The Seventh Prayer
The story of how Caledon
took shape millennia ago...
“When there is something everyone wants, someone must lose everything.”
Those had been my words, spoken to my six friends. Why was I surprised they were about to come true? I stared mutely at the ships before me as they spewed Ix invaders onto our land.
“Cruhail, what are you doing? They’re almost here. We must go.”
I turned at the sound of my name.
“To where?” I whispered, staring at Aurich. “They’ll just follow.”
For six days we had moved across the landscape, trusting the ancient magic of the Mountains to carry us safely. Today was the seventh, and we had one prayer left. But, despite the magic, Ix were always ahead of us. For thousands of years, we had been revered and respected. Now we were hunted and hated.
Lurus set her hand on my arm. “Perhaps they know the magic, too.”
“Are you so prepared to give in?” Aurich demanded.
“We shouldn’t argue.” My six companions fell silent as I spoke.
With pride, I beheld them. Only fiery Aurich and cunning Enis met my gaze, the first incapable of hiding anything, the second unable to share. I knew Enis blamed herself for our plight. It had been her decision to use the Mountain magic, but Ix had beaten us to every point in our landscape, slaughtering the people we had spent millennia defending. Our power and strength were old, and the balance we had maintained was skewed beyond redemption.
“When there is something everyone wants…”
Dibroch allowed his voice to fade, so Ocran took up my words.
“…Someone must lose everything.”
Lurus studied her hands. “Running has tired us all. Even Ocran. We must make our stand here.”
I looked at the bare moorland which surrounded us. There was nothing to give us shelter. The Mountains had discarded us close to the sea where, even from this distance, Ix’s bull banners were visible beneath their eagle. How did this army beat us everywhere?
“You’re looking at it wrong, Cruhail,” Nechtan said, and I realised I had voiced my concerns aloud. “They’re not following us, they’re surrounding us. There are too many to fight.”
Aurich’s eyes flared. “I don’t believe it! You’re giving up?”
“If we stand and fight, our people will die.” I heard the frustration in my voice. Ix had already executed countless of our people in order to reach us. Only, they were not countless, for we felt their deaths as acutely as we would one another’s.
“They’re advancing,” Ocran’s slatey voice announced. “Whatever we’re going to do, we must do it now.”
Each one of us stared at Nechtan, relying as always on her reasoning. She shook her head.
“There is only one power we have left, only one way to defend against them.”
“We knew this time would come, didn’t we?”
“It’s time we stood our ground. This is our ground.”
Aurich nodded in agreement with Lurus’ defiant words, but Dibroch growled across.
“So each one of our people is killed? Ix will not stop until their genocide is complete. Nechtan, will the Mountains guard us?”
“Yes. But we’ll never reach them in time. Ix is almost here. There’s only one way to receive protection from the Mountains: The Seventh Prayer.”
“Any last words?” Enis asked, her scathing tone trembling.
Conversations exploded among us, each tasting the bitter sorrow of our final words. Protecting the land and her people had carried us far into the Mountains, into Her very soul. Now it was time to return. The water which fed the landscape was the blood of our veins. We had to trust it wouldn’t betray us.
I was the only one who hadn’t yet offered a prayer as we fled Ix. I would be the seventh and final one to do so, the knowledge passing into silence the moment the Mountains absorbed us. None of us knew what this would entail, but I stammered my words, willing to give them everything. This was the only way to escape Ix, carrying the Mountain’s magic into the landscape.
As soon as the words had left my mouth, I set my trembling hand on each of my friends in turn, watching as the Mountains enacted their protection. The Mountains bestowed the greatest disguise. Each friend I set my fingers on, adjusted into a beast of the landscape: the form by which the Mountains had always known us.
Lastly, I turned to Nechtan. She had tears in her eyes, but none fell. “You will not lose your voice, Cruhail. You have no one to set you free, you cannot do it yourself.”
“You’ll all be weak for a time,” I whispered, hearing my voice, but knowing the words belonged to the Mountains. “I’ll protect you from Ix.”
Placing my hand on her cheek, I watched as she morphed into a raven. It opened its beak and croaked loudly, the full realisation of my loneliness dawning on me. My friends’ words were beyond me now.
I turned back to Ix as they raced towards us. I had to protect my friends. I had to stand firm while, in their new but weakened forms, they made their escape. Placing my trust in the Mountains, I crouched down.
The ground beneath me trembled, before an earthquake ripped the landscape apart. Ix threw its first javelin, and I anticipated its impact. Closing my eyes, I waited. But I never felt it. In surprise, I opened my eyes and stretched my hands out.
Water shot from my fingers with a force which sent the Ix soldiers crashing backwards. I could hear the Mountains answering my prayer, and I stared down at my new place in this altered landscape. Mesmerised, I watched as the waterfall I had become drove the bull banners of Ix into the ocean.
I never tired as I protected my friend’s retreat into the landscape, unable to follow them. Ix was defeated, but I stood alone: protected in order to protect. The seventh and final speaker of the Mountains.