An Empty Audience
Act I: Red
Chapter 14: An Empty Audience
Thaia found herself standing alone in quiet serenity overlooking the basin at the southern end of the river. For all the tension in the air and confusion slithering from every person – or some creature of similar description – she was still able to find some sort of peace, and in the oddest of places. Not even the Fae Court in all its simplicity could match the stillness of this place; the grove just a ways away from the oddly out of place tavern further south.
Such tranquility allowed her to focus on the many thoughts currently embedded in her mind. What would her role be within this new Court? Would she be called to war against a dictator? Why had she come here in the first place? What of her previous home? What was she to make of Akulien?
That last question surprised her slightly, as it wasn’t until this moment that she noticed he wasn’t at her side. She was sure he had his reasons for leaving, but… it was then she realized that perhaps it was her who left him, instead of the other way around. Confusion. She couldn’t specifically remember. And yet… it did not bother her.
Gazing at the scenery, Thaia turned from the right – the direction of the Fae Forest – to the left – the direction of trees and foliage she had yet to actually explore. It was here then that she noticed something emerging from these darkened forests, and all but the silent air beckoned her to investigate.
The stranger had finally escaped those troublesome woods, though not without cost. As his eyes adjusted to the heavy sunlight, he stared at his empty hands – devoid of what had been taken.
“…Suppose this means I have to start over…” he muttered as he made his way to the tavern.
The fae’s curious eyes were able to distinguish the man she had met just days prior, the one who had prodded her with questions. Questions that, in hindsight, suddenly made her realize that perhaps she was avoiding.
“Strange to see you not interviewing an insect or a bird for its allegiances,” she said as soon as she was in speaking range.
The stranger, unaware that he had been followed, quickly turned around and assumed a defensive stance, but calmed shortly after realizing who it was. He turned back to face the fire pit outside the tavern he was heading to.
“…Thaia, if I remember correctly,” he greeted without mirth.
She kept her hands clasped behind her back, cocking her head in vague curiosity.
“You should remember. You wrote it down, did you not?”
The stranger huffed.
“…My notes have been recently confiscated. So it’s irrelevant now.”
“Confiscated? Are we following some sort of governance? I was unaware of this,” Thaia mocked.
The stranger said nothing. He crossed his arms and stared at the fire in front of him, one that Thaia did not see him light.
“Well, without that information I assume that puts you on the same level as the rest of us,” she said in a less condescending tone. “Lost.”
Once more he did not respond. The flicker of the flames appeared to mean more than her insistent playfulness, which meant he was not likely to take an interest in her as a whole. Usually such a prospect would bother her, but, recently, she hadn’t felt the need to indulge this particular habit. Her eyes then fell to the fire as well.
“Well, maybe not completely lost,” she continued. “My Queen… the Queen of the Fae Court, that is… believes my kind will be engaging in conflict with the forces of the tyrant in the north.”
This predictably caught the stranger’s attention. His black and amber eyes darted in her direction.
“…You’ve taken a side.”
Thaia nodded apathetically.
“It’s to be expected. I’m fae, after all. What was I to do, join an undead king?” she laughed. “How preposterous.”
After a few seconds the stranger turned his attention back to the fire.
“My notebook was stolen by a half-feline woman named Zephryne,” he spoke up. “She is the leader of the Rogues to the west of here. Another side in opposition to the lich. She also dropped Avelia’s name, leading me to assume similar hostility.”
Thaia paused, tapping her fingers along her thighs.
“A… third side?” she asked tepidly. “You mean to imply this land is engaged in a feud between three would-be governing factions?”
“I imply nothing. I’m only relaying what I understand about the situation,” he responded, his raspy voice causing Thaia to involuntarily swallow for him. The stranger lowered his eyelids. “I heard it from the lich himself. He claims that this land was once his, and the other two wish to see him and each other removed. Such a conflict between powers like that in a land like this… would lead to inevitable catastrophe.”
So that was you, Thaia thought, recalling the pale figure observing the battle between the lich and the other.
“That would make sense for the combatants already in play,” she said, “but what of the rest of us? You don’t appear to be of any side, and my friend most certainly isn’t. I may be fae, but I was inducted into their ranks after waking up here. I’ve no idea about Zhei, but my Queen didn’t know about her either.”
The stranger hesitated before glancing toward the basin.
“…I’ve actually had this conversation with someone like us not too long ago as well. There are others,” he responded. “The conclusion I came to is that concurrent to the feud the ones who have awakened will be playing a very specific role in order to lead to a specific end. Theoretically, this is similar to something of kismet or a prophecy. It is my belief that by either following or denying this prophecy, we would all find freedom.”
A passage of time flowed between his explanation and Thaia’s response.
“Prophecy… like fate, then,” she said.
“…If that is how you want to word it.”
“It seems then that Tylarus acts as a sort of stage, and we the actors, being given a script we can’t read for an audience we can’t see.”
“…The ‘audience’ in this case would be whoever set this whole thing up. If the war will lead to disaster, it is likely our intervention is meant to change that course and lead to salvation. However, it is also possible that stability would mean our continued imprisonment. Defiance, then, could lead to freedom.”
Thaia smirked at the stranger’s certainty.
“You seem to be against the idea of following the path laid before you. If such an intricate design had been put into place by powers greater than us, who are we to deny them?” she posed. “What exactly is wrong with having someone chart your course?”
“…I’m not one to be toyed with as a pawn in someone else’s game. I wasn’t asked,” the stranger said. “Aside from that…” He looked to her formulating how exactly he wanted to word his next response. “This may be difficult to understand, but, I’ll try to relate it to how the fae function. Your kind have an aversion to death, correct?”
“That is one way to put it, yes. We ‘die’, then we are reborn. The exception, of course, is if we are mortally struck by man-made iron.”
The stranger nodded.
“…I have a similar trait, but instead of an aversion to death, it is to fate,” he explained. “That is the simple answer. The flow of time and the will of any higher power are unable to utilize me as they would anyone else. Therefore if I am here, and we are all here for a specific purpose, then my only purpose in a prophecy is to disrupt it.”
Thaia’s eyes moved upward as she contemplated what he was saying.
“Okay… so by defying fate you’re actually following it?” she asked. The stranger sighed solemnly.
“…It’s a catch-22.”
He paused before shaking his head. “…Nothing.”
“Is this normal for all humans? To be outside of fate?”
“…No,” he answered. Just me.”
“How come you’re so special?”
“…I’ve already divulged enough about myself that I am willing to share.”
“How come you’ve told me this much, then?”
The stranger hesitated.
“…As fate is unable to touch me, I myself am in a unique position to touch it,” he explained. “Any action I take to disrupt its design will possibly have adverse effects, depending on how intricate the prophecy is. The most discernable way to change this flow is to make my presence more opaque to its workings.”
“Like having your name known…”
Thaia leaned her head back.
“Demanding answers after random encounters is certainly a way to make yourself known,” she said. “Speaking of, you’ve yet to answer my own question.”
“…If everyone has the same opinion about a nameless stranger, the damage would be minimal,” he said, before turning to her. “With you, however, I’m testing the ripple.”
Thaia blinked and crossed her arms.
“You’re using me to see how much of an effect you’ll have later on?”
The stranger nodded. Thaia held her gaze on him for a little while before stretching and yawning, turning in the direction of the Fae Forest.
“I’m not sure where I heard this before, but I think I’m going to name you ‘Sage Ombre’. I believe it means ‘Wise Shadow’. I think it’s fitting, no?” she chuckled. A pause elapsed. “I’m not sure if I’ll stay with my intended course or defy it. I suppose it depends on my happiness here.”
“…Comfort and freedom often run parallel to each other.”
Thaia didn’t want to respond to that. Instead she stared into the distance for a handful of minutes while the stranger continued to stare into the fire. She then turned to him with a smile.
“I suppose we’ll see where our paths take us in the end, hm?” she mused before fluttering off toward the basin.
The stranger said nothing.
Glossary - Day 8
- The Stranger / Race: Human / Status: Active
- Sakiya / Race: Human / Status: Dormant
- Thaia / Race: Fae (Sylph) / Status: Active
- Zhei / Race: Unknown / Status: Active
- Akulien / Race: Unknown / Status: Active
- Maelomi / Race: Unknown / Status: Active, Tavern Mistress
- Vairnlor / Race: Lich / Status: Active
- The Father / Race: Unknown / Status: Active
THE FAE COURT
- Avelia / Race: Fae (Fairy) / Status: Active, Fae Queen
- Kael / Race: Fae (Kelpie) / Status: Active
- Dimitri / Race: Fae (Faun) / Status: Active
- Garren Myzen / Race: Lich / Status: Active, Legion Tyrant
- Sirena / Race: Elf / Status: Active
THE FELINE ROGUES
- Zephryne / Race: Feline / Status: Active, Rogue Leader
- ? / Race: Feline / Status: Active
- Tylarus: Name of land.
- The Tavern: Establishment in between the Fae Forest and Rogue Woods, south of the Graveyard and Basin.
- The Basin: Southern end of both rivers located north of the Tavern.
- The Corrupted Tree: Black, deadened tree located in the Graveyard.
- The Graveyard: Plot of land between two rivers and in the center of the land.
- The Fae Forest: Eastern forests, surface world of the Fae Court.
- The Tithe: Fae Ceremony meant to bind Solitary Fae to the Queen’s rule through two sacrifices.
- The Wastelands: Northern plains, home to the Legion.
- The City: Capital of the Wastelands.
- The Rogue Woods: Western woods, home to the Feline Rogues.
- The Raven: ?