A delicate breeze blew through the pristine and bright marble streets of Akara. The grande, ornate obelisks housing its citizens seemed to echo with the passing wind like a chorus of soothing whispers. Suspended high above the filthy earth underneath, Akara had floated among the clouds for millennia, its people free of all uncleanness and oppression. It was always quiet in Akara. Always peaceful. Everything in perfect order.
But all was not right on this day, as one of the six High Prelates of Akara made her way to the terminal of one of the city's transportation tunnels. These tunnels allowed for travel between the 6 island provinces that make up the floating kingdom of Akara.
Dressed in a regally flowing, bright teal robe like a proper greek monarch, the Prelates' razor sharp eyes fastened forward with all the focus of an olympic track athlete. Her shoulders were held at the most excellent of posture. Like precious treasure found on the high seas, the Prelate was heavily watched, surrounded by the mightiest guards Akara had to offer. Struggling to keep up next to the Prelate was a small, quivering young girl who served as her advisor.
“And you’re positive Prelate Reno has also gone missing?” Asked the Prelate, her shark-like eyes still facing forward, pacing with all the ferocity of a mother about to punish her children.
“Yes, High Prelate Alundra. Just as the rest of the Prelates before her. We should hurry to the transportation tunnel. I fear that we mustn't keep you out in the open like this for too long.”
Prelate Alundra grinded her jaw, her slender face looked like it had been chiseled from stone. As her advisor previously relayed: The five other Prelates had all disappeared in the weeks prior with no forewarning and no word from them since. The Spectral Council, Akaras highest governing body, made up of the eldest and wisest of society, now had no one to oversee the affairs upon the other 5 island provinces. Soon, all would be in chaos. Order would be disrupted throughout the kingdom of Akara should the Prelates not return.
“Perhaps they have gone down to The Beneath, your grace?” Whispered the advisor.
Prelate Alundra stopped as rigidly and as sharp as the bones in her jaw. The hulking, and mutated guards darted their eyes with glaring looks of suspicion at the Prelate.
Whistling through the air with blinding swiftness, the Prelate slapped the advisor. Buckling to the ground, the advisor groveled at the feet of the Prelate. As she clamped her wrist like a vice, Alundra jerked her advisor close enough so that only she could hear.
“You imputent slime,” She hissed like a cobra, “no one is to know of our travels to The Beneath! If word of our travels to such a place were to get out, Akara would be thrown into disorder. Knowing that those of our high stature would associate with the filthy creatures of The Beneath, even just to force labor upon, would send Akaras citizens into a frenzy!”
“Forgive me High Prelate Alundra!” The advisor begged as the Prelate released her mangled arm.
As she turned back toward the transportation tunnel, Alundra was startled by the guards who had taken combat ready stances at a figure barring their way in front of the terminal entrance.
She was dressed in a uniform tightly fitted to her lower body, an exo-suit similar to those worn by the Akaran guards. But unlike the Akarans who wore exo-suits of white, teal, and silver, the Woman in front of the tunnel was clad in crimson red. She wore an intricate, metallic chest piece that appeared to be flexible and mobile along with a mask that covered her eyes and nose. Her strawberry blonde hair that flowed, shimmering in the wind, bore stark contrast to the short cut, synthetic colored hair of the Akaran guards and Prelate. A slender katana swung behind her at the waist. A heart shaped locket dangled from her neck as she stared into the very soul of the Prelate.
“Guards, dispose of this trespasser!” Alundra shouted.
The enormous guards surrounding the Prelate charged forward at the foriegn intruder, each trying to squash the Woman like a persistent insect. Their tree trunk sized arms flailed and swatted wildy at the woman, but every time they missed and struck the ground beneath her. With each slam of the guards' fists, the Woman maneuvered around, jumping higher than anyone could reach her. The impact of each strike shook the ground beneath, shaking both the Prelate and the advisor off of their feet.
Growing impatient one of the guards interlocked her fingers and thrusted both fists toward the mysterious Woman in red. Effortlessly bouncing off of the guard's head, the Woman landed a few feet from the panting and red faced guards standing on the cracked and shattered stone. Raising her arm upward to the sky, the Woman smirked like a sly child robbing from the cookie jar before careening her fist into the solid marble street.
The impact of the strike caused an enormous crack to run down the middle of the group of guards and toward the transportation tunnel. Alundra and her advisor gazed in horror as the guards began to sink into the ground like it was quicksand. The ground shuttered and shook like a giant was shaking all of Akara like a snow globe until finally the beautiful marble ground beneath the guards gave way. The debris and guards now plummeted to the forbidden region known as The Beneath.
The Woman pivoted back around to face the Prelate, the newly created cliff edge only a step behind her.
Alundra scurried and scraped at the ground like a mouse being pinned down by a cat. Her advisor lying in shock only a few feet from her, the color drained from her ghostly face.
The Woman in red grasped the collar of Alundra robes and lifted her into the air as though she were as light as an infant. Alundra squirmed and struggled, clawing her long nails into the bare flesh of the Woman's arms but never even broke her skin. She clawed at her face but could hardly even shift the woman's mask. As painfully slow as pallbearers carrying a casket, the Woman drug Alundra to the place the guards had fallen through. The wind growing stronger by the minute
“No, please, why are you doing this?” Shouted Alundra.
The woman set the Prelate upon the last inch of ground before a one way fall into The Beneath. Alundra glanced behind her at the seemingly endless fall, then gasped as though she had been thrown into cold water. Flailing like a fish out of water, and jilted off of her balance she grasped at anything she could to avoid falling. With a desperate lunge of her arm she fastened upon the heart shaped locket around the woman's neck. She let out a nervous fit of laughter and glared with hate filled eyes at the Woman in red.
“I won’t be going to The Beneath alone.” She said as she grabbed the locket tighter.
As she yanked and tugged at the locket without a flinch from the Woman in red, the locket opened to reveal a small photograph. Alundra squinted at the image before her eyes grew wide in shock. Although it was small, the image was familiar, seven women standing shoulder to shoulder in flowing robes, six with short synthetically colored hair, and the seventh with short strawberry blonde hair. Crude x’s had been etched into each of their faces except for the strawberry blonde, and Alundra. Her eyes stung, swelling with tears as she batted them in disbelief.
“Sister?” Asked Alundra.
The woman in red unsheathed her sword and ran it up through the chain of the necklace. With one quick slash, The Prelate fell, the locket still in her hand, and great was the fall into The Beneath.