Sunlight Sonata: Part Four
Part IV – Allegro Moderato: Moonrise
The white Zafara – Keben Cian, he said his name was – was quite nice to them, Coru thought. His voice didn’t carry the accent Sayang’s did, which made him much easier to understand. And Invi liked him. Coru wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not, but he was willing to accept that Invi’s intuition was often better than his. He could hear the two of them whispering about something, but it didn’t bother him.
He frowned. Why didn’t it bother him? He should care more about this than he did right now. His life was on the line now, with this stranger he barely knew. So why was it that whenever Keben spoke to him, he couldn’t help but follow along and agree with the Zafara, no matter what he’d said?
“Coru?” Keben halted, his face finally showing something other than a smile. “Do you know where Azimuth is?”
Coru thought for a moment. “No. I don’t. He’s probably with Sayang, though.” He glanced behind him, past where the light of Keben’s torch ended. The faint glow of another lantern, almost certainly Sayang’s, was back there, and growing closer. Looking back at Keben, he saw the Zafara nod and continue walking without another word. Coru shook his head and followed, keeping even closer to the source of the light.
* * *
Keben finally stopped in a low room that seemed much like a cave. Its walls were rough, and the ground was covered with soft, dry fibers. Keben set his lantern down on a small outcropping on the wall, taking a seat near it. His robe shimmered as he moved, and Coru, half-hypnotized, followed him, sitting against the wall nearby. Invi, on the other hand, was right next to Keben, closer to another person than Coru had seen him since his childhood.
None of them said anything until Sayang and her light caught up to them, Az trailing behind. Sayang glanced at them, shook her head, and sat down on the opposite side of the cave, placing her lantern on a similar outcropping as Keben’s was on. Az sat next to her, wings pulled tight to his sides.
“So,” Sayang said. “Wha’ now?”
“They need an explanation,” Keben said. “This one -” he nodded at Invi “- says that they’re another time. A time in our past.”
Sayang leaned forward, eyes fastened intently on Coru’s. “Tell me,” she said.
Invi opened his beak to speak, but Keben waved his arm, cutting him off. “She asked him,” he said, voice flooding the room. “Not you.”
Coru sighed, closing his eyes. “Okay, okay. The gypsies started this. They gave me that sunburst that Invi’s wearing. He somehow activated it, and it brought us here. Then those robots got us and you know the rest.” He opened his eyes, glaring at Sayang. “Happy now?”
“Yup.” She cocked her head, obviously thinking. “Keben, did you dream ‘em?”
“Why else would we have been there?” Keben said, obviously amused. “Really, Sayang. You know me better than that.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Sayang flicked a hand, brushing the comment away. “You explain, Keben, since you’re th’ dreamer.”
Coru had been turning back and forth, watching them and holding back his questions. But now he couldn’t resist. “What’s a dreamer?” he asked. “And how would you dream us?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Keben shook his head, bright blue eyes glittering. “I’m a dreamer. I dream, and my dreams are true. Oh, I can get dreams that don’t seem true at the time, but they are always true. And years ago, I dreamed of you. A dark Draik, a shadowed Eyrie, and an earthen Kougra. I dreamed that they’d return the sun and drive away the shadows.”
Invi reached up to touch the pendent on his chest. “The sun. In a symbolic sense?”
“Not entirely. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you need to know the history of this time. And that,” Keben said, “is for her to tell.”
“Must I?” Sayang sighed, and she seemed to shed a persona that she had been wearing. “Fine. Roughly one hundred years ago, Sloth launched an attack. It didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary at the time, but when it lasted over a year, we started to get worried. On the second anniversary of his first attack, Sloth delivered his ultimatum. He had Fyora captive, and he wouldn’t let her go unless Neopia surrendered.”
Az sat up. “How’d he get Fyora in the first place?”
Sayang sighed. “It’s not in the legend. Anyway, the many lands gathered together in a great council, the greatest Neopia has ever known, and they voted on what to do. Neopia Central, Altador, Meridell, and Brightvale didn’t want to give in, but in the end, they loved Fyora too much. They voted to let Sloth take Neopia.”
“Idiots,” Invi muttered. “Utter idiots.”
Sayang ignored him. “Tyrannia advocated war against Sloth. Shenkuu was quiet, not knowing enough of the world to truly contribute. Sakhmet and Qasala were united and willing to give up Neopia. The desert had lived apart from the rest of the world before, and was willing to do so again.”
“Even for another thousand years?” Az asked, curious.
“Be quiet, please,” Sayang said. “Anyway. The Haunted Woods didn’t care. They were the ones who had the least connection with Fyora, after all. Maraqua and Terror Mountain were both hoping that they were remote enough that to escape Sloth’s wrath.”
“Even more idiotic.” Invi shook his head.
Sayang gave him a nasty look. “It was the islands that hesitated the most. They were cut off from the mainland, after all, though not as much as Maraqua. In the end, they gave in, and it was decided that they would accede to Sloth’s demands.”
Az poked her. “Wait, what about Kreludor and Faerieland?”
Sayang glared at him and Az shrunk back a bit. “Kreludor had already been taken over by Sloth, and Faerieland was in chaos. Sorry I skipped that. Anyway, as I was saying, Sloth handed Fyora over to the Faeries, but with her, he brought a brigade of robots, much like those who patrol now, but less... advanced? Fluid? It doesn’t matter. They had Faerieland quarantined, and they’ve had it quarantined ever since.”
Coru shook his head in wonder. “And nobody did anything about that?”
“Shut up,” Sayang growled. “They spread everywhere, after that. Using Faerieland as a base of operations, they took over the rest of Neopia, one area at a time. Neopia Central, Brightvale and Meridell, those were the first to fall. Altador took longer, because of the guardians that lived there. Shenkuu lasted only a few days longer than Altador. Tyrannia and Terror Mountain fell as one, fighting to the death.”
“Idiots!” Invi said. “Why are they such idiots?”
“Shut up!” Sayang hissed, glaring at everyone. “I will hit the next person to talk.” She smiled nastily. “And that will not be pretty. As I was going to say, the islands were next. They were cut off from all supplies but what they had on their own. Siege tactics. The Haunted Woods fell during that siege. Maraqua and the desert lasted the longest.
“There are still desert nomads out there, it’s said. Keben’s dreamed them.” She glanced at the Zafara, smiling. “And I believe him. And now that Sloth’s taken over the world, he’s renamed it. The Grand Empire, he calls it, and so we are supposed to as well.
“Now, Coru, you asked if anyone did anything about Faerieland’s quarantine. There have always been those who resist Sloth. This is our center, just as it is Sloth’s capital on Neopia. Neopia Central, it was called. Now, it is simply called Central. Those of us who resist Sloth’s reign have gained the name Traitor Republic. I’m still not exactly sure why.” Sayang shook her head. “I find it rather stupid, but anyway, that’s everything. Can I shut up for the rest of this, Keben?”
“Yes, yes.” Keben waved a hand, orange fire gleaming on his white fur and dark robe. “Any questions?”
Az perked up. “Yeah. Tell me, what’re we supposed to do now?”
“Well,” Keben said, rubbing his chin. “That’s the thing. My dream... it’s dark, but there’s light at the end. I know how it starts, and how it ends. The thing is, I don’t know the middle.” He smiled, sharp teeth glittering. “But you will. I know that. You will know the middle, when it comes time to act it out.” He stood, striding to the center of the room, turning to each of them in turn. “You, Azimuth, you’re the catalyst. Coru, you’re the planner. And you, Invidere, you are the dreamer. Just like me.”
“Just like you,” Invi said, in a sing-song, mocking tone. “I am not like you. I am not someone who uses others. I cannot influence others the way you do. Your voice is a song, and it sings through the world, changing the patterns that lie there.”
Coru glared at the Eyrie. “Your words have just as much effect as his. Maybe a different one, but it’s still there.”
“Shut up,” Invi said. “I want to hear what he has to say.”
Keben sank back to the ground, staring, not at Invi, but at the ground. “I am a dreamer. You are a dreamer. In that, we are alike. The rest,” he whispered, “is meaningless.”
“How?” Invi’s fur fluffed, and he stood, tail lashing as he paced, staring straight at Keben. “Everything has meaning. Dreams are merely a part of it all. Dreams,” he hissed, “are the meaningless part.”
“Never.” Keben rose, staring into Invi’s blind eyes. “That can never be true.” He turned, facing back towards the entrance, and strode off, disappearing into the darkness outside.
“Well,” Sayang said. “That was interesting.”
Coru looked at her. “Yes. It was.”
Everyone fell silent then, save for the sounds of Invi’s pacing across the reed-covered floor and their own quiet breathing. Coru sighed, eventually, and curled up on the ground. There was nothing else to do, and he had no idea when he would get any more sleep after this. Invi’s pacing was rhythmic and soothing, and after a time, Coru fell asleep.
* * *
“Come on.” Keben’s voice, harsh and melodic at the same time, startled Coru awake. “It’s time to go. Sayang, you lead them. I’ll meet you there.”
“Yes, sir,” Sayang said as Keben left, Invi following close behind. They didn’t seem annoyed at each other anymore, which bugged Coru.
Looking at the others, she raised an eyebrow. “Well, you heard what he said. Time to go.”
Az bounded forward, and Sayang grinned, turning back to the tunnel without even waiting for Coru to get up. Coru sighed, dragging himself up and following along, at the edge of the light Sayang’s lantern cast. Snatches of conversation floated back to him, making him feel even more like falling back. He was the odd one out, for once. Now he understood more of how Invi felt all the time. And it wasn’t a good feeling. Not a good feeling at all.
To be continued...