Aria of the Aeons: Part One
This is a sequel to Sunlight Sonata.
Arc I: Sun and Stars
Part I: Reveille
His dreamscape is filled with color, a collection of rainbow shapes that no other would be able to understand. Green and brown shape the ground, with gray occasionally sprouting irregular forms. Bronze shapes woven with white grow out of the green-brown, and green-gold blobs halo the white threads. Above him, pale peach and silver float through a cerulean sky in half-seen wisps. Red and yellow and purple and all the other colors scintillate through the silver, creating a glow that the Eyrie basks in.
In the midst of the chaos, he himself is a dark form, a black blotch that absorbs everything around him and sends it out once more. His eyes are closed, but he does not need them to see; his father taught him the art of mage-sight long ago, when the Eyrie was nothing more than a blind child desperately dreaming of sight.
Even now, twelve years after his father’s disappearance, the Eyrie can still remember the colors and feelings that marked him. Black and white, pure colors that almost no thinking beings had, shining with radiant gold and silver. The Eyrie shakes his head, dismissing the shape in front of him. His father is long gone, and his father never dream-walked.
And yet, the feelings that the form in front of him brought could belong to no other, for there are no lies in dreams.
The Eyrie whispers: “Father?”
The Lupe smiles. “Hello, Invidere. I’ve missed you.”
Invidere laughs, running forward to hug the Lupe. “I missed you,” he says first, holding his father as tightly as he dares. His father’s arms are as strong as his memories, squeezing him almost painfully. Then, after a moment of hesitation, Invidere asks, “Why did you erase their memories, Father? It was strange, not being able to talk about you.”
The Lupe sighs and releases his hold. One hand lingers on the Eyrie’s mane, fingers lightly stroking the soft fur. “I had other duties, Invidere. I’m sorry. I wish I’d been able to stay longer.”
“Where did you go?” Invidere settles down to lean against the Lupe’s side. His voice is low, rumbling, sleep-stained. “Not even the gypsies knew where you were.”
“Shenkuu.” The Lupe sits down, still stroking the Eyrie, comforting a child. “I had to watch over two other children. One reminded me of Az. The other, of Coru.”
“Have you ever found someone who reminds you of me, Father?”
“I don’t—” The Lupe closes his eyes. “In a way. But you are the only blind Dreamer.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about Dreamers?” Invidere’s voice brightens, hardens, and he twists to look straight at his father. “Why’d you let Keben explain it all?”
“Because of what Dreaming is.” The Lupe’s head falls to rest on Invidere’s. “It’s my power, Invi. I gave it to you. To Keben. To Iceriel. To all the others I had to curse with knowledge of the future.”
“You? Curse? Father, what—”
“Son—” He cuts himself off with a bright burst of grey light. “You’ll understand soon enough.” For a moment, the colors around him dull, but then he straightens, and the colors around him grow brighter and more intense, almost to the point of painfulness. “That isn’t why I came. Keben was trying to reach you. I blocked him, but I told him I’d pass the message on.” He chuckles. “I don’t think he believed me.”
“What did he say?”
“That it is time for you to come home.” The Lupe stands, taking all warmth and color with him. “I’ll meet you there, my child. Farewell.”
“Wait!” Invidere reaches for his father’s black and white aura, but his hand simply passes through smoke and disrupts the cloud. He turns away, closing his eyes. The chaotic beauty of the dreamscape holds nothing more for him now. With a thought, Invidere wakes himself, opening blind eyes to the cave he lives in. There is nothing in it but bare stone and a thin layer of dirt and dust to soften the ground. Nothing to mark it as his own but his presence.
With a shake of his head to dismiss the dream-world’s mist, Invidere stalked to the cave’s edge and looked over the cliff. Few beings knew his cave existed. Fewer still wished to visit. Even Azimuth’s visits were brought about by a wish for knowledge, not a wish to see him. Invidere smiled. He liked it this way. The black Draik could have his metal toys, but he had something far more precious: solitude.
Invidere spread his wings and leapt off the cliff. The wind caught him easily on its gentle silver-tinged threads of blue. The colors reminded him of Keben, and the Eyrie laughed, letting the wind carrying him closer to civilization and Azimuth’s home. He knew, without any doubt, that his father had passed on Keben’s message accurately; Keben had been talking about how the Traitor Republic was nearly ready to attack Central for weeks now. If it was time to come home, time to return to the future, then a time for the assault had been set.
He flew towards the silver and red area that marked Azimuth’s lair, diving closer to the earth. Virtupets colors, Azimuth had said long ago, when Invidere told him what he saw. According to Azimuth, it made sense. Invidere simply thought that the lair was trying to warn anyone who could see energy to avoid it. All the explosions bled into the aura of metal, and the metal guarded the lair from outside influence, more often than not; even knowing what he was looking for, Invidere could not see Azimuth’s aura through the metal.
Invidere landed, feet firm on the gray-brown earth. Stepping to the entrance of Azimuth’s lair, he hesitated. Memories of their father were flooding back now, memories that even he had forgotten. Their father had taught them both how to talk telepathically, once, though he couldn’t remember why. Perhaps...
Closing his eyes to the auras that danced around him, Invidere focused through the metal, searching for Azimuth. Silver-gray like the metal he loved. Energy in the form of fire or electricity, flickering and ready to burn those who were not careful. Laughter and a mocking voice. Steady hands and powerful muscles. And the pure white light that changed him into the Drake.
The last color-image locked Invidere’s mind with Azimuth’s. Before the Draik had time to resist, or even wonder what was going on, Invidere thought-spoke. We’re going back to them.
A flurry of confused thoughts and images bombarded the Eyrie, and Invidere laughed, breaking the connection with a flicker of thought. Azimuth was coming outside. That intent had been quite strong, most likely because Azimuth wished to know what he had done. Smiling, Invidere waited just outside of the lair.
“What did you do?” Azimuth stormed out of the entrance, blazing red and blue. “You—” He stopped abruptly. When he spoke again, his voice held all the quiet fury of the calm before a storm. “Invidere, why didn’t you tell us who Dad was?”
“Because neither of you believed me when I first spoke of it.” Invidere shrugged. “Will you help me bring Coruscatus?”
“Will you?” Invidere narrowed his blind eyes, glaring at Azimuth. “Or shall I leave you behind?”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“Are you sure?”
“May the Sleeper wake in your storm-blasted dreams.” Azimuth’s aura exploded, blue and red nearly turning white, but his voice was a whisper. “I’ll come.”
Invidere nodded, turning towards Coruscatus’s forest home.
“Why didn’t we believe you?”
“About Father?” Invidere spread his wings and launched himself into the sky, trusting his brother to follow. “Because he wiped your memories. I do not know how or why, just that he did.”
“When was this?” Azimuth asked, voice close behind him.
“Twelve years ago.” Invidere spoke curtly, ignoring how his eyes began to water as he flew ever-higher. “I was nine, you were eleven, and Coruscatus was sixteen.”
“And you’re the only one who remembers?”
Invidere ignored Azimuth’s disbelief. “Father didn’t tell me why that was. I think it was because he knew I wouldn’t tell, or something. And he went to Shenkuu because of some duties he had. I don’t know what, other than that it involved two children that reminded him of you and Coruscatus.”
Azimuth snorted, but didn’t reply.
The rest of the flight was spent in silence, with only the wind and their wing-beats to break it. When Invidere dove into the forest once more, the birds alarmed, scattering. Invidere smiled at that, flaring his wings to bring him to a halt just above the ground. “Coruscatus,” he said calmly, looking towards the earth-colored aura marking his brother. “We’re going back to the future.”
“You’re using contractions.” The Kougra shook his head, golden flecks making his aura more obvious. “Why?”
“Is that odd?”
“Yes,” Azimuth and Coruscatus chorused.
Invidere sighed, trying to reconcile the memories of dreams and the past with how things were here. “Father— No, Keben broke me of that habit last year.”
Before either of them could ask about the how or the why, he touched the pendant with his mind, harnessing the magic within it, calling out to the power that had taken them to the future the first time.
Sollumin. The word echoed with power, and, as it drew them into its hold, golden light bathed everything around him, drenching him in sunlight and warmth. The pendant against his chest was as cold as ice, a stark contrast to the warmth around him, but Invidere kept it in his hands, willing it to bring Azimuth and Coruscatus with him.
The sunlight disappeared, along with the echoing word, and Invidere breathed in. The sweet scent of clouds filled his nose, and Invidere looked around, almost desperate to find the aura he was looking for. Lightning-touched blue and silver, cool and calm and quiet, and outbursts of laughter that made the whole world swell with joy. Invidere knew he was nearby, but not precisely where he was until he spoke.
“He did pass it on,” a light voice said. “I must admit, I’m surprised.”
Invidere laughed, turning to face Keben. “Father does his best not to lie.”
Blue-purple electricity sparkled, coating Keben’s aura in shock. “Your— What?”
“Agreed,” Coruscatus said. “What do you mean, he passed a message on?”
Invidere sighed and started walking towards the palace. “Keben and I are Dreamers. You agree with that, yes?” He did not wait for responses before continuing. “We’ve been talking regularly ever since we parted. Last night, Keben tried to contact me. Father intercepted the message and then gave it to me. And yes, Keben. He’s my father. We’ll talk about it later.”
Silence fell as they walked towards the palace. Invidere could tell that everyone wanted to question him more on something, though whether about Father, dreaming, or simply the reason why he had only now brought them back to the Traitor Republic, he could not tell. But Invidere could sense all the people around them, the ordinary people of the Republic, and knew that they were staring. He was not surprised. Their heroes had returned. Invidere suppressed a smile. If Keben had doubted his message would be passed on, then nobody else knew that they were here.
They reached the palace gates, and as soon as they entered, Invidere felt the flurry of energy – tightly wound, endlessly moving, bright as the sun – that marked Setia. He laughed aloud, hearing Keben stumble back as the Xweetok rammed into him.
“You didn’t tell us they were coming!” Setia’s voice was accusatory, and Invidere could easily feel the force of the energy the Xweetok was directing at Keben.
“I didn’t know for sure until they arrived, Set.” Keben said, prying Setia off of him. “Would you rather I get your hopes up for nothing? You take Az and Coru, show them what’s being going on, that sort of thing. They aren’t up to date on our activities. I’m taking Invidere.”
Setia didn’t argue. Invidere was rather impressed by that, but he did not comment. He simply followed Keben, amused by the seething storm that Keben’s aura had become. The silence continued until Keben stopped in a grove that smelled of earth and life. Invidere drew a deep breath of the dusty air, so much like Coruscatus’s home.
Keben turned to face him. “Tell me, Invidere,” he said softly. “How is the Chronicler your dad?”
Arc I: Sun and Stars
Part II: Revelation
“The Chronicler?” Invidere sputtered. “Father’s the Chronicler?”
“Spotted Lupe, incredibly annoying attitude, knows far more than anyone else, teleports, probably messes with time...” Keben raised his eyebrows. “Does that sound about right?”
Invidere’s tail lashed back and forth, and Keben could hear the black Eyrie’s agitation. “I don’t know what color he is to you. How could I? I don’t think he’s annoying. Yes, he knows more than most people do, but I don’t know about teleportation and time.” Invidere shook his head, blank dusk-blue eyes meeting Keben’s. “What do you expect, Keben? He disappeared when I was nine years old. Went to Shenkuu, apparently. He wiped my brothers’ memories. Azimuth remembers some of it now, but Coruscatus doesn’t. Don’t bother questioning them.”
Running a hand through his hair, Keben paced across the grove, tapping his fingers on the trees. “Invi, your father is the Chronicler. Remember our trip through the desert last year? He came and talked to me then.”
“How else would I know about him?” Keben snapped, facing Invidere once more. “He told me about Central. Asked me about Dreaming.”
“He called Dreaming a curse,” Invidere said distantly. “And he said that he gave it to us. What do you think that means?”
“I have no idea.” Keben sighed and leaned against a tree with bark as white as he was. “Look, Invi, I’m probably just as clueless as you are about who – or what – your father is. Do you remember his name?”
Invidere shook his head wordlessly.
“Wonderful. Now we don’t even have the luxury of a name to call him.”
“You know, I’d love it if people stopped underestimating me.”
Keben whirled around. He recognized the voice, even if he’d only heard it once, and that a year ago.
The Chronicler raised an eyebrow, a smile on his black, brown, and orange face. “Come, now. You really expect me to be elsewhere when there’s such a wonderful argument about me going on?”
“Who are you?” Keben demanded. “You’re a Dreamer and time-traveler, and act like a prophet – what else?”
“Everything is set in motion, now. You will understand soon.” The light in the Chronicler’s silvery eyes dimmed. “But I don’t think you want to know the price of that understanding.”
“What is the price, Father?” Invidere asked quietly.
“Too much, in some ways.” The Lupe looked down, brushing non-existent dust off his red and gold robes. “But it’s necessary.” He raised his eyes, and his voice sounded hollow when he spoke again. “Everything shattered. I just want to put it together again.”
Keben scowled. “Meaning what?”
“Meaning you’ll understand later.” The Chronicler smiled briefly. “My name is Fideus. Goodbye for now.”
Fideus laughed, silver-gray light gathering around his body. “Too late for any regrets, Keben. It’s time to live with the choices you’ve made.” The light covered him, making it impossible to see the spotted Lupe’s body. “Valentine said that, the day he made the plan for Shenkuu’s final stand. And now, for now, goodbye.” A flash of light filled the grove, blinding Keben. When the spots cleared from his eyes, Fideus was gone.
“That’s the same thing that happens when I use the pendant.” Invidere sounded detached, and, when Keben looked at him, he looked shrunken. His wings were pulled tight to his body, and his fur seemed sleeker than usual.
“Maybe he powers the pendant,” Keben muttered, rubbing his eyes. “Maybe he’s the one who gave it to the gypsies. Maybe he’s the one who set Sloth up to conquer the world.”
“Last time I met your father, in the desert, he said something about knowing Sloth.” Keben shrugged. “Actually, he said that Sloth wouldn’t talk to him anymore. And then he said that I could hear something I shouldn’t be able to hear. Was he always like that?”
“Like what?” The black Eyrie laughed a little. “He often went off on tangents, usually took a long time to answer questions, and preferred we figure things out for ourselves, if that’s what you mean.”
Keben shook his head. “Not exactly what I meant, but close enough.” He hesitated a moment, then said: “I want to show you something.”
“What sort of something?”
“The sort of something I couldn’t show you through Dreaming.” Keben grinned, heading toward the palace. “Vesper’s journals, including one he wrote about his memories of how Shenkuu was destroyed.”
“And why couldn’t you show me this in dreams?”
“Because I’m horrible at memorizing things,” Keben said absently, ducking inside a servants’ entrance. “And it wouldn’t have the same effect if I just told you the gist of it. And, after a while, I forgot about it.”
Invidere fell silent. Keben smiled softly. He preferred silence, most of the time. It was so unlike what he was usually around that he considered it a blessing to have silence when he wasn’t either in the library or in his room. In the stolen time he and Sayang managed alone together – which happened perhaps once a week, for an hour or two at most, when she was in Faerieland – they could be silent, but it was more likely for them to be talking about what they would do when the war ended.
He ignored everyone they passed by; they were used to him doing his best to slip past unobserved, anyway. Oh, Keben knew he’d need to go talk to Proteus eventually, but if he could put that off until after he’d shown Invidere and Az the journals, he would. If what he suspected was true, it would be in everyone’s best interest for that to happen. When they reached his room, Keben opened the door, letting them in, and closed it firmly when they were both inside.
“I have a copy of the journals here,” he said quietly. “Some people act as if they’re required reading for members of the Republic, but they’re not.” He glanced at Invidere. “You can’t read, can you? I know you can do a lot of tricks with that sight of yours, but...”
“Reading isn’t one of them.” Invidere shrugged. “It’s never mattered before; there weren’t many books were we lived.”
Keben nodded. “I’ll read you the relevant parts, then.” He’d marked the page earlier, and opened the journal. “Vesper writes, ‘The end of the battle for Shenkuu City would have been the bloodiest battle I’d ever seen, if the opponents had been made of flesh and bone rather than metal and wiring. I do not remember how I lasted through the battle. It’s a blur of cuts and parries. But the end – oh, the end I remember far too clearly.
“‘The Shenkuuri were backed up against a gate. Cassie flew down into the middle of the robots. She looked like a shadow within white fire, moving with greater speed than even I had seen before, even in her. Her blade never stopped. Val, fighting beside me, asked me to help him get to her. I obeyed him.’”
“And Val got to her, yes, but not long after, the spaceships came. And she spoke the words I use to activate the pendant.”
Keben looked up at Invidere, unsure whether he was more surprised by his words or his eyes, the irises of which were now a shining silver-blue rather than the deep blue of dusk, though the pupils and whites of his eyes were still that clear, deep, dusk-blue.
“I remember it,” the Eyrie said softly.
“I took hold of sunlight. I used the gift presented to me. There was no other way out, Vesper.”
Keben stared at the Eyrie. Invidere’s mannerisms had changed completely. He wasn’t speaking like himself. He was speaking like—
“I’m sorry I didn’t bring you with me. I tried. Sunlight knows I tried. But she told me that you had a different fate.” Invidere smiled. “I know what that destiny is now, I guess, but I didn’t know it then. I didn’t understand the why of it then, at least.”
“Cassie?” Keben said, trying to understand.
“Who else?” A pause. “Ah. I see. Welcome to chaos, Keben. It’s time to start having fun.” The silver cast in Invidere’s eyes faded. He remained standing for perhaps a second longer before he fell limply to the ground.
Keben stared at the Eyrie. “And what exactly am I supposed to think of that?” he asked, not directing the question towards anyone in particular. Setting the journal down the table, Keben sat on his bed, staring at the black lump of feathers and fur. “Why am I the one who gets all the hard problems?” he said, resigned. “I mean, Set’s so good at supply and the like that it’s practically a game for her. And Sayang loves the tactical problems. But I get stuff like this.”
He paused. “Oh. Blast it.” Pushing off of the bed, Keben knelt next to Invidere. Setting gentle fingers on Invidere’s head, pure white against the black, Keben closed his eyes. “Please work,” he muttered, using his fingers as a path from his mind to the Eyrie’s. The colors of shadows and vivid light filled his eyes, and Keben let them flow by, searching for a place where the colors all originated from. He could see the oddity of Cassiel’s mind within Invidere’s; shapes and colors unfamiliar to him marked the Draik within.
Diving into the thickest part of the colors he knew, Keben almost swam through the sensations. He didn’t want to invade Invidere’s privacy, but he needed Invidere to be awake before anyone came by. Strangest of the sensations that he felt as he found the shining core of Invidere’s mind was that of love; pure, untainted love for the chaotic sensations that filled his life. It was nothing like the love Invidere held for anything else. Keben had felt that other love; it was quieter, restrained, and felt like a joke compared to this.
He didn’t touch the black and silver globe that was Invi. He knew better than that. He simply focused, returning consciousness to Invidere’s body. As he felt the Eyrie’s mind reawaken, Keben pulled back to his own body. His eyes opened at the same moment as Invidere’s.
“Explain to me what that was,” Invidere said, his voice rough and dry. “It was not normal in any sense of the word.”
Keben sat back, running a hand through his hair. “That’s the thing. I have no idea. What do you remember of it, anyway?”
“You were explaining what Vesper had written, and then...” Invidere closed his eyes again. “I knew it all, Cian. In one burst, I knew the story, but not from Vesper’s perspective.”
“From Cassie’s.” Keben shook his head. “And then she took over you. And once she realized that she wasn’t where – or when – she thought she was, you collapsed. I woke you up.”
“Why’d I wake you up?” Keben smiled crookedly. “Sayang’s almost certainly going to bring Az here, and I really didn’t want to try and explain what had just happened.”
Invidere didn’t reply. Keben sighed, going over to his bookcase. He may as well start trying to figure out how exactly bodily possession worked, especially when the people in question had never before met.
To be continued...