The sound of the door opening drew Rydia from the fringe of her hazy sleep. She didn’t know how many days had passed since the white Dragon had spoken in her dreams. But he had not come again since. Nor had there been any sign of attempted contact from beyond the boundaries of her small, yellow-walled room.
I’ve gotta stay strong…
Slowly the Caller lifted her head as the sound of approaching footfalls pulled her further awake. Though her arms and legs were free of any constraints, she had been leashed to the far wall by a magic-binding collar.
Like some sort of animal.
Try as she might, Rydia couldn’t find a lock on the smooth outer surface of the collar. And something about its touch against her skin was enough to baffle any outside connection that she had with the flow of natural magic.
Which is why I wonder if that dream I had… could have been nothing more than my own imagination.
It had been an hourly debate for her. Was the dream really what it had claimed itself to be – a visitation from some vastly powerful creature that was requesting help from her? Or merely a figment of her exhausted mind and wishful thinking?
Rydia didn’t have the time to consider it further, for a soft voice was beckoning her attention from above. “Hello? Are you awake?”
The Caller squinted up through hazy sleep-vision, finally making out a fine-featured face peering down on her. It was the Lunarian girl, the one that seemed to be some sort of servant for the leader of the forces there. Rydia knew that the leader’s name was Pren – she had overheard that much through speckles of conversation. But she had never discovered the name of the Lunarian girl.
The one that holds the Key Crystal…
Rydia blinked, not sure where that passage of thought had come from. Then she realized that it had been part of the conversation that she had with the White Dragon.
But if she has the Key Crystal, why isn’t she the leader? Why does she work for Pren?
Even now, the Lunarian girl stood in the center of the room, a tray of food in one hand. She was there to feed the prisoner. And feeding the prisoner wasn’t the job of someone of high position.
“I’m awake,” Rydia finally found the words to reply. She shifted positions, sitting up to peer curiously at the girl.
“Sorry to bother you,” the Lunarian answered, placing the tray down on the low-sitting table only a short distance away. “I’ve brought you something to eat. I heard that the food the Daear tried to give you the other day made you ill. I can’t eat their food anymore, either. So when I fixed myself something, I thought that you’d like some as well?”
Mouth parting, the Caller could only nod in surprise. It was true that she had only eaten sparingly as of late because all the food that had been brought to her had seemed spoiled. Rydia didn’t know if it was something that they had done to her on purpose. Nevertheless, she was quite hungry now.
“I’m not the best cook in the world. So you’ll have to forgive me,” the Lunarian girl took a step back as if to reassure the Caller.
Not that Rydia thought she would do anything unforeseen. There was something about the girl that seemed honest – even though it was somewhat difficult to overcome the language barrier that stood between them. Words didn’t always translate right between Lunar and Common.
Still, I’m just lucky that the words come out at all. Thank the Light for Lady Asura’s good foreknowledge.
One of the gifts that Rydia had been given upon becoming a Summoner of the Underworld was the ability to understand and speak many kinds of languages. Considering that she had to associate with many different types of creatures with many different ways of communicating, such a skill had been necessary. This ability had been given to Rydia by magical means – though the girl often did enjoy trying to study up on some of the languages on her own.
And luckily enough, Lunarian happens to be one of the languages that translates for me. I wonder how Lady Asura knew enough about the Lunars to gift me with the understanding for their language?
The curiosities never seemed to cease. And the fact that Rydia was there, chained up in a little room on a mountain floating high above the Blue Planet and being offered a meal cooked by an alien girl that had once lived on the moon attested to it.
“Thank you…” the Caller told her, speaking slowly. She found that the translation skill worked best when she spoke at a very measured pace.
Sliding next to the table, she began to eat ravenously. Despite the fact the Lunarian had claimed an inability to cook, the food tasted better to Rydia than anything she had eaten in weeks.
The girl must have sensed that Rydia was enjoying the food, for she gave a small smile. Folding her hands in front of her, she took a step back and gave a slight bow, “If there isn’t anything else I can get for you, I’ll be taking my leave now.”
Rydia found herself choking to swallow the food in her mouth in a very un-ladylike fashion. She managed to spurt out, “Wait?”
The Lunarian paused, tilting her head with a look of curiosity. “Yes?”
It’s the first time I’ve ever seen her come here all alone. She seems sympathetic enough… maybe she can tell me something about what’s going on.
“Will you tell me your name?” Rydia asked carefully, trying not to be too forthright.
“Oh?” the sound was one of startled surprise. As if very few people cared enough to ask her that. “Well… I…”
“You’re the first one who’s shown me such kindness here,” the Caller backed up her motives. “Not to mention, I never expected to see a Lunarian here on the Blue Planet. Not since the Red Moon left the orbit of our world.”
A stream of thought played out on the girl’s face in response to the words. She seemed taken by surprise at the fact that Rydia knew of her origins.
“You must be far away from home, too?” Rydia’s voice came quietly.
“Yes,” the girl finally answered. A choked sound cracked her throat – a sense of true, mournful emotion.
“I’m sorry,” Rydia gave her a gentle look.
This poor girl… why is she here? She looks so scared. I bet there’s more going on here than there seems to be.
The Lunarian peered from behind the wisps of white hair that framed her face. Her next words came as a surprise. “My name is Joran SuKi. Everyone calls me Joran, though.”
The Caller perked up at the introduction, an encouraging look crossing her face, “It is a pleasure to meet you. My name is Rydia. I am a Caller from the Underworld of the Blue Planet. Maybe you’ve heard of the place?”
Joran shook her head slowly. “I’m sorry… I’m not very familiar with anything about the Blue Planet.”
“Oh?” she couldn’t withhold the surprise that rose in her tone. “I was under the impression that Lunarians knew a lot about our world?”
“Perhaps the High Sage FuSoYa, yes. But most the rest of us have never heard about your people before now,” the girl replied with a soft frown.
“Really?” Rydia leaned forward, spooning some of the yellow mush-seeming stuff into her mouth. Despite how it looked, it tasted really good.
“We slept on the Red Moon. We didn’t know that there was a world – the Blue Planet — below us during our slumber,” Joran told her. “And when we woke again, we had arrived at our new home planet.”
“New home planet?”
“Yes. Where we now make our city,” the Lunarian nodded.
“So you found a world to make a new home upon…” Rydia breathed softly through her mouth. “That’s wonderful news.”
Joran simply smiled. It was a sad, quiet smile… as if she was missing that new home a whole lot.
“So, then… what are you doing here?” the Caller prodded very gently. Trying to get to the bottom of the Lunarian’s reaction.
The girl paused for a moment. When she finally answered, there was a deep dismay in her words, “Sometimes, I don’t really know anymore.”
Rydia put her fork down slowly, digesting the last statement with a slow swallow of drink. Carefully, she asked, “What do you mean?”
“Just that… nothing has gone at all the way it should have,” Joran replied with a pained look down at her feet. “And… I don’t even know why I’m telling you this. Except… I’ve watched you for a while, mostly curious because you’re the first human of this world I’ve been so close to. And you seem like a very kind person, just with the way you speak to people here, even if we’re your enemies.”
The Caller remained silent, an encouraging attention on her face. The girl obviously needed someone to talk to in the worst way possible. And Rydia was going to let her give her say.
“I am… your enemy, aren’t I?” the Lunarian peered over at Rydia sadly.
“I don’t know. Do you want to be?”
“I’ve never been anyone’s enemy before,” Joran replied, honesty painting her expression. “I don’t like how it feels. I don’t like how any of this feels. And I wish that none of this had ever happened.”
“Woah, now… slow down,” Rydia gave a soft smile, spreading her hands in front of her for order. “Let’s just pretend for a moment that you’re not my enemy. Okay?”
The girl paused, taking a deep breath. Her green eyes glittered in what seemed to be hopefulness as she gazed on the Caller. Then she nodded.
“Okay. Now, let’s take this one step at a time. Start at the beginning and tell me what’s going on here?” Rydia asked gently.
“From the beginning? Well, that’s a little hard to do. There seems like so much,” Joran’s face was thoughtful as she gathered her thoughts.
“I’ve got time?” the Caller gave a droll grin.
“Okay. Well, you see, there’s this guy I’m in love with… I know you probably are asking what that has to do with anything. But it has everything to do with it all,” Joran gave a sheepish, little girl smile. As if she’d rarely admitted her feelings before.
Something about it made Rydia smile in return.
She has a crush..? Maybe Lunars and humans aren’t so different after all.
Encouraged, the girl continued. As she talked, her smile widened, “He’s really quiet and he keeps to himself a lot… but I know that’s just because he’s awful shy and he’s trying to figure things out in his life. I’ve gotten to know him more than everyone else back home… and they’ve all got him figured out wrong. I mean, he seems distant and scary at first. But, deep down, he’s really sweet and gentle once you can get him to talk to you.”
“So he’s a Lunarian?”
“Well… sorta,” Joran admitted.
“He’s a half.”
“Oh?” Rydia couldn’t keep the surprise out of her voice. Carefully, she asked, “What’s his name?”
“I don’t know if you’d know him,” Joran replied. “He’s the eldest son of KluYa… his name is Golbez.”
The Caller suddenly found herself lacking for words as her mind reeled for just a moment.
In my dream… the Dragon said that Golbez had returned to the Blue Planet. So it is true…
“You are familiar with Golbez?” the Lunarian asked, trying to read the expression on Rydia’s face.
“Yes… actually… we’ve met a few times before.”
“Really?” Joran’s face lit up at the thought that the two of them might share a common acquaintance.
“Only briefly, though. We never really had the chance to talk.”
Rydia sucked on her bottom lip. The last thing she wanted to do was try to explain that she had once been Golbez’s enemy, back in during the time that he was a Dark Lord under Zeromus’ control. Especially since Joran seemed so smitten by the mere thought of him – it was obvious that the Lunarian knew very little of what Golbez did during his time serving the darkness.
It’s the first time I’ve ever heard anyone speak so fondly of Golbez. But, I suppose, it’s true that I don’t know anything about who he really is. And if he is related to Cecil… well… Cecil can have his own quiet charms about him. Sometimes.
“Well, you should try to talk to him sometime if you… get the chance…” Joran’s face slowly fell as her words faltered. “I wish… I wish I could talk to him again. But now, everything is so messed up. It’s all ruined.”
The girl sighed longingly, “Golbez started researching and making Incrytan…”
“It’s a Crystal of some sort…”
The Key Crystal… like the Dragon said?
“I see,” Rydia pursed her lips. “And what happened to it?”
Joran’s face crumpled. “He started working on it… day and night… obsessively. It was as if nothing else in the world existed anymore. Not even me. And it got to be worrisome. Nothing I did could pull his mind off of creating this Crystal… and it was obviously very powerful.”
“And then, one day, she came to talk to me,” the girl seemed to be trying to figure out the best way to explain it.
“Sparrow… that’s what she calls herself. I’m not sure who she is or where she really came from. But she told me that the Crystal was doing very bad things to Golbez’s mind,” Joran shook her head. “She said that he was the son of the Crystal Master KluYa, and was using untrained powers to create something he should not be making. In order to protect Golbez from his own Crystal, she told me I should take it away from him.”
The Lunarian blanched. “Yes… to put it bluntly. I stole the Crystal from him. And then…”
Rydia waited as silence filled the gaps in the sentence.
“And then she told me I had to come with her. Because if Golbez found me, he’d take the Crystal back… and everything would have been for nothing. The Crystal would just take control over him again,” her face grew more and more miserable. “She said to truly free him, we had to break the bonds of power it was tied to. And that those bonds were located on your world… the Blue Planet.”
“And, what were those bonds?” Rydia had a good idea where this story was going.
“The elemental Crystals,” Joran replied somberly.
“But I didn’t know how much damage would be done! I didn’t know that she meant for me to actually destroy the Crystals. And I didn’t know the Dragons would be released!?” her words were picking up speed as she became more frantic. “I swear to you, I didn’t know what was going to happen! And then Sparrow said the Daear were going to work with me… and that’s all been a huge mistake!”
“The people that live here in the mountain,” Joran nodded. “They are the ones that Pren leads. And they are full of hate and spite towards your race and mine. I think their only goal is to eradicate all human civilization from this world… but I don’t really understand why.”
Rydia rubbed at one cheek thoughtfully.
“I feel it… there’s something terribly wrong with them,” the girl added in a low tone. “Don’t you feel it too?”
“Yes…” the Caller grimaced. There was something about the whole place that had grown more and more tainted as time went on. It was a pressure that hung in the back of her mind. A sense of terrible, twisted wrongness. “I thought I was the only one who saw it.”
“No… I see it too. And it scares me,” Joran took in a ragged breath. “It scares me because if I don’t do what they want me to do… which is destroy the Crystals with Incrytan… I… I don’t know what’s going to happen. And the thing is, I think that destroying the Crystals is what is giving the Daear more power!”
“Are you sure?” Rydia glanced up with a troubled face.
“It’s all really confusing. But I think that the next place they are going to go will b–”
Just then the door behind Joran flung itself open. A presence of deep darkness filled that edge of the room as a teasing voice made them both turn. “Now, now. There you are, Joran-dear. I’ve been looking high and low for you! We don’t have too much more time to wait, you know?”
Rydia had seen this strange, one-eyed man from time to time. And each time she did, her mistrust of him grew in leaps and bounds.
“Kip?” the Lunarian turned with a wide-eyed blink.
“What are you doing down in this musty old place, eh?” he replied, leaning back as his single eye scanned the room slowly. His gaze finally alighted on Rydia, causing her to shiver.
“I was just bringing her some food I fixed,” Joran replied.
“Oh?” his word trilled quietly, speaking volumes. He turned his attention fully on the girl.
Rydia held her breath. It was as if this strange, dark man knew exactly what had been going on between them.
Joran nodded up at him. She looked absolutely unaware. And he was reading her like a book.
“Well, that’s really nice of you. I could use some too, if you have any to spare. The food they have here is absolutely rancid, yes?” Kip’s glance shifted between the two of them. A good-natured smile passed over his lips.
“Especially lately,” the girl replied. By the look on her face, she thought that this man was her friend.
Shiva… is there anyone who is not trying to manipulate her?
As if in response to Rydia’s very thoughts, Kip’s burning green gaze fell upon her again. A slow, twisted grin sent a deep and terrible chill through her body. One dark-gloved hand lifted to rest upon Joran’s shoulder.
“Come now,” he told the girl. “We can’t keep them waiting much longer.”
“Okay…” she nodded in return, then peered back to the Caller. “I’ll fix you another meal later… if you don’t mind?”
Rydia nodded mutely. Keeping her mind silent, she was doing best to mask any more of her thoughts or feelings from the one eyed man. However, Kip seemed aware of those intentions, too. He shot her a final, stomach rending grin as the door closed behind him.
Rydia was left alone once more with her thoughts churning.