Aria of the Aeons: Part Eight
Arc II: Space and Spirits
Part XV: Reversal
The void, the heart of nothingness, his home. Vocivus spread his wings, trying to encompass the whole of space within his body. There was no noise out here, not anymore. The song that had been sung at the beginning of time, and again when they had shattered, was gone, absorbed into their bodies. Vocivus traced constellations, marking out patterns he had seen at the beginning of time, still there, still shining in the void of space, where nothing happened that had not been begun millennia before.
He could still see the star Neopia orbited, a bright point of light no different from the million other stars that formed space. It had been a hundred years since he had been able to see even a true fraction of these; the lights of Central shone too strongly to allow the glory of space to be seen. Now, basking in the light of thousands of suns, Vocivus relaxed, truly relaxed, for the first time in a century. And yet, at the edge of his mind, there was that nagging thought that he should return and face his sister, fight for control of Neopia.
He closed his eyes. That didn’t matter. Not here. Not now. Here and now, there was only the pure cold of space, the vacuum that sucked life out of all lifeforms not designed specifically for space. Unless those lifeforms had magic, of course. A smile spread over the Faerie Ruki’s face. It had been far too long since this had been an option for him. The Faerie Queen had been able to come out here, but her duties had kept her on Neopia. Pariel-Sloth had been able to, until they ruled Neopia. And now he was free from it all, if he chose.
He sighed, turning unerringly back toward Neopia. He had never had a choice, for the order of things was set: his sister called to him, even when they were light-years apart. Sollumin’s song was as sweet as a nightingale’s, and it seduced him, wrapping him in its strains despite his fading half-wish to stay away. His wings fluttered, and Vocivus began drifting toward Neopia. Slowly. Too slowly, now that the song was all he could hear, all he could think about. He could picture Sollumin’s laughing face, white as the hottest fire imaginable, singing her song to the stars and knowing that her brother would need to respond.
Gritting his teeth, Vocivus spread his wings to the stars, beating them three times before he completely understood what he was doing. He paused on the next upstroke, soaring through space. A thought. That was all it would take, if he truly wanted to return to Neopia. A thought, a gathering of magic, and then he’d be there. He’d be with his family again. Darkness gathered around him before the words had faded from his mind, and he appeared above the space station that had once been his home.
The siren song was louder now. Vocivus looked down at Neopia. Central was in darkness, but it still shone as brightly as he remembered. It was almost like a cluster of stars taken to ground, especially against the vast darkness of the ocean. Faerieland’s light was softer, more natural, a moon was shining through fog. He sighed. Sollumin was singing from there. Of course. She always had liked the unpredictability of magic. Vocivus thought it was silly, but Sidereus had kept them from disagreeing on it too badly.
Up until the shattering, of course.
Shaking his head, Vocivus dove toward Neopia. As he touched the atmosphere, he let the heat of friction flow straight through him. He refused to use a true heat shield or simply teleport down, like his family would. He was of space, not of the world. Sollumin suited the world; it was as chaotic as he, most of the time. Sidereus had a fondness for the life here. And Fate would do what he wished regardless of what where he was. Vocivus angled himself more precisely, a slight smile on his face.
The heat burned the siren song away, giving him a brief respite, for when he came out of the dive, halting and hovering a few miles above Faerieland, the music returned. But that was acceptable. “Come and get me,” Vocivus whispered, looking down at the clouds and the pastel buildings that dotted them.
The song stopped. Vocivus smiled, seeing a piece of the cloud detach. He waited, watching the white dot grow as it flew closer. Soon, it was close enough for him to distinguish Sollumin’s shape. The white Eyrie stopped right in front of him, her eyes colder than usual. “Vocivus.”
“Sollumin.” Vocivus tilted his head to the side, watching her. “How long have you been waiting?”
“Too long, I think.” Sollumin drew a few wingbeats closer. “Sidereus would say that I’ve only been waiting a day, but even that is too long when I know that you should be with me.”
Vocivus retreated at the same pace Sollumin advanced. “I should.”
“You don’t know, brother?” Laughing, Sollumin moved right next to him. “You can’t find the patterns?”
“I know all the patterns I need,” Vocivus said, dropping down a few meters. “And none of them involve being anywhere near you right now.”
“Are you sure?” A sheen of silken liquid wove through Sollumin’s claws. “You never have read so sure as I.”
Vocivus hissed, pulling his magic into a shield woven of light. “Not yet, my sister. There are some songs that have yet to be sung.”
“Such as?” Sollumin hovered just outside the shield, sending sideways rain splattering against his shield.
With a breath, Vocivus disappeared, teleporting to Central. It was the one place he had claimed. He had power here, if he could tap it. He doubted he would be allowed to, but he knew the area better than Sollumin, and if he chose to hide, he could. He didn’t wait for the Eyrie to follow him; Vocivus ran, intentionally not using magic. He was on the Registry, of course. He had taken that precaution in the beginning. Sollumin wasn’t. He smiled, waiting for the sounds of Sollumin destroying robots.
It didn’t take long, of course. The scream of rage brought Vocivus to laughter, especially as it cut off in the middle. So Sollumin chose to wait for Fate’s song to signal the beginning of battle. Vocivus sighed, walking through the streets. He doubted anyone would really take notice of him. Despite everything, there were a fair number of fae-touched in Central. And the people who lived here could take almost anything without blinking at it, anyway.
He pitied them. He always had, really, but now he pitied them even more. He had never intended for them to become this despondent, but their attitudes had shifted so slowly that he hadn’t realized until it was too late to change them back. And it wasn’t something he liked. Given a choice, he would have kept the smiling faces that had been here until his arrival. But no. He had said that any gathering spaces he couldn’t monitor must be destroyed. Parlax and his generals had responded to that order more quickly than he had expected them to, and within a day, all the parks were gone.
The children’s park was the only one they had allowed to grow back, other than the schoolyards he had ordered them to have. The adults dealt with the monotonous buildings, the steel structures and glass windows that covered all of Central. His cameras often caught adults lingering near the park, listening to the laughter that echoed out from beyond the bushes. Only there was the truth of history taught; he had heard the children’s legend of Summer Snow often enough to know that.
It was surprising how easily they could carry an oral culture. He suspected that the learning that took place at that park was more important to the children than anything they were taught at his schools. Actually, he knew it. Turning off onto a tiny side-street, Vocivus sighed. He had spent hours just watching the park, listening to the sounds of joy that were so rarely heard within the city. Even at night, the park was filled with children. He forced the park from his mind, shutting it out of his thoughts.
Opening a door that looked just like any other, Vocivus entered a series of passageways that he had known existed since the beginning of his rule. The Traitor Republic had taken them over, of course, and he had let them. One resistance that he could keep under relative control was better than twenty tiny points of chaos that couldn’t be killed. Following a series of turns he had memorized long ago, Vocivus smiled. Vesper’s Republic had grown quickly. He had allowed them to think him weak at first. It was good for them.
And it made it all the more satisfying to smash them over and over later, when they were strong enough to survive with nothing but determination. The final turns brought Vocivus’s mind fully to the present. The light that marked the Republic’s main gathering space shone in front of him, and he entered, eyes easily adjusting to the difference in light. There was nobody there. He nodded. Almost all of them had left after they’d taken Faerieland. But there would still be a few left...
He whistled. A small head poked out of a hidden door. “I come bearing a message from the Dreamer,” Vocivus said softly, looking the young yellow Cybunny in the eyes. “Tomorrow at dawn, the Republic shall attack Central. Warn the rest.” Without waiting to see what the Cybunny would say or do, he turned and reversed his course.
Sollumin would say he was being silly. Sidereus would say that this proved that he wasn’t all about duty. And Fate would just say that he knew that Vocivus had a good heart. The Ruki sighed, but he was smiling. Duty was duty, and he had promised himself that, when the time came, he would warn Central’s cell.
Or he’d just done a good deed, a part of his mind whispered. He ignored that part, continuing on his way.
Arc II: Space and Spirits
Part XVI: Revival
Dawn was coming. Fideus sighed as he watched the horizon from the top of Pariel-Sloth’s skyscraper. Dawn was coming, battle was coming – there was little difference, now. He glanced at the Halloween Kougra beside him for a moment, hoping Sidereus was ready, before looking back at the dawn. Light sparkled on the horizon’s edge, just enough to light the world, not enough to force it to chose between light and shadow. “It’s time,” Fideus said. “Val, go tell the Republic to attack. I’ll sing the other two to war.”
“Give me a few minutes,” Sidereus said, voice rough from hours of silence. “I’ll need to come back when you sing.”
The spotted Lupe nodded. Silver light flooded his eyes, but Fideus ignored it. He could feel the music beginning to flow, formed by the perfect balance that was fast approaching. He knew Sidereus would feel it just as strongly, for they both knew what was to come. He half-wondered how much the other two understood, but then the music surged, and it caught him, and, against his word, Fideus began to sing.
His first few notes were hesitant, wandering away from the flow of the song. Then he found the melody’s magic and there was nothing left in him but voice and song.
It was the song that had been sung at his birth. It was the song that still echoed through the stars, bringing new life and new dreams to people and places unknown. It was the song that had brought love and hate, joy and fear, and even chaos and order. And then, as a finale, it had brought balance. As the song played him, he knew that everyone in Central, if not the world, could hear his song, that it brought healing to many and destroyed the hearts of an equal number, for it was a truth-song, coming from his mouth.
And, heart aching, heart near-breaking, he sang to his children, telling them the truth of who they were.
As the last note died away, he opened his eyes to find Sidereus standing in front of him. The Kougra offered him a smile tinged with tears, and the shining hilt of one of the Battle Faerie’s blades. “I’m sorry,” Sidereus said softly. “But we both know why this must occur.”
Fideus met Sidereus’s blank moon-eyes. “I’m just as sorry,” he said. Then he took the hilt, and his whole world spun. When it resolved, he was in the middle of the desert. Val – Sidereus – stood on one sand dune, and Fideus stood on another. The sword weighed down his hand, but Sidereus carried his lightly, a smile on his face.
“Come now,” Sidereus said, words light. “You can’t have lasted this long without learning how to wield a blade.”
Fideus shook his head and reached out with his mind, gently taking the information Sidereus willingly offered. “I had my ways of avoiding violence.” He adjusted his stance and grip, grounding himself in the physical realm. “Fate.”
Sidereus inclined his head slightly as he slow advanced, toes sinking into the sand. “It’s a disadvantage to know what you could do,” he said. “I want to react, but I still don’t know for sure what you’ll do.”
“Each action I could make relies on each action you could make.” Fideus matched Sidereus’s movement, moving easily on the sand. Tiny grains slipped under his feet, rattling down the dune’s side. “Foresight cancels foresight, and the shadows are a distinct annoyance now.”
“But it tells us the gist of what the other will do.” Sidereus leapt off his dune, flaring his wings for a moment before he landed in the valley between their dunes. His sword still pointed straight at Fideus’s chest. “And we’re both too honorable to actually use magic against each other.”
Fideus laughed. “All too true.” He waited on the side of his dune, contemplating the black Kougra. “And we know that we can easily stalemate, and yet that bores us, so we continue to move despite the disadvantages we gain from movement.”
“You haven’t moved yet, though.” Sidereus grinned, his teeth a moon’s slashed smile against his black fur. “Scared?”
Fideus shook his head and slid down to join his opponent. “Is it odd that the entire point of this battle is to ensure that we cannot influence Chaos or Order?”
“Not at all.” Sidereus thrust his sword at Fideus’s chest, forcing the Lupe to step back. “We could easily tip the scales and unbalance the entire world, and that would go against both our natures.”
Fideus advanced, trying to use the skills he had only just learned.
Sidereus kept a smile on his face as he blocked, his blade moving as quickly as the wind. “You know, you really should be better than this.”
“Seriously. I mean, you’ve had longer than any of us to prepare. Couldn’t you see that you’d need to fight me one day?” Sidereus shook his head, batting aside another blow. “You’ve got to be better at planning than this.”
“Some things only came up recently,” Fideus said sharply, blocking Sidereus’s attack. “Like just how much Vo and Sol hate each other.”
“You didn’t guess that earlier?”
Fideus swung at Sidereus with all his strength. The Kougra slipped to the side, redirecting Fideus’s energy into the sand.
“You’re still an amateur, though.” Sidereus laughed, slapping Fideus with the flat of his blade, the blow stinging but not drawing blood. “How about this? You can use magic, I can’t.”
“Wouldn’t work.” Fideus turned to face Sidereus. “Both or neither. I’m inclined to say both, but whether or not you choose to use your power...”
Sidereus’s eyes narrowed for a moment, and then he nodded sharply, and wind spun around Fideus, lifting the spotted Lupe into the air. “This isn’t a good idea, you know.” The Kougra sheathed his sword, clasping his hands behind his back. “I can—”
A blast of pure force knocked Sidereus over, and Fideus stood in front of the Kougra, holding his blade to Sidereus’s neck. The Kougra looked at it calmly, then spoke a word that brought fire erupting from the sands, covering Fideus. Yelping, Fideus leapt to the side, lashing out with another blast of force. Sidereus rolled to the side, avoiding the blast. Fire as white as snow coated his hands as he stood.
“This was Drake’s,” Sidereus said calmly. “Az used it more, I believe, but it was Drake’s. Val’s skill with a sword would allow me to beat you anyway, but this is more fun.” He slashed a hand to the side, and the fire elongated, forming a sword. He dropped his other hand to the side, and it turned into a shorter sword. “You remember the Shenkuuri, of course.” He smiled. “Remember who I am, Fate.”
Fideus cursed, dropping his sword to call up his own weapon. A spear – invisible but for the slight silver-blue shimmer of Fideus’s force – spun within Fideus’s hands, blocking Sidereus’s assault. The Lupe’s expression remained fixed, and near-invisible lines of force shone almost silver over his fur, spreading from his hands and blank eyes. “What price do you pay, when you live for an eternity?” he asked softly, advancing toward Sidereus. “I paid in memory. How much do you want me to remember, my child?”
Sidereus shook his head, blades moving like lines of starlight shining in the sky.
“I can stay like this, if I choose.” Fate stopped his spear a breath from Sidereus’s throat. “Or I can return to being Fideus. Who do you choose?”
The white fire disappeared. Sidereus stared at Fate’s silver-wrapped form, white eyes glazed, transfixed. “Fideus,” he whispered. “I understand him. I don’t understand you.”
Fate nodded almost imperceptibly, and his eyes closed. The spear at Sidereus’s neck didn’t move, but the lines of force faded. As the last touches of silver faded from his fur, Fideus’s eyes opened and the spear disappeared. He staggered backward, slipping on the sand, almost falling to the dunes.
Sidereus stared at him for a moment before stepping forward to steady the Lupe. “Fideus? Are you alright?”
Fideus shook his head. “Memory,” he murmured. “It is mine, yet I don’t have full knowledge of it. Fate – Fate understand all that one can do with it. Don’t let him come back, please.”
Sidereus smiled. “I’ll do my best.”
“Good.” Fideus struggled to rise. “Now help me up and take us back to Central. That took most of my energy, I want to save the rest, and you won’t do anything about the other two with me like this.”
Sidereus nodded, gathering gray light. An eye-blink later, they were back atop Pariel-Sloth’s skyscraper. Above them, a purple and white ball seethed with power.
Fideus sighed, looking at them. They would never learn their lesson, not even if Fate himself intervened. But then, he thought with a smile, they wouldn’t be themselves if they did.
To be continued...