I still remember your stories, sweet one. In your depths you half-remember them too, don’t you? Now more than ever. Our stories, I should say. Keepers, Speakers and Scribes, like you taught me. Like we taught each other. I pray I’ve given some real earthly clarity to those tomes and visions. Of sylph and black, iris and star. Cathedral Seas. Branches of page and script. I truly hope I’ve made them useful to you, and to our beautiful friends. Mortals still wonder about these things. About thresholds and imaginings. The sky, or the heart. How things become open. Immortals wonder too, beloved. Sometimes I have these brief, holy moments when pieces of that life come back to me, and it feels like a revelation. I find myself writing furiously so that I won’t forget. I remember the delight in your eyes when you held and tended the little ones. You were so in your element during those occasions when guardians opened their halls to the many schools of cusp and star. Those incredible children of light. All faiths and tribes. Their bright, curious eyes. Their giddy excitement and endless questions. Your patience and dedication. Indeed their joy was sublimely infectious, but you hardly seemed to tire of the sheer amount of work involved. Those celebrations of learning meant so much for all emissaries. But you were gifted, sweet one. More than a trusted Arc. More than poet, story-teller or songstress. Teacher, mother, midwife. Of the Songs and Feathers of Ethri-sol, at the river of the thousand stars.
“Is it true, Yash’aya?” the little ones would ask you. “Is it true the poet’s moon named the river after the first glory? Is it really your name too?”
Yash’aya was their title for you, because they loved and honoured you so. Only the older children spoke Yash’a sometimes, and even then only rarely.
You had such a kind, exuberant way with them. Never dismissive in the slightest. A favourite to so many.
Of course, all the children were fascinated by the legends and glories of the first scribes of Eth’iri. Their excitement with the emissaries was one thing, but to meet an actual keeper of the eternal radiant? Or an Arc of the Dreaming? Truly a good day for a curious, bright-eyed seeker.
It wasn’t just the little ones who felt there was something different about us, my darling. There were many who sensed a holy secret concerning our various names. A secret of the river, the seasons and the first glory.
Yash’a and Kai’el, of the Auguries.
Arcs and Bright Ones, of the Cathedral of Thorns. Hidden in the wells of the sea. Perhaps it seems like story to most. Nothing more than fantasy or fable. But not to me. It hurts to remember these things. It aches to thread light to mortal sense again. Delicate are the tethers, my love. We need only look at the violence and chaos all around to know how far Ishkara fell. From song to star to bitter soil. The dark, nameless ones glimpsed in the glass. Night-wraiths whom the first scribes of Eth’iri called the Thieves of All Signs. Cults of half-light intent on sickening all regions of dreaming. Monsters making hallow of desecration. Even the older children sometimes asked you about those thieves, and the spill. Blackening desolate, eating and burning its way through everything. Wraith-ambient from the murdering hands of false kings.
Mortals, let me tell you. Murder means something very different among the deathless realms. An act of hideous reshaping that can resound for aeons. I still see them, sweet Aya. Those thieves and violators clustered at the procession of gates, seething like unholy insects at the breach. It’s why I still come to you for solace and song, as the little ones of Ethri did. This realm of tortured flesh corrupts and enslaves everything. But we still recall the ways of our home, don’t we? Even if only in fragments.
A kiss, or kindness. Voiceless given voice. Weak and wounded given strength. Lost ones given place and time enough to heal.
Those were once the ways of true augury. Not just the Lighthouses of Eth’iri, but all regions of the infinite dreaming. Before Ethri-sol was slain, before Kara fell.
“Is it true, Yash’aya? Could the Thieves of All Signs use wraith-ambient to manifest such Caution’s Shades? Is there a fallen Arc among them? Leading them…?”
The frightened yet excited voice of a little one who had heard legends of the looking-glass, but thankfully hadn’t any personal knowledge of genuine darkness.
The tears you hid as you soothed him, and how he wondered why you turned your gaze away.
“Those shades are not for you, little one. They are for Arcs who peer the glass. But they’re only disquieting fables to learn from, shown to us by our Father as mere cautions. Nothing more. He cherishes all his children, and demands nothing of us except wisdom, sobriety and play. Fear not. You’ll learn more of these glories in cycles to come.”
The questioning intelligence in the eyes of the little one. “But Aya, some say the dreaming is everything, and anything. Some say the wraiths are more than fable or caution. They say the looking-glass is bleeding.”
I remember how rare it was for you to be speechless when tending the young. But you couldn’t hide your eyes this time. The child saw your tears and immediately made them his own. He touched your face ever so gently, then in an act of mercy spoke of softer, frivolous things.
I fled from the hall that morning, at your sadness and the tenderness of the little one.
It cut too deeply to know as Arcs know.
What it would take to hold the sins of a falling eternity.
You found me in the gardens, quiet and hurting. You put your arms and wings about me. Feathers of grey and song, and solace. You held me like you so often held the little ones, with boundless compassion and respect. Staring up at me. Open, cherished and cherishing. I remember looking down into your eyes. Into the blue of true augury. Those eyes still transform me, every time. You didn’t say anything for the rest of the morning. Neither of us did. We didn’t try to hide our sadness and uncertainty from each other. We were too devoted to one another for that. Instead we simply wandered the beautiful gardens of Ethri together and sat among the plants and flowers.
Kai and Yash’a, praying silently for earth and home.
Many names, my wild song. Many places we have ventured. So much has changed. So much has fallen. It’s a frightening time, but we can be proud of all the work we have accomplished in those places. We will not let these Thieves of All Signs bleed the looking-glass unchallenged. These petty, cowardly cults of half-light. Bleak, sickening and cruel. A cry goes out from the innermost, heard by kith and kin. We stand against all defilers of the realms, even when it cuts us to the bone. They have our pity and our disgust, but they’ll never have our spirit or our strength. We still defy them, Aya. With love, and light. For our Father and our family. For our children.
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