Chapter 2

Shrouded, Netatia watched Kai die. She waited for the nether to claim the child’s soul before she summoned her Cosmograph.

The Cosmograph appeared in the air a pace from her head, choosing to mimic a middle-aged man the size of her arm. The bearded scar-faced man was the Cosmograph’s original form, the form it owned when it had simply been a Herald’s Divine Echo before the Architects bound it to an Exarch’s core, thereby ascending it to the first level of Radiance.

How may I serve, Keeper? The Cosmograph’s thick baritone was more thought than speech.

Scan for any humans who might possess the power to have seen the battle.

A holographic display of the planet flashed to life in Netatia’s HUD. Hundreds of dots popped up on the floating globe. None were in her present hemisphere.

She took note of the two types of power the planet’s inhabitants could call upon if their souls were strong enough. Qi and magic. This backwater world was evolving.

I must keep an eye on this world’s growth. Those hundreds will soon become thousands.

Pinpoint any human whose Soul Root is as strong as Kai’s.

Moments passed.

There are no others, Keeper.

The assessment confirmed the conclusion she and Quel had made. A Wraithlord could not have felt this singular soul in this universe from within the Cyclic Omniverse several hundred million megaparsecs away.

Someone had directed the Wraithlord here. Someone with the power of an immortal, most likely Legion. Other possibilities existed besides Legion, possibilities she was not willing to consider without evidence. But how had Legion known the location of this soul? 

She wished she had reached in time to save Quel and had captured the Wraithlord instead of killing it. She would have made the abomination reveal the information, reveal where Legion were hiding.

But her rage had gotten the best of her when she saw the monster feeding on Quel. She’d struck without thinking. While she had rushed to Quel’s side, the Wraithlord’s scripts had activated, summoning a netherling to take its soul, preventing her from using a chrono inversion to resurrect it for interrogation.

She growled in frustration. For a moment she imagined she and the rest of the Aegae destroying Legion in their lair. Netatia heaved a sigh, disappointed that it was not to be.

Prepare departure.

Where to, Keeper?

The Cyclic Omniverse. Mitigar Realm. Senchen system. Planet: Avros.

Another display joined that of the Earth. Coordinates flashed by, speeding through realms and systems.

Path or rifts?

She considered for a moment. Time was of the essence. A Path was faster by far. Yet, using one meant risking a chance encounter with a Voidlord, a Legion member, or one of the Abyssal’s Chaos Demons.

Not that she couldn’t defeat either of them, but such a battle meant a delay. And that delay would doom Kai Bree’s transference.

Rifts only.

The display settled on a planet, a mostly blue beauty with multiple green and brown blotches. Avros was 542 million megaparsecs away.

Spatial course plotted.

The two displays merged. Rings represented the hundreds of spatial rifts her Cosmograph would activate for the journey through the Planes of Existence. The twisting line to each rift marked her route, avoiding both the nether and places where parts of chaos-infected void pushed into the Planes.

The Cosmograph would drain a great deal of the quintessence layer of Netatia’s primordial core, but the trip would be worth it. Or so she hoped. She hoped this entire endeavor would be worth it.

The fate of Avros and Earth depended upon its success. But fate itself had provided a way. When fate calls, I answer.

Frowning, she paused at one of the rifts. It was far too close to a part of the void infected by the umbral, the fabric of chaos. She reached out and touched the rift, moving it away from the area in question.

Satisfied with the rest of the route, she recalled her Cosmograph, the display fading as she did so. The Cosmograph dissolved into her head.

Drawing quintessence from her core, she flexed her soul, and tore a rift through the spatial fabric into the Planes of Existence. A slash appeared. Netatia stepped through the rift and into the Planes, the place containing, yet between all things except the void, to which the Planes belonged.

Her time as flesh lasted but an instant before she melted into pure energy. A tunnel of neon blue and white materialized. She shot into it en route to the next rift.

Some time later, the Keeper emerged from the Planes of Existence in a flash of azure and silver. She hovered in space above the sphere of blue, green, brown, and white that was Avros.

Her Cosmograph appeared. Coordinates flashed across Netatia’s HUD.

Planetary location scan: Edgemere continent, the Titan’s Leg Mountains, Dragon Valley, Coiling Ridge.

Netatia acknowledged the confirmation with a thought before passing instructions.

Make certain there are no natives in the vicinity with the capacity to notice my entrance, and monitor the threads of those who can.

Three-dimensional displays appeared. They merged with her catalog of fate threads. Lines of text and computations followed. They resolved into a list of the millions of mystic beings within two thousand kilometers of her final destination.

The most advanced mystic was a Sage.

Scan completed. There are none with the capability.

Netatia opened a final rift. A slash materialized in the sky above Avros’ mainland, Edgemere. The Keeper stepped through, the rift closing behind her.

Directly below Netatia was the stretch of mountains known as the Titan’s Leg. Surrounding Edgemere were the smaller floating continents called the Reaches as well as the Sky Islands.

As she had done on her last visit, she reminisced on how much had changed. Seeing Avros again reminded her of a hundred thousand years ago when this was her home, fate having spun her out with the strongest Soul Root of her time, a Soul Root that would become a Keeper’s soul. Perhaps the similarity was the reason she’d chosen Kai Bree.

Other than sunshine and rain, she did not remember anything of her first few hundred years. But which tree did before becoming Ascended? That was when her dreams began, as she listened to birds sing about their exploits, produced zan fruits that mystics coveted, and watched as they practiced the mystic arts in her presence.

She had yearned to be like them, traveling the world. When the moment had come for her to ascend to the Divine realm, and choose another form, dragon had been the obvious choice.

Pardon the interruption, Keeper, but the threads warn of a Herald’s approach within the next thenule.

The complication of discovery within the next thousand cycles made Netatia dismiss her memories and focus on the area of the Coiling Ridge, above Dragon Valley, several kilometers from Sengar Village where the Red Scale river wound its way. In a small wooden home, two men mourned over a dying child. A father and a teacher.

She took note of the barrier array encircling Dragon Valley. Its scripts were attuned to third grade Ascended Beasts.

Cycling quintessence to replenish her core, Netatia flexed, activating chronostasis. All movement in the area ceased.

With a thought, she stood at the child’s bedside, the two men frozen in place. She slipped a soul ring on the girl’s finger, twin to the ring she’d given Kai Bree.

 Netatia reappeared in the sky above the area once more. Show me everyone who ever came into contact with that child.

A display of Avros appeared. Thousands of dots represented her request, all located in Dragon Valley.

Reaching out with a web of quintessence, she touched their minds. As far as all of them were concerned, this child was always Kai of clan Bree. Even to the child herself.

Netatia released chronostasis. The child died in that very moment. As the nether opened to claim the child, Kai Bree’s soul swept through, drawn by the ring.

Now, the rest was up to Kai. If she survived this test, she would prove her worth. She could help save Avros, something Netatia was not allowed to do in her capacity as Keeper.

This deed was as close as she could come without breaking the Eternal Court’s protocols. With a sigh, she opened a rift to another planet a parsec away.


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