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Summer Solstice is the first chapter of the first Elysian Elements book, Sky of Stone. It is from the point of view of Geb, the first protagonist.
When Geb woke up, it was very dark -- and that was definitely not normal. It should have been bright long ago, for he always slept until nearly noon. Had someone taken the sun? No, that was ridiculous. He had not had any nightmares that could have pulled him out of his sleep though, so he remained perplexed.
A warm wind hit him right in the face. Confused, he held out a hand, which promptly bumped into something. Something big-headed, with a long, hard ... horn
Geb realized that it was this something that had aroused him. A rhino - in his apartment!
Instead of screaming or panicking, however, Geb remained calm. He knew he had nothing to fear. Like all Elmen, Geb also had an animal companion who would accompany him through his whole life. "So early, buddy? What's happening?"
The rhino snorted. It sounded impatient, realized Geb, which now confused him. What was so important that he had to be awakened in the middle of the night?
The realization hit him like a blow.
"Today is the summer solstice! By Lumeon, how could I forget? We have to go!"
With this realization, Geb was fully awake. Though still completely in the dark, he grabbed his things from where they were discarded the previous day and dressed as he made his way to the door. Half-stumbling in his haste, he reached the street, which was lit but was deserted.
"They must all be on the pitch," he concluded, and saw that the rhinoceros had turned to him. Looking east, the sun would soon rise. "We don't have much time. May I, Boulder? "
The rhinoceros snorted again and dropped to the ground so that Geb could mount his back comfortably. As soon as he had seated himself, the animal took off across the winding streets of the city and past the innumerable houses of clay and clay, which were sporadically illuminated by oil lamps.
Then he came to a halt.
The road in front of them was blocked. He straightened his slumped posture to see better and suppressed a groan. While the spot they wanted was a single street away, both were thickly swarming with Elmen giving Geb the impression that the whole city was present. He knew he was likely not off in that thought; the summer solstice was an important event, and so everyone wanted to attend the ceremony, which began at sunrise.
Being so far away, Geb would not understand a word. Perhaps he could push himself forward, but with Boulder, this was a thing of impossibility. It wasn't just about pushing other people aside. No, each one of them had brought their own companion.
Even in the sparse light of the lantern, Geb could see servals and antelopes - mammals of the savannahs and steppes, as was customary in the tribe of the earth. Like the elms they were brown and wore white markings. Geb was only thirteen years old, so his markings only covered his head and shoulders, but he knew that they would soon decorate his whole body as an adult, spreading out and leaving impressive patterns.
And something else special about these companions: they had adapted to the size of their elms. Geb was just at the age from which one could comfortably ride on the companion, but the animals of the adults cast Boulder in the all too literal shade. He could not have pushed past them.
Only to the companions of young children would they have had a chance, and Geb didn't intend to dispute their good places.
"You're here?" A voice snapped him out of his thoughts. It belonged to a boy who was a few years older than a child. He was sitting on the back of a striped weasel, which was, of course, much bigger than his wild-living companions. A zorilla, as Geb knew. "I thought you were sleeping. Like last year, do you remember?"
"This time I'm here, as you can see." Of course, he remembered. But he wouldn't sleep through this important ceremony again. Once was enough. "What are you doing back here, Emesh? You must have been here a lot longer than I have been."
The other boy nodded. "I have. But we can't leave you here. If you're already awake, you should also understand what they say."
Geb frowned. "Boulder will never push past all the people."
Emesh, on the other hand, smiled. "Leave this to us."
"What do you mean?" What was his friend going to do?
Suddenly, a loud sound burst out. The elms and their companions moved apart, thus freeing the way for the friends.
"This will not last long. Come!" Although Geb had no idea what had just happened, he welcomed the invitation.
A stinging smell rose into his nose. Was that what the others had done? Emesh confirmed his guess. "You can thank my companion. He just fired a small dose, so he'll just stink a few seconds. The smell will be gone before we can get in any trouble. "
In fact, as soon as they arrived at the stage specially erected for the ceremony, the stench had already disappeared. Some were still cursing, so Geb had to suppress the urge to apologize to them. He had made it to the front and it had been worth it.
The stage was aligned to the east. There, the mountain peaks of the Twilight Mountain rose, behind which the first rays of sunshine were already spread. Geb felt the urge to climb the mountains-- How far you must be able to see, up there away from the world! But as a guardian of the tribe he had to stay down here, Geb knew. Here he was needed.
Silence abruptly descended. Geb held his breath as a great woman entered the stage. In the light of the torches at the edges of the stage, Geb recognized that she was wearing a long robe in various earth tones, as well as jewelry made of particularly fine stones. In contrast to the other elms, the lines on her body weren't white, but rose dark from her light brown skin. She had never seen Geb before, but he knew exactly who this woman was: Kishar, the chief of his tribe.
"Elmen of the Earth Tribe!" she exclaimed. Her voice was loud and clear, so you could still hear her in the back rows. But Geb doubted that it had reached the streets. "I am glad that so many of you have appeared. As you know, today is a special day, because at no other time will the sun stand so long in the sky as today. Behind me are the peaks of the Twilight Range, and only today will the sun rise just above the top of the left of the three mountains. From tomorrow the nights will be longer and the shadows gain in power."
Geb shuddered involuntarily. For weeks Elmen had disappeared in the middle of the night. No one made it a secret. The entire tribe knew about the prophecy that the healers had once received - the shadows would overthrow the elms of light and seize control over all of Elysia.
"But do not be afraid," Kishar continued. "The prophecy speaks of a hero who will conquer the shadows. The light will win over the darkness, as it always has been. Take this sunrise as confirmation. Let us marvel at it and remember that Lumeon, Guardian of Light, has watched over us since the beginning of time and will until its end."
She nodded two elms, who then cleared the torches. The place was shrouded in darkness - but the sunrise caused the light to grow steadily. Kishar also stood with her back to the crowd, looking at the mountains.
Silently, they watched as the sun was still lighter and brighter, until the sun itself appeared as if it had been predicted over the top of the mountain, reminding everyone that both the Twilight Mountains and the city of Sunstone didn't have their names without reason.
Hours later, everyday life had returned to the city. The sun was now high in the sky and the wide streets were crowded at this time of day, Earth Elmen with their companions pushed past others. You could hardly speak in order, but that didn't matter to most. He also broke his way through the crowds with Boulder and greeted every one he knew, despite the pressure.
Geb was in no hurry. He had more than enough time to get to his training place, so he strolled comfortably through the streets. Finally, he arrived at the large marketplace, where the crowds were still thicker and innumerable odors penetrated his nose. Above all, however, it smelled of food, and he and Boulder immediately felt hungry. Many made Boulder sit and smirked at Geb, who followed his companion hastily. A hungry rhinoceros wasn't a rarity in the city, but always offered a funny sight.
At least Boulder had the decency not to eat the whole stand empty. Instead he looked expectantly to Geb, who, however, first looked at the stand itself.
There were a variety of fruits that grew in Xiro: dates and melons, but also mangos - Boulder's favorite food, which he expressed by simply chewing on one.
"Ma'am, I'm sorry," Geb said quickly, rummaging in his pocket for small money.
"All right," the woman who worked at the booth smiled. Seeing her companion, a hippo, and Geb knew who he was.
"Hello, Ren!" He greeted the woman, whom he had bought so often. "And it does not really matter to you that Boulder-"
She waved her hand. "I know how greedy our companions can be. I myself have to give a bit of fruit to Chomper every hour, so he doesn't throw the whole display to the ground. "
Geb took a look at the hippopotamus, who actually made a very calm impression on him. But he didn't get his name for no reason.
Boulder had now finished with the mango and had begun to talk with the other animal. So, Geb decided to start a conversation as well.
"And, Ren, what's new?" He asked the woman whose face darkened.
"Nothing good, I fear. It happened again. "
She didn't have to say it; Geb knew exactly what she meant. The shadows had been back and had taken somebody with them. "Who is it this time?"
"Bunag," she said. "From the west quarter. Did you know him? "
He shook his head and was at least a bit relieved that he hadn't met anyone he actually knew. But it wouldn't be long before it was time.
As a chieftain, Kishar must have known about it, and yet she hadn't said a word about it at the ceremony. Did she ever do anything against the shadows - or did she wait for the hero of the light like the rest of her tribe?
"We have to do something," Geb finally said. "It can't go on like this!"
"It won't." Ren sounded somewhat more optimistic. "Were you at the ceremony?"
"Well, you see. You know the prophecy. When the time comes, the hero of the light will save us. We just have to be patient. "
"But the longer we wait, the more will disappear. We have to make sure that does not happen. "
She rolled her eyes. "Well, I as a dealer cannot do much anyway. If you really want to do something, you should talk to the town guard. While I am sure they are doing their best, but - "
"But I'm working there!" He thought for a moment. "They will listen to me. I'll go and talk to the captain. You're the best!" He snatched another mango, gave Ren a little money, caught Boulder's attention with the mango, and then ran straight to the guard station, a few blocks away.
"Good morning, Captain!" Geb sounded enthusiastic as he entered the building. And this time for a particularly good reason: he would make sure the abductions stopped. He would be rewarded and the other boys at his age would have a little more respect for him. At the moment, they liked to make fun of him because he was too 'soft' to them. But Geb had nothing against himself. He did not like any brawls, and so what? His friends also accepted him, without him having to prove his strength to them.
"Morning, Geb." Captain Alisanos was the only other person in the room, studying just as often a map of the city where various places were marked with circles or crosses. He was already older-his markings almost covering the whole body-and what in Geb had only a thickened skin on his back had already so strongly strengthened at Alisanos that even some stone species looked soft. "Look forward to work again, what? That's what I like to hear."
"That too," Geb agreed. "But I wanted to talk to you before work."
The man was still engrossed in the map. "Oh yes? Why is? Do you want more pay so you can buy more food? "
Geb tried to ignore that remark, which wasn't so simple. Now even the captain was making fun of him! He had left Boulder behind him behind the door, which was big enough to let an elephant in. After all, all the buildings were tailored to the companions. "No ..." He pulled himself together. "It's about the shadows."
Now Alisanos looked up from his card and stared at Geb with his dark brown eyes penetrating. "What did you say?"
"The shadows, sir." His look worried Geb, and he wondered if it had really been a good idea to speak to him. But there was no turning back-especially when Boulder had tried to join Geb and thus, if by chance, blocked the door. "I think ... I think we should do something against them."
"Do not be ridiculous, boy. Your suggestion could risk all our lives."
"But if we do nothing, then they'll kidnap innocent Elmen!" contradicted Geb. "You can't allow that."
"I can do that very well." Not only Alisanos' eyes, but also his voice was quite threatening. "Look at this map. These are all the places where someone has disappeared without a trace in the last few nights. I'm trying to find the places where they'll hit next, so I can use more of my men there. That's all we can do."
"Do not contradict me!" The chief man interrupted him, slapping his fists on the table. Geb was lucky that Alisanos' companion wasn't here, otherwise an elemental attack would have been triggered. Then Alisanos, intentionally or not, would have triggered a small earthquake or split the table. The captain noticed that, and he tried to calm down. But he still sounded irritated. "It should be clear to you that each of us is doing everything in his power to protect the tribe from the shadows."
"Of course, Captain," Geb said quickly, perhaps a little too fast. He could not help but doubt the statement. If they did their best, why would Elmen still disappear?
"Good." Geb could hear that Alisanos wasn't convinced of his answer. "Now go and help Emesh at the north gate of the city. I will make sure you have done your work well in the evening. "
"Yeah," Geb nodded, deciding not to go further into the shadows. He did not want to annoy the captain any more. He left the building together with Boulder - and remembered saluting quickly before he closed the door behind him.
Then he sighed. Alisanos had said they were all doing their best, but that could not be. If they used all the guardians and warriors of the tribe in the night, the shadows would have no chance. The earth elms and their companions were tall and strong, together they could take it with everything.
So where was the problem?
"The problem," Emesh explained, when Geb told him about his conversation with the captain, "is that you see things too seriously." They were now standing at the North Gate, together with their companions: Geb with Boulder and Emesh with his zorilla, whose name Geb did not know.
"But they are serious!"
"We all know the shadows kidnap our tribe members." Emesh shrugged. He could better estimate the situation than Geb, who was only in the second year of his training as a guardian. "But the captain is right. There is no reason to risk even more lives by posting additional guards. The hero of the light will come whether we interfere or not. Forget not, the great Lumeon himself proclaimed the prophecy. He is the guardian of light - he will have thought of something at these words. If you ask me, we should carry on with what we are doing - keeping watchers anyway all day." He leaned against the frame of the huge city gate. "Waiting."
Geb did the same, but he did not feel very well. It was true that Lumeon was one of the five guardians - one of the mighty creatures that had created Elysia and dominated the elements like no other being. But how many Elmen had yet to disappear, until the prophecies of the Savior were finally revealed?
More importantly, why did Geb appear to be the only one to ask this question?
|Sky of Stone Chapters|
|One: Earth||1: Summer Solstice • 2: Riders of the Wind • 3: Light and Shadow • 4: Opposites • 5: A Strange Encounter • 6: Across the River|
|Two: Ore||7: Dark Omens • 8: Underground • 9: His Radiance • 10: The Forbidden • 11: A Boy and His Goat • 12: The Story of a Tribe • 13: Keeper of Earth • 14: At the Bottom • 15: Changes|
|Three: Sky||16: Back to the Start • 17: Against the Darkness • 18: Old Acquaintances • 19: Change of Plans • 20: Unexpected • 21: Sky Holes • 22: Wind and Water|