Book VI Chapter 19: With Flying Colors!
The Cathedral Gardens
"Are you certain this is a good time? Something's eating you," thearchmageasked, furrowing his bushy white brow.
Nefiriansighed, settling upon one of the white marble benches in the plush blue grass.
"It's alright, Deet. I'm just a little worried aboutBast, is all. Something big's gone down; he would've at least written back by now, otherwise..."
In truth, Nef had wanted desperately to accompany his husband toAensdounto check on hisBeast, for better or worse.
But time was growing shorter with each passing second, and he had to ensure everything was in place, all preparations made, all scenarios considered... He had practiced twice a week within theReverie, fine-tuning his performance, committing the magic words to heart, perfecting the ritual.
Still, something gnawed at him from the pit of his stomach; some detail unconsidered, some shard unseen. If it was more than a nervous worry, centuries of preparation would blow up in his face, perhaps fatally.
So he stayed home to continue his work, hoping beyond hope that he had made the right choice.
Kelan'shawk had arrived with a message of its own just moments afterNa'than'sominous waking cry; Bast would be far from alone, with Kelan and theFirestarters-- andDilndrou, his former master-- close at hand.
He would have been powerless to help that far away from Chimre, anyhow. Scrunching his nose, he remembered his close call withVagarywith distaste.
"Don't let fear of the unknown drag you down, huh?" Deet said, roughly slapping the portly Aeneski's shoulder. "Give it a bit of time-- you can worry after he hasn't written or come home in a few more days."
"Yeah, you're right... okay. What am I set to learn today?"
If nothing else, Nefirian counted himself as incredibly fortuitous.
His days under Dilndrou's tutelage had been harsh and bitter, with little to show for the trouble but a few bumps and bruises and the same impending sense of dread that had followed him as an unswornTrior.
But now, several millenia after the fact, he had stumbled his way into the arms of not one, but two brilliant Beasts, all too happy to teach him as much as he could fit into his head.
Nigeland Dietrich each instructed him several days a week; Dietrich in the history of the Reverie and the nature of Mirajin and miramagic, and Nigel in advancedalchemyand the forbidden arts-- though he drew the line at necromancy, which Nef could not abide (the old bat had been more than accomodating, at least-- he took great care to allow onlyvampiresand viadante to serve in Chimre, much to Nef's relief and even delight).
Nigel's lessons seemed to be leading up to some great truth thatleupaksand vampire had in common, taking his time to whet Nef's appetite for the grand reveal--
but his excitement would serve him little good today, as it was Dietrich's turn to teach him.
Admittedly, he did feel a bit more comfortable around the old lion. There was something about Nigel that didn't seem quite right...
Two huge blue eyes snapped him back into the present moment. "Nef? You sure you're alright?"
"Ah! Sorry, sorry. I let my thoughts get away from me..."
Dietrich tilted his head, then shook it with a grin. "Never thought I'd hear those words from you... mmm, but I suppose even you have a right to off days, huh? Your mental acuity is usually sharp enough to kill. Maybe I'll go easy on you today-- how about a Denizens lesson? You always seem to enjoy learning about the stuff that lives on the outskirts."
The Dreamwaker brightened immediately. "Oh, please! You're too good to me, Dietrich."
"You say that now, but just wait until your quiz.
"Anyway! As you learned last time,Valenthand Reverie are two halves of a whole-- twin worlds, with their fates intertwined. The first peoples to exist were theelementals; and not just the alchemical elements, earth, air, fire, and whatnot, either. Elementals go deeper than that, just like you and your friends have learned.VitaeandMirajinaren't accidents or anomalies, nor are they the only important aspects of the world."
Nef's curiosity was piqued, Nigel's promise forgotten for the moment. "Wait... so there are more elements than the alchs and the primes?"
"Oh, absolutely! The alchemical elements combine to create matter, and the prime elements combine to make life and sentience. But it doesn't end there. Existence is more than just blobs of meat and rocks. There's sound, color, motion, magic, light... I could go on for a while.
The bottom line is, elements are the things that make up the universe. All of 'em-- and you'd better believe that every element has its elementals, as it were."
"And they were the first people? But that means the Reverie has always existed, then..."
Dietrich nodded. "Exactly. Valenth and the Reverie started together, and when the time comes, they'll end together, too. There's no way around it-- just like the primes, they're parts of a whole. You can muck about with 'em, you can switch them around or mix them up, but the moment you tear them apart? It's all over.
"Anyway, I'm digressing a bit. The alchemical elementals were the first to arrive, but only by a matter of moments. Fire and earth and air and water joined together, and sound burst forth from the roaring thunder. Color exploded into life in the reds of the churning lava, the blues and whites of the lightning, and the inky shadows the light threw. And Motion danced with the swirling waves and the steaming clouds that streaked through the sky.
"They were the first people, born when their elements were born, with the ignition of the stars and the spinning of the world. They played, thought, and dreamed, and their thoughts and dreams created the Reverie. And like any people, they began to wander, learning about themselves and the worlds around them.
"The alchemical elementals decided the physical world was most to their liking-- it was crafted of their own lifestuff, after all-- and decided to stay in it, while the abstract elementals made their homes in the Reverie, where they've lived to this very day."
"They're still there?" Nefirian asked breathlessly.
"Mmhmm-- and they're the basis of your lesson for today. I see you've already met thelumynos-- lovely people, aren't they?"
Nef grinned. "Quite. I've had a friendly relationship with them for quite some time now; dare I say, even symbiotic. The 'Brilliant One' and his subjects help them guard theScenarioborders and clean upvoidrifts, and they offer trinkets and information from their travels in turn."
"Impressive. But! They're easy, if you'll pardon my terminology." Dietrich's smile was toothy. "You resonate like a creature of the dream, so they expose themselves to you, not like the material mortals as they sleep or travel through the dreamlands on foot. Once they'll acknowledge that you exist, it's not difficult to make friends.
"But have you met theVareli? TheJdhuyssai? TheBellsaphoi?"
Nef's proud grin faded into a look of confusion. "I've never heard of them," he admitted.
"I thought not. But that's alright-- that's why I'm here, after all! In order, they're the elementals of motion, color, and sound, respectively. Personally, I have the best relationship with the Jdhuy, because they aid me with a great deal of my magic. But a small number of the Vareli feel kinship with me-- why, I'll get into later-- and the Bellsaphoi are the close cousins of the Jdhuyssai.
"There are many, many more people to be found in the dreamlands beyond them, but we'll take this a little at a time."
"Tell me," Nef breathed. "I want to know everything."
The lion man laughed. "I aim to please. Predictably, color, sound, and motion are everywhere, both in the Scenarios and the outskirts; you just have to know where and how to look. The Vareli are wary of visitors of any kind-- thanks to a little bit of history between them and thechimaeraof the physical realm-- and they tend to stay on the move.
"They run near-constantly, and they are as fast as sound, when they wish to be. They can take the form of great running-cats or men, though they tend to reserve the latter for dealings with mortals... whom they avoid, now. Chances are you'll need me to introduce you to one before they warm up to you at all; Vagary and I were the only ones to manage any meaningful contact with any tribe."
Nef cringed at the name, prompting Dietrich to pause, but he waved him on before he could utter another word.
"The Bellsaphoi are rather shy, as well; not out of any distaste for the people of the material world, but sound rarely lingers. They're small and battish people, with great ears and tiny instruments strung across their shoulders. My dealings with them have been orchestrated through my Jdhuy friends-- they seem to have some sort of guilt directed towards Valenth, though I've yet to learn exactly what.
"They're not unfriendly, but... hesitant. Like they think they might accidentally cause some sort of trouble. Perhaps if you ever befriend them, you might find an answer.
"Now, as for the Jduyssai..." Dietrich smiled broadly. "There's no need for me to bore you with longwinded descriptions or explanations."
Rising to his feet, the leonine archmage lifted his hands dramatically, spreading them apart and murmuring a magic spell with words that seemed to dance in Nefirian's ears.
In a flash, the garden seemed to explode with colors unlike anything he had ever seen; greens and blues and reds so vivid they seemed to take on a life of their own, vibrating and shimmering like iridescence in the sunlight.
It was all he could do to rub his eyes, blinking like a quaggy taking its first look at the world. "I... what? How is this...?!"
Opening his eyes again, he saw them drifting in a lazy circle around Dietrich's head, tiny, rodent-like creatures with broad, flat wings.
"Incredible," he breathed, staring in wonder at his own hair, looking for all the world as though it were a cascade of shining ruby string.
"The Jdhuyssai are dear friends of mine," Dietrich said, his already vibrant garb seeming surreal in its glowing beauty under the influence of the strange elementals. "They influence color simply by drawing near to it-- and, with a bit of ingenuity, they have the power to tweak anything that matches them. It comes in handy... Nefirian?
Rising slowly from his seat, the littleChapterstaggered wordlessly across his garden as if drunk, gaping in wonder at the flowers and plants with tears of unabashed joy streaking down his cheeks.
Next Chapter: Book VI Chapter XX
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