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From Chapter 1

During the birth of her third child, one of Mazza'h's arteries adjacent to the placenta ruptures. Her eyes reveal to Brother Carvel she knows her life is ending. "Mazza'h, did you know?" Brother Carvel asks.

"I feared to be right," Mazza'h answers. She passes to the next life with the final push to usher her youngest into the world. Brother Carvel ensures all three are breathing and are healthy.

He swaddles each of Mazza'h's sons in blankets and rises. He offers the first two babies to Mazza'h's warriors and the third to Ecilpa'h. "Ecilpa'h, I am sorry. There was nothing I could do to save her. Please accept my sincerest apologies." Brother Carvel bows his head.

"You were Mazza'h's friend. You are not, nor have you ever been mine. I would strike you down where you stand, but I am bound by Mazza'h's wishes. I will not harm you." Ecilpa'h's words topple out in a menacing grumble.

Brother Carvel lifts his head and considers Ecilpa'h's words. "I appreciate you honoring her requests. Does this include helping her youngest child's role in the prophecy?"

Ecilpa'h looks down at the newborn in his arms, then at Brother Carvel. Anger permeates Ecilpa'h's entire body. His muscles flex as he refrains from lashing out. "Begrudgingly-but know that if you put that thing inside him, he will be outcast from the main part of the tribe."

Brother Carvel looks from Ecilpa'h to the warriors around the dwindling fire. Each of their faces flare with hatred. "Ecilpa'h, I would not even think of doing anything, except it was Mazza'h's belief in the prophecy. You know, as well as I, the stories of what happens to the final child in such births. With my brother's presence within him, he will live a reasonably normal life. I would implore you not to treat him any differently. But I cannot control what your actions might be."

Ecilpa'h's expression does not change. "Save your words, abomination. Do what is prophesized and do so before I change my mind." Ecilpa'h extends his arms and presents the newborn cradled within his massive hands.

Brother Carvel receives the newborn and draws him close. He leans his head downward until his mouth is inches from the baby. He whispers, "I will always be near you, brother." Brother Carvel opens his mouth. A brilliant blue translucent mist flows from his mouth. The mist slips into the nose of the sleeping baby. The newborn wriggles his nose, but does not wake.

The deed done, Brother Carvel extends his arms toward Ecilpa'h. Reluctantly, Ecilpa'h takes the babe into his hands. "Do not attempt to see the child again. If you are ever caught in Akha'Zette lands-I will take great pleasure in killing you myself. Do you understand?"

"I understand."

Two warriors place Mazza'h on a third warrior. The warrior's vines wrap around Mazza'h's lifeless body and secures her to his back. Ecilpa'h turns his back toward Brother Carvel, and speaks one last time, "And before you ask, yes, I will be keeping my promise to Mazza'h's wishes about the child." The Akha'Zette stride into the darkness.

A look of determination flares in Brother Carvel's eyes. Whether your father wishes it or not, I will be watching and helping you. I will never abandon you, Yo'ah.

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From Chapter 4

Brother Carvel and Fazza'h share a brief glance. Pe'Anitia can feel the dread pass between the two. "I think we would all appreciate it if one of you would answer the general's question." Pe'Anitia nudges her horse's side to prompt the animal from slowing.

"He gave them the ability to camouflage themselves. They can shift their body's color from their normal white skin to any color. This way they can look like any other tribe," Fazza'h says and lowers his head.

"That would make them the perfect spy or assassin. They could be right next to you and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference," Pe'Anitia begins. She looks at Fazza'h and sees his eyes no longer shine in their emerald green hue. The blackness of Fazza'h's pupils cover his eyes. "Fazza'h, are you all right?" Fazza'h does not answer.

Fazza'h's body stands motionless. A swirling darkness encompasses his mind. Only a few charcoal-colored clouds swirl around the edge of his mental vision. Who's there? Show yourselves. He spins within his mind trying to see any figure or figures in the darkening shroud around him. You have invaded my mind, yet do not show yourselves. You behave like thieves in the night. Show some small amount of courage and face me, Fazza'h demands.

My dear cousin, it has been far too long, a menacing voice says from beyond the edge of Fazza'h's sight. The voice is low and gravelly and each word drips with hatred. You have taken it upon yourself to enlighten others about us. We are beyond the knowledge of all other Akha'Zette.

You hide in shadow like your master. You and Menga along with his Ventus Ambularus skulked in the background of our lives for far too long. Now even the mental image of light makes you scurry in fear like rodents, Fazza'h says into the intensifying darkness. He listens for any sign of movement in the void.

Fazza'h's efforts to see into the ebony vale are met with a slow hideous chuckle. Ha ha ha, you cannot see what is right before you. Nor can any of your other senses in our mental realm or the physical realm help you. You have warned the Krinicsians about us, but they will not have time to learn for we are coming, the voice lashes out. Darkness swarms Fazza'h. He strikes in vain as the darkness overwhelms him.

Fazza'h's physical body falls backward. He lands with a resounding thud against the path. Pe'Anitia and the others struggle to maintain control of their steeds. Vulgus dismounts and kneels by Fazza'h. He quickly checks his fallen friend for a pulse. "He's alive."

"We must leave Fazza'h. They are coming," Brother Carvel says in alarm.

"We are not leaving anyone. Who is coming?" Pe'Anitia asks. She begins to dismount.

"Do not get down from your horse, Empress!" Brother Carvel orders. Pe'Anitia looks at him in confusion. "If Fazza'h has fallen in this manner, it can mean only one thing. The Akha'Zette from Caligo are coming to kill us."

"Now wait a moment!" Razo snaps. "Akha'Zette aren't brutal killers. They won't—"

"My dear boy, the Akha'Zette of Caligo serve Menga and the darkness he brings with him. They are coming to disrupt the Flumen Tempore," Brother Carvel counters.

"The what?" Kazo asks as he voices the confusion of the others.

"The Flumen Tempore is the river of time. It is the order in which one moment flows into the next. We are at a crucial point in the river."

"What are you blathering about?" Razo asks. "We have never heard of this river of time before."

"We do not have time for this. They will be here soon," Brother Carvel says and his voice implores the others.

"Make the time," Pe'Anitia demands. "If you want our cooperation, then we must know more."

Brother Carvel looks at the faces arrayed around him. Each set of eyes tells him the same thing: explain. "Very well, the river of time is the belief that everything flows into another. Without one portion of the river, the rest ceases to flow as it should. Right now, on Earth, Allanna and those around her are fighting for their lives. If they are successful, then they will be awakening the Barren Basin that connects to the one on Nibar. It is only a few miles away, and we must reach it before it is too late."

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