Sorry for the extended wait. Been busy. Had no inspiration. Will try to update more regularly. At this point, events begin to meld a little with my other story, Actress.
Riven chuckled low to himself as Musa clung to his waist for her very life, her body shaking and her face pressed into his shoulder blade. Her warm breath was steady but shallow against his shirt and he knew without a doubt that her eyes were trying to close more than was possible without sewing them together.
"Calm down, Musa," Riven muttered casually when her arms tightened. "We're not even that far up." She couldn't see it, but a mocking grin painted his face and if he could have, he would have been laughing whole-heartedly at her reaction.
Musa, however, could feel the humor oozing off of him. "Don't make fun of me, you jerk. It's fricken high!"
"You've been higher up. You're a fairy, remember?" Which brought up the rather bizarre question of why she didn't just fly them up—besides the fact that she was completely and utterly terrified to move.
"We're four-thousand freaking miles in the air over a planet made completely of water, Riven! This is way farther up than any fairy's ever flown!"
"Admit it, you're just scared."
"Do you see any ground to land on when you get us thrown off this thing?" She hit her knee bitterly against the leva bike that the pair were sitting on and groaned as the sudden rising and falling feeling hit her in the gut. "Stop it, please."
"If you want to fall for hours, then I'll gladly stop now. Otherwise, we're going to keep going."
Musa made a small squeaking sound in the back of her throat and closed her eyes again, her arms tightening to almost painful proportions (for both of them) around Riven's middle. "Fine," Musa grumbled. "But drive faster."
He rolled his eyes. "First you tell me I'm driving too fast—"
"—and now I'm driving too slow? Make up your mind."
Musa's groan was drawn out and her stomach pressed against his back. "I'm going to be sick. I'm going to die and then I'm going to be sick and then I'm going to drown because you're going to crash us into one of the invisible mountains and I'll fall and then I'll get a concussion."
"I don't think you can get a concussion after you're dead," Riven quipped. Musa huffed. "Hey," he said after her fist lightly clipped his leg, "no hitting the driver. Unless you really do want to crash."
The princess made a high, nervous humming noise and crushed her face into his back, forcing herself to not be able to look at just how high up they were. With a roll of his eyes—he'd figured her out long before and now he was just waiting for her to own up to her ironic fear—he slowed the bike up a bit as they entered into a particularly thick patch of clouds.
"You've got to be kidding me," Musa whined.
The clouds parted in what seemed like no time at all and the coverage that had before concealed the sight was behind them. Now, above them floated the mountains of Tapinak, untouched by what the locals considered to be 'disastrous technologies' of the rest of the realms. Unlike their mother planet, the ability to establish a technological system did exist, but the locals had fought and debated relentlessly for their home to stay the same. So, as it was, the moon was a sanctuary and a nature preserve and the natives were very protective of their home.
Riven slowly lowered the leva bike onto one of the lowest surfaces, a tethered landing with a nearly flat surface, and cut the engine. Musa held fast to his waist, but he felt her jerk when he lowered his arms.
"Why did we stop?" Her question was muffled against his back.
"We have to climb from here." Riven moved to pull her hands from his waist but she had retracted them at the last minute and was off the bike almost as quickly as he could blink. She pulled at her shorts (an action Riven thought was ridiculous because it wasn't like they covered anything anyway) and scuffled her feet, clad in periwinkle high heeled boots. Riven stared at those shoes (the colour, Musa realized, matched his eyes almost to a fault) and he pulled his expression to a frown. "You're wearing heels to climb up the Tapinak Mountains?"
The blue-haired fairy narrowed her eyes at him and bristled. "What's it to you? If I want to wear heels, I can."
"You're going to fall." He forced a hysterical chuckle out as he looked over the rest of her attire—at least, that's what he was going to call it if she called him out on it—and deemed it…acceptable. Distracting was closer to the truth, but he wasn't going to tell her that. "Besides, since when do you wear heels at all?"
"I wear heels." Musa crossed her arms. "Stella didn't tell me we'd be hiking anywhere. She just told me we had to get a special flower from a mountain spring on a 'planet that I can't remember the name of'." Musa's impersonation of Stella's high-pitched comment was flawless, delivered exactly as it had been by Stella herself several hours before.
"Yeah, because if you want valid information you should automatically go to Stella."
She rolled her eyes at him. Musa took two rubber bands from her wrist and pulled her hair back into low pigtails like she had through most of her school years (and when she was working). She pulled off the bright red glove and stuffed it in her back pocket and then walked over to the edge of the floating boulder, staring down with wide eyes.
Musa jumped back and when Riven could see her face, it was slightly green. "I'm going to kill Stella."
"Why don't you sing anymore?"
Musa didn't like this. They were climbing the vertical face of a floating mountain thousands of miles above an aquatic planet without any rope. She was terrified nearly out of her senses and here he was carrying on a conversation with her. He was carrying her shoes, the bag of emergency supplies, and whatever else he'd brought along 'just in case' and he wasn't even breaking a sweat or faltering a little bit. She, on the other hand, was absolutely terrified, dripping with fear, straining to keep herself up, and on the verge of shrieking in panic. She had cuts all up her legs and even a few on her arms. She just wasn't built to scale a flying cliff.
"You had a tour a few years back, after you finished school, right?"
Musa huffed and her hands groped for the next available grip. She was shaking. "Stop talking, please."
"Why? What happened? You have a great voice, Musa, almost as good as mine." He expected a scoff—something—but she didn't even roll her eyes. They remained glued to the rock ahead of her. "You should still be singing." He was just way too good at this climbing thing—it wasn't even fair. He was almost to the next ledge, and she was almost eye-level with his shoe.
"Riven, please stop."
"I'm talking to try to distract you from the height, Musa. So just go with it." He took another step and looked down at her, waiting for her to catch up. And it seemed he'd wait a while. "Just talk to me, honey. Why'd you cancel your tour?"
Musa's hands shook. "Please stop. I can't concentrate when you're talking." She breathed in and out quickly as she worked her way up the rock until her face was even with his. "I can't do this. I'm terrified."
"Hey," Riven reached over and brushed a large hand against her cold cheek. "Just breathe. We're almost there, and I've got you. I think there's some stairs after we pass this next ledge." She nodded softly and her wide, wired eyes glared at the rock directly above her. "Move with me, you can do it."
"Okay." Musa winced as her small foot scraped against a jagged edge. She felt like she was in labour all over again and rushed out her breathing. "How did you find out about the tour anyway? Some chick you were banging? Or was it more than one?"
As true as the statement was, Riven couldn't dig up the guts to tell her that he'd also gone to one of her concerts. And he'd waited backstage for her until the second her bright blue hair had appeared around the corner. He'd fled. He'd run away from the face of the woman engrained in his heart to the newest woman willing to jump into a place in his bed (Nuri's roommate, actually).
"Yeah. She thought your music sucked."
They'd broken up over it. Well and there was the fact that he'd started sleeping with Nuri. Nuri didn't mind occasionally screwing to Musa's music—he suddenly wondered if that had been why they'd lasted so long (often, rather). He wondered if that made him a bad person.
Musa rolled her eyes. "Wonderful. So let me guess: you asked me how it went to hear a first-person testimonial about how much it sucked? You want to hear how horribly I did? How I couldn't handle it? How at my last concert I literally ran off stage and vomited in an alley because I made myself sick?"
"Actually, I asked because you love music. I thought the tour would have made you happy."
"Well it didn't," Musa snapped. "So just drop it."
Riven snorted. "Why is it that you think you're allowed to talk about things that make me mad, but I'm not allowed to ask you a few questions? You can dish it but can't take it?"
"Why can't you just drop it and climb the damn mountain?" Musa growled out. She reached up, grabbing for the rock Riven's hand had just over passed, and less than a second after she gripped it, it crumbled under her hand and several small stones fell and clunked against her face.
Musa shrieked and her other hand slipped from the rock face as well. A flury of noises assaulted the silent air at once—Riven's profane shout, gasping, a sob, another shout, the static of his saber being drawn, slicing through the rock, rocks crumbling and colliding against each other. When her head stopped rushing enough to realize that she wasn't falling, she finally opened her eyes; her dark blue orbs streaming with tears.
Everything was still.
"I'm going to die," Musa sobbed. "I shouldn't have worn stupid heels! I don't want to die by falling to my death in heels."
Of course, she wasn't even wearing them, but Riven didn't think that it was the right time or place to remind her of that.
"I've got you." Riven barely had hold of her. "You're not going to die, honey. God, you're skinny."
"Why are you holding me by my shorts?"
He grunted. "You're not wearing much to grab onto. Wrap your legs around my waist and I'll get us up to the ledge."
"I'm not going to—"
"Just do it, Muse!"
Reluctantly, Musa swung her leg around him, pressing her hips intimately against him. She saw the long drop the two of them had below and the straining violet blade keeping them up and she gasped loudly. Her eyes blurred again with tears and she buried her face into the crook of his neck, her arms pulling herself tighter against his body, so tightly her own muscles ached.
"Please don't fall," she whispered breathlessly into the skin on his neck.
She heard the blade retract and felt his weight shift as his arm moved, then shift the other way until she was sure they were climbing again. She counted in her head and after what felt like a million years—though in reality it was only about thirty seconds—she hit the grassy ledge back first.
Her head hit the ground with a thud—a breathy "ow"—and she moved her hand to soothe it. Riven's body weighed down on her, her legs still tightly wound around his narrow waist, and his elbows propped him up, caging her face in on either side.
"Are you okay?"
Musa nodded gently. "You just caused me some minor brain damage. Nothing big."
Riven's hand gently smoothed her hair down where she'd hit her head. "There's no blood, and no bump. Does it still hurt?" Their noses were nearly touching, and she could feel his hot breath against her lips.
He moved in closer, eyes zeroed in on the lower half of her face.
"Don't kiss me," Musa mumbled softly just as their lips touched. "You can't just kiss me when I'm trying my best to fight with you." Her legs released their hold on him, falling limply to the ground as he still lay on the ground between them. Musa closed her eyes, her eyebrow reproaching.
Riven's violet eyes looked over her face and then he rolled off of her. "You're really terrible at fighting with me, you know? You've lost your touch. You used to be able to deal out much more convincing blows."
"This isn't fighting yet, Riven." And the worst part for her was that the usual spark that she fanned into an uproar wasn't there. She sighed and turned her head towards his. "We need to make a truce."
She felt that if she thought they needed one, she'd be able to fight with him again.
"A truce?" He blew some of his hair from his face and stared at her questioningly.
The fairy nodded. "A truce to not fight until the wedding's over. Flora tried to hide it, but she was crying about it yesterday. We're apparently more terrifying to our friends than to each other." Riven rolled his eyes. "I'm serious. Truce; civil if not friendly terms until the wedding's over. After that we can argue and fight until the walls burn down around us. Deal?"
She held out her dainty hand and Riven grasped it in his. "Deal."
The pair ambled to their feet and brushed the dirt off their clothes. Musa took the bag from him and slung it over her shoulder.
"You said there were stairs, didn't you?" She asked. He pointed towards precarious looking levitating boulders, each ascending to a higher level than the last. "Oh. What the hell Riven? Those are in no way stairs! We'd be better climbing up a rope than risking—"
Riven pressed a warm finger to her lips. "Shut up. You 're the one who wanted a truce; don't go getting double standards on me now." He jumped onto the first rock, turned, and motioned her over, holding a hand out to help her up. "Come on, princess, before your falling earns you an encore."
"One of you has betrayed me." Helux paced up and down the line of his assembled crew, each man's posture erect as they stood in the dimly lit cafeteria. The doctor's hands were folded calmly behind his back and he held himself arrogantly while he walked back and forth, analyzing each of the men's faces. "One of you—a member in my own crew—has tried to kill me."
His shoes tapped against the cold metal floor—tap, tap, tap, tap. Slowly and steadily.
"I do not know which of you it was, but one of you attempted to poison me. If it were not for my immensely in tune senses, I may not have woken up when I did and you would have succeeded."
He stopped in front of a young, blue eyed boy from the Hurvitian galaxy and stared him dead in the eye. The young boy made a great show of not looking as intimidated as he obviously was, even when Helux's hard black eyes narrowed furiously.
"Unfortunately for the one of you who attempted to assassinate me, you did not succeed." He pulled the boy up by his uncustomary rumpled collar—a sure sign that the crew had been awoken urgently during the early hours of their ships' running schedule instead of sleeping—and pulled him close to his face. "When I find out who did this, I assure you all that there will be hell to pay."
He shoved the boy away and went back down the line. The boy fell back into his place, his brow perspiring.
"When I find out who did this, that person will suffer the same fate they wished upon me. However, I will not be so foolish as to let him survive."
Helux opened the heavy, mechanical doors and swept from the room. "You are all dismissed. For now."
The men watched him leave and looked at each other, gauging the expressions of the men on either side of them and the more suspicious ones further down the line. Though they'd been given permission to leave, none could find it in them to be the first.
The last in the room was a tall fellow, gangly and cross-eyed. He watched his fellow crew members go and was shocked that anyone would be able to do such a thing to their lieutenant. Though the man was cruel, he thought that they'd all agreed that his leadership was the one thing they would all respect.
The door compressed closed again and the gangly man stood alone in the darkness.
His eyes began to glow a bright orchid and his mouth fell open, in a trance.
"Poor Daddy didn't like my treat," his distorted voice mumbled slowly as though he was drunk. The man slowly walked to the black window, lit only by the far away stars that glowed so faintly where they were. The man lifted his nimble hand up to his neck, adams apple prominent, and he gripped the skin tightly. "You should have done the job right. Now you're no longer any use to me."
Within moments, the man was slumped against the cold glass, his crossed green eyes empty and glowing with a faint orchid.
On the exact other side of the ship, the dark witch slept in her ice coffin. Her mouth curved and she sighed instinctively in her slumber.
"What a pity, too. Now I have to find a new puppy dog."
"I stopped singing because I was tired of being a disappointment."
Riven stopped just before her. He helped her to the next ledge, his brows furrowed with guilt. "I wasn't serious when I said I was better—you know I'm not. And Vivian was tone deaf, so her hating your music doesn't even count."
"No; not from my audience." Musa sighed and allowed him to help lift her up, their next rock being far above her head. She braced herself and leant over, offering him what little help she could. "From my dad."
"Your dad?" Riven had only met the man twice, and both times—though they began with Musa's being in trouble—by the end of the day, HoBoe was absolutely enthralled by Musa's drive towards music. "I thought your dad loved that you were performing."
"Before he did. But Dad and I had a falling out my senior year. I messed up real bad and he didn't think I should have been allowed to pretend it never happened, like I was—and I'm pretty good at pretending." They both knew firsthand how talented she was at make believe. "He told me just that when I told him I wanted to go on tour. We said a lot of things and neither of us ever looked back from a single one." She sighed. "After I graduated, I wanted to sing; wanted to travel and just have fun. He didn't think I was mature enough or responsible enough to do it without getting into the same kind of trouble and banned me from going. He even went so far as to employ the royal guards to stand post around my room. But I packed my clothes into my guitar case and ran away. Pretty melodramatic on my part, I know.
"While I was gone, I guess I became more reckless than I'd like to admit. A lot of things happened on tour; things changed, Dad told me what he thought, and I came to terms with reality. And after that, I just couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't keep going up on stage with all those unforgiving lights on me when I knew that he was down there, watching, thinking what he did of me. So I decided to go off on my own and prove to him that I wasn't as immature or stupid as he played me off to be."
She'd gone to Sperare. It promised so much, yet came through on so little. And Musa knew that it was partially her fault for not trying harder or reaching out, but there was also the fact that the planet was in a realm that had been cursed since nearly the time it had been inhabited. Musa laughed bitterly. "That apparently didn't work out so well, because here I am. And I just don't have it in me to sing."
They were on the highest mountain above Tapinak. Even the clouds were below them. Riven put a hand on her shoulder and looked into her eyes. "Everyone makes mistakes, Muse. It doesn't make you stupid or—"
Musa's eyes balked and she pushed his hand off her shoulder. "Riven, look." She stepped around him, headed towards something behind him.
Riven's hand fell to his side and he turned in disbelief. "I was trying to be supportive."
"I don't care," she quipped. "I don't need your reassurance to make me feel good about myself. I got over my codependency." He caught up to her and she pointed to an area right in the middle of the platform. "What the hell is that?"
He looked to where she pointed. Riven rolled his eyes. "I retract my statement about you not being stupid. That's a flower, Princess. And I'm going to guess it's the reason we're up here."
Musa punched his arm. "Jerk. I know it's a freaking flower, Riven. I meant the thing on the stem." She gently picked up the glassy rose and held it out for his view.
Riven shrugged. "It's a price tag."
The musical fairy looked at him pointedly. "Yes." She turned it over in her hand, reading the delicate writing. "It's a price tag. Don't insult my intelligence by saying that there's a gift shop at the bottom of these flying rocks." She handed the tag to him and urged him to read it. "Especially not one whose tags specifically say 'native to Marigold.'"
Riven was silent for a moment, staring at the flower just as Musa was.
Then, very calmly, he hissed, "I'm going to kill Stella." Musa laughed.
Riven's hand came down loudly on the table in front of Stella. The sun fairy jumped, her golden hair flailing around her and Flora backed her chair away from the table, eyes wide.
Riven's eyes were hard. "You're a cad, princess sun breath."
Stella's mouth fell open in disbelief. She leant back in her chair and crossed her arms. "A cad? Riven, do you even realize how many times you're wrong in that small accusation? I don't even have the right body parts to be a cad."
Musa came in the room, closing the door quietly behind her and she walked up behind Riven, staying out of Stella's line of sight.
Riven shrugged. "I know there are gaps in the logic, but I've been thinking about this the entire way back from the top of that damn gravel field. You're a cad. There's no other word that can even fit you."
Stella blinked far too innocently. "I don't know what you mean, Riven."
The red-haired hero lifted his palm from the table and the small white tag remained. "That," he said lethally. "You left the price tag on the flower."
Musa came forward and handed the delicate, iridescent full rose to Flora silently. Flora looked at the rose, at the tag, at Stella, and at the two who had just walked in. There was no way they could look that worn and beat up from just a trip to the royal nursery on Marigold. The Marigoldi were far too peaceful to ever risk harming their national flower.
Stella looked at the glassy flower indigently and shrugged. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Musa snapped. "Next time you need a special flower from half way across the realms, don't send us to one that you put there. I won't forgive you next time, Stell." Musa stormed out of the room, Riven close behind her.
When Stella was sure the two were far away, she grinned. "I think that went fairly well. Next time I guess I'll just have to come up with something to keep them together longer." Flora set the flower down gingerly and frowned outright at the blonde. Stella looked at her as if she were insane. "What?"
"You can't keep doing this, Stella. Stay out of their business."
"I refuse to," Stella insisted. She tidied up the papers they'd been working on that Riven had disrupted when he slammed the tag down and she put the tag into her shoe. "They need me to do this, Flora. They still love each other; they just don't realize it because they're too stubborn. And they're wasting their lives trying to hold back."
Flora shook her head. "It's their life. If they want to get back together, they will."
"They won't. They need me to push them." Stella thought back to their breakup those four years before and her eyes grew hard. She couldn't let them keep going on like this. "Besides," Stella muttered as she began to scrawl across the paper in front of her, "I need someone to impose my talents on when your wedding's over." She pouted down at her paper. "Damn I need a hobby."
Crafty Stella. I'm sick, some of this doesn't make any sense to me. Sorry.
Hope you enjoyed. There's going to be a wedding soon!
Please leave comments, questions, opinions...etc.