A Shadow of All Night Falling - Part 1: Mother of Demons

(August 30-September 13, 3023 AD)

Chapter 3

© 2000 by E. Liddell


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Malachite

<<Malachite... Help... me...>>

The whisper finally trailed away into nothing as I fought my way back to consciousness. I sat up, shook my head, and scrubbed my hands across my face. Damn. That dream again. What in hell is going on?

<<Malachite?>> Zoisite was sitting up, too, and I realized that I must have dislodged his head from my chest. <<Malachite? What's wrong?>>

<<The same again,>> I admitted.

He wrapped his arms around me and pressed his naked body against mine. <<You're beginning to worry me, you know. This is the third night in a row.>>

The third night that I'd had this dream, yes. The third night since we'd found Adamant's spirit crystal. Coincidence? Probably not entirely. I knew that the incident, what I'd sensed in that underground vault, was preying on my subconscious. But I wasn't about to admit that.

<<There must be something more to this than just a dream,>> I stated instead. <<Especially given that it's the same every single time. I can't believe that that's just coincidence.>>

<<And it's just about someone asking for your help?>>

<<Over and over again,>> I agreed. <<I wish I could identify the voice, but I just can't! This is becoming very frustrating, beloved. I don't suppose you know of anything that will stop me from dreaming?>>

<<Not exactly.>> He smiled enticingly and ran his hands over my back. <<But I can think of a method or two for ensuring that the dreams you do have will be pleasant ones.>>

It wasn't until an hour later, when I was drifting off to sleep again, that it came to me. I sat bolt upright in bed again, netting a sleepy and annoyed <<Mmmm? What is it?>> from Zoisite.

<<Adamant,>> I told him. <<It's Adamant's voice that I keep hearing in that damned dream. There must be a reason for it. Come on!>>

I slid out from under the covers, grabbed my robe from where it hung on the bedpost, wrapped it around myself, and waited impatiently for Zoisite to stop grumbling and get up.

<<Can't it wait until morning? I'm missing my beauty sleep.>>

<<If I'm wrong and it isn't important, I promise I'll apologize to you any way you want. And since when do you need beauty sleep?>> I asked. <<You look gorgeous no matter what.>>

<<Do you really think so?>> Zoisite grabbed yesterday's trousers off the floor and pulled them on, then combed his hair with his fingers. <<All right, if you really need me along, I'm ready. I still don't understand what you think you're going to accomplish, though, given that we can't resurrect him from that crystal even though a part of his spirit still does seem to be trapped in there. Alex thinks that we should destroy it and free him to pass on, and I must admit that I'm beginning to agree with the idea.>>

I shook my head. <<He wouldn't be sending me dreams if the only thing he wanted were the destruction of his spirit crystal. Or at least, not dreams that feel as urgent as these do. No, he must want something else. It's probably tied in with that message he wanted to give me but couldn't. We know he had some form of precognition. He must have foreseen something important.>>

<<Which means that it probably also involved something dangerous,>> Zoisite observed as he swung the door to his lab open. <<Just a moment... Ah, here it is.>> He polished an invisible mote of dust off the armring before holding it out to me. I stretched out my hand to take it.

The moment my extended fingers brushed the gold circle, white light exploded from the damaged spirit crystal, and I felt the cold of an extremely powerful energy drain run up my arm. I knew my eyes were blazing, and I could see that Zoisite's were, too.

Then an explosion flung the two of us apart, and I lost my grip on the armring as I staggered backward. Zoisite was still holding it, though, and a nimbus of white light was spreading from the broken crystal to coalesce on the floor, slowly taking on what appeared to be human form.

<<Impossible.>> I'm not sure which of us stated it, and I didn't really care, either.

We knelt down on either side of the slender figure on the floor, which was slowly solidifying and taking on color.

<<My King! My King, are you all right?>>

<<I'm fine, Pyrope,>> I replied, snapping out of my almost-trance. <<Go back to sleep.>> The energy drain must have been more severe that I thought, if it woke him... but then it would have to be. It takes a lot of energy to materialize this amount of matter, and creating any amount of *living* matter out of nothing... I wouldn't have thought that it was possible.

<<Is he real?>> I asked, not quite daring to touch the glowing figure. Zoisite was a little braver than I.

<<Quite real,>> my lover stated as his fingers brushed the magic-created stranger's arm. <<And alive. That spell of Adamant's must have been quite something. It's a shame that we'll never be able to figure out how to reproduce it. Do you think this is Adamant?>>

I shook my head. <<Remember that image we ran into in the Timestream? That was Adamant. This is... someone else.>>

<<You know, he looks like you,>> Zoisite stated. <<Or like you used to, anyway.>>

I considered. <<I don't think so. In coloring, maybe, but his bone structure is more like yours...>> Then I broke off and raised my head to stare at my lover. Our eyes weren't glowing now, and Adamant's spirit crystal had returned to quiescence. Feeling was slowly returning to my drained hand.

The boy lying on the floor looked like he was at an equivalent stage of physical development to a human eleven-year-old. His skin was dusky, almost exactly the same shade as mine, when I gingerly reached out to touch his bare chest. His hair was black, the same color mine had been before I became a Crystal Weaver, but it was wavy, and, when I managed to force myself to touch it, a bit coarser in texture -- like Zoisite's. He also had Zoisite's bone structure, the slim body and almost fragile face with slanted eyes.

<<In fact,>> I stated slowly, not sure what the implications were, <<he looks almost like a son of ours might, if it were physically possible for us to have a child together.>>

Zoisite frowned. <<The spell must have drawn on our genetic material to provide it with a physical pattern for the person it was trying to create. Which doesn't help us to answer the important questions, like who and what is he, and why does he exist in the first place?>>

<<No, beloved. The important question is, is he supposed to help us, or is he what Adamant was trying to warn me about?>>

I broke off as the boy's eyelids began to flutter. We hadn't been making any attempt to keep our conversation private, and while I didn't know if it was possible for him to overhear us -- he had a Crystal Weaver's bone structure, but his personal energies had been at such a low ebb while he was unconscious that I hadn't been able to tell whether he had the spark or not -- I wasn't willing to take the chance. Not yet.

His eyes, when they finally did open, were mismatched. The left was the precise same emerald green as Zoisite's. The right, on the other hand, was a slightly greenish blue. Like my eyes had been before they faded to silver. They were dazed, at first, as he blinked up at us. Then they began to be frightened.

<<Relax. You're among friends.>> I didn't know if he could understand or even hear me, but he reminded me so much of a younger Zoisite that I felt I had to try to reassure him.

<<I... Who am I? I don't remember anything!>> The look in his eyes went from merely frightened to completely panicked before they began to fill with tears. <<I... don't... remember...>>

I pulled him up and into my arms, and found myself rocking him gently. <<It's all right,>> I told him. <<Everything will be fine.>>

<<Not if he keeps making me jealous, it won't!>> Zoisite retorted, but without his usual acid sting. His hand reached out, almost involuntarily, to brush the boy's face. <<Are we supposed to be surrogate parents, now?>>

<<Well, if you're right and he was created based on our genes, we are his parents, in a way. And it isn't as though he has anyone else.>>

<<Be careful, Malachite. We don't know if he's-->>

<<Is your name Malachite?>> the boy interrupted, looking up at me. <<I think I was supposed to tell you something. I just... can't remember...>> He looked like he was about to dissolve into tears again.

Zoisite and I exchanged glances over the boy's head.

<<Maybe we should get Alex down here,>> my lover suggested, <<on the off chance that his amnesia has a simple, reparable cause.>>

<<Not until we've got him calmed down,>> I replied, privately, over our Weave-link. Then, to the boy, <<Do you remember if you have a name?>>

He shook his head. <<It's like all the rest -- just sort of blank. I'm sorry, I-->>

<<Don't worry about it.>> I exchanged glances with Zoisite again. <<You know, beloved, this may be the only chance we'll ever have to name a child...>>

<<You do it.>> Abrupt and unusually unvenomous, for Zoisite in a situation like this one. Judging from the look in his eyes, he was almost as confused as the boy I was holding appeared to be.

Not Adamant, I decided, looking down at the fine-boned face. It wouldn't be fair to him. No. We'll call him ...

<<Kyanite,>> I decided at last. <<Your name is Kyanite, at least until your memory comes back.>>

<<Thank you, Father.>>

I started. The boy -- Kyanite -- couldn't have avoided feeling it.

<<I thought... Aren't you my parents? I can feel ... a sort of connection. To both of you.>>

<<We don't know,>> Zoisite replied flatly. <<We don't understand what you are. In a way, you were created out of us, but you also come from this.>> He showed the boy the armring. Kyanite shivered as Zoisite's thumb brushed the broken, flickering spirit crystal. My lover hesitated, then placed the golden circle in the boy's hand. His spirit crystal, however damaged. Yes. That made a sort of sense.

<<I don't understand, but thanks. For being honest with me.>> The boy smiled at Zoisite.

<<Don't bother. I'm not... I can't...>> "Damn it, I'm just not ready for this!" my lover exploded. "I can't be a father to you. Not when I don't even know what you are!"

Kyanite's eyes held no comprehension. Mental note: He doesn't understand modern Japanese. Which was probably just as well, under the circumstances.

I sighed. <<Go and roll Alex out of bed, beloved. I'll stay with him.>> I could have summoned Alex there, of course, but I had the feeling that my lover needed a little time to come to terms with what had just happened, and the errand would give him an excuse to be somewhere else for a little while.

Zoisite vanished in a flurry of flower petals. The color was off, slightly deeper than the normal pale pink. That meant that he was really nervous and confused.

<<Come on,>> I told Kyanite. <<We'd better do something about finding some clothes for you.>> He rose obediently to his feet when I gestured for him to do so.

Standing, he reminded me even more forcefully of a very young Zoisite. A son? Could we really consider him to be our child? Maybe, if he was only what he seemed to be. But what he seemed to be wasn't enough to justify the casting of the elaborate spell that had created him.

Kyanite was something more than just another Crystal Weaver child. And it was my duty to find out what.

Even if it hurt him.

Pyrope

David stirred and half-woke as I flinched.

"Mmmm? Pyr'pe? Whazzit?"

"Nothing important," I replied. "Go back to sleep."

But I couldn't relax enough to do the same. The warning that had woken me was still lurking at the back of my mind.

Inwardly, I cursed Zoisite, as I often did at times like this. After all, it was all his fault. He was the one who had imposed the command to protect Malachite on me, so strongly that it had twisted my powers to make sure that I'd do the job. And now that Malachite had been subjected to something that my subconscious had interpreted as an attack, it would take hours for me to get back to sleep.

It was severely frustrating at times. I wasn't officially Malachite's personal bodyguard, but every time he was attacked, I was compelled to come to his defense, even though I usually only arrived in time to pick up the pieces -- I would have been glad enough to fight and die for the Negaverse's ruler, but this was just plain embarrassing. Not exactly the way that I wanted to live my life, especially since assassination attempts are as likely as not to take place in the middle of the night. That hadn't mattered nearly as much when I was still sleeping alone, but now...

I know my expression softened when I looked down at David. I knew that many of the others were puzzled by my taste in lovers. David wasn't pretty, of course, although he was more human-looking than a lot of youma. His skin was a pale ivory color that was almost close to what you might have seen on a very pale human, and his body wasn't especially distorted, with no tails or extra arms, although he did have vicious claws. His lower jaw was oddly shaped, but it had to accommodate fangs and a foot of prehensile tongue. Interesting, what he could do with that tongue...

He'd come a long way from the frightened young youma that I'd stopped from committing suicide in a storeroom one night. He was my right hand now, second-in-command of my company, and even the other youma seemed to understand that he'd earned it by being good, not by bending his back for me. And he was my friend. That alone made him very valuable to me. He wasn't the great love of my life, I didn't think, but then I wasn't his either. We were each other's second best, and that had always been good enough.

I rolled over and pillowed my head on his shoulder. Even if I couldn't sleep, I could still leave myself open to dreams of another kind.

Kyanite

The inside of my own head was a strange world to me. I knew that something was badly wrong, but I couldn't explain it. Not even to myself.

The slender, dark-skinned hands that rested in my lap were those of a stranger, even though I knew they were mine, and even though I didn't know what they should have looked like. I was empty of all memory. My life began on the floor in this room, cradled in my father's arms.

He was pacing, now, on the far side of the room. Six long, impatient strides in one direction, six more back. He was obviously disturbed. And that only confused and worried me even more. I hadn't meant to hurt anyone. Especially not him. Or the other one, the man with the green eyes who had pulled away from me with what had looked almost like revulsion, shouting angry words that I couldn't understand. My other father. Who... hated me?

I raised my hand to rub at the lump under my conjured shirt and jacket, formed where the gold ring circled my arm. I'd had to push it up almost all the way to the shoulder to make it fit snugly, since it had been made for a larger arm. A dead man's arm. I was wearing a dead man's damaged spirit crystal, which also appeared to be mine. And that made me... what? Some kind of ghost? No. I'm not. I refuse to be. I'm me, Kyanite, and no one else!

But I still had that sense of tremendous urgency. I was supposed to tell Malachite something. Something very important. Something that was lost in the depths of that black void along with any other memories that I might once have had.

Darkness. I remembered darkness, or something like it. Thick, cloying, choking darkness. Attacking me... No! If that's what's hiding down at the bottom of that pit inside my head, I'm glad that I *don't* remember!

Dimly, I realized that I was shaking, partly with cold (Why is it so cold in here?) and partly with fear. I took deep, steady breaths, and tried to calm myself. A bit better. And I did feel warmer, all of a sudden.

My second father was back, and with him another man, with dark hair and warm, dark eyes. He smiled at me. I smiled tentatively back, but I couldn't hold it as I watched the green-eyed man walk across the room and into Malachite's embrace, both of them pointedly ignoring me.

The third man approached me slowly. <<Kyanite? My name is Alexandrite. I'm a healer. Do you mind if I have a look at you?>>

<<Go ahead.>> A healer. If there's something wrong with me, maybe he'll be able to fix it.

His hands closed gently around my upper arms, and I felt a burning sensation as he jostled my spirit crystal. That was because of the crack in the stone, I knew without understanding where I'd learned it. The damage was causing that pain. The faintest touch of warmth ran up my arms and down through my body. Then Alexandrite let me go again.

<<Physically, you're as healthy as anyone I've ever seen,>> he told me. <<There's certainly nothing wrong with your brain. I don't think you even really have amnesia, strictly speaking. It's more likely whatever spell put you together just forgot to give you a memory.>>

I knew that was wrong. I should have had memories. There had been something before this untidy room with its walls of grey stone. I just wish I knew what. Maybe then I'd know what the message was supposed to be.

<<There's something else you aren't telling me, isn't there?>> I asked instead. I wasn't sure that was the case, actually, but I thought it was a reasonable guess.

Alexandrite shook his head. <<I'm not going to be able to put any more over on you than I can on your dads, am I? You're fine physically, but magically there's something odd about you. I hesitate to say that there's something wrong, though. That's for Zoisite to check when he gets over the idea that he's suddenly got a kid, or maybe I should ask my father to have a look at you.>>

Zoisite. At least I had a name for my other father now.

Alexandrite turned toward my parents, and they spoke together for several minutes, aloud. I couldn't understand a word of it, of course, but the message in the glances that they exchanged was as clear as any words.

What are we going to do with you?

Then my father -- Malachite -- turned back toward me. <<Come here,>> he ordered.

I walked over to stand in front of him.

<<I'm still not quite sure why you're here,>> he stated, <<but since it looks like you're going to be staying here for a while, there are certain things that must be done. Or we could send you to the Earth Realm, I suppose...>>

<<No!>> I'd never heard of this "Earth Realm" of his, but I didn't need to. I didn't want to be sent anywhere. Without my memories -- if I'd ever had memories -- all I had was him and Zoisite. My family. <<Please. I want to stay. Do whatever you have to.>>

<<Very well.>> He extended his right arm, placed his hand, palm flat, against the center of my chest. I looked down at it, then back up at him.

His eyes flared blue-white, and I felt a sickening, twisting sensation somewhere deep inside me. I staggered backward, unable to help myself. Malachite made an abortive gesture in my direction, then lowered his hand, placing it firmly on Zoisite's hip. It was Alexandrite who moved forward to support me as my stomach tried to turn itself inside-out.

<<Don't fight it,>> he advised me. <<You'll just make yourself sicker.>>

I managed to nod before another spasm doubled me over again. I could tell that something was changing, and whatever it was, my body didn't like it. The room seemed to lurch around me, and I closed my eyes.

I heard... something like a heartbeat, slow and steady and far away, so soft that I wasn't quite sure that it was there. My own heart stuttered, and then its rhythm shifted so that it was beating almost in time with the distant sound, albeit ten times as fast. Once that had happened, my nausea went away, and I was able to straighten up.

<<I wish you hadn't done that,>> Alexandrite was stating. <<He's almost as sensitive as Dad is. You could have done him serious damage.>>

<<Better that we know now whether or not he's capable of taking it,>> Zoisite snapped.

<<I'm all right,>> I protested. Don't send me away...

<<Good, because we aren't finished. Alex...>> My white-haired father raised a hand to his ear, and then said something aloud, of which I couldn't understand a word.

A few moments later, I was sitting on a bench, apprehensively eyeing a needle lying on a shallow metal tray beside me while Alexandrite sponged down my ears with some sort of disinfectant. There was a pinprick at each of my earlobes, then the sensation of painful cold against raw flesh as two small beads of metal were inserted into the holes that the needle had left behind. Only then did Alex heal the two tiny wounds.

<<All done,>> he stated. <<Now will you let me put him to bed? Which is where you should be too, my King.>>

Malachite nodded. <<The third room on the left is furnished. We'll figure out something better in the morning.>>

Both my fathers disappeared in a swirl of something pink.

Alex led me out of the room and down a hallway, opening a narrow door a short distance down so that I could pass through it. The room beyond was tiny, the furnishings limited to a bed with some sort of chest at its foot. I didn't care. It was... mine?

<<Get some sleep,>> Alex suggested. <<You're weaker than I'd like right now.>>

<<Thank you,>> I stated shyly. <<For caring, I mean.>>

He shrugged. <<I'm a Healer. I care about all my patients.>>

<<Thank you anyway.>>

I watched as he vanished in a swirl of yellow, orange, and red. Then I pulled off my boots, tossed my jacket onto the chest at the foot of the bed, dropped my pants in a heap on the floor, and slid between the sheets, dressed only in the shirt that I'd been wearing under my jacket. I still wore the armring with my spirit crystal on it, of course. I'd wear that for the rest of my life.

I could still hear the maybe-heartbeat, and I noticed that the glowing green veins in the wall were throbbing in time with it, growing brighter, then dimmer. The pulse of the universe? I didn't know. But I found it comforting, in some strange way. Sort of like the sound of the ocean.

What? I'd never seen an ocean, not that I could remember. I hadn't even known that there was such a thing as an ocean, until the concept popped into my mind.

I'll think about it in the morning. And with that, I let the faint throbbing sound lull me to sleep.

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