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Years ago these sleepy ruins were the central structures of Cah Bel, the military academe of Arcathia, a highly advanced civilization long since fallen.  They built Cah Bel on a low mountain in the middle of a great, uninhabited valley.  Crumbled towers stretched out away from this central lone mountain across the plane as far as the eye could see.  Now abandoned, both capital and civilization had succumbed to the ravages of time and slipped into forgetfulness.  Few now remembered their names or could even read their writings.

At the summit of the mountain, stood the dominant edifice, a fortress in the shape of an eight-pointed star.  The Arcathians called it Zhongjian, which meant “The Center” in their tongue but the locals now called it the Old Fortress.  Here thousands of would-be soldiers once trained and defended the Arcathian civilization, but Consus and the Shadow Knights had scanned for the POD, not in the Old Fortress, but the large amphitheater upon a lower foothill.  Those who forgot its real name called it the “Old Arena.”  It was designed so well that in its prime it could seat some three thousand people all able to hear a single orator without the aid of artificial amplification.  Senators once debated here before the assembly enacted on a pending law, but the voices had long since fallen silent.  Carpet and ceramic tile once marked off sections showing the sixteen regions the old arena represented.  Only the faint remnants of tile could be seen at the center of the amphitheater now, the wooden podium and carpet long since reclaimed by the elements.  Only stone benches, some with room enough for two or three delegates, survived the centuries: too tough for rain and cold to rot, and too heavy for scavengers to cart away.  Encircling the remains of the Old Arena stood great marble pillars, some toppled and broken others still supporting the enclosing foyer.  The shattered bits of the roof they supported now lay scattered across the stone foundation below.  Weeds grew up between the cracks in the pavement and a few trees forged their way into the circle of pillars, reclaiming nature’s right.  No one alive today could reproduce the architecture of these buildings.  When the civilization fell during a time called the Fall of Nations, the memory of its people, its knowledge, its technology, and its history fell as well.  In its place grew myths and legends like the trees that grew up from its fallen ruins.

*              *

Again, the wind stirred.   

It whipped fallen leaves into little swirls.  A high-pitched noise, just beyond hearing at first, grew louder.  The wind grew, gathering the little swirls into a larger whirlwind that centered itself on the spot marked by Lenesco.  Sparks of light seemed to jump between the flying debris.  The high-pitched noise dropped in frequency and began to pulsate.  A faint line of a half dome shape a little higher than the height of a man began to form among the swirling leaves.  Shimmers of light danced between leaves and outlined form.  The high pitched whine grew to a crescendo and the outline took solid shape: a smooth white, oblong dome -- almost like half an egg laying on its side -- with thick runes written in red around it at shoulder height.  A red line enclosed the letters and trimmed the bottom of the dome.  At the narrower part of the dome and intersecting the runes, the stylized image of a lion had been carved in deep lines of gold.  No other markings distinguished it.

The wind settled again to a whisper.

Silently, the dome shape melted away as if it were ice in a furnace to reveal a man wearing a dark hooded cloak sitting on a control bench of some kind with a small table extending up at an angle in front of him.  The cloaked figure focused his attention on this table.  The table was tilted slightly towards him and seemed to gain all its support from its extension from the bench.

Done with his work on the table, he lifted it over his head.  It pivoted on the extension and came to rest slightly above and behind him.  Unaware of the six men watching his movements, he stood up and sighed, a long, peaceful sigh of one whom remembers the former glory of a thing now haggard by time.  Conspicuously, he did not have a sword.  Then as if suddenly recalling an urgent task, he walked briskly up an aisle and towards an arched exit.  As he walked, the control bench shimmered and melted into the shape of a bench similar to the others in the Old Arena.

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Copyright 2000 by Darrell A. Newton, All Rights Reserved.
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Last updated: March 06, 2001.