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Sylvains Last Gift

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Prologue-

Nearly 200 years of your time have past since this story began, a short time really, only about half a lifetime for my children. But a long time in the lives of human children. And time enough for things to change. For people to change. For whole worlds to change.



Part 1- The Escapade

 

     I felt my way down a side hall and slid behind one of the palace columns.

"Goddess, I wish to see." I whispered.

You see Professor Woodbridge sweep past; his sharp eyes missing you by inches. 

     Ha! I followed the wall farther down, then out the side door I knew would be there. But I wasn't safe yet. I could hear the gardener's scissors clipping away a few feet from me..

     "Good day, young master." There was a sickeningly sweet smile in her voice.

     "Good day," I replied obediently, then continued walking as quickly as I dared farther into the garden. The smell here was overwhelming, for the flowers were just starting to bloom. But that could wait till later; right now I needed to get to the wall without being seen. 

"Goddess, I wish to see."

You see three people walking in the gardens near you. Two sit on the bench beside the fountains and one sits under the meeting tree.

     Perfect. I followed the main path 'till it curved away from the wall and before I abandoned it. I checked once more for other people, then with a running leap and frantic flapping of wings, I caught the top of the wall, pulled myself over and dropped to the other side. I covered my mouth to muffle my screech of victory, and ripped off the accursed blindfold. Goddess, but it was bright out here!  I chirped delightedly and rushed off into the city. Now all I needed to use my sight for was to watch for palace guards and for when shop owners weren't watching their wares close enough. 

     "Indrid!" a familiar voice called across the crowded marketplace. I froze before my eyes found Janelle pushing through the crowd behind me. She had a stack of new books in one arm and was trying to hold her palace robes up out of the mud with the other. 

     "Out with the commoners, princess?" I smirked at the older girl. Usually, she would be the one to turn me in if she caught me on one of my escapades, but this time she was out here too.

     She ignored my taunting, "What are you doing here Indrid? And aren't you supposed to have your blindfold on at all times?"

     "Oh forget that old thing. I could ask you the same, princess."

     "I'm not a princess, Seer Cold,"  she sneered as I shifted uncomfortably at the title, "I am here because Ms. Stone requested I get some books for her." 

     "Did she also ask you to get..." I glanced at the pile of books, " ...' The Wildflower: a looove story'?"

     She blushed furiously, but held her head up high. "Yes." 

     I chittered at her, which only seemed to make her angrier. "What about-- oooh, this one looks spooky! 'The Institute'?" I pulled it from the pile and began flipping through it, "Ms.Stone ask you to get this one too?"

     "Hey!" she scrambled after me, her eyes glowing dangerously. "Give it back!"

     "All right! All right!" I carefully handed it back to her, "but you do have to admit that you snuck out, too." 

     "The bookseller is coming through this week! He won't be back for months!"

     "Yes, and how would Miss Janelle survive without her romance novels?"

     "Shut up! It's just the one!" 

     I chittered at her again and she flicked my antenna, "Ow! What was that for?" 

     "Being a--" she lowered her voice, "being an a**hole!" She spoke the word with almost reverence.

     I gasped in mock horror, "Really!? Have I been an A**HOLE!?" I yelled as loud as I could, "Oh noooo!" 

     She whacked my antenna again, hard, and I hastily gave up trying to annoy her. 

     "So. Any visions lately?" 

     "Uh.." I scratched a talon in the dirt absentmindedly, "No. Not really. I don't think any of this training really helps any."

     She nodded sagely, "They'll come when they come, there's no use trying to force it." 

     "Ya? Well, when they come is infrequently at best." 

     She sighed and patted my shoulder awkwardly, "What about your Sight?"

     "My Clairvoyance is mostly helpful in sneaking out of the palace. Heathcliff still seems pleased with my progress, but it's not really what the Interpreter is interested in." 

     "Mm, that's a shame. It seems like it could be really useful. Like, you can just SEE what people are doing all around the world, that's crazy, right?" 

     "Yeah, well, I guess. But I'm hardly the only person capable of it."

     "Do-- do you ever spy on people?" 

     I turned my head away. "I used to. Not anymore, though."

     "Oh Goddess, what did you see?" 

     My antenna dropped and I buzzed in embarrassment, "Noothhiiinnggggg." 

     She laughed at me heartily, "What, you catch Woodbridge getting his sexy on?"

     "Oh, Goddess!" I covered my face in my hands, even if my hands weren't really big enough to completely cover my compound eyes. It was the thought that counted. She clicked her teeth together to imitate my chittering and smirked.

     "You're insufferable." I groaned from behind my claws.

     "No, you."

-

     The daylight hours flew by us as we cavorted through the market. Janelle gazed longingly at the bookstores and prevented me from trying to steal anything while I fluttered about the candy shops and kept Janelle from buying every book she laid eyes on. 

     As the sun set, we found ourselves resting at the edge of the river that runs through the city. My mandibles and the feathers on my hands were sticky from the candies I had snitched, and I was attempting to wash it away without waterlogging myself when it happened. One second I was perched on a log jutting from the bank, the next I Saw.

You are standing beside the river, right where you were a moment ago, but now the sky is red and full of smoke. There is no yell of victory, no whimper of defeat, only the wind. It is as if the world itself has died. The silence rings in your ears. The scene rewinds and now there is sound, and the sound is screaming the clang and percussion of weaponry. And then c r a c k! And there is silence. 

Goddess, please, I--

You rewind again, the screams distorted and horrible as you race past them. And your Vision lands on the gate, that portal to our sister planet. The pride of your nation. A rift is forming in it, shining white light, bright enough to make the day around it look dark in comparison. A hoard of strange figures march through and turn the sky to ash; the world SCREAMS, and then there is silence.

     "Indrid!?" I became distantly aware that I was sopping wet, water trickling down through my feathers while someone was dragging me up the muddy bank of the river.

     "Indrid, are you all right?" No. Not really. In fact, I felt a bit like throwing up.

     Janelle was dragging me up the bank. She was shaking, whether from trying to carry me and the gallons of water my feathers had probably soaked up, or from fear I couldn't be sure. Why would she be afraid anyway? She hadn't seen—I spasmed at the memory, wrenching myself out of her grasp and collapsing on the bank. Maybe it had been I who was shaking. I could feel myself trembling all the way up to the tips of my antenna.

     "Indrid!" Janelle sounded somewhere between furious and scared.

     I took a breath and mustered all my energy, "Hi, yes, hello. Vision. Had a vision. Shut up. Go away." Now that I noticed it, my head was pounding.

     "Don't you tell me to shut up! What was the vision of?"

     "Nothing!" I heaved myself to my feet, staggering at the weight of the water, "It was nothing! I... imagined it! I'm going now, bye." I flapped my wings and shook myself, water flying everywhere and probably drenching Janelle too, but I wasn't looking at her. I took off, rather unsteadily and with a lot more effort than usual, but I managed it.

     "INDRID!"

     But I wasn't listening.

     I ended up having to land about halfway to the castle, unable to gain enough height to make it up the hill. I dragged myself back over the garden wall and was promptly caught by the gardener who first threatened to send me to Woodbridge, and then, even worse, threatened to send me to the nurse when I tried to sulk, dripping wet, past her. After a good long lecture from the gardener, and then from the nurse, I finally made it back to my room without taking in a single word either of them had said.

     I sat on the edge of my bed and stared at my hands, then clenched them when I found they were still trembling. It was just as bad as the first time I had seen it, if not worse. I had almost started to convince myself that it had just been my imagination or a bad dream. Sure I had visions sometimes, but of random unimportant happenings, not The End Of The World. I closed my eyes and flopped back into bed. 

You ought to tell someone this time. 

     "Shut up."

     No one would listen to me. After all, I was just a kid. The council would just think I was trying to cause mischief or something. They would be outraged. Saying such a thing... Even suggesting- no. I was just a kid. Some random kid blessed by the goddess to see things he wasn't supposed to. I was a tool here, not a voice, I knew that much. And I was a fickle tool at that. Entertained as a possible asset for the future, not someone to give a second glance for now. If anything I was just an annoyance. I shivered and tried to shake the remaining dampness away from me, along with my whirling thoughts.

     The vision had felt far off. I had time, possibly years of it before anything happened. I would tell someone. Just... Maybe not just yet. 

      I smoothed down my feathers and tried to calm myself. Maybe I should just go to bed; it wasn't unreasonably early, and the council wouldn't be meeting for another week anyway. 

     The next morning I slipped into my cloak and grudgingly tied the blindfold back over my eyes.  

     "Today," Woodbridge announced when I arrived at his office, "you will be training with the enchanter." 

     "Yes, I know," I grumbled. 

      I could practically hear the indignant look he shot me. "It is a great honor--"

     "honor to be taught by them, yes, yes, I know." 

     "Seer Cold!" 

     So maybe I was in a bad mood this morning, but could anyone honestly blame me? If anyone had known what I had seen, that is. Which they hadn't.

     "I know about yesterday, you know." he continued, "You should be glad I'm not punishing you more severely already. "

     "More severely?"

     "Yes," his eyes narrowed, "you got my message?"

     "No, sir." Oh boy.

     "mmm," his voice was worrisomely calm. "Well, this evening, after your lessons, you'll be running errands for Heathcliff."

     "Ugh! I knew I couldn't trust Janelle not to tattle! She snuck out too, ya' know!" 

     "And she'll be punished accordingly, but that is none of your business. As for tattling, that was Nurse Asclepius, not Janelle. You children, so quick to jump on one another--"

     "I'm not a child!"

     "I would appreciate your not raising your voice at me, Seer Cold," he huffed. "Now, off to class with you."

     I fumed down the hallways and out through the courtyard toward Heathcliff's cave, but before I could fully make my escape Janelle appeared out of nowhere and caught the back of my robe.

"Hey. What's the deal with tattling on me? And what was with yesterday? You just ran off on me!" 

I shrugged her off and kept walking. "I didn't tattle."

"Well, then how did Miss Stone know!"

"The gardener caught me coming in."

"The gardener has never tattled on me before!"

I shrugged. I didn't feel like explaining.

"And what even happened yesterday?" She ran in front of me, forcing me to stop, "Are you all right?"

"It was nothing." I tried to maneuver around her, but she blocked me.

"Don't insult my intelligence. You said it was a vision and then flew off! Which was very rude, by the way."

You should tell her.

"Shut up!" Janelle looked taken aback, but I was in it now! "I don't have to tell you anything, you’re just a ward, you’re not even a real part of the court-"

Her fangs were bared now, and I shrank back almost instinctively "How about you apologize by telling me what's going on," she growled.

"I--I have to get to class." I spread my wings. 

"Don't you dare! Don't you dare--" I took off, " INDRID COLD! Get back here right now!"

Her voice faded behind the sounds of the wind buffeting around me. I was going to be in so much trouble later. 

---

The Enchanter is an ancient being of many forms and many names. At that time they were in the form of a small cat-like creature which constantly exuded rainbows. They went by "Nyan." An odd character to say the least; they were utterly obsessed with collecting all sorts of odd things. To assist in their absurd goose chases was my punishment for sneaking out, and to learn the art of magic from them was my punishment for... being gifted? having future sight? existing? Who knew. They also were the only other being alive known to have future vision, although they were quite stingy with their use of it, and the court had little sway over their decisions. 

"Hello there, child, nice of you to stop by."

"Sorry I'm late." I tried to keep the bite out of my voice. I liked the enchanter and didn't want to destroy all of my two friendships in the same day. 

"Yes, well I suppose it can't be helped. Come along then," and they sped away down into the abyss, trailing rainbows behind them. I sighed and flapped my wings a few times before plunging into the darkness after them.

His royal attendant (read:bitter rival) Moira was waiting for us when we landed. "Good morning, Nyan."

"Good morning, Moira. Lovely as ever, I see."

"Flattery won't get you my fancy earth earrings."

"Oh come now, Moira, I would never-" They grinned cheekily at her. This was all usual banter. 

"So what have you got for me today?" I interrupted. 

The Enchanter turned back to me, "Well, your Professor Woodbridge has informed me that someone was very naughty and rather cleverly used his clairvoyance to sneak out to the market yesterday. Now of course I cannot condone such horrible behaviour or the skill and cunning it would take to pull that off." They grinned slyly at me and Moira as if they were letting us in on a secret.

"So I suppose you're going to let him off the hook, then," Moira finished for them.

"No, I'm giving him a very difficult task! His job today is to steal your very nice earrings, which you refuse to even let me look at!"

"You can see them from over there," Moira huffed, "and if either of you put your grubby little hands on them I'll feed you both to the chimeras."

"You're a cruel cruel woman, Moira," Nyan lamented.

"We have chimeras?"

--

And so the day continued. Hours later, after collecting an odd fan, a set of keys, and something Nyan called a "typewriter," I found myself pacing in the foyer outside of Jannelle's room,  trying to get up the courage to knock. She definitely hated me now. I had called her a ward! For Silvain's sake, I myself was technically a ward, even if my parents were still alive out there somewhere. Argh, this was gonna be hard, but she deserved an apology and I deserved whatever she said to me. I took a breath and knocked. There was shuffling, and voices, and then to my surprise Ms. Stone opened the door.

"Oh!" We both stood back for the other to pass, then tried to go forward when the other stepped back, then both realized our mistake and backed up again. 

"Indrid?" Janelle peaked around the door. 

"Heeeyy Janelle..."

Ms. Stone looked between us, "I was just leaving, come in--uh, Indrid, was it?"

"Yes ma'am." I ducked under the doorway.

"All right, I'll leave you two to it then." She stuffed various crystals and rune papers back into her satchel and bustled out, winking at us as she left. I shook my head in annoyance.

"What are you doing here, Indrid,"  Janelle frowned, "come to make fun of me some more?"

"No, I'm-- I came to apologize. I'm sorry. I've been really terrible and," I tried to think of something else I could say to show how bad I felt but failed, "...I'm sorry." 

"Well, pulling the ward card wasn't even original, I knew you weren't really trying once you said that."

"Goddess, I'm such an *ss." I ran a hand through the feathers on my head. 

"Yeah, you are. And I'm sorry for pushing you to tell me something you obviously weren't comfortable with telling me."

I blinked, surprised, "No, no, you were right to push me, it's my job to let people know when bad things are going to happen, and--and I failed."

"Well, it's still not my job to know if you don't want me to and I'm sorry, so accept my apology and stop rolling in self-pity," She patted my leg comfortingly and I flinched, not expecting the touch. 

"Yeah. You're right, you're right. And sorry again for being a jerk."

"Apology accepted." She smiled, "now how about we go get some dinner from the kitchen."