Enter the Snowflake's lair... Circulation: 135,120,765 Issue: 267 | 22nd day of Storing, Y8
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Prophecy of the Second Equinox: Part Four

by laurelinden


Image by cuithil

The sound of a hundred voices joined in a deep, resounding hum in the darkness. Above the approaching Force, the moon was a bright, strong, silver, and the night sky was sprinkled with stars. Their glitter matched the rising feeling in Azraen's heart.

    They were almost there, now. Invisible on the grasses, each step unheard, she and those that shared her power approached her family. Now, at last, was her chance to reveal to them the beauty of the darkness. Now, at last, they could be a true family, united in beliefs and power as well as in blood.

    As they crossed the top of the hill, Azraen was surprised to find them all awake. They stood in a protection circle, on defense, and she could see the whites of their wide, searching eyes flashing in the moonlight.

    They were on guard? For her?

    A wave of sadness turned the burning joy within her to a simmer. Even now, even when she came to liberate them, and to expand their beings into a deeper, richer, joy, they resisted. Even now, they did not understand.

    But they would.

    The Draiks of the Force, still humming below their breaths, moved soundlessly to surround Azraen's family. Azraen raised her voice, permeating its sound through her family's ring of protection like water through a sponge. She felt the notes slip through their defenses, and into the gap she'd made poured the music of the Force, following the lead that only she could make. Joining their voices to hers, lending her song strength, the Draiks of night sang.

    * * * * *

    Aloren threw a nervous glance to her brother, who shrugged in response. Here they sat, waiting and prepared, and yet her daughter hadn't come. Had Azraen backed out of her plans? Had she decided not to come on this night of greatest power?

    But her heart warned he against such false hopes. She knew the power of the prophecies: once foretold, they would be played out.

    Frowning, the faerie Draik scanned the empty hills and strained to listen to the silent winds. Her family was on alert around her, but she knew that none of them saw or heard anything out of place.

    And yet she had a feeling, like the tingling in the back of her neck when being watched, or the sense of unease when passing through shadow, that would not leave her. Even if her eyes were blind, even if her ears were deaf, this deep-rooted sense carefully fostered by the enemy since childhood could not betray her. No matter what her surroundings told her, this sense did not lie. They were here.

    Even as she opened her mouth to cry a warning, though, no sound could escape her lips. A powerful, invisible net seemed to wrap itself around her, numbing her senses, taking control of her body. She could see only blackness, hear only a faint song on the winds of the night. Her arms and legs crumpled beneath her, useless, and she frowned as her memories churned in her mind and faded as if in a fog. Her mind had only ever known darkness, and starlight... it had always been so... but wasn't there more?

    A warm, golden orb flashed once through her mind and was gone.

    * * * * *

    As Azraen sang, the notes began to change. It was almost imperceptible at first, but grew with greater and greater strength. The silver light of the stars vanished from the images of the music; the warm peace of night turned into tingling unease. The voices of the Draiks, firmly implanted within her family's mind, sang of terror and darkness and doom. Their doom.

    Azraen stared with growing horror at the Draiks who had once been her family. They lay where they'd fallen, immobile, staring vacantly at the stars, and humming in low voices the song sung to them, but without any direction or power. Rather than being enlightened, or joyful, their faces looked blank. Dead. Their voices merely echoed her own song, but without any spirit. They were as robots.

    The young Draik's voice stopped, and she glanced in confusion at Rhoan. "What happened?" she asked, panicked. "Look at them - what's wrong? It wasn't supposed to be like this! They were supposed to see the other side, and to join with us!"

    Looking just as stricken, Rhoan shook his head. "I don't know, Azraen. I was told the same as you..."

    "Has no one taught you not to believe everything you hear?" asked a deep, rumbling voice behind them. Both Draiks whirled, meeting Lord Dusken's red, flickering eyes.

    Rhoan frowned, looking suddenly unsure. "What do you mean, sir?"

    The Lord Commander of the Draik Forces smirked in response. "I thank you for your blind loyalty, lieutenant. It has been most useful in convincing this little Draik here. And I am in gratitude to you, night-daughter, for finally taking the path your mother avoided." With red eyes blazing, the mutant Draik lifted a claw.

    Guided by some military instinct, Rhoan sprang to his feet, but five Force Draiks already surrounded him. Their voices slammed into him in almost a physical blow, knocking him sprawling, and they rushed in to bind his prostrate form. Azraen scarcely had time to absorb what she was seeing before she felt powerful claws gripping her own arms, tying her solidly.

    The horror of the betrayal, of seeing her family lying motionless, of having her dreams crushed and scattered all in a moment's time, was almost too much for her to bear. Through the spinning of her head and the throbbing of her mind, Azraen muttered, "It wasn't going to be like this..."

    "Ah, but it was," replied Lord Dusken, his red eyes glittering. "It always was. When the first prophecy failed to aid us, I vowed that the next would lead us to success. And it has, Azraen. It was your mother's compassion and inner goodness, a weakness that even a lifetime of training could not stamp out, that saved you all before. But you shall have no such chance this time." Nodding to the Draiks that held the girl and lieutenant firm, Dusken commanded, "Take them away."

    * * * * *

    Finally, after hours of coaxing, lieutenant Rhoan opened his eyes. Azraen almost collapsed with relief; being the only one conscious in this dark, damp cell had been a cruel torture.

    Rhoan looked at her blearily. "I'm sorry, Azraen," he said at once in a voice dry and cracked. "If I'd only known..."

    "It wasn't your fault," she whispered back. "I'm just glad that you're okay." Sadly, she motioned with her head to the members of her family, sprawled haphazardly across the dungeon floor. None had so much as blinked, and the incessant murmur of the songs she had once considered beautiful now only furthered the pain already tearing at her heart. "They haven't moved. You were the only other in here untouched by the night song. You were breathing, but I thought you might..."

    Seeming to have gathered himself, Rhoan sat up, wrapping the young Draik in a warm embrace. "It doesn't matter what you thought might happen. Only what has happened. You're okay, and so am I. What happened to your family is both of our responsibilities, but I know that there must be a way out."

    Azraen gently left his embrace, wiping tears from her eyes. "How could there be a way out?" she asked. "If there were, Lord Dusken wouldn't have put us in here."

    "I don't necessarily mean a trap door," explained the lieutenant. "If we are back in the keep, then there certainly isn't. But perhaps he underestimated the power of our voices."

    Shaking her head, the faerie Draik looked from her mother to her uncle, fighting back a renewed wave of tears. "I don't see how we can do anything, now. They haven't stirred. They are lost to us."

    Rhoan looked thoughtful. "Lord Dusken knows his side of the magic well," he admitted, "but he only began its study after his first defeat. He did not wish to be overthrown by their protection song again. He was only able to infiltrate their ring with your help, though - he needed a link. Perhaps that same link can undo what has been done."

    "Or hurt them further," remarked Azraen, staring at the tiny dazed body of the Draikling who'd hatched a day before.

    "Azraen, look at me." Slowly, she brought her burning eyes up to meet his. "I know it might not be easy," he said, "but it's the only way. Do you want to stay in this cell forever, or have your family live the rest of their lives in this state? Or do you want to use that goodness in you, that heart that Dusken so fears, and try to bring them out of it?"

    Azraen regarded him for a long, silent moment before nodding. "You're right, Rhoan. I need to try. I owe them that much."

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 Three
» Prophecy of the Second Equinox: Part Five

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