149.4 \ 341

“The contact digest for today is vivid and full of vitality.” Mireille had been allowed to peruse incoming memorandums for the past year, and had used her access today while processing the internal upheaval. “Is it true that you met Ravl Pliskin? There was a hint.”

Soleil nodded. “It was a fairly smooth dealing. I wish you the same in any such event. He may have understood the logic when I gave him facts.”

“Our civilization is going to need some post-traumatic therapy. We need to support the new happiness, the new dancing. We have veterans and their families on our hands after the loss of the fleet and the anomaly massacre; there’s a lot we haven’t caught up with, care-wise, since troubles started to pile upon each other. Civilian survivors of Anzi, HA235, neighborhood lockdowns, heirloom tower reawakenings, darklab demonstrations, and burnt groves. There is going to have to be a mobilization to rescue our sanity, well-being, and identity. Aquariid redevelopment cannot be ignored this time, and might even be a key component to human recovery.”

“Recover Together. It may work to apply that philosophy on many fronts.” Soleil was content to let her younger sister’s insights go unchallenged. Strategically, they were on the same page. The shifting dynamic was pleasant, so she just added what she could. “The Aquarii’s Symbias trees now claim Vedani as a type of family. Kao-Sidhe visibility is an entire cultural element that may entail its own revolution. I would expect there to be some new departments of study and practice for the next age.”

“On another note, there’s also going to have to be some smoothing out with those banding with some reflexively defensive dragonslayers. The returning Red Nexus Dragons are proposing to agree not to eat any humans, as long as they receive enough seekers to satisfy their elements. We’ll need to find those with the courage.”

“On the topic of dragonslayers, I’m returning Dusk-Arrow to the collection for which it was destined. I don’t need to keep it.”

Presence was sufficient as they nibbled and sipped, facing forward side by side. “The construction for the housing of the collection is nearly finished. The work on that was fast, after Grandmaria died. They’re asking for opening gala scheduling.”

“Maybe with your Ascendancy.”

Mireille tasted those strange words. “My Ascendancy.” She turned to meet her sister’s eyes. “I hope and believe that you may be onto something in designing your new job.”

“I think I know what it is.”

“Iron it out before the impending time for announcements. I don’t expect to have any argument.”

“I can get some convincing endorsements, and I can call in historical indicators.”

Mireille sighed. “I’ve done my best, but who, in these worlds, is ready for what’s coming next?”

“Oh – I brought something.” From an inner pocket, Soleil produced two gemstone pendants of exquisite rarity. “I know you’ve read the scroll, so you know of the Aureny. These are Vedani-wrought Aureny gifts that are attuned to their communication frequency scatter, which they tell us connects naturally with humans as well.” The sisters put them on, and sipped admiringly.

Without excusing herself, Soleil rose and began walking down the platforms. Mireille watched, letting her go from her place upon the cushion. Almost out of sight, Soleil looked back and nodded before leaving.

149.3 \ 341

“So. Dragon Food.” Mireille broached this intrinsically unusual topic with matter-of-fact practicality.

“You found Dragon Food?”

“As a first Kao-Sidhe to consciously register, he is a personable one. Of course, I may have seen one or many, and succumbed to a pervasive cultural conditioning to erase erratic phenomena – which is what they are. Whether or not or how this is supposed to work, there is a greater wholeness in the feeling and function of a world that acknowledges them. It’s an interesting ongoing empirical experiment. They’re not entirely scientifically provable, are they; but without them, the data is wrong. We missed them terribly, didn’t we… yet how could we have missed them entirely?” In her assessment, Mireille seemed open to new experience.

“They require an awareness that may be a building block to a very different kind of world. Acknowledgment is the least they demand, while we should yet keep a close eye to our bargains with them.”

“While other bargains have ended. Foundationals appear to be currently experiencing a form of resource implosion after an untoward joint venture. They also used to funnel to Father.”

“It seems rude, doesn’t it, some of the things we must discuss. But we know why we must. I noticed that the technologies are newly working again with the restoration of the dragonroads. Congratulations. On some of those levels, people are surely rejoicing.” They took a moment to handle the weight of their losses against this.

149.2 \ 341

“I may not need to tell you that visions of today’s battle with our father are still alive behind my eyes.” Soleil blinked slowly, while they both knelt facing an invisible audience. “It’s as repugnant to me as it may be to others. That was not my dream of how things should go, in life.” She placed a bite of food in her mouth and cleared it. “I also went down with everyone else in this, and I’ll be an easy target for the animosities and frustrations of radical change.”

“Whereas I…” Mireille offered.

“Wouldn’t have nearly as many of those particular problems.”

“They’d see me as more uncompromised, would believe that I continue to have the Imperium’s interests foremost in my heart.” There was room for a silent sob from both of them, who knew little else could have driven Soleil to such lengths.

“Perhaps there should be an official liaison. Someone that the newly acknowledged and re-acknowledged people trust primarily, if not solely. That might already be me.” Soleil sighed toward her sister. “I really do think you’ve been learning the right things, in your pursuit of study. While we were just catching up on current events in the other room, your mental picture of doings and goings-on was penetratingly precise. I’m not sure I could get one past you if I was trying. But, I’m not.”

“Yes, well – from my cold, hard armchair, my mind’s eye may travel far. I’m aware that I’m not invincible; also, that I’m only nineteen, which in our way isn’t very highly ascended. It’s not the worst of situations. I’ve always been informed to be prepared for succession. Whether or not I expected it, I will handle what affairs are bestowed upon my responsibility. We lost… nearly everything.”

“Has a Dragon stepped forward to be Councillor?”

“As of now, no. Though I’m not formally dragon-taught like yourself, I am open to some instruction for communication.” Mireille washed down a nibble. “I heard from Draig.”

“Did you?” asked Soleil tentatively. “I wonder where he’s been, and what he’s done.”

“Whatever it is, he’ll be facing a process with the Imperial military. Though, he may still have some broad loyalty.”

“He is already a historically exceptional figure, and any possibility of reinstatement would make him even more so. In my realm of experience, he has comported himself honorably, though there may be more to be said.” The sisters turned to study each other’s faces. “His perspective may be as valuable to you as that of a Dragon Councillor. You may want to keep him around somehow. His understanding is indispensably unique.”

149.1 \ 341

The multi-level ceremonial dais was set up in the Reception Hall. It was an impromptu prep mockup for an imminent ceremony with unspecified parameters. Soleil had not exactly been announced. They rested in the breath-holding phase for media explanation of the new change in the ruling family. People weren’t all sure what had happened. The day was hardly out. But, there was a tea service and cushions waiting on the top platform, and the atmospheric lighting was adjusted to a soft spotlight. The hall was otherwise empty.

The central doors were opened to let in just the two Magus sisters, Soleil and Mireille. Companionably somber, they walked abreast toward and up the tiered platforms. They wore smooth grey attire. Under the spotlight, they each took a cushion seat and arranged their preferred bolster on a serving set.

Once they had each taken a sip, Soleil spoke, confronting the crux of the discussion. “I won’t be accepted well enough for effective rule. I’ve been figuring through this from my newly forged perspective. I was able to take this much this far, but – things are now very different. You know I learned a lot about the job, and about myself in preparation for the job. This is not a scenario, and this cannot unfold automatically.”

“You got to know a lot of people, the people. As much love as they’ve shown you, I feel that if anyone, you would recognize and be able to honestly admit impending error. Still, it’s a thunderous assessment. Soleil, this whole time, nobody really thought that you wouldn’t become Queen. But, I hear what you’re telling me.”

This was like when they play-acted royal court as children. Now, they were acting on royal court matters. It was a long path from childhood to statehood. “My mind is in a different place now, a very different place. I carry too many feelings of mistrust, that may have been rightly earned. I remember when it was easier to know what I would do, but that doesn’t mean I can trade in my experience to restore that. I have some ideas, but not of the long-expected kind.”

“There will be many kinds of uproar,” said Mireille over the edge of her cup, “amongst contingents.”

“Oh, yes. I’ve imagined many of the labels. Some strong ones will include the word ‘traitor.’ The amount of explanation I present may not matter against certain likely unending difficulties, regardless of the necessities I’ve faced.” Soleil eyed Mireille as she set her cup down. “I don’t believe these problems would hound you, as they would me.”

“People haven’t had enough prior notice to carry as many problems with me – though in your protracted absence, I began to feel some weight of expectation.”

148 \ 340

The breeze went still, the scent of an indefinable flower floating from the ground far below. Sword balancing out at an angle, as though it may yet come to life and hurt her too in this moment alone, Soleil walked over to the scroll on the floor. The pen lay near it, and she picked it up with her free hand. She examined the details of its fine craftsmanship, then pointed it at the signature frame at the base of the document. With detachment, she traced the shape of a curlicue laid in activated carbon-rich ink. She looked at the pen in her palm, then the blade sprouting from the hilt clasped in the other. Holding both, she walked out onto the balcony and tilted her face up to the light, pupils widening to take in the revelation. She spoke to the painted sky.

What does it mean to be
in a story? One can be
in a story about them,
or not about them.
A story is like a place,
a story is like a time,
but is neither – it could
be a dimension, inasmuch
as a thought has dimension
along an axis; there are
people who have a
dimension for their thoughts,
where changes occur.
Do real things happen in
stories the way stories
happen in real things?
Is a story a form of
transcendence, making us
greater than ourselves?
Does one’s existence carry
more meaning for others
through story? A reflection
for others, if they are
courageous enough to see
themselves in such a way.

Can one get out of a story,
or having been in it, will one
forever have been in it?
If lives are more than stories,
do stories become more
than lives? Do they happen
about us, without us?
Who possesses a story,
the character or the one
who comprehends?
Who makes a story –
universal forces, characters,
the messenger, the recipient –
or all? It seems to me
to be all. There are
characters behind the
characters – we could call them
people, but that may confuse
between the people in the story
and the people outside the story.
People outside the story may
be in the story, as the story
becomes a part of
something outside itself.
Time passes from paragraph
to paragraph, and a story is
part of a life, a companion
that knits time into a single
piece, marking remembrance.

Time is long or short, within
a time that is long or short.
A year may have passed like
a week, or a month, or a day
where we were. Maybe
something shifted while we
sat and perceived.
What is in service to a
story, and how is a story
in service? Is perception
the only thing that links it
all together? Stories also
disappear or die; like people,
they have a life and they fade.
Like people, do they live on
in the ripples they make?
Is there an imprint of this
perception left on reality –
maybe to be reformed in a
new person outside the story,
who sees themselves in
another story? Is a story
what’s left behind? Like a
chalk outline filled with flowers –
but an outline of several people,
or billions, rediscovered
outside of its event like the
ruin of an ancient building,
something for our feet to
stand in, and wonder for
ourselves. When the rain
falls, the flowers open while
the stone melts a little more.
There was something that
made a mark in passing,
like ourselves, something
that briefly was everything.