The time is upon you. How do you choose, friend?
Averroes huddled for warmth and comfort before her small fire.
The moon peeped over the horizon, with stars everywhere. The night was alien, as if it belonged to a different place … or time.
Expectancy, she thought, this feeling, as if it waits, as if everything waits.
Why did the dream affect her so? Why was every moment vivid? In her experience dreams faded when one awakened; within seconds most was forgotten. Now every wakeful moment brought more detail - the colours, the smells, and the atmosphere. Old and musty, patiently alive, bright with dusty gems.
He sounded threatening at the end, and yet there was suffering and need in his voice.
Well, will you listen to yourself, Averroes, you are rationalising as if this Vannis is real. Aaru, girl, it was only a dream …
“No, little one, not a dream. I am real.”
She lurched up, frantically searching the darkness beyond her meagre fire. Now she hallucinated while awake.
“Averroes. The Eagles come to return you to your companions, for they believe you in danger. How can I know this if I am a hallucination?”
She sat, clutching her head, the voice pervasive and persuasive in her mind. Maybe being alone led to a form of insanity. Maybe she needed to be with people again. Then, still a distance away, she heard wings flapping rhythmically, heading her way. The Eagles. It fit, and the voice knew.
“Trust your instincts, Averroes.”
“Why me?” she asked aloud, despite herself. Too clear, the voice was too clear to be a delusion, and nothing was as it appeared anymore.
“That’s better.” She sensed the smile in his voice. He was no longer angry. “You are the Changeling.”
“Who?” He called her that before.
He was silent so long she thought their conversation was over, indeed a figment of her imagination. In the silence the flapping of wings grew ever closer.
Then, “Did you not grow up among the half-Valleur?”
“You mean like that character Kylan ran into? What are they?”
“Averroes, listen to me. Trust me now, I beg you. You were born to fulfil a prophecy. You feel the truth, do you not? You always suspected there was something more. Averroes, you are to bring the Maghdim Medaillon to me. I know you carried it, I felt you claim it as a youngling; I thought it returned to the half-Valleur when it knew it could not help the humans, I thought you would know and be ready. Averroes, I am aware it makes no sense, but trust yourself. Tell me, who has it? Why did you give it away when you were so close?”
His voice came in a powerful whisper.
She swallowed, and drew her knees up to her chest. Staring into the fire, she replied, “I had no choice. There was a terrible storm and I believed I would drown and threw it to one of my companions.”
“Ah, the darkling storm. You did not drown, little one. I wish you held onto it.”
“I was scared.”
“Which companion did you throw it to?”
“I-I tossed it.”
“An untruth. You know and I know the Medaillon cannot be handled by simply anyone.”
Averroes froze, eyes glazing. He knew. How could he know?
“The Medaillon belongs to me. I made it.”
No, surely not? How can this be? Is he reading my mind?
“This is an exception, for the Valleur do not countenance mindspeak. Averroes, you are in danger, you all are. I am not the enemy this time, and I need the Medaillon to free me of this place. This present time, now, is my destiny; I am able to fight the coming darkness. Please, who has it?” His voice was cajoling, as if speaking to a child.
Her new independence found that patronising. She shook her head.
“The human has it,” Vannis whispered. “He is part of everyone’s destiny. He has a prophecy to fulfil. Averroes, you need not protect him; I knew him when he was born. There has not been one such as the since the Valleur left this planet.”
Vannis paused to give her a chance to speak, but she remained obstinately quiet.
“Already he is more powerful than the first prophecy, for he wields the Medaillon in your stead, now when it is time at last. I wonder if he is friend or foe.”
“Friend!” Averroes shot out, but there was an element of uncertainty in her tone - she did sense the enigma. “And what of you? Are you friend or foe?”
“Touché, little one. You may come to believe one or the other in the future, for I am not innocent, but friend I am to this world. Three thousand years ago I was instrumental in bringing the Guardians, for it was not yet my time, but now the threat is worse, and it is my time. Averroes, I say again, I am not the enemy, and I need that medal to get from here, or I shall be a witness to hell!”
“If Ra… our sorcerer is as powerful as you suggest and he has the Medaillon, surely he can counter whatever it is?”
“He is unwilling in his power,” Vannis said, and that jolted her. “True? Perhaps he could counter if he accepted who he is, but has he the time? Are you willing to risk your world, your heritage, on maybe? And, my dear, tell me truly, is he friend or foe?”
“Friend! He would not hurt anyone, never mind our world! Lord Taranis accepted him …”
“Taranis is a fool! A good man, his heart pure enough to pass through the rigours of Immortality, but he believes the best of everyone; innocent until proven guilty, and that is his greatest weakness!”
It was as if Vannis confronted her from opposite the fire. “Oh, shut up! Go away!” Ha! Prophecies … ha! Nonsense!
“Time is short, little one.”
He was gone; his presence, his voice, his charm, his anger and his cleverness. The night was again … but, no, it was not normal.
The Eagles found her then, landing silently.
A Darak Or. A darkness few could halt and it included the Valleur of Ardosia. They would feel it first.
I told my last warriors we would aid our brethren also.
All gods, how do I lay my hands on the Medaillon before Ardosia burns?