Out of Phase

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The songs of the many waters now sung clearly in Aymeri’s mind, each melody a distinct call lighting a separate path to its source. Following the familiar strain of the waterfall, his return was a gentler journey than his entrance to the Undersea, transporting him in an instant from the warm sea of Icovellauna’s shores to the cold mountain tarn where he’d stepped into only a few hours before.

At least, it should have been no more than few hours gone, for Aymeri had kept careful watch on the rising sun and had hastened away from Icovellauna’s side, reluctant to leave with so many questions left unanswered but wanting to be back to his eyrie before a long absence would require a deeper explanation than just a morning flight to stretch his wings. Emerging from the water to the spot he had left from, he finds a dark night sky lit by the moon and stars, and not the dawning sun he expected.

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“Where did you go?”

Startled by the unknown voice, Aymeri turns toward the rising bank of the tarn. “Riannyn?” he mutters, questioning himself rather than the dragon squatting above him, more ready to believe he had met with the fae of the water in an undersea realm than that the reclusive Riannyn, who had not been seen in the many centuries since his exile from the storm eyrie would reveal himself in so casual a manner.

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Riannyn had been exiled before Aymeri was born, and he had only the description of the outcast dragon for comparison. All the tales of the tragedy of Riannyn and Arturis, no matter the differences in the detail or the lesson the teller meant to teach began exactly the same way, with Riannyn’s hair that shone like sunlight even on the darkest moonless nights, the famed beauty that had driven Arturis mad with obsession. And every tale shared the same end, the murder of Arturis and the banishment of Riannyn, his arm scarred in the place where he once bore the mark of the storm eyrie.

“Riannyn?” Aymeri asks, approaching closer while keeping a safe distance from the only dragon to ever kill one of their own kind. “What are you doing here?”

A shadow flickers over Riannyn’s eyes as he nods in affirmation. It had been so long since he’d heard his name spoken aloud, the sound of it pains him. “I’ve been waiting for you, to ask you that very same question.”

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“I’ve seen you hunt alone on many occasions, watched as you skirt close to the fae places, but never crossing their borders, and I always wondered what you sought,” the fair haired dragon continues, “When at last you found the courage to enter this place, I followed, hoping that a dragon brave enough to risk meeting with the fae would be willing to speak with the outcast. I saw the water take you down, and I waited here for your return.”

“I visited the the realm of the spirit of the waters,” Aymeri tells him, the words strange on his tongue, too improbable to be believed, “She taught me her song, and how to travel the streams.”

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Riannyn sucks a hard breath through his teeth. “You met with a fae? An actual fae? I’ve been alone out here for more years than I can count, and I have never caught even a glimpse of their kind, even in places where their magic is strongest.”

“She didn’t like to be called fae,” Aymeri replies, hearing Icovellauna’s whispered protest in the back of his mind. “She said we speak the name with fear. We’ve always feared them, but why, I wonder, when they’ve never done us any harm?”

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Riannyn shakes his head, “Anything that powerful should be feared, I think,” he answers, “I was beginning to fear that you would never return. Your clan has been searching the forests for you every day since you disappeared. I heard Seryn suggest they look for you in the enchanted places, but Anaia would not allow it. After another day, I was going to approach them myself to tell them of your fate, though I don’t know if they would believe the word of an outcast.”

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“Days? But I wasn’t gone for more than…” his words drift away as he looks up at the moon, out of phase from what remembered of the night before. There was no doubting what the sky told him, some three days had come and gone in what felt like only an hour in the Undersea.

 

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Always

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The water will carry you wherever you wish to be…

Aymeri steps into the warm blue sea, the gentle waves lapping against his thighs, caressing him with every step toward the deep. He had thought the song was silenced here, but the current that swirls and pulls around his legs sings to him, and for the first time he understands what it tells him.

This is the place where all waters meet…

The songs multiply, splashing, bubbling, gurgling, merging together and flowing apart, like rain on the ocean, like streams forking from a river. In the roiling cacophony, he picks out a familiar strain, the sussurus of the waterfall where he stood before the water carried him here. He had only to dive in and follow, and he would be home.

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Icovellauna swims past his legs, emerging a few paces ahead on him. “You have found your way home?”

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He nods, hesitates. The sun has risen above the horizon, and he has already tarried too long. But he has questions left yet unanswered, the mystery he chased after still unsolved. “Why did you call to me?” he asks, “All water dragons hear the song, but you’ve shown yourself only to me.”

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“All the dragons of the water hear the song, but they fear to listen and turn away. It was you who made the choice to follow. I could not reveal myself to you until you chose to see me.”

“How could I choose to see someone I did not know existed?” Aymeri wonders, every answer she gives him bringing its own question.

“You have always known me, in your heart,” she says, a small laugh teasing her lips, “You have always yearned, calling to me with your endless longing to understand who you are.”

“I know who I am,” he protests, “I am a dragon.”

“You are a dragon,” she agrees, “You are a son of your eyrie, a brother to your clutch, a friend, a lover, a father, all these roles that shape your thoughts. And you are more, Aymeri. Look into your heart, find yourself the way you found me, with eyes open to see and ears to listen for your own song.”