Master Togo said we could find the Seeker at Tannakai Temple and left us to speak with his brother. Emi’s sister Cho met us at the entrance to the Temple, she seemed surprised to see us and her face darkened slightly.
“The Seeker is busy.” She seethed, while smiling at us through clenched teeth.
An old man struggled to his feet from where he had been praying on the floor. He gave a silvery laugh and touched Cho on the shoulder.
“Not to busy for friends of Master Togo’s, Cho.” He smiled at the young woman and she flushed, moving away to clear the table nearby, but remained close enough to hear what we said.
The Seeker was an old man, dressed in sackcloth and with an old straw hat pulled down over his face. Small golden bells were tied around the rim of the hat that tinkled softly as the old man spoke or moved.
“Ah.” He said and nodded. “You come seeking the wisdom of the stars. It is not easy to become One with the Gods.”
“One with the Gods?” I whispered, wonderingly.
“Weh no Su.” The old man said firmly and nodded, turning his back on us, he shuffled towards where four stone statues were along a low raised board. “Choose wisely.” He whispered, touching each of them in turn. At his touch the statues turned to gold, shining bright as a star and began turning on a small axis. “Each portal will take you to the aspect of the God you choose. Beyond these portals you will seek to defeat not just yourself, but the gods. Choose carefully.” He said again. “For if you perish among the stars, no one can help you.”
The old man chuckled and moved off inside the wooden temple. I looked at each of the four glowing orbs.
“I have heard Mhenlo speak of this.” Cynn said quietly. “From what I understand, it is similar to the three trials we faced in the Desert. Do this and we will Ascend.”
I chewed my lip thoughtfully, studying the golden orbs. Each of them were inscribed with a small tablet
Kai Jun Don, the Kirin. The embodiment of corruption.
Quon Sang, the Turtle Dragon. The eternal paradox, not one thing or another.
“Hai Ji, the Phoenix, the representation of fiery eternity awaiting those in the Underworld.
Tah Mu, the Dragon. The mightiest of all.
“I do not think it matters.” I said quietly and looked at my friends. My lifelong companions. Some of whom I had known since childhood, since I had entered the Academy in Ascalon. Cynn nodded.
“We will need to defeat them all.” She said quietly, meeting my eyes.
I nodded and turned towards the orb of Kirrin, feeling Cynn take my hand as we stepped through into blinding white.
The light became dark as night and the hard cobblestones under our feet shifted … I blinked adjusting my eyes, forcing myself to try and see my new location. The shining orbs were filled with magic and they had transported us … to the roof of the temple.
Ahead were sentinels, strange bird like creatures that were as tall as a man. These ones wore a deep red livery decorated with stars.
“The Star Sentinels.” Cynn appeared to breathe. “The guardians of the Gods.”
“Looks like we will need to kill them too.” Koss replied with a grin as he unsheathed his sword. He jumped forwards, yelling like a banshee and the Deldrimor forged blade flashed golden. The first bird fell silently but the second squarked a warning to its companions.
Among them, shining like stars was a golden Kirrin, mane and tail made of stars flashing in the night sky. It too fell swiftly to Koss’s magic blade and we stood back … waiting … it had been too easy. Kai Jun Don was dead.
“God’s don’t die that easily.” Dunkoro muttered what we were all thinking … and then the rooftops trembled as stars shot from the body of the celestial being like fireworks. Each one forming another creature. Each one as deadly.
Talkora’s face paled. “All of them.” She said firmly, crossing her arms under her breasts and tugging on her long braid.
Kirrins were replaced by turtles as we moved on across the rooftops, drawn in an almost circular direction. Quon Sang added his essence to the stars. He to had had his own bodyguard of sentinels. These had been joined by more kirrins.
“This is not going to easy.” Cynn muttered and glanced at the heavens. “And we only have twenty minutes.”
I looked at her started. “What do you mean twenty minutes?”
The Elementalist shrugged. “Just what Mhenlo once told me, if we don’t make it out in less than 20 minutes, they seal the portal.”
“And we’re stuck here forever?” Talkora gasped.
“No, Princess.” Cynn smiled at her. “Only until the next student attempt – if we’re still alive by then.”
“Then let’s keep moving.” I added quickly and moved off over the bridge the connected the roof tops. A loud ping appeared to ring out, like a bell.
“This way.” Dunkoro’s head swivelled towards the sound. “Down that ramp there, through the courtyard and up to our right.”
‘And it’s guarded – of course it’s guarded.” Talkora muttered darkly, tugging at her braid once more.
Talkora was right, it was heavily guarded.
Hai Ji, the Phoenix rose high above us, breathing stars that burned like fire. He too was protected by his own henchmen of Sentinels, but more Kirrin, more turtles and of course as he died, the now familiar bloom of fireworks filled the sky. Sending smaller versions of himself in front of us and behind.
We killed those in the area, but we would have to move quickly now. If Cynn was right about the time limit, we would be in trouble.
Running now between batches of celestial creatures. The sentinels seemed to have lessened but there were still mini versions of the gods blocking our path. I could only hope we were going the right way in the mass of small alleyways running between the buildings.
A bell sounded again, down again and to our left? No, the path took us right. We turned the corner and … Light! We were surrounded. Turtles, kirrins, small dragons and sentinels.
“WE’RE OUTNUMBERED!” Cynn cried, a note of panic in her voice.
Koss laughed, surging forwards. “Tra’aka!” He yelled.
I grinned and nocked another arrow.
Limping, we moved forwards. Koss had blood pouring down his face from a cut near his eye from a sentinels short sword. The sentinel had lost his head, so Koss considered it a fair exchange. The final group were ahead of us.
Tah Mu, the Dragon remained. The last of the four remaining gods. The namesake of the Dragon empire. He soared, belching fire and smoke from huge flared nostrils. Like the others, he too was made of stars. Hundreds of thousands of stars. Like the others he too was protected by what was now a small army of sentinels, kirrins, turtles and phoenixes.
“Kill them all.” Cynn murmured and she rose high into the air as she muttered a spell.
On to Tanakai Temple