Skye is Falling
A faint gurgling drifted in a dark abyss of stars. The only, true light source was the brilliant glow of the Sun in the void of space. Without the firmament’s filter, the star’s light did not illuminate this place. Rather, the rays absorbed into the black crust masses visibly risen above the innumerable rivers flowing from a bubbling mound, spinning a multi-faceted, black crystal above the mouth of the fountain.
The sole inhabitant of the realm was balled on a nearby shore. Tremulous, the bare, dark shoulders were gripped in large hands, desperate from helplessness. On his left, middle digit clung a shimmering, grey-white joint ring that extended past his finger into a talon. His distressed, wrap tunic peaked out beneath glossy strains that reach beyond him like wet drapes, bonded to his Olympian form. His complexion was as black as the void beyond his home.
Beneath the water’s surface, the great storm raged in Moonshine, but despite the dense cloud cover, the scene below was clearly visible to the strong man. The struggle on the realm below had not gone unnoticed, and bearing witness deeply grieved the watcher. So great was his sorrow that with lips stretched wide as his midnight skin would allow, a silent scream twisted his kind visage beneath the cover of his flowing obsidian locks.
The rotating crystal stopped moving as an unsettling shift rippled throughout the starlit realm. Pausing to look up cautiously, the man’s starburst, clear crystal irises fixated at the top of the fountain. Four facets of the crystal craned backward like an old, rusty door, streaming a light as bright as day in the form of a pillar through the darkness.
“Please...” Flora’s voice wept bitterly from fear, “Father... help...!”
Compelled to rise, the man reached toward the voice with his clawed hand. Stumbling into the water, he waded stiffly toward the dark fountain. His breathing was haggered and irregular as dark lips trembled from anxiety. The crystal gaze remained fixated on the pillar of glowing light. His black, tattered clothes dragged its strips of loose material behind him in the water. Furrowing his dark, wet brow, he crawled up to the top of the slick fountain. As his left hand stretched toward the light, he hesitated for a moment.
The crystalline orbs shook as if he feared the light. Guilt washed over his face as an agonizing decision weighed upon his strong frame. When the soft cries of the girl echoed to his ears, the doubts shattered in his core. Reaching once more, his voice finally escaped him.
As soon as his talon’s tip touched the light, the man was ripped into the pillar by an unseen force. The crystal closed behind him, sealing the pathway. His voice fell mute once more as he plummeted through the stream, unsure of what was to come of his deed...
Rain glared over his shoulder after the escaped Avatars, trembling from rage and grief. Just before he lashed out, he heard Flora’s sobbing over the wind and hail. Glancing back, his transparent form noticed how frightened the group was, huddled around Flash's limp form. Leif's disembodied singing drifted on the calming gales like a beckon of hope in the storm. Realizing he had neglected the ones he meant to protect, the precipitation softened from hailstones back to showers.
"What am I doing...?"
A pillar of light pierced the clouds above to the center of the choppy lake. Before Rain had a chance to react to the stream beside him, something crashed into the water, dispersing his form completely. Between the dissolving clouds and the massive splash, the already soaked bunch homed in on the center of Lake Pierre. Once the skies were clear once again, Thunderquake dropped to the ground, holding the injured Fauna close. As the lake’s surface drew back, Leif and Gust landed on the shore, anxious of what had just quelled the stormfront.
Loud, frantic gasps from the middle of the lake preceded flailing arms of a man dressed in shredded, black garments. His obsidian locks clung to his face and limbs as he tried to get his barrings on whether to stand or tread in the disturbed waters. After one last slap of his large hand on the water's surface, his right hand pushed the hair from his face to look out at his surroundings.
Element and human alike gawked as the panicked struggle began to calm. When the new arrival finally noticed the audience on the shore, Flora stepped forward to get a better look. Emeralds swelled as wide as physically possible as they found his crystalline irises. There was a stillness that compelled everyone to freeze, waiting for a sign to move. The man’s complexion had paled during his descent and had a rich brown color now. Reaching his left hand out toward Flora, she lifted her right in response...
Suddenly, the man was caught up in a splash of water toward the skies. As everyone made varying responses to Rain’s obvious intervention, Flora’s eyes followed after them in awe. Jaime took her limp left hand gently.
"Flora," the youth asked with caution, "are you okay?"
“Could he be...?” The plant Elemental’s voice faded back into her thoughts as she dared to dream her wish had been answered...
The water transitioned into a dense cloud as it ascended as quickly as possible. Within, the man floated at its center in a daze. He’d just fallen from the heavens only to be knocked back up again. Dissociation was to be expected.
“Of all the times, you had to try to spring yourself now!?”
“Why are you angry...?” A deep yet soft voice escaped the man’s lips.
“Why?!” Rain’s voice bellowed with anxiety at the question. “You can’t be here, Skye! You know you can’t touch the surface!”
“I know that, but...” Skye’s voice faltered as the last few moments replayed in his mind. He still felt winded from the ordeal, but the emotional maelstrom left him spent. “The pathway opened, and I heard her voice for the first time... I could never forgive myself for not trying...!”
“We have enough of a fight on our hands,” the water sprite bit back with frustration. “I don’t have time to deal with a breach in the Rift! You need to go back the way you came before they notice you escaped!”
“But...” Skye’s crystal orbs trembled at the thought of returning to the Rift. He couldn’t do that, not when he had finally been granted passage. “I know the Principles sent the Avatars again, but Lané can’t fight them this time!”
There was stillness as the cloud came to a halt. Rain’s means of transportation was too insulated to feel the jarring stop, but Skye could tell they weren’t rising anymore. Glancing around himself as his strands floated about him, he felt his strength returning. He even managed to shift himself upright without any true surface to push himself. The feat impressed him so much he grinned like an enthusiastic child.
“What do you know about the attack on Buyan?”
The joy died immediately as Skye was reminded of the events he’d watched from the Rift. He’d seen Lané and the Seasons struggle in vain against the cruel woman. He hadn’t been able to hear their cries, but their expressions and demise crushed him as if the sounds had reverberated in his ears. Tears returned to his eyes, rolling down his paling cheeks before he grasped his face in his hands.
“I saw it from the river,” Skye groaned as the heartache returned to him. “The Seasons were no match for the Avatar. She was able to awaken their suppressed blood with a touch. The winds were dispersed, but I tell you Lané still lives, Rain.”
“How do you know?!” Rain pleaded, despite trying to force answers out of the man.
“The Will O’Oak protects her now,” he replied with a bit of hope beneath his sorrow, “but it came at a cost. Her crystal passed through the tree before taking her into the earth.”
“What do you mean the crystal passed through the tree?! Lané needs her crystal!?”
“I don’t know yet,” Skye cried out to the cloud walls, running his fingers into this wet hair. “All I know is the path opened to me, so I felt it was calling me to fight with you. You don’t think I’m as anxious as you for her? My influence on her world is so small. I am a helpless witness to the suffering I gave her. If I can ease that somehow... please do not deny me this, Rain.”
There was silence, making Skye glance around himself. The tension left his body as he searched for some kind of response. His eyes studied the particles drifting through the cloud, trying to read Rain’s reception of his words.
“Do you not wish me to help you?”
“Lané left the Elements to my care! I can’t afford to risk them, gambling on your whims!”
“There’s no need to fight alone.”
“THAT’S ALL YOU GAVE ME TO DO!”
“What?” Skye gasped at the fragile scream.
“Protect the Heart of Nature to be the last tear!” Rain’s voice conveyed the last thread he had left was all that held him together. “Those were the words imprinted on me as I awoke! I have no other purpose than to ease her pain!”
Skye’s eyes drifted ahead of him. Rain’s sorrow echoing through the vapor resonated with him, but it also grounded his resolve. The clouded circumstances began to clear for the man.
“So this is why you’ve been weakening.”
“I’M NOT WEAK!?” The other screamed back in denial at the statement. “THE ATMOSPHERE HAS BEEN LOSING MOISTURE SINCE THE FIRST METEOR STRIKE! THAT’S NOT MY FAULT!?”
“It’s not just the imbalance of gases,” Skye spoke calmly, reaching his left hand into the vapor particles. “You’re exhausted, Rain, and it’s burning you out.”
As Skye focused on his jointed ring, some vapors condensed down to Rain’s pendant, hovering just above the talon's tip. The woven chain formed as the young man gradually materialized inside the cloud before him. His flustered visage gawked at how the other had forced him to appear, staring back at the man’s face for the first time.
Skye blinked in surprise at how much Rain looked like a younger version of himself. They almost looked as though they could be reflections right now. The only significant difference was their eyes. Rain’s crystal blue matched his teardrop pendant stone, resembling the clearest sky. Skye’s looked the same as Lané’s, puzzling Rain into relaxing.
“We both want to protect them, Rain,” Skye said with a sad smile. “Let’s help one another this time.”
“All right...” The water man muttered wearily before furrowing his brow in thought. “I’m really not connected to Lané at all then, but...”
“One of those Avatars said something about Pillars, vessels, and safeguards. I wonder if he meant you.”
“If I am a Pillar, what is the third one for?”
“There’s a third?” Rain gaped up at Skye’s blank expression. “Why didn’t you say something sooner?! What else do you know?!”
“You didn’t even let me think...!” Skye flinched back at Rain’s flared anxiety.