Celeste sat on her bed, staring out the window. The oily darkness had already descended. The moon now ruled; a fragment of its true self shone above. Silver light painted the land. A strange beauty, this silver and black world. Only the sound of the gentle waters, the frogs and the hushed breeze dared to fill the chill emptiness of the air. Each ripple on the spring filled pond transmuted from silver to black to silver again. The wind ran its icy tendrils through the ancient grass, whispering of things lurking in the night. The frogs hid within the depths of the dark pond, only their shrill chirping betrayed their presence.
The wind paused as the dark clouds crawled across the sky. The pond, and the frogs in it, fell silent. No longer did their music envelope the eerie night.
Celeste rose and hurried across her room and down the steps. She could sense the strangeness of the night beckoning. She rushed into the kitchen and stopped at the door, unsure of her sensitivity to the oddness of this evening.
Quassia turned from the sink full of dishes to observe Celeste’s still form. “Going out?”
“Yes,” Celeste replied with a mere breathe.
“Terry is out there, but stay close. I don’t like the feel of the air,” Quassia said, releasing Celeste from her frozen state.
Celeste plunged into the silver-black lawn. Stepping away from the porch, she wandered across to the pond. The wind waltzed around her. The cool touch of its fingers begged her to join in. However, the wet grass clung to her feet, keeping her in place. The pond rippled from an occasional raindrop diving in. The tiny waves whispered her name, weaving a spell of power spiraling to the stars.
Water, like a shy lover, caressed the night drenched earth. Celeste, a woman barely twenty, stood undaunted in the embrace of the cascading rain. Her hair, the impossible color of sunshine, dripped like paint upon her shoulders and back. She tilted her head to acknowledge the dark sky, the bearer of the lesser light. Studying the waning moon, she rubbed her swollen belly. It wasn’t New Moon; yet the air practically sizzled with its energy. New Moons contain the power of undoing. She couldn’t remember who told her that, but she feared its truth. Her term of pregnancy approached its end. This fear she kept to herself. How could she, so small and insignificant, keep her children safe from all evil in the universe?
She closed her eyes, welcoming the tide of the life-force that washed over the earth. Visions of two, her unborn twins, embarking on a quest much larger than herself, swirled in her mind. It’s a quest much larger than they, taking them across the cosmos without her. Who will protect them?
She smiled ruefully. Terry once called her visions “surfing the cosmic internet” after her poor explanation of them. A tiny ripple of pain, promising to grow, shook Celeste from her reverie.
Lightning ripped the sky, clashing with chocolate flavored earth and banished the darkness. The rain plummeted from the heavens. An orb of light cut back the shadows and held them at bay. The light bathed her. Her wet skin shimmered as though she were the moon itself.
Energy stirred inside and around her. She felt weightless. She felt herself rising above the land, despite her immobile body standing in the soaked grass. She felt the air touch her tender exposed skin. Terror’s talons tore at her soul.
A dark figure emerged from the light, stepping towards her in silence. She tasted the bittersweet pain on the rain. Celeste’s mind registered that a man stood before her. His silver eyes captured her soul. She remained passive as a finger of fire burned up her spine and left her cold.
“Greetings…” His soft voice pushed through the rain and enveloped the darkness with demanding force.
A part of her wished to kneel, but she continued to stand. Celeste willed herself to truly see this man. She failed.
The orb of light vanished. The shadows devoured the empty space the orb left behind. A wave of energy rocked her. Celeste knew he absorbed most of it. She gasped for air in vain. Pain shot through her entire being as she collapsed into his strange embrace. Everything fuzzed around her. She struggled to grasp at any one clear thought to focus on. All thoughts disintegrated when he picked her up. She was shocked by the heat he radiated. His aura felt of purest ice. Surprised by his gentleness, she felt safe yet afraid. His very presence unbalanced her. He carried her to the door. With little movement or effort, he kicked in the door and entered the kitchen.
“Who are you?” Cold gray eyes burned with fury. Quassia prepared to pounce, but relaxed when she saw Celeste in his arms.
“Her labor begins,” he said.
“I can see that!” Quassia rushed into the adjoining room. A brief moment later, she returned with a scantily clad woman.
“Celeste!” the dark woman cried, “Quassia, hot water! Terry? Terry, summon Xavier! You there, bring her in here!”
“Octavia,” Celeste whimpered, “I can’t do this.”
“Yes you can,” she beamed, “No worries, I’m here.” Octavia spun to face Quassia. “Prepare the circle!” Octavia whirled through the house gathering blankets and towels. The doors conveniently opened and closed themselves for her. A chilling howl could be heard outside.
The stranger carried Celeste into the living room and placed her on the couch. Quassia and Octavia pushed him aside. He stood by the door and watched them care for the girl that summoned him. He knew she herself didn’t know why she called for him, if she even knew she summoned him at all.
“Damn it, where is Terry?” Octavia shouted.
A beautiful golden retriever trotted into the room. He took his place on the floor next to Celeste. Neither woman pushed the animal away.
Quassia scratched the retriever behind its ear and said absently, “Xavier is on his way.”
Octavia coached Celeste as Quassia set to work. She quickly placed white candles about the room in every free space available. Xavier burst into the room, tossing his long wet coat aside. Quassia dragged the stranger into the center of the room. With a quartz tipped wand, she traced a circle around the greater portion of the room. Taking her place in the center, she raised the wand above her head and chanted.
“Wind and tree, flame and sea, I beckon to the mighty gods of peace, death and life to bear witness and aide as we begin this journey! Oh, god of fearsome death, still thy hand in this place of sacred life and give peace to those who come into our world this night. The earth is my mother and I am her fire. The sea is my love and the wind, my child. Protect on the outside, guard within; land and sea, fire and wind!” Quassia’s voice filled the room. The house resonated with power. The floor trembled, the windows broke open, rain and glass showered harmlessly upon the floor. The candles flared into dancing life, gifting the room with a surreal flutter.
Celeste’s scream of pain silenced the room. Everyone turned their attention to her. The stranger moved to her side. He tenderly laid his hand upon her forehead and whispered, “Fly away, let the wind carry you.” As the pain quelled, he backed away. Octavia resumed her duties as midwife.
Quassia turned to him, ignoring the birthing process, to scrutinize him. Time ebbed and flowed past as the two stood silently, facing each other.
“Who are you?” Quassia asked.
The stranger merely offered, “Krye”
“Why did you come here?” she parried.
“She summoned me,” he said with a thrust of his voice.
Quassia gaped at him, unable to continue fencing with him.
A great cry tore through all. Quassia spun to see the new mother holding one of her newborns. Octavia cradled the other. Both infants were as divine as their mother.
“I bless you with the elements,” Celeste waved a candle over each head and then dripped a single drop of water on their foreheads. Next a pinch of sand was sprinkled onto their crowns and gently blown away. “Fire, water, earth and air seal this name upon thy children.” Celeste smiled, “I name thee…”
“Death,” hissed an oily voice. A gust of wind surged through the room, extinguishing the candles. A greasy darkness poured across the floor towards Celeste.
“Great Mother!” Quassia said as the shadows took life to reach for the babies.
“No!” Octavia wailed.
“Fire, fire burning bright, heed the desire of my soul’s light!” Quassia screamed. Her aura flared, holding a demon at bay.
“Shadows I command thee, bend to my will!” Octavia cried, snaring a lunging monster in stasis.
“There’s too many of them!” Celeste said as yet another rose to attack. “Weiss, help me!”
A ghostly form materialized at her side. Bright blue eyes of diamond flashed with passion. Unkempt clothing floated about his body, clashing with the nobility he carried. “Mother Earth, lend me your will that I may crush the opposition of life with my unworthy hand!” Weiss grappled the demon to the floor.
Another great demon oozed up from the floor to take a stand.
“Leviathan, guide my blade through the heart of this evil!” An oak katana thrust into the beast. Its death cry bled into their ears.
Krye watched as all their magick shattered around them like so much broken glass. Celeste bounded up from the couch, pushing the infant she held into his arms.
“No, not my baby!” she screeched, sparks of energy lit the air around her, “Solar winds unleash the fire of the sun and stars to burn this evil in heaven’s holy rage!”
Light erupted, disintegrating all demons, but one. One infant was whisked away.
“I was too late!” came the unified wail of them all.
Krye offered Celeste the infant he still held. “You have this one in need of a name.”
“What a name this child must bear!” Celeste whimpered, “Death and despair.”
The dog whined and licked her calf. She sank down into the couch, wilted.
“Don’t forget hope,” Krye said.
“Yeah,” Quassia waved a fist in the air, “Lynnie hasn’t won yet!”
“We still have a chance. We can go rescue the child,” Octavia said brightly, mopping her black curls from her face.
“Indeed,” Celeste cradled the child, “Dear one, many cards have fallen upon you, even now. I pray the highest powers look after, protect and guide you; that you may fulfill the fate destined upon you. I name you for me and for all who are here. I name you for the heavens above and the earth below. I name you for your twin, and for yourself. I name you for all the tears that have fallen, do fall and have yet to fall.”
“How charming.” A silken voice sliced through the golden threads of Celeste’s incantation. “But, I’m afraid, my dear niece, you won’t be keeping this one either.”
Quassia, Octavia, Xavier and the dog encircled Celeste and her baby.
Celeste’s hand stayed Krye from joining them. Weiss’ blue eyes shone from her waxen face. “Krye, whisk this child far away from here.”
Krye accepted the child in his arms as Celeste’s guardians began chanting over Lynnie’s powerful keening. Aunt Lynnie’s presence suffocated the room. Although dressed simply, she couldn’t hide the awesome nobility of her spirit. Piecing blue eyes paled Weiss’ and Xavier’s imitations. They burned of power. Waves of energy pulsed the air as Krye turned to flee.
“Krye! I beg you to name my child!” Celeste pleaded.
Krye acknowledged her with a nod. He leaped over the black muck seeping over the floor and fought back the unseen hands groping and pulling him. He fled from the house, feeling the darkness following him. He plunged into the night, running. He jumped blindly, trusting his orb of light would catch him. It did. He rode the current of light beyond where the darkness could track. He turned and traveled against the waves, fighting backwards. He traveled against the current of light until it took him to the blue ebbing pool he knew as home. He dived into it and found himself in his bedroom. A quick glance around gave him the information he needed.
“Twenty years back should be enough,” he muttered. He left his home and quickly walked the familiar road to the temple.
“Father!” he called. He approached the altar and yelled again.
“Hush you fool! It’s late and all are sleeping!” the father appeared from behind the altar.
Krye handed him the baby.
“What is this?”
“The child’s name is,” Krye paused, “Kaye and needs sanctuary.”
“You know what it means to harbor a child such as this one?” the father asked.
“Yes. Protect this child’s secret and soul.” Krye turned to leave.
“Krye?” he paused, “Should I be the only one to know?”
“You know better than to ask that,” Krye said, leaving the temple.
Krye sat down on his bed. He sighed and tried to rub the troubled thoughts away. “Celeste hasn’t given birth to the twins yet. Maybe I should travel three more years into the future,” he mumbled, “but does it really matter? Either way the child is older. Should be seventeen now.” He sighed heavily. Before he realized where his feet took him, he stood before the altar in the temple.
“Father!” Krye called.
The priest aged since Krye left him. Seventeen years seemed like minutes to Krye. Time was very strange.
“Father, I have come to ask of Kaye.”
The man grew older as he stood in silence.
“Kaye is dead.”
“What? How?” Krye fought back the tears.
“The child took ill. We could do nothing. It’s the will of the Gods.”
Krye left the temple at a dead run. He didn’t understand why he had been called to protect a child that would die anyway. He collapsed to the ground and buried his face in his hands, crying out his grief. There was nothing he could do now.
Back at the temple, a pair of mismatched eyes shone in the darkness. One eye sported warm amber. The other eye chilled with icy blue. The owner of this curious pair of eyes stood in the shadows of a concealed door. He stood taller than most at a good five feet. His long, dark auburn hair was pulled back with a leather strap at the nape of his neck. He wore the attire of a templar knight: a long tunic over loose pants. The colors of his clothing, black over white, marked him as a Knight of Yin, the highest order. Despite his strength and mental prowess, he looked rather feminine. Many attributed this to his incredibly young age. When the stranger fled from the temple grounds, the young knight stepped from concealment.
“Who was he, Father?” The knight’s voice was calm and sweet. It carried its own strength with dignity.
“Ah, Rue, my finest shadow walker! That was Krye. He is of the great Dragons.”
“Why is he permitted in our temple?”
“His mother is one of us.”
“So then,” Rue continued, “Who was Kaye?”
“That I can not tell you,” the father called, walking towards the corridor leading to the Chambers of Attrition.
“I’ll find out anyway!”
“I trust that you will, child.” The father smiled as he stopped at the doorway. “Remember this, there are things that must remain hidden and there are things that must be revealed. A true knight knows the difference and acts accordingly.”
Rue nodded. “It’s just as when you cautioned me in offering a secret for my knighthood oath.”
“Yes, you have always been one of my best students. I wonder what your secret could be.”
Rue remained expressionless.
“Very good.” The father chuckled. “Very good indeed.” His face grew somber. “Rue, I will be leaving you soon. It’s well past time for me to rejoin with the life-force of this world. Remember all that I have taught you.”
“May the Phoenix guide and protect you on your journey,” Rue said.
The man grew older still as he looked upon Rue. “What compels you to say that?”
Rue stood without an answer.
“Rue, seek the truth always and you shall find your destiny.” The father entered the barely lit corridor.
Rue meandered to his personal chambers, pondering on the father’s words. He was one of the few to have a private bath. Unlike the others in the temple, he had never bathed in the bath houses. Removing his tunic revealed tightly wrapped bandages around the full length of his torso. It was the only semblance of armor he wore. Rue sealed the door tightly with a single sigil, before carefully unwrapping the cloth. Doing so revealed the real reason why it was worn. Rue was really a woman. Rigorous exercise and training rendered her breasts small and firm. As a woman, she was forbidden to enter this temple. She never knew why, but the father raised her as his own son, risking his own life by doing so. Discovery of her gender meant death. Anyone revealing her knighthood oath would gain her power and she would die, soulless. Rue had no desire to die. She worked hard to become a Knight of Yin. She grew stronger everyday. Someday she will have to fight. When that day came, she would be ready. She slipped into the heavily oiled water. She thought of the visitor. Who was this Krye? The sight of him gave her a sense of timelessness, but any Dragon would do that. There was something else. Something she couldn’t define. Irrationally she feared it would be her undoing.
“I’m going to find my answers. One day, I will have a place to stand on my own. Even if I must build it with my own hands, I will have a place where I can stand as myself! Keepers of secrets… blech… nothing more than unspoken lies.”
Rue finished her bath and redressed carefully. Releasing the sigil, she headed off for the training grounds to release her tension and to plan for Krye’s return.
I hope you have enjoyed this short tale here. It is but a small part of the Tales of the Phoenix anthology.
I haven’t decided whether to pick this section of the tales back up…
In any case, comments, questions, concerns and suggestions are welcome. Thank you for taking the time to read this work!
LiveJournal Archived Comments
toadie_odie Mar. 23rd, 2006 09:26 pm
I’m going to take a moment here and post a comment myself. This was written back in 1993 or something like that with my sister (now married). Before we worked together on it I must have rewritten this about a hundred times. Even now I still don’t like it. Yes, the events are there but it’s just so… bleh – DEAD I guess.
I gave up a long time ago trying to write this as a novel. There are just too many characters involved to deal with. Instead I’ve decided to write the entire plot in a series of short stories using the Tarot Deck and Celtic Cross layout as a sort of inspiration and theme for each piece.
The goal is to make each story complete on it’s own in such a way that it wouldn’t matter if they were read in order, the pieces individually could be enjoyed as is. But put together as a collective whole and they would tell a much bigger story. That’s my goal at least.
Any feedback on any piece is greatly appreciated!
toadie_odie Apr. 24th, 2008 05:15 pm
I feel the Krye should actually be Nepenthe here and the “Father” should be Peccant. Naturally this means this will have to be completely re-tooled but I think doing so would not only work better with what I’ve got now, but also make more sense for the reader all around.
Originally published on LiveJournal. Archived here on 03/07/2022.