Prologue

THURSDAY, MAY 12th

From: kEpik
To: cRonus
Subj: Do not forget me

There is no easy way to put this, so I am just going to say it.

I have seven days to live.

In your time, that works out to 168 hours. It seems longer when I write it like that.

I am not as sad as I thought I might be. Maybe it is because I knew this was coming. Maybe the shock has not fully set in. Either way, I plan on spending these last 168 hours well.

I am starting by writing you this message. I will be hauled off to the prison on eNsis in a matter of minutes, but before that happens I have important things to tell you…things you should have been told a long time ago.

In case you have yet to figure it out, you are not sick. You have been poisoned. The poison is lethal and only I have the antidote. Unfortunately, once I am on eNsis I will have no way to get you the antidote like I have for the last 10 years.

(Yes, you know what I am talking about. The drink I periodically share with you is more than just an attempt at hospitality. It is an antidote, and it has been keeping you alive.)

I do not have time to explain how and why the poisoning occurred, but I imagine you will be able to figure it out. Just know this: it was not my idea. I had no choice in the matter.

I suppose the good news is that while I have seven days to live, you could have as many as 30. Spend your time wisely.

And cRonus – I am sorry.

Truly sorry.

Unfortunately, time is flying – now only 167.9 hours to live – and I have much more to say. Apologies must wait for another time.

First, you must take careful note of the items I included with this message. You should be familiar with most of these things, particularly the silexes and remeter. Use these wisely. This particular remeter is a new prototype that can open or close a portalgate anywhere. (Yes, I really mean anywhere.) I have not tested it thoroughly so do not push your luck – but it could prove useful in an emergency.

The last item in the package will not be recognizable, and just as well. The only advice I can give you is to save this item for a time of great need. I cannot say more, since even I am not sure of how it works.

With that out of the way, it is now time for the most significant and important part of this message. (Yes, information even more important than the fact that you are poisoned and dying.) The reason this is so important is that if it is true, we may yet be able to save both our lives.

So do not take this lightly.

What I am about to tell you will seem strange. It may even seem inconsequential.

But do not be fooled, cRonus. I have precious little time left, and I would not waste it on this message if the information were anything less than vitally important.

I just pray I am doing the right thing by sharing this. Please take my words seriously.

Two days ago, after we last spoke, I spent an evening pondering the nature of human dreaming. As you know, we zArgansk do not dream. This has always puzzled me since practically everything your kind experiences we also experience, yet dreaming remains unique to just humans.

I spent several hours trying to track down information on zArgansk dreaming but was unable to locate anything useful in my database.

After another hour of pondering the matter, I gave up and went to sleep. It was then that I experienced what no other zArgansk ever has:

I dreamed.

It was a miracle. I still do not know how or why it happened, but I believe it happened for a reason.

Let me explain.

(I just glanced at the monitor, and it seems I chose a fortunate time to write this all down. The screen is warning me to remain in my quarters. Soldiers are coming to collect me. 167.7 hours left, cRonus – and on eNsis I will not have access to a human computer. I must hurry.)

My dream began with me standing alone on a small hill in the middle of an endless field. This was the only hill for miles, and it seemed like I was not standing or sitting on the hill; I was just there, and I was clearly waiting for something.

Feeling that it must be coming soon, I searched the vast horizon around my hill until I found what I then realized I was looking for: two armies amassing themselves on opposite sides of the field. On one side were the humans, gathering tanks and missiles and lining up massive armies of men in camouflaged uniforms. On the other side were the armies of the zArgansk. I have never seen a zArgansk army in real life, but if one exists, it would have to look something like this: huge ranks of warriors, massive portalgates ready to summon fire, water, whatever was necessary. It was breathtaking, cRonus. Absolutely breathtaking.

As I watched, I was struck by the sudden thought that the armies were going to collide around my hill, and when they did I would be caught in the middle.

I had to find a way out. For some reason I believed I would be more safe with your people – perhaps indicative of my current state of mind – so I quickly sprinted down the hill and toward their army.

(As I glance over what I have written so far, I realize I must sound ridiculous – but believe me when I say that while inside the dream these events seemed completely real. Are human dreams like this? Do you also have no realization that you are inside a fantasy? It was most strange, cRonus. I cannot believe your kind does this every night.)

Time is running short. Back to the dream.

Panicked, I ran as fast as I could toward the human camp, but something was not right. Regardless of how quickly I ran, your people remained equally far away.

This made me angry, so I ran faster.

It made no difference.

I turned back to see how far I had come from the hill, but I was unable to locate it. It seemed to have disappeared.

Suddenly the ground beneath me began to shake. I realized the zArgansk army was charging and I found myself terrified.

I tried to run faster, but it still made no difference. I glanced behind again; the army moved faster and faster toward me. I could not run away. My legs were useless.

Tired and frightened and out of options, I fell to the ground and watched as – on the opposite side of the field – the army of your people began their counter-charge. I saw familiar faces on both sides of the war; you were there with your wife and children. Many of my zArgansk friends were on the other side.

I could not believe this was happening, that my work had failed and that the war was finally here. I screamed at both sides to stop, to reconcile, to end the senseless violence.

No one listened.

The armies neared.

Suddenly – am I saying ‘suddenly’ too much? I cannot help it, everything in the dream seemed so sudden – suddenly I turned and realized one of your children was standing next to me.

Do not ask how I knew it, cRonus. Somehow it was obvious the child was yours.

By now I had begun to panic. I told your child to run before the armies collided, but he just smiled and shook his head.

I grabbed him and commanded that he leave – but he just laughed before saying, “kEpik, don’t worry. Everything will be okay.”

“How is this okay?” I screamed, pointing at the armies racing toward us.

But he ignored me. Were it my own child, I would have punished him severely.

You will be glad to know I refrained.

As the armies neared, I sank to the ground and told your child to do the same. But he just smiled, shook his head, and reached into a sheath hanging from his waist (I swear it had not been there before) and pulled out…

…are you ready?

He pulled out a sword. A massive, gleaming, immaculate sword. I asked him what he intended to do with it, and he said this:

“I believe the truth will set us free.”

Those were his exact words. I am sure of it.

After saying this, your child raised the sword and smashed it into the ground.

A massive rift ripped apart the earth. It was like an enormous knife had been dragged across the line separating the two armies, beginning at your child and extending beyond my range of vision. I watched as both armies sprinted toward the rift, neither slowing, racing toward their inevitable doom as the emerging chasm opened to swallow them.

And then I awoke.

Dear gOds, the soldiers are banging on my door. I must go.

I do not know what this dream means. I hope you can draw some truth from it – something that will save us both.

And, perhaps by saving us, save our races too.

Farewell, my cRonus.

My son.

-kEpik aRist



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