Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 135,120,767 Issue: 264 | 3rd day of Storing, Y8
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Prophecy of the Second Equinox: Part One

by laurelinden


Image by cuithil


    Ten years past first choice is made,

    After songs of star and sun,

    Shall come the daughter of the night,

    Whose choice renews the fate to come

    When again the moon's equal to sun.

    A marked one, from first crack of egg,

    Is this shadowed second one.

    --Prophecy of the Second Equinox, a Sequel

    * * * * *

Azraen watched the egg in the center of her family's circle quiver and shake as the unborn creature inside responded to the song of the Draiks. The notes flowed through the air with almost a liquid presence; it was all she could do not to reach out an expectant claw in the air to test its thickness. Surely a song of such power must solidify the very wind.

    Come to us, the notes seemed to sing. Their pattern, their melody, shook the grasses, spraying up thousands of tiny drops of dew. The rising mist caught the sunlight, throwing rainbows onto the faces of the singing Draiks, and the music sounded of colored lights.

    Not all of the Draiks in her family were in the circle, Azraen noticed. Ever since her mother, Aloren, had been snatched from the family nearly two decades ago, a few Draiks stood guard around the ring when a hatchling's time approached. Smiling to herself, Azraen hoped that this child would have a better first day of life than her mother had experienced.

    Her heart swelled as the chords rose, seeming to expand out and brush the clouds and up, up to the sun. The notes spoke of the beauties of the earth: the first buds of a tree in spring, the dancing, rushing beads of water in a river's spray. The Draik closed her eyes, lost in the music, and hummed her own soft melody of the peacefulness of the evening.

    She sensed her mother's eyes flick to her as the melody flowed from her throat; Aloren had viewed the night with distaste for as long as Azraen could remember. Though she couldn't blame her mother, who had grown up in a nightmare of darkness and pain, she knew that there was a sacred beauty in the night; she had felt it always. Perhaps the child, now, could sense it, too.

    Aloren's eyes did not leave her, but Azraen opened her own eyes and continued to sing, infusing her voice with the light of the stars and the glow of the moon, and her mother's gaze softened. Aloren had seen no stars from within the windowless dungeon of the Draik Forces; they lent an element of comfort to the night.

    A cracking sound returned the attention of both Draiks back to the egg. The song, rising in pitch and in power, quickening with a beat of expectation, vibrated through the air in resounding notes. Shaking with the energy of the unborn creature within, the shell split and tore, and a tiny claw poked through, touching the cool air of the outside world for the first time. Azraen remembered her own first moments - she had been born in the blackness of a cloudy night - and knew that this creature would hatch into a world of sun.

    A second paw followed the first, waving wildly, and managed to grip the jagged pieces of shell on either side. Twisting mightily, the egg broke, and a blinking, dripping head emerged from the new opening.

    The song quieted into a low hum as the new Draik squinted in the daylight. What a shock, Azraen thought, to move from a tiny world of moist darkness into a tremendous expanse of light and grass and air.

    The hatchling, though, seemed to accept the change easily. Wriggling within the egg, it managed to tip the broken shell horizontally, spilling the remaining fluids onto the grass. As it climbed out, the entire Draik family seemed to hold its collective breath: here would be the moment that would tell them if this child were male or female.

    Rubbing sticky moisture from its eyes, the hatchling finally cleared its vision and took its first wobbly steps. Its rich, blue color remained unchanged - the child was a male. Had he been female, he would have transformed upon birth into a faerie Draik - such was the privilege of the family, for they were favored by the Fountain Faerie.

    Notes of joy and triumph exploded into the air, trumpeting relief over the healthiness of the new boy Draikling. Grinning, Azraen hummed a few notes herself; now the celebrations would begin.

    * * * * *

    The shadow Draik raised a fist to the Lord General's wooden door. Steeling himself, he knocked once, twice.

    Silence answered him.

    Swallowing hard against his suddenly dry throat, the Draik called out, "Lord Dusken, Lieutenant Rhoan reporting, sir." The false confidence in his voice almost hid its nervous shake. Almost.

    No voice replied to his call.

    Rhoan frowned; the Lord General had specifically summoned him only moments before. Had he left his office-room, somehow? Was this some sort of test?

    He rapped his knuckles a few more times on the door, and warned, "I'm entering, sir." The door gave easily to the slight pressure he applied, surprising the lieutenant; he'd half-expected to find it locked.

    Before him, seated nobly behind a clean oaken desk, sat the infamous Mutant Draik himself; Dusken, the Lord Commander of the Draik Forces. The air about him almost crackled with power, and it took a good part of Rhoan's training to fight the desire to run.

    After a moment, the shadow Draik realized that something was wrong. Lord Dusken had not reacted at all to his entrance, and now made no remark as the shadow Draik stood before him. Peering closer, the lieutenant struggled to make out the expression of his commanding officer in the dim light of the room.

    He started; Lord Dusken's eyes were rolled back in his head, and his mouth was muttering inaudibly.

    "Lord Dusken!" cried out Rhoan in alarm. His fear passed as his instinct took over; one leap closed the distance between them. The Draik landed cleanly on Dusken's oaken desk, and shook the Lord Commander on his broad shoulders, trying to bring him out of his fit.

    The twin red sparks of Lord Dusken's eyes returned to their places, flashing with pleasure. The corners of his mouth curved in what might have been a smirk. "Well done, lieutenant. I can see that you are not afraid to act, when it must be done."

    Panting for breath, Rhoan slid from the desk. "Your eyes, s-sir," he stammered. "What were you..."

    "A prophecy has arisen, Rhoan," replied the Draik in a soft, even voice. "It flows in the very air. I have read it from the winds; it is mine now. Can't you sense it?" He closed his eyes, leaning his head back, not seeming to expect an answer. "It's been nearly ten years, lieutenant. Ten years since we first tried to take the lands of the Draik family; ten years since we sought to expand our power and our reach into what is deserving of the Force. There is enchantment in those fields, in those skies, that will add to our cause. It is no less than what we need, what we deserve. Upon those lands we can build a fortress that will touch the skies, and connect us to the darkness at last. Perhaps our songs will shield us from the sun forever. Dark and clouds, moon and stone, concentrated by the ancient power of those hills.

    "Our dream, our vision, eluded us when we tried to take it by force, lieutenant," the Draik continued, lowering his head and fixing Rhoan with a gaze of fire. "You remember our loss, our struggle to survive. Only a handful of us escaped those fields after Aloren's betrayal. And yet we did survive - even after losing our fortress and most of our warriors, we endured. Starting again from the meager bones of our former glory, we continued, and rose to a power never before known by us."

    "The song," murmured Rhoan in recognition.

    "Yes, lieutenant. We learned, we studied. The very song that was our undoing before has not proved beyond our ability to tame, to master. There is a strain of its power that we have discovered, in the richness of our night."

    Rhoan could feel his heartbeat quicken. "And the prophecy?"

    "We have been given another chance," replied Lord Dusken. "One other. But we must remember what we have learned - the choice-maker is not to be taken by force, as we tried before. She must join us of her own free will, and only then will we have the opportunity, with her help, to take our lands at last."

    The lieutenant realized his mouth was hanging open, and shut it quickly. The news struck him dumb - they were to be given another chance? The Forces might yet claim the renowned land of power, that they might mold their newfound songs with the night? A wild hope rose within him, followed almost instantly by a wave of unease. Why had Lord Dusken called him here, unless...

    Watching him with flickering eyes, the Mutant Draik seemed to read his very thoughts. "Yes, lieutenant Rhoan. You are to collect her for us, to convince her. She is the daughter of the last. Bring her back, and perhaps we may yet have our dream."

    The lieutenant managed a shaky bow before retreating; he did not trust himself to speak.

To be continued...

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