Sunlight Sonata: Part Seven
Part VII – Andante: Coming Dawn
Invidere liked this world. Or, more to the point, he liked Keben. Keben did not make a point out of his blindness, and compensated for it only when necessary, such as describing things that others would easily know for themselves. In return, he dropped his usual sarcasm and intentionally biting tone. Though now that he was being led to the meeting, he suspected that both would return.
They entered a room that was almost silent. What broke it, unsurprisingly, was the conversation Az and Sayang were having. Thankfully, they were talking quietly, though the occasional burst of sound would come from their direction. Keben guided Invidere to the table, and they both sat down, waiting silently for the meeting to begin. Shortly thereafter, it did.
“Everyone here?” Proteus asked.
“O’ course we are,” Sayang said, breaking off her conversation with Azimuth. “Y’ told us t’ be here on time, an’ so we are.”
“Formalities, Sayang.” Proteus sounded amused. “And now that we have satisfied them, shall we begin?”
Soft rustling noises followed. Invidere suspected that everyone was nodding.
“Good,” Proteus said, his voice more serious now. “Now, has anyone not been filled in on the basic plan?”
Proteus sounded satisfied as he spoke. “Set, lead the meeting. You know the plan as well as I do, if not better.”
“’kay.” There was a soft thud, most likely Setia jumping onto the table. “You know why we’re gathered here. We just need your help to find the best ways to use your abilities when we assault Sloth’s forces in Faerieland. Right now, our plan goes like this: Sayang, aided by Azimuth, will lead the assault. This is the key to everything. If the assault doesn’t succeed, the entire plan fall into dust. You will need to take care of Sloth’s robots. I don’t care what you do to them, so long as they’re out of the way.”
There was a pause, without the interruption Invidere had expected from Azimuth.
Setia resumed speaking, and Invidere could hear her pacing on the table. “Once we’ve gotten the signal that the robots are taken care of, Corus and I will lead the second wave to secure Faerieland’s borders, while Sayang and Azimuth continue deeper in and begin freeing the Faeries. Keben and Invidere will be leading the support troops. The healers, the dreamers, that sort of thing. We don’t want any of them to get hurt. They will also guard the base, to ensure that it doesn’t get taken, no matter what.”
Setia paused again. “Any questions?”
“I’ve got one.” Azimuth. “What happens if there’re more of them than we thought, and you need to bring in the backup early? How do we signal you?”
“You’re th’ tech-boy!” Sayang’s voice rang out over any reply Set might have made. “We got what you’d call Virtupets tech. Now, it’s pretty obsolete, but it still works fine. Comm units. We don’t have enough for ev’ryone, but we’ve got enough for ev’ry leader an’ their subordinates.”
“What are we supposed to be doing?” Invidere was surprised to hear his own voice. Slowly, thinking it out as he went, he continued. “You say that we are to guard this place, but also that we are to be in control of the healers. Should not the healers be with you, Setia?”
“Set,” Setia said.
Invidere heard the annoyance in her voice and ignored it, continuing to speak. “As you said, you lead the support troops. You will be close enough to the battle for the healers to be useful, which I suspect they will not be if we keep them back here. The dreamers and the other noncombatants? Of course they stay back. I will not argue that. But Setia, does that not make sense?”
“Stop calling me Setia. And it does make sense.” She paused. “This is probably the result of the plan being changed too much in a short amount of time. Anything else?”
“Yes,” Invidere said. “How will you know where the Faeries are kept? It is not the sort of thing Sloth would let the people know.”
“We don’t know. We’re hoping that they can be founded fairly easily, though.”
“I have a solution to that. Let me come with your group, Setia. I -”
Before he could continue, he heard a growl. Invidere ducked. It did not help. “My name,” Setia growled, her sharp claws digging into his back, “is Set. Not Setia. Never Setia. Set.”
“Back off, Set.” Keben’s soft voice rolled over Invidere, and he sighed. Cooling, calming water. That was always what Keben’s voice reminded him of. “He always calls people by their full names, even when they would prefer otherwise. It’s part of his being.”
Set hissed. “That doesn’t mean I need to like it.”
“Then explain to him while you dislike that name.” Keben’s hand rested on Invidere’s shoulder. “And please get off of him. It’s not very nice.”
Setia jumped off, and Invidere suspected she tried to push down on him as hard as she could, from the bruising force she used. “I’m not explaining,” she said. “Just stop calling me that, please.”
Invidere sighed. “Since I must, I will shorten your name, but Setia still has a more beautiful sound.”
“I still prefer Set. Now, what were you saying?”
“That I have the ability to sense auras.” Invidere smiled slightly. “I cannot move around as easily while doing so, however. But I’m sure that I can get a guide.”
Beside him, he felt Keben move. “Set, before you declare someone to be his guide, I’m willing to take that role.”
“As you wish.” Setia paused. “Anything else?”
“How large are their forces?” Sayang asked, her voice crisp and clear.
“We aren’t sure, but last time we checked, they had ten patrols of twenty spread across the airspace and a fairly large force on the clouds themselves. The patrols may have changed, however, so we must be wary.”
“Where will we be waiting?” Coruscatus said, tension in his voice. Invidere nodded to himself. Coruscatus wasn’t a warrior anymore than Invidere himself was, but he was being forced into the role, whether he liked it or not.
“Faerieland should be floating over the desert, more or less. We’ll wait with some of the nomads.” Setia paused. “That everything? Okay. Get ready. We’re moving out tomorrow morning.” Setia leapt off the table, her paws barely making any noise as the others began to talk.
Invidere rose, feeling the light touch of Keben's hand on his shoulder leading him out of the room. They walked in silence, listening to the soft sounds of the others talking. Or the not so soft sounds, in Azimuth and Sayang's case. They were practically shouting at each other. Invidere tried to ignore them, but only managed to tune out the words themselves, not the noise created. They were arguing about the most ridiculous thing, too, from what little he’d heard. Something about which of them would win in a duel to the death.
Then they were far enough away so that Invidere could only hear the echoes of that conversation, as well as many others. The babble was easy enough to ignore, though he rarely was around enough people for it to matter. Keben's hand on his shoulder guided him, and Invidere gave the Zafara his complete trust, following his every movement. A soft word, a warning grip, a simple tap of direction; he would obey all direction given.
With that trust, it was easy to be silent, reveling in a feeling that he had never truly known before.
Only when they reached Keben's room did Invidere lose that light touch. He heard Keben settling down and did so himself, lying on the soft mats that covered the ground. His head was resting on his paws when Keben spoke. “That was an interesting conversation.”
“All conversations are interesting, in some way or another,” Invidere said, raising his head to ‘look’ towards Keben. “Some are just more interesting than others.”
“I was talking about the one Azimuth and Sayang were having as we walked out.”
“Oh. Yes.” Invidere shook his head. “That was odd, even for Azimuth.”
“Or Sayang, for that matter.” There was a slight creaking noise. Keben leaning forward? “Death. Competition. Neither of those are things for the dreamer.” A pause. “Why did you want to go in search of the Faeries? You don't need to, after all.”
“I should.” Invidere hesitated. There were multiple reasons why he had agreed to it, but only one that he was willing to share. “I can find them more easily than anyone else.”
“That still doesn't mean you need to risk yourself. You're blind.”
“Sort of,” Invidere said. “Not completely, except in sight.”
“And sight is what most people think of.” Keben sighed, changing the subject. “Why did you keep calling Set by her full name, even after she corrected you?”
“It's her name,” Invidere said, surprised. “Yes, her preference is to not use it, but even so, it is hers.”
“That's rather mean.”
“Not in my opinion.”
“You don't like anyone, do you?”
“Not so,” Invidere said softly, almost hoping that Keben wouldn't hear him. “I like you.”
To be continued...