Tales of Aeora (1.4)

Note: This chapter was previously published in the Tales of Aeora collection (Beta, Ver. 1)

After Emilia told Medeva her tale, the night grew old and the three moons of Aeora revealed their faces (reflected in the water, three luminous orbs in various phases of their celestial journey) through the thin fog that swirled between the Kraken and the sky. They both walked the deck where few members of the crew remained, either cleaned or prayed to one of the three lunar deities. Medeva looked to Luna, the biggest and brightest of the three bodies even at half-light, and silently remembered her mother — remembered, rather, a dream she thought was a memory from childhood — and allowed herself a muffled reverence. The Twin Moons, Phrixus and Helle, inhabited the other side of the dim sky and appeared more distant in space than their elder sister. Phrixus choked with red dust and bright orange cracks crawling over his face, body made of a substance akin to ash and magma, and the other called Helle orbited him on a wide, diagonal elliptical — tonight rose above Phrixus in her rotation and emanated a pale blue aura reflected from her oceanic surface. The Twins, three-quarters full and waxing, found Luna gained on their orbit every night and prepared for their eventual collision. Medeva noted their paths and reminded herself to plot them later in her notebook, convinced that it was an omen she needed to decipher.

As she considered the heavens, Medeva was led to a locked cabin on the bow which Emilia unlocked with a key from a collection hung on a chain beneath her tunic. The keys were of several different metallic hues and shapes (some crafted from heavy elements Medeva didn’t even recognize). Emilia peered through them all and picked the right one with a brief glance. All made a different jingle as she unlocked the door and revealed the two chests, locked and unlocked, beside one another on the sea-side wall of the cabin. Emilia fumbled with her key ring and unclipped one, handed it to Medeva. The key was small. Thin. Silver like the chains which bound the box (and wrapped around Emilia’s left wrist). “Look inside.”

Medeva stood before the chests. Had to choose between two paths. One seemed simple and safe, the other either a boon or curse, she knew not which was which. She stepped up to the dark oak bound in chains, a large iron lock clasped in the middle of its front side, and slid the key within — felt the teeth crawl through the mechanism before a imperceptible click! released all the pins and the lock opened. The chains fell and Medeva lifted the lid to peer inside this Pandora’s Box. Inside was a dark blue, silken cloth, which Medeva removed to behold row-upon-row of opaque, foggy vials and pouches of dried herbs and powders. Smugglers… Medeva thought and pulled out one of the vials with care. “What is it?” she asked trying to peer inside, swirling the contents by moving the lid in tiny circular motions between her thumb and pointer finger.

“The most powerful drug, produced by the greatest alchemists, of our mysterious homeland. It is said that one drop contains a million, tiny gods and goddesses, and could allow you to hear the music of the spheres. Two drops and you’d know the great mysteries of Aeora. But three drops, they say, and you would learn the secrets of life and death — but stolen soul you’d be, embraced by those miniature deities.” Medeva tried to steal a glance through the tinted glass bottle and Emilia asked, “Do you want one?”

“At what price?” Medeva said, and Emilia shrugged.

“A favor — any favor — I choose to be doled out from now until eternity,” Emilia said. The price was high, Medeva knew that, but remembered deals she’d struck with spirits more nefarious than Emilia the sailor. Medeva considered Phrixus and Helle. Wondered what music they might sing.

“Deal.” The two of them shook hands, Emilia’s grasp more firm than Medeva’s.

When it was done, Medeva and Emilia went to their cabins (the Kraken bobbed on the sea like a paper boat that Medeva saw children let loose in canals of the city fading dimly on the horizon, candles snuffed out by the dark) but not before she stole one last glimpse at the moons. Their trinity of reflected sunlight seemed to grow brighter every night. Medeva hugged herself, though there was no breeze; Phrixus stared with his big, red eye and Luna with her half-closed lid.

Medeva retreated to her room, withdrew her notebook from her pack, and set-up an array of writing instruments, a spyglass, and an astrolabe in a pre-ordained pattern on the bed. She had no desk or table, knelt before the blankets and the porthole to say a short prayer before she swirled the contents of the vial. Medeva peered closely, as if she could distinguish those tiny deities in the suspended minerals that floated like stars behind the glass, raised it and administered a single drop — hands steadier than steel beams — and watched it fall like the rain on to her finger before placing it on her tongue.

There was an indescribable whisper. Her whole world seemed to glow (phosphorescent orange) covering her eyes like lenses, and exuded an aura she could nearly perceive. The room, once drab and sparse, was saturated in color and appeared to grow with each passing second until she was afraid that it would burst through the ship’s hull. When it didn’t, Medeva turned to the tools that littered her bed and let her eyes blink in-and-out. Like going to sleep. Her hands worked their way to the pen like a disembodied spirit and took hold with a loose grip. Medeva watched — an observer of her own body and mind — as the hand traced letters in a notebook, the eyes inspected an astrolabe. The whisper became a whistle. Lips hummed a melody that hands wrote down in verse.

She studied the poem an hour later. The effects of the elixir diminished as she scanned the meter and found a distinct pattern related to the phases of the moon. She referenced her notes and astrolabe, constructed a table of the days of the week and went about filling them in. When she was done she double-checked her work. Triple-checked. Medeva always came to the same conclusion: in two weeks, the orbit of all three moons would meet and they would be forced to share the sky at full, lunar illumination. In the books she read these three days (which happened once every 140 months in Aeora) were known as the Morte Kalendis — but the people called them the Triquetra, named after a forgotten and ancient symbol.

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