Sunlight was shining on Reniko’s face when she awoke. Opening her eyes, she found it hard to focus. She realized that she was lying on her stomach and made to get up only to feel a strange tugging on the back of her hand. Glancing down at her hand, she saw an IV taped into her vein. Where am I? Was that all some sort of dream? Reniko glanced at the table next to her bed and saw only a single article on the table, something she remembered losing a long time ago. She sat up gently making sure not to dislodge the IV in her hand and reached out to grab the necklace. Holding it in her hand, she could hardly believe it was real. The necklace held the blue sword that Dertrik had given her so long ago. Reniko stared at it intensely, realizing suddenly that it was an exact replica of the sword that Milla had given to her when she had left Savonly. Confused, Reniko closed her eyes, trying to sort out the thoughts in her brain.
Was it all a dream? I’m on Earth after all, I must have been sick. I fell into that water in that cave. Dertrik must have saved me. But it all felt so real, Malik, Orric and Rimca, all a dream? Reniko heard the door to her room open and she opened her eyes to stare at the figure standing in the doorway, it was Dertrik.
“Dare?” Reniko whispered, “Dertrik, I had the strangest dream, it felt so real. What happened in that cave? Are my mum and dad here?”
Dertrik looked at her confused and a little worried, “Reniko, I know this is going to be a little shocking to you. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you sooner.”
The tone Dertrik had was consoling, gentle, and it was scaring the hell out of Reniko. Reniko shifted on the bed, confused, and suddenly felt the sunlight disappear from her face. Turning to look at what was blocking the light, she was met by a white wall of feathers. She touched them and her heart stopped. Hands shaky, she touched her back.
Dertrik stepped closer as he watched the realization unfold on Reniko’s face. “Reniko there is a lot you have to know.”
Reniko looked at Dertrik, her breath coming out in short gasps. “Dare, I have wings.”
“Yes, Reniko, I know, it’s alright.” Dertrik was sitting on Reniko’s bed now, a reassuring comfort in this suddenly mixed up world.
“We’re on Vespen, right?” Reniko asked. Dertrik nodded his head.
“That potion I drank did this to me,” Reniko stated not really focusing on Dertrik anymore but lost in her thoughts, shock taking hold of her.
“Reniko, listen to me. All that drug did was let a process happen that was supposed to happen in your body a long time ago. This is who you have been all along, you just can’t remember.” Dertrik said. Reniko was shaking violently now. Dertrik reached for her and held her tight.
“Forgive me Reniko. I should have told you. You were supposed to be prepared for this change; instead I was selfish, kept your past hidden from you, all because I was afraid to lose you, afraid to send you here to save a world. All I ever wanted was for you to lead a normal life. I’m sorry.” Dertrik was crying, his tears falling onto Reniko’s exposed shoulder.
“I’m Levanith,” Reniko whispered her mind filled with questions.
The door opened once again and Reniko looked up to see Rimca standing there, Dertrik released his embrace of Reniko and looked to the Le’a’to.
“I’m sure this is very confusing for you, Reniko, and I promise we’ll tell you everything you want to know. But for now, rest, you’ve been through a lot,” Rimca said. Reniko watched Dertrik leave, his smile guilt ridden. Rimca closed the door softly behind them and Reniko was left alone. Shaking and afraid, she finally burst in to tears, sobbing softly as she realized that her life was suddenly changed forever.
Reniko awoke again tear stained later that day. She knew she couldn’t withdraw forever, but despite that knowledge, she felt that every moment she put off talking with Dertrik and Rimca was another moment she could pretend that nothing had changed. The wings on her back were a steady reminder that she could not do that. With a heavy heart, she numbly rose to her feet and glanced at the clothing that had been laid out for her. She felt awkward standing. The wings were an extra weight she wasn’t used to, like a backpack she couldn’t remove. Taking a deep breath, she began to stretch and stopped when she heard something crash to the floor. However much her body had adjusted to the new appendages, her mind had not. Her wings spread the length of her body from the shoulder down on either side of her, quite uncomfortable in the small space of the room. Unskilfully, she folded her wings back to her body. She suddenly had the feeling that her experience with her new wings was much like that of people who had lost the use of their legs, or arms. They had to learn the skill all over again; she had to learn hers for the first time. I’m a child.
Picking her way carefully to the chest her clothes were sitting on, she began to disrobe. The shirt she was wearing was makeshift. A white cloth tied around her neck and her waist, leaving her back exposed so her wings had free movement. When she looked at the clothing before her, she realized that it was a dress tailored in the same fashion, the back exposed. How long have I been asleep? She wondered, knowing that these clothes had to have been made especially for her since she had arrived here in Tordaskar. Slipping on the dusty rose dress, she tied it securely around her neck and clumsily lifted her wings so that she could tie it at her waist. Fully clothed now, she finished grooming and made her way to the door. Her hand hovered over the handle uncertainly as she hesitated. Do I want to know? She asked herself, knowing full well that even if she didn’t, her life was beyond that; she needed to know now, regardless of what she felt. She opened the door and saw Ryne dozing on a chair to one side of the door.
“Hello, Ryne,” Reniko said touching him gently on his shoulder to wake him. He opened his eyes groggily and smiled at Reniko.
“I’ll get Dertrik,” he said as he shifted in his chair and began to stand.
“Ryne, are you related to Dertrik?” Reniko asked.
“Yes, I’m his nephew. I’m Skylar’s son. I thought for sure you knew that when we met in the dungeon.”
“It had been a long time since I saw Dare, I wasn’t sure.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. Dertrik said that if you came while he was gone that I should wait. He felt it was his responsibility to make up for the mistakes he had made on Earth.”
“I don’t know what happened, but I’m sure that you did what you could.”
“You’re being very calm about this,” Ryne said.
Reniko tried to smile but there was no life in it. “What else can I do? What’s done is done.” Footsteps coming down the hallway broke up their conversation. Dertrik came down toward them, his face showing the same heaviness that Reniko was feeling.
“Are you ready?” Dertrik asked.
“Not really, but I guess I need to know how this is at all possible.”
“It’s not a short story, Renny,” Dertrik said linking his arm in hers and leading her down the hallway to some unknown destination.
“I didn’t expect it to be.”
“Reniko, do you remember anything of the Prophecy that Milla told you?” Dertrik asked.
Reniko looked at him puzzled, “How do you know Milla?”
“Skylar and his daughter Kaia are there now, we’ve been keeping in touch.”
“Yes, I remember. It said that at the darkest hour the Watcher would return and help make way for the return of the goddess,” Reniko looked curiously at Dertrik. “How does that have anything to do with me? Their religion is a lie, a Levanith was their goddess.”
“Yes, Reniko, their religion is false, but the bases of the prophecy is where all of this begins.” Reniko remained silent waiting.
Dertrik continued, “A thousand years ago, the Rük came to Vespen, they had nothing but malice in their hearts and the Levanith who were ruling this world had no weapons in which to combat them. The Levanith started a losing battle with the Rük and they all knew it, so they began to take precautions.
“One of those precautions was you, Reniko. Your parents, the last King and Queen of Vespen, Shyla and Severis, masked your identity with a drug that made it so when you came of age your wings would not grow. And they sent you to Earth.”
“Dertrik that was a thousand years ago. I’m only twenty-one.”
“They didn’t just send you to Earth, Renny, they suspended your body in a cryogenic hibernation.”
Reniko stopped walking and leaned against Dertrik her head spinning. “I remember, oh Dertrik I remember.”
She had been seven at the time. There were alarms going off, people rushing by and her mother - her real mother - Shyla, had come running down the hall and grabbed her hand.
“It’s time Shylaya,” Shyla said tears streaming down her face, “we can’t wait any longer.”
“Mama, I don’t want to leave. I want to stay here with you and Papa,” Reniko had said crying as her mother ran with her down the hallway.
“I know Shylaya, but you’re our last hope, out shining light. Please be brave for me.”
“I will mama, I promise I will.” Shyla was crying as they entered the elevator. Once safely inside, the sound of fighting stopped and they were alone in the chamber going very far down, into the heart of the city.
“Shylaya, where you are going you will be safe. The people there will take care of you and when you are old enough you will come back here and save our people. I’m sorry that I lay such a heavy burden on you, Wisp, but we are out of choices.” Her mother knelt down and hugged her tightly.
“I’m scared, mama,” Reniko whispered.
“When you wake up this will all seem like a bad dream, I promise.” Their descent stopped and the door opened. Shyla grabbed Reniko’s hand and urged her forward.
“Shyss, is it ready?” Shyla asked. Reniko looked up into the eyes of a woman that looked remarkably like herself. However unlike her mother, she harboured no wings.
“Almost, I haven’t calibrated it completely. Shyla, I’m worried, we’ve never used it on someone so young before,” Shyss said looking into Reniko’s eyes, “I don’t want to lose my granddaughter.”
Shyla joined Shyss at the console and began looking over her mother’s work. Reniko walked up beside them and looked at the information that was passing briefly on the screen before them.
“Grammy, are you coming with me?” Reniko asked Shyss who stopped her work at the words of her granddaughter. She looked heartbroken.
“Oh Wisp, I wish I could, but your mama and papa need me to stay here and help. I’m sure you’ll meet some very nice people when you wake up,” Shyss’s eyes now held tears.
“I don’t want to go, I don’t want to leave. I want to stay here with you. I can fight, I can.”
“Wisp, listen to me,” Shyla said grabbing her daughter in her arms, “the Rük are destroying our home. I couldn’t bear to know that they destroyed you to. Where you are going, I know you’ll be safe. Be strong for all of us. I need you to be strong.
“Shyss pass me that syringe,” Shyla said pointing to the syringe on the counter next to her. Shyss did as she was asked.
“Now, Shylaya, listen to me, I’m going to give you this syringe, it won’t hurt I promise.”
“What is it for?”
“This is going to hide who you are.”
“Yes, Wisp, like Grammy.”
“I’ll get my wings when I come back home right?”
“Okay.” Reniko said preparing for the pressure on her neck. There was a slight sting and her mother pulled away the syringe, which was now empty.
A loud explosion above shook the ground where the three of them stood. Shyss and Shyma looked at one another.
“That explosion was right above us,” Shyss said incredulously.
Shyla took a sphere out of her pocket; it was small, smaller than the one Reniko had been given in Reflaydun.
“Link with Severis,” she shouted and the sphere responded by giving her a picture of her husband. “Severis I think something hit the palace.
“Something did. Are you and Shylaya alright?”
“Yes. What’s going on out there?”
“We’re preparing to blow the bridge. The Rük have bypassed the force field, we have no other choice.”
“I love you Sev,” Shyla said.
“Now and always, Lyss. Now and always,” Severis said and the communication sphere went dark.
“It’s now or never, Shyla,” Shyss said.
Shyla grabbed Reniko’s hand and pulled her toward a large cylindrical structure. She gently urged Reniko inside and when Reniko turned to look at her mother, her mother kissed her softly on the cheek and smiled sadly. “I love you, Wisp.” She pushed a series of buttons on the front of the cylinder and a glass panel slid between Reniko and her mother. Reniko pounded on the glass screaming and crying.
“Mama, no, I don’t want to do this anymore, mama please,” Reniko screamed. Shyla looked at her daughter and began crying.
“Initiate the sequence,” she whispered.
Reniko was trying to hold back the panic when strange wires came out from the walls and imbedded themselves into Reniko’s flesh. She gasped when she felt a cold liquid hit her blood stream and she felt tired. She slumped back against the soft cushion that surrounded her; her last thoughts were of her mother.
Reniko woke from her reverie sitting on a bench in the garden that she had seen through the window of her bedroom.
“Are you okay?” Dertrik asked.
“I saw that before, that memory, in Reflaydun. But when I woke up, I couldn’t remember. The city must have known, why didn’t it tell me? Rimca knew, why didn’t she tell me?”
“They didn’t tell you because they knew that something was wrong. They were never supposed to tell you Reniko, I was. Rimca told me she saw you for what you really were when she Sighted you in Mistfall. She couldn’t believe that you had returned and didn’t know. She didn’t say anything because she had to talk to the high council in Corbasin before she could do anything. You were what they had been waiting for, for many life times. How could she tell you that?”
“I guess Reflaydun came to the same conclusion,” Reniko supplied. “What happened on Earth? You said before I went into that coma that you wanted me to have a normal life. How did you know who I was, Dare?”
“This is where the story gets a little more complicated.”
“I’m not sure if that’s possible now.”
“Do you remember your grandmother Shyss?” Dertrik asked.
“I do. I remember that she had no wings. She also looked a lot like I do now.”
“Well Shyss was Levanith, believe me. Her story is kind of central to my own, and it’s not very pleasant.
“Shyss was born seventeen years into the hundred years war between the Rük and the Levanith. She was the only daughter to the King, Sokumn, and the Queen, Shyma. She was heir to the throne until her parents came here to Tordaskar. She had lived her first twenty years in Ire, until her parents decided that Tordaskar held the more tactical advantage. When they moved here, Sokumn and Shyma made arrangements to build an archive under the palace, a place where they could retain the knowledge of their people if the Rük ever won the war. Shyss met Orasic here, he was the crowned prince of Tordaskar and they fell in love.
“Both Orasic’s parents and Shyss’ forbade their love. Not that Levanith and human relationships were forbidden, but they were to the Levanith royal bloodline. Shyss and Orasic didn’t care that their love was forbidden and instead ran away together to the floating city, Ire. There Sokumn and Shyma located them and brought them back to Tordaskar, but not before Shyss came to be with child.
“Shyss knew that she had somewhat doomed her race by loving Orasic and when they came back to Tordaskar, she had a heavy choice to make. Being the last of the royal line she knew she had to take a Levanith husband, but her love for Orasic was strong. Sokumn made a deal with his daughter. She was to produce a full blood heir by the man of his choosing and she would be free to pursue her love for Orasic.”
“Drastic measures. I guess I understand. Their race was dying after all,” Reniko said.
“Your race Reniko,” Dertrik said.
“My race… Why couldn’t Shyma have another child?”
“There were complications at Shyss’ birth. She couldn’t give birth again.”
“So she did it? Went through with the deal with her father?”
“Yes. She gave birth to her twin half-blood sons, Kyler and Rinon and gave birth to another child, your mother, Shyla. Her half-blood sons were purged of their Levanith genes as was Shyss.”
“That seems are pretty harsh punishment, not to mention a little painful. She lost her wings I gather?”
“It wasn’t out of malice, Renny, it was out of concern. Half-blood human Levanith children have a shorter life span if their Levanith genes are left intact. There are complications, and sometimes they don’t survive the first year. Her sons were purged to protect their lives. Shyss was purged so she could safely pursue her love for Orasic. That way if they had any more children they wouldn’t have to worry about them dying. Half-blood children’s wings never fully develop, not only can they not fly with their wings, but their health is always unstable.”
“She sacrificed a lot for this. I guess her parents must have loved her very much to try and give her what she wanted when their species was in so much danger,” Reniko said.
“She did sacrifice a lot for this, and she got nothing in return. When Shyss finally had leave to marry Orasic, Orasic had moved on. He married a full blood human with the consent of his parents. Shyss was left to go back to her own family, but by this time there was no way for her to go back to what she was.”
“That’s awful, why are you telling me all of this?” Reniko asked.
“Kyler and Rinon became guardians to Shyla, your mother, and their sons and daughters traveled with you to Earth. They were called the Shidenen, Watchers. My ancestors have been watching over you since you left Vespen.”
“Dertrik, odd as this may sound, I think you just told me, that we’re cousins.”
“That wasn’t exactly the response I had thought to here,” Dertrik replied.
“It’s just a lot to take in that’s all.”
“It is. I’m sorry. My father and Skylar tried to tell me that I should tell you about your lineage, about Vespen, but I wouldn’t hear them. I had every intention of never telling you, of letting you live the rest of your life on Earth, but you found the wormhole and suddenly I had to tell you, I just never got the chance.”
“Despite all of this, I’m glad I came here, and somewhat glad to know the truth. What I don’t understand is how my wings grew? You said that Shyss’ could never grow back, so why could mine?”
“Different processes. Shyss’ genes were destroyed, yours were only masked. What your mother gave to you didn’t destroy the genes, only stopped them from doing what they were there to do.”
“Dare, what I remember of my past is sketchy at best, but I do remember something peculiar.”
“The fact that your grandmother looked the same age as your mother,” Dertrik said.
Reniko looked at him trying to hide her shock, she felt after all she had heard that she shouldn’t be shocked anymore, but she still was. “That’s exactly it.”
“Reniko, you already know that the Le’a’to have longer life spans, and I figure traveling with Orric you have figured out that they do to. What you probably haven’t guessed is that the lifespan of the Levanith surpassed them all.”
“How long?” Reniko asked.
Dertrik took a deep breath, let it out and spoke. “Thousands of years.”
Reniko was clutching her seat, thousands, not hundreds, thousands. She joined Dertrik in that deep breath.
“Do you know where Malik is?” Reniko asked completely changing the subject. I can’t deal with that right now.
“He’s probably with Ryne.”
“Ryne picked up Malik’s training.”
“Training… right. How long was I out of it?” Reniko asked.
“A little over a month.”
“Reniko, a warning. You’ve taken all of this a lot better than Malik has.”
Reniko looked at her old friend about to say something, but realized something else at the same time. “Dertrik I’m Levanith –”
“Yes, Reniko, you are.”
I’m the goddess from the prophecy. Reniko got up from the bench and began to wander out of the garden. Dertrik followed her.
“The practice grounds are outside the city, do you want me to take you there?” he asked.
Reniko shook her head. “I’ll find them. Besides you’ll get to take me there soon enough.”
Dertrik looked at her with curiosity.
“After all, I think I’ll need more training,” Reniko said stretching out her wings, “and you are the one with the training manual after all. You did bring the Rumeum’antra manual?”
Dertrik grinned, “I did. I can’t believe you remembered, but I did. Those moves shouldn’t be too difficult now.”
Reniko frowned at him. “Not difficult if you know how to fly, however, I don’t have that ability yet.” I can barely keep my wings folded to my body. Reniko gave a small wave and headed toward the exit.
“Reniko,” Dertrik said causing Reniko to pause and turn. She barely caught the cloak as Dertrik threw it at her.
“You might want to cover those up, unless you want a couple hundred citizens treating you like a goddess.”
Reniko tossed the cloak over her wings and clasped it shut. “Thanks Dertrik.”
“Don’t take too long, we still have a lot to discuss. Especially with the King.” Reniko winced at the thought and left.
It took her an hour to weave her way through the city streets. She couldn’t help but notice how much the city had changed since she had been here a thousand years ago. I guess complete destruction does that to a city. The guards at the city gate let her through without challenge. Reniko could see them looking at her cloak, and she knew that they knew what was underneath. She gave them a small smile as she headed through the gate. Once outside the city walls, the forest was immediately present. She followed the striking sounds of bokken until she found the training grounds. Ryne was on the field with Malik, both were perspiring heavily. Ryne was the first to see Reniko and he stopped their combat at the sight of her standing outside their practice ring.
“Came to have a go. I bet you are better than both of us put together, at least that’s what Dertrik always used to say,” Ryne said wiping his brow with a towel.
“Sadly, I think it best if I not,” Reniko said to Ryne and looked in Malik’s direction. He stood silent, his breathing the only motion he made.
“I actually came to talk with Malik,” Reniko said looking at Malik but speaking to Ryne.
Malik averted his eyes and walked off the field in the opposite direction of where Reniko stood. Reniko looked at Ryne who just shrugged and walked toward the only building in the clearing. Reniko ran after Malik.
“Malik, wait, please,” Reniko said catching up to him, grabbing his arm to stop his movements. He didn’t resist but turned on her ferociously.
“Everyone knew. Everyone knew but me,” he roughly pushed Reniko aside and walked back to the practice grounds.
“Not everyone. I didn’t,” Reniko said trying to push back the tears, “Malik nothing’s changed.”
He turned once again to Reniko, his face stern. Reniko froze in place, terrified by this change in him. Malik advanced on her, and when he was inches from her, she felt the cloak tear from her shoulders and pool onto the ground.
“Everything has changed,” he said and walked away.
Reniko stood there trembling. “You can’t mean that.” Tears were tumbling down her face. All I’ve done since I’ve come to this planet is cry.
Malik turned around, his face, too, was streaked with tears. “What do you expect from me, Reniko? My faith was shattered and I fall in love with the only thing I can’t have. I’ve fallen in love with a goddess.”
His words hit Reniko like ice-cold water. Rimca. Rimca said those words to me. She said she wasn’t the only one to have fallen in love with something she can’t have.
“I’m not a goddess, Malik, it’s just me, Reniko.”
“You are Levanith, Lyss,” he looked so torn, defeated; Reniko hated seeing him like this.
“Why does that matter? It doesn’t matter. My body has changed, but I’m still who I always was. Malik, I know I never told you before but… Malik, I love you. I don’t care that everyone says that it’s forbidden, that doesn’t matter to me it never has. I love you, that's all that matters.”
Malik dropped the bokken he held and put his hand to his face. “Why does everything have to be so difficult with us?” Reniko walked cautiously over to him and placed her hand comfortingly onto his arm. He looked up at her.
“With all my heart, Reniko, I love you. But –” Reniko stopped him.
“Don’t, I couldn’t bear this. I couldn’t bear you leaving me. Everything I ever believed to be true was a lie. I couldn’t take it if everything that I have become tore you from me as well. Don’t let them undo us, Malik, don’t let their rules break us, please. Please just hold me, forget everything else and just hold me.” He did. He held her while she cried and they forgot the rest of the world.