Sylus woke with a scream. The sound of clamoring tendrils echoed through his mind.
“Th-the Diner…” he panted, “Oh god…” he threw off his blanket and flung himself onto the floor.
Saari shot upright. Her staff was instantly in her grip.
“S-Saari…” Sylus could barely breathe, “I ha… I have to get home. I-I think something happened…”
“Sylus?” she murmured as she slowly stood up, “It was a dream, Sylus. You cannot possibly know what is happening on your home world.”
Oh but he could… The thought floated between them.
“M-My Lord…?” Saari held her staff close.
He has blood there. A tie. A bond. The dream could well have been grounded in some version of reality.
“Th-then Henley… Haurex!” Sylus could barely pull his thoughts together. “L-look,” he turned to Saari, “I know we aren’t exactly on the best footing.” Saari opened her mouth to speak, but Sylus continued, “I know one night doesn’t exactly make up for years… centuries… millennia whatever… Of… Okay listen. Please. Just tell Qaitax we’re cool so we can get on with this so you can be free and I can go home.”
Saari stood in place, clutching her staff tightly, her head bowed. “Change is something we must all accept,” her grip tightened, “If Lord Qaitax would rather die than proceed without my blessing, then…” her gaze seemed to shift to Sylus, “Then I must give my blessing for I would never want my Lord to perish because of my…” she sighed, “Stubborn nature.”
“Thank you,” Sylus breathed.
“But I take no orders from you. You do not control me, Sylus. I serve My Lord and only My Lord. I will not ever serve a mortal.”
“And, again, I’d never want you to. Mortals keeping other mortals in servitude is… well… It’s morally bankrupt. Also illegal where I’m from…”
Saari chuckled lightly.
Take him to hydroponics. That place holds great significance for you.
“My Lord…” She breathed.
“What? Is it time?” Sylus scrambled to his feet, “Can we go? Please?”
One last thing, Sylus. Then we will begin.
“O-one last… Qaitax! If that dream has any grounds in reality my family is in danger! I can’t wait!”
Saari shook her head. “Time is different here in the Void.”
“Q’taxia is a dead world consumed by the Void. You are within it protected only by Qaitax’s influence. Without it all mortal life would have been scorched away eons ago rather than most of it.”
“But how do we know how long that difference is? Time is different everywhere isn’t it?” Sylus was growing increasingly impatient and irritated. “We-I have to act now!”
“Sylus… That dream,” Saari tapped her staff lightly, “That dream could have been a memory from ages ago. Or a prediction of a distant future. There is no telling when the events of your dream occurred or if the have or will ever actually occur. You must focus on the here and now.”
“Th-That’s what…” Sylus sighed. What was there to be upset about? What could he really do from here? If Saari was right and whatever he dreamed about was either long in the past or just a dream he couldn’t just run home. Jeron and Daniel were capable of taking care of themselves. He was certain that even if it was real, they were safe.
“So what does the big guy want?” Sylus shoved his hands in his pockets, breaking the momentary silence.
Saari sighed heavily, “He would like me to take you to hydroponics…”
“Alright, but why?”
Saari shook her head, “I try not to question the will of My Lord as it rarely makes sense at first.”
Sylus rubbed the back of his neck, “How long’s the trip?”
“As I mentioned, it is one I have to prepare for,” she reached up into a cabinet to retrieve a colorfully woven bag. “It will not take long, but I ask you for your patience.”
“Can I help?”
Saari paused a moment. Turning to Sylus slowly, she could see the shadow of his form swaying in the Void. His hands still deeply sunk into his pants pockets. She sighed again, unfamiliar with such an offer.
“I-if you would like…” she pointed to a cabinet across the room, “Fill a dozen of those glass containers with water from the sink. It should be enough to get us both there.”
“A dozen?! It’s that far?”
“Yes,” she placed a net into her bag, “And no. The halls are dry places and there is no running water save for a select few locations. It can get stifling. Water helps.” She glanced at Sylus as he took the glasses out of the cabinet, “I will bring some tea so you an resist the pull of the past.”
Sylus finished filling the glass jars in silence. Once they were all securely packed into Saari’s bag, they headed out into the stone Halls of Q’taxia.
The Halls were vaulting. Arching ceilings and entryways down every corridor. Dim, violet crystals lit the otherwise pitch-black halls. They came in various shapes and sizes. Some resembled animals. Others, more abstract shapes.
“Did you make these?” Sylus pointed to a particularly detailed sconce.
Saari stopped in her tracks.
“What did Lord Qaitax tell you?”
“That you’re an artist who makes things out of crystal,” he gently touched a smooth edge of the piece.
In the dim of the hall, Sylus could barely catch a glimpse of Saari’s flushed cheeks.
“Yes.” She finally barked. “I made them. I can see the light they emit. It helps me get around. That is all.” She resumed making her way down the hall.
She stopped again.
“They’re like stars lining the hallway. They twinkle and glisten beautifully. The refracting light around them is haunting yet gentle. Like a familiar feeling you can’t place the memory to…”
“Y-you like them?” Saari slowly turned to face him. The shadow she’d come to recognize him as was reaching out and touching the lights all along the walls. She could barely catch the wisps of his fingers gracing their facades.
“I love them. They’re gorgeous. Maybe someday, if you ever want, you could make some to light La Sombra back home. It’s become so damn dark and depressing…”
Saari’s sight drifted to the pitch black of the floor. “No one ever liked my sculptures. I made them from the Mist. Everyone thought that made me some kind of unholy monstrosity. Mortals can’t manipulate the Mist in such a way. Just consume it for energy, not turn it into art…”
“Do you like them, Saari?”
She thought a long moment. “I haven’t truly seen them in a very long time, but I remember taking great pride in finally lining the halls with them. Even then, my sight was failing…” she reached up to touch the nearest sconce, “I like how they feel.
“The truth is,” she cleared her throat, “I do not need them to see, though their light is comforting. I do not see light and dark as you do.
“When Lord Qaitax told me to start displaying my art freely, I assumed it was because of some… Paternal tendency of his. I think he took more pride in them than I did. I remember,” she gave a short laugh, “I made a rather large statue, by feel alone, of what I thought the end of our world looked like. To this day, I still do not know what it truly looks like, but I do know Lord Qaitax made sure it was stationed at the center of the Temple. Oh how Brother Johl protested…”
“I came out of Qaitax’s chamber into the Temple, at least that’s what…” Sylus sighed, shaking his head, “Torval said… But I didn’t see anything this beautiful. In fact, it was all pretty dark.”
“It used to glow like these little ones do, but it’s grown dim and is nearly invisibly unless you know how to look at it.”
“What gives them light?” Sylus murmered, distracted by the brilliant beauty shining in the utter darkness, “Is it an intrinsic characteristic of solid Mist?”
Saari shook her horned head, “No. They are lit by the will of Lord Qaitax.”