Chapter 103 – No Longer Normal.
Crystal sat snuggled up against Rachael, enjoying her warmth. Her strength. It was nice, being able to do this, just share time with the person most important to her in her life, even in small ways like this. Something that perhaps she’d always wanted to do, but never been able to do so before, well, before everything had changed. Before realising that she was in fact a girl, almost dying at the hands of a demon, and then waking a thousand years in the future. Her life saved by that same very important person, forever intertwined.
Okay, outside of all of the chaos that had ensued since they had woken in this age and finally met up, they had had quite a bit of time to spend together. And she was sure that they would have even more ahead of them, but still, irrespective, this was nice. To be treasured. And she was doing just that, a small draconic-like purr escaping her.
The engine of the skimmer thrummed around them. Almost silent, but not quite, perceptible to their senses at the least. Not her hearing, she wasn’t that sensitive, but in other ways. Magic and all that, some things permanently changed by what they had been through. They had landed on the other side of the mountain range, Fairweather exhausted from manoeuvring the skimmer through the pass, which, even with Hope’s assistance, had been rather taxing. But she had stated that she needed the practice, and opportunities for terrain like that were few and far between. She was correct on that, if it had gotten much tighter and ragged, the skinner wouldn’t have been able to pass through at all and they would have had to find another route. Skimmers could go a lot of places, most places in fact, but their height and slope restrictions did rear their ugly heads on occasion.
It was cold outside, more so than Crystal would have thought, so even though they weren’t flying, there was still mana being channelled into the machine, to keep it running. To prevent the engines from freezing up, if that was even actually an issue, and keep the heating online. They were sharing the honours there at the moment, Fairweather snuggled up against Clocky on one of the beds, head in his lap as Clocky sat there, leaning against the wall, eyes closed. Tayja was in another of the beds, sleeping, as she had been since they landed, snoring cutely and very much wrapped up in the blankets. Nerida was curled up outside the skimmer, against it, but from what Crystal could tell, the familiar was happy enough. She didn’t know if they were as effected by the cold as their more fragile counterparts, but Tayja had said anything about it. Both the familiar and rider had spent the day out there in the cold, following along behind them, and were probably as exhausted as Fairweather if not more.
It felt kind of weird, not having her wings and tail out at the moment. She’d had them out so much while they were at Agersdene City, with their now hair-trigger nature for manifesting and all, but it just felt so natural, having them there. Part of them, part of what they were. Being dragons and all that. But they had their disadvantages too, not being very practical for smaller spaces like the inside of the skimmer, and in particular snuggling on benches like they currently were. A price that had to be paid. She had no idea what she would do if they ever became permanent. Be both happy and ecstatic, and worried at the same time.
Crystal snuggled some more into Rachael, her lovers arm wrapped around her as Rachael gave her a smile. Beautiful and sweet. But, she felt a little distant, not quite relaxed. Something was occupying Rachael’s mind, perhaps even a lack of something. Crystal hadn’t seen her this way for a while.
“You alright?”, Crystal asked, straightening up a little, reaching up and tenderly running a finger along Rachael’s cheek.
Rachael gave her another sweet smile, and sighed. “Mostly?” she offered as an answer, then chuckling. “Not that I can hide it from you.”
That she couldn’t. Part of the nature of their bond. It went both ways though.
“Arcane?” Crystal tried. It was her best guess, given what had happened after Velvet had been brought back. That, and something prickling at her instincts.
“Yeah, in part.” Rachael sighed again, pulling Crystal back in to her, Crystal happily complying.
“What she’s done, what we’ve learnt? Or that she’s no longer there, her connection gone?” Arcane had been with Rachael for longer than she’d known her. A part of her life, even if she had run away from her duties and had tried to ignore the ancient. Now though, her titles rescinded, she was truly gone.
“In part, I guess?” Rachael didn’t sound completely sure, lightly running her hand up Crystal’s arm as she stared at the other side of the skimmer, a couple of panel lights blinking on and off. Dull but still noticeable. “She was always there, a sliver of her presence lurking in the background, even if I ignored it and buried it deep. But, unlike our rather extroverted patron, she was mostly quiet, especially after we woke in this age. I think the most that she talked was when we were in that anchor temple and things were somewhat dire.”
Crystal shivered at that memory.
you have no idea how nice it is to be able to talk to people.
well, certain people.
That was typical Warrior. Always present. Always there.
Rachael sniggered a bit, back at the ancient, giving Crystal a quick kiss on the forehead, between her horns, before she seemed to relax a little. “Sometimes, it was like she wasn’t even there, even if that was just me fooling myself into a false sense of security. Now that she’s gone, that connection severed? It’s weird. I miss it, but not. It’s like a little part of me, or what made me me up to that point was taken away. Yet, on the other hand, we have others now. Those titles, each that we have, a connection to an ancient. A little part of them in us I guess?” Rachael shrugged. “If they don’t know how the titles work, how are we meant to have any idea.”
“And, that me, that knew just the presence of Arcane, is gone. Long before she removed the titles. I’m so much more than who I was then. We both are. Our magic, their magic, all of the changes, it’s all intertwined now. It’s almost scary. We’re deep dragons, Crystal. Dragons! First of the other races, no longer just human any more. Our horns, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It runs deep, to our very core, and we’re a lot more dangerous than the rider’s familiars. I doubt even Dragon understands the full extent of what we are now, of what’s been created, even if they were the ones to give our race a name.”
Crystal gave Rachael a sly seductive smile. “I’m certainly not complaining about being a dragon. Probably more than a little happy about it in fact.” Ecstatic in fact. She had accepted that when they had first learnt about the change, accepting what they had become.
“Me too,” Rachael grinned, leaning in for a kiss, sensations coursing through them both as their horns touched, Crystal pulling in closer, wanting more. And a little sad when Rachael finally pulled away, but she was just as aware that it wasn’t the time, and certainly not the place, to be doing anything more.
The eyes of her cat-fox arkchild on her more than enough of a reminder of that. She sent a mental huff to Spectre, who just tilted his head, and then pretended to sleep. Something that they didn’t really need, Spectre and Kitsune taking turns at scanning the surrounding area. Hope was resting, though still on full alert.
“The magic of the array, that went through us. It left its mark as well, didn’t it.” A statement rather than a question. Crystal had no doubt about that. It had certainly done a number on them immediately following the event, the healing having taken time, but it would be foolish of her to think that they hadn’t been effected in any other way. Crystal wasn’t that stupid, even if she hadn’t given it a lot of thought. Possibly she should have. It had been assumed that they’d been effected by the pulse just as everyone else had, but the truth of the matter was that the pulse had originated from them. Warrior had said as much. And that, well, it held connotations.
They had looked at as many of the arrays that they could, trying to understand as much as they could, but, from both Arcane and Velvet, there had been many more added to the mix as the magic had activated. As to what they had done, well, only those two knew. Perhaps. Arcane had been furious afterwards after all. It hadn’t gone as she’d thought.
“At the very least.” Another sigh from Rachael. “I do wonder at times, did she actually intend for us to survive it, even with the visions that she showed. Well, I guess that probably she did, we were her champions after all, but perhaps what she was hoping was that we’d be something very different from what we actually were.”
“Arcane’s absence though,” continued Rachael, “it’s left me more aware of what we do still have, of all of the others, that have given us a title, or influenced us in other ways. Velvet, Warrior, Dragon. They’re the big ones. But they aren’t the only ones.”
Crystal nodded. She knew what Rachael was talking about there. The presences. The connections. But it was more than just that. The titles were part of them now, and whatever it carried with them. The ancients weren’t just some voices in the back of their heads. Well, they never had been, even if Warrior was rather talkative at times, a constant companion through it all. But as to what it actually was, she had no idea. It wasn’t something that she could put into words. Not something that she could label or form a concept on.
And there was more of them too now. Ever since Velvet’s return.
Perhaps that was related to what had been given to the ancients. And there had been thousands of them there, at that moment, before they had left Odinsphere.
There was one other title too, that had been given to her, and shared with Rachael, but was not part of another ancient. Her domain, at least according to Warrior, the connection to it, to them, formed when Promise had been given life. Guardian of Dragons. Promise was still there too, the creature of magic resting somewhere within her. That did sound kind of weird though.
“Do you have anything to say?” Rachael said loudly, to the air around her. “About this?” Rachael held out her other arm, magic gathering around her hand. But it was different. There was no array in use at all, neither external, nor internal. She was doing something else, somehow. The air shimmered, and then a sword appeared, floating in the air. A rapier, its metal a deep blue, water flowing around its guard, arcs of power flowing down its blade. A powerful and dangerous weapon, one that had a history, and a thirst.
Crystal stared at it in surprise. There was no mistaking what it was.
One of Warrior’s blades.
you are my paladins.
“There is more to it than that.” Rachael stated bluntly, the blade still just hovering there. The air shimmered again, and another one appeared, a katana, images of birds etched into its blade, flames dancing along it in mesmerizing patterns. It’s guard was surprisingly simple, plain and round with a single notch in it, it’s hilt wrapped tightly in leather that was stained a deep red. “They are a part of you, if not more.”
“You can’t feel them there, can you?” she then asked, looking at Crystal.
Crystal just shook her head, still a bit stunned that Rachael had somehow been able to summon not just one but two of Warrior’s blades, and probably could summon even more. Things that she assumed, just like Rachael had said, were a part of the ancient, given the whole display in front of clan daybreak.
“You have Warrior’s armour and weapon, well, those of the ageless queen, bonded to you.”
Crystal gave Rachael a curious look. That was indeed who the armour and weapon had been forged for, an understanding that she had, but she couldn’t actually recall having told Rachael that. She felt embarrassed about that, she should have told her ages ago.
Rachael gave a little chuckle. “It’s something that you can pick up on just as easily. Part of being a Paladin of Warrior and all that. The knowing behind weapons and armour that have history. The knowledge, it just floats there around it, and from around you, it’s very strong.”
Crystal blinked, surprised again. And then looked at the first weapon that Rachael had brought out, trying to feel around for its history. Rachael was right, it was there, but it was one that she didn’t want to probe too deeply into. Sadness, loss, death, tragedy. Wishes and dreams unfulfilled, a field of blood. In stark contrast to the beauty of the sword itself. But irrespective, it was also definitely a blade of Warrior, her power and mark on it, strong and undeniable, encasing the trauma, the pain, within her own power. Sealing and preserving the causes and repercussions of the conflicts that it had been through. A record of things that had passed. She didn’t even want to gaze too hard at the second one like that, its thirst strong even in ignorance.
“And I think that is probably the reason why,” Rachel mused. “Well, part of it. I’m not bonded to a weapon, and as a result, I can feel them. All of them, there. And summoning them, it’s instinctual, just like you do with your sword and shield.
there is more to it than just that.
especially for pyre.
that she is bonded to them,
that she, you both now, have a domain.
it goes beyond just the existence of the weapons themselves.
“And this?” Rachael asked again, gesturing to the two floating weapons. “That we can access them in the first place?”
you know the answer as well as i do.
the influence goes both ways.
you are my paladins.
ones of significance to me.
in many ways.
you carry my will, and a part of me.
and not just me either.
as you grow into what you are,
what you have chosen to become,
or just inadvertently taken on,
what you can achieve will also grow.
bonded of soul and power.
champions of dawn,
aspects of dawn,
chosen of mine,
paladins of mine,
children of dragon,
progenitors of dragon,
marked of our kind,
progenitors of dragon kind,
guardian of dragons.
you have influenced others with your magic,
both unawares, and of your own accord.
you have daughters,
and have awakened familiars.
the magic just doesn’t go away, back into isolation.
she rescinded her titles from you.
the connections she severed,
but, whether she was aware or not,
the gifts that came with them,
they still remain.
in part because of dawn,
and in part because once gifted,
it became a part of you both.
the world is changing,
faster than ever seen before.
even i can see that.
perhaps it is just long overdue,
or perhaps we just became impatient.
she sat on it for so long,
playing her games,
ignoring the rest of us,
confident in what she had,
her own power and domain,
that it would all go the way that she thought it would.
it did not.
she forgot that she wasn’t the only one,
and in her hubris,
underestimated the effect that the others,
a feature that seems to be present across everything,
especially mortals with power.
we did as they asked.
gave them what they sought,
our gift along with yours.
but all things have an effect,
a ripple that flows out,
marks left behind.
consequences that are forever carried,
for better or worse.
things have been set in motion,
that cannot be stopped,
not that we, or you, would want them to be.
Rachael slumped a little, the weapons vanishing as easily as they had appeared. The scent of them still lingered in the air for a few moments more, that of the battles that they had been through, the lives that they had both taken and saved, before that too vanished, the skimmer back to what it had been before. Crystal looked up at her lover, at her thoughtful expression as she ran her hand through Rachael’s hair, and then down her arm. Caressing gently, trying to reassure a little. That had been a long answer, perhaps the most that Warrior had ever said in one go. She thought that before too, the last time the ancient had said a lot, but this time, there was a lot more. And a lot more between the lines as well, things said but not, that she couldn’t quite grasp. She felt like she was missing some of the context, context that would not be provided, even if she asked. That was the way that the ancients were, even if Warrior felt more like them than the rest did.
“Of all of the ancients, of those that we carry titles for, you are the one that we are the closest too,” Crystal mused, still looking at her lover, even if the message was for Warrior. But she couldn’t really look at the ancient, could she. “Significantly so. Even though we had more titles from others earlier. But I guess you were the first that we had a connection to.” When she had put on the armour and held the sword, back in the anchor temple, posing in front Rachael with them.
It felt like Warrior had more to say, but that, for now, she was just going to leave it at that. She had already said so much after all.