Aria of the Aeons: Part Five
Arc I: Sun and Stars
Part IX: Reverence
The night was quiet.
He walked through the deserted palace, looking at silvered statues and ivy leaves. Everything looked so different than it did in sunlight. Even the moon was dark, leaving the stars alone to shine down and light Az’s way. The Faerie-lights helped, of course, tiny balls of light at each corner and in the middle of longer passages that kept the palace, if not the paths outside, lit as if the moon resided in each little globe. Az shook his head. “Shut up, Val. Drake. Whichever of you it is waxing poetic.”
Why? Val was most definitely amused, much to Az’s annoyance. Poetry is beautiful.
“I don’t want it going through my mind constantly.” Drake paused at a window to look out at the night. Everything outside was clear, if dark. Without a thought, his hand was feeling for the latch, ready to open the window. Az hissed, pulling his hand back. “My body,” he muttered.
Ours too. Drake’s soft hiss, made more of feeling than actual words, slipped through Az’s mind. Az shook his head, turning and walking down the corridor, hands stuck firmly into his pockets. He wasn’t going to give in to the others in his mind. Even if it truly was tempting to just turn around, open the window, and fly out into the beautiful, comforting darkness. Though he paused at each window he passed, hands digging deep into his pockets, each time he shook his head slightly before continuing on.
He didn’t have any destination in mind. Just movement. He couldn’t go back to where he had been before Val and Drake had forced him to go talk to Invi. Things had changed in those short minutes, changed more than enough to make it unnecessary. The doubts that had driven him into lonely isolation had disappeared, replaced by a sure sense of what was happening. No explanation, just silent knowledge that drove him to wander the night palace, alone in body but not in mind.
It was a whirlwind, in some ways. Drake smiled, shaking his head to toss back his mane of silver-streaked hair. The way they were all together and yet apart. And he, the eldest among them, was the least of them. Despite what he knew, he was the silent watcher in this, the one who knew the patterns and could see them playing out. It amused him. Never should he have been this way, a part of him said as he strode along. Never should he have been more than the hunter, the warrior that he was.
And yet, here he was, in a place that he barely understood. Magic, the only part that truly made sense, was the key to all this. Val had tried to explain, but even he wasn’t sure of how it had happened. He had told him that it was because there was a need for a warrior, a need too great for just one such as them. So they were all there, but not in body. Simply in spirit. In mind.
I told you, that theory doesn’t make sense. Val sighed, shaking his head. It’s not the way of the world. Can’t you understand it, Drake?
It’s the way of my world, he said softly. Can’t you understand that?
What are you guys talking about?
Val and Drake both laughed, the sound profoundly irritating to Az’s ears. Mind. However this weird connection worked. “I mean it,” he said. “What’re you talking about?”
No answer, for a time, and then, Val’s clear voice. Nothing you care about.
“You’re in my head,” Az pointed out, pausing at the door leading out of the palace. “Of course I care.”
Not about this. Drake’s voice was almost a surprise, as quiet as he usually was. Never about this.
“Shut up,” Az said, voice cheerfully belying the words. To his surprise, they did so, their voices going silent in his head. Or at least, too quiet for him to understand anything they were saying. He wasn’t quite sure which he preferred. If they were talking aloud, he couldn’t think. If they were talking now, and he couldn’t hear them, then they might be plotting. He banged his head on the gate and swore. He was getting paranoid about two people who shouldn’t be alive.
Az slipped through the gates and spread his wings. The light of the stars was more than enough for him to see in, and, as he lifted off the ground, his mind turned to the simple joy of flight. Flying up and up, ever higher, Az thought of nothing. Strong sweeps of his wings, each one both easier and harder than the last, brought him up into the upper reaches of the atmosphere. He didn’t notice. Eyes fixed on the dark moon, laughter sounding from his mouth, he just kept flying.
The wind that propelled him came from nowhere and everywhere all at once. His wings stretched to catch it, and his body felt nothing more than the soft warmth of sunlight against dark skin the color of space.
Perhaps it was a blink of the eye, a breath drawn in and then released. Perhaps it was a beat of his wings. Perhaps it was a full night, a day, a year, before the Draik touched the moon’s dusty surface. Perhaps it was the time it takes laughter to sound. Or perhaps it was the length of the stars and their song of sunlight and sorrows. It could have been a moment or an eternity, to the Draik. There was no time where he was, just the movement and the music that filled him with nameless emotions.
He moved with that music, following it until it faded away, leaving a sense of loss, yet also a sense of strength. There was something more than the music now, and it was right in front of him.
He opened his eyes. The gray-silvered landscape all around him was unlike anything he’d seen before. The closest he could remember was when Sloth had decimated Shenkuu, leaving little but ashes and rubble behind. He felt a sense of pride at that. They had been the only one to get that treatment. Shenkuu had stood strong, holding the mountains long enough to allow almost everyone to escape. Kneeling in the dust, he reached out to touch the objects that lay in front of him.
They should have been rusted. He knew that, and yet as he touched them, he knew that they could not rust. Looking up at the stars, he could feel the watching eyes upon him, though he could not say whose eyes they were. Picking the swords up from the ashes, he stood, raising them to the stars in a salute. “I shall not fail you,” he said, the words a promise that he knew he could not break. “I will take up your weapons and use them to defend all of Neopia. I swear this to your spirit, Valeane. On these swords, I swear to protect and shelter the world. To death and beyond, this I do swear.”
The final words were bittersweet in his mouth, and as he looked back at the rocks where the swords had lain, he understood what had happened. The rocks had the form of a Faerie, wings still outstretched, though shattered. The face, which he knew had been contorted in pain for the last hundred years, was at peace now, a slight smile on the mouth, sightless eyes gazing toward the endless field of stars.
Strapping the swords to his belt, the Draik opened his mouth and sang. It was the song of light and darkness, the song that had been sung at the beginning of the universe and still echoed through the world with the light of sun and stars. It was the song that Space Faerie sung to carry her through the endless depths of space. And it was the song he sung now to take himself home, to carry out the promise he had made to the spirit of the Battle Faerie who had fallen so long ago.
Spreading his wings, he lifted himself up on a wind spun of music and light. The spaces between stars could not worry him now; he was born of the stars and to the stars he would one day return. Light shone on him, velvet scales blending into velvet fur, and black hair turning star-silver. His eyes, once a dancing black, now shone like the moon: blank white, pure white, shining white. Only his wings remained unchanged; black as night, carrying the Halloween Kougra through the short space between Kreludor and Neopia.
He dove, still singing, to where his sister waited. It was time once more for Change.
Arc I: Sun and Stars
Part X: Reveille
“He’s singing,” Invidere said, raising his head from where it lay.
Keben sighed. “Why are you telling me this?”
“It’s so clear,” he murmured. “His voice isn’t like that.”
“Invi, shut up and sleep. Please. It’s too early to be discussing things like this.”
Invidere ignored Keben. The color of the song was pure white, with all the colors of the rainbow woven in. It wasn’t like Azimuth at all, and yet he was the one singing. There was no other way for it to make sense.
“Oh. I can hear it.” Keben sounded surprised. Invidere smiled a bit at that. “Invidere? What is it?”
“A dream,” the Eyrie said quietly. “It’s the dream that created the world, and the lullaby that was sung at its birth. The song of the stars and the spaces between them.”
Keben’s hand ran across Invidere’s back, a touch as soft and smooth as clouds. “What’s he singing to?” he asked quietly.
Invidere turned to look toward the Zafara, barely able to see Keben’s aura now. “He sings to the stars themselves. He sings to the sky.” Pausing, Invidere focused on the colors of the music. “He’s singing to himself, too. But can’t you hear him call to you, Keben?”
“No,” he said quietly, sadly. “I can’t. But I can hear the longing in his voice. It’s stronger than anything I’ve ever imagined before.”
“It’s not,” Invidere said forcefully, claws digging into the carpet. “It’s not. You’ve called like that before.”
“But it’s not the same.” Keben’s aura was swirling with deep blues and greens, pinks and red making stark contrast to the dark background of bittersweet sorrow. “It’s just not the same. You know it.”
His blind eyes were leaking tears, Invidere realized. And though the tears shouldn’t make it any harder for him to see, since his eyes weren’t how he saw, his vision was blurring, the colors running together.
“Invidere.” Keben’s hands were on his eyes, wiping the tears away as they came. “Don’t. Please, don’t.”
The Eyrie turned away, toward the shadows where no bright aura shone with love and sorrow. “I can’t,” he whispered, the words choked with tears. “I can’t ignore his call. Her call. Whoever it is that’s singing that song of sun and shadows.”
“I’m scared, Keben.” Claws digging into whatever was under them, Invidere pressed closer to the Zafara. “By all the light in the world, Keb, I’m scared of what the song says.”
Keben’s own tears were leaking into his fur. “So am I,” he was saying. “So am I.”
Invidere closed his eyes, and, with tears and sorrow and the song of stars echoing through his head, Dreamed.
He dreams of space and of the endless fields of stars that cover it, each one a point of burning color and sound. Each one has a distinct note, and as they hum, the entire world is covered in a song so bright it has little color other than white, though the rainbow shards that form it still shine through. He is crying, he knows, and it is from the sheer beauty and joy of the color-song. His wings are spread, and each feather is touched by dewdrops that shine like the stars.
Azimuth is singing, even in the dream. His song is deeper than the stars, but it is the same endless song that never began and will never end. Dreaming, Invidere knows that he is singing, and that his song is pitched to the spaces between the stars, where there is no sound but his song. And as he sings, he hears it echo back, reflected by the nothingness. The echo is brighter, somehow, than his own song.
He turns to face the reflection, and as he does, the source comes closer. A bright blue-white streak, blinding even to him, soars through space. It pauses in front of him, and he catches sight of dragonfly wings made of nothing but space and stars caught in delicate webs. Eyes that reflect space look at him for one brief moment, and in that moment, Invidere understands what is happening. The Faerie touches him gently with one dark hand, and he bows reflexively, but the Faerie moves on before he even processes what happened.
He hears a sharp sound, and pinpricks of pain blossom all over his chest. Gasping, he wakes up, pressing a paw to his chest. The sunburst that has been there for so long is gone, broken into scattered shards. “Keben,” Invidere whispered, voice jagged with pain.
The Zafara was already moving. “Explain this to me later,” he said, cool fingers searching through Invidere’s mane to find and pull out the shards. “After I figure out exactly how much that hurt you.”
“Enough.” Invidere sighed, relaxing despite the pain. “If only because now Coruscatus is going to yell at me about not being able to go home anymore.”
Keben laughed, gentle fingers poking at Invidere’s chest.
Though even the Zafara’s touch hurt, the Eyrie found himself smiling. “She’s free,” he said softly. “So are they.”
Keben’s hands paused. “Who are?”
“My siblings.” Invidere could still hear their songs in his mind. Sollumin’s song was louder, coming closer. “The Guardians.”
“Who exactly are they?” Keben drew back, his pale blue aura shadowed with darker shades.
“Fate’s children.” Invidere stood up with a hiss of pain. Without waiting for Keben to complain that he shouldn’t be moving, Invidere walked out of the room. He suspected that anyone who saw him would wonder what exactly had happened to him, due to the matted fur on his chest. His eyes were probably glazed over, too, as the star-song was the only thing he could hear.
He began to move more quickly, stride elongating into an all-out run. He had to get to the courtyard. That was all that mattered. Everything else could be dealt with there. His Sight was fast fading, leaving him with only memory and hearing to guide his path down to where his sisters waited. He could feel them helping him, guiding him as he ran.
He heard the song in his blood. He was part of the song, and the song was all that kept him from collapsing. He was the only one who could carry on the legacy, the only one who could keep the world in balance and let chaos have its say. He heard shouts all around him as he half-fell down a set of stairs, hurting himself all the more.
The magic-tinged stones of the faerie palace still shone in his sight, giving off barely enough light to penetrate the darkness of his mind. He was close, now. He knew he was close. Her siren song was straight in front of him. He strained for it, any semblance of vision he had once had gone as his being lost all concentration on anything but the song and the need to be at the singer’s side.
He was there. He felt his legs give way, but it was a distant feeling, almost as if it was happening to someone else, not him.
No. You cannot fade.
But I want to, he tried to say. His mouth wouldn’t form the words, and he didn’t know if the singer could hear his thoughts, despite being able to transmit her own.
You are the only one of us with a form, brother. Hold yourself together for just a minute more.
Invidere closed his eyes. The song wove through him. He felt each beat of his heart, the slow pulse that marked each second of his life. For the singer, he would steady that beat. For the singer, he would live. For the singer, he could heal himself, draw on the magic his father had told him he had, if only he chose to draw on it for more than just his sight. For the singer. For his father. For his heritage.
Opening his mouth, Invidere began to sing. His voice was deeper than the lightning-fast star-song that had woken him, but it was no less powerful. He felt the other singer’s joy at his voice, and as he sang, the pain in his chest faded away. His heart strengthened, and with it, his body. As he continued to sing, blind eyes staring up to the night sky, he began to see.
Pin-pricks of light, nothing more than dots that could be nothing more than imagination. Yet, as he lowered his gaze, turning back to the castle, he saw the palace in its full glory, pink and purple and silver, lit by clear gold lights. His song stopped for a moment, and in that moment, everything came together in his mind. She smiled. She didn’t need to keep singing.
Looking up into the sky, Sollumin found the black and white streak that was her brother and laughed. “Welcome home.”
To be continued...