The sun set in the horizon as the sylo birds began their song. Everyone in Penumbra, a magical world parallel to the human realm, knew what that sad, melodic tune meant. It was time for the leaders of Penumbra, known as the Elites, to gather at the temple Foci, to mark the beginning of a new season and the long-anticipated shift in power. For in Penumbra only two seasons exist. The first season was the Rising, when the dark powers were quieted, and the light blossomed. The second season was the Falling, when the light powers settled and gave way to dark energy. Now was the time of the Rising.

Chosen by the High Spirit, the Elites were charged with keeping watch over the supernatural world and maintaining the balance between Light and Dark magic, both in their magical homeland and in the human realm.  Each side was given its time to rule with the constraint that neither would shift the balance too far in their favor while at power. It’s a delicate balance that often found itself teetering, and if not for the meeting at Foci and the changing of seasons to keep matters in check, the opposing powers of Penumbra would have long ago gone to war and annihilated one another. 

Inside the colosseum, structured from the earth itself, the Elites took their place. Those who were led by dark took to one side while the light took to the other. The Elites, along with their council and guards, settled in as the ceremony began. Typically, they would elect a member of each side to recount the season, noting anything of key importance before proceeding with the shift of power. This time was different. The Dark had tilted the hands of balance further than they should have during their rule and the air was tense. 

Just as the time came for the council to call their representatives, the hearts of every being in the room stopped. For the twelve deathly chimes rang for the first time in over 200 years. One chime for each of the original Elites. And as the first one split the air, the room grew cold, and silence descended on all those present. It was the moment every Elite dreaded. The chimes were the signal that an Elite’s rule would come to an end. Anxiously, they waited for the twelfth and final chime, and as the eerie proclamation finished its terrifying song, an altar appeared in the center of the room. 

A hooded being emerged from the altar, cloaked in shadows. The prophet. She was the High Spirit’s messenger and her arrival confirmed that one of the Elites was doomed. 

“Seven. Seven to fall, seven to rise, to right the wrong. Balance must be restored.”

Whispers of shock spread through Foci. Seven elites would fall. This was the final call when their lives would end, and their life energy would return to the High Spirit. Every pair of eyes widened and darted around wondering which of them it would be. Some fell to prayer, while others stood tall, accepting the fate that was to come. 

Seven chimes rang out and again they waited. The prophet held her hand out and a scroll appeared. She began to read the names of those who would fall. 

The first to be called came from the side of the dark, the shifter Elite, Cyrus Ostara. The six-foot-two blond haired wolf shifter stood from his seat as his council members stared in disbelief. He turned to his guard, Thomas, and nodded. As he climbed down from his seat, Mae Ching the female Jaguar shifter and council member stood to watch him. Cyrus approached the prophet and as he did, he shifted to his wolf. He let out one final howl as his form vanished along with the sacred moonstone. The sound of his howl echoed throughout Foci for a moment longer. 

Second to be called was yet another member from the side of the dark, the elf Elite, Silvyr Mistborne. The tall, dark skinned elf stood from his seat, sneered at his companions, then tossed his dark robe to the floor, revealing the elven armor beneath. Head held high, he descended to the altar as the moonlight bounced off his blue toned flesh, highlighting the swirling white markings that covered it. He made no show of saying goodbye to his people or acknowledging them in any way. Instead, he merely bowed to the prophet, then turned his red eyes to the night sky and smiled. A moment later he was gone. 

The third to be called brought some relief to the dark as it was a name from the light, the Orc Elite, Ryza the Black. This was not a punishment for their transgression, it was an equal playing field. Ryza was one of the largest Elites outside of the giants. He stood over seven feet tall and was built for battle. Like those before him, he made no protest. He turned to his clan members, bowed, and headed for the Prophet. On the side of the light, those he passed bowed their heads, a show of respect and gratitude for his service and his sacrifice. As he made it to the prophet, the Orc stood tall as his spirit was claimed and his form vanished. A silver warrior's collar hung in the air. The blood-red knowledge stone at its core gleamed under the light. It disappeared like its master and would appear again on the neck of the chosen.

The fourth to be called was a name that brought pause. The dark Elite was the Irin, Anael. Five Irin had attended the Foci, including Anael and his triplet brothers, Remiel and Zerachiel. Their cedar-colored skin, stark-white brows, and bare-chested armor made them imposing figures. Born in the 2nd generation of Angel rulers, Anael was one of the longest standing Elites and the only one who hadn’t appeared worried, until his name was called. With a tightened jaw, the 8-foot-tall Irin stood, along with his brothers. Suddenly, two sets of crimson wings spread from within him, sparks of energy glittering as they moved. He took to the sky as if he would try to escape his fate, but a moment later he landed with a force so hard it cracked the floor of Foci. He turned looking only at his people, as the crimson color faded from his wings and he too disappeared.

The fifth to be called was the vampire Elite, from the dark side Alexander stood. His pale skin stood in sharp contrast to the red glow of his eyes as he hissed, unhappy to have his name called. Unlike the others, the members of his clan seemed almost pleased with his demise. They forced somber expressions as their leader departed, heading for the Prophet. With each step towards the center of the Foci, Alexander lost the shield the Elite title gave to him. Though it was night, the sky opened with a beam of sunshine that met him at the base of the altar. Within moments the vampire, once impervious to the effects of the sun, began to disintegrate. His burning left a charred mark on the stone floor.

The sixth to be called was the dragon Elite, Horace who was once known as the devourer. He stood from his position on the side of the Light, turned to the other members of the House of the Blue Flame, and allowed his honey brown skin to partially shift to reveal the sea blue scales of his dragon. He plucked one scale from his arm and handed it to the council members. This was his gift to she who would replace him. In a vibrant show, he turned to descend the steps of the colosseum while allowing his blue flame to dance across his skin. When he reached the altar, he shifted into the massive beauty that was his dragon, shot one blue streak of fire into the sky, and by the time the light had faded, the dragon was gone.

The seventh to be called was the phoenix Elite, Paereon. The bird of fire sat perched on the highest level of the Foci looking down on his fellow Lights. When his name was called, his full lips lifted in a sad smile, and his mint green eyes glistened before shifting to a golden hue. Hanging around his neck was the Obsidian stone. Worn by each of the phoenix Elites, it was a symbol of their strength. Accepting his fate, Paereon removed the stone and handed it to Olise, his trusted guard. She would ensure its safe handling until the new Elite was chosen. Allowing his flamed wings to blaze once more, he glided from his perch to the prophet’s altar. Before his feet could touch the ground, the phoenix turned to ash, never to rise again.

With no more names to call, the Prophet’s scroll disappeared from her hands and the hollow voice spoke once more. “Seven. Seven have fallen, seven will rise, to right the wrong. Balance must be restored.”

© 2020 by Jessica Cage