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The beams of Orescent's dawn cast across the arid plain, and the lone figure's shadow emerged and grew long. He marched steadily towards a lonely hut on the horizon. Around him the minute denizens of the desert were stirring, peppering the barren valley with pockets of life. The traveler took no notice.

The tiny hut groaned with the weight of the desert. The ribs of the structure contracted inward with each new gust of wind, as if it were breathing. Adorned with tiny plants and the skins of desert creatures, the essence of time hung heavily upon the hovel. Sealed against the storms of the angry land, warm light shown from within. The traveler stood patiently at the entrance. He made no sign of his attendance. He did not tap on the walls or call to the resident for sanctuary. He gave no signal whatsoever, for he knew that none was needed. Soon the door opened for the pilgrim, in the doorway stood an elderly Lokai who leaned heavily on his tristic. He regarded the visitor for a moment before being acknowledged.

"Greetings Entrop, may you find what we seek" Afton said formally as he stepped inside the cramped and musty hut.

"You bring a troubled cloud into my home. What is it you seek?" Entrop shuffled back into the room, littered with various pods and small instruments. Distractedly mumbling to himself, he carefully removed a small furry creature from it's resting spot on his workbench, stroked it several times and placed it gently in a wall pouch.

"I am aged and without heir, Entrop. I seek spawn to carry on my rule."

"Ahh yes! You are here for renewal! Yes yes yes. Follow. Let us prepare you for the ceremony. A child, a new ruler in your place. A most marvelous happening for the Seekers this will be!"

"We have little time. The Torpor Storm will be upon us soon, and I have yet to complete Xol's expedition. I will be away on the expedition when they emerge, so let it be that the first of my spawn-"

"They? Two spawn?"

"Entrop, this way we will-"

"No no no, this is not the way-" Entrop sputtered. "One only one!

"If Xol is right, the knowledge gained from the exploration will usher in a new age for our people."

"No Lokai has ever- the Ancients! the Ancients warn-"

"Enough Entrop! If my sole spawn is too weak to survive, then balance amongst the factions will be lost. I will not allow that to happen. Two it will be."

"So this is the darkness you bring to my hut, your pride has led you to this?"

"You are wise in the ways of Devar, but you know nothing of the struggles that consume our distant capital."

"Then your path has already diverged, nothing more can be said," Entrop went about gathering the needed equipment. The Elder spent several silent minutes securing Afton to the stone. Entrop chanted as he sprinkled a reddish dust over Afton's skin. Afton swung his head around to face Entrop. "As to the heir," he began. "Let nature choose. The first to walk upon the land shall be Atriarch. See to it."

"In this thing at least you remember Atriana," Entrop mused "I wonder, however, how will she remember you?"

Singing the ancient songs of renewal, Entrop hefted the ceremonial blade. With a calculated movement he brought it down squarely across the first of the outstretched limbs. Afton reeled in pain, his remaining arm beating against the cold stone. With barely a moment's hesitation, Entrop brought down the blade again, severing the other limb cleanly, but for Afton, the pain had become overpowering and he succumbed to waves of darkness.

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Last updated: December 26, 2001

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