23.2 \ 205

They walked the platform sled into the barren crater, to the center of the devastation. The area was deep as a canyon and larger than a village. There was no discernible trace of what raw material might have been gleaned from here. As the guests neared the center, some Aureny split off to take up different positions around the bowl, indicating some evidence of features by their presence. With them remained Mystvall, Xhatter, and a rounded handful of others.

They took turns speaking as Rosy Glow translated, but it was difficult to discern the source unless they made a nominally visible courtesy gesture that would be unnecessary amongst themselves. The sensory pits beneath the capital platform might quiver with emotion or expression, and they would occasionally open mouths in a kind of sigh, or clash their dental ridges together in punctuation. A foot stamp might presage or conclude a statement.

THIS PLACE WAS ONCE CALLED GLITTERING TOWERS. WHAT DO YOU THINK IT WOULD BE CALLED AS IT IS NOW?

“I cannot even imagine,” replied Princess Ascendant Soleil. “Perhaps nothing.”

NOW WE REFER TO IT AS THE TRAVESTY.

I KNEW A YOUNGLING WHO DIED HERE ON THIS SPOT, said one. OUR CHILDREN BELONG TO ALL OF US. THOUGH COMING FROM TWO, IT IS NOT KNOWN WITH CERTAINTY WHICH TWO.

THEY FORMULATE AND GESTATE EACH INSIDE THEIR OWN STONE, WHICH GROWS AND THEN CRACKS, THAT WE CALL THE OMBA. ALL FROM OUR CAVERN ARE PRECIOUS TO US AS OUR OWN.

WE BRING THEM TO PLACES TO LEARN, AND BECOME WHO THEY WILL BE. IT IS A BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY, TO WHICH POINTS OF HERITAGE THEY WILL BE ATTRACTED.

HERE WAS A STELE IN BUBBLING BLUE, PURPLE, AND GOLD. GROWN BY VISITORS SINCE TIME BEYOND MEMORY, THIS FORMATION RECORDED, REFLECTED, AND TRANSMITTED THE SONGS AND TALES DIRECTED TOWARDS IT. THE YOUNG COULD CHOOSE THEIR WISDOM.

As this formation was described, Rosy Glow resonated into a powerful effulgence. Her usually personal aura of color cast an extended mist all the way to the location being described, and an image shimmered into being of an incredible tower of stone vibrating with the life of intention, each color like a brushstroke. Rosy Glow continued to channel the communication, unusually elevated and transfixed.

I REMEMBER THIS TOWER STELE HERE, said another. THIS RECORDED THOUGHTS OF MANY PLACES WE HAVE BUILT UNDER THE CRUST; THE WAYS WE CREATE OUR DWELLINGS IN THE DEEP, TRANSFORMATIONS OF AIR, EARTH, AND LIGHT. THE SHAPES THAT HOLD AND HOUSE.

The rosy effulgence wavered to there also, and a rigid, many-sided single point of clarity and stature shimmered into sight, one large side at its peak reflecting the sunlight of a different day.

Descriptions of remembered people who died here – memories of what existed that used to belong to all of them – recountings of the storehouses of knowledge that were taken as robbed wealth by aliens who couldn’t even grasp their full value, came one after another. As though each story were a song which sustained a single note as the others joined them, all the images being transmitted by Rosy Glow persisted as more were communicated until this great chasm was filled with a momentary dawning of memory. The Kao-Sidhe’s form had become almost entirely amorphous, her centrality indicated only by petal eyes in radiant trance.

The telling reached a pause, and for some long slow breaths, all basked in the gleaming shadows of what once was here. Something beyond achievement and history, a pinnacle of all that and more, dear beyond possession, and once full of life. A half-audible thundering came from the Aureny which shook the dust upon the ground, and the grand illusion shuddered out of existence. Rosy Glow floated down from the air to the platform like a feather, and no larger, humbled in form.

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