Opon-Hul by Rafael Lopez

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SUMMARY: In the first short story of the series, a dormant hero is summoned from his tomb to save the last of humankind.

Untamed skies swept over The Mountain as silken water flows upon submerged stones. Streams of clouds caught the wind on their voyage across the land. The air was gold with the morning glory gilding its soul. Strings of fragrance drifted upward from the beds of meadows, where flowers grew and opened their hearts to the sky. Sunlight shone on the pale summit of The Mountain and glistened as white gold does when finely polished.

Being the only spire in the land, The Mountain was sacred and only traversed by Staff Keepers who maintained the border of peace a boundary that could not be broken by the soldiers of evil.

A new dawn settled over the quiet world of Dathzon, and with it spread a new terror from The Land of Dark Dirt. A new beast unlike anything in the land. The only creature that could fly. And it spread its wings as the ill feeling of its presence spread toward the hearts of people.

Twenty small villages surrounded the foot of The Mountain. Ten large castles lay scattered after the edge of a forest. These citadels stood erect upon grasslands extending beyond the trees.

At the top of The Mountain rested an old temple, built before the coming of humans; old as The Mountain, yet strong nonetheless. 'Twas the long-forgotten place whence The Dark Dirt was produced and sown on the land to smite all. A large waterfall graced the entrance, tumbling over green marble walls to roar in a flurry of froth at the foundation of the peak.

There was but one way up The Mountain. A long and dark stairway commenced at the base, behind the great waterfall's curtain of rushing glass. It climbed through The Mountain's core and surfaced near the temple. All other slopes were too high, too graded for any to climb.

Sheer height secured the safety of Temple Berghope, which maintained the border of Magic, defending against monsters that prowled the perimeter along The Land of Dark Dirt.

Morning mist hovered above the villages and castles, finally beginning to cast down its fogged walls and dissolve into the day's new light. But there was no more mist at The Mountain's top. There, the warmth of day was cradled.

Heavy silence clung to a moist marble causeway leading into Berghope as two men strolled from the temple lawn. A lethargic breeze blew trees into a sway. Gilt leaves drifted to the floor around the Staff Keepers. Their eyes had the flame of youth still ignited within, and their wide open hearts were imbued with the feelings far adrift the wind.

"A very lovely dawn it seems. Dost thou agree, Kelpreen?" said one to his companion.

"Indeed, 'tis a fine morn upon The Mountain. Beauty hath awakened hither." The second monk hesitated though, his face worried. "A fine day, yet it has a sense of something amiss. Something hides in the folds of the clouds." He carefully judged the winds and sunlight, poised on the uppermost step. "Something comes. I will return."

"And I will be here."

Kelpreen walked around the corner of Berghope's main building and peered at the passage to the woods below.

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