Aria of the Aeons: Part Four
Arc I: Sun and Stars
Part VII: Revisit
“The Republic is planning something, Sire.”
Pariel-Sloth waved a hand listlessly. “They’re always planning something.”
“This time it’s worse.”
“It always is.” Pariel-Sloth glanced back at the mutant Korbat, antennae twitching wearily. “Stop making things up, Edward.”
The green Ruki turned back to his desk, ignoring the Korbat. The metal surface was covered in lights and panels, circular markings indicating what each was for. He had engineered every bit of it, including the code that kept any of his servants from understanding what it was for. He glanced over a particular section of lights; it was nearly time for her to contact him again.
“Sire, your Faerieland agents report that the Drake is back.”
At that, Pariel-Sloth’s head jerked up and he turned to face his personal assistant. “The report, please?”
Edward handed over his databoard wordlessly.
His thin green fingers tapped though the options as Pariel-Sloth sped over the report. “Fascinating,” he murmured. “Edward, please see to it that we are prepared for them,” he said, handing the databoard back.
The Korbat bowed and retreated from the room.
As the door slid closed, a low buzz filled Pariel-Sloth’s ears. He closed his eyes, a smile on his face. Reaching back to his desk, he brushed his fingers over the dials until he felt a certain pattern. An inch more to the left, and he pressed a small button. As it depressed, he turned to face his desk. One of the central lights dimmed, flickered, and then darkened entirely. Silvery-gray lavender light filled his office, coming from an area not far in front of his desk.
Two forms appeared in the light. Recognizing them, Pariel-Sloth rose, muscles tense. “Fideus. To what do I owe the honor of this meeting?”
“Her,” Fideus said, pointing to the Faerie beside him.
Pariel-Sloth bowed slightly to the Faerie Queen. “My lady, why have you brought this irritant into my home?”
“Because he’s right.” Fyora sighed, seating herself on one of the hard metal chairs Pariel-Sloth kept in his office. “Everything’s about to come together. Eidolan’s back in this time.”
“Fideus, didn’t I tell you not to come here?” Pariel-Sloth said, wrapping his fingers around the edge of his desk. “You haven’t said anything new in the last few decades.”
“I promised you a hundred years,” Fideus snapped, crossing his arms. “Have you checked the date recently?”
The Ruki looked away.
“I thought so.” Fideus smiled, his silver-gray eyes sharp. “Time’s running out.”
“I will hold on to Neopia,” Pariel-Sloth growled, glaring at the spotted Lupe. “One hundred years of order were promised, but I can hold on to power longer.”
Fyora hit the floor with the base of her staff, the sound resonating through the room. Pink-purple magic coated the room, shimmering slightly before it faded away. “Don’t you understand? The Republic is rising. You can’t stop them anymore.”
“I can try.” Pariel-Sloth spread his hands on his desk. “I can keep them from taking my world away from me.”
“Time is a funny thing,” Fideus said. His voice was light, but Pariel-Sloth could easily hear the threats that lay beneath it. “It weaves its way through the world, a constant that is rarely acknowledged as such. It moves steadily, always. Have you the power to run from time, Pariel-Sloth?” Fideus bared his teeth in what could possibly be called a smile. “I think not.”
Pariel-Sloth clenched his teeth, trying to resist the urge to choke the black-clad Lupe. “I could have the power.”
“You would never dare.”
“Are you so sure?”
“You forget something.” Fyora’s voice broke the tension in the room. Both Fideus and Pariel-Sloth turned to look at her. She smiled. “For Vocivus to have power, I must agree.”
Silence reigned within the room. Pariel-Sloth stepped deliberately around his desk, keeping his eyes locked on Fyora’s. Fideus stood apart from them, face completely blank, but hands fisted. Fyora herself held her staff as if she were about to fight.
Then Fideus began to laugh.
It was a soft sound at first, no more than a quick burst of air coming from his nose. Then Fideus began to smile, and the sound strengthened, becoming breathy and low-pitched. As Fyora and Pariel-Sloth began to stare at him, the Lupe simply laughed harder, though it was only truly obvious by the sound and his expression.
“What,” Pariel-Sloth said slowly, “are you laughing at?”
“And what about the future is so extremely funny?” Pariel-Sloth asked, eyes narrowed and arms crossed.
Fideus shook his head, laughter echoing within the room.
“Answer me!” Pariel-Sloth lunged forward, grabbing Fideus’s throat.
The Lupe’s laughter stopped abruptly. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Pariel-Sloth’s grip tightened in response.
Fideus closed his eyes. “So be it.” His voice didn’t seem affected in the least by having a skeletal hand wrapped around his throat tightly enough to choke most beings. He held out his hands, their pure white fur untainted by black or rusty brown. “Sollumin,” he said softly.
“No!” Pariel-Sloth shouted, thrusting Fideus against the wall.
The Lupe ignored him. His hands began to glow, white tinged with pure gold. The light spread to the other white parts of his body, shining through his tight black clothing. “Light of the sun, burning strength of the sky, chaos and laughter floating by. Light of the sun, warrior of the trine – everything comes and goes in time.” Fideus touched one hand to Pariel-Sloth’s arm, smiling now. “Sidereus.”
“Stop!” A second hand, just as bony as the first, reached for Fideus’s black and orange throat.
“Shining stars so far away, give us light on the darkest of days.” Fideus’s silver-blue eyes half-closed in bliss, meeting Pariel-Sloth’s dark and panicked ones. A soft glow began to rise from the orange on his body. “Shining stars of song and sight, grant us peace on the worst of nights.” The glow intensified, and Fideus grasped Pariel-Sloth’s arms. “Vocivus.”
The sound was nothing a person would make. It was raw, drawn from the deepest part of instinct, where fear and self-preservation resided.
“Heart of nothing that is the void,” Fideus said, removing Pariel-Sloth’s hands. “You will honor my words.”
“Enough, Fideus!” Fyora’s pink-purple magic blazed, filling the room with the scent of lavender. “You are not touching him alone with your power.”
Fideus blinked. First the white-gold glow faded from his fur, and then the burning fire. “Remember, O children of order,” he said bitterly, “remember that you are not the most powerful beings in this world.” He turned to the window that filled a full wall of Pariel-Sloth’s office. “I am.”
Without another word, Fideus leapt out the window, silver power coalescing around him. It flared a moment after he shattered the glass and began to fall, and he disappeared.
Fyora glared out the window for a moment before turning to help Pariel-Sloth up from the floor. “That was stupid,” she said, letting pale pink light flow over Pariel-Sloth and rejuvenate him. “He could have killed you.”
“You wouldn’t have let him.” As he spoke, the Ruki’s voice changed from a croak to his normal, powerful, voice. “You could have—”
“You know nothing!” Fyora slapped Pariel-Sloth, her delicate hand leaving distinct marks on his green cheek. “Did you really expect him to be anything but power incarnate?”
Fyora slapped him again. “You used to be better than this. Both of you did. What happened?”
“I don’t know,” Pariel-Sloth muttered, rubbing his face. “Life?”
“You wanted rule over an ordered Neopia.” The Faerie Queen crossed her arms. “Do you like what you got?”
Pariel-Sloth considered the question, making his way back to his desk. As he sat, he spoke. “I like the result.”
“And the ruling?”
“I could do without some of that,” he admitted.
“You’ve had a hundred years of it,” Fyora said. “It’s about time you got a break.”
“You call Vocivus a break?” Pariel-Sloth hissed, voice taut with anger. “Do you understand what he means?”
“I understand more than you do.” Fyora turned to the window. The glass that had filled it was there again, the lines where Fideus’s impact had shattered it shown in a slight glitter of silver. She frowned. “And he understands more than any of us.”
“What do you expect?” the Ruki said bitterly.
“I expect for you to prepare Central for the Republic. They’re going to manifest soon, now that Fideus has called them, and thus we must be ready too. You still have the orb?”
“Of course.” Reaching under his desk, Pariel-Sloth withdrew a crystal very much like the one he wore on his neck. It was blue and gold, in the same style, and the only difference was that this one shone with red light as opposed to green.
“Sidereus will manifest first,” Fyora said, not turning from the window. “Once he does, you will shatter the orb, and I will shatter the pendant.”
“And then Sollumin and Vocivus will return.” Pariel-Sloth sighed, placing the orb on his desk. “I hope Fideus is happy.”
“He’d better be,” Fyora said, facing the Ruki. “He started this.”
Arc I: Sun and Stars
Part VIII: Revive
That night, he stood on the top of his skyscraper, one blue-gold orb at his throat and another in his hand. His eyes were fixed on the stars so high above, shining down like drops of glowing blood. Squeezing the globe in his hand gently, he closed his eyes to listen for a song he knew was there, echoing among the stars and the void between them.
He hummed, keying his notes to those he heard so far above him. A century ago, he had lived among those stars, been able to hear the star-song no matter where he was. Now he was stuck in his city of steel and glass where lights shone continuously, forcing the stars to fade from their full glory. He half-wondered if anyone city-born even realized what they were missing. The desert still had its stars; he had never chosen to force the shifting sands to order, preferring to leave one place for his sister to reign freely.
Wind cut against his clothing, piercing the thin layer of cloth he wore. He welcomed the cold; it meant he didn’t have as much time to think on the meaning of the song that drifted to his ears. Not that he needed to think about it; he had known what they mean from the time the first strains woke him from sleep. The blue-gold orb in his hand was cold, the raised lines cutting into his skin more effectively than the wind.
He raised it to the stars, admiring it. He almost felt sorry for what he would need to do this night. And he would need to do it soon, before the song woke another sleeper from his dreams. Unbidden, his free hand rose to touch the orb that sat at his throat. Soon, he would need to shatter it as well, shatter the one object that had allowed him to live through years of order, years that had seemed almost hopeless at first and become tedious by the time Fideus had reappeared, bearing the final pieces to a puzzle set in motion thousands of years ago.
The time had come; the hundred years Fideus had promised him were gone, blown away by the winds of time. Fate had preordained the events to come, yet he knew that even Fate could not be certain of what would happen when all of the world’s guardians were revived. Fate knew the pattern they would follow, of course. They all knew the pattern as well as the stars in the sky and the song therein.
First would be Change, brought back from stony slumber. Next would be Chaos, finally freed from captivity and longing dreams. And last would be Order, the first one with the ability to revive, to become what he was destined for. Yet Order could not break the pattern set into his blood, and so he had waited. He had taken his hundred years. He had frozen the Battle Faerie in stone, set her on the moon as a reminder. He had captured the Space Faerie in the same way he had once been contained. And now he would set them all free.
“Sidereus,” he whispered, eyes locked on the shadow of the moon. “Awaken.”
The stars already told him what had happened; their song changed from the ever-present cadence of waiting to a rising tune of joy. Sidereus was returning. He smiled, holding the blue-gold orb out over the seemingly endless drop to the streets below. The ruddy glow encapsulated his hand, and he sighed, letting go. “Sollumin,” he said, watching the bloody star fall. “Remember.” The words, spoken from this simple Ruki’s mouth, had no power, but the ritual remained, an echo from times forgotten by all but the Guardians now returning to the world.
He knew the moment the crystal shattered. The song changed again, and he saw a Faerie, half a ghost, flying up towards the clouds of Faerieland. The Faerie’s wings blended into the starry sky, her clothing enhancing the illusion that she were merely a piece of night fallen to earth. He reached out, almost trying to touch the Faerie as she sped by. He got no response but a glance given by eyes filled with searing fire. Looking away, he stumbled back to the center of the rooftop, not trusting himself at the edge anymore.
Spread out all around him were the other skyscrapers. Their windows still shone with light, creating glassy reflections of the sky above. The moving lights of his ever-watchful robots, red and green and blue, were more beautiful, if only because they weren’t a pitiful attempt to recreate other lights. And yet, it was still the white-gold lights his eyes were drawn to.
A deeper chill in the wind took his attention away from the windows and back to the rooftop. He turned, his eyes meeting the void of a ghost’s eyes. Pure black, deeper than even the places between stars, the Lupe’s eyes pierced him through with cold knowledge. The ghost smiled slightly, silver fur waving in the wind, paws firmly placed on the rooftop. “So you finally trust me enough to free me.”
“I was not the one to contain you, Eidolan.” He looked away, trying to dispel the chill that had sunk into his bones with the Lupe’s hate-filled gaze. “Fyora was.”
“She simply kept me contained.” The Lupe’s eyes bored into him, twin points of nothingness that he could feel without any effort. “Fate bound me. Fate denied me the sun that was mine by right. Fate stole my body and gave me nothing but hate and sorrow to replace it with.”
“And you think I don’t understand your pain, Eidolan?” He turned to face the moon, feet clicking on the metal roof. “Because of Fate, I live here, not among the stars that are my love.”
“You had a choice.”
“Not much of one.” He raised a green hand to the faint red light of the space station so high above. His hand, skeletal and silver in the starlight, seemed so fragile now. “Fate chose to make it so that my own home rejected me. They said that since I ruled Neopia, I should be down here.” He lowered his hand, looking over his shoulder at the ghostly Lupe. “He didn’t have as much finesse in your days.”
“It’s been two thousand years,” Eidolan said, voice harsh and soft all at once. “Two thousand years, brother. Oh, I spent most of that time free, building the ghosts into what they are now, but then? Then Fideus found a way to bind me. And I’ve spent four hundred years like that. Nearly a hundred in the hands of the one who bound me. Then Fyora took me. Why do you think she was able to shatter everything, set me free?” He flicked his tail, silver sparks drifting from the motion. “A year in the possession of Chaos. Do you understand how hard that was, brother? To be forced to live with my opposite, to help him harness the power necessary to bring them here?”
“I have some idea,” he managed to say. Eidolan’s voice wove a spell over him. It was velvet-soft, but there was so much bitterness beneath it that it was hard to notice anything other than what the Lupe said. “But why complain to me?”
“Because Fyora is still up there.” The ghost shook his head, sending myriad silver lights flying away. “She will join us soon, true, but she wants to see what form the other two take.”
He caught his breath. “She knows the danger.”
“Of course she does.” Eidolan looked up at the clouds. “She just doesn’t understand how hard it is to wait.”
“She knows. We all do.” He smiled slightly. “Fate doesn’t understand how we do it.”
“Fate doesn’t know as much as he thinks.”
He nodded wordlessly. There were no words needed anymore. They all knew what the other thought. Pariel, Sloth, Eidolan... the name given to their mind mattered not. Wind blew, and they turned to face it with a burst of laughter. She was coming now, gathering them into one being, readying them for the transformation to come. A star seemed to shoot from the sky, lavender-tinged and glowing, increasing in size as it neared them. “Welcome,” Eidolan said as it landed. “We’re ready.”
Fyora smiled, reaching out a hand. Pariel-Sloth took it. Eidolan stepped between them, his head encompassing their joined hands. “Vocivus,” Pariel-Sloth said. “It is time.”
The stars seemed to disappear. The lights of the city were meaningless. The wind blew around them, cold and comforting, wrapping them in a blanket of ice and snow. An agonized cry sounded from Eidolan’s throat, ripped and ragged and filled with agony. The globe sitting at Pariel-Sloth’s throat glowed, black and deepest purple-blue. Fyora’s eyes widened, their lavender depths suddenly aware of so much more than before. Her wings extended to their fullest before being torn away by the wind.
Fyora cried out then, the sound reverberating in the wind that surrounded them. Her body filled with light, and then the light was all she was. The globe burned still brighter, absorbing all of Fyora’s light. Eidolan’s cry stopped as suddenly as if a switch had been thrown, and his black eyes met Pariel-Sloth’s for a bare moment. Then Eidolan’s ghostly form joined Fyora’s light in being pulled into the globe, lavender-tan and silver joining the pure black in a swirl of color.
Pariel-Sloth grabbed the globe in one hand, the light shining through his skeletal fingers. With a whisper too soft for anyone to hear, he tore it from his neck and threw it to the ground.
Light burst from it, surrounding him, becoming him, painting him with color that he had never imagined could have been part of the void before. Pink and purple and silver coated him, Fyora’s wings finding a new home on his back. His eyes opened, his body changed only enough to support his new powers. Vocivus smiled, stretching his wings. “Time and time again,” he said, voice just as velveteen as Eidolan’s had ever been, “it is shown that chaos brings nothing but misery. Balance has a point, yet it is order that truly brings peace to a world.”
He leapt into the sky, spreading his wings to fly higher, to fly to the void that was his home.
To be continued...