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Justin Regier Justin Regier
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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

This is an idea I've been tossing around in my head for awhile now which actually grew out of an idea to prank a friend (long story). It's about an ancient race whose secret war has raged for centuries. This war revolves around a certain child - a chosen one. Whoever controls the child controls the outcome of the war. It's an experiment for younger readers (like middle school/junior high), but I thought I'd put up a little of it here. Let me know what you think!


"All great nations have been destroyed. Why not yours?"
-Unknown


Prologue


       Mason Aldridge sipped his tea as he stared at the rolling hills of the vast English countryside. Crisp Autumn light poured through the large bay windows of his manor’s west living room. Mason glanced through today’s copy of The London Times; more war, more killing, more protest, more this, and more that. He sighed, and shook his graying head. Humanity would never change…
       On his way to his study, he peered out onto his front lawn. Around the fountain in the center of his circular driveway, his grandson, Jeremy, played with his friends.
       The boy was running and laughing, being chased by his friends in some game recently invented, his bright blond hair still as unruly as ever. Mason watched them for a while, smiling at how easily they were contented. Jeremy looked up, and his green eyes found his grandfather. He waved a tiny hand furiously, and began to run inside, his friends following.
       Jeremy rushed down the hall, tearing his light jacket off as he ran. He met him at the base of the stairs, and was already asking for a story before Mason could even react.
       “Please can we have a story Grandpa, please?” he asked eagerly. He knew that his grandfather would remain stubborn until he had had breakfast, and read the latest London Times, so Jeremy was always careful to wait. After both of his morning rituals had been completed, he would usually comply.
       Mason chuckled. “Why are you so interested in the ramblings of an old man?”
       “You have the best stories ever, Grandpa!” Jeremy begged.
       Mason smiled at the hopeful expression on the boy’s face. Several of his friends had caught up to him, and were looking up expectantly, though none were brave enough to ask Mason for a story outright, like Jeremy. To most of them, he looked like a wizard with his gray facial hair and small reading glasses that always seemed to be perched on his nose.
       Mason gave in. “Alright. One story.”
       The kids cheered.



They all sat in a circle around a large reading chair in Mason’s study. The room itself was huge, emanating a quiet majesty. The walls were covered in bookshelves stretching from the floor to the ceiling in some places. Old, beautiful paintings and odd artifacts sitting on small shelves hung on what little bare wall was left. An old oak desk sat in the corner, and a stained glass window above it let in shafts of gem-colored light.
       Mason sat in his chair, the children at his feet, and Jeremy in his lap. All of them now had large glasses of lemonade, and were waiting on Mason.
       “Tell us the story, Grandpa!” Jeremy urged.
       “Is everyone settled?” Mason asked. The children all nodded. “Good,” he said.
       And so he began.


Prologue II


       “Long ago, before written history had begun, there was a village. The people there were simple farmers and traders. One day, convinced that there was more to their life, fourteen of the village’s scholars decided to go into the wilderness, and not return until they had unlocked the mysteries of the human mind.
       The people talked about them, wondering what they would discover, expecting them back soon. The days turned to weeks, and the weeks to months. Soon, the months turned into years, and the years into decades. The Fourteen had been all but forgotten, and the few who remembered assumed they had been robbed and killed, or eaten by wild animals. Life went on in the village.
       Then, one day, as the people were all settling in to go to bed, The Fourteen returned. Most did not know who they were, but the elders, the one’s who had been only children when The Fourteen left, remembered. It had been over forty years, but The Fourteen looked only as if they had aged a fraction of that.
       They possessed frightening powers, and lacked the need for sleep. They could manipulate their physical surroundings with a mere thought, and could delve into the minds of men.
       At first, they were hailed, and welcomed back, but soon, others in the village grew fearful and paranoid. They plotted to kill The Fourteen, and rallied the rest of the village. Six of The Fourteen were killed as they tried to flee. However, not everyone wanted them dead – a number of the villagers assisted in their escape, and followed them back into the same wilderness they had just returned from.
       This band of homeless travelers wandered through the lands, and eventually grew into a mighty nation:
       Atlantis.
       Located on an island composed of three rings in the Mediterranean, the city was practically the center of the world. Trade flourished, as did the city’s bountiful harvests. The people owed this to their high regard for knowledge – books were just as valuable as gems, more so in some cases. The library at Atlantis was home to scrolls, books, writings, teachings, and texts of nearly every nation. The amount of knowledge contained there still rivals what the Internet has become today.
       The people of Atlantis were advanced far beyond their time. Before Rome even had basic irrigation, the Atlantians had steam-powered machines. It would be several thousand years before this technology was seen again.
       The people hated war – it was a tragic waste of life. Therefore, the Atlantians never attacked unless they were attacked first, and when they were, their vengeance fell with fury. Their army was the deadliest, and by far the most powerful in the known world. When provoked, they invaded the country quickly and efficiently, taking over with almost no resistance. Neighboring nations learned quickly not to prod the sleeping giant.
Atlantis thrived.
However, it was this very success that became their downfall. The fact that the city was so prosperous led to more and more Atlantians. The city was growing, but had no where to expand to.
       A debate raged within the Senate Council, the democratic governing body that ran Atlantis. Should, to meet the needs of the growing populace, the Atlantian army take over other, smaller countries, though unprovoked?
       The city literally split in two over the issue. Two main parties arose, one for either side of the argument: the Shunters, and the Claedists.
       The Shunters believed that the gifts passed down to them by The Fourteen were meant to help mankind, not rule it.
       The Claedists, however, felt that the strong had a right, if not an obligation to rule the lesser nations. To them, conquest and victory was the only path toward honor.
       The city feuded bitterly. Trade was cut off, shops were closed, and citizens feared to roam the streets. Then, one stormy night, a group of Shunters met a group of Claedists in one of the main squares in the center of the city. Both sides were armed, but neither attacked the other. Instead, they taunted each other, mocking their opponents. The crowds grew bigger on each side, growing and growing until the square was filled, and split straight down the middle.
       Inevitably, someone from one side got too close to someone from the opposite side, and found a sword buried in his heart.
       It was with this single, agitated attack that Atlantis fell.
       Immediately, both sides attacked, and the city was soon soaked in the blood of its own people. The people used their ability to affect their surroundings in horrific ways; streets were flooded, and buildings were toppled. Arrows, guided by the mind of their masters, found their targets with deadly accuracy. Debris crushed some, while swirling clouds of sand choked the life out of others. Soldiers who tried to stop the outbreak were killed on sight by both sides.
       Meanwhile, the humans assembled their armies, and mounted an assault. Just as in the village of The Fourteen, humans still feared the strange powers the Atlantians possessed. This, they thought, would be their only opportunity to destroy them.
       As the rampage in the city raged on, the first of the fleet of human warships reached the outer ring of the island, coming from all sides. The women and children had been evacuated to the outer ring of the city in hopes of keeping them safe while the fight continued on the streets of the inner city. They held out bravely, but were quickly overtaken and slaughtered by the humans; not a single one was spared.
       Advancing to the second ring, the well-organized and well-armed human armies made short work of the raging masses. Bodies were stacked on top of bodies, some human, most Atlantian.
       The third ring, however, would not be taken so easily. The army had set up all its defenses, and would protect their capital with their lives. The bloodshed was horrific, and the charging humans fell by the hundreds, but the Atlantians could not last for long. Inside the massive dome that was the heart of the city, surviving members of The Fourteen gathered for one final task. Knowing that their race may face its end, the elders used the last of their combined life force to ensure their race’s survival by blessing the humans. Someday, when the race was in danger of extinction, a warrior would rise to save them, and stop what came to be known as The Eternal War. Born of humans, this hero would be even more powerful than The Fourteen, and would be called Aurorus, the Wielder of Fire.
       As the blessing was completed, the elders breathed their last, and the outer defenses were broken.
       At long last, after being feared and respected, unstoppable for over a century, the Atlantian Army fell.
       The Great Capital, was destroyed, and, in their ignorance and hatred, the humans burned the entire library of Atlantis. The city was destroyed, and no prisoners were taken. Every last Atlantian in the city died.


      A few slipped away, though. Some, mostly women and children who had hidden during the initial invasion, left by small fishing boats, cloaked by the thick smoke of their burning home. Some snuck aboard the warships and disappeared when they returned. A few even swam. But regardless of the way they returned, the important thing was that they survived.
       The humans were determined to erase the Atlantian's from history – the city was completely leveled, and the island even sank in an earthquake a few years later. Any reference, history, or document mentioning Atlantis was edited, or burned. All their artifacts were destroyed. In essence, they had disappeared.
       The few who did survive hid deep in unsettled territory, the two sides, the Shunters and the Claedists, still fighting each other. Over the years, they grew more savage, moving deeper and deeper into the wilderness as the humans pursued them.
       It is said that the Atlantians still hide among us today – fighting amongst themselves, hidden in the crowds, waiting for the Aurorus. They walk among us, looking for the special one, born of humans, who can restore balance to their world.”
       With this, Mason sat back in his chair, watching the attentive faces around him. There was a moment of silence, then Jeremy asked, “Why do they still fight if they’re in danger of dying out?”
       “Because the Claedists still want to take over the humans. They still feel superior. The Shunters have been protecting them, making sure they’re safe,” Mason replied.
       “Even though the humans hunt them?”
       “Even though the humans hunt them. They still believe that their gifts are to help mankind, despite the cost.”
       The boy looked thoughtful for a moment. “Could I be an Ah- row- row…”
       “An Aurorus,” Mason corrected.
       “Yeah, an Aurorus. Could I be him?”
       “Their powers don’t show up until they’re a little older than you are, so we’ll have to wait and see,” Mason said smiling, ruffling the boy’s unruly gold hair. “Now, there was your story. I’m afraid I have some work to do, so you’ll all have to keep playing.”
       “Alright,” Jeremy said, sliding off Mason’s lap. “Thanks, Grandpa!”
       “You’re most certainly welcome,” he said as the child and his friends dashed out the door.
       He closed it behind them, and was surrounded by the silence of his study. The peculiar smell of dusty books and old leather reached him, enveloping him.
       “Hello, Demetrius,” he said to the empty room.
       “I really wish you would teach me how to do that,” replied a voice.


      Mason chuckled. “Do what?” he asked as he turned to the figure sitting behind his desk.
       “Sense me coming like that. Every time. I spent a lot of time trying to sneak in here, and you don’t even have the courtesy to act surprised,” said the cloaked man in Mason’s chair. His hair was medium length, and jet black, like his cloak and neatly groomed mustache that was connected to matching goatee. His eyes were brown, warm, and friendly, adding to his air of easy confidence.
       “It’s good to see you again, Demetrius,” Mason said.
       “You too. Thought I’d drop by and pay you a visit.”
       Mason raised an eyebrow? “You just happened to be neighborhood?”
       “Well, you know,” Demetrius started in a light-hearted tone. “Sometimes, you just gotta make time for your friends.”
       Mason chuckled a knowing laugh. “I suppose so,” he said as he sat down.
       “However...” Demetrius began.
       “Here it comes,” Mason interrupted.
       “We are a little worried about you. It’s been months since you’ve spoken to anyone.” Demetrius’s features now bore some concern. “Thought maybe you’d found him and started training him for yourself.”
       “Perhaps I did. Perhaps he’s playing in the backyard right now,” Mason replied cooly.
       Demetrius chuckled, the worry gone. “We’re just concerned, that’s all.”
       “Your concern is appreciated, but hardly necessary. I am simply enjoying my solitude, and the company of my grandson.” Mason stated.
       “He’s a cute kid. Gonna be tall, like his dad,” Demetrius said. “Have you heard anything from him or Lila?”
       A darkness, long suppressed, wove itself onto Mason’s expression. “You know how I feel about that, Demetrius. They’re gone.”
       “I refuse to believe that,” Demetrius replied in just over a whisper. Now his expression, too, was dark. His tone was challenging, wanting a fight.
       There was a brief moment of dangerous silence. Finally, Mason asked, “Is there any news of the search?”
       Demetrius, sensing the tension ease, relaxed, and replied, “Nothing. From anyone. The whole idea is losing its credibility. Both sides are opting for open warfare.”
       “Damned fools,” Mason cursed.
       Demetrius nodded in agreement. He was quiet for a moment, then said, “We could really use you back.”
       “No,” Mason said almost before Demetrius could finish.
       “Mason, your expertise would be invaluable! Do you realize how many lives you could save?”
       “Do you realize how many I have already condemned?” he asked.
       Demetrius was silent.
       “As I thought.” Mason stood up, and walked over the large globe in the center of the room, and spun it idly. “I will not be part of that institution,” he told Demetrius. “Not again. I will not help the people that doomed my grandchild’s parents.”
       “You KNOW that’s not true!” Demetrius shouted, slamming a fist on the desk as he stood. “Nicholas is not dead. I know it.”
       “Were you there, Demetrius? Were you? Did you see the explosion? Nothing could have survived that. I barely survived myself,” Mason recounted, a flicker of memory passing behind his eyes.
       Demetrius said nothing, not looking Mason in the eye.
       “They’re gone - accept that, and let my son rest in peace,” Mason spat.
       “What about the letter,” Demetrius stated. “How do you explain that.”
       “That note was a sick joke, or a simple ruse. Either way, it was not worth my time,” Mason said sharply. He paused for a moment, the looked at Demetrius. “Is that the only reason you came here? To hash through old wounds?”
       “There’s something going on stateside. Big movements. We don’t know what it is, and quite honestly, you’re the only one we know to turn to. That whole spiel about asking you to come back was just a formality - we need you, general.”
       Mason did not reply at first. Then, he asked, “And what of my grandson? Am I to just drag him into this bloody war with me? What will become of him?”
       “He’ll be cared for by the best people we’ve got. His safety will be our top priority. I’ll... I’ll be overseeing him myself,” Demetrius said.
       Mason looked surprised. “You? Mentor a child? I thought your place was on the front-lines.”
       “It is, and always will be, but... sometimes, sacrifices must be made. You, of all people, should know that,” Demetrius said, putting on a stoic face. “We can’t do this without you.”
       Mason paced the room, lost in thought. Finally, he reached a far shelf, and pulled back a large book. Behind it was a small, hidden compartment, nearly invisible. Opening the camouflaged door, Mason reached in, and took out the compartment’s sole item: a necklace. On the necklace was a small wooden totem, carved in the symbol of luck in the ancient language.
       It had belonged to Nicholas.
       He grasped it firmly, his mind made up.
       “When do we leave?”


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Next: Cursed by Immortality