Chapter 1 - The Star Dreamers' Dilemma
"The stars never lie. It is we who misinterpret." That was the motto of the Star Dreamer's Guild. Sally hoped that it was the case this time. What the stars said was too horrifying to believe. She had to have misinterpreted something while reading the celestial bodies. She had to double check.
"Noin! I need you. Get over here."
Her best friend of many years as well as a fellow Star Dreamer, Lucrezia Noin stately made her way across the huge domed room. There were other Star Dreamers available, some with more experience, some with more talent. However, Noin had the best instincts when it came to interpreting those mysterious stars.
"Sally, must you command me like you're the Oracle? You could have asked instead of screaming it out. By Darkness, your voice is still echoing off the ceiling."
Ignoring Noin's pointed and annoyed remark, Sally motioned her over to the telescope she had previously occupied. Twitching her white robes in an irritable manner, Noin swished over to Sally.
"Take a look at this quadrant, Noin. Tell me if you see what I see."
The nervous tension in Sally's voice was obvious. Noin peered into the telescope, almost fearing what she might see. Sally was unflappable; it was said that she could face the Oracle herself and spit in her face without flinching. Something had to be greatly amiss for Sally to lose her composure, even if it was a minute loss.
"Do you see it?"
Sally's impatient question rolled off of Noin's proverbial back without making a scratch. If Sally wanted accuracy, she had to give her time to read the stars. What was so damned scary up in the sky?
"Oh, Darkness. What the hell?"
Noin gasped out her sentence without realizing that she had. The stars were telling her dangerous things. "You see it, don't you? I'm not mistaken? What is your interpretation?"
Noin breathed in and out of her mouth, trying to get her heart under control. Sally had a good reason to be scared.
"Sally.. I can't believe this. The Warrior Constellation.. It's missing the Heart Star. And the Empress.. It.. It has regained its Shield Formation."
Silence reigned the domed room. By now, every Star Dreamer in the dome had heard what they had said. Suddenly, every Star Dreamer in the Dome made their way over to Sally and Noin. Everyone spoke at once. "The prophecy of the Light is coming true!"
"We are all doomed.."
"What does the Oracle say?"
"Are you sure? Stars don't just appear and disappear!"
Soon, the voices all melded into a constant roar of sound, no one's voice distinguishable in the sheer panic. Amid the madness, a voice rang out and silenced everything.
"What is going on here! This is the Dreamer's Dome, not some country bazaar!"
The Oracle's voice was firm and commanding. The silence was deafening. Then Sally came forward to address their leader.
"Oracle, the Warrior is missing its Heart. The Empress has her Shield. The prophecy may have begun."
The Oracle's icy blue eyes never wavered but Sally could see a slight tremor in her hands. She didn't blame the Oracle; this turn of events was terrifying.
"Are you sure, Sally?"
"I am. Noin has confirmed."
The Oracle walked down the seven steps from her own telescope and moved to Sally's station. She bent down and looked.
"You are correct. We can safely assume that the prophecy is coming to life."
The Oracle said it in such a quiet voice that it was more frightening.
"Sally, Noin," the Oracle commanded, "come with me. We must talk this over with the Guide."
Not waiting for Sally or Noin, the Oracle turned and began walking towards the exit of the Dome. Sally and Noin, at a loss of words, silently followed.
The Oracle sat and waited for The Guide in the Hall of the Visions. The Hall was not as large as the Dreamer's Dome, but it had more light. The Dome had been designed so that the Dreamers could focus on the sky without any distractions. The Hall had no such restrictions. The crystalline walls sparkled in rainbows of color, nearly blinding the Dreamers' eyes with its intensity. The rectangular Hall only had three pieces of furniture – the chair the Oracle occupied, an empty chair across from her and a small table made from the same crystalline material as the walls. The Oracle took in the décor of the Hall without really noticing the beauty. Her thoughts were on other matters.
Only once before in the history of the human race had the Oracle and the Guide met. And that time, nearly half of the world had been destroyed. Sally and Noin stood nearby staring at their chosen leader. They had known the Oracle since they were mere novices in the Dreamer's Dome. All three had been from the same town, taken in the same year and trained for the same amount of time. Yet, it had been Une, the smartest among them all, who had risen to the position of the Oracle. Noin remembered the times when all three played together . They had even been punished together at times. But now, she did not see Une from their town, a girl with funny braids that people had thought odd. She saw the Oracle, her leader. The best Oracle to come out of the Dome in more than half a millennia. Noin was brought out of her thoughts abruptly.
"Welcome to my Hall, Oracle. What do you wish of me?"
The voice belonged to a girl who did not seem more than fifteen. Her long blond hair cascaded down her slim body to her knees. Her blue eyes were without pupils, sure sign of blindness. But this girl walked surely as if she could see all.
"You must be the Guide."
Smiling at the Oracle's uncertain tone, the girl sat down in the red chair directly across from the Oracle. Tilting her head, the girl responded in a tone that bordered on mockery.
"Yes, I am the Guide. I am the Vision's vessel. But I rather hate being called the Guide. Please, call me Dorothy."
"Dorothy, I am Une. If we are to do away with formalities, then I would resent being called the Oracle. Those two in the back are Sally and Noin. They are two of my best Star Dreamers."
Sally rolled her eyes at the exaggeration. Une might be the most talented Oracle in a long time, but she was still a politician. Sally wondered if that was a trait among all aristocracy or just in Une's family.
"I sense that your Dreamers don't agree with your assessment," said Dorothy, "but I see that you believe what you say to be true. So, Une, what is your business with me? Oracles and Guides don't converse. It is taboo."
After throwing Sally a look that said 'we will talk later,' Une answered Dorothy.
"We have observed the stars and noticed that the Heart of the Warrior is missing while the Shield of the Empress has returned. We believe this to be the sign that the prophecy will commence."
Thoughtfully, Dorothy contemplated the words. It was no small thing to have stars go missing and reappearing suddenly. But she would leave the stars to the Dreamers. If they interpreted the stars to say that the prophecy would come to being, then she would believe them. After all, it matched her vision. "I also believe that the prophecy is coming to life. For the past few days, I've had visions about the Darkness being swallowed by the Light. The prophecy, if I'm not mistaken, says something about that." Swallowing the nausea that rose from her unsteady stomach, Une gripped her armrest tightly. She had hoped that they had read the stars wrongly. But if the Guide had visions about the prophecy, then it must be true.
"Yes, the prophecy says that. What shall we do?" Une was glad that her voice did not betray the awful terror behind her words. The last prophecy fulfilled had destroyed so much of the world. This one was supposed to be worse. It was supposed to bring back the Light into the world.
"We must inform the king, of course. Then I think we should begin our search for the Elemental Warrior Mages. They are the only ones who can stand up to the Light."
Une nodded once more in agreement. The prophecy demanded that if one was to save the world from the Light, they had to call upon the powers of the Elemental Mages.
"I will set my Dreamers to find the Mages. I leave it up to you to inform the king and prepare. But what of the Light's chosen vessel? Shouldn't we look for him as well?"
Lifting a forked eyebrow, Dorothy responded. "Leave that to me. The Guide has a better chance at finding the Light than the Dreamers."
Then, despite the gravity of the situation, Dorothy serenely nodded in dismissal and walked away. "And they say I'm the one without feelings."
Noin merely laughed at Une's annoyed muttering. Then the two Dreamers and the Oracle made their way back to the Dome. They had to begin the search or all would be lost to the Light.