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.

149.1 \ 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.

147 \ 339

Acamar replied in reflection.

I know the gate
between places;
I am the gate
between one state
and the next,
in some senses.
A place is not like
another place, and
states of being differ
The between
is not either.
Something happens,
and another state of
being is reached.
Sometimes there is a
somewhere or a something.
We may not know what
it is, though it may be
defined to us by wondering.
There are also nether
betweens, such as myself.
Not even I claim
to know all such matters,
just that I am familiar
with the indefinable.
It is part of my core.
What holds things together
by holding them apart?
Is it a force or a thing?
Am I a thing or a force?

I believe that I may have
been present here on
multiple orders of importance.
The chaos of your crisis
created a circumstance
that made my being call to
itself with exceptional draw.
This occurrence, event –
condolences – adjoined
to my realm, unto
unknown reaches.

There are layers,
and levels, and
boundaries, and walls,
and veils, and gates, and
doors, and there was one
here, and many.
Ways through are
all different.
Sometimes the passage
is what you call time,
elsewise it may be
change in form,
in mind, in state.
It may form itself,
and is also the gate.
I may be the movement
and the moved.

With this, the shifting ebony Dragon circled ‘er architecturally-sized coils once. Indicating direction, Acamar shifted again. Meeting eyes with Soleil once more, the Dragon went and joined the revelation.

145.2 \ 337

A liquid fog passing over his vision, Grant watched his blades slither out of their sheaths at the bottom edge of his periphery. With equivalent response, Soleil’s stance changed, initiating Dusk-Arrow’s arc of momentum. A ringing clash shuddered through the room as the first swing was turned aside with a forceful glancing double parry.

“What are you doing?!” The voice tore from Soleil’s throat with half-expected betrayal. The Princess Ascendant had to attack – with this weapon in her hands for this moment, her best defense was to drive him back.

“There has to be an end to this,” stated King Vario between strategic stance repositioning. “It could be ugly, or it could be clean. So much has gone on for so long, I don’t know what I might do.”

The muscles Soleil had grown in her adolescent training remembered her specialty in counterbalancing pirouette, and she kept herself moving in a smooth whirlwind to keep her openings covered and the King Proxem’s cleverness at bay. “There are lots of things you could do!”

“Perhaps not, my daughter.” Vario kept taking the attack, dodging backwards while making occasional entries that altered the course of her parabolic swings.

They paused; his attacks, and her drive, facing each other in the strengthening morning light.

He signed the scroll. Then, they hugged. He sighed and said, “Well, it’s not going to be easy.” They smiled gratefully at each other. It could have been like that. But then, what would have happened? Vario felt like he just knew.

It actually was like they were trying to hug, but completely unable. Huggy feelings of days gone by had been swept away by the effort and the heartbreak. And this, this was the freshest mess. Soleil was suffused with a clarity that was merciless, rightful, and righteous. Everyone and everything that had sent her here wouldn’t let her lose by giving up. She might have guessed what her father was thinking, and to that she couldn’t agree or disagree.

The pause went on almost too long, and their weapons came up again at the same time.