Roland Allnach

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Conquest's End
Roland Allnach, 2012
Published in Bewildering Stories, issue 477, May 2012
** Editor's Choice, Spring Quarter, 2012 **
** Recipient, Bewildering Stories Mariner Award, Best of 2012 **

Enjoy this short fiction and much more in Prism!


           Where to begin, now that the end of ends has come, that the march of ten years, ten years of blood fury and cold metal and razing fire, has come to the doorstep of that very place that has been sworn by wrathful parties not to be won or lost without sorrowful penalty, penalty to pale even all that has already passed with so much grief and lament?

Steady they march, the great columns of men in their red and black armor, trampling the green turf to dust as their Lord watches from a hill on high before the waning westerly sun.  Long have they marched across the Three Kingdoms of the world, leaving only the choice of capitulation or carnage in their wake.  They have marched until there was no prize left on which to march, and so their Lord led them across the Endless River, against the ceaseless gusting of the Tundra’s Tongues’ dry winds, to cross the Meadows of Morrow and the gray Sea of Senility, only to disembark for this last march.

Glint of blades and glint of eyes, both hard and cold and eager for the piercing of the distant prey, they hunger for the end.  And the end, it lies before them, a windswept city of lofty stone walls like none they have seen, for it is the bastion of the one whom they all whisper has fueled this war of wars, She who bewitched their mighty Lord and drove him to squash the world between them.

There he sits, his expression hidden behind the hard folds of metal and leather that form his helm, the cast of his gaze lost in the shadow of the setting sun behind him.  Before him, above the winding, marching multitude of his devastating war machine, stretch on high those very walls of stone to encircle the impenetrable fortress of she for whom he has come.

He listens to the low moan of the evening air, but still he sits motionless.  “Form the camp, Kyto,” he orders to his Second.  “The sun fades, and will not rise in full on this pale land.  We begin at dawn’s twilight.  It is the best light we will have in this place.”

Kyto hesitates, and, risking wrath, nudges his mount beside that of his Lord.  “None have passed her gates, in all the ages before us,” he cautions one last time.

“And in all the ages before us, none have brought a host such as the one I possess,” his Lord corrects.  The Lord turns, and there is no pity in his eyes.  “Now go Kyto, before I forget you are my friend.”

 

***

 

And what is it that one sees from that hill where the Lord stood mounted those nights before, that naked outcrop of rock, to look upon the fury unleashed upon the bastion of she for whom he has come, She of the Thousand Fold Gossamer Veils, ethereal and eternal, elusive to the eye yet everlasting to the dreams of men, hidden still behind her walls, walls assaulted without parallel, beaten and blasted black by a relentless torrent of flaming projectiles, vomited from the very catapults of hell and earth that have been arrayed against her heights?

The days gain count, and worse the nights, yet no purchase is gained.  The fields before her bastion are scorched lifeless, the trees are felled, a deathly rancor fills the air from flaming pitch for the Lord’s projectiles, and scurrying through the heavy roiling black clouds that cling to the ground are the men of the mighty host, like some underworld fugitives gliding on the mists of their own heathen breaths.

Bodies fall under silvery arrows that rain down during the moon’s light, and more threatening, and perhaps more deadly for their disarming and befuddling beauty, her Espers descend from the walls, screaming on the night air from the folds of their gleaming white robes to stab at the host with long vicious blades, piercing metal, flesh and bone alike as if they were so many layers of rice paper.

Resolute remains the Lord, and in such desperate hours of the Espers’ fury he charges the bare hill with dutiful Kyto at his side to work powers of his own.  Clouds he gathers, black storm clouds belching bolts of violet lightning to challenge the gleam of the Espers.  With the moon’s enchanted light obscured behind the clouds the Espers flee the battle to return to the bastion and its heights, heeding their lady’s call as She knows their strength wanes in the absence of their silvery moon sister.

The Lord, he stands in his stirrups, evoking the words of tongues perhaps only he and she know among those who walk the world of the Three Kingdoms that he has conquered.  He calls to spirits forgotten from elder generations and sculpts the clouds as he sees fit, yet in his rage holds them not back, but lets them drench the horror of the battle, and with a thousand fold drenching of sorrow lets the futility of stones and swords wash from this earth.

“She will not yield,” Kyto cries to his Lord, his arm extending to the Espers as they gather upon the bastion’s heights to loose their torrent of arrows.

“Let them sting, let them strike,” the Lord says beneath his breath.  With a sudden turn of his hands he summons a wind to scatter the piercing flurry like so many leaves to the rolling Sea of Senility beyond the battle.  “Only one wound shall end this, and it is the one that cannot kill, that cannot heal, that has yet to be inflicted!”

To this Kyto relents.  He has no answer, for he perceives that which he has not perceived before, in all the tiring years of march and war—the aim of his Lord has little to do with conquest.

 

***

 

What is it that one could say, that one could even think, when confronted with such beauty, the beauty of an Esper, stilled for a moment by her will from destroying all about her in a rage of purity that borders and pales the boundaries of chastity?  Mark the sheer elegance of her frame, so graceful, so proud in the power of her master, She of the Thousand Fold Gossamer Veils, emboldened by that patronage in the halo of translucent silvery and white veils that waver about her—indeed, what is it that one could say to such a being?

For there is no mortal woman like an Esper, none regaled with such finery as an Esper.  Behold her presence!  The intricate weavings of her linen and leather armor, so light, so pliable, hypnotic in the embroidery of the Four Winds upon her breast to match the runes hammered into the slender length of her polished sword, brandished to rest on her shoulder, blending so with the pure silver length of her hair, trailing from the aquiline lines of the silver helm that frames the otherworldly beauty of her face.

Such is the sight of an Esper, and yet among them there is one above them, second only to her master, She of the Thousand Fold Gossamer Veils.  She is marked by the piercing intensity of her eyes, blue as the bluest sky man has beheld—she is Captain of the Espers, Lady Luna, silver haired moon sister of the star laden night.

Kyto falls to his knee before the Captain of the Espers, disemboweled by her presence, awed and shamed by her beauty, the purity of her spirit burning within her blazing sapphire eyes, and struggles to find his voice. 

The Lord is not so daunted, though, and meets Luna eye for eye, and yields not a blink of space to her.  He sweeps his hand to his side and dispels the otherworldly tides of air that set her veils in motion about her, leaving them stilled about her.  At that, Kyto is stilled as well.

“I have no words for you, my dear Luna,” the Lord states, abrupt and audacious as he addresses her without title.  “Your lady knows why I have come, and why I cannot leave, and why I have no joy in this world, and this world no joy beneath me.  Only she can end this, and only she will understand.  I have no terms to offer, nor terms that I can accept.”

Mysterious Luna tips her chin, her wide, graceful forehead settling over the almond taper of her eyes.  “Such is not what my lady wishes I discuss with you,” she answers, and her voice is like the whisper of many breezes through the cherry trees Kyto remembers from his childhood, made more magical for the fact that her lips do not part as she speaks.

The Lord opens a hand to his side, gesturing from his hill to the camp of his war machine gathered before the walls of her bastion.  “Ancient oaths have brought this.  Your lady cannot deny this, my lovely Luna.  Go, relay this, and this as well: She cannot hide from that which has bound us.  She must come, or I shall never leave this place, and all that the world holds dear shall perish.”

Luna holds her stance, but it is not her place, for all her power, for all the wisdom of her unearthly spirit, to speak for her lady in matters of mortals and their world.  “So be it,” she replies in her voiceless voice of cherry blossom breezes.  She looks to Kyto, her eyes narrowing as he trembles on his knee before her, stealing furtive glances of her.  “And what would you have?” she asks of Kyto.

His lips part.  What is there to say?  To hold one moment of such beauty in his heart, keep it there unblemished forever from the time-wearying waste of the world?  That she has turned his hardened soldier’s heart into a lovesick ghost? 

But to Luna there are no secrets in the hearts and minds of mortals, and, in pity of what she sees in Kyto, offers him a token to preserve face before his Lord.  She lowers her hand, extending the glistening edge of her blade until its tip rests before him.  Trembling, he offers up his hands, takes the tip in his palms, and presses his lips to the runes upon the blade.

And then she is gone from him, and all he knows is the sorrowful craving of a dream too beautiful to comprehend, too beautiful to hold, for he opens his eyes and looks up, only to see her fly like a comet of shifting veils through the night sky to her lady’s bastion.   He gasps, forgetting that his Lord stands behind him.

Yet his Lord offers no rebuke as he too watches Luna go.  “And that, my dear friend Kyto,” he says in a low voice, “is how mortals are made to be fools in the face of greater things.”  He lays a hand on Kyto’s shoulder, but then walks off.  “We must rally the camps,” he calls over his shoulder.  “The siege will continue.”

But Kyto is left immobile, as if a man struck dead, dead with yearning for something he fears he will never know again.  As he weeps, his falling tears crystallize in the air, only to hiss and steam upon meeting the ground.

 

***

 

What is it then, this notion that stills the hearts of men, that befuddles and entrances them when they behold that which mystifies them, which belittles their greater ambitions and leaves them as lost leaves in the storm, remembering the life they had known, but knowing it no longer, for they have beheld something, something they cannot explain, yet something they now yearn for beyond any pale of reason or misplaced nobility?

They only know that they must have it, that it makes a mockery of all else they have while at once giving them belief in something new, something greater—what would it be for mortal man to stand beside that which transcends the meaning of his own existence?

For three days, such is the manner of Kyto’s thoughts.  The siege continues without relent, and he remains as a man struck dumb, for he has been possessed by a listlessness that defies the exhortations of his captains.  For though he is Kyto, sacker of a thousand cities, he who possesses the daughters of forty deposed kings as his wives, he whose countenance alone has given lesser kings reason alone to bow in servitude, he who is Second to his Lord who has conquered the Three Kingdoms of the world, he sits as one dejected, one whose soul has been dissected from him to leave him a mannequin of flesh among the world of mortal men.

He will not loose his sword, and he utters no order.  He watches the ceaseless battering of her bastion not for its progress, but to await with trembling hands the emergence of her Espers and their captain, mysterious Lady Luna, silver haired moon sister of the star laden night.  And, until he sees her, until he can return to her presence, he knows that he cannot live, that he cannot die, that he cannot find comfort in food or victory, for he is a man lost, lost from the battle, lost from the world, lost from himself.

“He has been bewitched,” the Lord’s captains utter behind Kyto’s back, but they have no presence to challenge him directly, for the Lord takes no action against Kyto, but leaves him be.

Until the fourth night since Kyto beheld the presence of Lady Luna.  The Lord comes to him then, lays a hand on Kyto’s shoulder in a most paternal way, and speaks words he has spoken to no one in all of the Lord’s countless years upon the world.  “You are not of her kind, my good friend,” the Lord advises.  “So Lady Luna has done to you, so She in her bastion did to me in the Time Before Time, and the restlessness has not left in all the ages of my time.  Take heart, for you are of this world, and so will return to it, and be freed from this suffering.”

Kyto says nothing, for he knows not what to say.

The Lord speaks, but his voice lowers, and a terrifying passion surges through his words.  “But I am not of the world as you are, and can know no peace until she comes forth.  She will not come forth while her Espers delight in their fury upon us.  Tomorrow, Kyto, you will be freed from their madness.  Tomorrow I will destroy them, for they forget in their pride the depth of my wisdom.”

Kyto makes no reply, for he is far away, far away in the recesses of his memories.  He is a boy again, running with arms spread between the flowering cherry trees beside his family’s village.  As he runs the sun and breeze are on his face, and he pretends he is flying, and the flurrying cherry blossoms about him are clouds, and he knows no sorrow, but only joy, for he realizes only now that even then it was her voice calling to him in the undulating whisper of the breeze, and that there is more to the world than mortals and their petty desires, and that such a notion is more than the innocent dream of a wanting child.

 

***

 

What then is there to say when the moment comes, that moment when allusions and the mortal world collide, and like so many winged Espers they must come crashing to the ground, for is it not the fate of mortals in their sorely limited breadth upon the world that they must seek to quench all around them, even as they must be quenched themselves, for they will not suffer the presence of those who, unlike their works of undying stone for their own memories, unwittingly remind them of that which they fear most, their inevitable death and decay?

Such is the way of things on the next night, as Kyto sits on his mount, his life stilled in his heart, as his Lord rallies the captains of the great host.  To him the Lord summons foremost the captains of the Orders of the Mantis and the Jackal, two companies of the host dreaded for their pitiless cunning and savage war craft.  With the twilight of day fading and the Espers marshalling upon the heights of Her bastion, the time has come, the time when the Lord will work the venom of his tangled soul against Her children, to draw her to him in her sorrow and rage.

But for Kyto the words are nothing, they are lost to him, they are mindless chatter on the smoke laden breeze washing about the camp and its endless barrage of flaming projectiles.  Yet at some unknown, unheard call his gaze lifts and, there, upon the crenellated stone works of her bastion, the Espers appear in the gleaming lengths of their shifting veils.  At their center he finds her for whom he longs, Lady Luna, silver haired moon sister of the star laden night.

And he, Kyto, sacker of a thousand cities, stirs to that which he has not known in his life.  It is the sudden thunder of his heart, not for the joy of victory, but for the dread of agony soon to come, and for the fear of something lost that no conquest of a thousand worlds can replace.  It is the very thing that in its absence has given him such terrible force in battle—it is pity, it is sympathy, it is lament for those who would be his foes, and these three rise as one to rage within him, just as the winds rise and rage along the inhospitable crags of a stony cliff beneath the warming sun.

“You cannot stop this thing that will happen,” the Lord says from behind Kyto’s shoulder, surprising him.

Kyto turns wide eyes on his master, but says nothing.

The Lord urges his mount forward to take his place beside Kyto, tipping his chin toward her bastion.  “You cannot hide from me what you feel, for I am not like mortal men that walk and are bound to the world—I am more like She that awaits me, and this you have known in some part of your soul, known it as long as I have known you.  I am older than time, Kyto, old as She is old, born in the Time Before Time, when the world moved in ways that are impenetrable mysteries to the men that walk in these times.”

Kyto studies his Lord, for he knows of what his Lord speaks, having heard the tales and myths passed from the ancients to the elders.

“The elders know nothing,” the Lord counters, laying a knowing, penetrating gaze upon Kyto.  “The tales of the ancients are lies.  They would let men believe that creatures such as the Espers, such as She of the Thousand Fold Gossamer Veils, such as myself, walk this world to make fools of men and the things men would have—power, fame, and love.”

Only then does Kyto begin to understand, and his heart sinks, for he feels the march of their many campaigns as a delirious weight upon his shoulders.  At the same moment he understands something else, the curious will of his Lord to have him present for the parley with Lady Luna.  “You have come to join her,” he whispers in disbelief.

“You have seen all that She and I once made in the Time Before Time, for you have conquered it at my behest.  And now that the conquest has ended, this too must end in the only way I know to end it.  You see, Kyto, as you know from Lady Luna, so too you know between She that waits and I.  I offer her the world, but the more I offer, the more I distance her, and yet the more I distance her, the more she will resist me, for she too cannot do other than that which will harden my heart.  Such was the decree levied on us by our Master, for we defied the rules upon us, and created the world as ours to enjoy.  For our blasphemy, we have been doomed to destroy that which we love, and all that we love that we created, until we destroy each other.  Only then can the world be free of our sorrow.”

Kyto listens, but his heart has stopped.  His gaze darts to Lady Luna, and then to his Lord.  “Such things, we must not let them pass.”

But the Lord, he has no reply.  He gives Kyto a solemn stare, and nothing more, before he turns away.

Kyto, the sacker of a thousand cities, sits as the boy who once looked out his door, powerless and distraught, as the men of his village felled the grove of cherry trees that were the refuge of his dreams.  Only then does he understand in full what is to come.  The Espers take their place about their Lady Luna, ascending Her bastion, and the Orders of Jackal and Mantis set to their beastly task, and their eyes gleam frigid and pitiless like the blades of so many sharpened axes.

Now upon the crenellated stone works the Espers gather, as is their wont, and from their ivory bows loose a storm of silvery shafts like vengeful moonbeams to impale the tender innards of the host.  And when their gleaming sapphire eyes can hold back the battle fury brewing within no longer, the Espers take to their flight to descend from her bastion in the gleaming comet trails of their shifting veils.  Down, down upon the host they come in the confidence of their lady’s power within them, their blades whistling in the air on the channels of the Four Winds they command.

Yet it is not to be as it has been on so many nights before, no, for as they descend for their strike upon the host, the host parts to reveal the Orders of the Mantis and the Jackal, and it is they who seize the moment and loose a torrent of their own.

For at the command of the Lord they have woven sturdy nets of silk, and having secured the nets with stakes, they in turn crafted combine crossbows of devious complexity to shoot the nets aloft.  They loose this trap upon the unknowing Espers, and in surprise Lady Luna shouts as the nets open and seek to ensnare the moon-sister sprits of the air.  But the nets are many, and although the Espers are quick and keen-eyed, so too the Mantis and Jackal hordes are persistent and ruthless.

And then the moment comes when one of the Espers is doubly enmeshed, and, try as she might she cannot cut free, and the men of the Mantis pull upon the trailing lines to deny the buoying Four Winds to send her crashing to the Earth.  There she writhes, struggling for her sword on the ground outside her reach.  She calls in anguish to her sisters, to her Lady Luna, but to all the Espers her hope is denied in a storm of nets unleashed as the Mantis ranks close upon her.

From the midst of those men a great foreboding figure appears.  He is their captain, and in rage he hefts over his head a wicked double-bladed battleaxe, and with a roar buries it in the chest of the bound and defenseless Esper.  But she does not scream long, nor does she bleed, for she is made of things not of this world, and her corporeal form is not as the bodies of worldly life.  She shatters in a blaze of light, a comet fallen to the ground and broken in a shower of fading embers.

The host howls in its victory, and it is not alone, for their assault is tireless, and three more Espers have already fallen, even though Lady Luna and her sisters struggle to cut the lines and slash the nets.  And Kyto watches as a man dumb with horror, for in the wake of the death-light of the first Esper his sight has been changed, and he sees the host not as he had before, but now as he knows the Espers see them, and he learns in a heartbeat their disgust for this seething multitude before the bastion.

For Kyto no longer sees the men he knows, but instead within their helmed heads he espies snarling countenances twisted and grotesque, as their reckless rape of the world has made them.  They are monsters, and he is adrift among them, and he sees his Lord then as a thing to both fear and loathe, the diametric of the Espers in their grace and beauty. 

Yet as he ponders these things his eyes widen, for in his gaze he beholds that which freezes his blood within his very heart and sends it as crystalline shards tearing through every vessel of his body in anguish, for as he sits ethereal Lady Luna is snared in one net, then two, and then two more, far from the help of her Esper sisters.  Men of the Jackal and Mantis pull as one to the shouts of their captains, and she, despite all her otherworldly power, is shorn from the sky to plummet downwards with a cry of sorrow, for she knows what awaits her among the dirt and swirling black clouds of clinging ash.

But it is too much for Kyto, and he can no longer sit idle.  It is not enough to spur himself forward, no, he erupts forward, bolting his steed down from the height of his Lord’s hill toward the nearing fall of Lady Luna, and the host parts before and around him, not yet understanding his aim, but believing that he, sacker of a thousand cities, wishes to claim the head of this most cherished prize, or perhaps despoil her in a more despicable way, and add her defiling to his titles of lore.

Yet as fair Lady Luna crashes to the cold earth and the captains of the Mantis and Jackal emerge to kill her Kyto breaks from the host, and in a flash of his blade too fast for any to comprehend, sends both their heads tumbling to the ground.  Amid the shower of their blood he dismounts and cuts Lady Luna free, and the sapphire light of her eyes rekindles, and she without pause launches skyward as a comet reborn.

But she has not left noble Kyto alone, for the wake of her gleaming trail casts him as a nest of swirling shadows, so that he appears not as one man but a company of his own brothers, with he reborn at their center.  In fear the host falls back, but they are not to be fooled for long, for as their captains’ bodies fall to the ground the host too falls upon this most unexpected treachery of the sacker of a thousand cities.

They are unwise, though, in their hasty wrath, for they fail to measure Kyto’s fury in full.  For though Kyto has always fought as a warrior without equal, he now fights as a man without equal, and none can stand before him, and the vengeance he wreaks upon the foul host is swift and terrible, all the more demoralizing as Lady Luna returns to aid him with a company of Espers about her.  In the confusion and carnage the carefully ordered work of the Jackal and Mantis dissolves, and the rest of the Espers dart upon the host, the air their own once more, and their wrath is an eruption without compare.

So the battle rages, and the Lord heeds such things little, but spurs the rest of the host, and the endless reign of their projectiles slacks not, but under the Espers and despite the slaughter they inflict, the assault upon Her bastion doubles itself repeatedly.  It is too much, and for all the skill crafted in the stone works they succumb, and the bastion begins to crumble in places.  The smooth stone façade gives way, the crenellated heights are battered down, and the stout stones beneath crack and yield with an awful wrenching groan.  The host draws back, but it is too late, for without warning the bastion collapses on the plain, entombing many of the host in the work of their own hate. 

But it is more than the collapse of a wall, for when the bastion fails a wind erupts from within, a wind of such force all the catapults and bitter siege engines are shattered where they stand, and none but Kyto and the Lord are able to hold their stance as all others are blown flat to the ground.  And the Espers vault upward in expectation, but Lady Luna holds her place beside Kyto, and though she and he are bound now in their valor and nobility, they have not a moment to share a word nor glance, for the tremors of ill portent shake the very earth beneath Kyto’s feet.

Revealed in the rubble of the bastion is a brilliant light, white but with shifting tones, a twisting dance of ivory hues, and at its core a solitary figure, gleaming silver sword in hand, ruby eyes alight with distemper, platinum hair an undulating corona, tapering white veils a shifting sphere of gossamer about her, for it is none other than She of the Thousand Fold Gossamer Veils.

She has heeded the call she has so long sought to avoid, and the full radiance of her presence is as nothing that the world has seen, so that even the Espers, even Lady Luna in her twilight luminescence, appear as nothing but twinkling stars in comparison.  Such is her brilliance that the host cannot bear her sight, and even as they cringe, cower, and hide, their very eyes boil and bubble from their sockets before their innards roast and burst within their bodies.

Yet Kyto is spared such a fate, for loyal Lady Luna protects him in her own shifting veils in return for his having saved her.  From behind her guard he witnesses what no living thing of the world has yet witnessed, for in the clash of the Lord and She of the Thousand Fold Gossamer Veils all the elements are set upon each other and the firmament of the world screams in tortured protest, and the battle they fight is not one of hate, but one more against themselves than against each other.

The time has come, the moment encircles them, and they can avoid each other no longer.  For all they have wrought, they have no wish to destroy that which they created in their love for each other in the Time Before Time.  And that which they created is the world and its countless living things in all their coupled and contrary complexities.  It is the source of the ironic curse laid upon she and he by their Master.  For in the Time Before Time it was the Master’s desire to craft a world, with he and she as servants in its making, but, in their desire, they had foregone the decree laid upon them, and so the world lacked the perfection of its original intent, but perhaps was all the more vital for the intricacies of their differing natures.

But such notions were lost memories, bitter and entombed within he and she, and yet smoldering within them to drive their ruinous confrontation.  Such as the brightest candle burns all the faster, so too their clash cannot long endure, for the full vent of their powers would break the world they so treasure, and so too they know this, and find their end in the only way they know, in the only way that is left at conquest’s end, and that is to dispel their lives for the sake of what has so troubled and consumed them with longing.

Kyto sees little of it, for She streaks toward the Lord with otherworldly speed, and he spreads his arms defenseless to accept her, yet calls out upon the roiling clouds to summon many bolts of lightning upon him, and so too upon her, and even so, she does not yield.  There they meet upon the bastions’ ruins, and there her sword impales him to pierce his heart, and there his lightning enmeshes them both to consume her with him.

There beside the Sea of Senility the world cracks, and the Three Kingdoms of the mortal world are shorn free to at last find their own fate, and the now orphaned ground of the ethereal realm disintegrates beneath Kyto’s feet.  He tosses aside his sword to accept his end, glad for what he has done in his last moments, but then he is stunned to find Lady Luna before him, about him, surrounding him with her many shifting veils, and she smiles upon him, and takes his hands, and her grip is both warm and cold, and though the crumbling of the firmament is a deafening roar, his fear fades as he meets her unearthly gaze.  She lifts him skyward, and the Sea of Senility speeds beneath with its lazy swells of forgetfulness, and the Tundra’s Tongues sap him not.

His armor is shed and lost, his memory dims, his vision fades, and then there is only the enchanting presence of fair Lady Luna, and soon nothing but the endless blue gaze of her sapphire eyes.  Then the change comes, and nothing is known to him as he has known it to be, but she speaks his name with the whispers of the Four Winds, and the world and its woes are forgotten.

 

***

 

What then is the nature of these careless whispers of loss and futility, that all must be divided against itself, and that the world must know no peace, but that mortal men must feel at odds with their mortality, and not know their place and call until some last desperate moment, and live among the bitter echoes of regret for so much of wearying Time’s span allotted to them, and compel the greater mysteries that linger into the age of the world to hide themselves, and trade off their glory, and barter their pride, and their majesty, so that restless mortality may find its own way, and cause those such as I, Lady Io of the Espers, to forfeit our path to that of dreams and passing fancy?

Kyto, he stands among the grove of cherry trees, their blossoms floating about him on the warm spring breeze.  He looks to his hand, his boy-sized hand, and wonders at the longing in his heart, for he feels as if he has stirred from some terrible dream, and he trembles at the ghost of its passing.  But then the breeze blows again, and the cherry blossoms rustle in the air, and it comes as a voice to him, and he knows peace within his heart, and solace in the world, and wonder for the many living things of the world.

Laughing, he spreads his arms, and runs between the trees, flying on murmuring winds among shifting blossom clouds beneath a sapphire blue sky.

                                                                                                                                                                                    

(END)

 

 
     
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