Chapter Two – Ouro I
Restless nights and sore mornings were the only days he knew. He hoped by now that he could shut away his senses from them as he got older, but even in the quiet nights, he knew what they were doing. Turning over in his sleeping pod, Ouro pressed his eyes shut and tried pulling away from his physical form, but the more he struggled, the more awake he was. His knee grazed against the inner wall of his pod, the shock of pain forced his eyes open and his hand over his cap. He rolled to his back and sighed, looking out from the transparent case above him, a small white face appeared on the edge. Ouro’s body jumped, thinking it was another strange entity they called into their home, but it was his twin’s smiling face.
Her fingers tapped against the glass before it dissolved it into space. I knew you weren’t asleep.
I was, but my knee woke me up and then you did, Shimarr. He said rising from the soft padded bed, his teal under suit caught the edge of one of cushions. It was old and nearly expired from years of use and various bodies that had worn it. Old black, yellow and green bruises never regenerated, leaving part of his sleeves and leggings to sag, but it still had some life in it. Ouro had to make it last until his parents were forced to get a new one.
You said you could block them out by now. That pod has been installed with a psi-surpressing field. You must tell them you’re still not sleeping. She said as her arms draped over the edge. Shimarr’s pale yellow under suit also had similar wear on it, but there were fewer discolourations and sagginess on her sleeves. Her bald white head heavily reflected the moonlight through the transparent ceiling field and her slivery orbs shone with the same hue of her Third Eye. It was rare for Arinu to have one child in their long lifespans; it was even rarer to have twins. Many consider it a blessing, but over the decades of their existence, they had become a burden on their parents.
Ouro shook his head and pressed his sore eyes. It just takes some getting used to. Why are you awake?
Shimarr shrugged her shoulders and leant her back against the pod. Wish I could sleep in your pod, they’re dancing again.
When are they not dancing, Shimarr? He said as he looked to the cracked granite door to their round room. White and silver light peeked through the holes; their parent’s must have been working extra hard on their summoning that night.
If we keep complaining about not being able to astrally travel, then they might stop dancing for a while. She said as her head dropped back looking out to the clouds and stars above. “You ever wish that a Sleeping Watcher might catch them in the act?”
“Don’t say that, not even aloud,” Ouro dropped back into the bed. “If they haven’t been caught in the last four centuries, then they won’t ever be,”
A flare of light shot through the cracks and elated voices called from the hall. “How does no one outside sense this? We can barely close an eye and we’re several reinforced walls from their summoning chamber,”
Ouro stared at the navy and violet sky. A brilliant belt of stars floated in the heavens, colours in every shade sprinkled throughout the cosmos, but since he couldn’t join any of them in his nightly travels, he didn’t care for them. He felt Shimarr shift again, her eyes followed his stare before landing on his face again. “Do you want to see what they’re conjuring?”
He shifted. Morbid curiosity filled his head, but he didn’t want to see what sort of devilish things they were brining into the house for the day.
“Come,” Shimarr rose to her feet and telekinetically pulled Ouro from the warmth of his pod.
“Just a quick look. Don’t need to get the attention from those extra-dimensionals, they may ask for us as payment of their summons,” he said levitating out and across the dark room.
Shimarr tapped her hand on the door, it quivered but remained solid. She frowned and tapped it harder, after a few seconds the granite surface finally phased, leaving an empty archway to the bright hall. Ouro’s eyes narrowed, not yet accustomed to the harsh light beaming through the house. His Third Eye stung, he tried covering his hand over the surface to dull the exo-planar energies. His sister glided through the crystal and silver gilded corridor with him following closely behind. He took note that the walls were beginning to crack and a smoky white hue growing in the crystal panels. This house was old, passed by generations of their family, but when his parents began astral dancing, the timeless building weighed with otherworldly energies that stained every molecule.
Here. Ouro levitated to an amateur constructed latch with holographic writings and geographic shapes circling around the surface. Blue, teal and green lights cracked through; he was reluctant to move his hand from his forehead before telekinetically commanding the hatch to lift. It was heavy, but it grinded against the floor. Help me lift it.
Shimarr opened her palms to the ground, the silver disk bumped and peeled open. Ouro almost flew back at the assault of energies piercing his senses but was careful not to drop the heavy door before resting it quietly against the solid floor.
His sister looked at him, her face weighed with concern and equal discomfort. Ouro descended into the hole to the inner sanctum, it’s walls were chipped and cool to the touch. He could feel immense astral power vibrating through his body, too potent to continue levitating down. Hovering rocks and boulders were steady to stand on, he could feel Shimarr suffering from similar effects of the dancing. They looked down the navy-black stone slope deeper into the chamber, two pale figures moved carelessly through the air with arms and legs waving around them. Their aura’s blistering with sunny radiance and their eyes, though closed, shone like two orange stars through their lids.
They circled around a strobe of brilliant shifting light. For a moment, Ouro thought that his vision began playing tricks when he saw a large bust and head of a creature move out of the strobe and fade out into the chamber. It was a portal that connected their physical reality to the astral. Despite Arinu using spatial rifts was integral for travel and communications, their parents recklessly carved open space to allow power to flow through them – to feed them. Another creature leapt out from the strobe and into the room, it’s long and bony head had black needle-like hairs around its neck and chest, but the eyes – they looked like two spheres of void. The twins had seen this beast when they were infants. He remembers it’s skeletal talon’s caressing his scalp as it faded back to its home realm, but not before marking Ouro with three lavender scars.
The creature released a psychic shriek. Its potency made Ouro’s legs give in before he tumbled down the stairs and flat to the solid ground. The light from the chamber dimmed as Shimarr descended, calling his name. In his shaky vision he could see their parents fly over to him and lift him to his feet with their minds.
We told you to not come in here when we’re dancing! His mother said. Her aura pulsated, but its vibrancy died along with the strobe. She was thin, so thin that he could almost count the bones and dark patchy organs in her torso. Ouro caught his breath as he looked for the beast, but it had disappeared.
We couldn’t sleep. Shimarr said as she glared at them.
Their father shook his head as both of his hands cradled his neck. That pod should have kept all this out of your head, Ouro.
I couldn’t either, father. Shimarr said as she pulled her arms over her chest.
Then you could’ve shared his pod for tonight. You ruined the ritual! Their mother cried as she spun around to see the empty centre.
It was already ruined, Zinlaa. The kepa wouldn’t have given in tonight. Their father said as his head tilted to his children. Please, you know how important this is to us – your mother.
But I could feel him changing his mind, Jul. He was so close. It was as if their mother had forgotten her family was there as she sped to the centre and crossed her legs. She once held title of elder in centuries past, one of the best and brightest in spatial bending and phasing. According to their father, Zinlaa travelled to the higher realms and fell in love with the power it gave her while there. Upon returning to Fahraya, her strength had waned and dedicated her life to reclaiming that power at the cost of her position. But after each dance, the power was less and she became less with it.
You promised you wouldn’t invite the kepa here anymore. Ouro said as he looked desperately between his parents.
No more dancing tonight, please. His sister said.
We won’t. Jul’s dim, sore eyes flicked to Ouro. We needed something from him, but not anymore. Please, go back to your pods.
Ouro looked to the deep wrinkles around his father’s mouth, there were faint, hairline cracks of lavender light in his skin. He realised that his father was starving, and his body was betraying the amount of pain he must have been in. He looked to his sister before they started levitating up the steps, back to their sleeping pods.
They broke their promise, but Ouro didn’t know if they called the kepa dealer again. His sore eyes squinted at the screen of the visor, even his Third Eye was too overstimulated from the flux of energies in the space around him. He ripped off the visor from his brow and unhooked the transmitters from his temples, a break was needed after searching for lost probes in the outer planes. His back ached and shoulders screamed to move as he glanced around at his peers in similar lounging pods, visors covering their senses and their fingers spiriting over the holographic key-spheres.
Many Arinu probes had already been uncovered since he took the position over a decade ago, finding them was like hunting for treasures in the higher realms, they were so plentiful once upon a time. However, days would pass before he could spot a probe and send its location to the teleporters. Ouro smiled at his frustration that the engineers had improved their automated return systems. He was the only one in stationed in the southern Heebar Province to find them, while his peers piloted the probes from the safety of Farayah. It was mundane work, but it kept him out of the house.
He stretched his legs, his under suit started to sag below his right knee. Heat prickled up inside his cheeks as he quickly tried to scrunch the material back to his skin. His eyes quickly darted around to make sure no one could see but remembered that everyone had their visors on. However, it was no secret in the facility that his parents are Astral Dancers. Fortunately, people had enough respect for Ouro to never confront him or call in guardians. Maybe it was out of pity.
Ouro. A male officer called to him.
Yes, Beyjun. He replied.
May we see you?
Ouro sprung to his feet and stepped out of the pod, careful that his aging suit would catch the sharp crystals on the board. He took to the air flying up the crystalline structure to the higher platforms where his superior’s room. As his telekinesis drove him closer, his tired mind slipped, and his body almost felt the rush of gravity pressing against him. Panic kicked adrenaline into his blood and caught him back in the air. He looked down, seeing how high he had reached. His throat tightened as he tried to push saliva down to his belly. He shot up to the fenceless bronze balcony and was relieved to feel a solid surface under his feet.
Beyjun’s grey head shot up from his glass desk. His sharp, youthful face softened when Ouro strode towards him. His taskmaster was only two centuries old, a position too high for someone so young, but it’s much easier to inherit such a position from one’s parent than earn it. Ouro was very careful to keep that thought deep in his consciousness.
That could have been disastrous. You haven’t been sleeping well? He caught the poor question, but an awkward pearly smile curled up his cheeks.
Ouro stiffened but forced out a smirk. Could have been difficult to explain to your father.
Beyjun nodded as he tried to accept Ouro’s words. I won’t take you away from your break, so this will be brief. Since assuming the role of taskmaster, I have become acquainted with Heebar’s inter-travel facility and its missions to deep space and outer planes. Sadly, the days when we would send people in the stars for exploration is outdated and dangerous. In placement are our probes. This year, we sent thousands to farther places and only a few have been recovered.
I have been trying to find- Ouro began but Beyjun waved his hand.
I’m not faulting you. This department has always been outdone by those inter-travellers up in Yinray in information gathering. Yes, yes, we are all technically working together, but we’re always at the bottom and I think we can reach to the top! Beyjun said as his long hands slapped together.
I will be more diligent. Do you want me to port them straight to our analysts than to our repairing wing? Ouro said, but Beyjun shook his head.
That won’t affect much. This is just a small query: you were at the seeking station since this first-light, correct? Beyjun said, but he waited for the answer he already knew.
I was. Ouro carefully said.
Did your sensors detect any anomalies when scanning toward Neavensoros space? The taskmaster looked as if he could shoot through the crystal ceiling.
Unease vibrated through his body when he heard their name: the Neavensoros. Arinu were ice-beetles compared to them. Beings of incalculable, uncategorical power that lived in long before the birth of Farayah’s sun. They were beings so old, their bodies have transcended to pure energy, free to roam the cosmos and the minds of all beings they see fit. Beings so terrifying and wonderous to the Arinu. They were gods to their people for eons until First Contact, but in many ways, they still are.
There are many anomalies coming from that region, my visor is bombarded with static, so I’m forced to look away. Besides, the probe pilots would know more than I do. Ouro said.
Beyjun tapped his nail against his tooth. Those probes have been sent out there, some have been thrown back damaged beyond repair while others are completely lost. Not even those Yinray analysts could recover anything. However, some of our most powerful psychics detected something massive. We need to know what it was.
To my understanding, we aren’t meant to go or even look there, they make it apparent. Ouro said.
“May we speak openly, Ouro?” This was the first time he heard Beyjun’s voice, it was deeper than he had expected for someone so young.
“Of course,” he nodded.
“You’re technically right, but this facility’s purpose is to gather data on all things. The only thing we can’t get to is learning more about the Neavensoros. I haven’t asked this, so please don’t take offence, but has your Third Eye detected anything particularly strange from their space?” Beyjun’s fingers wrapped themselves around his lips as his bore into Ouro’s.
He parted his lips and searched his memories for something – anything. “I did feel that space itself had changed there, like something had slipped,”
“Anything else?” Beyjun pressed his lips.
Ouro sighed, he couldn’t make sense of it. The first thing that came to his mind was: “An emotion,”
Beyjun’s bare brows furrowed. “What sort?”
“I don’t know, not something I can compare it to,” he said as he watched the taskmaster’s stone form, “why would I be offended by that question?”
Beyjun jolted, he slipped his had from his chin. “It really wasn’t offensive, just I knew your psionics are more attune than most here, especially with exo-planar-,”
“I understand,” Ouro said. He didn’t want to hear anymore. As he was about to turn away, Beyjun rushed over to him.
Please, I truly didn’t intend to embarrass you. There’s someone I would like to recommend to help you as my form of apology. He said.
Ouro shook his head. I’m really fine-
He’s a monk. A specialist with lowering psionic sensitivities and blocking them at will. His name is Guajeeb, just search for his details on the aether, he’s a family friend. Beyjun said.
Ouro looked away, he distanced himself from the taskmaster. I’ll consider it.
Beyjun smiled before heading back to his crystal desk. Just keep your eye on Neavensoros space and let me know the second you see something. Even if it seems small.
Ouro stepped to the edge of the platform, his eyes looked to the setting red sun behind the frosty mountains, its rays covering the cool land in a deceptive warm orange. He lifted his form and descended back to his station, he had almost forgotten that he wanted a pause, but work seemed to fill the distraction from Beyjun.
The hours ticked by; he had taken many more peeks at Neavensoros territory. He wondered what they were doing, what sort of unimaginable quests these ancients were taking and what were they like. He wanted to travel there, but he would be turned away and the Arinu would call him a fool. Ouro slid his visor off, the chamber was filled with artificial light and the windows had grown black from night. To his dismay, he couldn’t find anymore lost probes. He took in one last sight of their space, watching the swirling and pulsating multiplanar energies surrounding them like a cloud.
Ouro’s fingers gripped the edges of his visor, until something shot out of the energy mass. It was so small that he wondered if he had truly seen it. His mind commanded his visors to magnify on the tiny white ripple. At first, he thought an Arinu probe had drifted closer to release a beacon, his fingers ready to send out coordinates to the teleporters, but the longer he watched, the beam was directed to another region of space far away from Arinu space. Ouro sat back and tried following the beam but was blocked by powerful dampening field. The field bombed his sensors with static that he ripped them from his brow. He caught his breath, shaken and afraid. He realised that he had gone to a place more forbidden to gaze upon than the Neavensoros: Zanashj territory.
Beyjun, I found something, I’m sending you what my sensors last recorded. He called.
There was a pause. He was certain the taskmaster had heard him, he even looked to his screen to make sure it was sent. More silence. Paranoia leaked into his mind wondering if Beyjun would dismiss him from work because of looking into Zanashj space.
You’ve done nothing wrong, Ouro. Thank you for this. I’ll send this to our astralnaughts to investigate the transmission. Beyjun’s thoughts echoed in his mind.
It looks weak, maybe a probe is damaged. Ouro said, his fingers hovering over the buttons of his holo-sphere.
It’s not from our probes, it’s coming from the Neavensoros homeworld, if you can call it that. Beyjun said.
Ouro sucked in the dry air. Didn’t know they still even had a homeworld. This must be reported to the High Elders.
Don’t touch that key-sphere! If you saw it, no doubt a thousand Arinu already have. I’ll hand over to them personally and try to edit out that you followed the message to Zanashj space. Of all people, why contact the Zanashj? He said.
Ouro bit his lip as his fingers expanded the wave on his holographic screen. It was encrypted and his computer didn’t have the power to break through it, but the frequency appeared ancient, almost too primitive by Neavensoros standards.
What do you make of this? Ouro said.
Bubbles of joy and laughter blew through his mind as if Beyjun had heard the greatest joke in the universe. How fascinating! Thank you a million more, Ouro. Your service has been outstanding. By the morrow, I will recommend you to astralnaught assistant.
Not the most revered position, but certainly more interesting than seeking lost probes. He hoped that Beyjun would tell him what the transmission was, however, he would rather hear it from the astralnaught’s own thoughts. Raw, unfiltered, first-hand and stripped of politics. He hopped out of his pod, wondering his work could transform into a career here, maybe become an astralnaught himself. For the first time, Ouro was excited for his future. He levitated down the chamber to the structure’s teleportation alcoves, it’s halls were empty of his peers who had settled into their homes and families.
The thought of returning to his family made him falter as he mentally sent the teleporter coordinates to his house. The numbers flashed on the pad, as if the computer was confused by his input, but he had come accustomed to this many times. His parents were dancing again, and the energies were mixing with the alcove’s computers. He sighed as he stepped on the dark grey pad, hoping that he would be accidently sent out into vacuum or in a boulder, but it hadn’t happened before, so the risk was worth it. Perhaps if he had shared his interesting day with them, that would make them stop dancing.
A strobe of golden light encased his body before sucking him through an airless hole in space until he was spat out in another alcove. The lights from his alcove flickered as he stepped off the pad, his feet touched the warm tiles, absorbing many wonderful and empowering energies through the stone and metal. From the corner of his eye, Shimarr came rushing to the hall, her eyes were blister red as if she had bee crying. Ouro was taken aback by the sight of his twin and was confused as to why he didn’t sense her distress.
They’ve been dancing all day! I couldn’t break through to call out to you. I can hear multiple thoughts from the inner sanctum and they’ve gone mad! Shimarr said as she gripped Ouro’s arms.
Did they call the kepa again? He said, his skin prickled as astral energies shot through him. His Third Eye started to ache again as the lights from the main hall started opening deeper cracks in the walls. Ouro slapped his hands over his forehead trying to dampen the pain.
I was too afraid to go down there. They were normal in the first-dawn, but something happened and they started summoning. I tried calling to them, but they were in a frenzy. So, I waited for you. She said. Another beam of light broke through the smoky wall sending a shower of crystal shards at the twins.
Anger rose inside Ouro, its potency bled into his chest as he released a defeated yell. He had felt anger many times before, but he couldn’t continue anymore. Whatever good he had in his day was forgotten, there was nothing left except the rage. They are stopping this, tonight. It’s the last time they’re going to dance!
Together we can get them to stop-
No, Shimarr, we’ve tried that too many times and they never listen.
His sister’s eyes widened. Are we calling the guardians?
Ouro bit his lip as he looked through the decaying wall beside them. Beyjun will be forced to remove him from his position officially and the twins may be compelled to deep-scans to find more incriminating evidence. One more warning and if they start again, even if they think about it, come with me to the facility and then we call.
Shimarr nodded, her hand pressed against her forehead as her other arm wrapped around his as the two glided their way to the broken hall. The granite disk was severely broken, it took no effort to push the shards apart to expose the stone hole in the centre. Ouro trembled as he sensed a dozen extra-dimensional beings roam the deep caverns, their shrill voices and thoughts speaking in otherworldly languages. He sensed the familiar ugly presence in the chamber with his parents: the kepa. Shimarr placed her hand over Ouro’s, her flesh dampened more of the astral energies and eased some of his pain. They exchanged a smile before descending into the light-filled room.
Their gold and orange aura’s contrasted against the violet and blue beams of light in the centre. Their forms spun around the rift so quickly, they left bright trails. All manner of creatures leapt out of the portal, their bodies blending in with the stone walls and floor. A long skeletal snout poked out of the centre of the portal, it was still translucent, but quickly materialising. Ouro couldn’t tell if his parents had called the creature back, however, he was not willing to wait for the answer.
Stop! The twins called to their parents.
They had stopped spinning and their sharp eyes locked to them. Leave us!
No, no more second chances. This is your last dance. Ouro said.
You two don’t get to decide that. Zinlaa said. The kepa reared its monstrous head towards the twins, its hallowed eye sockets pierced through Ouro.
Leave us be! The cosmos is haemorrhaging her power. Jul called as the corporealized kepa stepped into the chamber.
“It has been collected from the universal tear and now I channel it into you,” the dealer said as its slippery black arms opened and its talons channelled a blinding beam of light into Zinlaa and Jul. Joyful laughs erupted from their mouths as the beams pulled back. The twins watched in horror as their parents absorbed all its power.
Ouro felt like his insides were on fire as his knees buckled under his weight, he could feel Shimarr’s arms lowering him to the floor as she stepped in front. Look what you’re doing to us, if you don’t stop then the guardians will hear about this.
It was almost as if they hadn’t heard what she had said. Zinlaa and Jul dropped to the floor, their bodies bathing in the power from the kepa, their blistering orange eyes turned to the monster and nodded to an unheard agreement. Shadowy tendrils erupted from the beast swimming their way to him, Ouro could feel his time was nigh.
Run, Shimarr! Call the guardians!
His sister’s tearful eyes glanced at him before her body shot up through the hole. Ouro’s head bounced to the ground as he watched the tendrils worm their way towards him, but before their hooks reached him, they flew up and wrapped around Shimarr’s lower torso. Screams from her mind and voice was the only thing he heard as he helplessly watched his twin being dragged into the portal. His weakened arms tried clawing for her hands, but she slipped too quickly out of his reach. He tried grabbing her with telekinesis, but the kepa’s pull was too strong. Her tear-stained face was swallowed by the light of the portal before it vanished from existence along with the kepa.
Ouro lay on the cool floor, staring at the point where he last saw his sister for what seemed like an eternity. It was too unbelievable from what he saw, it still didn’t sink in when he heard the commotion of thoughts calling all around the house. He stared and stared even when half a dozen Arinu in white and silver armour filled the darkening chamber. He watched, hoping and praying, the portal would return as the guardians froze his parent’s forms and ported them away. He continued to stare even when a guardian lifted him out of the room and out of his broken house.