Nee’Liak stood on a prominence overlooking the sea. She held her staff very tightly. The setting sun was very old; it cast a pale reddish hue over the rocky landscape of the ancient Earth. As it set, she watched the colors of the Cauldron of Rainbows start to appear in the sky.
In this late day in the life of Creation, the Cauldron took up most of the sky. It appeared as if the Earth were floating in a black bowl, with a dome of incredible and sometimes indescribable colors and patterns surrounding it. No one really knew how old the Sun and Earth were, just that soon the Cauldron would subsume the Earth and everything else that remained. This imperiled home of the Lasting Human Race was now the final home of the last beings in existence.
Nee’Liak sighed and turned away, walking down to the Nave where she was High Priestess. She calls herself Human, but to our eyes she would not seem so. She combined the essentials’ of all types of life that were upon the Earth; mammal, avian, reptile and insect. Her vestigial insect wings sitting high upon her back vibrate in anticipation, as do the delicate antennae that arched upward from the inner corner of each of her compound eyes. She makes her way to a special chamber, where the first birth in two hundred years is preparing to take place.
The mother on the birthing bed was covered in sweat; agony in her eyes. The Rites decreed this woman, Ree’Niao, not have her body tainted with chemicals. The High Priestess sang psalms of peace and harmony to calm her as she gently stroked her mind with thoughts of assurance. It was working until a spasm marched down Ree’Niaos’ whole form as she passed a chrysalis from her body; a golden chrysalis. To Nee’Liak this was a hopeful sign. It meant there was a chance this birth would produce the child that would grow into the savior they had all been waiting for.
Nee’Liak gently reached down and slid the newborn down from Ree’Niaos’ body; her talons carefully severing any strings and connective tissues that were left. As the acolytes assisted, the chrysalis was passed from the bed and cleansed in the waters of the Sacred Fountain. It was placed on a pedestal designed to catch the first rays of the morning sun as it would shine through a crystal window. Meanwhile, the mother’s pains and weariness were attended to. Her husband, Ethaniander, was allowed in to help her recover.
Taking her staff, Nee’Liak gathered her strength, left the Nave and went to meet the village Eldren. They waited in a half circle around the outside cloister doors of the Nave, apprehension in their glittering, multi-faceted eyes. They were all robed against the coming cold night. Nee’Liak found herself shivering in the gloaming, wishing she had thought of her own cloak. But no matter, she would be back in warmth soon enough.
Gedinwade, eldest and Chief among the Eldren, asked her “How fairs the mother and child, Nee’Liak? How was the birthing?”
“It went as do most births. Harder on the Mother, I think. She looses a part of herself to gain more than herself.” She said.
“What of the child? Will there be enough time for training? The Astrogandee says less than a generation remains before the Cauldron dries up and leaves Creation to start again. With no Mistress or Master to guide, the next Cycle could be chaos; much randomness can appear. Too much so and an entire Cycle of Creation will be wasted; billions of years of chaos, disorder and discord. Life itself may not appear! We must have a Mistress or a Master!” Gedinwade’s voice shook; he seemed on the verge of tears.
For uncounted ages life of many different orders had spread throughout all of creation. Boisterously it populated first planet after planet, then star after star and finally, galaxy after galaxy; using technology in the beginning, then magic when it was understood and finally Truth, when it made itself known.
But a billion years ago the Cauldron of Rainbows began to appear; eating in from the Rim of Creation. All the constellations and planets, even the very stuff of space itself evaporated and only the Cauldron remained. This signaled, told the legends, the end of this cycle of Creation.
Some races calmly awaited their ending, chanting prayers and psalms; joyful to have been part of a great cycle of life. Others, having lost the Truth of who they were, fell prey to fear and tried to flee to the inner parts of Creation. Some tried to attack the Cauldron of Rainbows itself. But you cannot damage what underlies Creation. The stuff is of a material unimaginable. Though measured and tested since it appeared, it defied analysis. As Creation dried up and blew away, more and more of the Cauldron appeared. At last, only the solar system of Earth remained and time was growing short for a new Master or Mistress to be raised to guide the new Creation that would appear at the end.
She just bowed her head in exhaustion and anguish and said “This I well know, Gedinwade. The chrysalis is golden, so there is a chance. I ask that you stay and watch and pray this night through. I must rest for the coming Awakening when the sun rises. Then we will know if the newborn is able, if we have a Mistress or a Master. I will have the refectory bring food and drink for your vigil.
He bowed his head in thanks and said “We would be pleased to partake of your generosity, High Priestess. Go rest and refresh yourself. I have never seen you so tired before. Please do not let an old fools’ fears add to your burden. Forgive me.”
“There is nothing to forgive, old friend,” she said “these are troubling times for all of us.” She gave the Eldren her blessings and returned to the Nave. Arriving in the refectory, she gave instructions to feed those keeping watch. Once everything was understood, she took a meal at a table near a small hearth used for baking bread. At her place was a bowl of stew, fresh bread and nectar-blossom honey juice. She didn’t realize how hungry the birthing ordeal had made her. She took joy in the sounds and aromas of the refectory; the cooks and apprentices working hard but joyfully. As she slowly ate her meal, she relished the sensations of the spices in the stew; simple pleasures she had always treasured since she was a child. Things like ground acorn peppers, dried gravis leaves and a touch of mirth onion oils. It took her back to her own youth so many millennia ago; a time where there were more questions than she could get answers for. A time before the Truth was revealed to her: of her future as High Priestess of the Lasting Human Race.
She found herself drifting, almost falling asleep at the table. Embarrassed, she excused herself and went to her rooms. Entering her apartment, she placed her staff in a charging sconce in one corner of her entryway. Passing through the room she used for entertaining the rare guest, she entered her bedroom. She changed into her sleeping gown and went into the small chapel off her bedroom, where she said her prayers and communed with the Creators. Kneeling before the altar, she started to sing a psalm of communion. She felt her mind relax and fall into the meditative state necessary to contact the Creators. They rarely answered her, but made their presence felt in her heart, mind and soul. This night she needed that presence.
The thought of this being the last chance for a Mistress or Master took her breath away. This child must be the one!
The anxiety brought on by this thought broke her concentration. The psalm fell from her lips like a precious crystal sculpture onto a cold stone floor. She knew she would not experience comfort this night and so settled for second best; she went back into her bedroom and cried herself to sleep.
Nee’Liak awoke to the sound of her door chimes ringing continuously. She looked at her monitor and realized she had slept later than she should have; the sun was already rising. She grabbed a robe and went to her door. Upon opening it she found her assistant, Dak’Netal looking anxious.
“Nee’Liak, you must come quickly! The chrysalis is starting to open!”
Speechless, she ran back to her bedroom and dressed as fast as she could. Grabbing her Staff, she dashed out of her apartment. With Dak’Netal at her heels she made it to the birthing chamber in less than a minute.
She saw the acolytes standing in a ring around the pedestal, along with Ree’Niaos and Ethaniander. They were watching the chrysalis rock back and forth in the early morning sunlight.
Ethaniander turned to Nee’Liak and said, “It is much too soon for the chrysalis to open! What can be wrong?”
She went to the chrysalis and gently stoked it. She started singing to it and it calmed down. Her voice filled the chamber and affected all within; a feeling of peace settled on everyone. After a few minutes, she stopped singing but continued the stroking. The surface was dry and a bit rough. It had been birthed less than twelve hours earlier; it should have taken at least two days for it to reach this stage.
Suddenly, the chrysalis started to rock again. The surface began to flake off and cracks appeared down its’ length. Nee’Liak pulled away in astonishment as it split from top to bottom and revealed the contents.
It was a female child, fully formed and perfectly healthy-looking. Except a child like this had not been born for billions of years. Dimly remembered were the tales of self-directed evolution that had changed the original humans into the Lasting Human Race.
The child opened her eyes and smiled. She made soft gurgling noises and waved her arms and legs gently. She looked at all the people watching her and focused on her mother.
Ree’Niaos felt a gentle touch in her mind. When she spoke it was with astonishment in her voice “She tells me her name is Aurelia and that all will be well.” She then promptly fainted into her husband’s arms.
While the acolytes went to assist the stricken woman, Nee’Liak went to Aurelia. As she approached the newborn, she felt soft tendrils of thought stroke her mind. There was a strength of identity one would expect of an Eldren, not one just birthed. It took years of training to form a mind this strong.