Betwixt and Between

Part Two: Chapter Two


"Do you call it solitude? Do you call it liberty?

When all the world turned away to leave you lonely...."


Yula had to pause in the telling again, at least long enough to eat dinner. Tavarez talked a little while they ate, sharing news from Mythicalae as he fed his flit little bits of bread. He'd stopped by her little town during his latest absence, reassuring her father that she was well and safe. She felt a small pang of homesickness-- only a small one-- at the thought of Ahern Rasha and the mill and bakery, and her little garden on the sunny side, but Tavarez had soon distracted her again with tales from other worlds he'd visited, and the fantastic people, places, and creatures he claimed to have known.

"Someday I'll travel like you do," she sighed as they sat, full and chatting, at her small kitchen table. "I'll go between worlds, meet so many people that I'll never be able to keep them all straight, and play too many instruments to name...."

"Like your violin," Tavarez agreed, glancing at where she'd left it on the couch.

"Thanks to you," she retorted, since he was the one who, not sure how it was played, brought the instrument to her to begin with, letting her figure it out on her own.

"And I expect you'll have to christen each new instrument with a new adventure, and a song to go with it?" he teased.

"Probably lots of both!" she laughed.

"Tell me more about your latest. When did you all leave for Vagrant's caves?"

"Not for a while after they told me about it. Apparently it took quite a while to get what they needed...."


"Which way, which way, which way...."

He couldn't remember which way he'd gone, last time. At every corridor, he paused, trying desperately to remember whether he'd turned left or right. The breathless muttering, talking to himself as much as the tiny thread of song following him, helped him concentrate, like a mantra.

For days, weeks even, he'd been feeling restless. He wasn't sure why, but he knew there was a why. And it had something to do with sunlight. Ever since he'd seen that elusive bit of sunlight, he'd wanted to see it again, as if the memory of that strange, warm light had lodged itself in his head and refused to be forgotten. His song agreed with him, and encouraged him to find it again.

The problem was, getting away-- particularly in that direction-- was harder than it should have been. Lady Sphiridon seemed to have a sixth sense about her that brought her, with the never-ending music of her realm swelling about her, to find him whenever he'd started to slip away towards the upper cave systems. She kept him unusually busy, so that even his usual escapes, in an attempt to get some privacy or temporary freedom, became more rare and difficult to manage. The Others even dared the power of her song, now and then, to look for him, because they saw him so rarely.

In those rare times he did manage to get away, and sneak steadily upwards, the Others usually found him before he managed to find any sunlight. Right now, he was certain at least two of them were lurking in the darkness behind him, following with malicious curiosity; they just hadn't shown their faces yet, so he didn't know which they were. It was just a malevolent, heavy sense of being watched, like eyes on his back. It was all he could do to keep from hunching over self-consciously.

I think it's right, here, the song sang at him in a whisper. Since he didn't know, and he couldn't decide, he went right. The next passage not even the song remembered, so he stood there, chewing on his lip, tugging on one coil of hair, looking between them and aware of seconds slipping by-- any one of which could bring the lady Sphiridon down upon him, or the watching Others out of the shadows. He couldn't stand there indecisively forever.

He remembered, last time, how Lady Sphiridon had been pleased with him for just choosing randomly. Maybe, since he'd found sunlight then, he would find it now, doing the same thing? Maybe it would draw him where he was supposed to be, or maybe he would have some sort of power, like Sphiridon was always saying, to get him where he needed to be. It was worth a shot. His song didn't have a comment, but he thought that was probably encouraging.

So the next few turns he made, he didn't even think about. Left, left, right.... The tunnels were going up, almost imperceptibly, he could tell. That was encouraging.

The soft blue light was getting dimmer, now, but he could still see. It took him a moment to realize why: that warm, golden light he'd been looking for was replacing the song-light! Slowly, but surely. He was going the right way.

Keep going-- maybe you can even see the outside! his song urged excitedly, but he hung back, suddenly nervous. He'd never seen the "outside", only when he dreamed, and even then, he couldn't really remember it. He'd certainly never been outside. What would Lady Sphiridon say, if he did? What would she do? He didn't think he was supposed to go outside, or why would she have stopped him from going further, when she brought him here-- why would she have always found something for him to study or do whenever he was contemplating a trip this way? What if she had a reason?

Sunlight can't hurt you, his song soothed. Promise.

"What if there's something more than sunlight, though?" he whispered, feeling a little foolish talking to pure music, even if it did sound like words.

Just for a minute, just to look. It's warm, the song coaxed. It feels really good, like warm water on your skin, without the wet.

It was tempting. Just for a look, just for a minute. Then he could flee back inside without a second thought.

You might never get this chance again.

The song was right. He started slowly down the passageway again, letting his eyes adjust to the increasing brightness as he did. He wasn't sure what the "outside" would look like-- would it just appear suddenly? Would the walls gradually fade? Would it be like the tunnel was opening to a room, only the "room" was the outside?

It turned out to be the most like the latter, though the first thing he saw, turning a corner in the tunnel, was a slash of brightness across the path ahead. The tunnel had widened into a wide, low-roofed room-cave, and it was like half the room had been cut off, replaced by near-blinding light. That, the song told him wordlessly and with great excitement, was "outside". Part frightened but part fascinating, he inched towards it, squinting with watering eyes into the light.

And then he was "outside". Light dazzled him, but he stood still until it faded, and he could start to make things out. He stood on a ledge, the lip of nothingness, a slit in stone on the edge of a steep, rocky slope downwards. His first thought was that he ought to be frightened: it was a long way to fall, and even if he took a running leap, he'd not clear the slope entirely, so he'd hit the rocks and go tumbling. But somehow, he wasn't afraid. It felt right, being so high up, looking down on everything. On the outside.

He only had a moment to do so, and the thread of music that had followed and guided him this far was exultant, leaping around him with trills and arpeggios.

But then he heard a clamoring behind him, and half-turned to stare into the darkness. It took him a minute, adjusted to the brightness outside, but he could make out figures moving reluctantly towards him. Figures, plural, for there were... lots of them. Familiar silhouettes, inching towards the light, of Others. Not just one or two, but six, seven, eight-- he didn't know how many. Too many.

There was nothing else to do, and in that moment, it felt like the most natural thing of all. He turned back to the outside, bunched himself up, and leapt--

--and woke up with a start.

Someone was shaking him by the shoulder, someone with incredibly large hands. He blinked, looking around blindly, surprised to find himself firmly on the ground, not ready to launch into flight or fall.

"You did it!"

Memory came back quickly. Lament. Lament was shaking him, and grinning triumphantly. No wonder the "hands" felt big.

Then the words registered, as well as the voice, and he sat up. It might have been daylight in his dreams, but it was nearly morning, in the real world. "I-- did!" He remembered, now, why in his dreams he'd been restless and preoccupied with sunlight: they'd been trying to find what it looked like outside those caves! And now, finally, they had! "We-- can we go? Can we look for them?"

"Whenever you like," Lament grinned at him.

"Sundown. Tonight. I'll have to tell people I'll be gone for a while-- we can pack-- thank you, Lament. I don't think I could have, without you."

Lament beamed at him.

It hadn't taken much to get them ready to go. After so many years with hardly any possessions, he hadn't made an effort to break the habit, so his packing hardly took any time at all. Lament followed his bond's lead-- and, since he wasn't even a year old, hadn't had much time to collect anything-- so his packing didn't take long, either. Mostly all that had to be done was to get some food that wouldn't go bad-- though both of them were competent hunters, Lament needed more meat than he did, so most of their kills would go to the larger dragon-- and give a notice of absence to those he worked for and those Lament took classes with.

Sundown came, and, after a brief discussion about where exactly they were going-- neither felt completely comfortable teleporting on a brief memory-image from a dream-- they were ready. He climbed up onto Lament's back, holding onto the silvery mane there, in the hopes that a teleport would be easier for the young dragon if they were in as much contact as possible. They'd been practicing ever since they'd made the decision to try and seek the caves, against Lament's teacher's advice, but it was still a little shaky sometimes. Lament had problems with self-confidence, sometimes, but they were working on those.



"All right, think about those mountains, then.... Here we go."

Dutifully thinking hard on his actual memories of a mountain range on Mythicalae which most resembled the mountain he'd seen in the dream, he held tight while Lament focused on that image for the teleport. A blur out of the corner of his eye threatened to distract him, but then they were gone with a whoosh of air bursting away from them as they reappeared, on the crest of a rise in the foothills of those mountains. He slid off immediately, patting Lament's shoulder for a job well done, then stopped short.

Falling back onto her rear, eyes wide and laden with a harp case and heavy-looking pack, sat Yula.


Chapter Three



Song borrowed from the OST for Hack//Sign, the song "The World"

Draclin'geyar are the Creative Property of Silver Midnight; Fleshshifters are the Creative Property of Drakiera