ran her fingers over the smooth surface of the crystal, enchanted. "Who are you, Isejor? How do you know so much about me? About all of time and space?" The warrior smiled. "I am from a time far before yours. One day, my children's children will lead to you. You are one of my most imporant descendants, Kythera of the Xhefr clan. The Athalites were in need of a warrior to assist them in one of their greater struggles and you were sent to them, to help them survive as they have done for us so many times before. But you have fulfilled your destiny now and, if you wish, may meet the people who brought you into this world. Follow the directions in the khejzmyn, Kythera, and you will find your way home, to your own place and time."

image Keeping a close eye on the orb, Kythera hopped through time as it directed, heading for a distant region of space known as the Aeradisphere. She was weary from her battle, but not weary enough to miss the startling beauty of the alien world upon which she now found herself. As she entered the main hall of the Council, she was taken aback by the warm welcome. There were others, just like her, from every corner of space, waiting to welcome her home. A familiar figure stepped to the front of the crowd with a welcoming nod. "You have earned your place in our history," he said. "Will you travel and keep order throughout the universe, or will you stay here?"

Kythera needed no time to think. All she had ever wanted was to understand her place in the vastness of existence, to know who she was and where she came from. And now, she did. But the Athalites were her people, her true family, and she had already been removed from them for too long. She would return to Liathar to live alongside those who had given her meaning, but she did so knowing that she could return to her birthplace when the time was right. At long last, Kythera felt truly content with who she was, and held onto that feeling as she made her way home through the cosmos to her true homeworld and the loving family that awaited her there.

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