16.3 \ 198

The Princess was now beginning to differentiate between the traits of the people and the traits of the person in their emissarial escort. Though there was a pervasive hostility about the way the Aureny addressed her presence, Mystvall didn’t direct that toward her in any pointed manner, and they exhibited persistent patience in not outpacing her as they progressed.

They finally stopped before a tunnel mouth, where the gemstone formations burst forth in a ring of stunning variety and intensity. They were perched upon a view of an enormous atrium, like looking into a heart at the edge of a blood vessel. Across this vast space were many more openings like theirs in the chamber wall, with an Aureny at each. Soleil observed that each opening was set in a funnel-like depression, and she recognized this as a shape employed to cast and receive sound. Inside this central chamber, the crystal growth was awe-inspiring, casting glow in a rainbow of pulsing hues. There could be a full phronium spectrum here, maybe beyond the spectrum, even power material of an entirely different kind. The distant floor of this geode-like atrium was flat stone, even and cleared.

In stillness, Mystvall had retreated into a quiet state of meditation. Rosy Glow came to settle at Soleil’s eye level, casting an excited carmine blush. “What they’re going to express, I can’t really translate for you. Though there will be a lot happening outside your range of hearing, you will still experience an incredible concerto. You should remain in total awareness in order to keep yourself safe. Don’t worry about me or let me distract you – unlike you, I’m able to not be injured by stray projectiles. They’re rarely, if ever, off mark; if they’re not trying to hit you, they probably won’t as long as you don’t jump in the way of their target. I’m staying nearby in case you require a verbal communication. I’ll try to locate myself in a place where you can safely stand if you’re suddenly confused, since it’s a little easier for me to view trajectories without having to worry about my personal safety. But you don’t have to just follow me! Stay in your own body and do what feels right for you! There may be more safe spots than the ones I notice, that might be easier for you to reach.” Rosy Glow appeared to fret a little, then fell silent.

Soleil took this in wordlessly, readying herself before further questions or events. She was wearing the Vedani gearsuit, which Uixtr and Moonshadow had cleaned and serviced. With a sharp knock, she engaged the suit’s armor shock sensitivity, feeling the localized hardening of the tensile fibers. She pulled the hood out of the collar, tucked her long hair underneath it, and tensed it to fit. Uixtr had shown her the visor, a little piece of sheer film which hardened to clear; she pulled that down over her brow and tapped it, then dragged her glove across her mouth and smacked both sides of her jaw. The suit might keep her from getting dinged, but not from being crushed, tossed around, or broken. “How long should I expect this to last?” she finally asked.

“Two, maybe four of your hours,” replied Rosy Glow, who quieted and turned to look at Mystvall, whose silence had intensified. The loaded hush filled with something outside her hearing spread throughout the cavern. Wobbling into her awareness was more than just a vibration and bigger than a sound, a mesh of transmission nearly visible throughout the air – low and full bodied, emanating from every balcony divot in the geode wall. The crystals in the resonating bowls were effulgent with frequencies. The phenomena were all tied together. Soleil boggled knowing that they were hearing a great deal more, if they even thought of it as hearing. Guessing by their sensory organs, hearing might be the same as seeing to them, and breathing a part of it. The headplate might also have a resonant chamber, she felt sure with the way some held it at an angle.

The basso wobble took on a polyrhythmic core. Various members of the assembly began to stomp in time, every sound carrying, not a footfall lost as they took conversational turns. Since she wasn’t yet fearing bodily injury, Soleil figured this must be the build-up. She relaxed loosely while she could.

 

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