Fallen Ch. 20byNephylim©
"Where are we going?"
"To the summerhouse."
"You'll see when we get there."
"You're being very mysterious." He links his arm with mine and rests his head on my shoulder as we walk. I shake my arm free and wrap it around him, pulling him close to me.
It is a beautiful day, the sun is shining, on its way down and there is a cool breeze that ruffles our hair like the fingers of a lover. However, as soon as we step within the maze a chill falls on us, enough to make Star shiver and pull away from me.
"What's going on? Where are we going?"
He sounds anxious and I smile reassuringly. "It's hard to explain. Walk with me and I will try my best. Trust me, I will not lead you into danger."
"Alright." He is still anxious but he trusts me absolutely.
"It's not an easy thing to explain. This house is not in the world as you know it. It is outside of space and time. Think of a clock. Inside the clock there are cogs and wheels. Each wheel is a separate universe, each spoke of the wheel a different world. This house is a drop of oil on the axel of one of the wheels. The drop of oil can slide down one of the spokes and back again, it can grow or shrink, it can change its shape but it can't escape the wheel and there are many spokes that can only be accessed when the wheel turns, and then only from the other side. "
"I don't understand," he says, perplexed.
"I know and I'm not sure I understand myself. The wheel metaphor is an ancient one and perhaps, in time it will help you understand. For now all you need to know is that the house is as mutable as that drop of oil, it can slide up and down the spoke so I can step out anywhere I wish into your world, and sometimes, when the wheel turns, others can step into it."
"Alright," he says doubtfully. "I think I kind of understand but I'm way out of my depth."
"Wait until you see how much that drop of oil can be changed with just a flick of the hand. Before you came the suite where you live did not exist. I can make new wings, a new garden, completely remodel the inside and outside if I want. I can make it bigger, smaller... whatever. And, of course then there is the fact that it is alive. The house; the gardens are all part of one sentient whole. If you listen carefully enough you can hear its heart."
"You're kidding right?"
"Not at all. But that is for another time. Today is for something else entirely. I am taking you to meet someone."
He stops dead and turns to stare at me, shaking his head convulsively. "No."
"Is that not what you want? Do you not want to meet her?"
"I... Can you? Can you really take me to her?"
"At this time, yes. The wheel has turned and very, very soon it will turn again. But for a short time, yes I can take you to see Her."
"I'll get to see her?"
"And touch her?"
"And speak to her?"
"And she can speak to me."
"Yes, Star. Why don't we get moving again and you will see for yourself."
"Sorry, I just... it took me by surprise."
"Of course it did," I say mildly and guide him along the path. I can feel his tension grow as we get deeper and deeper into the maze. He is conflicted, that much I can tell. I can also tell they are conflicts he has to resolve for himself.
When we break out into the open before the summerhouse, I can feel his fear and doubt. I put my arm around him again and gently guide him towards the door. His eyes are wide as he takes in the wonder of the summerhouse and the sights and sounds of it distract him. Turning his head from side to side, he soaks up the roses and the grapes, the water, the trees.
I lead him through the glade to the river and, as he sets foot on the bridge, he looks up and gasps.
The light inside the summerhouse is always low, no matter what it might be like on the outside. Here, there is no outside. The oil lamps give their usual muted glow and illuminate the woman who is painting. Today, she is dressed in forest green, accentuating the glorious tumble of her red hair.
When she hears us approach, she looks up and lays down her brush. Smiling sweetly she steps towards us, her footfalls making no sound. She kisses me lightly on the cheek and then passes me. Taking Star's hands in hers she looks deeply into his stunned eyes.
"Oh my darling," she breathes. "I had no idea how beautiful you are." She caresses his cheek and he just stands there locked in shock. She fingers his soft hair and touches his full lips while he remains silent and still.
"You left me," he whispers at last. "You left me when I really needed you."
"No, darling, I never would have left you if you needed me; you needed to be alone. If I hadn't left you things wouldn't have been as they were; you wouldn't have found Luma and we wouldn't be here talking now. I knew it would be hard for you..."
At last he comes out of his stupor and his eyes flash. "Hard? They weren't hard, they were hell. Without you I had no one, no one. He... He never hurt me more than in that last year." He closes his eyes and shivers. "I was abandoned by everyone. My mother... you. I had no one."
His facade cracks and he begins to weep. Astaria takes him into her arms and, although he resists at first, he collapses against her. She cradles him against her breast (lucky bastard) and soothes him, stroking his hair.
"Hush now, child. The nightmare's over, as I promised it would be."
"Do you have any idea how close I came to killing myself?"
"Not as close as you think."
He looks up at her. "What do you mean?"
"How many times did you make the decision?" He looks thoughtful. "Every time, including the last time, something held you back... that something was me." He swallows hard, as he processes the information.
"We don't have much time, dear one. I have to go and there are a lot of things I want to share with you before I do."
"No. Don't go. Don't leave me again."
"You don't need me now, dear one. You've found your soul mate and you don't need me holding you back. Things are as they should be. Come... see..."
She takes him by the hand and leads him the rest of the way over the bridge and into the sitting area, until he is able to see the painting. His eyes fly wide and he gives a little cry. For a while he just stares and then he raises his eyes to mine, breathing hard.
"It... it's my painting, the one my father found, the one he broke."
Curious I hurry to join them and when I see the painting I am totally shocked. It is, as Star had said, beautiful; very, very beautiful. The figures almost fly at you out of the canvas. In the centre are two angels, naked with their wings arching gracefully over their heads and curving protectively around the two human figures who stand within their embrace.
The angels are looking at each other with the greatest love in their eyes and the two humans have their arms around the waist of their respective angel gazing at each other no less adoringly. The quality is astonishing, truly astonishing but the biggest shock, the greatest astonishment is not in the skill but in the content.
Each of the figures is easily recognisable. The angel on the left is Star and the human he is embracing is Sacha. The angel on the right is me with my arm and wing around Bridge.
I raise my eyes to Star and he shakes his head in disbelief. "I didn't know. When I painted it I didn't know and when I met you I had forgotten. I thought there was something... something familiar but there was so much going on, I..." He is breathless and I put my arm around him, feeling him shake.
"This has always been your destiny, Star. You were meant for Luma and he for you. Of course there was always the chance you wouldn't meet, you wouldn't fall for him; that you would be so angry with me you'd turn away. It wasn't as if you had no choice but still..."
"I never had a choice. From the moment you started to sing to me, when you were the only thing that kept me sane, that brought me through, what choice did I have? Yes, I was angry at the end. I'm angry with you now but not so angry I can't appreciate everything you did for me. And how can I be angry that you brought me here? As much as I fought against it I can see this is where I'm meant to be."
"I'm glad you feel that way." She takes Star's hand again. He is staring at the painting but when she draws him towards a low couch he follows and, as he sinks down, he begins to weep. Astaria wraps her arms around him and holds him close as he sobs. She looks at me over his head and we smile. I know this is his time and it is not for me to intervene, but still it is so good to see her, to be here in her presence, one more time.
Finally, she draws back and tilts his head up to look into her eyes. He blinks, through tears.
"Why so sad? I though you would be happy that we meet at last, even if only briefly.
"I am, of course I am. It's just..." He sniffs. "You're the closest thing to a mother I've ever known and I didn't think I'd ever feel your arms around me. It made me feel like a child and to remember all I missed."
"Don't look back, my sweet. The past is gone now and there is a bright future to be made."
"I know and I'm not saying I'm unhappy about it but..."
"Hush now, I known." She draws him close again and strokes his hair. "Star, there is something I would like to give you."
His head jerks up. "Oh no. You've given me so much already, both of you. I can never repay..."
"Yes, I can see the gift and I hope one day you'll realise how valuable it truly is." She gently touches the ring and again raises her eyes to me flashing a look that melts me." But that's not the kind of gift I have. It's not one which requires or is capable of repayment." He looks curious now and she settles him back on the couch.
"The world in which you now find yourself is not the same as the one you left behind, or even the one in which Luma's house resides. Let's just say it's the hub from which all other worlds radiate. That's not quite as it is, but it'll do for now.
"Suspended from some of the spokes of the wheel are spirals. They're filters through which the souls of those who live in that world must pass, as many times as they need to, until they're in a form that can enter the gate that leads to the hub. From here they can access all the other worlds."
She smiles gently at his expression. He is trying so hard to understand. Then her smile fades. "It was my punishment long ago to be confined to the hub forever, and never to be able to pass through any of the gates, never be able to complete our journeys through the spirals to freedom. Only very few of us find the gates impassable."
"So, are you telling me that when we die our souls come here and we can travel to different worlds?"
"Not exactly, and only when they have passed many times through the spiral and are ready to move on."
"Okay ,but what does that have to do with me? I'm not going to die, am I?"
Astaria smiles. "Who can say? I'm not the master of your destiny, although I've been your guide so far. That isn't at all why I'm telling you this. It's just that I need you to understand something. A long time ago I got involved in a war. I followed my heart and fought for what I believed in but it was futile and we lost. Part of my punishment was to be imprisoned here, between the worlds, watching others come and go but unable to follow them, unable to move on.
"The gateways were closed to me except for twice in all of this time. Once, I was able to slip through the gate and find my feet on the spiral of birth again. A brief span in millennia of loneliness, until I was pulled back." She looks wistful and tears spring to her eyes. I smile at her and touch the ring on my finger. Then, she takes a deep breath. "And the second time was eighteen years ago when, although I couldn't pass through the gate completely, I was able to open it far enough to reach through. I broke off part of my soul, and that was no mean feat I can tell you, then I reached into you world and I gave it to you."
He looks shocked, but she doesn't give him time to speak as she continues. "At the same time, I took a soul from your world and brought it back here with me. It was necessary to maintain balance in the spiral. My only regret is that the soul who came with me was snatched from the spiral and has been as much a prisoner here as I am, unable to move on or go back. For all this time that soul has been my companion, my friend and confidante as we share a common goal."
Star looks even more confused and shakes his head. Astaria smiled at him."We've both been given the chance to fall back into the spiral and complete our journey, until we're able to come here freely and move on. But, before we do that both of us wanted this moment in time, this one chance to stand here as we are, for one reason and one reason only... you."
"Me? I... I don't understand. I don't know what you mean. You brought a soul? A dead person? Here? With You?" He pauses and his face changes. "Eighteen years ago? Eighteen years ago you brought the soul of someone who died, here? Someone... someone..."
Astaria smiles gently and takes his trembling hands in hers. "That soul was your mother's, Star. She's been here with me ever since. She's here now. Would you like to meet her?"
Star gasps, shaking his head. "I... I don't... it's not..."
"Possible? Everything's possible here."
"My father's not here?" he asks, suddenly anxious, looking around.
"No Star, you're safe here."
"Can I? Can I really?"
Astaria smiles and gestures towards the glade. A mist has risen and is hanging over the water, blowing in the breeze. A figure is walking towards us through the mist, getting clearer by the moment. Star turns towards the figure. As if bewitched, he gets to his feet and slowly, step by step approaches until suddenly he loses control and runs into her arms.
This is just too intimate a moment to share and so I sit besides Astaria and watch them walk away.
"He's very beautiful Luma, more beautiful than he looks. You will take care of him?"
"Of course I will. Do you really need to ask?"
"I do, Luma. Have you spoken to him about ascension yet?"
I frown and shake my head. "No. It's too soon."
"It has to be soon, Luma. Why, I cannot say, but it MUST be soon; today if you can."
"Today? No Astaria. It is all happening too fast for him. He needs time. He is not prepared."
Laying her hand over mine, Astaria smiles her smile. "He's as prepared as he's ever going to be Luma, I think it's you who's not prepared. You're afraid of losing him."
I hang my head. She's right. I am afraid of losing him, in many ways. However, I genuinely don't think he is ready to take this step. He has only just been introduced to the life and that was stressful enough, for me and for him. How can I now ask him to go further, to risk everything... for what?
"I'm not convinced it will even be right to ask him at all. How can I do it to him, Astaria? How can I damn him to this existence? You know what happened last time. It ended badly and I haven't done it since for good reason."
"Star is different and you know it. It was no accident I was drawn to him, Luma. He was born human but his soul never was wholly human. If you stop and listen to something other than your cock you will see it as clearly as I do. He is not what he seems and neither are the other two. Can you really tell me you haven't seen it, haven't worked it out?"
I am truly mystified. "I don't know what you mean?"
She looks at me, incredulity written all over her face. "You really haven't, have you?"
"Haven't what, Astaria. Don't play with me, there isn't time."
"Think about them Luma. Think about the way they 'feel' to you. What do you feel about Star?"
"Well... I know he is strong, I know there is a fire burning within him, I see it in his eyes. I thought it was you..."
"A small part, perhaps. You see fire in his eyes?"
"Yes, red fire like..." Something is beginning to squirm in the back of my mind. "No, it cannot be."
"Because there have been none born in..."
"I'm not saying that he's a dragon Luma, not entirely, but I'm not the only one who shares his soul."
"If that is so-- and I am beginning to think that you may be right, then... what will ascension do to him?"
"It will make him what he's meant to be, Luma." She smiles and touches my hand. "And Bridge?"
It is easy, once she has opened my eyes, to see what has been before them the whole time. "Bridge is fey."
"He is indeed, and it's not even just a part of his soul. That's why he grew up without a mother and with a father who was bitter and cold. His mother is fey, I've spoken to her. She's distraught that she had to leave him with the evil son of a bitch who raised him. But it was meant to be."
"Sacha's human, but a very special one. You know what that means?" She smiles at me but I feel cold, far colder than I usually do under that warm smile.
"No. I know that, for the first time since the first days, all four of the races have been brought together but I don't know what it means."
"It means a new start, Luma. It means that, here in your home in the place beyond time and space, you have an unique opportunity to consolidate the races and make them strong again. I doubt it will be significant at this time. It will make no difference in this war but as for the future..." She shrugs. "It's an opportunity you can't afford to miss. At some time it will be significant I'm sure of it."
"You may be right. But I'm not going to put pressure on Star, nevertheless. Whatever he is or isn't he is my love. He is my part of you and I won't risk that for something that might come to be at some point in the future."
She smiles at me, her lips twisted into the wry irony I so love. "Noted." Her smile fades. "Not for something that might be but for something that is, you will change your mind very soon. The choice will be taken from your hands and I really think you should talk to him about it before that time comes."
"The choice will be taken out of my hands? It is not my hands that will force him into this, Astaria. This is his life and his decision. At the moment he could go back at any time. He could go back to the spiral and eventually be free. If he ascends he will be trapped outside it, as I am, forever."
"What's forever? They told me my curse would last forever and here I am on the brink of breaking it... if not at their request then certainly at their relief. At some point it might be your strength to have the four aces in your hand."
"I appreciate that but it is not now. I do not have to push him into it. He can come to it in time."
Astaria looks incredibly sad. "If only that were the case. If you were thinking more clearly my dear you'd see the reason for haste but it's not for me to say and if you don't see it now, you soon will. I caution you though, look carefully because if you miss it you'll regret the lost opportunity forever."
"I don't know what you mean, Astaria. You are speaking in riddles as usual and I have lost my edge. I have not been required to think like this for many years."
"Well get used to it," she snaps with a mock frown on her face, then sobers again. "I won't be there for you, so you're going to have to learn to think and notice for yourself again."
I sigh. "I suppose you're right, but I really don't think Star is ready for ascension yet."
"Ready or not it's coming," she jokes lightly. "I mean it, Luma. You know I'm not one for putting pressure on you, but this time it's inevitable. It's going to happen soon and the only question is whether he's prepared or not."
"I..." We are interrupted by Star, who is weeping but smiling at the same time. He has his arms around a large woman with beautiful glossy black hair, who can't take her eyes off him."