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 Category:  Fantasy Fiction
  Posted: February 28, 2021      Views: 26

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Prologue of the book The Foretold Future: Book One
Of gods and their helpers.
"Behind The Scenes" by Amanda Braswell

In all the years Ruki worked for Chaos, she never once received a call to report to the intricately decorated gold door tucked at the end of the last hallway of Chaos' labyrinthine realm. Until now. When she first came to work for the God, he led her from one hall to another and another and another and explained the details of her new duties. He pointed out which doors she could access and which doors she could not. Ruki saw the mysterious door on that first tour of her new home, but only long enough for Chaos to say she should never venture into it. Ruki took one look at the door and instantly knew how impossible this rule might be for her. The door felt inviting, perhaps because of its shining gold frame and shifting opalescent front or maybe because of the energy she felt brush past her like the hint of a gentle wisp of a breeze. It was a beautiful door, one that stood out from the others by more than just it's materials; it stood a commanding twenty feet high and despite the inviting nature, she noted that it had no knob or visual way of entry.

Chaos nodded his head towards the door and in a voice that thundered loudly, brought Ruki's attention back to him by saying, "You should only enter the Door of Destiny if summoned to do so. Only then." Though Ruki entertained thoughts of attempting to get inside the door without his knowledge, the stern look in Chaos' eyes killed off any notions she had about deceiving him; as though he could read her intentions, he said, "Only if summoned, Ruki. The Door of Destiny is not to be taken lightly." Ruki felt the weight of his words come to rest physically on her shoulders. The gravity around her increased and pressed upon her more than it had a few moments ago, but it did not last long. After leaving his warning gaze on her for just a bit longer, Chaos finally turned to continue with the tour.

Ruki thought maybe a couple hundred years had passed since that moment but couldn't be sure because time flowed differently in the ethereal spaces between physical reality; though higher planes of existence mimicked the physical world, things like time and form became more malleable. In all that passage of time, Ruki never received a summons to that door, the Door of Destiny. She wondered about it over the years and at one point let her insatiable curiosity--what Chaos jokingly referred to as the bane of his existence--finally wear the God down; she only needed to bombard him with questions about the door for a trivially short amount of time, being the chaotic God's only daughter came with some perks. Chaos agreed to answer her question but only if the question were permissible to answer and so she asked the only one that mattered, "What is behind the door?" Chaos took a few moments to mull over her question, his normally serious visage made even more serious by a furrowed brow and the far-off gaze of someone deep in thought. A sly gleam appeared in his dark and endless eyes and Ruki knew Chaos intended to give her an ambiguous answer.

"Behind the Door of Destiny is the beginning, the middle, and the end. It is where the Council of Thirteen meet and discuss Godly things," he said, his fingers steepled together and his eyes on her; an amused smirk pulled at his lips and he said no more about it. Chaos' deliberately cryptic words thrilled Ruki. His words gave her the vague idea that the surveyors and creators of everything--all the worlds and realms behind all the doors in all the halls of Chaos' labyrinthine home--all the Gods like Chaos, did their work in the room beyond that beautiful and inaccessible door. Ruki asked him a few more questions in the attempt to glean more but he only smiled knowingly and said nothing else. Ruki knew then that she would have to learn for herself what "Godly things" meant or wait until her turn to enter the Door of Destiny if that day ever came.

Ruki's thoughts came back around to the summons she finally received and wondered what she did to be invited to that forbidden room. The summons came in the form of a telepathic communication, a gentle whisper in her ear that sounded like many voices speaking in sync to create a melody like none ever heard before. She did not just hear it, she felt it too like a pulsing rhythm that made her vibrate and thrum. She could still feel vestiges of those vibrations in her soul as she turned down the last hallway in the southernmost corner of Chaos' labyrinth and to the Door of Destiny. Rainbows radiated across its surface, painting Ruki's nearly translucent skin with a beautiful glow of shifting colors. Ruki thought the door looked just as enticing as the first time she saw it. She approached slowly, noticing the wispy hint of a doorknob within her reach, a fatefully new adornment that cast its destined spell over her, promising purpose, and challenge. The closer she drew, the more intimidating the door grew, and she felt immense energy pulsing and pushing from behind its frame. A soft but audible sigh escaped her lips, pausing to crane her head back and take in the grandness of it. Ruki's preferred image of being stood no taller than five feet but the door stretched and towered high above her head for what felt like miles.

Ruki could feel a shift in her life's story building. It sent shivers down her spine. She remained outside the door as though frozen. She could not yet reach out and grab the wispy knob to let herself in the room beyond, so her attention focused on the opal-tinged replica of her mirrored in the doorway's polished surface. She stared at herself with wide, nearly reflective violet eyes. Her figure, lithe and sharply angled, looked ghostly reflected in that door. Her skin, translucent enough to reveal dark blue-black veins beneath the surface of her flesh, always looked rather haunting though. A grin much too wide for her face pulled back thin, blue tinted lips in a half smile and she quickly combed her fingers through the thick crop of wavy, ebony colored hair that hung in tresses over her shoulders and down to the small of her back. During her physical life Ruki emanated strangeness, and now, in her afterlife, she continued to wear the same image she held in life.

A military style jacket, charcoal in color, hung about her narrow shoulders; the creases, pressed and sharp and hugged what little curves she had. Silver epaulettes decorated the jacket shoulders and intricate buttons, hand carved with the Chaos family crest featuring a raven and serpent, secured the article of clothing tightly about her mostly flat chest and cinched waist. The frilly jabot collar of her white undershirt poked through the lapels of her jacket and only furthered the formality of her attire as it framed her slender neck. An unknown black fabric wrapped the bottom half of her and acted as a pair of leggings while a pair of heeled boots encased her feet. Glove clad, slender fingered hands adjusted the military cap cocked at an angle at the top of her head. Ruki honored the last few years of her physical life by wearing the military regalia. It reminded her of all she had been through in the end and reminded her of all the friends she left behind, triumphant after a long war came to rest.

After one last squaring of her shoulders she reached out, grasped the knob of the Door of Destiny, and finally let herself in. Her footsteps echoed loudly on the white marble floor of the room beyond the door, tracking her progress from the doorway to the center of an enormous chamber; a room so long, so wide, and so tall Ruki couldn't discern any walls or a ceiling, only a marble floor beneath her and a ring of gigantic thrones before her. A cloudiness hung where the ceiling should have been, and a soft, warm light emanated from somewhere behind them. Ruki's heels occasionally crossed over precious stones and powerful metals that acted as pauses between areas of symbols etched in the floor. Raw power hummed in her ears and she could feel her soul humming along with the pulses of energy that came from every direction.

Ruki approached the ring of massive thrones at the center of the chamber. Each throne consisted of different materials; Ruki could see one made of marbled gold and silver with jewels and gems adorning its surface; another flickered and flashed like a fiery inferno blazing in swoops and patterns; another looked like the depths of outer space, with pinpricks of gently glowing starlight amid a field of open black space. Ruki counted thirteen thrones, all empty except for three, and all faced a towering, magnificent marble pedestal that rose seamlessly out of the floor. Ruki swallowed a lump in her throat and used the tiny staircase that spiraled around the pedestal's outer edge to climb to the top. In what seemed to be an infinite space, the Gods overshadowed everything. Though the pedestal helped negate the dominating height of the Gods by bringing her to eye level with them, three sets of enormous and intense gazes pinpointed directly on her made Ruki briefly question whether the pedestal really did any good. She fought to hold back tremors of nervousness, feeling self-conscious and unsure of herself for the first time since her mortal life.

Her violet gaze met Chaos' familiar waxy face and as their eyes locked, a cool and calm wave of energy washed through her, instantly giving her back her composure. She saw that Chaos sat atop an onyx throne dappled with rubies and a few unidentifiable shards of some iridescent gem; his seat gave off a magnetic feeling, both pulling her in and pushing her away. The darkness of it gave the odd sensation that it sucked up the light around it yet also glowed with some sort of inner brightness. Chaos wore a formal suit as though he might be attending a funeral afterwards; his tie lay perfectly against his throat and the dress shoes on his feet shined flawlessly. It seemed odd for Chaos, the god of discord and mayhem to be so prim and proper but there he sat looking much like a severe lawyer with his thick brows pinched in seriousness and his shock of black hair slicked back from his pale face. He could have been a dapper, if somber, gentleman if not for his immensity and for his cold and endless eyes like pits of darkness that made many uncomfortable and instilled terror in others, but in which Ruki found compassion and warmth. Ruki gave a small nod of her head to Chaos, glad to see him there. She did not have to meet her destiny through strange beings of unimaginable power alone.

"Welcome, Ruki. Your summons here coincides with an important and pressing matter. A matter which requires that we ask for your help," Chaos said, his voice deep and reverberating, like the rolling rumble of thunder. Chaos always spoke in a formal voice, but now it had an added level of gravity much like the sensation she felt when he had warned her about peeking into this chamber's door without permission.

Ruki thought she misheard or misunderstood Chaos' query for help, because surely, she had not been summoned because she could do something better than those who created and maintained everything. She slowly shook her head and sputtered, "Help the Council? I don't--what could I possibly--"

Chaos held up his hand and Ruki quieted but the thought that she must be in a dream lingered at the back of her mind. Chaos continued, saying, "In all realms of existence, there are certain beings who act as catalyst pieces to bring about revolution or de-evolution. Some pieces are feared and hated, some are loved and admired, and others are invisible and thankless. Each type performs a specific kind of task, but all types are important in furthering the progress of a world on one level and all of existence on another." Chaos eyed Ruki for a moment, then finally offered up the destiny changing piece of the puzzle. "We summoned you here to ask that you act as a catalyst piece, one of the unsung heroes of change."

Ruki could not seem to get her mind to move. All her wondering, all her curiosity, and she could not quite wrap her mind around Chaos' words. Her tongue felt glued to the roof of her mouth, and she thought for a moment she had forgotten how to speak. After a few moments, she finally responded, saying, "But how can I possibly be any help? Is this a special artifact mission? Is that why I'm here?" Ruki had a very strict set of duties that came along with her employment to Chaos; her tasks included collecting lost and broken souls, surveying chaotic energies as they gathered in the populaces of universes, and sometimes she installed or removed powerful artifacts, but none of these skills seemed able to drastically influence the progression of reality more than it already did. Ruki arched a slim black brow as the corner of Chaos' lips ticked upwards in a brief smirk as though he expected her to presume as much.

"In a way, you will be dealing with an artifact, but none like you have dealt with before. Consider it more a living artifact," Chaos said, the barest hint of a chuckle in his rumbling voice. "You're work for me has always been on the invisible side of events, and to a degree, you would still retain a modicum of invisibility in the task we place before you, however, what we ask of you today, to accept your destiny as an invisible catalyst, will be vastly different than any task you've undertaken before." Chaos held up a halting hand, recognizing that Ruki meant to ask more questions. "Invisible catalysts are chosen because they are fully developed in the ways needed for a particular role, but hero and villain aligned catalysts need their potentials nurtured; they need help navigating the complexities of their roles," Chaos said. "Heroes need whispers of reminders to do good deeds and a helping hand to be strong for them when they cannot be strong themselves. Villains need whispers of corruption in their ears, and a helping hand to spur them to do harm to others.

"It is the need for careful development of heroes and villains that makes unseen, unsung catalyst pieces so important. In a world hurtling towards a fork in the fabric of kismet, a hero requires you, Ruki," Chaos finished and stared pointedly at her; he could still read the doubts that lingered in her mind but made no attempts yet to put them to rest.
Ruki shook her head more adamantly this time, those wide violet orbs glued to Chaos in a look of absolute astonishment. She could not fathom the thought that she might have wisdom and experience worth passing on to someone who needed her unique type of guidance. "I don't mean to challenge your decision but--" she began.

"Then do not," Chaos cut her off, stern wrinkles appearing on his forehead. "Council decisions are not made lightly, Ruki. You have monumental knowledge of the interconnections of life and existence; you understand the balance between that which is light and that which is dark and you can differentiate this natural scale from unnatural evil; you have played both the villain and the hero in your former life. All these things and more make you the best candidate."

Chaos fell silent once again, his elbows propped up on the onyx arms of his throne and he peered intently at her over the tops of his steepled fingers. He could say no more, it was now up to Ruki to decide if she would accept the challenge, accept her new destiny. Ruki sighed softly but mulled over Chaos' words. She did have a deep understanding of the interconnection of existence, and she considered herself learned in several subjects that often came in handy, but she hesitated, not sure she could teach it to another. Thoughts of fate coming to rest on her ability, or lack thereof, to guide someone made her nervous and fidgety.

Her yearning to accept the challenge finally won the struggle against her doubts and fears because above all else, Ruki enjoyed gaining knowledge and experience and the opportunity before her promised excitement and an experience she would never forget. In a moment of self-awareness, Ruki realized accepting the offer by the Council had never been in question at all because destiny dictated, she would accept. Ruki had the choice to accept or deny, but destiny foretold her acceptance and the loop in logic made her chuckle softly; all feelings of nervousness suddenly disappeared, and her doubts subsided.

"I accept, but I suppose you already knew that," she finally said, an amused smirk at her lips.
Chaos gave her a knowing nod, but quickly enough the same seriousness from before settled back over the room. "Of course, destiny dictated that you would accept your new role, but never forget there is always room for a free-will decision. Before we go into detail about your hero, the Council has decided to give you a more complete understanding of what is really at stake. As you know, all of existence is based upon a balance among opposing forces and an extremely favorable imbalance towards existence rather than inexistence. What you may not know is that things were not always this way..." Chaos grew quiet and Ruki felt an expansion in her mind as the Gods connected their consciousness.

The telepathic shift of knowledge from the Gods to Ruki felt like the flowing of a river containing facts and experience rather than water. She became tuned to the immense power and wisdom of the creators but also felt familiar wariness and even undertones of illness. The exchange of knowledge informed Ruki that, as one, the Council beat back the nothingness that came before existence. With nothingness and inexistence compressed and contained, the Gods created life in the newly freed space. Ruki's inquisitive mind took easily to these concepts which built off her understanding of the intricate web formed by the balancing of forces, but she felt a mounting terror reflecting the fears of the Gods as they revealed the steady infection of inexistence leaking from the contained void of nothingness.

Ruki felt the telepathic connection between her and the Gods suddenly break, and Chaos spoke once again, his voice cutting through Ruki's horror and bringing her back to the meeting at hand. "Over the eons dominated by existence, nothingness grew awareness and with awareness came a hunger and drive to make existence in its image. The more of life the void infects, the stronger it becomes and the more the scales tip towards eventual inexistence." Ruki felt panic rising in her as the implications of everything being swallowed back up into the void of nothingness hit her fully, but the God's underlying fears and nervousness about the tipping scales and the accelerating void infection affected her more than the knowledge itself.

"Ruki," Chaos said, his voice beating through her panic and bringing her back from the brink of an emotional collapse. Ruki felt a calmness wash over her again and she gave the brunt of the weight of the problem back to the Council; they did not expect her to carry the burden of the problem, they only wished for her to be aware of the gravity of the situation. The Gods had a healthy worry about the problem of void sickness, especially since they held no immunities to it, but they believed whole-heartedly in a victory for existence because they had fought this battle before and they would do so again; Ruki knew that now.

Chaos said, "It is my duty to oversee existence when the scales of balance on a world tip towards the negative end. It is through my domain that a villain emerges, and a hero rises. With the spread of void infection, the need for my presence has grown exponentially. For some time now, a version of Earth has been under my chaotic rule. The beings there are young and naïve and fell prone to void sickness more easily than anticipated. Their world has come to a defining moment. The catalyst heroes and villain have arisen and soon there will be a fight to retain life and prosperity.

"Humanity is stuck in a cycle of infection that previous endeavors have failed to eradicate. As such, the Council decided to deploy the best of our forces to Earth to help determine a favorable outcome." Ruki felt a weight drop at the base of her belly, her doubts and fears threatening to return with the implication that responsibility for the success or failure of an entire planet of people would rest partially on her shoulders. As though Chaos could feel her qualms beginning to resurface, he continued quickly, saying, "If the heroes and forces of life are victorious, they will pass through chaos and into peace, a domain ruled by my counterpart Patience."

Chaos gestured to his right and Ruki turned her gaze to the throne directly next to his, finally acknowledging another of the three seated figures. Where Chaos' throne represented the deeps of the dark, the one beside him had a pearlescent sheen over its surface and carvings of doves, stars, and suns covered the surface along with pearls and diamonds. A radiant woman sat in the throne, full figured with skin the color of caramel, long wavy sienna colored hair interspersed with strands of gold, and bright golden eyes like beaming rays of sunshine. Patience, the Goddess of peace and prosperity, sat relaxed on her throne. Silky white robes covered her haphazardly and flowed in ripples and waves right down to the marble floor where giant bare toes peeked out from beneath the cloth. Where Chaos remained prim, proper, and in order, Patience seemed to be more carefree, relaxed, and somewhat unkempt with her hair in tangles and swoops like she rolled out of bed only moments before the meeting; one elbow sat propped on the arm of her throne so her chin could rest lazily in her tanned palm.

Patience said, "As the surveyor of utopia, I cannot step in and lead humans into peace unless the outcome of this pivotal moment leads them in my direction." Her voice flowed melodiously in fluctuating feminine highs and lows that made her words seem more like a song than mere spoken word. "If the heroes of Earth lead their people into a new dawn of serenity, I will take over reign after Chaos. Though we hold out hope we all must acknowledge that humanity may fall. If the heroes fail, then all of Earth will succumb to void sickness and they will pass into Malice's domain..." Patience said, letting her words drift off as she sighed softly and made a small motion to the left of herself and Chaos

Ruki turned her gaze slowly to the third of the Gods present, and the sight of Malice made her shudder, not because of his appearance but because the energy rolling off of him felt hateful, fearful, and destructive. He sat on a throne crafted from bones and unidentifiable skulls that stared at Ruki with haunted, hollowed out eyes. Something that resembled a man sat on that throne; inky blackness coiled and shifted and from that oozing nothingness a pair of red eyes like burning slits of lava floated forward. Out of the miasma of void that made up Malice's body formed a mouth riddled with too many teeth, sharp as razors. A grin spread at the edges of his horrid maw and Ruki suddenly felt sick to her stomach. When they locked eyes Ruki's head filled with whispers of 'Nikolas'. She couldn't stop the flood of terrifying memories that sprang to the forefront of her mind; flashes of previous bodily tortures and prolonged mental anguish, a war she never meant to be any part of, and of Nikolas dying in her arms while she died with him.

Caught in a playback of her own horrific past, a mortal past of terrible duress and fearful submission, caused Ruki to tremble and shake. She could not tear her gaze away from Malice's penetrating crimson stare which meant she could not stop him from accessing her most secret memories. The more he found, the more he made her relive each moment in quick succession. Ruki had deep wounds, wounds not quite healed from all the degradation and humiliation forced on her in her physical life. Malice made her relive each one in painstaking detail. The attack lasted seconds but to Ruki it felt like eternity. Tears welled up in her eyes and she begged and sobbed for the God to stop but then she felt Chaos' familiar energy wrap about her in a protective coating that effectively ended Malice's invasion of her mind. An unspoken warning hung in the air like a thick fog as Ruki's gaze dropped away from Malice's insidious stare, and she quickly wiped away the tears that still lingered at the corners of her eyes.

Malice's maw drew back in an even wider smirk as he stared Ruki down; the depth to which he had shaken her pleased him enough to elicit a laugh that sounded like glass shattering. To continue his antagonization, and much to Ruki's displeasure, Malice's voice came out in Nikolas' cool tone. Malice said, "Should humans fail to establish peace I will devour their world."
Malice's tricks upset Ruki, but they upset Chaos even more. The God nearly stood from his throne, a passion and fire of anger rumbling behind the God's shadowed eyes. This look from Chaos and some other unspoken communication between the two made Malice scowl but he stopped mimicking Nikolas' voice and used his own instead, something slick and oily with a high-pitched whine beneath it all. He grinned madly and said, "There will be pain and anguish and then nonexistence...Can you imagine it, Ruki? Can you imagine how beautiful they will be as they devolve, as they destroy themselves one by one until none remain? What a deliciously malevolent world it would be if I reigned supreme in human hearts and minds and souls."

A deranged look came over Malice's unfocused eyes. The picture he painted of destruction and inexistence made him giddy, but soon enough his sneering face disappeared back into the nothingness of his form. Ruki felt raw and fearful. Her bright violet gaze returned to Chaos to seek out a bit of comfort and reassurance. Chaos met Ruki's eyes and she felt a paternal surge of love envelope her, an added layer to the fierce protective shield she already felt around her. A soft echoed whisper of an apology reverberated in her head. The two beings shared a moment just between them, in which the role of God and subordinate lay discarded, replaced by a father consoling his daughter after a traumatic experience. Chaos cast aside formalities and disregarded the usual practice of objectivity for personal feelings of familial concern and a yearning to comfort a loved one.

Ruki, a small creature standing at the top of a sky-scraping pedestal surrounded by Gods great and terrible, felt suddenly emboldened. She had not expected to relive painful memories from her past, but just as she survived then, she survived now. Ruki stood as tall as her short stature allowed and gazed fiercely back at Chaos; fiery determination burned in her eyes and her lips pulled back in a grin. Lingering doubts disappeared to make room for an efflux of confidence and determined focus. "When do I start," she asked, now eager to plunge into unknown adventure and wipe the grin off Malice's face by doing everything in her power to ensure her hero's success.

"The details of your mission have been sent to your laboratory. Bring only what you need. You leave immediately," Chaos said, his demeanor formal once again. Ruki stepped to the edge of the pedestal and gave Chaos one last nod as wings of onyx and crystal unfurled from her back. Prisms of rainbows bounced off the thrones and floor as crystalline feathers caught and refracted the light. A jagged smirk of pride cracked across Chaos' washed-out lips as his favorite employee, his prodigy, his only daughter, revealed his greatest and most beautiful gift. Ruki dove off the pedestal, plummeting instantly. Her wings caught the air only feet from the marble floor, and she swooped off towards the golden framed entrance to the chamber with her hair whipping in the created wind. The Door of Destiny flew open to allow her exit and, with wings backpedaling to slow her down, she landed gracefully in the hallway beyond, flawlessly turning the momentum of flight into the motion of walking. Her wings folded seamlessly against her back the moment her feet touched the ground, fading from sight as the labyrinth swallowed her back up into its endless halls.
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