An edited version of a one-shot I wrote eons ago for some original characters back when my friend and I were grinding our way through Aion.
Disclaimer: Aion concepts belong to NCsoft.
This is a world where the sun shines. The grass grows green. Water bubbles from the pearl fountains of Sanctum. The never-ending sky is forever blue. This is a world of beauty, governed by light. It is hard to remember that somewhere, beyond the sun, there is a war.
A war. A never ending war waged in the depths of the abyss, just beyond this beautiful world.
"Are you ready?"
"I'm always ready." He touches the clasps of his armor, adjusts his gauntlets.
"We're counting on you."
The human bows his head low, never meeting his eyes. Humans all seem to do that; look at him with something akin to fear and hate and admiration. That is, probably, the effect of being helpless he supposes. Humans are so- delicate. Sometimes he wonders what would have happened if he was still human. Would he be that timid too?
"Gate opening in three."
One of the newer Daveas fidgets.
He grips his shield tight.
A deep breath.
The scream tears from their lips and the Davea rush forward into the deep maw of darkness. The singe of burned aether, and the crossing between worlds.
They say that when you walk through an Abyss Gate, there is one moment. One moment, a single moment, where the world disappears, when everything turns white and everything you know is replaced by nothingness. It is here, in this vacuum of existence, in this single moment that he always sees her.
"Hello again." He thinks.
She smiles, purses her lips together as if to say something. In this moment, this single moment, she is ephemeral. Her hair floats out behind her unhindered by gravity. But it is just a moment. A single moment and she hasn't even opened her mouth before he is thrust into the Abyss.
Beyond the calm skies of Elysea, through the ominous gates floating above the earth-bound cities, there is a war. A never ending war. But between that, between the war, the world, the land, in that tiny space between, in that tiny moment, some say there is a glimpse of the truth.
He remembers fire. Fire and wood and the acrid burn of smoke, of burnt flesh, and iron that scorches his throat. There are tears in his eyes, he remembers this, and above all, he remembers the wretched creak of wood.
Cinders. Ash. Fire.
Somewhere in the smoke, someone calls out to him. And he can see her lips moving but he can't remember what she is saying. He strains forward, but nothing meets his ears except for the sound of fire, all consuming and unforgiving. Then there is darkness. Nothing else.
It is normal. The others tell him. It's just a side-effect of becoming a Davea. And then, they say: eventually everything about your human life will fade away.
It is normal. When you are a Davea who lives for eons unending, of course the little things, the smallest details, will fade away. After all, what is the short span of ten, twenty, thirty years to a being that lives for all eternity? It is inconsequential, and thus, forgettable.
But he knows better. Because he will never forget her; this spectre and the unforgiving fire, the cursed creak of wood that follows her. She will haunt him, forever, until eternity, unending.
There is a lake in the mountains of Potea; a beautiful pure thing with clear waters and reeds that sway in the wind. This is the last remnant of his childhood he remembers.
Fish swim around his ankles. A crane flies away in a fluttering of blue-gray wings. Blue. He thinks. Blue like a lake in Potea. This makes him think of eyes, and he is unsure why. There is a splash, and if he turns his head quick enough in this memory, he can catch a glimpse of white. No more than that. He cannot ever turn his head fast enough to see more.
It is been hundreds (thousands?) of years since his ascension. He still remembers where his childhood ends.
There is a lake in the mountains of Potea. A beautiful pure thing with clear waters and reeds and —-
And this is where a war starts.
He cannot walk through Sanctum without someone calling his name. Look, it's Rhaelos! Someone will shout and then the children and the crowd will grow and grow and –
And he hates it. He has never been a people-person, never loved the crowds like some of the others. Some like it that way. They like to embrace the smallfolk and bask in the admiration they have, so untainted and unaware. Some like to bury themselves in that illusion of heroism and glory. Rhaelos buries himself in the library, but there are only so many books, and so more often than not he finds himself whittling.
Arrows. It's always arrows. Small arrows of ash or birch or even oak, but always with blue-gray crane feathers for fletching.
Orielle watches with her trained scout eyes. She is good at finding him in the half-forgotten depths of the library, but then, Orielle is a scout. It is her job to find people with those sharp eyes. Mirth bubbles there, as if she finds it funny her commander hides in the depths of a library, away from the adoring masses.
She's mooning over you. Someone had told him once. And he had given a half-nod of acknowledgement because there had been a part of him that knew how the golden girl felt. It was hard to mistake her affections for anything else. If the ranger was expecting anything from him then she wouldn't find it. Because he is in love with a phantom. Always. Forever. Since the beginning.
Once, in the lamplight she had leaned over and touched one of the arrows, traced the line of the shaft with her forefinger.
They won't fly. She says.
I know, he replies.
If Ariel was half as beautiful as her statues, still, she could not outshine her. This girl. This memory.
It has been eons. He can't recall her face, just the shadow of her eyes, and the curve of her lips. The whisper of features long since faded with time. A foreign silhouette in a familiar dream.
He sees her often enough in those dreams. She is always there, flirting on the edge, hanging on the precipice. Just always a little out of reach.
Sometimes he wonders, if he steps over, will he know, will he see, will he remember? But always, always, he steps forward and then backwards into the safety of the familiar. The girl stands there, waiting, just beyond the grasp of his reality.
The first time he goes there, to the place he sheepishly deems heaven, it is because a dragon took out half of his side. Damn. The commander had said be careful, be careful because the Temple is full of monsters and he is still a greenhorn. And he'd taken a blow that took out half of his ribs and -
There is white. White nothingness engulfs him. And, ah, so this is heaven? Except it is not because he sits up and realizes this is a meadow. A feather falls on his nose, slides down and drifts into his lap. It's a crane feather. A hand follows. She picks up the feather. Ties it to the crooked arrow in her hand. A crane arrow for fletching.
The first thing he says is: That won't fly.
And she turns to face him, a beautiful smile and blue blue eyes, and replies. I know. He's squinting his eyes, trying to make out who it is but the sun is so glaringly bright he can't tell.
Then he wakes. The people at his bedside berate him. Be more careful. Careful, they say. You're so lucky you survived. Think of what could have happened. You could be dead.
Except he is not. He is Rhaelos of the Halcyos Brigade and. And he is a Davea. Davea do not die. They get injured, maybe, but they won't die. Not of old age anyways.
If this is any truth in the world it is this: Rhaelos is living. But he isn't here. He's in a dream with a white haired girl with blue eyes and crane feathers in her fingers.
In this moment that stretches to eternity, in this moment where everything is revealed and he has attained both the past, the future, the present, he finds the truth.
She raises her arms out. The destruction continues. Everything falls, chunks of tower, land, weapons, blood, torn wings and armor. People. Asmodians. Balurs. Elysians. War. Fire. Smoke.
The world is crumbling around them.
"You never told me your name."
He shouts with a little hint of desperation. The world is ending and he needs to know, needs to remember before the end.
She smiles, the light blond of her hair looks white against the backdrop of the world and, and she purses her lips as if about to speak but then closes them and smiles instead.
Against the fires, he sees now, she has beautiful eyes. The colors of a lake he once played in eons ago, in the mountains of Potea.
Blue. A flash of white. Crane feathers.
The world is crumbling around them but he smiles back. She can't hear him, but he shouts out anyways and hopes that she can read his lips.
"Rhaelos," she says hands reaching out.
"Aeriael!" He screams, scrambling over fallen beams and burning bodies, reaching out with his hand to grab her's.
Closer. Closer, almost there.
"Rhaelos," his hand is there, close enough for her to reach out and grasp except. Except she thrusts a sword into his hand. A sword. His sword. He doesn't want his god-damned sword. He wants her hand, wants the assurance or faint hope that they can make it out of here together. He wants to pull her from this battle and run from the fire and the dark-skinned Asmodeans and wants to protect her from all that might threaten them. He wants to hold her again, as he had done so in the past, wants to know that he could still do so in the future. "I —"
But she's cut off by a beam crashing to the ground. Fire. Smoke.
All of a sudden he's tumbling backwards. His head spins and the blood runs down his face, over his eye and lips. He can't reach her but still, still he shouts. Hopes that through the fire she can hear him.
Wait for me, I'll find you.