Date: Three Human years before present time.
Location: Titlianus Library, New Lunar Homeworld.
The Grand Library felt like a crypt.
Row upon row of ancient tomes filled the chamber with their long decadent stares. A shroud of silver dust lay blanketed across everything, touching every corner and crevice. It dangled like tiny ornaments from the lace of cobwebs that flourished in the shadows. Each breath was gritty with must and neglect.
So this is all that is left…
Sorrow rose from the depths of Joran’s chest as her gaze traced the forgotten wasteland before her. She lifted one hand to coax a book from its lair upon the shelf. With a heavy sigh it succumbed, the pages opening bare before her.
Her green eyes widened as she traced a longing finger over the symbols that shimmered across the page. Joran recognized the writing as old Runnian. It was a language that predated even the first memories of their society. In the short time that she had spent training at the Manor, there had only been one person that held any sort of comprehension of the old script. He had been her teacher, KluYa.
Uncertainty rose within her chest, just as it always did when Joran thought about him. Reflection brought old memories to life. Not far behind them trailed the gentle sweep of sadness.
She could still so clearly remember the very last time she had seen him. It was after their long journey to the core of the Moon where the Lunar sleeping chambers had been assembled. Still shaken and numb by the loss of their home planet, Joran had been terrified at the concept of the Long Sleep.
KluYa had reassured her with his gentle lopsided smile, taking her hand and leading her to a sleep pod. Though Joran had wanted to fight the slumber that fell upon her, her spirit drifted off to his final words.
“Sleep now, I shall see you when you wake.”
Joran slowly shut the cover of the book, sliding it back into its place on the shelf. She closed her eyes for a long, quiet moment.
But when I woke, you weren’t there.
It had taken a long time for her to recover from the double loss. Even though she knew it had been the space of many hundred years since the destruction of the Runnian Home Planet, for her, it felt like only two years had passed. The loss of her home was still tender in her mind and KluYa had been the closest thing to family she had ever known. Sometimes it was hard to tell which one hurt the most.
Now they were both gone, without any explanation.
In her heart, she wanted to believe that KluYa was somewhere on one of his grand adventures. He was forever touting off without notice into the wilderness of Runne, always to return with a journal full of sketches and observations he had made.
Joran had wished more than anything that one day he’d allow her to join him. She often thought of how much he would have loved the challenge of their new home planet. It was a feral and alien world that radiated so much life energy.
Yet, it was all silly hopes, she knew. And though words did not speak it, perception told her that it was doubtful she’d ever see her teacher again.
KluYa would turn blue if he saw the state that our people have allowed themselves to dissolve into.
She gave a deep sigh, tracing the spine of the book gingerly with one finger.
Even the written word is being lost, replaced by screens and technology. He would have never stood for such neglect and escapism.
Joran pivoted on one heel, turning to leave. Something inside wishing only to be rid of the suffocating presence of what had once been.
In mid-arc, she froze. Slowly, she turned back towards the darkness with a squint.
I thought I saw…
Only a solid wall met her vision.
But I’m sure I saw a flicker of light somewhere.
For just a moment, it had looked as if there had not been a wall there at all, but rather a long hallway with a strange green light shining from behind. Head tilted, Joran took a slow step forward. Then another. As she drew closer, the solidity of the wall worked against her judgment.
I know I saw something. What was it?
Joran reached out a probing hand, her fingers quivering. Where her vision told her cold stone should be, her touch met nothing but air. She stared for a moment at her hand which looked to be stuck straight into a wall.
Instantly, she drew back with a low hiss.
A secret illusionary chamber?
Joran tentatively reached forward again, finding the same result.
Why not? If there were any place where something could be hidden in this tower, it would be here. No one comes down here.
There was a long, struggling pause.
No. I shouldn’t pry.
She grit her teeth.
But, for something to be hidden away like this… it could mean something bad. Maybe something even FuSoYa doesn’t know about. Why else would someone take the energy to conceal this location so well?
Joran closed her eyes.
If something terrible is going to happen that could be avoided, I have to see to it. KluYa would have wanted it that way.
Pulling together every ounce of willpower she owned, Joran forced one foot in front of the other and slowly pushed through the illusionary wall. Letting out a low ragged breath, she peered around to find herself standing on the other side in the arch of a short curved hallway. The other end rounded a bend where nothing could be seen except the strange pulsing of an eerie green light.
I knew it! I really did see a hallway here!
Joran listened for signs that anything that might be stirring. Her footsteps and her heartbeat were loud within her ears. With her back pressed against the wall, she traced the curve of the structure and slowly poked her head around the bend. Her vision was filled with brilliant green light.
The illumination came from a line of torches that hung on the walls of the chamber. Each was crowned with an ordinary flame, except for the striking emerald color.
A low gasp escaped her, curiosity seething as her eyes flickered over the room that appeared at the end of the hall. Huge wooden shelves towered above her head. Each was laden with books, gadgets, and all manners of trinkets. Tomes of ancient writings sat alongside bits of strange floating rocks, glowing metal rods, and scripted prints that outlined strange mechanical structures.
It was as if the room couldn’t make up its mind whether it was the keeper of ancient artifacts or of technological discoveries.
Then her eyes fell upon it — a cold glimmer of steel in the shadows of the furthest corner. Joran was halfway across the room before she realized she was staring at the hilt of a huge broadsword. It was resting in its scabbard, leaning quietly with its oval pommel against the stone wall. Beside it was a strangely shaped mountain shrouded in a black velvet cloth.
She couldn’t figure out what urged her to reach out and pull the cloth away. But she did.
As the dust scattered from the velvet covers, the cloth dropped away to reveal a towering black-armored devil. Spikes glittered coldly as the light itself seemed to forsake touching the dark plated scales.
It creaked as it shifted, leaning down at her.
Joran screamed and flung the cloth back at the beast. The sound choked within her throat as she watched the empty helmet roll off and clatter loudly to the stone floor.
It was empty!
She stared down at the spiked helmet where it lay. It didn’t move.
I knew that…
Carefully, Joran reached down to pick it up. Somehow, just the touch of it felt tainted and stained. She had the sudden impulse to run and wash her hands.
And to laugh at her foolishness.
Nothing but a dirty old helmet.
She took a step back to look at the rest of the armor.
Who in Bahamut’s name would wear an enormous suit like this? People just don’t grow so tall!
Joran took another step back, bumping into something large and unyielding. Thinking at first she had stumbled into one of the bookcases, she turned to make sure no damage was done, and nearly dropped the helmet in shock.
Her cry of alarm was cut off as a large, firm hand rose to cover her mouth. Terror ripped through every limb as she came face to face with a Lunar that seemed so large that it defied imagination. Obviously he was the owner of the huge suit of armor.
Joran’s body tensed. Her hand reacted with the first defensive move that her brain could come up with.
She shoved the helmet spike-first straight into his face.
“Odin’s Blade!” he shouted hoarsely.
Ducking just in time to miss losing an eye, he swung his other hand up with impossible speed and caught her wrist in mid-thrust. With a quick painless twist, he tore the helmet from her fingers. One big fist was all it took to pin both of her wrists above her head against the wall. The other palm remained planted firmly over her mouth.
Joran writhed and twisted in his grasp, eyes wide and glazed with horror. The huge Lunar towered over her, his eyes reflecting darkly in an unreadable expression. He said nothing. And did nothing. He simply watched her until she fell silent with exhaustion.
“Are you done, now?” he asked finally.
His tone was neither soft nor hard. And his voice was too golden to be unpleasant, even as frightened as she was.
Slowly she nodded.
What choice do I have? No one can hear me all the way down here even if I did scream.
As if he also knew this, the Lunar drew his hand away from her mouth and relaxed his hold upon her wrists. His green eyes were deep, mesmerizing, and strangely familiar. She suddenly found herself lost within his gaze as he spoke.
“How did you get in here?”
Joran’s mouth suddenly opened as a flood of words rose. Fighting as hard as she could to find some fake excuse, she found herself compelled to speak only the truth. Something in his eyes wouldn’t allow anything else.
“I was down in the library looking at books. I turned around, and when I did, I thought I saw a light behind the wall. So I went to look at it, and I realized the wall wasn’t real at all.” Her tone changed in slight apology, “I didn’t mean to pry, really! I just didn’t know if there was something down here that was dangerous, that someone like FuSoYa should know about… I…”
His face softened slightly and she felt herself released. “Don’t worry. FuSoYa knows.”
Joran drew her hands up to her chest, rubbing her wrists. “Who are you? And what is this place?”
The big Lunar’s expression grew sharp again, lips pressed firmly together, “That’s none of your business.”
“But…!” the word came out in a breathless rush.
He picked up the helmet, his face blanching. He turned and placed it back atop the set of armor. With a quick flip of his wrist, he threw the veil over it. Then he glanced back at her.
“Leave and don’t even think of telling anyone else about what you’ve seen,” his eyes grew bright, as if light from an energy within. “It’s best that you forget about it entirely.”
His words were not a request. They were a pure demand. And something about it left a curdled taste in her mouth.
Who does he think he is, bullying me around? He’s not the High Sage! I don’t see where he can toss around orders!
Joran straightened slowly, “I hadn’t planned on saying anything to anyone. But if FuSoYa really knows about this place, then what do you have to hide?”
“That is also none of your business,” there was a low growl of warning in his voice that sent her a step back. “Besides, do you expect me to believe you are trustworthy? A stranger that has just broken into my room and attempted to spear me in the face with my own helmet?”
“Ah…” Her mouth was left hanging open with lack of response.
He gave a grimace, “Exactly.”
There must be a reason for this place to exist. He’s being so hushed about it, and I have to know what’s going on! KluYa would have expected no less out of me.
“My name is Joran SuKi,” she gathered all of her courage and strode up to the big Lunar. Chin lifted, she proclaimed, “So, there! You know my name. We’re not strangers anymore.”
As his mouth opened slightly, a look of confusion passed over the big Lunar’s face. It was obvious he wasn’t used to people boldly walking face-first into his wall of intimidation. No doubt most people would have run away.
But there’s something about him, something I can’t place, that’s so familiar.
“Well?” Joran tilted her head.
“Uh,” he scowled down at her and took a step back simultaneously.
So now I’ve got him uncomfortable?
“Don’t you know that when someone introduces themselves, it’s rude not to respond?” her voice hinted with soft amusement. Her initial fear was draining away as the seconds passed.
“Uh…” His stern façade wavered one last time before he scratched the back of his head apologetically, “No, I’m sorry.”
So all that cold nastiness was nothing but just an act?
“Okay. You’re forgiven.” She took another slow step towards him, noting his expression of discomfort. “Let’s try this again.”
His green eyes observed her warily.
“My name is Joran SuKi,” she extended her hand towards him in a friendly offering. “What’s yours?”
“I am Golbez Benjamin Ya.” He hesitated a moment before taking her hand. His face had grown colored with an expression akin to shyness.
“Ya?” Joran’s breath hissed quickly as she stared up at him. “Did you say Ya?”
There was a pained glimmer in his green eyes as he nodded and withdrew his hand.
She was dumbfounded, reaching for the only conclusion she could make, “As in relation to FuSoYa?”
“Yes,” the big Lunar straightened. “I’m his nephew.”
Joran’s mouth grew dry as realization fell into place upon her. She felt her pulse quicken, a dizzying flurry of emotion rising about her. The three words came without her bidding.
“You’re… KluYa’s son?”
His meek lop-sided grin was all the answer she needed.