Before the Island: Rise of The Atrumnus

“Easy, Lothlorien! It’s alright, you’re safe here!” Aurora shouted while she and the other Guardians in Lucio’s meadow jumped up and whinnied. They pranced in every which direction shaking their heads, trying to rid themselves of the vision of another Guardian killed by the Atrumnus. Before it started, Aurora was watching Renato make clumsy little steps on the spongy grass while Lothlorien grazed nearby. But with enraged Guardians running around, Aurora had to pick up her son and run to the cottage for safety.

She made it inside and set Renato down with some toys before looking out the green stained glass windows. It took about a minute for all the Guardians within sight to calm down. She decided it was late enough in the day to let Renato have his nap, so she took him into their room that Lucio added onto his cottage not long after the baby came into their lives. That was nearly a year ago. Aurora found herself reminiscing over the past year as she rocked Renato to sleep and put him in his cradle. The first few months after his “birth” were stressful with little to no sleep on Aurora’s part. Learning the ropes of being a new mother while still coping with Christopher and MoonStone’s deaths nearly broke her, but Lucio and Lothlorien helped as much as they could. Lucio would sometimes take Renato during the night to give Aurora a break, and Lothlorien was always within reach if he was sick or hurt. Lucio monitored him closely to see if he was maturing well, and he seemed to be growing up just fine.

“There’s no telling what he’ll be like as he gets older,” Lucio told Aurora one night. “He might remember his past life, he might not.”

“Regardless of what he remembers, I want him to know,” said Aurora. “When he’s ready. He may be human, but I’m sure he’ll feel different from you and me. He deserves that much.”

“Agreed,” said Lucio.

About four months after Renato’s birth, the trio seemed to be getting a handle on life with a newborn baby when new troubles began. The healing power within MoonStone’s horn ran out, leaving Barnama with nothing but a hollow husk that quickly disintegrated into dust. He had become so powerful in his estate for its healing abilities that he could have easily dethroned his new lord. Meanwhile, his minions became the new thugs of the estate, and caused such havoc that people began to lock their doors and windows, and never ventured outside at night. Barnama didn’t want to lose his status, so he reunited with his minions as The Atrumnus and quickly killed another Guardian. This repeat of events got his minions questioning their leader, so they began to kill Guardians for horns of their own. This caused Lucio to put extra security on his little clearing in the forest, and Guardians left only if it was necessary. The birds reported to Lucio that nearly all of the Atrumnus had a horn of their own, and a fight for Barnama’s seat of power was tearing the estate apart.

“It’s only a matter of time before they find this place!” Aurora had said. “There are only so many Guardians in the world!”

“You may be right,” Lucio replied. “But I’m not going to give up without a fight.”

Since there was no telling where any Atrumnus was at any given moment, Lucio began regular walks through the forest in the form of a brown bear. Apparently it was one of the first acts of magic he taught himself, so he could be more like his bear family that raised him. He could only keep this form for a few hours though, and he would often return empty-handed. And that’s how life went on for the last eight months.

Once Renato was completely asleep in his cradle, Aurora went back out to the meadow to check on Lothlorien. She found her standing completely still in the meadow, with her head hung low and her eyes closed.

“I can still see it,” she whispered to Aurora. “I can still see all of them! So many gone! The deaths of Guardians are meant to be rare! I can’t take much more of this Aurora.” The girl hushed her and hugged her neck through her thick white mane.

“We’ll put an end to this soon,” whispered Aurora.

Lothlorien was about to object when a brown bear burst into the meadow. No one flinched; they knew it was Lucio returned from the woods. He grunted at Aurora and Lothlorien as he walked past them toward the cottage. They waited a moment before following behind. Lucio pushed open the front door of the cottage and squeezed inside just at they turned around. By the time they found their way inside, Lucio was human again, sitting at a small desk in the main room with his head in his hands.

“I was so close this time,” he said without looking at them. “I caught them just as they were taking the Guardian’s horn. But they just turned into smoke and ran away. Even then, how could I have stopped them? They can’t take any damage! How can I defend everyone against something I can’t touch?” He sighed and looked at Lothlorien. “Enough is enough. I’m not going to let you be killed while I dabble with answers. You need safety as soon as possible!” He began to push aside the piles of books scattered throughout the room until the circular brown rug in the center was completely clean. He made a brew of some sort in his kettle hanging inside the fireplace that made the room smell briskly sweet, and handed a pile of books to Aurora.

“I need some time to myself,” he said to them. “Can you come through your outside door tonight Aurora? I want to do some research uninterrupted.”

“Of course,” said Aurora. “But, why am I holding these books?”

“It’s time that you learned about the rest of the world, and the other Guardians in it,” said the Magician of Light. “This forest clearly isn’t safe for Guardians anymore. I’m going to look and see if there is anywhere else that is safe.” Aurora gasped and looked at Lothlorien, who looked equally surprised. “Now go, and familiarize yourself with the contents of those books. You may see its contents soon enough.” Aurora was too stunned to move, so Lothlorien gave her a little nudge outside the cottage.

“What did he mean by that?” she asked Lothlorien. “It’s not like he can just pick up this meadow and move it somewhere else!”

“You shouldn’t underestimate him,” said Lothlorien. “You still haven’t seen the full extent of his powers yet. But I’m not sure what he has planned, or if he has a plan. Let’s settle on some grass next to your room in the meantime, so we can hear if Renato needs anything.” Aurora nodded and they walked around to the side of the house where their spare room jutted out of the cottage’s once-square structure. Aurora cracked open her window and settled next to Lothlorien on a nice bed of green grass.

Before Aurora fell in with Lucio and Lothlorien, she barely knew how to read. She only knew her letters and a few basic words; it wasn’t a talent that was needed for a servant girl. But with Lucio’s big, messy study, Aurora found herself staring at their musty spines, wondering what knowledge they held. Lucio caught on, and was happy to teach her that winter when she was confined to the cottage more than she would have liked. Now she was able to read almost independently. She cracked open the first book in the pile titled The Basics of the Four Elements and read through the first few pages.

“Is all of this actually true, Lothlorien? That everything is made up of four elements?” asked Aurora.

“Yes it is,” replied the Guardian. “Everything is made up of water, earth, fire, and air. Nothing could exist without them.”

“But what does this have to do with anything? I’m sure there are other Guardians out there, but aren’t they just like you?” Lothlorien nickered and shook her head.

“Oh no! Not at all! There are so many kinds of Guardians! And all of them belong to one of the four elements, based on where they live.”

“What element do you belong to then?”

“Earth. Because we protect its innocent inhabitants. But there are more Earth Guardians than just us white-colored ones. Keep reading, and it will make sense. I’ll be napping if you have more questions.”

Aurora read through as much of the books as she could. Thankfully, they were mostly pictures. She read about Guardians that lived in the deepest depths of the oceans with fishtails, or others that lived in forests where the trees were as tall as castles, and the colors of their coats ranged from brown to red to black. There were even Guardians that lived on the highest mountains, with wings like eagles. Some lived in inhospitable places, like inside the fiery inferno of volcanoes or the clouds of a lightning storm, their bodies pulsating with electricity.

Renato woke and wanted to play throughout the day, and Aurora took breaks to tend to him while sometimes Lothlorien would take over and guide him as he hobbled through the meadow. Before she knew it, the sun had disappeared behind the trees, which meant that there was no more reading light for today. She fed Renato and herself a meal of berries and greens, and put him down for the night. There wasn’t any major noise coming from Lucio next door, so she thought it would be fine to come out and say good night to Lothlorien.

“Is all that I read today true? There really are different kinds Guardians all over the world?”

“Yes,” said Lothlorien. “I haven’t encountered any myself, but Lucio doesn’t doubt it. Let’s hope that something good comes out of him shutting himself up all day.” Aurora gave her a hug and stroked her mane for a moment before heading inside for bed.

***

“It’s no use,” said Lucio the next day. “Guardians all over the world are suffering. I walked all over the Earth in my mind’s eye and made contact with Guardians that lived in places similar to this forest. I even talked to those who lived in fire or water. All of their answers were the same. Humans have figured out a way to hunt and kill them for their horns, and their populations are dwindling.” The meadow grew silent as Lucio sighed and rubbed his red eyes. He said this to Aurora and Lothlorien, who had been playing with Renato in the meadow, but every Guardian nearby heard the bad news as well. They bowed their heads in respectful mourning.

“What do you suggest?” Lothlorien said at last.

“We have no choice but to make a world of our own,” said Lucio. Aurora blinked and waited for someone to laugh, but everyone remained stoic.

“Can you really do that?” she asked.

“Yes, but it will take a lot of work,” he replied. “There are so many worlds other than our own. Some are fully developed like our own Earth, while others aren’t developed at all. I accidentally stumbled upon both when I was first learning the Universal Language of magic. If I can take us to a world with no inhabitants, no development, we can make it our own. We wouldn’t have to worry about being hunted ever again. Every Guardian on Earth would be welcome, of course.”

“You have the power to create other worlds?” Aurora blurted out.

“Oh no, certainly not,” he shook his head. “I could never create an empty world. No human has that kind of power. I only have the power to bring us there, and shape it to how every Guardian remembers Earth. It will merely be a copy of a Guardian’s best memories of their time in this world. But I’ll explain that process soon. I need the two of you, now more than ever. Will you help me create this new world?” Aurora and Lothlorien looked at each other and nodded.

“Of course,” said Lothlorien. “But how can we possibly help?”

“I need the two of you to contact any Guardians who are willing to listen and tell them about our plan. I’ll tell you what to say, and even contact them myself if need be. But they will be more willing to listen to a plan from another Guardian and a human with goodness in her heart than an old Magician. Come inside with me, I’ll show you how to make contact.” He led them inside the cottage and pulled out a massive black cauldron from the corner of the room and filled it with some strange liquid that was sitting on a shelf.

“This is called a scrying pool,” he explained. “It let’s you see the face of anyone you wish. You can appear to them from anywhere as well, and they can hear you talk just as I am talking to you now. Before we start, I’ll tell you what to say. We won’t make contact until both of you feel comfortable speaking about this.”

They spent the rest of the day talking about Lucio’s plan to create a new world. All Aurora and Lothlorien had to do was tell other Guardians that, if they wanted to leave Earth, they had to find an object that embodied their fondest memories of this world. When the day would arrive, Lucio would transport them to the meadow to receive their objects, and then transport all of them to the new world to start the creation process.

Aurora and Lothlorien managed to make contact with Guardians from every element, and they agreed with Lucio’s plan without much debate. It was becoming more and more clear that this world was no longer their home. About a month later, everything was set into place. Two Guardians from every element were due to arrive at sunset with an object that embodied their fondest memories.

“I hope this works,” Aurora told Lothlorien that morning. “I’m so excited to see the Guardians.”

“Me too,” said Lothlorien. Renato was laying against her side while he tore apart a flower. His hair was starting to get some length. It was a curly light blonde that was just coming past his ears, and his eyes were a blueish green. Aurora found herself looking more at Christopher than just a baby every day as he grew. She sighed and picked him up for a big hug. Whatever those two Orbs did to him that night, he really was her and Christopher’s son.

“Well, come on then, and let’s get this little man nice and tired for tonight! I want him asleep by the time the Guardians arrive.” She put him down and ran a little ways away from him, beckoning him to follow. Renato squealed with delight and bounced after her, Lothlorien following close behind in case he fell.

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