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Chronicles of Telluna


pinchii
Apr. 2nd, 2005 06:25 am Chapter Eight

Slowly, they trudged down the muddy pathway and away from the schoolmaster's domain. Ayla assumed her position a few meters ahead of the other two, making no effort to break the unbearable silence. At times, Sidra thought he could hear sobbing from beneath Ayla’s umbrella. He sighed, wishing he could help her. Every time he tried to move closer to Ayla and away from Kiedren, Kiedren would dig her nails into him, dragging him back. He stood silently as the bubble ran its course, numbly allowing Kiedren to hug his arm as tightly as she wanted, much to her satisfaction.

This time, the elevator whirled downwards, then under the main bubble in a southwards direction. Finally coming to a halt, the bubble slowly opened revealing sunshine. With a determined look but still wet from the rain, Ayla quickly wiped tears from her eyes before she turned around to face her two companions.

"We're here." Ayla's voice cracked.

The bubble had landed amidst two lone oaks that punctuated by what appeared to be an open meadow. A few horses could be seen galloping wildly across the hills, some with riders and some without. Kiedren fell on the grass and rolled around on it playfully, attempting to pull Sidra down with her. Sidra managed to resist, and eventually pulled Kiedren back to her feet before the three pressed onwards towards the long wooden stables at the other end of the meadow.

Kiedren batted at a butterfly flying overhead with one hand, letting go of Sidra for a second. Sidra sprinted forward and away from her while she was distracted by the dance of the butterfly.

"Eh? Where'd you go? Sidra?" Kiedren looked at the spot where her unwilling prisoner had been standing a minute before. By the time she spotted him, he was already a few hundred meters ahead.

"Siiiidraaaa! Wait for me!" Kiedren ran after him as fast as she could.

Ayla jogged along behind Kiedren until they finally reached the stable where Sidra was already talking to the stable boy.

"...Three horses! Please! I won't have her riding on mine!"

"You only said two this morning!" The stable boy appeared confused.

"Yes, I know that's what I said earlier, but we had a... change of plans..." Sidra gave Kiedren a withering look. Noticing Kiedren, the stable boy walked over to her.

"Ah, Kiedren sweetie, your father called earlier this morning. Your pony is ready for you in her usual stall."

"Thank you!" Kiedren sang out in her sickeningly sweet voice before curtsying and running off towards the back of the stables.

"And I’m assuming that takes care of that, am I right?" the stable boy smiled from beneath his wide-brimmed hat.

"Ah... yes, thank you."

He led them down the row of stalls, showing them the two horses he had picked out for them. The one he had selected for Sidra was chestnut with a white blaze running down the its face. Ayla's horse was slightly shorter than Sidra's, no doubt to compensate for the slight difference in height between the two of them. Noticing this, she shot Sidra an evil look. He giggled boyishly as he inspected his horse. Ayla's steed was a sleek black animal with a white mane, tail and fetlocks. Ayla felt dwarfed standing next to the great animal.

"He's a thoroughbred desert horse, that one! Seventeen hands high, quite a giant!"

"Yeah, he's quite the beauty!" Ayla agreed as she petted the horse on the neck.

"Though your friend's horse there is eighteen, pushing nineteen hands..."

"I can manage." Sidra inspected his horse one last time.

"They're perfect. How much do I owe you?" Sidra asked the stable boy.

"They've already been paid for." was the response.

"...It um, wasn't Kiedren's father, was it?" Sidra asked nervously.

"Yeah, why?"

"No reason."

"He told me to tell you there should be feed in one of the bags he gave you. My part's finished. I wish you luck going wherever you're going." The stable boy strode back down the aisle to the front of the stable. A flurry of hooves and white streaked past Ayla and Sidra. They turned their heads to behold Kiedren seated primly on her little white pony outside their stall, expertly guiding the pony around in circles like a professionally-trained equestrian.

"Since when can she ride?" Sidra looked at Ayla for answers.

"I have no idea..."

Ayla and Sidra bent down to sort through the equipment they had lugged all the way from Josham's to the stables. Quickly dividing them into three piles they looked at Kiedren's pony skeptically. They shared the same thought, there was no way that little pony could carry Kiedren's supplies.

"Uh... could you help Kiedren tie as much of her supplies as the pony can handle on it? Sidra pleaded to the stable boy. Luckily the stable boy nodded his head and obligingly set to his task.

Sidra gratefully loaded his pile of equipment onto his saddle, carefully tying them securely to it. Ayla did likewise.

"How's the pony taking it?" Sidra asked as he turned around, hands outstretched ready to take on the equipment Kiedren's pony could not handle. To his surprise, the stall floor was empty.

"I tied it all on. It should be fine." came the stable boy’s reply.

Shrugging, both Sidra and Ayla mounted their horses. Ayla's horse pushed ahead of Sidra's to get out.

"Careful, that one's still pretty wild..." The stable boy’s voice came drifting back towards Ayla and Sidra.

"Which one?" Sidra asked anxiously.

"Yours!" Came the voice; a second too late as Sidra's horse reared and galloped at full speed, past Ayla and across the meadow.

Sidra gripped the reigns tightly, holding on with all his strength. The horse whinnied, and reared once again into the air. Sidra yelled as his body went parallel to the ground, hugging the horse with his knees to stay on. Ayla giggled from atop her mount, which was moving along towards Sidra's at a steady trot, bouncing her slightly. Kiedren sidled up beside Ayla, her little white pony tossing its mane proudly, the pink ribbons flashing in the sunlight.

Ayla looked down at Kiedren, and swore Kiedren was actually riding a slightly oversized miniature pony, for the top of Kiedren's head only reached her own horse’s shoulder. Ayla’s mind clouded with dreaded as she imagined the pace they would have to amble at when accompanied by a horse only one third the size of a normal horse. It had been a surprise that the stable boy had managed to tie all Kiedren's supplies to her saddle. Ayla didn't think Kiedren's pony would have been capable of carrying any of the supplies, but she guessed she couldn't judge a horses' capacity purely based on its size.

"Doesn't he look cuuuute?" Kiedren’s voice startled Ayla.

"I like the ribbons."

"Oh, silly, I meant my Sidraaaaa." Kiedren clasped her hands together as she watched Sidra fight for control of his horse. After a good minute or two, Sidra’s horse came trotting back, with Sidra and their supplies somehow still attached to it.

"Ouch." Sidra shifted his weight in the saddle.

"You know, I think Kiedren's right. The two of you were made for each other." Ayla smiled, guiding her horse in a small curve around Sidra's.

"See? See? I was right!" Kiedren's pony nipped at Sidra's horse, which was quickly remedied by a hoof to the pony's face. Sidra smirked as Kiedren's short little pony stumbled around in a daze.

"Maybe so," Sidra winked at Ayla.

"Where do we go from here?"

The door to Quandra is near the western end of the main bubble. There's a quick way up from this one, and we can take the horses through," Sidra said as he pointed off in the distance to the western end of the bubble they were in, where a wide tube curved upwards from the bubble wall. Without waiting, he reined in his horse onwards past the stables and towards the exit at a full gallop. Ayla flared her wings out behind her, so she could feel the air brush through her wings as her horse set off after Sidra's. Kiedren had barely reached the quarter way mark down the meadow when both Sidra and Ayla reached the exit. It resulted in quite a wait before Kiedren's pony finally caught up.

"Siiidra! Don't leave me!" Kiedren cried out in her shrill voice.

"Unfortunately, that's not an option at the moment..." Sidra muttered to Ayla.

He brought his horse gently up the broad sloping exit. Being only a few meters from the side, Sidra looked out the wall and across the desert. The midday sun burnt hotter than ever, yet somehow never reached their habitat. He tried to remember what his teachers had said about the layered crystal that made up the transparent walls of the bubbles. They had always said it had something to do with redirecting the heat and most of the light around instead of through, but he had always stopped listening before they revealed the actual physics behind it. Ayla had tried to explain to him something about static barriers inside the layers of crystal, but he had gotten bored and ended up drawing a picture of her in which the size of her wings were greatly exaggerated. This of course, had only gotten him slapped.

"Have you thought of a name for your horse yet?" Ayla’s voice brought Sidra out of his memories.

"Uh, how about Vagulus?"

"Doesn't that mean 'wander'?" Ayla asked incredulously.

"Let's call it Cassie!" Kiedren’s voice interrupted.

"...It's a guy, Kiedren. I'll call him Aváglön."

"A... what?" Kiedren looked wide-eyed at Sidra.

"Uh, Avani for short..." Sidra looked pointedly at Ayla. She smiled mysteriously, as if thinking for an equally enigmatic name for hers.

"You know how good I am at making up names..." shooting Sidra a sly sideways glance before continuing on with her speech, "So since I am the ever inventive and creative Ayla, I shall call my steed..." Ayla pause for dramatic effect, "Blackie!" she announced triumphantly.

Sidra nearly fell off his mount. "Whaaaaat?" he exclaimed before roaring with laughter, once again nearly tipping off his horse.

Ayla looked pointedly at Kiedren. "But Blackie is such a pretty name! Why are you laughing at Ayla? My pony is called Beauty! Because she's pretty, like her name! Don't worry about him Ayla, I think it's a very good name!" Kiedren cried in Ayla's defense.

Just recovering from his previous bout of laughing, with tears still streaming down his cheeks, Kiedren's remark sent Sidra into another bout of laughter.

"Ayla is obviously not going to be calling her horse Blackie! Come on! Look at her! You actually believed her when she said that!?" Sidra roared with laughter again.

"W-what? Ayla? You didn’t mean it?" Kiedren looked imploringly at Ayla.

"No, of course I didn't mean it! Blackie would be a horrible name of any horse!"

"T-then what will you call your horse?" Kiedren asked timidly.

"Ah... let me think... I'm not for long names that take forever to pronounce... so I'll go with something that's mono-syllabic... hm... Nox? Yeah... Nox!" Ayla nodded resolutely as she petted her steed.

Finally, after Sidra had regained control of his emotions, which only occurred after Ayla rode up to him and gave him a painful whack on the shoulder, all three set off westward to the exit that would place them on the Desert of Kalan. They rode quietly, with Kiedren's pony trailing behind.

"She's only going to delay us..." Sidra said quietly as he tipped his head to indicate Kiedren.

"Yeah, I KNOW, but it's not like we can do anything about that... And just what does she feed that animal? It's like a creampuff with legs!" Ayla retorted peevishly.

"Well it's not like we can just abandon her here..."

"Hm... wait... I'm sure there's a way around this... we just need to think of something logical..."

"Logical? Right..." Sidra looked ahead confused in thought.

"Ah I forget! Brains, logic, and common sense aren't included in the Sidra package." Ayla was given a dirty look. "Well try to use that itty bitty little brain of yours anyway, okay? Maybe it'll think of something! Because I believe miracles can happen!" Sidra shot Ayla another dirty look, but Ayla just smiled sweetly back.

Up the glass cylinder they rode, then onto the row of pine trees and finally the back streets of the city away from the crowds, the hooves of their horses clopping loudly. Sidra led them around a corner and down a spacious road leading towards the western wall of the bubble. The road dipped slightly, winding downwards. The road continued on until it became a dark tunnel leading under the wall. Yellow streetlights flickered on inside, casting eerie shadows wherever they rode.

"Where are we?" Kiedren piped up, her high voice echoing off the stone walls.

"The entrance and exit to Quandra," replied Sidra.

They rode in silence, down and down, until they could see no light behind them. Finally, the end of the tunnel opened into a dark cement dome only one hundred meters in height, illuminated by wide fixtures of yellow lights hanging from the ceiling. Not a window was to be seen, and it was strangely cold.

Against the opposite wall lay a dozen small alley ways, all evenly spaced. Ayla pushed ahead into the far left alley, Sidra and Kiedren following closely behind. Once they had come to a stop inside of it, a wide window opened next to Ayla.

"Passes?" a rough voice sounded from somewhere inside the darkness beyond the window. A gloved hand extended its way slowly towards Ayla. Sidra and Kiedren gave their passes to Ayla, who in turn gave all three to the gloved hand, which quickly retracted into the darkened window.

"What is your destination?" came the voice again after a sufficient pause.

"The city of Talis." Ayla’s curt reply brought surprised looks from the other two. The gruff voice coughed dryly, as if to suppress a laugh.

"Well well. It's been a very long time, my dears. A very long time indeed," A horrendously scarred head appeared in the window, "Since anyone has been there. Yes, a very long time indeed." The large head wore a pair of strange spectacles emitting two red pinpricks of light, completely obscuring its eyes. Kiedren gave a little gasp, but was silenced by Sidra.

"And you sir, who might you be?" Ayla asked politely.

Another cough brought clouds of yellow dust from the man’s nearly toothless mouth.

"I just happen to be the first person in Quandra who saw you when you arrived fifteen years ago. But don't mind me young lady." The face looked back at the other two. "Continue on your way, your departure has been noted."

"Thank you." Ayla urged her horse onwards. The strange bespectacled figure leered at Kiedren and Sidra as they continued on past. A dark door ahead somewhere retracted into the ceiling with a sharp grating sound. The three rode into an empty cavern as the door shut behind them, and sealed with a sharp hiss. A brief crackling, and the room lit up for a moment as sparks shot from the walls.

"Wh-what’s going on?" Kiedren's voice came from somewhere in the darkness. Her pony whinnied nervously, while Sidra's twitched under the saddle.

"Put your air-filters on and lock them into place, then put your goggles on." A crackly voice came from the internal speaker. Sidra rummaged around in one of the sacks tied to Avani and threw back pairs of goggles and the air-filters. Quickly, all three snapped the filters around the lower half of their faces and locked them at the back, followed by their goggles.

"Fit the sand-shields around the muzzle of your horses, then ride forward." the voice instructed them.

Sidra reached around inside the horse-supply bag until he felt three rough cloths. He handed them to Ayla and Kiedren before dismounting to fit something that appeared somewhat like a feed-bag over Avani's head and up to his ears. Carefully, Avani poked his nose and mouth out from under the front of cloth. Sidra adjusted the cloth from side to side until the "eyelids" of the apparatus were aligned with Avani's. He could hear Kiedren's pony whinnying in disgust as she mistakenly attempted to fit its nose through the eyelid. One by one, Sidra buckled the soft leather straps underneath Avani's head.

Avani shook his head from side to side to test Sidra's work then snorted with grudging approval. Sidra mounted, and waited for Kiedren to finish her work. After a few minutes, Ayla, who had finished shortly after Sidra, impatiently shoved the sand-shield over the pony's face and buckled it tightly into place.

Once everyone was mounted, they rode forward towards the outer gate. "You have reached Quandra's Gate. Good luck on your journey." There was another crackle, then silence. The door in front of them opened slowly, allowing in a blast of heat, a heat Ayla remembered from a distant nightmare...

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pinchii
Apr. 2nd, 2005 06:11 am Chapter Seven

Ayla and Sidra paused outside the door, "Where is that infernal girl?" Ayla blurted impatiently after waiting by the stone door for five minutes.

"Who knows? Maybe... no, hopefully she lost her way?" Sidra shrugged.

"Siiiiidraaaa!" The familiar wail echoed up the stone steps.

"Finally!" Ayla snapped, as she pushed at a button by the stone door.

Sidra merely rolled his eyes as he braced for impact... which came soon enough, accompanied by the customary, "Oh! Siiiiidraaaa!"

Sidra attempted to wrestle out of Kiedren's grip as the stone door slowly slid downwards, revealing a large glass bubble.

"What... is that?" Kiedren stopped to gape at the strange orb floating inside the cavern. Ayla stepped cautiously into the orb, followed by Sidra, and a very reluctant Kiedren. The bubble ascended slowly as the door closed, leaving them in utter darkness. Suddenly, it was light again. They were above the city, traveling through a glass tube that appeared to span the entire height of the western side. The bubble jerked suddenly, and began to follow a spiral-shaped piece of the tubing that seemed to last forever. For the time it took to travel to their new destination, Ayla was forced to watch a very enthusiastic participant embracing a somewhat unwilling participant. In truth, she thought it was somewhat cute to see Kiedren clinging on with dear life to Sidra. Ayla winked at Sidra, only to receive a very dirty look in return.

Darkness encapsulated them again, then as suddenly as it had begun, the ride stopped. Quietly, the bubble door retracted, revealing another dark cavern, much like the one they had started in. Kiedren whimpered, digging her fingernails into Sidra’s shoulders.

"Would you knock it off!" Sidra barked, his voice echoing about the small cavern.

The monolithic door at the front of the cavern opened, its grinding obscured by the persistent pattering of raindrops cascading down from the inky sky above.

"What... is this?" Sidra looked around wide-eyed at the towering pines obscuring their view of what lay beyond.

"Rhyold’s Storm..." Ayla squinted, looking up through the clouds.

As if on queue, a shimmering moon moved into view.

"It... seems so far away..." Sidra turned his head, as if trying to get a better look.

"I-I'm scared..." Kiedren dug her nails deeper into Sidra’s flesh.

"Ow!"

While this interplay was occurring, Ayla had already scoured the boxes and bags for some umbrellas.

"We'll just leave our supplies in here... it shouldn't take too long. And you two are going to have to share this giant umbrella, I'll just use the smaller one." Ayla said as she tossed the larger umbrella to Sidra and walked out of the cavern with her smaller one. Sidra, with the clinging Kiedren, followed reluctantly. Sidra never liked the creepy residence.

Leaves crackled beneath their feet as they walked beneath the green, fragrant canopy the treetops formed. Soon they found a muddy pathway winding beneath the trees. From somewhere in the distance, an owl hooted, and Sidra swore he heard a hissing sound.

The trees parted to reveal an immense grey house obscuring their view of the moon. The sight of it sent shivers up Ayla's spine, as she led the other two grudgingly up the steps and to the door. Ayla rap on the door sharply, and waited patiently. Behind her she heard Kiedren’s teeth chattering as she clung tightly onto Sidra’s arm.

The door opened ominously.

"Welcome to Dr. Rhyold's residence. You may enter. But before you do, kindly wipe the mud from your shoes. I do not wish to clean up after your visit, thank you!" spoke a voice soaked with disdain. Seeing the owner of the voice did not improve the welcome in any way, for she was a primly dressed sixty-something year old sour looking woman, who had a look which plainly said, I-wish-you-to-suffer-a-horrible-and-painful-death.

The three obeyed silently.

"Please follow me." she chirped shrilly once she had thoroughly inspected and was satisfied with the cleanliness of their shoes. This was obviously after repeated, "You think that is suitably clean? Have you no self respect? Clean them again! I shan't let you enter in dirty shoes."

She spun curtly and led them into a room entirely lit by candles. "Dr. Rhyold will be here momentarily. Please sit down, I shan't have you wandering about the house unaccompanied." She pointed them towards two wooden chairs and a wooden stool which had been laid out in a semi-circle in front of a larger black high backed leather chair, this chair was obviously reserved for Dr. Rhyold.

They sat themselves down as they heard the housekeeper solidly click her heels out of the room. Ayla had claimed the wooden stool at the right of the semi-circle, as it would have been impossible for her to sit comfortably on a chair with her wings. Sidra sat in the middle and Kiedren meekly took the remaining chair on the left of the semi-circle.

"Someone is happy today..." Sidra muttered.

"Yeah..." Ayla agreed, giving Sidra a look of disgust.

"Welcome to my home." came a cold voice to Ayla's right. All three jumped. They had not heard anyone enter the room, and yet there he was, standing a mere six inches from Ayla.

They all scrambled up from their seats, turning to their schoolmaster, "G-good afternoon, sir. T-thank you for seeing us." Ayla stuttered.

"I see a third person has accompanied you here today. Kiedren, is it?" Dr. Rhyold uttered gruffly.

"Ah! Sir, I hope you do not mind. It was because..." Ayla began to explain.

Dr. Rhyold stared into Ayla's eyes, narrowing his own to signal silence.

"I..." Ayla closed her mouth tightly, as if an invisible force were holding her jaw shut.

"Sit down." They all obeyed, like well trained dogs.

"We came for..." Sidra began.

"Passes... passes..." Dr. Rhyold muttered as he seated himself in his black leather chair, adding to his already ominous presence.

"Y-yes... sir." Sidra trailed off. There was a long silence, punctuated only by a rumble from somewhere in the dark, cloudy sky.

"You three have quite a lofty task ahead of you, if you truly wish to find the Icarii." the schoolmaster murmured half to himself. Only Ayla reacted.

"How did you..."

"Of course, before you came along, I assumed they were all dead." Dr. Rhyold gave Ayla a faint nod.

Sidra mirrored Ayla's look of shock.

"Mister Doctor Rhyold, what’s an Icarii?" Kiedren piped up. Another pause.

"It has been said that there was once a kingdom in the sky. A race of winged beings dwelled there, far above the lands of human kings." He paused, closing his eyes, adding to the dramatic effect. "One day, their kingdom fell into the great Desert, and the Icarii died off. Their kingdom in the old tongue, was Kalan."

Stunned, the three sat silently, unable to master a reply.

The silence wore on for what seemed like an eternity for both Ayla and Sidra.

"The great Desert holds many secrets. It is my sincere desire that you will unlock at least one of them, and ease this tired mind."

Kiedren issued a small cry of fright, as a wraith-like crow glided silently into the room. Sidra quickly silenced her by covering her mouth. The crow appeared to be the size of a small eagle, with blood-red eyes, its pupils drawn into cat-like slits.

Three small feathers fell from its wings and into their laps. Sidra picked the feather up slowly. It glowed for a split second, then he saw that it was not a feather, but a small oblong piece of paper with a few odd characters inscribed on its surface.

"Your passes," came the cold voice again, this time jerking the three out of their hypnotic states.

With a flick of his hand, he motioned them to rise.

"T-thank you, sir." the threesome bowed, and on turning realised the sour-looking housekeeper was already at the doorway, ready to usher them out of the house.

"Ayla, come here." Dr. Rhyold beckoned Ayla back.

"Y-yes?" She replied hesitantly.

Sidra and Kiedren watched silently as Dr. Rhyold whispered something into Ayla's ear.

As Ayla walked back towards Sidra, Dr. Rhyold's voice could be heard plainly, "What has been said, was said for you and you alone."

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pinchii
Apr. 2nd, 2005 05:59 am Chapter Six

"And just how many people did you tell?" the strangely calm expression on Ayla’s face was only betrayed by the fiery sparkle in her eye.

"Just her! Honest!"

Ayla merely nodded, then proceeded to watch another display of Kiedren's klutziness.

"I'm baaack!" Kiedren toppled out through the door, doing a somersault across the lawn and landing at Sidra's feet. Sidra quickly sidestepped, clutching his boxes tightly.

Ayla rolled her eyes at Kiedren, "Come on, let's go! I don't want to be late!" Ayla huffed.

"I'm sorry, Ayla! I'm soo sorry!" Kiedren clumsily got up, staggering to one side then the other, nearly knocking Sidra and his boxes over for the third time, before straightening herself.

"Come on! Let’s go! Now!" Ayla stomped ahead towards the western side.

"Uh… Kiedren, why don't you walk behind me for a bit, until uh... Ayla cools her head..." Sidra suggested nervously.

"Oh..." Kiedren started to mope, before belatedly realising Sidra had already set off after Ayla.

"Waaaait Siiidraaaaa!!! Waaaait!" Kiedren wailed before speeding off to catch up with the quickly disappearing Sidra.

Ayla led Sidra and Kiedren down the narrow streets and past the merchants in their kiosks. Clusters of people gathered around performers and in the western half of the city centre. However, the crowds were nowhere to be seen here, only grand buildings where apprentices and their masters worked in tandem to produce wares to kept Quandra alive. Sidra stopped for a moment to admire what appeared to be a steel mill; flashes of fire caught his eyes from one of the small barred windows.

Gently, Ayla pulled at Sidra, urging him onwards. Aimlessly continuing westward through the maze of wide asphalt streets, Sidra began to get nervous. Sensing his nervousness, Ayla smiled reassuringly, as they pressed onwards. In the distance was Kiedren, happily strolling along, with not a care in the world, and occasionally stopping to chat with the merchants at their kiosks or to chase after a butterfly or bird. Ayla and Sidra rounded a corner, and found themselves facing a row of pines, beneath which a dirt pathway ran. Ayla turned northwards onto the pathway, Sidra toddling behind, his load weighing him down.

"Oh! I'm sorry! I wasn't looking..." Ayla apologized when her attempts at performing two tasks simultaneously, walking ahead while looking behind her, resulted in her walking straight into a woman and her toddler on the dirt path. The woman just smiled, then quickly looked down as she shook her head indicating no-that's-quite-alright before proceeded along her path. Her toddler however, being more truthful and inquisitive, as is true for all children of that age, was plainly heard asking his mother, "Mummmmy, why does that girl have wings?"

Ayla quietly laugh to herself, as she saw the mother quickly flicking her head to look at her then back at her daughter, vainly willing her child to silence as she hastily pulled her daughter along with her. Ayla knew she was the only humanoid in existence who possessed wings, and as a child while she was out in the city with her friends, she had always received the wide-eyed stares wherever she went. It bothered her then, but after living in this town for fifteen years she had become used to it. It did not bother her anymore, but occasionally she did have the urge to throttle the child who would sneak up on her only to pull a feather off her wings.

Turning back again, Ayla looked at the poorly managing Sidra, or perhaps better described as the pile of boxes and bags slowly trudging towards her.

"Hey Sidra! You alright there?" she yelled as she moved towards Sidra. "Here, I'll help you carry some of them." she quipped as she siphoned some boxes off the top of Sidra's pile.

"Wow, you just noticed that now, did you? Those giant wings of yours must be interfering with your peripheral vision!" Sidra remarked cynically.

"Have you not a polite bone in your body? Be grateful!" Ayla tossed back at Sidra before resuming her walk towards the bubble system that would take them to the schoolmaster.

"So! Where is your daaaarling Kiedren, hm, Sidra?" Ayla took a jab at Sidra.

"Oh shut up! You know very well it was all your fault that she..."

"...happens to have a wealthy father?" Ayla interjected sweetly, drawing a growl from Sidra.

"I never invited her."

"It doesn't matter. You told her. You... betrayed my trust..." Ayla paused for a moment. Whether it was genuine or for effect, Sidra couldn't tell, but he felt that now was not the time to be hostile.

"Uh... sorry about that... it sort of slipped out at graduation when she kept badgering me to go on a trip to who-knows-where with her... So, I'm really sorry okay Ayla... I really am! Honest! All she knows is that we're going on a trip through the Desert of Kalan, but she doesn’t actually know why we’re going... or what exactly we're looking for..."

"Good! That better be all she knows... o-or..." Ayla turned her head, catching a glimpse of Sidra's mournful smile.

"I'm sorry... I just..." Ayla put one of her arms across Sidra's shoulders, extending one of her wings to its full length, holding it close to his back.

Sidra blushed, and flashed her a smile, which she returned.

Side by side, they climbed the massive stone steps, leading up to the monolithic door that opened into the elevator.

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pinchii
Apr. 2nd, 2005 05:40 am Chapter Five

Ayla exited the store, her wings held straight out and back in a proud manner. Sidra followed behind, staggering under a stack of various boxes and bags.

"Would you hurry up! We'll be late for our appointment with the schoolmaster!"

Sidra scowled at Ayla, before toppling over, resulting in boxes flying everywhere. Giving Ayla a sheepish grin, he scrambled to pick the boxes up.

"You're such a klutz sometimes..." Ayla said, crossing her arms and rolling her eyes.

Sidra carefully made his way around the store front, stacking the dropped boxes and bags on his pile as he went. As he reached for the container holding his water distiller, when another hand appeared on top of his. He looked up to see the owner of the hand smiling sweetly at him.

"Siiiidraaaa..."

"K-Kiedren..." Sidra jumped back as if he had been stung.

"Eh?" Ayla turned to survey the situation.

"It's been so long..."

"You saw me at graduation less than a month ago." Sidra interjected in a disinterested tone.

"Ah, but I missed you all those months, my Siiiiddraaa." Kiedren clasped Sidra close, rubbing her face against the stubble that had formed on his face over the last few days.

"Affectionate, isn't she?" Ayla's sickeningly sweet voice echoed from somewhere off to the side.

"...Yes, very." Sidra kept his arms folded, a very serious look on his face.

"Ah, you're so sweet!!! Isn't he just darling, Ayla?" Kiedren squeezed Sidra tighter, not letting go until she heard a grunt of pain.

"Sure he is." Ayla smiled widely, enjoying Sidra's torment.

"I mean, he even agreed to escort you on your journey into the desert to find... uh... what was it again? Just like a knight in shining armor!" At this, Ayla lunged at Sidra.

"I'm... going... to... kill... you..." Ayla's face was less than an inch from Sidra's. Sidra laughed nervously, and hid behind Kiedren, using her as a human shield.

"Oh now now Ayla, don't get jealous just because of me!" Kiedren shot another one of her sickeningly sweet smiles in Ayla's direction. At this, Ayla changed targets, with a mighty swoop of her wings, she torpedoed herself into Kiedren. Sidra and his "shield" went flying like human bowling pins, landing in awkward positions amongst the scattered boxes and bags. Kiedren jumped behind a tree and whimpered, a frightened look on her face.

"A-a-all I wanted to ask is if you’d take me with..." She looked mournfully at Sidra, then at Ayla.

"No." Ayla answered curtly before Sidra could.

"B-b-but!"

"No." Ayla repeated. Kiedren's face turned red and welled up as if she were about to cry. It was then that Sidra noticed they were still in front of the window... behind which Josham stood, keeping a close eye on them. Sidra motioned wildly to Ayla, attempting to convey the message to her.

"...On second thought..." Ayla added sweetly, "If Sidra wants you along, I'd be happy to allow you to accompany us."

Kiedren looked at Sidra with her tearful eyes. "I won't be any trouble! I promise!"

"You'd better not be," Sidra replied grudgingly as he stood, "Or we'll feed you to the uh... cacti..." He began picking up their supplies again, only to be knocked over by another hug from Kiedren "Yay! I love you, Sidra!"

"Sure you do..." Sidra glanced in at store to see if Josham was still watching, but he had already gone.

"Say, your father, does he know about this?"

"I told him I was in the process of asking if I could come along with you on your trip!" Kiedren said ecstatically.

A look of realisation, then grim acceptance came over Sidra’s face as he and Ayla shared the same realisation. Three sets of supplies... three people...

"I knew there had to be a catch..." Ayla whispered into his ear.

"I love you Sidra..." Kiedren whispered into the other ear.

There was an awkward silence.

"Um, well then, I guess we should go up to see the schoolmaster..." Sidra began walking away quickly, his load of boxes rattling and shaking precariously.

"Waaaait!" Kiedren's shrill voice stopped Sidra in his tracks.

"What now." Sidra grunted impatiently.

"Can I say goodbye to daddy first? Pleaaasee?" Kiedren clasped her hands together and looked sweetly at Sidra, who sighed loudly before nodding in affirmation.

"Yaaay!" cheered the elated Kiedren, while Ayla watched with amusement as Kiedren skipped into the store, tripping over customers' feet and issuing frantic apologies before finally reaching the back.

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pinchii
Apr. 2nd, 2005 05:29 am Chapter Four

Ayla fished around in her pockets, "No, not this one... No, not here either... Where is it? Aha!" she triumphantly pulled out a small sheet of paper with neat letters scrawled across it.

"OK... we need some basic supplies... so let's start with what we're gonna live in... so we should go to Josham's?"

Ayla made a bee line for Josham's as Sidra meekly trailed behind her. The only line that was going around in his head repeatedly was, "Please let her not be there now... please let her not be there now". The "her" he was thinking of was none other than Kiedren who he had to suffer the company of in school. Kiedren had been working at Josham's for the past six months, and every time he was in the vicinity of Josham's, there would be the piercing cry of "Siiiidraaaa!!! You came! You came to see me at work, didn't you?" This was then followed by her attempts at hugging him.

Just the thought of Kiedren made him shudder. Kiedren was "nice", but that didn't quite describe how she was around him. He thought about it as he walked. How indeed could he describe Kiedren in the politest way possible? Perhaps "persistent" was the best word. Kiedren was like a shadow, his shadow to be precise. She trailed after him everywhere he went. It drove him up the wall. This behaviour had begun when she had turned thirteen, the year she had decided she had become a "lady" and thus was the year she would chose her future husband... who unfortunately turned out to be him. It was all because at her thirteenth birthday party, he had helped her up when she had tripped over the carpet. It was quite ridiculous really. Just because he had shown her some normal human courtesy, she had jumped on the bandwagon of insanity and declared him to be her conquest that very night... in front of everyone from his class! It had been the worst night of his life!

Naturally, Ayla pounced on this like a skilled hunting cat. At every given opportunity, the events of that awful night were brought up. Honestly, it was entirely Ayla's fault he was there at Kiedren's party in the first place. That night, he had wanted to just stay home, but Ayla had dragged him to the party saying, "It's good for you! You should hang around normal people once in a while!" He scoffed at his thirteen year old absolute lack of resolve. If only he could relive that night again, he would have absolutely refused Ayla's attempts at "helping" him "socialise".

"We're here!" Ayla proudly announced, opening her arms out wide, as if trying to engulf the entire store with them.

"Ah... yeah..." Sidra looked at the store cautiously. Ah good, it looks like she isn't working here today, he reassured himself.

Ayla and Sidra filed into the store, where they were greeted by the owner, Josham, who also happened to be Kiedren's adoptive father.

"We're..." They said in unison, but were cut off.

"...Going out on a journey through the great Desert of Kalan? Well, you've come to the right place!" And with those words and a sweep of his arm, he directed their attention to a wall of tents, portable shelters, collapsible bubble huts... Josham must have noticed the bewildered look on their faces, and kindly beckoned for them to follow him to the back of the store.

"You two look like you've just graduated from school not too long ago... am I right?"

"Uh... yeah? How did you know?" Sidra answered uncertainly.

"Well for one, you two don't look a day older than twenty, and well I think I've seen Kiedren valiantly trying to hug you several times outside the store!" he looked pointedly at Sidra and laughed, his eyes narrowing into little joyful slits.

"More like molest..." Sidra muttered under his breath.

"Yeah! That's right! I had totally forgotten Kiedren worked here! Is she here today? Ow!" Ayla yelped as Sidra pulled a feather from her wing.

"No, she isn’t here today... she's at home. You know, everyday right after school I'm given an update of her darling Sidra. Her stories are quite enthralling! And I feel... almost as if I know Sidra!" he laughed heartily.

Sidra's head sank lower into his chest. He repeatedly cursed himself in his head.

"Kiedren was telling me about how you wanted to travel to a far off place with a friend, in search of something you wouldn’t tell her..." he laughed again.

Ayla raised an eyebrow as she looked at Sidra, with a you-told-her look, perhaps better described as a look of disgust.

"Ah... your dreams of journeying off to a far off place in search of that one special thing... Ah! You know, you remind me, of me... a me not too long ago..." he shook his head as he smiled.

"Oh..." Ayla and Sidra echoed each other uncertainly.

"Yep! A few years ago, I had a dream to travel around... out of here basically… but unfortunately I passed the opportunity by when I got married... The wife, liked it here... and I must say life here has been better since she arrived! And since we adopted Kiedren!" His eyes crinkled as he smiled at them.

"Oh..." Ayla and Sidra echoed a second time.

"What I mean to say is, I want to give this to you two free of charge!" Josham announced as he swung his arm out to indicate to three neat pile of equipment.

A trickle of drool made its way down Sidra's chin, which was remedied by a quick slap from Ayla. She gave him a cutting look as she wiped her hand.

"The only thing I ask is that you make this journey a worthy one for the equipment I am about to give to you… that is my one and only request."

Sidra was the first to recover from shock. Incredulously he asked, "So you want to give us all the supplies you had gathered for yourself and two other people for free? Why?"

"Yep! Because you remind me of myself, and since I wasn't able make my dreams come true, I'm now passing the torch to you... That’s why I’ll only give the equipment to you, only if you promise to..."

"Make the journey worthy of the equipment you’re about to give to us..." Ayla completed the sentence.

"That's right!" he laughed again.

There wasn't even a moment of hesitation as Ayla and Sidra loudly proclaimed as one, "We accept!"

"I'm giving you an extra set for each equipment, just in case, you never know what may happen!" Josham winked at them.

"Oh... thank you..." Sidra replied uncertainly looking at Ayla who was busy sorting through the equipment, making sure all the required equipment on her list were included.

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pinchii
Apr. 2nd, 2005 05:17 am Chapter Three

Gaft jerked when he heard Ayla's thunderous war cry. The hot water he was attempting to pour into the teapot spilled all over the table. He sighed, he was glad that for once he had not poured the hot water over his own hand. He often wondered why he had chosen to live in the residential bubble adjacent to the communal gardens. It had been the assumption that the gardens were a place of tranquility and beauty. In fact, it had been the place of tranquility and beauty, until the arrival of Ayla and Sidra. Gaft shook his head in disbelief, the two of them were at it again… their endless tussle for life and death it seemed.

A crash sounded from somewhere outside.

Gaft cursed under his breath as his hand jerked yet again, in time with the crash, but this time he had jerked his hand in such a manner that brought the stream of hot water directly into the path of his other hand which was holding the little teapot cover open.

More crashes thundered across the bubble gathering as the battle ground shifted in longitude and latitude with the air ducts. Gaft shook his head. Since Sidra and Ayla had come in contact with each other there had been nothing less than smashed furniture and broken glass. Yes, in all the fifteen years Gaft had been a mentor at this sad institution he had never quite met a pair quite like Sidra and Ayla. The two of them were the personification of the love-hate relationship, they in fact thrived on it. Not a day passed without a new bruise appearing somewhere on Sidra. Occasionally, the tussle also resulted in bruises and cuts on Ayla too. But neither party seemed to mind the damage they inflicted on the other. Only once did any serious injury occur. It was back when they were six years old, Sidra had broken his left forearm when he fell from a height because he had lost his hold on Ayla’s leg as she took to flight to escape from his teasing. He remembered opening his door to loud knocking and Ayla’s sobbing. She had literally dragged him out of his house sobbing, pulling him all the way to where Sidra had laid fallen and cradling a very disfigured arm.

He had brought Sidra to the hospital, where he was told it was a "compound fracture", a type of fracture that was uncommon in children. However when Ayla had demonstrated to the hospital staff the height she had been at when Sidra had lost his grip and fallen, they were amazed that Sidra escaped with only a fractured forearm. Sidra had to undergo surgery and his arm was imprisoned in a cast for the next six weeks.

In those six weeks, Ayla was attentive to his every need. She was at his beck and call, not that Sidra ever becked or called her at all. But she was always there next to him getting things for him and even carrying his scruffy yellow backpack home to his room for him. It was the cutest sight seeing her perform all these tasks from the bottom of her heart. In those six weeks of Sidra's confinement, he had continued to tease Ayla mercilessly, but the most she ever did to him in those six weeks was merely to grit her teeth at him. This was only interrupted by the sporadic "you imbecile!" yell. It was only in those six short weeks that Sidra and Ayla attended school without the appearance of any new bruises and cuts on their bodies. Those six weeks flew by, and when Sidra's cast was finally removed, it was back to the same level of violence again... even as Sidra nursed his weakened and atrophied left arm back to health again. Gaft laughed at the memory, those two children had now matured into young adults and were going to head out into the world and be included in the new pages of history.

Meanwhile, having finally tired themselves out, Ayla and Sidra lay on the lush lawn and stared up at the sky through the ceiling of the bubble.

"Guess it's today, eh?" Sidra said quietly.

"Today? Yes, of course it's today..." Ayla wrinkled up her brow.

"I meant the day we leave."

"Oh, that." A silence settled.

"I’m assuming you already packed..." Ayla remarked.

"Been ready since last week. I'm assuming you haven't packed at all..."

A bird flew overhead and perched on one of the lattices.

"Oh, I threw a few odds and ends together." Ayla replied curtly. She didn't have to turn to see Sidra's smile. A loudspeaker crackled from some unseen location, blaring the same message it had for the last three days about graduates being allowed to leave the school now. Every day around this time, a few more people would trickle out the doors and into the desert in little caravans or on horseback, until nothing would be left of their presence save the hoof-prints of their horses. Sometimes a passing stranger would tell tales of great battles or monsters to the waiting graduates, but only a select few believed any of them. Hardly was a student ever heard from again.

"I had the stable boy saddle our horses earlier this morning," Sidra said as he turned towards Ayla.

"Ah. I see then." Another pause.

"You know you want to go just as badly as I do. To search for them." Sidra sat up and looked pointedly at Ayla. Ayla blushed. She almost regretted having told Sidra of her secret wish to find her parents... or at least those more like herself. Since then, he had always spoke of how they would go together to find them "someday". "Someday" was now. Today. And she felt completely unprepared. Little did she know that deep inside, Sidra was feeling the same.

"I... guess so." She lay there for a few more minutes, before rising to her feet and making her way towards a storage door by the western bubble wall. Within a minute, she re-emerged with her bags in hand.

"Well, let's go then, shall we?" Sidra adjusted his bag's position on his shoulder.

A smile cracked across Sidra's face. He dragged Ayla the length of the garden and to the exit until she finally managed to wriggle out of his grasp and strode ahead of him through the main passageway and into the shaft the communal bubble branched from. Down and down they climbed the spiral staircase until they arrived in front of a giant door leading to the main stem that connected the school together. Sidra waited for Ayla to punch in her code to let them both through. She delayed purposefully, but finally opened the door, a smirk gracing her face. "After you," she said as she pushed Sidra through.

Mumbling under his breath, Sidra trudged down the length of the metallic hallway until they reached a small room in the center. They entered, and found themselves surrounded by doors on every side. They had arrived at the stem of Quandra. Sidra punched in a few buttons on a pillar in the center. Both braced themselves as the doors began to fly upwards, faster and faster. Finally, the room came to a halt. Ayla led Sidra through a door with a small sign over it.

The two found themselves in a vast bubble bigger than any of the others, filled with thousands of people milling about. Carnivals and plays decked the edges of the streets, hundreds of peddlers pushing their colorful carts yelled out their pitch, all bathed in the yellow glow of the midday's sun.

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pinchii
Apr. 2nd, 2005 05:08 am Chapter Two

Sidra crawled cautiously along the top of one of the lattices supporting the communal gardens below. From here, he could see out through the membrane making up the walls of the bubble and across the desert for miles. With one hand he grabbed onto the bar and swung himself down, his body dangling hundreds of feet above the grassy bottom. A powerful updraft threw him off guard, his body swinging precariously for a few moments before he regained control. Hand over hand; he made his way from lattice to lattice until he was just above the entrance to one of the many air-ducts leading into the communal gardens. He took one last glance over his shoulder, at the lush gardens below and the parched earth beyond, then swung into the duct.

It had been almost twenty years to date that Sidra's parents had dropped him at the foot of the bubble-like school. That was the last time he'd seen them. Alive, at least. The schoolmaster had made a point of showing their bones to Sidra, as if to scare the unruly student into submission. "See here, this is where you'll be if you don't straighten up!" It had little effect on Sidra. He had never known his parents, and had never particularly wanted to. He had been raised by teachers who had given him schoolbooks and swords, and never had a reason to question his past. Graduating almost a month ago, he scored middle of his class; only passing because of the hours Ayla had spent tutoring him.

Slithering like a snake through the spacious air-duct, Sidra counted the number of airways he passed, until finally reaching the one he was looking for. Sidra tinkered with the latch until it gave away, and dropped nimbly onto one of the vine-covered lattices below. Not too far from where he was, he could hear Ayla rustling about. Quietly, he dropped down just a few feet behind her.

"Good morning!" Sidra grabbed Ayla by the shoulders with a claw-like grip.

"Aaah!!!" Ayla's wings protectively flared out to protect herself, but only to come into contact with solid arms which weren't about to give way.

"And just what are you up to on this fine day?" Sidra craned his head over Ayla's,, watching with satisfaction the horrified look on Ayla's face.

"Meany!" Ayla yelled, as she attempted to spin around to hit Sidra, but he wasn't about to let go.

Seething with anger, she used her best weapon against him. She curled her wings together and let them fly with all her strength. Sidra's arms couldn't stop her powerful wings, and he flew backwards into the outer wall of the sphere. Ayla smirked and bent down to tease Sidra for his low pain threshold.

"Didn't hurt you did I?"

"Evil brat..." Sidra retorted. Ayla smirked. She loved it when she won. This rarely happened.

Usually the only way she ever won any argument with Sidra was when she would literally sit on him preventing him form getting up. Her friends from school seemed to enjoy watching the power struggle. The human condition is to suffer, but the Sidra-Ayla condition was to fight and bicker at every given opportunity. Or it seemed. That was how their friendship had developed over the years... from the nurseries of their childhood, to the classrooms they had just graduated from... it really did not matter where they were geographically, the key was their proximity to each other!

She remembered the first day she had met Sidra. He was a hair's breadth taller than her, with short blonde hair cut in the short military-style cut popular there. But what stuck in her mind of their first meeting was the fact he was wearing a skirt! Not just any skirt, but a pink skirt with white polka dots, and a matching top of pink hearts! When she had looked up at him and seen what he was wearing she had doubled over into fits of laughter. Sidra had just stood there dumb-founded and blushing pink from the soles of his feet to the top of his blonde head. Later she had found out his "costume" was purely to cheer her up, and she had cherish that memory. It was this simple reaching out of the hand of friendship that finally allowed her to let the other children near her again.

"Sidra... hey... are you okay?" she touched her charcoal hair which she had tied up into the customary low pigtails with broad black ribbons. When there was no response she kneeled down so that she could look at Sidra's face.

"Bwaaaaa!!!" he triumphantly yelled at her, as she took to the air in fright.

"You imbecile! I-I'll kill you!!! Imbecile!"

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pinchii
Apr. 2nd, 2005 04:58 am Chapter One

Ayla looked out above the horizon... or at what she could see of the horizon through the bubble sphere she stood in. It had been a while since she had a chance to visit the garden. She loved the communal gardens. All her happy childhood memories were made in this bubble sphere. The little engineered waterfall, the white lilies by the pond, and the lush patch of grass that was wide enough to comfortably fit five dozen people. Most of her childhood was spent in the communal gardens, running about with her friends, playing with the newest toys together after school. Life as far as she could remember, had started in this communal bubble sphere, which was connected to other smaller bubble spheres to make her "home", her home in Quandra.

She frowned at the scorching sun overhead. Often she had wished she didn't have a desert-like existence. The thought of being out in the harsh sun's rays made her skin crawl. It was then she had another flashback.

She was lying on her side on the sand, holding one wing feebly over her body, in the vain hope of protecting herself from the heat of the sun. She thirst for water, and yearned for shade from the blazing heat. She was barely five years old then, and did not know how she had ended up in the scorching heat.

Ayla shook herself from her self made nightmare. She wrapped her arms instinctively around her shoulders, taking in deep breaths to calm herself. She had no memory of life before the flashback. The only thing she could remember after that was waking up in a white room with gold and silver tinsel draped from the rounded ceiling. It had been Christmas, and Flaron had told her, she had been asleep for almost two days. Flaron... ah... she was the first person Ayla had seen when she opened her eyes in that strange white spherical room of tinsel. She was only five years old, but the memory of Flaron's gentle motherly face was etched in her mind.

Flaron was the elderly nurse who took care of her when she was brought into the hospital. Ayla had trusted Flaron because she had spoken with a kind and gentle voice, explaining to her as much as she could understand of how Ayla had ended up in the hospital. Initially Ayla had cringed at Flaron's touch, but the reason for this was due to the burns she had sustained while lying unprotected in the desert. However, her wounds healed and according to Flaron at a remarkably fast rate indeed. But Flaron did admit that she, Ayla, was the first "human" she had ever seen who possessed wings.

In those days of healing, Flaron had told her stories of angels in Heaven, but when Ayla had directly asked Flaron if she thought Ayla was an angel Flaron had looked away, unable to answer her question. After all her wounds had healed, Ayla was sent to a school for abandoned children. The name of the institution always brought back feelings of hurt and immense grief. For which being would want to be reminded that he or she was not loved by his or her parents sufficiently to result in them abandoning their own flesh and blood here in the institution? In those dark days she had lent on the other children who were in the institution. Were it not for them, who knew where she would be now. The institution was a closed knit society, perhaps even a "secret society" one where the friendships made there would never be broken.

When she first arrived at the school there was naturally the "curiosity stage", common to all who were built differently from the typical human form. The children had tugged at her wings and pulled off her feathers in the roughness that accompanied all child's play. They had made her cry, and it had taken her an entire week before she would permit any of the children around her again. But those were her initial days at the institution, thankfully brighter days followed. She remembered the day when she was first shown the communal gardens… the garden she now gazed upon, by Sidra.

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armoredcav4
Apr. 1st, 2005 01:36 am Preface

Preface



Every voice hushed, every eye turned to the sky. For a moment, the world stopped, as if time itself had been swallowed by their silence. And for a moment, the world remembered. They remembered the day their fathers, brothers, and sons had come home. The day they threw open their gates and their doors, and rushed out into the streets, laughing and crying tears of joy and relief. They remembered the day the seven kings came down from their great palaces to gather once again, not as enemies, but as brothers. The day when the war ended, so many years ago. The war that had torn their world apart.

Forgotten were the old ways, the ancient writings, the once great kingdoms that had dominated Telluna. But here they stood once again, every living soul, remembering the stories their mothers and fathers had passed down to them.

As the hands of Quandra’s great clock eclipsed the seven, a great cry rose up, and once again time resumed its course. Beneath its turning hands, a dark figure paced. Dr. Rhyold’s robes fluttered behind him as he surveyed the sands of Kalan. In the distance he saw a horse and its rider galloping towards Quandra.

“It seems we have a visitor…” he murmured to himself as he moved towards his bookshelf which held volumes upon volumes of Telluna’s history. Taking a volume from the shelf, Dr. Rhyold settled back onto his high backed leather chair, which resonated with authority mirroring his own. Expertly thumbing through the pages he reached the section he was looking for, his eyes quickly scanning through the text.

Telluna’s history was synonymous with blood shed and the ravages of war. The Alcalites were the most aggressive of the seven kingdoms. They believed themselves to be the strongest of the seven kingdoms thus were worthy of ruling over the six remaining weaker kingdoms. Their proposal was met with strong opposition, especially from Quandralum who boasted the best military troupes second only to the Alcalites. The war should have only lasted a few weeks had each kingdom decided to defend themselves alone against the Alcalites.

However the war lasted far longer than anticipated, the begrudged banding of kingdoms interrupted sporadically by betrayal. Nearly a thousand years of fighting passed. Sometimes two, sometimes seven armies would meet on the battlefields of Telluna. Steel met steel, and man became animal. Then, a hush fell over the seven lands, as if a mutual vision had somehow found its way into their minds and hearts. So much blood had been shed, so many lives lost, all for nothing.

It was only then, on Christmas day, that peace came at last. A peace that would be celebrated by generations to come. There were the occasional uprisings from the “old-thinkers” every now and then, but their numbers were few and far in between.

“Dr. Rhyold, we have found a dehydrated… child in the desert, I think you might like to see her.” a voice announced from the speaker at the corner of the room.

“Why are you bothering me with this… desert trash?” Dr. Rhyold hissed peevishly.

“Uh… because she has um… her back has…these… um…”

“Stop muttering, boy! You put my school to shame.”

A pause. “She has wings.”

“…Send for Flaron, the head matron of Psiphoné Hospital and have her meet me at the West Gate. I’ll be right down.” Rhyold replied promptly.

Dr. Rhyold’s head whirred as he made his way to the West Gate. Could it be possible? Could one of them still be alive? An Icarii…

Gaft reached for his bag behind the front desk of an empty classroom. I have survived my first day of teaching, Gaft comforted himself. Being a teacher was certainly different from all those years he had spent in this very classroom as a student. He had never realised how much energy it took to keep a classroom full of five-year-old children quiet. Was that even possible? Sometimes he felt it took more simply to control himself than them, having several times today coming pretty close to just picking that little impish Sidra up and whirling him over his head a few times before letting go just at the right moment so that the imp would bounce tangentially off of one of the bubble walls. Ah... that would have been satisfying… abusive, perhaps homicidal, but nonetheless satisfying. Gaft swore Sidra was the worst behaved student in the history of Quandra. He looked innocent enough, but he was certainly no angel! The little blonde squirt had wreaked havoc in the classroom.

A flutter of purple robes passed by the open doorway, “Gaft, follow me,” came the commanding voice of the schoolmaster.

In confusion Gaft peeked around the doorway.

“I said to follow me, not stare at me. Now hurry.” Dr. Rhyold crisply retorted.

“Y-yes sir.” Gaft quickly fell into step with Dr. Rhyold, as they both walked down the corridor that would lead them to the lift and down to the West Gate.

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