Well folks, this is it. The final story in Tales of Tellest, our first big push for this literary universe. Now don’t you fret or anything, we’re already hard at work with some follow-up material—including sequels to the five novellas from Phase One.
Keeper of the Void, this last story, is meant to be a pretty big deal. It subtly connects all the stories that we’ve produced for Tales of Tellest, and gives us a golden opportunity to explore different places (among other things) in this world. I don’t want to say too much more, so give this tale a shot. Hope you enjoy it!
Keeper of the Void
A Story by Michael DeAngelo
The orbs crackled with energy as he drew near, each violet sphere resonating a low hum that echoed through the place in every direction. Mist hung low against the floor, obscuring every footfall, but he was sure he would remain upright. Above him, an array of lights hung among a mass of pinks and purples, swirls of black drawing everything closer together. It was beautiful—and terrifying.
A strange man stood before him, his attire made all the more expressive by the light of the constellations. Golden armor sat upon cobalt skin, more ornate than anything. His broad muscles and imposing stature were foreign, even to the visitor, who had seen much war throughout his lifetime. Held against the stranger’s hip, he saw the mirror that was rightly his, its pearl frame shimmering in the darkness.
“Why have you brought me here?” he asked the fearsome fellow. “Who are you?”
A mighty, bellowing laugh erupted from behind a wicked, toothy grin. “Peculiar questions, considering the circumstances. You would think you ought to first question where here is. But it takes much more than this to surprise someone like you, Rhys Oberon, doesn’t it?”
“Smoke and mirrors,” Rhys said. “I’ve seen it all before.”
“You know places of power exist within the darkest corners of Tellest. What makes it so hard to believe that—”
“Let’s drop the formalities,” Rhys interrupted. “You obviously want something from me. You’ve already got the mirror I went out of my way to—”
“We can call it that. You could have taken that and disappeared, but you didn’t. Why?”
“I’m not going anywhere without that mirror.”
“Appease me,” the hulking, blue-hued brute said.
Rhys pivoted back on his heel, but when he saw the nearest orb, all covered by violet mist, he couldn’t sate his curiosity. As the billowing smoke cleared within that ball of light, the image there could be seen more clearly. His lips parted, and he reached out to it.
There before him, within the orb, was a replaying of events not an hour before. Rhys could see himself walking beneath a stone bridge—inverted on its underside, suspended by manipulated gravity—while guards patrolled above, completely unaware of his presence. Only several meters away, the mirror sat upon a marble pedestal, just waiting to be plucked.
“What is this?” Rhys muttered.
“Smoke and mirrors,” the stranger echoed. “Though not altogether mundane in their presence. I am Vedas, a sort of… caretaker of this place.”
Rhys turned about, his eyebrows arched. “And what is this place if it is no mere trick?”
Vedas wore that disarming smile again, though he shook his head. “Perhaps we had better save that explanation for later. The keeper has plans for you.” Without further urging, he strode through the mist, deeper into the unknown. When he heard the muted steps behind him, he pointed to the other orbs they passed.
“These all represent events in the history of your world. Some you may recognize from myth and legend, others might have been written of in letters to your lords from far-off places. Some of them may even have been seen before your eyes.”
Sprinting to catch up, Rhys turned and backpedaled before the caretaker. “You said events. So these aren’t just places. These are times?”
“That is correct.”
“And you can go back and forth as you please?”
Vedas laughed and tapped his shining breastplate. “Not without some assistance.”
“And that time we just came from—my time—was that your time as well? Or was that event somehow important enough to venture to?”
Vedas chortled and continued forward, nearly trampling the visitor. “You’re asking all the right questions, boy, but don’t think yourself more important than you are. You’re just a thief, a means to an end.”
“I’m a treasure hunter,” Rhys protested.
“You’re a scoundrel, through and through. Even a thief has his merits, however. And with your… ability… you managed to steal the mirror out from under the noses of those who would guard it without spilling a single drop of blood. You made my job infinitely easier.”
Rhys cast a scornful gaze at the cobalt guardian. “You expect me to believe you came for the mirror and that alone? You could have left me there to be captured. You wasted your time digging a pit you would have known I could have easily escaped from. No, you wanted me to follow you here.”
“What I want is not what is important,” Vedas said. “After all, I answer to a higher power, just as you do. In time, you will meet them both. Let’s hope you meet mine before you meet yours.”
As the strange being proceeded further into the void, the miasma seemed to crest over the path. It carried with it more of those spheres, images dancing within them. The nearest one danced toward Rhys, rocking this way and that on invisible waves. When he drew his focus toward it, the orb slowed, almost as if it were looking back at him, observing the observer.
A girl inside the orb looked about. She searched for whatever otherworldly visitor was watching her. The girl shrugged and reached out, and the thief extended his arm to meet hers. The orb pulled back, and when it did, her hand landed on the black cat that had leapt atop her desk. She slid a book before her and swept it open. A bright emerald light cast out from that book, stealing away Rhys’ vision. When he blinked away that discomfort, the orb was trailing away, back to the mist.
Alone then, he couldn’t dismiss the sensations that loomed within the void. His hair stood on his arms, and he was unsure whether the blame was to be placed on the aberrant cold—a frigidness that seemed to be collecting inside of him and radiating outward—or the absolute vastness about the place. The void seemed endless, and even standing still, he felt as though he had traveled for miles.
“Vedas?” the lone human asked.
When no response came, he started forward, even as another wave of miasma was cast over the formless surface Rhys walked upon. More orbs spun about, each displaying a moment in time he was unfamiliar with. A warrior stood beside dwarves, lightning jolting outward from his fingers. In another orb, an elven maiden hid from ferocious goblins, ready to pounce from her cover at a moment’s notice. Still another focused on a young man on his horse, traveling furiously across an open plain.
Every time they drew close, Rhys reached out to touch them. And every time, they bounded away like bashful children.
Alone once again, the visitor to the void narrowed his eyes. “Enough!” he shouted. “Either tell me what you brought me here for or send me back. No more games.”
“I assure you, this is no game, Rhys Oberon.” It was not Vedas’ voice that reached him, but a rich, deep, feminine voice, that filled the void. Her voice came to him from every direction, a whisper that held in it the power of a shout.
Before him, the mist shifted, parting way for the remarkable figure. She was tall and lithe, swirls of color etched into her smooth, pale skin. Rhys couldn’t determine her age, for the stranger had a youthful enough form, but in her amber eyes belied untold wisdom. Even more striking were the adornments about her. She wore a feathered circlet, the dark plumage flanking a trio of gems: two sun-speckled garnets and a bright ruby in the center. Her dark outfit swayed with an otherworldly presence as she drew nearer to the visitor.
Rhys couldn’t mask his feelings. She seemed familiar and gentle, but he was unable to halt the shiver from rippling up his spine.
Behind her, Vedas reappeared, his bold azure skin seeming somewhat duller in her presence. When he noticed Rhys’ intent focus, his lips drew back into that wicked grin. “I present to you Nyrshia, the keeper of the void.”
The human swallowed away his tension and dared a step forward. “And who are you? Was it you that brought me here?”
“I am everything that never was and all that will come to pass. I am the advocate of time, the physical manifestation of infinite realities. I am the keeper of the void, and in many ways, I am the void.”
“And can I expect the same enigmatic presence from you as I received from your henchman?” Vedas flashed a toothy grin. “You’ve brought me here for some reason, yet I am still unaware what that is.”
Nyrshia arched a dark eyebrow. “You are brazen and bold, Oberon. It makes you dangerous. It makes you worthy. You are here because you have been recruited.”
“I don’t remember signing up for anything you have to offer. All I want is the mirror, and then I’ll be on my way.”
“What you want is irrelevant,” the keeper said, her voice resonating with a rich timbre. “This is not an offer. It is not a request. You have already agreed to lend your skills to my cause.”
“Enough,” he spat. “Enough riddles, enough cryptic whispers. I want to know why I was brought here, or I want to be dismissed.”
“Hold your tongue, boy,” Vedas challenged. “We find you humorous to a point, but know your limits. I could crush you like an insect, and that only pales in comparison to what the mistress could do to you.”
The keeper of the void raised her hand to placate her champion. Rhys could see the subtle violet sparks that seemed to leap from her fingers. “Very well, Rhys. It would be only fair to tell you what is required of you.
“Vedas is a capable advocate. He is dependable and loyal, which I find are good qualities… most of the time. Despite his presence and his ferocious capability, he can be a bit too focused. That is where you come in.” Those sparks on her hand gave way to a powerful flash of energy. In an instant, a dark sphere was hovering between her fingers, a single fleck of light visible there.
“Time is infinite. There are more possibilities to an event than you can comprehend. But there is also a narrow line that exists that was once the truest expression of fate’s trajectory. It was stable, and it kept your world safe.”
“Along with countless other worlds,” Vedas spoke, a scowl etched upon his face.
“Permutations of the timeline have ebbed and flowed like waves on the shore, and many of these possibilities are considered acceptable. Sometimes, however, an inconsistency makes all time unstable.”
As Nyrshia spoke, the fleck of light within the orb grew at an exponential rate until it filled the sphere. The image displayed showed the violent crash of an island descending into the sea. A shift in perspective presented an elf, drenched and weary on a distant shore.
The contents of the orb swirled about once more, finally settling on a woman with pleasant features and a disarming smile. Rhys’ widening eyes deceived his stoic observation. He remained quiet while the image transformed again, that time to a foreign land filled with golden statues and ornate arches.
“These events are all in jeopardy, you see,” Nyrshia said. “One of those inconsistencies I mentioned earlier.”
“And you expect me to help piece them back together,” Rhys said.
Her golden eyes narrowed as her lips curled upward. “I know you shall, child. I am offering you the knowledge that could assist you in that inevitability. Perhaps it would not be unwise for you to familiarize yourself with the various points of history in your world that could be at risk.”
Rhys harrumphed and crossed his arms over his chest. He cast his gaze at the orb once more and watched as the images continued to cycle through.