24.1 \ 206

Drift X occupied a serene spot in orbit near the planet it just left. This was called Ombd, a sound similar to that for the gestational rock, the omba – how the people of this planet, the Aureny, begin their lives. Every human aboard Drift X felt themselves profoundly changed after their encounters here. The ship was drenched in a serious, solid quiet as each person reshaped their world to include what they’d just seen. The knowledge of this place was rare, which made it also heavy. Princess Ascendant Soleil, Magus, occupied the circular gunnery with only the returned Kao-Sidhe liaison Dragon Food. Their discussion was as subdued as Dragon Food could ever really be.

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.

Uixtr and Moonshadow had decided to take their leave prior to the talks. They had their own set of priorities, and Uixtr was already well educated on Aureny motives. There would be witnesses enough for the response from Princess Ascendant Soleil. Moonshadow had already communicated extensively with Drift X on its most recent technical learning, so the ship was the absolute cutting edge of Vedani-Human collaborative engineering. When they’d left, Moonshadow had flashed some cheerful colors, and Uixtr was looking Soleil in the eye as a lightnet enveloped him and the vehicle and retrieved them to some home destination.

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.”

22.3 \ 204

The three Dragons begin to compare scales, enabling the one newly emerged to take notice of er own details.

Rainbow-hued, clever of line, Saga reflects: the meaning of the narrative, the Meaning of The Narrative, the Meaning of the narrative, etcetera.

Ageless of form, almost smooth, Grymmatos recalls from a place of strength: the regularity of the tap of foot upon surface, size matched to size, simple steps in aggregate symphony echoing down in time.

A color that is the opposite of every color, both shining and absorbing, Acamar evanesces: the transformative pause, an opening that is a nothing, a not-thing.

Near their space, a blue flare bursts fountaining, a recognition of a uniquely relevant occurrence, requesting inclusion. Reading the signature, Saga knows who this comes from. “This Dragon who wishes to join us has many friends who fear you hatefully. It’s good to let things occur as they should, and this one suggests ‘e should be present, but you may disallow it. This began as your tabulum.”

“It’s been a good meeting. Let it continue, as requested,” says Acamar with a natural bow of admission.