Aria of the Aeons: Part Six
Arc II: Space and Spirits
Part XI: Requiem
“Invi!” Keben’s belated cry rang throughout the halls. The black Eyrie had disappeared down the halls, somehow moving despite the pain he had to be in. As Keben’s horror wore off, his mind began to work once more. He didn’t bother trying to find and stop Invidere using Dreaming. It wouldn’t work now. Invidere wouldn’t have enough mental stamina. That left simply running after him.
He began, then, to run. He ignored the few people up at the midnight hours, brushing right by them. They stared after him, presumably still in shock at seeing Invidere. The Eyrie’s chest had been matted with blood. Keben’s heart clenched, and he felt sick, but he refused to let go of the hope that some great Faerie healer would see Invidere and help him before it was too late.
Keben pushed off a wall to turn a corner more quickly, leaving a shiver of red from his hand. He didn’t care. He could explain how exactly everything had happened to the best of his knowledge, but he would explain it to them later. Later being when he wasn’t worried about one of his best friends dying.
Down a set of stairs that he didn’t quite know how Invidere had managed. Around another corner. To another. Then, nothing. The trail ended at a wall. Keben stopped, staring at the wall. Shock and worry blinded all other emotions, as well as anything approaching reason. He leaned against the wall, head hanging between his shoulders as he fought not to cry. The wall was warm beneath his hands, a stark contrast to the cold stone he stood upon. As his grief-filled mind registered that, Keben raised his head to stare at the wall, eyes narrowed to sky-blue slits.
“An idiot,” he growled. “That’s what you are.” Reaching out with his mind, he found the trail Invidere had used, a trail bound by the Eyrie’s own blood into the wall. Grabbing hold of the black and gold line, Keben pulled with all his might. The wall didn’t move. Neither did he. “Faeries take you!” he yelled, letting rage fuel the magic. This time, he moved. It hurt. Oh, it hurt. His head felt like it was going to split open, and his chest ached with a reflection of Invidere’s own pain. “You aren’t leaving me,” he hissed, yanking the thread once more.
The line burned his fingers, cutting into his flesh. The pain didn’t change anything. Gritting his teeth, Keben pulled with mind and body alike, willing himself to be where Invidere now was. A blinding flash of light filled everything around him. Then he was outside, fingers bleeding steadily as he stared up at the night sky. He heard someone singing, and distantly realized that it was Invi. Slowly, he turned his aching head to face the voice.
Invidere stood tall, his once-black fur turned purest white, with eyes as gold as the sun. Beside him was a black Kougra with a Draik’s wings, moon-white eyes, and silver hair. The Halloween Kougra met Keben’s eyes calmly. Invidere’s song stopped, and his golden eyes looked down. The Kougra and the Eyrie exchanged glances, and then Invidere approached. He moved swiftly and silently, each stride taking him farther than it seemed it should. Keben didn’t move. He couldn’t move. Everything seemed distant, as if it was happening to someone else.
The Eyrie stopped beside him, setting a snow-white paw on his chest. “You shouldn’t have done that,” Invidere said softly, voice sweeter than it had ever been before. “But what’s done is done. Let chaos run its course. You will live, but your foresight shall be gone. I believe that is a fair trade, and Father says there’s no need for you to bear his curse longer still.”
Keben’s head jerked up and down, almost as if someone was controlling him using puppet strings.
The white Eyrie smiled. “I thought so.” He – she? – pressed down on Keben’s chest, eyes glazing over slightly.
Keben closed his eyes, sighing as the pain left. He could feel that something else was gone too, but he didn’t mind that it was gone. It wasn’t important anymore, he knew. It was time to let his gift return to the one who had granted it to him.
Invidere’s paw lifted, and the sense of peace left him. Keben opened his eyes once more, looking at the two others in the courtyard.
“Sidereus,” the Eyrie said softly. “Who else is coming?”
“Sayang, of course.” The Kougra shrugged. “Really, I’m surprised Fideus let you heal him.”
“He had no choice.” The Eyrie inspected her paw. “Fideus wants his power back, and foresight most of all.” A pause. “Vocivus is forming now.”
A withering look passed from the Eyrie to the Kougra, and the Kougra just laughed.
Keben pushed himself up, vaguely surprised that his fingers worked. “Who are you?” he asked. “I mean, you used to be Invi, right? What happened to you? And who’s the Kougra?”
The Kougra, Sidereus, laughed. “I told you so.”
The Eyrie flicked a wing. “I never disagreed. Keben, allow me to wait until Sayang comes. I would prefer to just explain this once.”
Keben nodded, standing up. His fur was sticky, he realized. He shuddered, only partially from the cold. The Eyrie and Kougra simply watched him, matching smiles on their faces.
Soft footsteps from his right drew Keben’s gaze. Sayang stood there, looking oddly plain without her coat. She held a laser, though it rested at her side. “Explain this, please,” she said sharply. “Begin with Keben.”
The Eyrie nodded. “To start with, my name is Sollumin. The Kougra is Sidereus. You knew us as Invidere and Azimuth. Things have changed.”
Sayang nodded slightly, eyes locked on Sollumin. “So why’re you white and Keben bloody?”
“I was getting to that.” Sollumin sighed. “Fideus. Fate. Our father. He called us last evening. I believe that Azimuth – that Sidereus – heard the call more strongly, for he returned first. That’s how he got those swords, by the way. They used to be the Battle Faerie’s. Anyway. Sidereus joined, and I heard his song. That woke me. I slipped back into dreams soon after, but then the pendant that brought Invidere, Azimuth, and Coruscatus to this time shattered.”
“And that’s part of why I’m like this.” Keben looked at his hands. “I followed Invi’s trail. It ended at a wall. I kinda followed, but the result was my hands getting ripped to shreds and sympathetic pain from Invi’s wound.”
Sollumin gave him a look. “I was talking, Keben. As I was saying, the pendant shattered, pieces biting into me. But Invidere could hear his sisters calling. So he came running, knowing that he had to join and allow Sollumin – allow me – to come into existence.”
“By that time, I’d almost gotten back from the moon.” Sidereus brushed his silver hair out of his face. “So I got to hear her transform, which I don’t think she remembers.”
Sollumin nodded slightly.
“And then that idiot came through the wall and Sollumin had to heal him.” Sidereus shrugged. “It’s not that—”
“Vo?” Sollumin said quietly.
Sidereus nodded, his hands resting on the hilts of his swords. “But he’s heading out to space. It’ll be a few days before he comes back.” His moon-blank eyes focused on Sayang and Keben. “You must prepare the army. You must be ready to attack before he comes back.”
Sayang’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”
“Because I will deal with Vo,” Sollumin said, “and Sidereus will deal with Fate, but you must complete the cycle and retake Central. It’s time for balance to be restored.”
Keben stepped over to Sayang, laying a hand on her shoulder. “We’ll do it.” When Sayang looked up at him, he added, “That’s the last thing I Dreamed. We will retake Central. I don’t know how, but we’ll do it. Sollumin’s right about how the battles will be divided. And Sayang...” he took a deep breath, staring into her dark eyes. “Will you believe me when I say that fate’s watching out for us this time?”
Sidereus laughed. “Fate cares about no-one but himself and his children, Keb. He won’t watch out for you.”
“He told us that we would understand why dreaming was a curse,” Keben said, glancing at Sollumin. “I understand it now. And fate has spoken in this final dream. Sayang?”
She took a breath. “I believe you. Let’s begin.”
Together, they turned back to the palace, ready to retake the world.
Arc II: Space and Spirits
Part XII: Review
A sharp knock woke Set up. Groaning, the tiny blue Xweetok pulled her pillow over her ears. Everyone was always telling her to get more sleep, and now they wake her up in the middle of night. Wonderful strategy. Simply wonderful. Another knock on the door, and Set weighed her options. Likely, either something was going horribly wrong or horribly right.
She rolled out of her bed with a sigh and walked over to the door, which she opened with a glare on her face. “What—”
Keben and Sayang stood there, looking as if they’d been quietly arguing.
Set revised her question. “Why, exactly, did you wake me up?”
The Zafara and Kyrii exchanged glances. Keben winced. “Because Pariel-Sloth left Central.” He hesitated. “Okay, there’s more than that, but that’s one of the simpler versions.”
Set raised an eyebrow. “And why are you getting me up?”
“Because we only have a couple days before he returns.” Keben looked at Sayang, a pleading look on his face. Set almost smiled as Sayang shook her head. Keben sighed. “We’ll tell everyone the full version at the same time. I don’t want to explain it multiple times.”
Sayang answered this time. “Just you, Coru, and Proteus.”
“What about Az and Invi?”
“They know the story already.” Keben ran his hands through damp-looking hair, making him look even more disheveled and anxious. “Come on. We got the rest of them already.” He turned, beginning to walk off. Sayang offered Set a half-hearted smile before joining him.
Shaking her head, Set bounded after them. “You had better have a good explanation for this.”
Neither of them seemed to notice her comment. She sighed, following them. They were speaking to each other quietly, and though she could’ve heard them if she tried, there wasn’t really any point. Anything they were going to say, they’d say in the meeting. Besides, they were likely just being their normal selves again.
“You can go ahead,” Sayang said, glancing back at Set. “We’re gathering in Keb’s room.”
Set nodded, silently passing them. They’d probably comment on her silence, but did it matter? They were up to something, and they may as well have something silly to wonder about. It was good for them. She grinned, springing forward into a run. As her body began to move more quickly, so did her mind. They had told her that Pariel-Sloth had left Central and had implied that Invi and Az were gone as well. And it seemed like there was some sort of connection between those events, though she had no idea what.
First, and most obvious, option: The darklings did something that ran Pariel-Sloth off. Unlikely, however, because Invi wouldn’t have agreed to the sort of stupid idea Az would’ve come up with. It was also unlikely because that would likely require more time than had been available. Set frowned. Keben and Invi had been holed up in Keb’s room researching something for most of the day. Az had been out of sight for most of the afternoon; enough people had asked about him for her to know that.
Of course, magic was an option when one considered those involved, but that told her nothing but that something strange was happening. Her mouth twitched as she rounded the last corner. There was almost always something strange happening, so that didn’t narrow it down much. She slowed to a walk, slipping inside Keben’s room. Proteus sat in a chair, looking at the books scattered over Keben’s table. Coru was pacing around the edge of the room, obviously rather irritated.
Set leapt onto Keben’s bed, nose flaring. She smelled iron. Sickly-sweet, hastily covered by some floral perfume. Set narrowed her eyes, turning back to the door. She stayed silent until Keben and Sayang walked through the door. “Why does your room smell like blood?” she asked quietly.
Coru’s footsteps halted. Proteus took a sharp breath. Sayang smirked, looking at Keben like she was saying ‘I told you so.’ Keben scowled, massaging his fingers. “Because the sunburst pendant shattered.” He pulled the door closed, locking it with a click. He stayed there, head resting against the pale wood.
Set glanced over to Coru, curious to see what his response to not being able to go back to the time he still called home was. The brown Kougra was still, but, in the calmness of his body, his expression was deadly.
“Don’t say anything,” Sayang said, voice harsh. “You’re stuck here because that thing broke, sure, but he says he can’t Dream anymore, and Invi’s gone.”
“Gone?” Coru blinked, and his fury blurred into fear. “What do you mean by gone?”
“I mean gone.” Sayang crossed her arms. “I mean that, as far as I can tell, Invidere has become something else. For one thing, he’s white now, not black. And that he transformed into Sollumin, apparently with the help of some spirits like Cassiel. Keben probably understands it more, but he—”
“Not really.” Keben’s voice sounded dull, and Set flicked her tail, badly wanting to go over and make sure he was okay. “It’s something more complicated than they wanted to tell us about.”
“They?” Set asked, tapping her foot against the floor. “Who is ‘they’?”
“Sollumin and Sidereus.” Keben turned, and Set winced slightly at his bloodshot eyes. He gave her a crooked smile, and continued. “Sidereus is... was... Az. He’s a Halloween Kougra now. And, if the drawings that survived Shenkuu’s destruction and my memory are both accurate, he looks very much like Val.”
Set started asking a question, but Proteus’s calm voice resonated in the small space. “How does Pariel-Sloth enter this?”
“We were getting to that,” Keben said. He crossed his arms. “Sollumin said that they had joined, whatever that meant. Something to do with magic and that song, apparently. And Pariel-Sloth did the same, becoming a being they called Vo. I think that’s short for Vocivus, but I’m not sure.”
“Why d’you think that?” Sayang asked.
“They said that name before you got there.” Keben shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. What does is that Sidereus told us to prepare the army, because Vo was out in space. I promised him we would. And we can. We’re ready. Or, at least, as ready as we’re going to get. Sidereus and Sollumin implied that they’d be in the area, but I’m not completely sure about that.”
“And they said something about a cycle,” Sayang added. “And that we had to complete it.”
Silence filled the small room. Set closed her eyes, thinking. Assume that they were telling the truth. It was unlikely that Keben and Sayang could both be tricked, and their words sounded like the truth. Working off of that assumption, then they would need to prepare the army and head down for Central. Pariel-Sloth hadn’t been the best strategist, but if he was gone, then his city would be in disarray. She opened her eyes, looking at Proteus. The mutant Scorchio nodded slightly.
Coru, however, spoke first. “You two are insane.” He shook his head, eyes and words filled with admiration. “But you’re also right. We need to do it. How long will it take to get down to Central?”
“Starting from dawn, a day.” Set’s tail twitched from side to side as she spoke, staring at the ceiling. “We still have the transports captured from the provinces. That’ll help immensely.”
“So we can do it.” Keben’s quiet comment caught Set off guard. “We really can do it.”
Set gave him a withering look. “Of course we can. We’re the Traitor Republic. We’ve fought against worse odds.”
Her words silenced the room. Set smiled. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get some sleep before organizing this mess.” She hopped off the bed, walking past a silent Keben and down the corridors. By the time she reached her room, a single thought, a single word, echoed in her head:
To be continued...