Prophecy of the Second Equinox: Part Five
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The perfect beauty of the stars caught her breath. She
did not notice the numbness of her limbs, or the dampness of the floor against
her scales. Her blank eyes stared up, past the stone ceiling, onto the glory
of the skies, and her lips murmured a praise to its loveliness.
To think, these silver bursts of light had spun for
so many years in the heavens, and would continue for so many after. Long past
her life ended, and the lives of her descendents, they would reign in the night
sky, dancing in shapes that would change as those gazing at them continued to
The phases of the moon, as it waxed and waned, spelled
out her power and her life. A handful of those phases were hers, and the rest
belonged to those after. That she had the honor of being a brief part of that
eternal stretch made her heart swell with pleasure.
Nothing was more inspiring than the night that was
her home. Her skin rippled with an imagined gust of night air, and her senses
spun with each heightened scent carried upon it. Nothing was more breathtaking,
Her ear twitched as a new strain of music caught her
attention. It almost brushed her by... she was almost deaf to its notes... but
some part of her heard. A familiar presence tingled in her mind, but was too
faint for her to recognize who it was...
A golden orb entered her mind. Its luminous rays pushed
back the darkness, lighting the skies with the pale colors of the dawn. The
cool breeze had a warm tinge to it, and when the light fell upon her face, it
warmed her scales...
Flowers bloomed along the grasses. Morning glories.
And in their fragile beauty, they made her forget even the stars. She stared
in awe at their papery leaves, and delicate petals, knowing that their lives,
in their temporary burst, were even more breathtaking and valuable because of
their brevity. They were a marvel in themselves, to be enjoyed for the tiny
space of time given to them.
As her being opened, embracing the transient beauty
of the day without forgetting the ancient power of night, the Draik realized
that she was awake. She was conscious. And she knew that presence at last...
Opening her eyes, Aloren smiled at her daughter.
* * * * *
Tears clogged Azraen's throat as she struggled to
find the words to say to her family as they blinked at her - words of apology,
of grief... words to undo everything she'd done to them. To make them a family
Aloren seemed to read her thoughts, and gave a small
smile to her daughter. "You do not need to explain," she assured her. "We heard
everything in your song."
The sorrow that Azraen had been holding back erupted
from her eyes in long, wet trails. Seeing her family's kind faces, even after
she had lost them their land, their precious daylight, and their freedom, made
her feel all the worse. She'd almost rather they'd yelled at her, or banished
her from the family... but no. They'd forgiven her.
Her uncle, Astrovia, put a reassuring claw on her
back. "We can understand how you feel, and know that you had little power over
what happened. The prophecies cannot be changed or ignored - one of the forks
they offer must be followed." He paused, lifting her chin, and wiped her tears
away with a thumb. "But that's not to say you made the wrong choice. Your mother
went as far to infiltrate our ranks, and even to poison her own family members,
but it wasn't too late then, and perhaps it isn't now."
"But the Equinox is over," said Azraen, "and we are
locked deep within the Keep. How do we have a chance?"
Lieutenant Rhoan, who had been silent during the reunion
of her family, offered his answer. "Lord Dusken knows much about the magic of
darkness, and the songs of the night. But he has underestimated your side before.
He thinks that, by imprisoning you here after you've helped him, he is keeping
you from using your family bonds, and your innate goodness. But look around
you, Azraen. You are here with them, together. Perhaps the songs of darkness
are not enough to get you out... or even the songs of day alone..."
"But maybe we can use both!" said Azraen quickly.
"I have implanted in every one of you some of the powers of the night, and returned
to you your day-magic. Do you think, that if we combine the magics, we can free
Aloren beamed at her daughter. "For many years I have
harbored in my heart the idea that the light was better than the darkness, after
how the Force raised me, and after feeling the hatred at they tried to instill
in me. All of our family has been the same, since they saw what the night-followers
had done to me. But perhaps this Equinox was not meant to come out in favor
of one side or the other... maybe its purpose is to restore a balance to the
"Half night, half day," agreed Astrovia. "How it was
meant to be."
A flicker of doubt crossed Azraen's mind. "But the
Equinox is over," she said. "The world already favors the night."
"Lord Dusken may have the element of magic on his
side," muttered Rhoan darkly, "but we have the element of surprise on ours.
Now let's sing."
Lifting their voices in chords of darkness and of
light, letting the powers of day of night intertwine, the family of Azraen sung
of freedom. The very air trembled with the magic of their notes, shaking the
stones of the dungeon and raining down ancient dust and debris, but the joined
Draiks did not stop. Even as the dungeon began to crumble around them, landing
huge bricks in their midst and throwing up dirt into their eyes, their notes
continued to echo through the room. A hole opened up in the ceiling, and the
Draiks began filing through one by one, trumpeting their song in notes of victory.
The bricks fell as quickly as they could fly, and the few bewildered guards
that saw a string of blue and faerie Draiks spinning through the levels of the
keep rubbed their eyes and blinked, but saw nothing more.
* * * * *
Lord Dusken's red eyes glimmered with ruby-red pleasure
as he scanned the lands. His lands, they were now - his, after all these years
of patience, of work. His work had served him well, as he'd always known it
would. Even when the Force had been almost utterly destroyed ten years before,
he had not lost heart.
The word made him smile. Heart. In his enemies it
was a weakness, in him a strength. They would be in their dungeon now, his foes,
mindless drones and proof to the foolishness of soft emotion. He would gladly
have had them destroyed, of course, if the magic of their souls did not help
to spark the power of their old lands. It didn't matter now; they were beyond
concern. In time the lands would respond to the souls of its new dwellers, and
he would have no need for the light-blinded fools.
He cast a fiery gaze around those who remained with
him now. Only his closest and most elite had survived the first Equinox; most
of his lower-ranked soldiers had been in the lost attack. But his best were
with him now, with strong voices and determined sets to their jaws, and they
were all he needed. From them, with him, would be born the age of the night.
He started the song with a low, rumbling hum that
cast a shadow over the sun and threw a veil of silver over the day. As their
voices joined to his, the day itself paled and the fiery sky began to turn to
the color of ashes.
* * * * *
The Draiks burst out into the sky, but the warm light
of the sun did not meet their upturned faces. The light seemed weak and pale,
as if struggling to shine through a thick haze, and even the grass took a sickly
hue as if its verdant energy were failing with the sky.
"It's started," said Azraen softly.
From where he flew beside her, Rhoan smiled encouragingly.
"But it's not too late."
"Nor shall it be, while we stand," remarked her mother.
Aloren's blue eyes took in the growing darkness with a brightness of their own.
The blue and faerie Draiks of her family soared on
the cooling winds toward the land that still tingled with their magic, toward
the air that still echoed with their songs. Over hills and plains they darted,
and urgency drove any tiredness from their bodies.
As they crested the tallest hill, they saw the heart
of the Force's power. Warm air buffeted them from one side, and cool from another,
and the sky was an ominous green. Heavy black clouds threw themselves along
the heavens, growling with thunder and snapping with flashes of light.
Down in the valley stood the remaining members of
the Force: their lips were moving, but their song was too low to pick up over
the screaming of the wind.
"Azraen, you must begin!" Aloren's face had a tight,
panicked look to it. "Quickly now!"
Nodding to her mother, the Draik took a single deep
breath. Throwing back her head, Azraen let out a note higher and shriller even
than the wind. It cut through the darkness, pierced the fog of the artificial
night, and her family sung around her, calling out to the heat of the sun, the
length of the day, the strength of the wind. On the ground the Force Draiks
were moaning even as they looked up in alarm, pressing claws hard against their
ears, but the song of day's power easily matched their night song.
The notes rose in pitch almost to a screech, scattering
the clouds and throwing the Force Draiks to their knees. Only Dusken looked
up, his red eyes seething hatred, as a choked attempt at a counterattack raggedly
escaped his lips only to die in the roaring of the wind.
Azraen's heart leaped in delight; the Force Lord had
not been expecting them indeed.
Abruptly she changed her tone, singing of the gentleness
of spring, of the peace of the evening. As the Force's song of terror had frozen
her family, so did her family's song freeze them. Their eyes drooped and their
limbs quivered; the gentle notes seemed to dull their senses and send them into
a long, deep sleep. One after one they fell, dropping like dying leaves from
Dusken was the last to fall. His eyes seemed pale
as he stared up at them, their intense redness dimmed down into a flicker. He
blinked once, as if confused, and surrendered slowly to the slumber of his comrades,
falling into an unmoving heap.
Azraen's voice cut off at last, and she all but tumbled
to the ground as exhaustion took her. Her family flittered down around her;
the song had taxed them as well, but she'd used more energy than any of them
in this. She took a moment to catch her breath, then looked up at Rhoan, squinting
her eyes in the light of the newly freed sun. "We did it," she breathed.
The lieutenant nodded, glaring disgustedly at the
Force he had once been part of. "We did indeed. They will sleep in the dungeon
assigned to you and your family," he said, looking back to Azraen. "Be sure
"There remain some who could wake them again," warned
Aloren, alighting beside them. "A few guards were in the dungeons to watch us."
From where Astrovia circled above, already motioning
Draiks to pick up the sleeping Force members, he vowed, "We will find the stragglers,
and send them with their brothers." His voice was hoarse, but grim, and Azraen
did not doubt the resolution in his eyes.
Rhoan came up beside her, then, gripping her shoulder
with a steadying claw. Only with his supporting grip did Azraen realize her
dizziness. "Are you all right?" he asked softly. "You have been through a lot."
"We both have," she replied, giving him a long look
that softened into a smile. "But, lieutenant, you seem to be without an army."
"That's true." His gaze flickered briefly and disdainfully
across the sleeping forms. "I am no longer one of them."
"I know we have no shadow Draiks among us yet, but
change isn't always for the worst," said Azraen slowly as she straightened from
his grip. "Rhoan, would you like to be one of us?" Over his shoulder, she could
see her mother smiling.
Rhoan broke out into a grin, erasing the lines of
concern across his face. "I'd like that, Azraen," he said at last. "I'd like
that very much."
Around the Draiks the plains now had a peaceful quality
to them, as if the lands themselves breathed a sigh of relief after the passing
of a great storm. At Azraen's feet, the newly hatched Draikling was tilting
his head back, staring up into the far expanse of the sky. "Dark clouds gone,"
he said wonderingly, his tiny eyes wide with amazement.
Peering down at him, the faerie Draik nodded. "Yes,"
she said, and gazed past him, past the sleeping forms of her enemies, and out
into the vastness of the sky. "Yes, little one, they are."