Rigel and Sedna entered the High Court of Sheliak. It was a grave day for the Nation. The Child of the Fountain had betrayed and killed. He who was formerly known for his benevolence turned out to be a menace, and so did his lover. Seven days after the massacre, Governor Lesath summoned the Brethren to judge the legitimacy of Rigel as the exclusive Bearer of Aura. The time had come for the Nation to ponder about the life of a man who could bring life and death to all things with less effort than he required to breath. A simple man with so much power, in a world endangered by an unbalanced Magnus harmony, was a serious threat.
The Brethren welcomed the defendants. The valet closed the door. The audience stood still. Rigel, Sedna, a representative named Palolo, the Brethren, judges of the Nation, the Governor and the Chancellor Cephei, former Princess of Nunki, current headmaster of the Academic City of Cebalrai, were the only ones expected to speak. Once everyone was quiet and ready, the Brethren encouraged the Governor to start.
- Brethren, Chancellor Cephei, representative Palolo, defendants. This is a day of sorrow, as we are now to judge the acts of the man who murdered our former and beloved Governor. Acubens was my superior and yet also my friend. As regular human beings, we used to disagree and discuss on many subjects for hours, if not days, but we shared the same views about law and justice. We both had the conviction that, with the adequate tools in the right hand, people can live in peace and harmony. This is a new, perpetually changing world, and I believe that avoiding elementary shared rules would be a serious wrongdoing. Today, though I mourn Governor Acubens, I want to honour his struggle to make the Nation a better place. Today, I want the Nashira's Massacre to be written down in History forever, so that our heirs remember how hard it is to be human and how easily one can be corrupted by power and personal anger. Today, I want Rigel and Sedna to be the last milestone of a now finished era. Today, I want this world to start anew. For the future times to come, I want the Gods to be part of the Nation. I want them to serve the will of the people. I don't want to serve them, I don't want to enslave them, I want them to work with us for the greater good and the sake of the Nation.
The audience was thrilled, but wasn't allowed to cheer. The Brethren required Rigel to appear before them and answer the questions of Governor Lesath.
- You have several names, defendant Rigel. Some call you the Child of the Fountain. Others name you the Bearer of Aura. In the future, many will know you as the Slaughterer of Diadem. Seven days ago, Governor Acubens lead an assault against the rioters of Nashira. He arrived on the morning with less than two hundred soldiers. So did you. Knowing the city better than anyone – but then again, who would have doubted that? – you took advantage of this opportunity to climb on top of the Temple and blow the army up. All alone, you mercilessly killed hundreds of people, showing the world you had rejoined the outlaws, and therefore betrayed the very government you helped building. It is known that defendant Sedna stood by your sides and did nothing to stop you, which makes her as guilty as you are. Do you confirm the here described facts?
Rigel stood quiet for a moment which seemed to last quite longer than it actually did. He slowly raised his head up, and only stopped when his sad, deep purple eyes glazed into the Governor's.
- I am not a slaughterer.
His voice wasn't depressed, shivered or irascible. He was calm and serene, as dispassionate as one could be. The world he built was falling apart. The people he allowed to live were incriminating him, and yet, he managed to keep the anger in the expression of his eyes.
- I am not a slaughterer, he repeated, and the inhabitants of Nashira were not rioters. They didn't ask for the fall of the Nation. They didn't want to threaten the government; they were trying to live. When Governor Acubens denied them the right to exist as human beings, they fought back. Governor Lesath, what would you do if you were ordered to go back to the Magnus and suddenly leave everything you built and love behind you?
- Defendant Rigel, you do know the Fountain is dying.
- The Fountain is not dying. You are killing her.
The Brethren reminded Rigel not to interrupt the Governor. However, Lesath was less offended than properly amused, as the defendant started to show a glimpse of passion.
- Defendant Rigel, as I mentioned earlier, many people know you as the Child of the Fountain. There are stories about you; there are legends which will be told and heard for centuries. I think the time has come for the world to know the truth.
Rigel sighed. When he built the Nation, he never boasted about his short past, his first encounters, his first joys and his prime ordeals.
- I remember my awakening in the desert on a starless night. I did not know anything about the place we now call the Holoholo Desert but, for some reason, it didn't feel wrong. I remember the first time I saw the light, bursting from the ground, raging in the skies. I walked to it. There wasn't much more to do, was there? I walked through the desert, crossed a forest and arrived in front of the pillar of light. It was mesmerizing. I didn't even notice I had been walking on a floating continent. Then, abruptly, I fainted. I only woke up because a girl, who I thought was passing by, slapped me in the face.
- Who was she?
- Who do you think?
The Brethren ordered Rigel to cease the sarcasm and to keep holding a proper statement.
- She was, of course, Sedna. As I regained my strength, we started to talk about this world, about the starless night and the blinding effusion, about the emptiness of all. We decided to walk and roam the continent. As we started to go away, we noticed five glowing fragments in the ground. Maybe they fell from my pocket, maybe they appeared as I fainted, maybe they were here before I even woke up in the desert, it doesn't really matter. We took them. They were the first five Magnus we found. There would have been many more. We left for the second time, and as we walked away from the Fountain, we noticed that the glowing was weakening. Then, curious, we walked towards the Fountain again, and the Magnus glowed anew. We came really close to the Fountain and, there, it happened for the first time. The Magnus I was holding escaped my hands and plunged into the light. Suddenly, the world was born again. This was the first step of a voyage to find as many Magnus as we could, bring them to the Fountain and bring their essence into life.
- Could you tell us more about the first Magnus you had? What happened when they touched the Fountain?
- When the first Magnus melted in the light, stars appeared in the sky. Every single one of them. When it came to the second one, the sun was born, and so did the day. The third one brought the birds and promised a river for every desert. The first village appeared when the fourth Magnus melted. This hamlet is nowadays known as the ghost town of Komo Mai. It was meant to be a regular town, until we witnessed what the last Magnus had brought. It genuinely took us some time before we realized what the fifth one had released. Then, we met the monsters.
- Defendant Rigel, are you confessing it was you who brought the monsters in the Nation?
- I am not, Governor Lesath, for we found out much later that the fifth Magnus didn't create anything. It released an ancient path, a hidden way to another world. This Magnus, Governor, opened the Trail of Souls, and only with the Trail of Souls came the monsters.
- What is the Trail of Souls?
- The Trail of Souls is a blessing and a curse. You have probably heard tales, Governor, about a faraway region, a forgotten land in ruins. This place is called Mira. The lost continent, the Island of Decay, drifting loosely on an impossible sea between two worlds. And one of those two worlds is dead.
The Governor had temporarily stopped thinking about how to make Rigel guiltier than he already was. He had heard tales about a phantom earth in the sky, where ghost met and time died. The place was real, and the government didn't know. That was a shocker.
- Defendant Rigel, why weren't we aware about Mira?
- Because you would have wanted to explore the island, which would have been the worst failure and most horrible death you would have encountered.
- It is up to the government and only to the government to decide what has to be done in any place and any time.
- There is nothing in Mira.
The Brethren required the silence, for Palolo had asked to speak. Governor Lesath and Rigel stared at him. No one was expecting a representative to intervene as the debate started to appear critical.
- Brethren, Governor, if I may. Defendant Rigel, as you may know, I am here as a representative of two persons, two missing individuals whom with you travelled across the islands and built the Nation. I am not your opponent, nor your lawyer, but I have to state the truth. This may be a day of mourning for the Nation, but let's not forget that someone else died these past few days.
One could have seen a sudden glimpse of sadness on Rigel's face. Palolo sat down. The main defendant almost shivered when he started to explain.
- Mira showed us the truth. About the islands. About the Fountain. About us. We found somebody. When we came to Mira, we were a team of four. An adventurer from the meadows of Nihal had joined us. We had also made another friend, literally.
- A weapon.
- A friend. With all due respect, Governor, this remark is not relevant at the moment of the story. The four of us had arrived on Mira because of what we thought was a dead Magnus. One day, we fell through the Trail of Souls, and ran aground the Island of Decay. Ruins were everywhere, like I had never seen before. Death had won but didn't want to release the corpses. That day, Mira was the very definition of despair. By that time, I had mastered the Aura, which allowed me to inspire any Magnus with the power of the Fountain whenever I needed to, wherever I was. And thus, the sleeping Magnus came to life. Once again, everything on Mira was ghastly and rotting. Except one lady who was only half-dead.
Rigel held a quick pause. The Brethren kept being silent. So did the Governor.
- Her name was Lunette. She was crossing the Trail of Souls when her boat got sunk after much turbulence. She crashed on Mira and her life got shattered. Her body was dead, but her soul turned into a Magnus. Somehow, the body sensed her soul was still alive and, then, refused to decay. The dead Magnus was just a Magnus is stasis. As soon as we got close to the body, it woke up and revived her. Then, Lunette joined us. We don't know how or why, but she died three days ago. We never saw her face.
- How is it possible?
- She wore a mask. She was a lady from the Children of the Earth tribe.
He stopped again. The audience didn't seem to understand. The Governor was skeptical.
- The Children of the Earth are a tribe who live under the clouds, down on the ground. Of course, the Nation doesn't know anything about such a land because it doesn't exist here. However, on the other side of the Trail, it does. There is another world. The World of the Whale, as Lunette used to call it, and as opposed of ours, which one could name the World of the Fountain. There used to be floating islands too, in this world, almost the same than the ones we tread upon every day. These islands are now no more. They died many years ago, but they were so important, so big, so full of life and History, they left a gigantic footprint in this world, the perfect outline for a new start with the help of the Magnus.
- Defendant Rigel, this court is not a place for bedtime stories.
- Lunette came with the truth, Governor, for this is the origins of the monsters. The World of the Whale and the World of the Fountain are linked by the Trail, but they exist separately. Our time is not their time; our regions are not their regions. We only share the names and the essences. The Fountain in our world is a Celestial Tree in theirs. They are nothing alike, except they share a common capacity to bring life and endure death. In a similar way, Cebalrai is not the powerful academic city we do know, but a little hamlet. They have in common a dedication to peace.
- How is it relevant to your pleading? How are the monsters related to that?
- You asked me about Mira. We found the truth about our world and the key to our salvation. Life is all about equilibrium and harmony, but how can one define what does these two strong words actually mean? How can one state what is equilibrium when everything in life is all about change? As I told you, the two worlds are connected. They also have one thing in common: the Magnus Entity. Here, it's the Fountain, on the other side of the Trail, the Whale is. They are the arbiters. Magna essence can freely come from one world to another and it doesn't affect anything. However, when the Magna essence is brought to life through the Aura of the Fountain or the Wishes of the Whale, it sort of increases the Magna value of the world. A positive life form arrives, unbalancing the harmony and…
The Brethren required him to stop and stand a more intelligible statement.
- For every Magnus released, a monster comes from the void of the Trail. This is how it works. This is the reason why as long as there is life, there will be monsters attacking, or waiting in the dark. Many citizens have already proven that the darkness could be fought, and no one should ever forget this. Life is worth it.
- And still, the Fountain is dying...
The audience could feel the rising anger of Rigel.
- As you know, and as the Chancellor Cephei will confirm you, the Fountain feeds on Magna essence. Releasing a Magnus has a cost, which is usually another equivalent Magnus. For the first five ones, the Fountain offered a bit of her flow to make the world rise again. It was magic! Then, it became a burden. Every choice mattered. Of course, some were easier than others. When it came to choose which one to pick and which one to sacrifice between a book and a song, a sword and a tree or a coat and a shovel, I was mostly required to be pragmatic. One day, though, deep in the caves of Mintaka, I found two Magnus. The first one was the essence of a perky little girl, full of joy and passion. She had all her existence and lots of stories ahead of her. The second one was her mother, a respectable lady who had a great life and loved her daughter. They were so close, so attached one to another that it turned out I couldn't sacrifice any other Magnus than the mother or the daughter to revive the other one. I still have dreams about it, how it happened, how it could have ended. This dilemma involved two ordinary people. I built an entire world. My nights are a succession of nightmares and "What if?"
Rigel stopped for a moment, giving the tear which was running on his left cheek the time to disappear. He resumed.
- I decided to build this world because I know our origins and I know what human beings can do when they bond with their wings. I was forced to make many choices I wish no one will ever have to make, but I kept going forward because I saw wonders I couldn't even suspect. And I have always known this world was going in the right direction, because men and wings united have the power to maintain the equilibrium and feed the Fountain forever. You know why. You all know why, especially you, Chancellor Cephei. The truth is, humans generate Magna essences. They always do. When they love, when they hate, when they learn and sing and dance and shout and enjoy the sight, they generate pure Magna essences which return straight back to the Fountain, feeding her so much! Why do you think the Academic City of Cebalrai was built? Science is bliss when people are clever. Governor Lesath, I probably knew Governor Acubens better than you ever did. He was eager and wanted more. I didn't build the Government; nor did I set the Nation up. All this was the work of Sedna, an original masterpiece we didn't expect to be corrupted so fast. I assume you do know why is the Fountain dwindling, don't you?
- Obviously. There are too many people relying of Magnus and not enough Magna essence for everyone.
- This is wrong!
Rigel laughed nervously. The outcome of the trial had never been more uncertain.
- I am not a God, I just came first. Everyone can collect Magnus, go to the Fountain and throw them to the light. Which they actually do when they can afford a trip to Anuenue. Governor Acubens knew it more than anyone else. He also discovered two important things I was absolutely not aware of. First, it is possible to use the very energy of the Fountain to release a Magnus, which weakens the Fountain, but ensures a quick delivery of everything one might want. Then, it is possible to turn anything back into Magna essence. This is actually very simple, and I am sure, Governor Lesath, that your predecessor entrusted you with his little trick. Has he told you how he enjoyed throwing prisoners into the Fountain? Because this is how you do.
He turned to the Brethren, desperately trying to convince them.
- Have you noticed how wealthy Sheliak has become while the other islands are enduring such a low living? Acubens kept telling the world there were not enough Magna essence for everyone and yet he managed to grant himself, his close friends and relatives with the immoderate wealthiest life he could get, regardless of the Fountain's rules. He then blamed the people for that excess. This goes against everything I ever did and everything Sedna ever asked the Government to do. When Acubens, two weeks ago, planned to send the thousands of people from his own suburb, Nashira, back to the Fountain for the sake of the Nation, I couldn't take it anymore, and I… I…
The words wouldn't come. Rigel had killed. He could remember every second of this day, a week ago. They were all here, on what would appear to be their final day together. Rigel, the Bearer of Aura, Sedna, the protector, Oasis, the adventurer, Lunette, the lady trapped in a faraway sky, and Dalli, the raggedy doll made of patchwork Magnus. All five had suffered together. They had known many moments of joy, bliss and happiness. They had endured sorrows and sadness, but they never, ever, gave up. They kept having faith in the world. Somehow, on the top of the Celestial Temple, Rigel saw too much. When the army arrived in the city with Acubens managing the troops, Rigel discovered the true horror of the world he had built: he was out. He couldn't be the ruler, his wings would have rot under the pressure, but he couldn't do the justice by himself. However, he had a plan. Throughout his journey, he had heard many tales about Gods and creatures from afar. The time had come for them to awaken.
First, Rigel used the Aura to do what Acubens had been used to inflict: he sent back to the Fountain every single soldier whose mission was to arrest the inhabitants of Nashira. As he murdered hundreds of men, Sedna looked at Rigel. Silently, she started to cry. She remembered the day she was brought to the world, near the Fountain, on a starless night. She remembered the thousands of questions rumbling in the mind of this boy who called for help. She remembered when the Fountain created her, and when she told her to take care of this man who had to conduct an important mission, but could never achieve it all by himself. She remembered she promised the Fountain she would always watch over Rigel and never let him down. She had failed. When he was done with the soldiers, the Bearer of Aura jumped and ran toward Acubens. He came back few minutes later. He was crying. Nashira was saved. Temporarily.
They all silently came back to their headquarters, on the hidden island of Vespertilio. Rigel begged Lunette to run away and assigned her a mission. He gave Oasis an island, Bethel, on which he built a church. Hidden as a priest, Oasis would welcome the adventurers from every place and every era. He would help them to be stronger, hoping that, one day, some of them would appear to be fighting for a better world. After a brief farewell, the Child of the Fountain sent Bethel into the Trail of Souls. The Nation attacked Vespertilio two days later. They arrested Rigel and Sedna. They deactivated Dalli. Forever.
Rigel was staring at the Brethren. He couldn't talk anymore. He had said everything, and that was it. Therefore, Sedna stood up and spoke to the judges.
- Brethren, on the behalf of my lover and on my own behalf, I would like you to keep in mind that the greater good we tried to meet when we built this world is not the one you seem to be aiming to through this very trial. This Nation was the opportunity for mankind to build a bigger dream, a society made of knowledge and passion, based on love and fraternity. What did scare the Governors so that they are so afraid and use their power for their own sake rather than sharing it with people to make something even better? Where did we go wrong? I hope, Brethren, that your verdict will consider the quality of the project, the dedication or us two and what our fights can bring to mankind. I thank you.
The judges pondered in silence. Then, few minutes later, they reached a verdict. Rigel and Sedna were both guilty. They were condemned to go back to the Fountain. And so they did.
Not a day had passed between the verdict and the arrival to Anuenue. Rigel and Sedna were holding hands. Nobody wanted to say anything. Sedna were staring at the Fountain. Rigel was watching his work for which he wished a happy life. He was not sad. He would have been if the world hadn't betrayed him. As he remembered the fantastic life he had, a dubious thought stroke his mind. As far as he could remember, neither he nor Sedna had released a Magnus containing the Brethren. So, where did they come from? Who had released them?
This last thought didn't last too long, as the time had come for the Child to jump in the Fountain. Sedna gave Rigel a last kiss and her most beautiful smile to which he replied. The two lovers opened their wings, walked into the light, and raged to the stars.
Once, until not so long ago, I was known as Lunette, the masked lady who came from the Whale. After the Nashira's Massacre, back on Vespertilio, Rigel asked me to run and die. Therefore, I ran. I first died in Sheliak where I had to remove and destroy my mask in order to be employed as the official scribe for the court. That was my second death. Am I ready to die for the third and probably last time? I think I'll be the first to know when the skies are bored of me; I know the time will come. I also know this time is not right now.
Rigel had not given up, he fought until the end, and even now, he is still fighting. Soon after he walked in the Fountain, many citizens from everywhere and every era witnessed the birth of big, beautiful red or blue and invincible flowers. Some say they contain a secret related to the Trail of Souls itself. As for Sedna, Rigel shattered her essence into dozen of pieces and sent them all over the worlds, so that, one day, someone discovers her legacy and offers her a new life.
Have we failed? Have we succeeded? Could have we avoided the menaces who brought us to a certain doom? I remember a night, back in Alfard, where we were sharing stories about Gods and mysterious Godlike creatures. Rigel was fascinated, I am pretty sure he had the sweetest dreams that night. I also know, if it wasn't for that very night, I wouldn't be reporting this story. Rigel knew he had the best friends he could have ever wished for, but he also cared about someone else, a missing guide, a distant voice. And this is why, today, I am addressing to the stars this never to be forgotten story. The tale of a man and his friends, fighting to build a world in peace out of the darkness, the story of a boy who had the best allies in the world, and yet, hoped until his last flight that somewhere, in the sky, someone would witness his work. A boy who wished until he died that one day, for a last stand, the worlds would see the return of the Guardian Spirit.