The Seven Trials

The Seven Trials

image Isejor Xhefr Cehazaehrlaan Zenon, better known as Xhef to his friends and as the Prince of Acadia to most others, was a Terran born during the Genesis Era in 3Z7`4L1`6 BZH. While the Xilon civilization was still developing and shifting away from the chaos of the tribal days, Xhef grew up in the village of Nyrax, a peninsula on the White River of Kappa Crucis, with his younger sister, Carthea.

As a child, he was fascinated by tales of the Ancients - the oldest Xilon in existence who, rumor had it, had experienced and come to understand more about the universe than anyone else ever would. According to legend, there was nothing that their leader did not know, from where the universe and its people began to what they would eventually become. He possessed such detailed knowledge that most were convinced of his ability to "read" the future and to act as a guide, setting others on their predestined paths.

image Ever the skeptic, young Xhef went in search of the alleged leader of the Eldenkraenm, who, towards the end of his lifespan, kept himself out of the public eye and removed from civilization. His search took him generations into the past and deep into the isolated forest of Chymeron on Acadia Minor, where two young warriors guarded the entrance of a forbidding cave on the edge of Mount Graeden. Having heard tales of youths seeking answers to the future and being turned away, Xhef was surprised when the guardians promptly stepped aside.

Entering the cave, the boy found himself in a private temple. A blue fire burned in the middle of the soft clay floor; decorative ornaments hung like curtains from the stalactites overhead, and strings of symbols were carved into the cave walls and the ground underfoot. From the surrounding darkness, the Ancient emerged. He looked...old. That was new to Xhef; the Xilon never grew old, not anymore. He could only assume that this individual was true to his name and had come into existence before the Xilon had fully evolved to allow for aging without physical decay.

image The elder motioned for Xhef to join him by the fire, and began to speak in a deep, soothing voice that seemed to put the boy into a trance. He said that although Xhef was young and had many years to go, he would one day be one of the most important Xilon to ever exist. At first, the child laughed. He had never done a thing to merit universal respect, and was planning to go into the trade of working with wild animals as his father did. He barely passed his classes at the local learning center; what could he possibly contribute to the outside world? But the Ancient quietly held firm, explaining that his path would take a different course.

"You may be young now, Isejor, and you may feel that you lack the talent or ambition to be someone great. But I have seen the past, the present and the future, and these things are set in stone. When you complete your primary studies, you will train hard and will be accepted into the most prestigious ranks of the Guardians. You will become a great warrior known to all. When you come of age, you will be faced with seven trials that others believe to be impossible. You will face them alone when even the bravest run, and you will conquer your fears and prevail. They will know you as the Prince of Acadia, and your name will be spoken amongst the highest forms of life until the very end of time."

Convinced that someone was playing an elaborate prank on him, Xhef pressed the elder for details of the seven tasks that he would supposedly undertake. The Ancient replied, "First, you will end a great civil war between sworn enemies, and you will do it without taking a single life. You will find and recover the lost planet of Thalos. You will set in motion the evolution of a new form of life and seal the great rift before two universes collide. Upon returning home, you will stop the last dawn and see a legend born, and in doing so will win the heart of the untouchable, and your descendants will grow to save many more. And you will do all of this, Isejor, in a single day."

image Leaving the cave, Xhef felt satisifed with his little excursion. He now knew that this highly revered elder was nothing more than a madman with a penchant for dramatic storytelling. Laughing it off, he returned home to tell Carthea what the Ancient had said and she, too, dismissed it as the rant of a crazy old hermit. The whole encounter was soon forgotten.

Yet as the years passed, Xhef did indeed grow into a clever and devoted student, favored by his teachers and loved by his peers. Upon completing his primary studies, he had long since lost interest in his father's trade and went on to train at the renowned Raxxus learning center with his sister. Inducted into the ranks of the Watchmen, Xhef quickly established himself as a sharp and powerful young warrior, earning the interest of Jzerael, daughter of a respected Watcher who was living near the institute. The two became close, but Jzerael refused to acknowledge a possible future together because her destiny was to understand the universe in ways that others could not, and to guide the Guardians to preserve its proper course. Such wisdom required continuous learning and focus, and could not be obstructed by material relationships. No Watcher had ever taken a mate; yet Xhef was determined to change that and stayed close to her for many years.

Three months after completing his final studies, Xhef heard his fellow Guardians discussing a gruesome civil war that was raging across the Karacan galaxy. The conflict had been going on since well before his own birth, between two species who could not find a way to coexist. The Xilon elders knew that such a war had to end; it was not only decimating the two opposing races but would inevitably spread to destroy the neighboring worlds and their inhabitants as well. The easy solution would be to destroy that sector of the galaxy altogether, but the Xilon valued life and were determined to avoid killing. More importantly, the war-torn planet still existed far in the future, where it had eventually prospered. Destroying it would unacceptably alter the timeline, but short of eliminating both species, the Council could not come up with a solution. Neither side would surrender or compromise, and neither would agree to rebuild their civilization on a new world. Furthermore, both armies had constructed immensely powerful weapons of mass destruction and were on the verge of wiping themselves and half of the galaxy out.

image With permission from the elders, Xhef took his beloved horse, Caspian, to the tumultous planet Adalan and confronted the leaders of the Agrolytes. When he asked what it was that they required to end the great war, they told him that nothing but a world without the Meraedans would put a stop to the conflict. Then he met with the Meraedens, whose answer was nearly the same. There was no way to dissuade them; as the elders had warned him, they could not be reasoned with, tainted by generations of hatred. So Xhef went back in time to shortly before the conflict began. Together, he and Caspian swept across the planet like a tidal wave of power, altering its orbit path until the whole world was cast into a deep, impenetrable darkness. It would take the planet centuries to correct its course, time during which the inhabitants would be forced to cooperate in order to survive. By the time their world returned to its proper place, the two species had merged. There were no Agrolytes and no Meraedans, just a single Adalan race.

But something else had changed. A fault line of the Fresian Rift ran straight through the center of the Karacan galaxy and even seasoned Xilon travelers were told to keep a safe distance from it. What lay beyond might well be the final resting place of the universe - a tear in space and time, leading to the same anti-creation as Daxxus that all of their kind feared. As Xhef watched in horror, a large asteroid chain, sent into a wild tumble through space by Adalan's shift in orbit, went crashing into the fracture. The ensuing explosion blew a gaping hole into the rift and the entire universe shuddered along with it.

image But Xhef was not one to run from his fears. Once the chaos had subsided, he found himself floating through a desolate blackness. He tried to jump through space and time, but there was no space or time to move through. Then a light appeared, growing larger and larger. As it neared, he was able to see that it was a celestial body; a planet of Jovian nature, dark red and swirling with thick gases. The lost world of Thalos, misplaced by Guardians from the past as he had read so much about during his studies at Raxxus. As the planet neared, the light grew stronger, almost unbearable. The sphere was bearing down on him fast and then he and the ancient planet were hurtling through space and time together, careening across existence itself. He spun head over heels, dragged along in its wake all the way to a distant galaxy, its journey coming to an abrupt end as it collided with a small planet near the sun. The world shook and changed forever.

Xhef, who had grabbed onto a rogue asteroid, witnessed the shockwave from afar as one world was obliterated and another reborn, and remembered at last the long forgotten words of the Ancient. As the Earth trembled and prepared for a new age, the young warrior managed to pull himself together and returned to Karacan, where the Fresian Rift opened ever wider, threatening to consume all. No longer afraid of what lay beyond the broken fabric of time, the Terran flew towards the mouth of the abyss, faster and faster, gathering every scrap of energy left over from the explosion, pulling it all along with him, building up an enormous wave of white hot energy. Nearing the gaping rift, he came to a sudden stop and threw the massive wave of nuclear debris forward. It slammed into the void, which collapsed in on itself with a deafening groan, sealing the hole shut for good.

image His task complete, Xhef was weary and wanted nothing more than to return home. He quickly made the journey back to the Aeradisphere but as he entered the central orbit system, he knew at once that something was wrong. Geminius blazed as bright as ever, cutting sharply through the surrounding darkness, but the soft glow of Zeta Five was barely visible, its colorful tendrils wisping weakly along the surface of the core. Deeply disturbed, Xhef raced home to find out what was going on. "The elders are lost," Jzerael told him. "The sun is meant to burn bright until the End of Days, yet look at the sky and you see that history is changing."

Xhef knew that the troubling event must be his fault, caused by a ripple effect from the imploded rift. The greatest voids were not meant to be crossed and certainly not opened for all the universe to see. Doing so had shaken the foundations of existence, and even minor aftershocks could change the course of creation. Zeta Five was now on a different timeline, caught between reality and the end of time.

image Xhef told Jzerael to inform the elders that before the day was done, he would restore the sun to its proper path. Jzerael was not convinced. Such occurrences should not logically exist in the first place; therefore, correcting them seemed impossible. She had seen so many fragments of time and space and knew that even the Xilon could only control so much. They were powerful beings, but not gods. If the universe had plans of its own, even they could not prevent it from happening. But Xhef was not prepared to give in.

As fast as he could move, the young warrior made his way to the dying sun, fully aware that such close proximity to the imbalance could trigger a premature bioreversal or even erase his life completely, but there was no choice now. No other Xilon would take the risk; only he alone would dare such stupidity. As he neared Zeta Five, he felt a pull from within his chest, far more powerful than gravity. The time/space continuum was yanking him through its ruptured veins. The closer he got, the stronger the pull, until he was no longer in control of his own flight and hurtled towards the burning surface. All around him, the universe began to change. The planets shifted positions, nebulae came and went as his own body fell into sync with the rogue fireball. Landing painfully on the surface, the fire burning around him, Xhef looked into the distance and watched as the universe began to collapse. Even his people didn't dare come this far...these were the Final Moments, the Aeradisphere closing in on itself, all of creation falling headlong into the depths of Daxxus.

image Knowing that time was short, Xhef took off and flung himself into space. He flew faster than he'd ever thought possible as life shattered and collapsed around him. His hearts pounded, threatening to burst through his chest. What he was about to do bordered on insanity but it had to work. Barely keeping ahead of the wave of debris that tumbled after him, the Terran summoned all of the strength that he could find within himself, gathering his internal energy, allowing it to build up to a dangerous level that all Xilon were instructed to never reach. When he could find no more power within himself, he let go, throwing every ounce of it straight into the Final Sanctuary. The void blew open like an earthquake in the sky, greater than even the Fresian Rift had done, splitting a crack straight through the shell of the Aeradisphere and across the cosmos. The last remaining body in creation, Zeta Five was sucked instantly downwards, freefalling into oblivion. As the sun disappeared into the abyss with an almighty crash, Xhef could have sworn that he saw someone, another Xilon, falling into the darkness with it. He would discover only later that a young Risean had gotten too close to Daxxus while watching the spectacle, and had been pulled into the void along with everything else, creating an existential paradox for which he would one day become famous.

image When the blinding lights dimmed, Xhef once again found himself floating through space. But unlike the first time, when he had slipped through the fault line, he could move freely. The chaos was gone and a familiar ring of stars, planets and clouds surrounded him. When he spun around to look, his hearts nearly stopped at the sight of Zeta Five, revived. He had gone to the End of Days and turned the rift in on itself in the hopes of crossing the timelines, syncing the sun back up with the rest of the Sphere. He hadn't been confident that it would work, but there was Zeta Five, burning beautifully in the sky above his home world.

Jumping through space, back to the surface of Acadia Minor, Xhef thought of his conversation with the Ancient so many years before. Leaving his unavoidable scolding by the Council for a later time, he raced to Jzerael's home and found her in front of the house with Carthea. The two of them were staring casually up at the sky and seemed to be trying to determine whether or not he had perished in his foolish endeavor. Ignoring their looks of surprise at his disheveled appearance, Xhef dropped to both his knees, grabbed the fur sash that wrapped around his friend's waist, and told her that tradition was wrong; they were meant to be together. Jzerael reached down, brushed the mist from his hair, and simply said, "I know."

image The following day, Xhef appeared before the Acadian Council, fully expecting to be chastised for acting rashly and putting the entire timeline at risk. But much to his surprise, he was lauded for his sharp intelligence, his choice to take steps that others had feared to take, and his ability to conquer a string of situations that most had thought impossible. After years of service and further feats, he was made leader of the Guardians and taught others to approach the unknown with the same determination. Over time, his actions spawned a change in the system of the Universal Watchmen that would last forever, and he was hailed by all as the Prince of Acadia. Known as one of the most important and beloved Xilon to ever exist, Xhef held that title until his death, working tirelessly for many lyren to preserve the path of creation along with his brilliant mate, who became a revered Watcher. Even long after his passing, Isejor was often spoken of throughout the years, stories of his experiences related from one generation to the next, an ongoing inspiration to many Xilon children who never dreamed of being something more.

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