27: Nothing But Blue Skies
“Ah, you mean the great Battle of the Twelve Pillars, yes? The final battle between Seelie and the Apostles? I assume your siblings have mentioned it?” Andromeda nodded. “Then yes, that was certainly an influence.”
“That the night Theia went all crazy?” asked Theseus Armstrong. “That really messed my old man up.”
“Yes,” said Phoenix, “it had quite an effect on people, though I do wonder how exaggerated their accounts of that night are. You saw it yourself, Commander, yes?”
Sohrabarak al-Hakim turned his back to his students and looked up at the naked blue sky. “For me, it was not night but a day as fine as this one,” he said. “Theia sat upon the horizon but a thumbnail in size. We did not question her cycles then as we do now. We had heard the stories, of course, the tales of the Great Cataclysm and the floods that wiped out all but a fraction of humanity, but we did not care for history.” He glanced over his shoulder to add, “I was about fifteen at the time, you understand. History did not concern me. I was a soldier, a warrior prince warring against the savages determined to bring down the ruins of Tiferet upon our heads. It did not matter to me whether the world was once great, only that I could be, and I would be.”
For a moment, Emily saw the regality in his dark eyes, the reflection of a lost kingdom trying to rise from the ashes of a fallen City, of lands wracked by civil wars and cruel politics, death and violence and fear a world away from the privileged ranks of Seelie, with their gemstone brooches and their dragon-ships and their aethereal Queens.
“And then—and I will save you the details—we saw it happen. We saw the Moon tremble, as if some vast hand had reached out and grasped her in its claws, and we saw her fall.”
His audience stood enraptured by the tale of a time few of them had been alive to see. They had all heard the stories, of course, the whispers, even the mutterings of madness, pleading with Theia to complete its descent, but hearing it from somebody they had all come to respect, from a man who did not hide the truth behind a lie, or distort it to suit his own agenda, gave it a solid grounding, a reality none of them could deny.
Not even Dante.
Dante, who was nowhere to be seen, not even as a phantom.
Dante watched the view from the cabin window as the blue sky cracked and fractured, splitting in an instant to a grey panorama of storm clouds churning over a bleak and sodden wilderness. Opposite him, Alonie Kent raised an inquisitive eyebrow.
“Is this it?” she asked.
Below them, clusters of turrets and towers rose into view, storeyed ziggurats capped with lush jungle gardens, and Dante spied people in the streets, many of them in uniform and all with a single glimmer of light pinned to their chest. Then the cruiser furled its iridescent wings and surrendered its body to some unseen hand, reaching out to guide its descent. Outside, a group of bright-eyed and vibrant-haired youths had gathered to watch its arrival. In the blink of an eye, the ship’s holographic avatar was among them.
Alonie turned to Lance, raised an accusatory finger. “Don’t even think it, Algar.”
Just in time, the ship passed into darkness.
Chapter 27 End
Okay, maybe not so straight: Sohrabarak embellished his story a little (you wouldn’t see the Moon ‘tremble’, and the ‘fall’ was subtle, happening over days, weeks even). What really gave it away was the flooding. Sohrabarak was around Iraq at the time and the Persian Gulf reacted appropriately…