A/N: Hello! I wrote this fic on kind of a whim, inspired by some ideas I saw being tossed around on Tumblr awhile back. I hope you enjoy it.
She arrived, newly-made, back into the world just as suddenly and completely as she had left it.
Her wings buzzed, first, humming against her back and catching on the floor beneath her. They were alive; fully, wholly alive, a reminder that she was real, and here, that she was… she. She felt them buzz again as though they were living things themselves, desperate to heave her off the ground and into the safety of the air, because there was danger down here, terrible danger, she was in pain, she was… she was…
Where was she?
She sat up slowly, blinking at her surroundings, and realized with a startled little flutter in her chest that she had eyes. Her fingers, which were real, curled against the rough stone floor—and she could feel it. She picked up her hands and stared at them, turning them front and back. They were pale, and thin, thinner than she remembered. Her nails were much longer than she tended to keep them. Her eyes stared at them intensely, taking in every little detail—every pore, every crease, every vein, her gaze unwavering as though unable to get enough of it, as though she had never seen her own skin before.
Her unbraided hair tickled her shoulders in long, white-blond sheets. She hadn't worn it loose since she was very young. Reaching her arms up to brush it from her shoulders, she realized with a start that she wasn't wearing anything.
But at least there seemed to be no one around.
Where had she been?
She still wasn't even sure where she was. She was sitting, legs curled beneath her and wings folded tightly to her back, in a large stone chamber, surrounded by rubble and discarded objects, and hay strewn across the floor. A hard knot of dread tightened in her chest, causing her breath to hitch. Though she did not remember this place, something terrible had happened here. The room was drenched in nightmares, seeped in darkness. On the very edge of her hearing she thought she could hear screaming—screams of Gelfling—and though she flattened her palms against her ears, she couldn't block it out.
The sounds eased off after a moment, leaving her panting and shivering on the cold stone floor.
She had to get out of here. Being in this room frayed her every nerve, and she knew she wouldn't be able to take it much longer. Besides, she needed answers, and nothing would come of sitting on the floor forever.
Casting her gaze about the room, she spotted a ragged, dust-covered curtain that had torn from its hangings and now lay in a heap by the wall. She pulled herself over to it—her legs felt weak and shaky and she didn't trust them with her weight just yet—and grasped a sharp, broken piece of metal in one hand, hacking at the curtain until she was able to tear off a piece that would cover her comfortably. With a bit of effort she cut a jagged slot in one edge of the cloth that would allow her wings to remain unrestrained. With creeping sense of horror this place had cast over her heart, she did not want her best chance of escape encumbered.
Satisfied enough with her handiwork, she wound the makeshift slip around herself and gave her wings another experimental flutter to be sure they could move. The cloth was scratchy and uncomfortable but it would do.
And now came the hard part.
She braced one hand against the wall and gathered her bare feet under her; she pushed herself upward, clawing her way up the wall with her teeth gritted, fighting inch by inch against the sharp pain and electrifying needles tearing their way up and down both legs. When she had reached her full height she collapsed against the wall and scraped her toes along the rough ground.
She was here. She was alive. And she didn't know how, or why. She couldn't even precisely recall what had happened. There were fleeting glimpses, visions that her mind shied away from like a Grottan from the sunlight—a flash of bright purple, a force that had latched onto her very soul and would not let go, and the Skeksis lords surrounding her, laughing, laughing while she suffered an agony like she could never imagine—
Her legs buckled slightly, her strength faltering, and she almost fell back to the ground.
But there was something else in that memory. There were a pair of eyes locked onto hers, shining with tears, the observer half-hidden in the dark, unnoticed by the lords. The sight of those eyes flooded her body with warmth, a brief respite from the burning cold that had spread through her veins. She remembered nothing after that, nothing but the seething chill finally extinguishing that warmth like a candle flame by an open window, but those eyes… they had held everything she needed in that moment, and everything she needed now, enabling her to slowly pull her hand away from the wall.
She took a step. And another.
With every step her balance became stronger, her posture more confident. She kept one hand clasped at her chest, grasping the hem of her covering, more out of uneasiness than anything else. In her other hand she grasped the bit of sharp metal tightly.
It wasn't until she had set foot across the threshold of the room and into the stone hallway outside that she remembered the room's name: The Chamber of Life, the forbidden sanctuary of the Skeksis Scientist. He had a proper name, she remembered, but it slipped from her mind like one of the eels from the bog far to the south.
The Scientist's raspy cackle sounded suddenly in her ear. "Don't fight."
He was right behind her.
She whirled around, heart hammering, eyes scouring the dark chamber she had just left behind for any hint of movement, strange shapes, flickering shadows, anything. But there was no one there. She was alone.
Shivering, she slowly turned back around, pressing her fingers to her forehead.
But I didn't fight, she thought, and a sob caught in her throat. I never fought, my lords. I did everything you asked.
Why, why had they done this to her?
What had she done wrong?
Her heart ached, heavy with a sorrow that was more than just her own. Her hand slipped down to cover her mouth and she leaned against the wall, shaking with unshed tears.
She had given her life for the Castle of the Crystal. She had vowed to protect the lords with everything she had. And they, without a thought, had taken it from her.
Had there been others?
Forcibly, she closed her mind to the thought. No sense dwelling on that when she didn't even understand what her own fate had been. It was something she would need to figure out—but in the meantime, she couldn't just stand here, here, in the middle of the Castle of the Crystal, home to the very beings who had claimed to be benevolent lords and then snatched her up, and bade her to look upon the poisoned, tortured Crystal until her life was ripped away—
How am I still alive?
Another sob wracked her chest. Suddenly, acutely, she yearned for those eyes that had been the last thing she saw, could remember seeing, besides the brilliant, terrible, wonderful, blinding purple light…
His face swam in her mind, the memory indistinct and almost featureless. His name hovered just out of reach on her tongue, tantalizingly close but too slippery to grab, much like the Skeksis lord's. But she knew him, and she knew above all that she must find him, make sure he was all right, because he had seen what the Skeksis had done to her…
Something tugged softly at her heart and she looked up, eyes burning; there was a strange call, almost like a song, that calmed her mind and urged her to continue forward.
Hush now, child. You are safe. The meaning was clear, though it came more in a gentle feeling than in words. Come, come see what has happened.
A small part of her recoiled. She vividly recalled the Skeksis Scientist calling to her from inside the chamber she had just escaped, beckoning her forward, until she looked upon the Crystal and could not look away.
But this was not like that. She knew instinctively that this call, this beautiful song, held no danger for her. So she pushed away from the wall and followed the summons, up and up through the castle.
The others will be along soon.
The feeling embraced her like a lifelong friend and she mentally leaned into it, more grateful than she could say for the reassurance of its company. Yet she frowned slightly.
As she walked she noticed that the corridors were brighter than she could remember them ever being. With a slight gasp she realized that they were glowing white—huge patches of stone had crumbled away to reveal that the walls were made of gleaming, pure white crystal, so bright that she nearly had to shade her eyes.
If she didn't know where she was, she would have said it was beautiful.
The feeling that still held her close seemed to give her a slight squeeze at that, as though amused. She shook her head at the absurdity of that thought.
She didn't recognize the path she was taking—these corridors had always been forbidden to the Gelfling guards, and she had never quite gotten the nerve to try exploring them alone. It seemed that hours passed while she climbed through the halls and up stairs, the sweet song that called to her heart growing stronger all the while and pulling her along, until she felt that even if she held still she would continue to drift toward it.
At last, she came to a wide doorway far above the Chamber of Life, and here the light was greatest of all.
She saw the Crystal.
But it wasn't the Crystal as she had last seen it, bleeding purple and harshly cracked. This was the Crystal of Truth as it should be, pure white and shining as brightly as one of the three suns. She stood frozen in the doorway, huddled against the wall, her gaze held on its wonder. Tears at last traced their way down her cheeks—tears of joy.
This was the reason she was alive. The Crystal was whole again, and it had brought her back.
Her eyes traveled downward and she gave a start. Standing at the base of the Crystal were, not Skeksis, but two small figures—Gelfling, standing with their arms wrapped around each other's shoulders, staring up at the Crystal with the same intensity as she had not a moment ago.
They were a boy and a girl, probably around the same age she was, and the boy… the boy…
"Rian?" she said, stepping forward, the name springing to the forefront of her mind as though it had always been there. Her voice was wispy, a mere breath in the enormous Crystal Chamber.
But the two Gelfling heard it regardless, their ears twitching backward, and their heads turning to look at her in utter shock.
She studied the boy—it was not Rian, though he held a very similar stature. He was not a castle guard and she was sure she'd never seen him before, though he looked like he might be Stonewood.
Both Gelfling gaped at her as though they were witnessing a ghost. She was not altogether sure that wasn't the case.
"My name is Mira," she said, her own name falling from her tongue easily, though before this moment she hadn't even realized that she'd forgotten it. "Vapran, and guard to the Castle of the Crystal."
She took a deep breath. "Please… can you tell me what has happened?"