Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 135,120,767 Issue: 266 | 17th day of Storing, Y8
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Prophecy of the Second Equinox: Part Three

by laurelinden


Image by cuithil

He had taken her far through the night. Across the silent plains they'd walked, farther than the realm of her family reached, and now they stood at last, having reached their destination as the first fine lines of dawn brushed the sky.

    "This is our home," said Rhoan softly, nodding toward a stocky building of sharp black granite. "This is the only level above ground - most of it is beneath."

    Azraen shuddered involuntarily as they passed beneath the cold square opening and into the darkness inside. The night here did not have the same majesty or glory; here, it gave her a tingling feeling of apprehension. "How long have you lived here?"

    "We moved here nearly a decade ago," replied the lieutenant, a shadow of sadness passing over his face. "But maybe you can help us to leave."

    Azraen's brow crinkled. "Me? How?"

    Guiding her with a single scaly paw, her companion pointed to a flight of stairs leading deep below. "You will see, night-sister."

    She didn't speak again as they descended into the deep levels of the old fortress. The air was stale and musty here, and there was a dampness to the stones that seemed permanent. In the flickering lights of a few sporadically placed torches, she could see green mold creeping along the stones.

    Rhoan finally stopped her with a light tap to her shoulder. "Here," he whispered, and reached up to knock on a thick wooden door.

    Peering to the lieutenant, Azraen saw that his face looked tight, as if he were not relishing the prospect of entering that room. She could sense a palpable air of fear around him, in the wideness of his eyes, and the rigid stance of his posture. Her own scales pricked with nervousness; inside that room was a powerful force.

    "Enter," came a voice: deep, almost a growl. Swallowing back her apprehension, Azraen pushed open the door and slid inside, Rhoan on her heels.

    A massive mutant Draik sat in his wooden chair as if it were a throne. His red, blazing eyes flicked from the young faerie Draik to the shadow Draik behind her, and the stern set of his mouth curved into what might have been a smile. "Ah, lieutenant, you have returned. Welcome back."

    "I am honored to have kept your trust, Sir," replied Rhoan quickly, sweeping into a bow. "May I present Azraen, daughter of Aloren, to Dusken, the Lord Commander of the Draik Forces, as they stand."

    Azraen stood shakily, not sure if she should follow her companion's example and bow... or should she curtsy? The Lord Commander sounded like an important person...

    To her relief, the mutant Draik gestured to a chair. "Please, my dear, sit."

    She hastened to comply, half-falling into the seat. Something about his title stirred her memory... had her mother once mentioned the red, blazing eyes? A memory of her mother's tales of her childhood ignited in her mind... pain, and darkness... But Aloren had been deaf to night's songs. She couldn't feel what Azraen felt now.

    "I understand you have traveled far to meet with us," began Lord Dusken in his deep, rumbling voice. "It must mean, then, that you sense the power of the night, for otherwise my lieutenant would have been invisible to you."

    Azraen forgot her concern in a rush of excitement. "Yes," she replied eagerly. "He showed me what I have always sensed, since I was just hatched. He showed me what my family has always tried to tell me was wrong. They have always encouraged the songs of the day, and look down upon the night."

    The intensity of Lord Dusken's eyes seemed to fade into a more comfortable glow. "Here we have always preferred the songs of the night, Azraen, ever since the magic was shown to us. It's a pity that your family cannot share that beauty, isn't it?"

    For the first time, Azraen felt tears fill her eyes. Now that she had experienced the full glory of that power, and basked in its euphoria, sensing its subtle intrigue and its whirling strength, she felt the full truth of what the Lord Commander had suggested. It was more than a pity - what wouldn't she give to be able to share that with them, to have them all be unified in the night's song? "I wish more than anything that they could," she whispered. "We could be a true family, then."

    Lord Dusken's eyes sparkled. "What if I told you that there was a way, young Azraen?"

    Azraen's heart seemed to skip a beat. A tingling rush flowed through her, and she peered up at the Lord Commander, hardly daring to hope that he might be speaking the truth. "I can... give them that? I can show them? But they could not hear Rhoan's song - they slept right through it!"

    "Rhoan is not bonded to them by blood, Azraen," explained Lord Dusken gently. "You are one of them, and only you can use that link to sing to them, and show them the beauty you have felt every living day. Would you like that, night-daughter?"

    Azraen stole a quick look to Rhoan, whose eyes were shining with pride and true, righteous joy at the prospect of sharing the knowledge, the power. Seeing his enthusiasm lent confidence to her own feelings, and banished completely the lingering sense of warning. "I would love that, my Lord," she answered breathlessly. "But when? How?"

    "An equinox approaches," replied the Lord Commander. "At that time, your powers will be concentrated by the balance in the world - the equal power between sun and moon. You must tip that power, Aloren, and sing to them as the world shifts to favor the moon."

    "I will, Lord Dusken," she promised. "I will not fail you." Over her shoulder, she threw a beam to Rhoan. He returned it fully.

    "Perhaps, someday, when your family has embraced the power of the night, we can join each other, and teach each other the secrets of the songs," continued Lord Dusken slowly. "We can combine our lands, and become a stronghold of magic."

    The idea of that lifted Azraen's heart. To imagine these Draiks, teaching their deep knowledge to her family, and having them gladly learn, was almost more than she could imagine after a lifetime of being taught only the beauty of the day. They could all join in night's glory, one day - both families, together. She could almost see the shining smiles of her family, and how they would thank her for opening their eyes and souls to the new power. For once, the coming of night would be a joyous event, not a time to be avoided or slept through. For once, their beliefs would be the same...

    "Lord Dusken, thank you," whispered Azraen, with all of the sincerity of her heart. "It would be more than an honor."

    * * * * *

    Aloren's eyes snapped open, and she knew without even looking around her that something was dreadfully wrong. It was full daylight, with the sun shining brightly, and the wind looping in playful dances across the hills, but the cheery atmosphere did nothing to quell her rising dread.

    She peered around her, glancing from a few Draiks peppering the skies in flight to a group of still-sleeping forms, and he realized it. In a sudden, all-consuming rush, she knew what was wrong.

    Azraen was gone.

    Tilting her head back, she uttered a long, shrill note into the air: attention. The flying Draiks instantly swooped down before her, and the sleeping ones lifted their heads sharply, brought awake.

    They all gathered before her, all of her family. Aloren faced them, the scales pale on her face, and said softly, "My daughter is gone."

    Her brother, Astrovia, hurried into action. "We'll set up a search party at once," he assured her. "Maybe she just wandered off past the hills, out of sight. Our land is vast. Is anyone else missing, that might have gone with her?"

    With one slow shake of her head, Aloren brought the blue Draik to silence. "No," she whispered with quiet certainty. "She's not wandered off, and no search party can find her." The wind blew again, and Aloren could feel in it a tingling power of impending events that was all too familiar. She met Astrovia's eyes.

    "I feel it, too," he admitted at last. "I was just hoping..."

    "Hope will be of no use to us now," replied the faerie Draik. "Tonight will be another equinox, a time of our greatest power, and during this balance of moon and sun, another prophecy has arisen. But we will be prepared, this time; maybe the events of two decades past will be repeated."

    "But maybe she hasn't gone far, yet," suggested Sapphire, Astrovia's friend. "We can send out a few of our speediest Draiks, and cut her off before she can fulfill any part of a second prophecy."

    "No, it's too late for that," said Aloren. "She is with them; I can feel it."

    Astrovia looked incredulous. "They turned her this fast? For you, it took your entire childhood, and they still didn't manage completely!"

    "Perhaps she did not need to be turned," replied Aloren. "They may have another tactic, now. But whatever they have planned, we have not long to wait." Her face was blank, as if pushed back into an old time of her life: a time of training, of pain, and of strength. "We have the day to prepare, but the Forces will be here, with my daughter, tonight."

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Prophecy of the Second Equinox: Part One
» Prophecy of the Second Equinox: Part Two
» Prophecy of the Second Equinox: Part Four
» Prophecy of the Second Equinox: Part Five

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