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raise the sword of my soul

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There's a shrieking, piercing sound. Ar Ru instinctively claps her hands over her ears, but it doesn't block it out at all. It's not a sound from outside. It's a piece of the world that's come loose, and that means that someone's lost hold of it, and that probably means that Mama Lere...

Once, Mama Saki and Mama Hymmnosphere and Papa Listea had all come and sat her down and gently explained to her that one of her other Mamas or Papas were dead. Today, Papa Listea comes alone, because Mama Hymmnosphere's struggling to pick up everything that Mama Lere dropped, and Mama Saki can't stop crying. "Lere is dead," Papa Listea says. He won't tell Ar Ru what happened.

All her Mamas and Papas that stayed on the surface are dead now. It was just the four of them, down in the dark, cold Ark.

Ar Ru knows that she is still supposed to be a child. She's still too young for her adult name. She also knows that she is fifteen centuries old by the count of the planet they made, and most humans don't even live a single century. She could take on some of the responsibilities, some of the little pieces of keeping their world alive. Mama Saki always looks exhausted, and Mama Hymmnosphere is always busy, and Papa Listea spends almost all his time in deep mediation. But they won't let Ar Ru do anything. "Concentrate on your studies," they say, and "let us protect you," and "listen to the sound waves." As if.

That does mean, though, that Ar Ru has a lot of time to snoop around, and no one's paying enough attention to try to stop her. That's how she finds out.

Mama Hymmnosphere keeps a diary. It's in code, but not a really complicated one. Ar Ru's had plenty of time to decipher it. She flips through to the first page she doesn't recognize and reads, translating words letter by letter.

"Lere was slain by Ifrit while sheltering Shiva-worshipping Reyvateils," it reads.

Ar Ru thinks she might be angry, somewhere down in her chest. She thinks she might be sad. But all she thinks of is that shrieking, piercing sound she heard earlier.

---

Ar Ru does not remember the world where she was born. Her earliest memories are of this world coming into being, as her Mamas and Papas sang: kagura songs, drinking songs, chants and shanties and arias... Sometimes, for the Children's Festival or as part of a lesson, they let Ar Ru lean against their power and make part of the world, too. (There's a pond and a hill that are hers, and a type of little white flower that blooms as winter ends, and a species of cat with bat wings.) But mostly, she remembers watching in wonder as the world grew, and playing with the new things her Mamas and Papas made.

Mama Lere is--was smart. She dabbled in the conceptual work, but where she really shined was making those concepts work. She could take any dumb idea and make it into something that worked. Papa Dijya had come up with the beautiful arches in the land the mortals call Duscae, but Mama Lere was the one that found the right minerals and shape to let them stand proud against the horizon. Mama Lere had figured out how to make Ar Ru's cat-bat creatures fly even though the wings were too small. Ar Ru tried not to play favorites, but Mama Lere might be her favorite Mama.

Mama Lere is dead.

When everyone decided that some of them should go back underground to live in the Ark, Mama Lere was the one they picked to explain to Ar Ru that she was going. "We will keep you safe," Mama Lere said. "We'll get this Starscourge mess sorted out, and you'll be back to playing in the sun soon."

Mama Lere is dead.

This planet is Ar Ru's home. She doesn't remember another one. She thinks her Mamas and Papas are sad about it. They tell her stories, sometimes. They celebrate the Children's Festival and the Day of Gifts, and they insist she wait until she's as old as they were to get her adult name. They tell her about whole cities with the same brushed-metal look as the inside of the Ark, and about the great sacrifices people made to leave their dying world, and how rare and special an infant like Ar Ru was at the time that they built their ship. But Ar Ru isn't sad about that. She loves it here.

She used to.

Mama Lere is dead. All of her Mamas and Papas are dead except Mama Hymmnosphere and Mama Saki and Papa Listea. Ar Ru is trapped in a little metal box watching the darkness devour her home.

---

There's an argument about leaving when Ar Ru is supposed to be studying.

"This is exactly we are here," Mama Hymmnosphere says. "The loss of all of us would be the destruction of this planet."

"There will be nothing left if we don't end this," Mama Saki says.

"What makes you think that we could?" Papa Listea says.

Ar Ru walks back to her room and thinks.

Papa Listea is right. There's no reason to think that any of them could do anything.

But:

Ar Ru doesn't have a job right now. She's not holding the world together. She's maintaining her little pond and its hill, and her little white flowers, and her little cats with bat wings, but the world can manage if they're gone.

So:

Nothing bad happens if she dies.

She's expendable.

She can't let this go on.

---

Ar Ru remembers when the Astrals came. They tore holes in the sky when they fell through, and Mama Soreile spent weeks repairing the damage. None of them had a language in common at first, and they were running all kinds of strange magic trying to cross that barrier until Mama Sasha could make dictionaries.

Her Mamas and Papas were excited to be able to help others who had lost a world. Would they have been so happy if they had known?

The Astrals didn't explain what happened to their world until the Starscourge had followed them there. Maybe if they'd known, they could've stopped it from getting there in the first place. Or they could have stopped Shelanoir from getting sick. Or they could have contained it somehow while there was only a little bit. Or something, anything, other than this.

(So it doesn't matter that Titan used to make her playgrounds of rock and stone, back when she was still on the surface, and would always catch her in his cupped hands if she fell. It doesn't.)

---

Ar Ru knows her voice is not as strong as her parents'. She's smaller, too, and her body isn't as strong.

But she has the strength of her feelings and the password to the administrator account on the mainframe. It will have to be enough.

Mama Lere is dead, now. There's just the four of them left on the Ark: Ar Ru, Papa Listea, Mama Saki, and Mama Hymmnosphere.

Ar Ru will do what her Mamas and Papas would not. She will destroy everything that came from the Astrals' world. She will not try to stop with just the Starscourge, or just the Scourge and all the inanimate matter like the meteor. She will gather everything the Astrals have touched into her hands and burn it until not even ashes are left.

---

QuelI->EX[cez]->EXeC->{RW};

QuelI->{
 Cls(ciol f ih) {
  EX[lid]->{Ciel & gal & wei & fyuf & quo & memu};
 }

}->EXeC->{HW};

It hurts.

It hurts so much.

Ar Ru is burning.

She doesn't stop.

It hurts.

QuelI->EX[cez]->EXeC->{DW};
QuelI->EX[cez]->EXeC->{TzW};
QuelI->EX[cez]->{hymi}->EXeC->{HW};
QuelI->EX[cez]->EXeC->{UW};
QuelI->EX[cez]->EXeC->{RW};

If she can just- a little more-