G-Force: Legends -- Prelude
"How much farther do we ride?" Kujaku The Archer called from the back of the riding group as he chewed on the nib of a shuriken in the shape of a feather. "It has been days, old man."
The old nameless priest looked back from the front, a small patient smile on his face. "In time, young archer. We will reach our destination."
Jinpei The Thief rode forward, excited. "Will that be soon?"
The old man nodded. "When the whistled tune is heard, we will have arrived."
"Stop speaking in riddles, priest!" Kujaku called again.
"Kujaku, quiet," Akeila The Hunter said sternly. "The Priest has been right so far and there's no reason to distrust him now."
Ryuoh The Traveller continued in his relaxed manner, lying on his back atop his horse, cloak pulled over his eyes. "Aah, Kujaku, you need to learn to trust your comrades. Did the Priest not say that we are meant to be as one for a great purpose?"
Kujaku snorted. "A purpose he has not yet told us. We could all be destined to die together for his own likings."
"Oh shut up, Kujaku," Jinpei said. "Must everything end in death for you?"
"That is the way it has been. For what reason must I think differently?"
Akeila rode faster. "You are a pain, Kujaku. I see no way whatsoever we will be able to work together, despite what the Priest has said."
The little man laughed aloud in front of them. "No, you four will bind together as though it were a natural force about you. It has all been written, like it or not. Eventually the four of you will work as one like it was the most perfect harmony in the world."
The four then rode in silence, though Kujaku remained sullen. Akeila unbound her hair and braided it again before tucking it back into her cloak. Jinpei continued to ride ahead with the Priest, enjoying his company, while Ryuoh lazed in the back.
After a while the Priest halted them. Kujaku tugged his reins, the horse startling a moment. "What is it, Priest?" he asked, readying his crossbow.
The Priest was smiling. "Do you not hear? Do you not hear the Song of the White Shadow?"
They tried to listen, but they heard nothing, lacking the mystical perception that was talent of the Priest. "There is only the wind, Priest," Akeila said.
"I hear nothing," Jinpei said. "Are you sure?"
Ryuoh caome forward and listened again. He stiffened. "Wait. It's there. I hear it. It's getting clearer."
The Priest urged his horse to go on, and the four travellers followed. "Yes, Ryuoh is right. We are closer now, the Song clearer. It is a song that will bring hope to those it protects and fear to those who oppose it."
As they rode on, the Song grew louder, thicker. It was a clear, haunting whistled tune the wind seemed to carry and weave through the air.
"So we have arrived," Kujaku said. "Where is here?"
The Priest led them over a hill and stopped to admire the view. As the four too came to a halt, they froze, mesmerized by what they saw below in the valley.
"Behold, the land of the Seven Shields."
Curious gazes followed them as they rode through. Most of the people were dressed in black and white, with markings of their Clans. The Seven Shields had spread their Clans far and wide, as they were sent from the Heavens above and did not age, knew not what time meant outside of the four seasons and night and day. The Seven Shields -- Gyou, Karura, Fuma, Hinoe, Lien, Shiro and Shimada -- have been walking the face of their Earth for many generations already, and it was left with Shimada alone to start a family of his own, to spread his Clan. He was the youngest of the Seven Shields.
Soon Kujaku observed that the curious stares were not of alienation, but of awe and respect. It was unusual for him: he often drew stares because he was the last of his clan, his tan skin and light hair and eyes were not a common sight any longer with thanks to the Darkness, who had eliminated his clan off the face of the world. Akeila drew stares for her beauty, for certain, but this was not the case now. It couldn't be, as there were also eyes upon Jinpei and Ryuoh. He grew uncomfortable.
"Where to now?" Akeila asked quietly. "Where are you taking us?"
"To Lord Gyou, of course," the Priest said.
The four stopped, holding their horses back.
"To the Shield of Power? What for?" Ryuoh asked. "What is it that we've done?"
The Priest laughed and urged them to move on with him. "You have done nothing other than prove your worth. He is the reason why I was sent to unite you."
Jinpei rode close to Akeila. "Akeila, Lord Gyou requested our
presence!" he whispered. "Do you think this is the great purpose the Priest spoke of?"
She nodded, still stunned by the news. "And we must not turn it down. Lord Gyou's word is not to be challenged or questioned. Remember that he is the First Shield of Heaven, the Shield of Power."
They rode forth and entered past the gates of the main fortress, a place called Firebird's Hiding. Leaving their horses -- but not their weapons -- they followed the Priest into the chamber where in a simple setting there were seven places of honor set at random. For now five places were empty, and only Gyou and Karura, the Shield of Wisdom were present.
The Priest dropped to his knees and bowed, the other four followed suit: it was not wise to offend Lord Gyou.
"Stand," his voice boomed. Gyou was imposing with his tall muscular build, the black haired pulled back in a band, a neatly trimmed beard making him appear regal. In contrast Karura was lithe and beautiful, her blue-white hair falling straight past her shoulders, her expression gentle.
"Thank you for coming at such short notice," she spoke. "We did not mean to interrupt any of your current businesses, but what we have asked you here for is of grave importance." She then turned to the Priest. "Great Elder, thank you for your efforts. You may leave now."
He bowed deeply. "Thank you, Gracious Lady."
Once the Priest had left, Kujaku, Akeila, Jinpei and Ryuoh found it difficult to hide their apprehension and doubt. Akeila was the first to speak. "My Lady Karura, for what reason is it that you've chosen us?"
She smiled. "Akeila, Hunter. I only selected. It is Lord Gyou who summoned. He will speak now."
Gyou stood and stepped down to them as he spoke. "The four of you have been summoned from the four corners of the world, and you have, I assume, come to witness the Darkness's growth in power. All four of you have lost families and homes to them, is that not true?"
"Yes, Lord," they answered in unison.
"The wars between the Seven Shields and their Clans against the Darkness are growing. We usually fight together, keeping Seven as one, but I fear that now we can no longer afford that. With the spreading wars each Shield must now go on his or her own, to counter each attack with their Clan. Unfortunately, herein lies a problem."
"Which is, my Lord?" Ryuoh asked.
His brow creased. "Shimada, our youngest Shield, has no Clan. And in spite of his skills I cannot think to leave him to do battle alone. Which is why I have called the four of you."
"We were called here to become nursemaids to the youngest Shield?" Kujaku blurted. "This is the great prupose we travelled all the way here for?"
Akeila shot him a glare. "Kujaku, be quiet."
Gyou was slightly annoyed, but could very well understand why. Kujaku had his reputation. "Shimada is not exactly a waif, as you may think, Archer. And by my saying that he is the youngest, remember that the Shields are ageless, and that would make him far older than all of your ages put together."
Karura giggled, then came down to them as well. "I have chosen the four of you to act as his Holy Guardians. You will attain the level of Time as we have, as well as the use of our brand of skills over the elements. And I am sorry to say, however, that you may have no choice in this matter, as it has been chosen by my word, and it will not be defied."
They stood in silence for a little while, before Ryuoh responded, "So it shall be, my Lady."
Akeila and Jinpei bowed. "So it shall be, my Lady."
Kujaku nodded. "So it shall be, my Lady."
Karura smiled demurely. "Now you shall come to see the young Lord Shimada."
Jinpei leaned close to Akeila, whispering, "Akeila, I have heard that no one has seen Lord Shimada's face; he is ever shrouded."
It was a whisper but it did not escape Karura. "That is true, young Thief. That is upon our command that he is shrouded so. We have our reasons." She looked back to Gyou. "Gyou, whereabouts is Shimada?"
He groaned, a pained look on his face. "Do note, Karura, that we have not seen neither shadow nor dust of both young Shimada and Shiro. They are up to their galavanting as always. I refuse to summon them again."
Karura shook her head. "You can be so grumpy, Gyou. Those two are young, let them be."
"They are Shields, Karura."
"And they are also young. I said leave them be; time and again they need to leave the wars behind." She looked to one of the higher windows and whistled. A Firebird appeared and swooped down to her.
Kujaku and his comrades stood in wonder as the creature spoke in a female human voice. "You summoned me, my Lady Karura?"
She took the creature to her arm, stroking its flame-wings. "Whereabouts is your young master Shimada, Azrael?"
The Firebrid sighed. "With Lord Shiro. You wish me to call my master to your presence?"
"Yes. And please hurry, Azrael."
"So it shall be, my Lady." And the bird took off at blinding speed, casting a streak of fire in the sky where her wings had touched.
to be continued...
tattered wings on the ground, evidence of war
fire in the sky, form of a bird, a Phoenix
yes, they still live
they are immortal