Authors: Andrew M. Crusoe
Tags: #Science Fiction, #Adventure, #Philosophy
The Epic of Aravinda: Book 1
Andrew M. Crusoe
First published 2012
In a spirit of openness and goodwill, this work of fiction is released under a
Creative Commons BY-NC-ND License
, allowing up to one thousand words to be quoted. For more info about this book and the Epic of Aravinda series, visit Aravinda Publishing:
For info about Andrew’s travel adventures, including over 1,000 photos and hundreds of travel articles, visit Byteful Travel:
Version K3-20130517 Final
Published by Aravinda Publishing
Cover design by Andrew Crusoe
For all who have dared dream of the vastness of the cosmos.
Unbounded goodwill and gratitude goes out to all who have supported me in translating this story into a form that can be enjoyed by all. Without my earthbound family and friends (as well as some whose origin is still in question) this galactic adventure would have never been manifested into book form, a process spanning over four years.
While this story does not take place on our world, I hope you will find that the people depicted herein face many of the same lessons and opportunities for growth that we here on the Earth face every day, as well as challenges that still remain in our future.
I hope that in some small way, this first book serves as a voice of optimism and a light of hope for the Earth in a time when too many of the narratives we encounter are based in fear and a lack of faith, instead of acknowledging the true power of the heart, mind, and spirit. With that power, we can co-create a reality in which lack of faith crumbles in the face of compassion and fear melts away in the light of truth. The best days for Humanity are still ahead as long as we continue to purposefully create that brighter future.
And I know we will.
~ Andrew Crusoe
AD OMNIUM UNITATEM
with the first. How did they find the first one?”
“The first stone? Well, you must remember that at the time, we knew only of a single Transcendent Stone. We had no knowledge of the others. We knew not of many things, including the twisting darkness.”
“Which darkness? The Vakragha or the ones who came after?”
“Did you know that the Avanians knew nothing of the Vakragha until the Incident? Some called them blessed for that. At the time, the Confederation was only focused on keeping them from spreading further. When the Avanian arrived, they instantly suspected that he had great potential, but his future was always uncertain.”
“What did you think when you met him? Did you know?”
“The Avanian? He was certainly not a ‘chosen one’ if that is what you were wondering. In many ways, he chose himself, even before most of us realized that was possible. You see, in those days we had not yet rediscovered the Oneness.”
“You would have liked him. What I enjoyed most about him was that he never fell under the illusion that he was more important than the others. He remained humble. But to answer your question, I did not know. Who could have? The survival of the entire Confederation was in the balance.”
“So, will you tell us?”
“What do you mean? I shall tell you whatever you desire. After all, that is my purpose.”
“We start at the desolate world, correct?”
“In a sense, yes. But stories are always and ever interconnected, and we need to begin before that to understand the context in which the discovery was made. And for that, we begin simply. We begin on Avani with a young boy walking upon silvery sand.”
GOOD MORNING, ASHRAYA
Zahn opened his eyes.
He was a young boy, walking barefoot on pristine, silvery sand. Although this time, something was different. While the beach around him was familiar, it seemed unusual at the same time, and he couldn’t discern why.
Zahn didn’t realize that his entire world was about to come crashing down.
To his left, he could see the majestic Ashraya Bay opening up into the ocean, and beyond that, there were faint outlines of islands in the haze along the horizon. To his right, he could see a forest path leading around the edge of a canopy of blue leaves.
He drew himself back to the therapeutic feeling of the sand beneath his feet and the soft sound of the waves. The crisp scent of the ocean made him smile, yet the thought came to him once more: something wasn’t quite right.
Zahn examined his surroundings again and realized that the sand looked strangely luminous, like no sand he had ever seen. But before he could investigate, he heard a familiar voice calling to him in the distance. He looked ahead and saw his mother farther up the beach, kneeling on the sand and waving him over as she called out to him. The way the sun glinted off of her light brown hair was almost surreal.
“Zahn! Come over here! You’ve got to see what I’ve found!”
“What is it, Mom? Is it the first rockturtle?”
“Nope, even better!”
Zahn ran over to his mother, who was looking into a shallow pit in the sand, and knelt down beside her. Inside the pit were hundreds of small, pearl-colored, rockturtle eggs gently sparkling in the afternoon sun.
“Wow! I thought none of them had laid their eggs yet.”
Darshana smiled so big that even her eyes seemed to smile.
“Well, I guess today is our lucky day, Zahn. I’m going to take some measurements so we can estimate when they’ll hatch. Why don’t you take some photos so Dad can see later?”
From one of his pockets Zahn pulled out a palm-sized transparent disc that appeared to be solid glass except for a rim of bluish metal around the edge. He held it in front of the eggs and squeezed the edge of the disc. After doing this a few times from different angles, he put the device back into his pocket.
“Guess what?” Darshana said. “It looks like these eggs are going to hatch in about five days.”
“Wow! So can we come back then? Please! Extremely please!”
“Of course you can come back! In fact, I’m assigning this mission to you, Zahn. Make sure these eggs stay safe.”
“Oh, they will.”
A look of worry crept over Zahn’s face.
“Wait. You said I had to make sure, but you didn’t say you would come. You can’t come, can you?”
“I’m so sorry, Zahn. I don’t think I’ll be able to. Five days from now we have an important meeting at the observatory, and I can’t miss it.”
“More important than rockturtle eggs?”
“More important than rockturtle eggs, but I want you and your father to take lots of photos and tell me all about it when I get back, okay?”
Still kneeling on the sand, she kissed him on the forehead and then stood up. In the distance, the sun had sunk below the horizon, bathing the sky in striking red and orange rays.
“It will be nightfall soon. We should head back.”
Zahn and Darshana walked toward the narrow path that led around the trees, up the incline, and back to their home. After walking for a few minutes, a thought crossed Zahn’s mind.
“Mom, what do you really do at the observatory?”
“You know what I do, Zahn. I observe the mysterious universe around us and use that knowledge to help the Ashraya Islands, and all of us on Avani.”
“Yeah, I know. But what do you really do? Why is it that you don’t come home some days?”
“Zahn, my job is… complex. Sometimes they need me at unpredictable times. Why are you worried?”
“I don’t know. I’m just trying to figure out why sometimes I don’t see you.”
Darshana stopped walking, knelt down, and looked into her son’s eyes.
“Zahn, I’m going to tell you something, and I want you to always remember it. Can you do that?”
“Zahn, I love you and your father more than life itself, and even though I can’t always tell when or how long I’ll be gone, I want you to know that it is for the greater good. Sometimes a person can’t tell every last detail of the truth because it might mean violating someone else’s choices, someone else’s free will. But I want you to remember that I will never leave you, Zahn, or your father. Do you understand?”
Zahn wasn’t sure if he understood the part about free will completely, but he nodded.
“I love you so much. Now c’mere!”
Darshana gave her son a huge hug, ruffled his hair, and took his hand as they continued to walk along the path.
After a while, Zahn looked up through the blue leaves and saw the evening sky again. This time, the clouds were a strange green hue. Zahn had never seen anything like it before, and once again an unsettling feeling came over him.
“Hey Mom, why are the clouds green?”
But his mother was no longer there. Zahn looked up and down the path, but he couldn’t see anyone.
“Mom?” Zahn called out.
“Mom?!” he called again. He was starting to get afraid.
Zahn ran up the path.
Perhaps his mother had gone ahead. After running up the path for a while, he turned around and ran back toward the beach. Zahn was convinced that she must be on the path somewhere. But when he arrived back at the beach, no one was there. Where else could she be?
“Mom!” He was beginning to panic.
Then, he heard a faint sound from high above him. Someone was screaming.
Zahn looked up and saw his mother being pulled up into the sky, as if by an invisible cord. She was higher than the tallest trees, and she was reaching down to him.
“Mom! What’s happening?!”
The wind grew stronger, and Darshana continued to rise into the sky. She was getting smaller by the second.
“Zahn, I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! Tell your father I’m sorry!”
“No! Mom, don’t go!” His eyes were wet with tears.
The sand beneath Zahn’s feet began sinking, taking him along with it. All around him, the wind grew stronger, kicking up sand and causing the ocean waves to become even more choppy.
“Zahn, I love you.”
And then his mother’s voice faded into nothingness as she disappeared into the clouds.
“Mom!” Zahn screamed into the sky.
The sand was nearly up to his shoulders now.
“Help!” Sand entered his mouth as he screamed. “Heeeelp!”
He tried to wave his arms, but he couldn’t. Soon he would suffocate. Soon he would be dead, buried under layers of pristine, silvery sand.
Just before he was swallowed up entirely, he felt something beneath his feet supporting him. A moment later, this strange object beneath his feet rose slowly. But how could that be? What could possibly be buried under layers of beach sand?
Zahn felt a curious sensation. The strange object that was supporting him vibrated, and the entire beach rumbled and jostled. Then, he abruptly sank again, and in moments his head was completely under the sand. Zahn realized he couldn’t breathe, and he shut his eyes tight. He was going to suffocate, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Yet when he took a final panicked breath, he somehow got air.
Then, Zahn opened his real eyes.
He was a young man, lying in a tangled mess on the floor. Above him, his hammock still gently rocked back and forth, and the morning sun illuminated the fact that it was now bare of blanket and pillow.
Apparently, his new last-resort device for waking up had worked brilliantly, at least in the sense that it had successfully woken him up. Yet he wondered if it had worked too well, since the feeling of being shaken awake had found its way into his dreams. He was thankful the dream-quake wasn’t real, and yet much of the dream had been all too real for him.
In the distance, he heard the sound of birds calling. Their sound filled the valley, and if he listened closely enough, he could even hear a faint echo as their calls bounced off of a nearby ridge.
Zahn didn’t stand up immediately. He remained there on the floor, staring at the slowly changing crystalline patterns on the ceiling and wondering why his dreams kept turning into nightmares. The vision of his mother being abducted from the beach continued to return to him, even though he knew she hadn’t actually disappeared that way.
He pushed the unpleasant thought out of his mind. Today was the first day of autumn, and it wasn’t the first time he’d had a nightmare like that around this time of year.
After some time, he stood up and looked out from the wide opening in the crystalline latticework that made up one of the room’s walls. Spread out before him, he could see the forest canopy and the ocean beyond.
“Good morning, Ashraya.”
He looked out toward the beach and reflected on all of the times he and his mother would walk along the silvery sands of Ashraya and how she had been so excited to show him all of the remarkable creatures that called the beach their home.
But it didn’t give Zahn joy any longer. For despite Ashraya’s charm, the island scarcely seemed like the same one he grew up on. Almost always, he had felt out of place there, but this feeling of alienation had increased dramatically after his mother had disappeared without a trace, twelve long years ago. Since then, the island didn’t seem like home.
Yet he still remembered a time when these islands felt alive to him. He remembered the small expeditions he would take to map them, and how he would often get lost when exploring a new area. In the end, he always mastered the land, and by now, as an adult on Ashraya, he had explored nearly every hidden place within each of the ten islands of the archipelago.
Some of the islands had been trickier to map than others, and when retelling his adventures, he would often leave out the parts about his close brushes with death. What would the point be? He had survived, so he saw little point in making people worry about him for something he’d obviously lived through. (He’d always planned to live to be 111 years old anyway, but that is the subject of another story.)
It had been a long time since he’d gone on any adventures. After all, now he’d seen nearly everything on the archipelago. More importantly, he was all his father had left since his mother had disappeared, and Zahn didn’t want to leave his father unless he had a good reason.
So he stayed nearby, enjoying the wealth of trails and passages that were hidden within the landscape. Probably his favorite place on the island was Zikhara Peak, the tallest point on the entire archipelago. At least once a year, he made time to hike up the long mountain pass to the top to spend the night, and the majesty of the entire archipelago laid out before him never failed to fill him with wonder.
The sight was incredible, but quite different from most Avanians who made the journey, the beauty of the view wasn’t the main reason he scaled the peak. The more important reason, the reason that kept him coming back year after year, was that up on Zikhara Peak, he felt closest to his mother.
He often wondered if that made any logical sense. After all, how could being one mere klick closer to the sky allow his mother to hear him across the gaping darkness of space? But that didn’t matter in the end. Being on the peak comforted him, and it was on those nights filled with sweet, crisp air that he told his mother how much he loved her and missed her.
And sometimes, he thought that he heard his mother whisper in reply.