Minutes or Millennia
The airship launch at the Crystarium had seen little use during the flood, and had been a place of peace and solitude for R'lyeh whenever she had felt overwhelmed during the weeks of her stewardship over the First. Though she'd been found often enough in the tower overlooking the gardens, no one had ever thought to look for her here. Traffic between Eulmore and the Crystarium had increased quite drastically with the changing of the guard in both cities, but the platform still remained empty of people in the evening hours after air traffic had stopped.
She loved it here for a multitude of reasons. The design of the deck itself reminded her of Amaurot in general, and the rooftop gardens of Akaedemia Anyder in particular. Facing toward Lakeland offered a spectacular view of the lavender mountains, made even more beautiful by the frequent fog and rain. Looking inward toward the city, on the other hand, one saw the meticulously cared for grass and gardens, the crystalline housing pods that flanked the Pendants and hung precariously over the gorge, and so on, all the way back to the Crystal Tower itself. This was the view she preferred. Looking inward, she felt, was something she needed quite a bit more of.
She stood in the center of the circular deck, where all the many lines began and shot straight outward to the edges of the inner circle of what looked like a scalloped daisy. Flower designs weren't to be found in the Tempest, but the lines and inlay were all done in a similar fashion. The blue hues were another reminder of Amaurot-of home. She began to hum quietly to herself.
Azem had sang, R'lyeh reflected, apparently quite well according to Emet-Selch's memories of her. His love of her and her voice were principal reasons for his patronage of the arts as Solus zos Galvus. The theatrics and music may have been pale in comparison to the perfection of the Ancients, but they transported him back in time all the same. She reached into her pocket and grasped the constellation stone gifted to her by Hythlodaeus and the songs filled her ears, heard as Hades himself had heard them.
Emet-Selch stood apart from the crowd, having chosen for himself a perch with perfect acoustics: the ledge overlooking the plaza outside the Capitol. The plaza itself was empty at the moment, but the walkways and boulevards all around were packed tight with people. And so it was each time Azem returned home to Amaurot after a long journey. She would share with the people all of the tales of her travels, the cultures she encountered, the songs she had heard. Such was the power of her voice that any listener would've genuinely felt as if they too had accompanied their Fourteenth.
Tonight was different. The air itself felt different. The low murmur of the people below hushed and though he couldn't yet see her from this vantage, he knew Azem had emerged from the building. A nervous tremor ran through him and he wondered at it. Finally she appeared, her feet carrying her forward slowly, a single step at a time. She wore the communal robes of their people, absolutely the same as everyone else below. Except that with each step she took she seemed to shimmer a bit more, to grow a bit taller, a bit brighter. When she reached the hyacinth flanked arch in front of the dual-sided boulevard and stopped, a pang shot through his chest and he realized he had been holding his breath. He gasped. For all the many years he'd known Azem, he had never seen her true form; her soul, yes, but never this. She stood nearly as tall as Hades himself when likewise revealed, but there the semblance ended. She was ethereal and radiant, shining like the sun itself, golden in the dusk, the simple black robes that draped her made all but translucent in the glow. She slowly raised her arms in an embrace of her gathered peoples.
Emet-Selch drew a clenched fist to his breast as a different sort of pang nestled itself within it. The air all around him was heavy, the night utterly silent; even the insects held their song in reverence.
Her voice rang out softly at first, then grew. She sang in no language and in every language. She sang in the tongue of her people-of all people-and simultaneously she sang in the tongue of the soul. Every living being could understand her. This night her song was not of her travels, nor of the cultures she had encountered, but instead it was a song of purest love. She sang of their star and it's life, great and small. She sang of its bounty from vast mountain ranges to tiny, tasty grapes. She sang of Amaurot and its people, their devotion to their society and love for one another, both as whole and individually. She sang of her own personal love for each of these concepts. At last, it was as though she addressed each of the gathered citizenry individually, sharing with them one by one exactly how all of this felt, soul to soul. And finally, unexpectedly, she turned to face Emet-Selch directly, the last of her song for him alone-though witnessed by all. Secrets kept for an age were suddenly lain bare. All her pranks, all the jokes, all the lighthearted torture-all of it because she loved him most of all. And now time had run out.
She lowered her arms to her sides, grew quiet once more, and the energy gathered around and within her diminished. She walked back into the Capitol, returning as she did so to her normal, public stature. The doors closed behind her, signaling and end to the evening, and yet the gathered crowd remained still and hushed.
Emet-Selch went home immediately. He and Azem had shared an abode for nearly as long as they had been acquainted, which was to say, since she had been elected as the Traveler. Attempting to maintain a place of her own when the vast majority of her life was spent abroad made little sense, and somehow Emet-Selch had been foolish enough to invite her to share his home. Such had been the way of it ever since.
He paced impatiently, deftly stepping over and around her chittering “pet” as it tried it's utmost to trip him, until she walked through the entryway from the lift. He swept her up in his arms, slipped away her mask and said, “You should've told me!”
Her eyes widened. “I just did.” she remarked. She folded her arms around his neck and lightly kissed him.
“Azem, be serious!”
She sighed. “I didn't because I'm never here. Because you're always busy as well. Duty first, always. Always.”
He scowled. “No, you can't leave again. You have to stay. Someone else can be the Fourteenth.”
“You see? You know I can't do that.” she said. “This problem is growing and it must be stopped, It can't reach Amaurot. It can't reach you.”
He grumbled and drew her tighter to him, resting his chin on her shoulder. “What if you don't come home? After having only just told me all of... this? What am I to do then?”
Azem smiled. “Then you, Emet-Selch, Arch Magus of the Convocation and First Speaker to the Underworld-you, Hades-my greatest love-will have to come and find me.”
He closed his eyes and said, “I will always find you, I swear it. Whether it takes minutes or millennia. ”
R'lyeh came out of the memory slowly, her eyes focusing on the Crystarium-or rather on the crowd gathered on the lawn at the end of the approach to the airship launch. Moren came near, concern etched across his features. “What happened?” she asked him, gesturing broadly before them.
He coughed and cleared his throat. “You were singing. It... drew attention. Are you quite alright? You seemed to be in trance of some sort.”
She briefly considered telling him the truth: no, not alright! So very far from alright! Instead she said, “Singing you say? Did I sound like tortured livestock? Or a drunken pirate?”
“Neither,” he said. “It was actually quite beautiful.”
“Did anyone... understand it?” she asked, curious.
“Not that I could tell. I'm not entirely certain you were using actual words. Or perhaps it was a language from your world that I'm not acquainted with.”
R'lyeh nodded. “I think I'll retire, Moren. Thank you.” Still too broken to summon Azem's true strengths
, she thought. She walked down the approach, skirted the crowd, and entered through the back of the Wandering Stairs. Who names these places, anyway
, she wondered. The Crystal Tower loomed large in the distance, catching her eye as she entered the Pendants. She stopped for a moment and stared at the structure, at once imposing and beautiful. Also the work of Emet-Selch
, she thought. Once more she swore she would find a way to keep her promises to him, as he had kept his... whether it took minutes or millennia.