Prologue

Infinity Glyphs

Prologue

A jet of golden light ripped the night air. Kevin ran through narrow gaps between incredibly tall trees. He could barely see what lay before him. The branches of the forest loomed darkly overhead, eclipsing the light of the stars with terrifying efficiency. The boy turned right, towards an apparent clearing, but had to change his course as another tree trunk was hit by a powerful golden blast.

'Where is Aurum?'

The mighty voice carried perfectly, impossibly, through the overwhelming density of the forest. It came from a woman, a very determined one. Kevin was thinking fast; he would not resist the chase much longer, he needed a plan.

Make your choice. Make it count.

The forest was silent, heavy with shadow. Pulling the phone from his pocket, hands shaking, Kevin darted around the trunk of a particularly massive tree and crouched behind it, calculating his options. He was going to turn the light on, identify a path out of the woods and then ... what? He had no idea where to go next, but staying put wasn't an option.

The silence was torture. He could practically feel the mysterious woman closing in on him. When he finally looked at the screen of his recently acquired smartphone, another surprise: it was already functioning, displaying that weird GPS that had put him into this nightmare in the first place.

Kevin examined the too-exact map, using intuition much more than proper reasoning; he made up his mind, and then started to run more desperately than ever. Another flash of light and a sonorous burst echoed to his left. This did not affect his trajectory this time, though; he knew exactly where he wanted to go.

Only the why isn't clear.

'Where is Aurum?' The voice appeared to be emitted by the trees themselves.

Who in the Universe is Aurum?

Kevin spotted his destination: a treacherous path led to the edge of the forest. He could feel the pressing density of the woods relenting while he raced through the trees. It was incredibly hard not to fall as he zigzagged, avoiding twigs, roots, stones and ... another ray of light zoomed inches from his ear. He was now very close to the open space. Something like hope spread through his chest: he was going to find help ...

Or at least see the sky before dying.

The Universe turned upside down. Kevin was leaving the woods, not running as he had expected, but rotating in mid-air. The explosion next to his feet had been forceful enough to propel him upwards, adding a vertical component to his linear momentum.

Ok, now I'm a goner.

Miraculously, his feet hit the ground first. It was painful, but they were a much better option than the neck. He tumbled to a stop, and then picked himself up clumsily, rubbing his left knee while peering around. The cloaked and deadly silhouette was approaching the last line of trees very quickly. He turned away from the forest and evaluated his alternatives.

Where am I?

In a valley directly ahead, there was a medieval village. Narrow cobbled streets paved the town. The eaves of little houses brushed shoulder to shoulder with one another, shielding tidy gardens behind them. Each peculiar detail seemed to fit a grand symmetry, looking from this distance. The effect was quite pleasant, especially below the most breathtaking sea of stars Kevin had ever seen.

No time to appreciate.

He was running again. More bursts of light scorched the air around him, making the cold night feel eerily warm. Kevin's Universe contracted to a blurred tunnel as he pelted towards the town; forward was the only way to go.

After what felt like miles, he started to see the facades of small shops. Flickering torchlight bathed the streets, and sinister shadows seemed to spring into existence as he entered the village.

I need to find help ...

Kevin rounded a corner as he grabbed his phone one more time. And there it was: the GPS remained open.

What is this app? And what is ...

He spotted it on the map before seeing the real thing: a fountain. It had three different levels and the water overflowed circular tiers, creating beautiful cascades against the white marble. It was stunning.

Kevin shook his head.

Sixteen years, not a single day in a museum, and now you want to become an art admirer?

The fountain was magnificently placed in the middle of a square. To the left, a small cathedral, with dark stone walls and towers, was the largest building around. In front of Kevin, past the fountain, there was a path framed by torches that led to a wooden bridge. Grey stone benches could be seen throughout the square, and even a rudimentary swing set had been constructed on a green grass area to the right. The village prolonged itself through every direction from that location: Kevin would have to use the GPS to determine his next move.

A spiral form appeared on the map. Apparently, it stood right next to the fountain's coordinates.

Terrific, a bug.

Agitated, Kevin approached the marble structure, peering around, dreading to see the cloaked woman at every step he took. Reaching the fountain, he confirmed that no such spiral existed in reality. All he could see was his own reflection on the cascading veil of water: his blonde hair was a mess; his jean jacket ripped on the shoulder.

The air moved. Kevin jumped backwards, throwing his arms inconsequently in every direction.

No wonder you are not a Karate Master.

He scanned his surroundings, but could not see the source of the disturbance. During the search, his gaze wandered through the night sky. It was the perfect combination of dark and bright; stars were closer than Kevin remembered ever seeing, producing little crosses of obfuscating beauty. The moon, in turn, was nowhere to be found. Another form dominated the celestial canvas: a red nebula, shaped like a blurred eye, witnessed his destiny.

I must be mad.

But then, he saw it: for the fraction of a second, the spiral became visible, as though it was made of very thin smoke and reflected the red stain in the sky. It had been so fast that Kevin was positively sure he had only seen it because he wanted to find it and knew exactly where it was. To an innocent eye, the shape would have remained forever unnoticed.

Really exciting, but how can this help me survive?

A flash of red light.

One of the torches illuminating the square was hit by a scarlet blast and was now rolling on the stone pavement. Kevin's jaw dropped; he walked around, trembling, incredulous, peering in every direction in order to check if the cloaked woman had found him, if she had produced that discharge of energy, but he already knew the truth, there wasn't a shred of doubt in his mind: He had done it when he drew the spiral, and that was ... Awesome!

Kevin felt energized; his insides shivered. An unprecedented excitement flooded his entire body: he had a chance ... he could fight. More geometric figures were visible in the app, a variety of symbols which now represented his hope. The nearest one was a circle crossed by a line, like a perfectly aimed knife cutting an apple into two equal pieces, which stood right in the middle of the wooden bridge. He advanced with strong determination, eager to use this recently gained power.

Keen to explode something, more like.

The cathedral's door burst open. Kevin froze for a second. There she was: the cloaked woman.

The vision was just as impressive as it was frightening: framed in the doorway, bright light coming from the back, the slender silhouette transmitted a sense of power. She removed her hood and tumbles of red hair became immediately apparent; she looked no more than forty years old, and her thin features seemed to have been sculpted into a constantly severe expression. She raised her index finger so quickly Kevin barely had time to move.

It can't be good.

The beam of violet light cut through space exactly on the spot where his head had stood a second before. Kevin was already rushing towards the bridge when her voice echoed, cold as the wind:

'Tell me where he is, and I will spare your life.'

That doesn't seem very likely.

Kevin had no idea who might be the person she was looking for, but, since the woman had been trying to decapitate him for a while now, the idea of stopping to explain was not particularly attractive.

He reached the bridge, skidded to a halt and looked at the screen of the phone, attempting to locate the symbol. The second it took was enough time for the woman to fire yet another ray and hit the bridge. Part of the wood collapsed beneath Kevin's feet. His legs plunged, but he managed to get support with the elbows, while the phone tumbled a foot away. The black water of a river was splashing into the stones below his dangling legs. He climbed back and retrieved the device.

'How did you get here?' the woman inquired. 'What have you done with Au –'

A torch was pelting towards her. Kevin had done it: he had drawn the form of the circle with a crossing line, and the flame had immediately gained speed. The woman turned on her heel and sprinted. Her agility was unbelievable, and yet she moved with impeccable grace, red hair flying behind her. When she reached the opposite the limit of the square, where stood a very thin tree, she outstretched her left arm and grabbed the trunk. The combination of the enormous speed and that fixing point produced a circular trajectory around the tree, while the torch continued its straight path and exploded into a wall some distance away.

The woman was completely ready to fight again. Kevin ran towards a wooden stall, which was probably used by a merchant during the day, and hid behind it. His phone was showing another symbol near the swing set, a few paces apart from his current location. It was shaped like a wave.

The stall made a loud cracking noise and vibrated violently, the ceiling pending to the right. With his cover completely compromised, Kevin decided to go for the symbol.

His many shadows were lengthening on the stone floor and they were all he could see while running as fast as he could, hoping against hope not to get hit by those numerous flashes that illuminated the square. All the way, torches were launched like rockets as several blasts nearly missed their moving target.

The swing set was in the middle of a garden with astonishingly green grass and little red flowers. Kevin darted towards it and executed the plan he had hatched behind the stall; he grabbed the silvery chain with his left hand and heaved himself to stand upon the seat. His right hand would do the drawing.

When his eyes finally managed to focus on the red-haired woman, she was already in the middle of another fluid attack.

Give it a rest, Aunt Ginger.

The shockwave she produced pushed the air and exerted an enormous pressure over Kevin's body. He clung to the chains for dear life, and, like a pendulum, swung back and upwards until his body was parallel to the ground. At that point, gravity did its job, and Kevin accelerated back towards the green grass in an arch, until he reached the lowest height and maximum speed, when he jumped, drawing the wave pattern in mid-air.

His flight seemed to have taken decades. He was able to see the wave hit the fountain and immediately produce a pressurized jet of water, which sped towards the woman. With sharp reflexes, she levitated a stone bench and used it as a shield against the hydroblast.

While stone and water dueled fiercely, Kevin finally landed on the grass; he examined the GPS, looking for more symbols, and his stomach sank: the nearest one was all the way across the square, next to the cathedral's door.

How am I supposed to get past the red-haired beast?

A shadow formed above his head. The woman had thrown the bench at him after the water strike ceased. It was all he could do to roll over on the grass. The bench crashed loudly beside him, making the ground tremble.

And now what?

Kevin looked at the sky, half-expecting that a solution would magically fall from the stars. The eye-shaped red nebula seemed to watch it all. He organized his thoughts: the only possible way to reach the symbol was by going around the fountain in a circle, while making sure the woman was always on the opposite side of the diameter, with the fountain standing between them all the time.

He rotated a small angle to the right and broke into a run. Even as he left the green grass, a considerable portion of the garden was blown up, spreading earth everywhere. Without a single glance backwards, he advanced along the square. At first, his plan was working perfectly: while the woman moved around the fountain trying to get a clean shot, he circled his way in the opposite direction so that he was always covered behind it. Too soon, though, she understood his strategy and walked firmly forward so as to break the circular pattern.

Kevin threw caution to the wind; he sped towards the cathedral with all the energy he could muster. The moment he reached the spot where the spiral was supposed to be, right in front of the door, he wheeled around to face the square. It was rather shocking to realize that he was only a few steps from the woman, with no barriers between them. For the first time, it was possible to discern the amber color of her eyes. They were examining him: her severe expression now had a trace of curiosity.

Kevin made a tremendous effort to locate the misty spiral around him, and the instant he perceived a small disturbance in the atmosphere, his right hand drew the symbol, still holding the phone. Once again, the scarlet jet of light sailed through the night. The woman moved almost instantly, her index finger flowing like the air itself. The red ray was engulfed by space and vanished from sight right in front of her.

'That is enough,' she said with a definite tone. 'I'm taking you to the Pyramid.'

'The Pyramid? Who do you think you are? Cleopatra?' Kevin replied defiantly.

'My name ...' she began, as her hand danced with the wind. '... Is Stella.'

A flash of golden light and everything went dark.