23.4 \ 205

A change occurred in the air, the kind that happens when musical instruments reach the same key. An accord of acknowledgment. They took a moment to reach emotional balance before continuing. From the center of the sledge seated in her bubble of serenity, Rosy Glow continued to focus the channels of communication. She altered hand positions like directing flows of energy, but otherwise remained in stillness.

DOES THIS HAPPEN A LOT?

Soleil reflexively covered some of her face with her hand. “It is an occasional bad behavior that may be done to other people or one’s own. The majority find it to be as reprehensible and shocking as you do.”

IF WE ARE MET WITH ACTIONS OF GENUINE RESPECT, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE WE MAY EXPECT?

The Princess turned to look at Wendel, Toller, and Derringer as though they were her council. They didn’t require her partially upraised gesture to know they needn’t speak, that this was a consultation of silent support. She just needed to look at the faces of other humans to collect these thoughts. “If you were to become citizens of the Pan-Galactic Imperium, you would possess all the participatory rights. I understand if that isn’t very appealing at this time. Bans on exploitation and a modicum of diplomatic negotiation seem baseline, at a time of due recognition.”

YOU BELIEVE THESE WOULD BE ADEQUATE DETERRENT FOR SUCH OCCURRENCES?

“In honesty, you have incredible riches that would be difficult for strong enterprise to resist. Any effective commerce you might conduct could allay the pressure to appropriate, while strengthening your status in negotiations. I am beyond grateful that you’ve given me the opportunity to appreciate the treasures of the Aureny for the importance and beauty they contain, than for the commerce they may attain.”

WE ARE JUSTIFIED THAT YOU HAVE FELT EVEN ONE SUCH MOMENT OF APPRECIATION.

One stomp of a limb traveled from one member of the Aureny assembly to another until all had made the gesture.

WE DO NOT AIM TO ALTER OUR COURSES OF ACTION. THIS IS WELL FOR YOU – EVEN AS WE MAKE CERTAIN THAT OUR VOICES REACH CONSIDERATION, WE HAVE PLANNED TO SHOW YOUR PEOPLES SOME RESPECT. YOU AFFIRM THAT IT IS RIGHT FOR US TO DO SO.

“Ominous, yet forgiving. I certainly have a lot to consider from this. We have now met. You know people who can find me, and I say that you may find me, best if anyone, regarding matters of organizational liaison.”

There came a moment of troubled conference that went untranslated between the nearest emissaries, then it was Mystvall who clearly addressed Soleil. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT YOU HAVE NOT RECEIVED THIS INFORMATION, WHICH MAY COME AS A SHOCK. The focus she received from Mystvall felt like a direct gaze, though it was given without the visual affirmation of pupils. YOUR GRANDMOTHER, QUEEN CELESTE, MAGUS THE 24TH, DIED PEACEFULLY.

“My grandmother, the Queen,” Soleil reiterated, shaken, hand to her chest.

23.3 \ 205

In empathic overdrive somewhere between anguish and rage, Princess Ascendant Soleil controlled her breathing and held the moisture in her eyes. She broke an expectant silence.

“I had not previously known of all this. It sounds characteristic of the misfortunes of private enterprise, not necessarily with any direct involvement of the Pan-Galactic Imperial government or the Magus Dynasty. This could even have occurred without any other parties observing, though one could possibly indict our entire societal structure for creating the likelihood of this unscrupulous mentality.

“Blame will never salvage what was lost, aside from token scraps. I realize this. Alone, that the amazing people of this planet should exist to human knowledge without being celebrated or honored is a hideous mistake.

“You are likely aware that I, personally, can make you no guarantees. But I am listening now, and can aid your communication where possible. I am able to reach the ears of every level of our government, and they know that someday mine may be the hand of power.”

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.

23.1 \ 205

Wreckage like this, they had not seen on this planet up to this point. Nothing looked so ravaged; where things had been broken off, they were also growing again, but not here. Everything across this wide crater had been taken and scraped bare. After the places they’d seen, full of life and music, chambers of light and artistry, they could almost see what was lost here.

THIS WAS A PLACE WHERE WE BROUGHT OUR CHILDREN TO PLAY. IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES IN EXISTENCE. HERE WERE RARE LIVING TREASURES LOOKED UPON FOR GENERATIONS. IN THERE IS WHERE WE WILL HAVE OUR DISCUSSION.

The coterie of selected Aureny delegates accompanied the fielded freight sled that carried Soleil and the others who had come here aboard Drift X. As Aureny walk, it had taken them half a day to get here. The floating sled looked Vedani, sharing a few of Moonshadow’s characteristics. The Aureny seemed to carry nothing with them above ground.

THERE WAS A MASSACRE, AT FIRST. WHEN WE REALIZED THEY WERE UNWILLING TO TALK BUT WILLING TO KILL, AND THAT WE COULD NOT STOP THEM, WE STAYED AWAY. WE HAVE SINCE ENSHRINED OUR REMAINS. FOR NOW, THEY ARE GONE, AND WE WANT NO MORE OF THIS. SO WE HAVE ALLIED WITH OTHERS WHO HAVE SIMILAR MESSAGES TO DELIVER TO THE SOURCE OF OUR GRIEVANCES.

“The Pan-Galactic Imperium,” intoned Soleil, head bowed introspectively. Rosy Glow, channeling all this communication, floated petal-eyes half shut inside a whirl of her favorite colors of light. Derringer, Wendel, and Toller observed.

22.4 \ 204

Though nothing has essentially changed, the surrounding space feels close, dark and intimate, as this Dragon creeps in from a hidden point. Treading delicately with a probing blindness that can still sense everything, Rhizoa travels around to brush against each of them. The connection from this feeling of touch is sustained, like holding hands.

From within this sense of connection, Rhizoa breaches a difficult topic. “You must be aware that Ignivus is no longer living.”

“Yes. I didn’t know er long, though incubation is timeless and my first ones were intrinsic to my emergence.”

“Ignivus, or Ignivf from among er names, was killed by people who know me, those who believe you an enemy. But, we should know each other. You and I have many points of relation. I sensed an unmissable congruence in this moment, between those of us present.” Knowing from their arrangement as ‘e entered that they were matching scales, Rhizoa joins the knotwork formation.

Reaching out in safe shelter of secrecy: a moment of form in action, characteristic of Rhizoa.

The nonexistent bridge, betweenness that is itself, a space that isn’t space: an essential rumination of Acamar’s.

Reassuring order, inspiring form and structure: an effect of Grymmatos’ presence.

Perspective over the interconnected weave as known by a patternmaker in the patterning: a viewpoint of Saga’s familiarity.

The buried foundation, sweetness and medicine.

The vanishing that is an appearing also, the broken way.

A grounding place, to draw the dreamers.

Connecting dots, making sense.

“A blossoming society is of importance to us,” says Rhizoa, “but we must embody our wholeness, which itself is the reason for our presences. The way of divides is rarely the Dragon’s tendency, but my alliances are of value and I will continue to empower my associations. I am glad to know you, and I believe we have much to do with each other, nascent Acamar. Like Saga, you hold no allegiance, so beware those of others. There are neighborhoods of my terrain I would share with you, but you can’t gain access through our protections. We have this place, that is no place, that may be the only place we can share.”