A/N: Hey there, I'm glad you've decided to read and REVIEW *pointed look* this story.
1:3 Rectangular Prism is a joint project done by obviously me (aqua_angel), sky77 and lostspirir00 (Yay! She finally got a pen name!). This prologue was done by sky77 with edits from me, but it was mostly all her. Isn't she an amazing writer? I hope you'll keep on checking up on this story. If not, you're going to be missing out on a lot of action ^-^
[Edit] 12/1/03: Hey all- this is Sky77. I addressed spawnmeister666's concerns and I also just wanted to say thanks for reviewing! You guys make us feel really incredibly special!
It was night, and the stars adorned the sky like a thousand shattered pieces of a diamond. The two moons gazed radiantly down upon the golden desert sand, and a gentle breeze blew kisses to the evening air. From a distance, one could see the lazy glow of a fire, interrupted by three shadows huddled in a close circle. The fire was ready to die, but one of the shadows moved his hand, and instantly the fire was reborn again, flaring brighter than ever, like a phoenix rising from its ashes. It was now clear from the warm glow that three men were situated around the fire.
The evening passed in a deathly stillness for the three men, oblivious to the natural wonder of their surroundings. The expressions of the three were serious and restrained, each of them lost in their own reflections and reveries. Although they were young, one could see the sorrow mirrored in each man's eyes, their faces tired and weathered from traveling and life. Peering into the windows to their souls, one could perceive an ocean of great wisdom; far more than a man of their age should be hampered with. On this particular night, the three brothers seemed to be waiting for something; something which was close, certain and inevitable. And so it was that nothing except the sound of the laughing fire and the whispers of the desert wind were heard across the shadowed land.
Then one of the men looked up and spoke, the sound of his youthful voice filling the dry air. "Well, gentlemen, we can't keep this up all night, can we?"
The man smiled benevolently towards his fellow companions, his voluminous eyes studying each of them. "The one thing I can't handle is prolonged silence between close friends, especially brothers. I want to spend this evening reliving all the adventures and trials we've been through together," he said firmly.
Another man, the one who had waved his hand, grinned approvingly. "Well, we did have some very memorable adventures, come to think of it," he said, his unruly eyes twinkling with mischief.
"Remember the time you tried to ride that dragon back in the Seven Serenities, Li? It threw you off within two minutes, and you even managed to land on top of Ming." He chuckled lightly. "The look on both your faces was timeless, especially when he started running after you."
"Very timeless, indeed. But I also recall the time you so scrupulously caught the campsite on fire in your sleep. I believe your exact words were, 'Help, Li! My pants are on fire!' That's a moment that I'll remember forever, Kmiecik."
The man named Kmiecik flushed a slight shade of red, and glowered at his younger brother. A subtle smile flickered across Li's lightened face, amused at the reaction the simple incident elicited from his companion. He brushed aside smooth, dark strands of stray hair from his finely chiseled face, a quality which all three of the men mirrored. The ghostly flickering of the singing fire cast a deep, serious look in the other man's countenance, his heavy shoulders sagging under an invisible burden. The third man remained silent, wearing a wistful look upon his face. Once again, an uncomfortable stillness fell over the three travelers.
A sudden blast of wind slipped past the companions, chilling the three of them to the center of the spine. The icy breeze seemed to be howling and laughing demonically, echoing boundlessly across the night atmosphere. Kmiecik unconsciously withdrew and tugged uselessly at his sleeves, arms folding together for protection. Li's head was tilted, gazing silently into the maelstrom that was encircling them, looking but not seeing the grave danger that was near. The wind halted just as suddenly as it had started, leaving behind only wisps of cool air.
Both brothers turned towards the eldest member of the group, Djosia, who had been completely silent until now.
The laughter in Kmiecik's eyes died down, and he was drawn into silence. Li looked tired and defeated, the youthful gleam in his eyes overshadowed by a deep sorrow. "Yes," he replied, mostly to himself. "It's simply our destiny. There's no escaping it. The Lady said so herself…"
He gazed ahead, taking in the view of the midnight desert. He sighed. "I don't regret all this. I'm more than willing to fight, as we will be bringing peace to Gaia. And yet-" He paused, taking a shuddering breath.
"I wish I could have one more day with my wife. Just to see her and tell her goodbye, tell her how sorry I am. And then I'd be ready to leave, even knowing that I will never see the face of my first child."
Djosia stood suddenly and placed a hand on his brother's sagging shoulders compassionately. "So do Kmiecik and I; I assure you we both would dearly love to see our families again," he said quietly.
The merry flame died down a little. Kmiecik shrugged and waved his hand again. Immediately, the fire spread out its wide blazing branches, the tips of the furnace licking the atmosphere. Kmiecik watched the flames in satisfaction, wondering if this would be the last time he would start a fire to keep himself warm. Grinning slightly in resignation, he said, "But we aren't going to, are we? I don't see any damned gate around here, do you? That idiot of a furball was right about one thing; it was a one-way trip we took, and we enjoyed it all the way."
For a moment, the marked words hung in the air. Li did not looked reassured. "But there may still be a chance we'll survive," he murmured desperately. "Then we can go back…" he faltered, and looked angry with himself all of a sudden.
"Forgive me," he said, shame in his tone. "I'm being thoughtless. My wife will understand. Yes, she'll understand, and perhaps she will forgive me." The other two brothers nodded in empathy.
The three inseparable friends talked softly amongst themselves for a while longer, and then the fire was put out. Overhead, millions of stars shimmered, submerged in the deep dark ocean that was the sky. The soft blue hue of one moon guided the stars, while the other golden crescent pointed the way towards the infinite night. The sun would soon banish the darkness away again, and it was then that the fate of the world below would be decided.
Djosia collapsed down on his knees, his chest heaving violently from lack of air and his uncontrollable shaking. Tears streaked down his bloodied face; his scarred hands clenched and unclenched in denial of what he had just witnessed. He sobbed helplessly as agony and countless other horrible emotions clawed at his tortured mind.
It couldn't have happened. No. It was impossible. It was unthinkable. It couldn't be, because everything would be over. Djosia fought desperately to regain his senses, and failed, his body succumbing to his emotional anguish. They were both gone; his brothers, Li and Kmiecik. They had been murdered, had fallen to the ground without knowing what had happened.
He knew now that he and his brothers had been deceived. They had been betrayed. The wounded man struggled to stand, his knees threatening to buckle. Using his left arm, he managed to balance himself against the stony wall of the cavern. His other bloodied arm hung uselessly at his side, never to wield a weapon again.
Djosia struggled to breathe from his injured chest- he felt faint. His head stabbed with pain where a deep gash cut into his skull. His dark hazel eyes struggled bravely to focus as the near-crippled man painfully and slowly made his way across the cavern, using the smooth rock wall as his guide. His mortally wounded soul cried out in anger and sorrow with every weary step he took.
He would avenge their deaths. They would not die in vain- he would not let his brothers die for a cause that did not exist. He would not let them die, sacrificed to such an evil being, such an evil purpose. He would obliterate the one who had so mercilessly slaughtered his brothers until even the memory of such an evil was gone.
Djosia stumbled across sharp broken pieces of rock, and fell. How was he going to succeed? He was struggling to just continue to breathe through his broken lungs. His body continued to crawl through the debris, heedless of his doubting mind. Through his cloudy eyes, he thought he could see a soft light up ahead. The light gave off an eerie warmth, shining pure white. He was almost there- he could make it.
Without warning, a melee of explosions ripped through the dense cavern. Rocks and debris whirled violently through the air, knocking Djosia flat. He heard the familiar voice call out to him as he tried to protect himself from the sharp stones.
That voice, so like the calm and placid ocean, and yet concealing the potential to destroy all with its great torrents. "You cannot hide from me, Djosia. You're wounded. Let me take away your pain, as I have your brothers'."
Djosia felt anger unlike anything he had ever experienced before rush through his cut veins. He knew that he could not expect to live after this- he didn't want to live. All he cared about at that moment in time was to destroy his enemy, avenge his brothers. He would not allow the murderer of his lifelong friends escape. With an impossible amount of strength, he stood up, and faced the one he hated with his entire being. A smile played on his opponent's face. "Well, well. So you have decided to end your suffering?"
Through his blurred vision, he could see the figure approaching him. He knew he had to end it now. Crying out the names of his two brothers, Djosia summoned an inferno of bright light from his palm. He could hear a shriek as the light spread and hit its target. Djosia, we are here to help you.
He felt two familiar presences stand beside him, giving him strength and courage. The torrent of light escalated into a compelling display never before seen. The intensity of the blaze was equal to the stars themselves. Djosia felt the light engulf him and his spirit start to disintegrate. He heard a voice.
Djosia, it isn't over yet. He heard another voice.
It all depends on our children now.
Then he didn't see, hear, or feel anymore.