Time’s Rebels Prologue
Something was amiss.
Rista Jhalan glanced uneasily around. She tucked a wisp of her bright white hair behind one ear as she looked over the immediate area. Her skin was dark, her eyes golden and glowing with power as she scanned her realm. The red dress she wore stood out like a beacon in the dusky Great Hall.
She was the Keeper of the Realm of the Scienticians, now known as Time’s Edge, and therefore very sensitive to the energy fluctuations of the dimension she governed. The change in the energy level was subtle, but she had noticed it at once. A very powerful scientician, perhaps, or…
“I must speak with you, Rista Jhalan.”
Rista turned sharply. An old man stood behind her. His face was lined, his hair sparse and white, his tunic and pants plain and unassuming. His steel blue eyes, however, radiated power.
“Rylante,” she said in surprise. An unannounced ambassador from the Great Realm was an unusual occurrence. “What brings you to Time’s Edge?”
“I am concerned.” Rylante’s voice was strong, matching the power of his eyes and belying his ordinary old man façade.
“Concerned?” Rista raised a brow. “About Time’s Edge?”
Rista raised both brows. She had been the Keeper of the Realm of the Scienticians long before it had been named Time’s Edge and had not once encountered a problem that merited the attention of the Great Realm.
“Throughout the long history of the Zavarians, rogue scienticians have always been a problem,” Rylante continued.
“Some abuse their power,” Rista agreed cautiously.
“Their ability to control energy makes them believe they are exempt from the laws that govern others. The more powerful a scientician is the more likely he or she is to abuse power.”
“Not necessarily.” Rista smiled faintly. “It has been my experience that the lesser scienticians have always been more trouble. I suspect their lust for greatness stems from their envy of those more powerful than they are.”
“Yet the most powerful scienticians are the hardest to control.”
“True, but most aren’t a problem.” She met Rylante’s eyes. “Why the sudden concern about scienticians?”
“One of the seers in the Great Realm has had a disturbing vision.”
Rista’s gaze sharpened. A prophecy from the Great Realm wasn’t to be taken lightly.
“He predicted that a powerful scientician would take control of this particular realm.”
“That’s a little vague. What exactly did the prophecy say?”
“A Zavarian of great power will emerge from time and space and seize control of the newly named realm. This Zavarian will join with three others, also triple-talents, and, one by one, they will take control of the places of power,” Rylante intoned.
“Did the seer give any indication of who these scienticians are?”
Rylante pursed his lips. “I assume you have heard the story of the freeing of the seven cities on the Cilshyre Mountains.”
“Certainly. Michael Blayne and Xerxes Zamaran destroyed the shield that imprisoned the cities and found the missing Orbicules. Michael’s parents, Alrick Zartollis and Jinn Kudral, came and told me the entire tale. But what does that have to do—”
“So those actually responsible for what occurred haven’t returned to Time’s Edge,” Rylante interrupted. “I thought that might be the case.”
“Tell me,” Rylante said. “What have you done in this matter?”
“Nothing. You told us all, quite clearly, not to interfere. So I didn’t.”
“Not during the incidents, but after,” Rylante clarified.
“What was to be done after?” Rista demanded. “The Orbicules were found and restored, the shield surrounding the Cilshyre Mountains was destroyed, and the two captives in the Origin Stone were set free. There was nothing more to be done.”
“Haven’t you left out a few things?”
“Such as?” Rista frowned. Just what was the old man trying to say?
“Three scienticians were murdered.” Rylante raised a hand and counted the names off on his fingers. “Barris, Kashar, and Garvin.”
“Barris was killed by Kashar,” Rista explained. “Kashar died when an energy blast he threw at another scientician bounced off a shield created by the Origin Stone.” She met Rylante’s eyes. “And I don’t consider Garvin’s death murder. He attacked and tried to kill a powerful scientician and paid the price for his arrogance.”
“Death is an excessive response to arrogance.”
“Arrogance can be deadly,” Rista agreed, repeating one of her oft-said maxims. “Garvin was guilty of the deaths of many scienticians. As far as I am concerned, justice was done.”
“You can’t have scienticians randomly deciding who lives and who dies.”
“I agree with that,” Rista replied calmly. “But there is an exception to every rule. This case was one of those times.”
“And the next time?” Rylante asked.
“Next time?” Rista’s voice sharpened.
“Yes.” Rylante slowly nodded. “There will be a next time and then another and then another.”
“I hardly think so.”
“I was extremely disturbed when I heard the entire tale,” Rylante continued as if Rista had not spoken. “I realized that over the centuries most of the calamities in this galaxy were the result, directly and indirectly, of powerful scienticians who misused their talents with no fear of any consequences.”
“Even if that is true, and I believe it isn’t, what can we do about it?” Rista’s golden eyes were glittering. “Scienticians are powerful people. They are rare, but those with great power simply can’t be contained except by extraordinary means.”
“Precisely.” Rylante’s eyes narrowed. “We must contain and control those who refuse to abide by the laws.”
“We can’t impose penalties on someone just because he or she is a powerful scientician,” Rista objected.
“We can and should restrain those who have broken the Code of the Scienticians.”
“I can and do enforce the Code within Time’s Edge,” Rista replied. “I can’t possibly watch the entire galaxy and wouldn’t do so even if I could.”
“We both know that is not true.”
Rista blinked. “I beg your pardon?”
“If you so wished, you could not only watch the entire galaxy from Time’s Edge, you could also control it.”
“If the Great Realm believed me capable of that, I would never have been chosen as Keeper,” Rista said dryly.
“But you will admit that anyone who controls Time’s Edge has the potential to control the galaxy.”
“Certainly.” Rista looked amused. “But only if those of this dimension are willing to close their eyes to what is happening.”
“They might with the proper incentive.”
Rista’s golden eyes grew cold. “Am I being accused of trying to take over the galaxy?”
“You? No.” Rylante shook his head. “But I greatly fear there are others who will try.”
“But not succeed.”
“Garvin came close to succeeding,” Rylante replied. “He had access to Time’s Edge and all its secrets.”
Rista smiled. “Hardly.”
“He was a keeper of Cilcourt. That gave him great privileges here, as you well know. Garvin planned to control the Cilshyre Mountains, the Origin Stone, and then Cilcourt. Then he would have turned his eyes to Time’s Edge.”
“He never managed to do any of those things. I would think there are very few who could manage it.”
“Indeed.” The word came out like a burst of a laser. “That is my point precisely.”
“There are a few who could manage it. In fact, it has already begun. Cilcourt and the Cilshyre Mountains have been taken over by these rogue scienticians.”
Rista frowned. “I can assure you that is not true. If any change in the control of either place has happened, I would know about it.”
“You do know, and yet you have done nothing.”
Rista looked astonished. “Are you referring to Michael and Xerxes?”
“Of course. I greatly fear they have made an alliance.”
“Are these merely suspicions on your part or do those in the Great Realm have evidence of this supposed plot?”
“Throughout my life, first on the Cilshyre Mountains, then as Keeper of Time’s Edge, I have watched scienticians try to gain control over the places of power. I hoped that as the centuries passed, peace and enlightenment would become the way of the Zavarians, but it hasn’t happened. I finally realized that the only way to ensure peace is to control the most powerful scienticians.” He eyed Rista intently. “Haven’t you noticed that there are an unusual number of extraordinary scienticians at this point in time?”
“Yes, I have noticed,” Rista admitted. “What of it?”
“If they band together, they will have the power to accomplish what Garvin failed to do.”
“Certainly, but you are assuming, without any proof, that they will try.”
“Proof!” Rylante’s voice rose. “I have enough proof. They are powerful scienticians. They already control the Cilshyre Mountains and Cilcourt.”
“Michael controls Cilcourt, and Xerxes, along with several other well-known scienticians, is restoring the government of the Cilshyre Mountains. They have done nothing to warrant your suspicions.”
“We must stop them before they do,” Rylante insisted. “You can call them to trial for the crimes they committed in Time’s Edge.”
“Crimes! What crimes?”
“Michael and Xerxes fought in this realm, did they not?”
She met Rylante’s eyes. “You said that their battle was the beginning of the fulfillment of the Origin Stone prophecy.”
“They fought in the Realm of the Scienticians. That’s a violation of the Code.”
Rista’s lips tightened. “There were extenuating circumstances. In view of the subsequent events—”
“There can be no exceptions. If we don’t make an example of them, other scienticians will believe they can also do whatever they wish.”
“I doubt that.”
He bent a frosty glance on Rista. “Do you know if either Michael or Xerxes are multi-talents?”
“I have never heard anyone refer to either man that way.” Rista returned his cold stare. “Multi-talents are rare. The chances of two appearing at the same time are remote. The odds of three, as the prophecy suggests, are even less likely.”
“Four,” Rylante said. “The prophecy states quite clearly that the Zavarian in question will join with three other triple-talents.”
Rista’s brows shot up. “Four scienticians with triple talents? That would be nearly impossible.”
“Not if Cilcourt is involved,” Rylante said.
“Cilcourt?” Rista stared at him.
“Never mind.” Rylante turned from her. “I have grown old waiting for the Zavarians to evolve into the leaders and peacekeepers of the galaxy. Instead, they have become the rogues and the villains. It must end.”
“I will not take any action in this matter until I speak with others in the Great Realm,” Rista stated firmly.
“Very well.” Rylante dipped his head in quick agreement. “Come with me.”
He began to weave a path through the dusky Great Hall of Time’s Edge. The space was endless, so wide that the edges were hard to see and so long that neither end, if there were ends, was in view. The walls rose toward what seemed to be a window that looked out onto the entire galaxy. An eclectic arrangement of objects filled the Great Hall in an apparently random pattern. Stone statues of beings in hooded white robes were scattered throughout the Hall.
Doors of all different styles and compositions lined the edges of the Hall. Old-fashioned hinged-doors, energy doors, sliding doors, and dissolving doors appeared in the stone walls from floor to ceiling, again with no apparent pattern.
Rylante stopped before a very large, arched door. The wood of the door was black and decorated with a map of the galaxy, which was picked out in silver. He waved his hand, and the silver map began to glow with pulsing white light that spread and engulfed the door.
Rista had stepped through this door only once before when she was appointed Keeper of the Realm of the Scienticians. The Great Realm, at least the small portion that she had seen, was as different from Time’s Edge as night was different from day. It would be interesting to see it again.
Rylante stepped aside and let her precede him through the glowing portal. As she stepped through, the portal shimmered and she vanished into its depths.
Rylante didn’t follow. Instead, he waved a hand and the glowing ceased. Then he held both hands out toward the door and it rippled and withdrew into the stone wall. He stared at the stones in satisfaction. No one would ever know that there was once a doorway there.
He turned and surveyed the Realm of the Scienticians. He had ruled here once before, when he was younger and still full of hope. If he had the wisdom then that he had now, the dangers that threatened Time’s Edge would not now exist. Ah, well. He would take care of everything.