Secrets unlocked secrets.
~ Ancient Oracles
They left the turbulent ocean behind to enter the Gatherers’ Circle.
Funl of the Eagles had the dais when the drenched Guardians entered. Those present immediately clamoured for news. Funl hopped to the floor, surrendering the console to Taranis.
You are wet, my lord.
“Ah, yes, Funl, how observant of you.” Taranis grinned, but it did not eclipse the anxiety in his eyes. “We had a good dunking and Saska led us to safety. Unfortunately our mortal companions are still in the thick of it. Regard this as an interlude, so I will be brief …” He proceeded to relate a summarized account of events.
We did wonder why Kras was summoned. He will get them out, Funl said.
“I am counting on it.”
Surely it is unnecessary to travel at human pace? You may achieve more by employing transport.
“We do not desire to hasten this along; we need as much time as we can steal. Besides, I don’t like giving Infinity arrows to follow. This must be as complicated for her as she made it for us; this way we force her to ground.” Taranis held up a hand when four others wanted to jump in with their thoughts. “We are wet and cold. We meet in an hour. Recall anyone able to leave whatever they are doing.”
He stepped away from the console and headed towards his ogive. As he reached it, he halted, turning to look back at Saska.
Should he talk to her? Ask about Rayne?
Maybe now was the time … but her doorway chimed. He shook his head to clear it of unwanted thoughts.
It was an opportunity lost; he would regret it.
Precisely on the hour, he returned.
Llettynn, Belun, Glint and Saska were back - the Siric much earlier by the heavy discussions in progress amongst the winged humanoids. All were rested, fed and dressed in clothes suitable to hiking. Llettynn retained his standard white garb, while Belun remained in shape shift mode.
Taranis stood in the centre of the Circle, watching everyone. More had arrived, but that was not the purpose of his study. He wanted to garner a sense of the mood, the results of days of unstinting work.
He was pleased to note they were confident and optimistic. The Arcana threat was now a problem to overcome, not debilitating fear. He knew he could count on them.
Taranis called for quiet, and it was given.
“I am certain the dara-witch will regard this gathering as a violation, but we say so what. Your news, please.”
Taranis took a seat beside Glint on the foremost tier.
Funl flew over, perching comfortably. The console flickered distress under his tail feathers, and Taranis hid a smile, knowing how much the Eagle leader enjoyed causing it discomfort.
The report I have is sadly lacking. We have in our possession papers, books, treatises, theses, obscure and otherwise, and we still study them. We have encountered the Arcana legend, but to date nothing new has surfaced.
Funl surrendered the dais and Gren of the Sagorin took his place. “We have nothing reliable yet on rifts, portals, and so forth. Their existence is speculation and opening and closing one is regarded as fallacy.” Gren paused. He preferred certainty before mentioning something, but these were extraordinary times. Thus he continued. “A snippet has not yet been afforded due process, but in a manuscript dating back to pre-technology on Xen III we found a codicil. The writer speculates the Arcana are not as old as commonly accepted, and we shouldn’t think of them as a race. We should view them as a concept, and this concept has displaced their true race name. The author states this race is almost as ancient as sentience itself. Taranis, it resonates, but we haven’t had the time to delve further.”
“It strikes chords, yes,” Taranis murmured. “To clarify - the race, truly old, has been replaced by the concept, not quite as old?”
“Eons separate,” Gren confirmed.
“Thank you,” Taranis said and rose. “Please sit.” He ambled over to the console, saying, “Gren slots a puzzle piece into place.”
He paused. Until recently he was always more at home in the Dome, yet now it felt surreal, as if his perception of reality was altered. Valaris, she does this to me.
“Do any here recall the Valleur?”
Nods answered him, mostly because of what he related earlier about the man in the tavern.
“I will repeat the name,” Taranis said, an edge to his voice. “Valleur. V A L L E U R.” Again he paused. “It is a real thought. You are now searching memories, but find it hard to recall specifics. The Valleur are part of our past … Llettynn?”
The Siric was thoughtful. “The Ancient Oracles bothered me, and now the connection is clear. Taranis, the Oracles are the holy works of the Valleur. The Ancient Tongue Valarians claim to have once known, the language lost and now recalled only in the north, is the Valleur language …” His colourless eyes locked onto his Dome leader. “At one time the Valleur were on Valaris. How else do we explain a language? Taranis, the Valleur were an ancient race who thrived even before the Siric.”
“Exactly, Llettynn,” Taranis responded. “A conundrum, wouldn’t you say?”
“Yes,” the Siric agreed, falling into deep thought.
Sal of the Sagorin burst out, “The Ruby is a device to open doors, not a process of Enlightenment. A gem of great size and value is often used among sorcerers universe over as a device to travel between places. Each facet holds the key to a place.”
“And the Valleur always build fourteen sites sacred to every world they settle,” Glint slotted in. “Seems we search for the fourteen ancient Valleur sites on Valaris.”
Taranis propped his hands on the console and hung his head briefly. “A Square Pyramid and an Obelisk begin to sound surprisingly sane.”
Rilt said, “The more I think Valleur, the more I remember, and that doesn’t make sense. How can we forget, and now remember? And how could we ignorantly pass a set of holy works to the clans of Valaris? We played with fire.”
“How could human sorcerers fiddle with a gem like the Ruby? And claim into posterity to have fashioned it,” Taranis muttered.
Llettynn’s head swivelled upward. “By saying their race name we unlock recall. After Drasso we were too pressed for time; we did what we thought was right.”
“It doesn’t explain how we forgot,” Belun pondered. He glanced at Taranis, understanding now the Guardian’s silence when Kylan spoke of the Valleur in Luan. Taranis’ recall began that night.
“I believe we were forced,” Taranis said. “Not only us here and the people of Valaris, but all sentient life.”
“Hints remained,” Declan pointed out.
“To aid recall,” Llettynn stated.
“Why did we need to forget?” Saska asked.
“A wise question,” Taranis murmured, and again hung his head. “Why, indeed? Why did they need us to overlook them? What did they do that forced them to select that future? What did the rest of us do to them? Moreover, why, when they needed forgetfulness, why were hints left behind? And why are we remembering now?”
“Now is the time?” Glint suggested, shrugging.
There was a silence then so profound the Sagorin knew he inadvertently touched on something important, something intrinsic.
“Well, Glint,” Taranis said, “you may have it right there. Now may be the time to remember the Valleur.”
Saska said, “What are we to uncover in recall? How does that help the Arcana?”
Taranis said, “Allow me to explain what I suspect, and what Infinity thinks she already knows. The Valleur were the oldest beings of our universe and roamed in isolation for an extraordinarily long time. Then came others, but it was the arrival of space-faring humans that upset the balance, for we coveted and needed Valleur worlds, proving Valleur and human were similar in their needs. It led to strife, and strife became war …”
“Ages of war,” Llettynn murmured.
“Until there were too few Valleur and the balances shifted further.” Taranis inclined his head. “Guess what I think the Valleur did then?”
“They opened a Rift into another dimension,” Glint said.
“Yes!” Taranis smacked the console. “And the Arcana legend commenced in all its monstrous evil to protect that Rift, for no one was to follow.”
Llettynn frowned. “I follow the logic, but, Taranis, the Valleur did not vanish that long ago and the legend is ancient.”
“Unless you manipulated a legend to bridge time, Llettynn, to reach so far back even the Siric believed they had grown up with it.” Taranis leaned forward. “They altered our memories, right back to the oldest among us.”
Impossible, Funl sent, ruffling his feathers.
Taranis disagreed. “I recall them and I am by no stretch of the imagination old enough to have shared space with them. It’s as if by dint of their presence here, once, they entered memories old and young forever. If they had that kind of influence, then a legend reaching back cannot be that hard.”
“Theoretically, it is possible,” Llettynn mused. “And the Valleur were powerful indeed.”
“Taranis, do you think they were as evil as the Arcana legend suggests?” Saska asked.
“I do not know,” Taranis said. “Evil has many faces.” And sometimes something named as evil hides something beautiful, like fireflies in the silence of night.
“We cannot categorically slander them because they created a nasty tale in their wake,” Declan said.
“Thus time must tell,” Taranis said. “Where we are now includes in it the Valleur Oracles, Ruby and Medaillon. All on Valaris, the field of play, which means the Valleur inhabited Valaris before the settlers arrived …”
“Not in any Valarian history book, I’ll bet,” Belun grinned.
“We forgot them also, yes.”
“The Pyllanthos theory activated the Ruby,” Saska said. “Past, present and future were transparent to them, therefore acceptable as the opening mechanism. That means there’s a fourteenth site not yet revealed.”
“Saska has something there,” Llettynn murmured. “Is that what the dara-witch uncovered? Is that what lies behind her deal with the Arcana? I like it not.”
“We have time before we rejoin our companions; let us use it,” Taranis said.
As the discussion flowed, Belun thought he was right in his original estimation that this was not a game. It never was, and if that witch thought so, she duped herself. Rayne knew it, from the start, and what would that come to mean?
Was the human friend or foe?