Arc II Chapter 32: Take Heart


Fae wished she could stay longer at the Crimson Docks.

I suppose I could, technically. I’m not on a time limit that I know of. Although my schoolwork is probably falling way behind. And I’ve probably been kicked out of the animation club by default, for not showing up for so long. But… well, I can’t linger. I have so much to do – all these Intangibles to track down, the Fates to meet, and three dragons – dragons! – to find and talk to.

So I can’t stay. But now that I know how to get here, maybe I can return someday.

So on she walked through the bustling streets, following the Star sisters and trying not to feel too uncomfortable under Mercury’s constant scrutiny. The blonde continued to walk backwards and stare at Fae, even when walking down stairs – how did she manage not to fall?

“Ninth layer!” Jupiter announced excitedly, hopping the last few stairs down to the busy street. “Come on, if we don’t fool around, we might actually reach the bottom before the sun sets.”

“The sun isn’t remotely close to setting,” Neptune said. “It’s not even lunchtime. We don’t need to hurry.”

“Well I thought I wouldn’t be the only one excited to meet the Fates,” Jupiter said grumpily. “Honestly, this is a big deal. Even though ships sail to the Fates’ Dwelling from here every day, very few people actually take those trips.”

“Because it’s dangerous,” Neptune said. “Or rather, we don’t know if it’s dangerous. The fact that everyone who sails to the Fates’ Dwelling never takes the return trip should give us at least a small amount of caution.”

“They probably just leave the Dwelling a different way,” Jupiter said. “What do we know? Nothing, until we go see for ourselves.”

“If that was your logic for all of life, then you’d have to experience everything yourself to know anything about it,” Neptune said.

Jupiter nodded. “Exactly!” she said. “That’s what I’m trying to say. How can you know if you don’t live it yourself?”

Neptune sighed. “So you can’t know that smoking causes lung cancer without trying it for yourself?” she asked. “Or that drinking alcohol in excess impairs your senses and judgment, making driving very dangerous, without actually driving drunk? Or that jumping from a high place down to solid ground could break every bone in your body, if it doesn’t kill you, without jumping off a tall cliff?”

Jupiter pouted. “You’re no fun.”

“I’m just making sure you understand what you’re saying,” Neptune said.

“You always act like the oldest,” Jupiter said, her voice pitching higher into a whine. “We’re triplets, you know. That means we’re the same age.”

“Neptune’s the oldest,” Mercury said, suddenly jumping into their conversation, finally tearing her eyes away from Fae. “Doesn’t matter what order we came out, she’s the oldest. You can tell because she’s the most mature and thoughtful.”

I’m mature and thoughtful,” Jupiter said. Her sisters stared at her for several seconds, until she sighed. “When I want to be.”

“And how often do you want to be?” Neptune asked.

“Not very,” Jupiter said, grinning. “It’s boring being all serious and stuff like you.”

“I quite enjoy being me,” Neptune said.

All this bickering and bantering, and they wonder why I’m not very close to my siblings. I don’t know how the three of them stand it. How can they talk so much about nothing?

“You hungry, Fae?” Mercury asked.

Fae shook her head. “I’m fine so far,” she said.

“We haven’t eaten in a long time,” Jupiter said, rubbing her stomach. “I don’t know how you stand it.”

“I usually only eat twice a day,” Fae said. “I don’t need a lot.”

“No wonder you’re so skinny!” Jupiter said, shaking her head. “It’s not healthy.”

“She’s no skinnier than you,” Neptune said.

“Yeah, but I’m active!” Jupiter said, raising her arm to flex her bicep. “I’ve got muscles. She’s just skin and bones.”

“She looks perfectly healthy to me,” Mercury said.

“Do we need to talk about my body?” Fae asked, frowning.

“What do you wanna talk about?” Jupiter asked, running her fingers through her spiky red hair.

“I…” Fae stopped herself from saying something rude. “I don’t have a preference. I’m fine just listening.”

There, see? You can be polite if you try. And if anyone deserves good manners from you, it’s the three girls who are responsible for getting you this far.

They headed down another staircase, leading to the eighth layer of the Crimson Docks.  Here the street was broken up at regular intervals by wide, circular courtyards. The one they currently were passing through had a large fountain in the center that sprayed crystalline water high into the sky. Around the fountain were several small stages, on which different types of performers – comedians, jugglers, magicians – did their best to grab the crowd’s attention.

“There’s an empty stage,” Jupiter said, nodding as unsubtly as possible towards an open stage on the far side of the fountain. “I’m just saying…”

“Weren’t you the one who was in a hurry?” Neptune asked.

“My desire to perform far outweighs my desire to do anything important,” Jupiter said.

“How would you perform?” Fae asked. “You don’t have your instruments.”

“Have you forgotten already?” Mercury asked, smiling. “Conjuring Magic.”

That’s right. Mercury had gotten them into the Enchanted Dominion through music, Conjuring her acoustic guitar when she’d needed it.

“So you all have acoustic instruments?” Fae asked.

“Never travel without them,” Jupiter said, grinning. “How would we survive?”

“Well, if you want to play a few songs, I won’t stop you,” Fae said. She was excited, while also hoping they didn’t play any of their super cheesy tunes. “Besides, I bet the people around here would love it. Especially right here.” She eyed a juggler who continuously dropped his balls – and he was only juggling two – and sighed. “They could use some proper entertainment.”

“You’re the freaking best,” Jupiter said, racing over to the empty stage. There was a man in a top hat who was about to climb up onto it, but Jupiter leapt up ahead of him, telling him in no uncertain terms: “Finders-keepers, losers-weepers.”

Is she an elementary schooler in a college girl’s body?

Fae stood a small ways back from the stage, watching the triplets set up. Sure enough, they all had an instrument to Conjure. Jupiter brought out a box-shaped drum, which she sat on in the middle of the stage, closer to the back. Neptune Conjured an entire upright piano and bench, taking her seat stage left, while Mercury took up stage right, acoustic guitar at the ready. Without any discussion passing between the triplets, Mercury started to strum, then Jupiter began slapping out a beat, and finally Neptune joined in with the melody.

A cascade of color takes over the sky

It pierces our hearts and awakens our eyes

Arise, restart, this is not the end

Rise up, take heart, we’re not finished yet


Dance and sing, alive and free

This is the time to not be afraid

Take a chance, dare to be

Fearless and brave for all your days


A song awakes deep in our hearts all at once

Calling us now to believe, to trust

Let go, release, all that holds you down

Take hold, take heart, this light won’t let you drown


With your life, with your voice

Tell all the world you’re not the same

Let it go, make the choice

As your life wakes to a new day


Outside looking in isn’t where you should be

Fear doesn’t have to consume your belief

Ignite this spark to set your soul on fire

Stand tall, take heart, keep on rising higher


Dance and sing, alive and free

This is the time to not be afraid

Take a chance, dare to be

Fearless and brave for all your days

Fae never stopped being amazed at how Mercury and Neptune blended their voices – Mercury leading the way with her bright, clear voice, while Neptune wove currents of depth and emotion as she harmonized with her sister. Jupiter, despite her wild personality and appearing to wail away on her drum with reckless abandon, actually was tremendously focused, knowing exactly when to back off and when to kick it up a notch. Equalizing their volumes couldn’t have been easy with acoustic instruments, and yet the girls were wonderfully in sync, playing their different instruments with just the right intensity that they blended together beautifully, each of their individual subtleties shining through.

The crowd had grown with every line of that song, and Fae was gradually pushed farther back, until she was at the edge of the courtyard, sitting on top of a stone wall. She didn’t mind her new spot – she could hear the Star sisters just fine even way back here, and it was much better than being surrounded by the crowd. Up on the wall, the salty sea breeze tossed her hair and brought a smile to her face.

One thing Fae always enjoyed about the sisters’ songs – even the cheesy ones – was that they rarely repeated much lyrically. So many pop songs loved to have a single chorus that repeated, without any changes, after every verse, but the Star sisters used the same melody for each chorus while changing the words almost every time. It created a sense of progression, like each song told a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Sure, sometimes that story was cheesy, overly sentimental nonsense, but at least they were creative in the way they told it.

The crowd was surprising to Fae in their behavior. She’d been to a few concerts in her life, and the appeal had quickly worn thin for her. They were far too loud. Not just the music – the crowd. People were singing, shouting, being as loud and as wild as they possibly could be. It was too much, and Fae didn’t understand how people could enjoy music like that.

But this crowd, here in the Crimson Docks, was clearly full of people with a similar sentiment. They were relatively quiet, and entirely focused on the stage and the song. Some people were swaying to the rhythm, and a few were humming along the tune as they grew familiar with it, but they were so respectful and calm that it warmed Fae’s heart.

I get that some people like to go wild, but…

This is the magic of music to me. Something that touches you in a way that you have to just stop, listen, and let it be a part of you.

The sisters played three more songs before calling it, accepting the polite applause of the crowd. Back on Earth, most would see the reaction of the crowd and think they hadn’t enjoyed the show very much, and were just being nice. But Fae saw it differently. They didn’t want to disrupt the feeling and atmosphere that had been present while the music was being played. They showed their joy and their gratitude in their own, much quieter, way.

“Oh, I needed that!” Jupiter said happily as the sisters joined Fae by the wall. “Now I feel refreshed. I’m ready for anything!”

“What’d ya think, Fae?” Mercury asked, grinning.

“It was a good set,” Fae said with a smile. “Thanks for playing. I think I needed that, too.”

“I was surprised by the crowd,” Jupiter said. “At first I thought they didn’t like it, but then I thought ‘why would there be so many people?’ And then I saw their faces, and realized they just show their appreciation in a quieter way than I’m used to.”

“It’s nice,” Neptune said. “I think we got too used to Grim Night’s and the local concert scene. This is a welcome change.”

Mercury hopped up onto the wall next to Fae, turning so that she faced out towards the ocean. “Not too much farther to go, now,” she said. “Though it sure seems a long ways down when you’re sitting on the edge like this.”

“I wanna see!” Jupiter said, jumping up to sit next to Mercury. “Oh, the breeze feels so good here. Fae, you know how to pick a good spot.”

Fae turned to look out towards the ocean, too, as Neptune climbed up to sit on the opposite side of her as Mercury.

“It’s wonderful,” Neptune said. The wind tossed her blue hair, which usually hung down low over the right side of her face, hiding one of her eyes. She smiled. “I could sit here all day.”

“Well, let’s not,” Jupiter said, already hopping back down off the wall. “I was hungry before, but now I’m famished! All that drumming works up an appetite.”

“You up for lunch, Fae?” Mercury asked.

Fae thought for a moment, then smiled. “Sure, why not?” she asked, dismounting from the wall. “I guess I am a little bit hungry.”

They traveled down to the seventh layer, where they found a lovely outdoor café. Blue and orange banners fluttered in the breeze, and the aroma of freshly-brewed coffee and tantalizing baked goods filled the air. While the café specialized in coffee and pastries, they also served lunch, possibly to their dismay – Jupiter was even hungrier than she claimed, devouring three full courses, only to pause for a few minutes before ordering once more. Mercury ate a full lunch, while Fae and Neptune were both fine with coffee and a pastry. Fae took a while to order as Neptune explained the terminology here – apparently a “steamed coffee” was a latté, “light coffee” was this place’s term for cappuccinos, and so on. Very little on the menu used the same terminology as Earth. Even bagels were called “moon bread,” muffins were “cloud buns,” and cinnamon rolls were “spice swirls.”

Fae ended up ordering a “steamed coffee” with vanilla flavoring and “a hint of citrus,” along with a blueberry-lemon “cloud bun.” It was all wonderful. Whatever they did with coffee here – whether the brewing process was different, or if even the basic ingredients, down to the coffee beans themselves, were different – it created a beverage that Fae wished she could have again and again. The coffee flavor itself was rich with none of the bitterness she’d grown used to from Earth coffee. Meanwhile, her “cloud bun,” a name which Fae thought would leave Shana totally tickled, was rather nice. It was fluffy and airy, its texture and shape both supporting its different name in this world.

With lunch finished, the girls continued down through the city. Over time, Fae began to realize that each layer had a certain focus to it. Many of them were subtle – it was only because they’d stopped to eat on the seventh layer, and Shana took the time to really survey her surroundings, that she realized this layer was very much a culinary hotspot, filled with all kinds of restaurants, diners, sweet shops, and more.

The sixth layer seemed to be a sort of sports area – each courtyard had different types of sports fields, courts, or obstacle courses, and they were always in use. Fae wasn’t much of a sports person, so she couldn’t say for sure, but she got the sense that most of the athletic pursuits on display were unique to this world, and maybe even unique to this city itself. One sport in particularly seemed remarkably complicated. It was played in a large swimming pool, but there were many floating platforms across the water. Each team appeared to have its players split into swimmers and people standing on the platforms, and quite a large number of differently shaped balls were being tossed around. It was rather chaotic, with lots of slipping and splashing and falling, and Fae was perfectly content to not have any part in it. Many crowds gathered at each sporting event, and though these crowds, like the one that watched the Star sisters’ concert, were more subdued than Fae would expect from a sporting crowd, the sheer number of people gave the sixth layer a real sense of noise and excitement.

Down to the fifth layer they went, where the atmosphere became decidedly more relaxed. It seemed to be a crafts district, with many different artistic skills on display. Carpenters and carvers showed off their wares, potters molded their clay out in the open, and jewelers cut gems to exacting specifications on demand. There were occasional bursts of sharp noise – a pot dropped and smashed here, a knife grinding loudly against a gem for a brief moment there – but overall the quieter atmosphere was quite pleasant to Fae. She’d always been fascinated by these types of artists and artisans, people who took solid objects and molded them to their will. Watching them at work, even in passing, brought a smile to her face.

From there they reached the fourth layer, a hodgepodge of merchants and buyers who seemed always in motion. The few actual buildings here were all houses, as sellers loaded their wares onto carts on wheels and hauled them around, hiring assistants on the spot to advertise for them as they kept on the move, rolling from one far side of the layer to the other. The carts came in all different sizes and shapes, and of course in many bright and vibrant colors, as everything was here at the Crimson Docks. Some were pushing small carts, advertising all alone and selling their meager supply of wares on the move. Others had massive wagons, pulled by two people in front and manned by the merchant and several assistants riding in the back. There were boxy carts, domed carriages, bowl-shaped wagons, and even one enterprising individual who’d turned his cart into a tricycle, pedaling along quite leisurely as he sold his wares.

Navigating through that chaotic sprawl, the girls continued their descent, and it was in the wide open third layer that Fae got a sense of how much ground they’d covered. The sea was so close that Fae could now hear the tide, its hypnotic rhythm calling out to her. From a spacious courtyard that served as a rose garden, Fae stood up on a bench by the wall and stared in awe at the ocean that was now so very close. Ships were in full view, and the sailors and merchants hard at work on the docks were occasionally audible in their shouts and grunts, calling out orders and moving around heavy crates, barrels, and other materials.

“Almost there,” Mercury said, standing next to Fae. “It’s beautiful.”

“Is there more out on the ocean?” Fae asked, pointing out towards the glittering horizon. “Or do they just reach entrances to new Locations?”

Mercury smiled. “That’s the amazing thing about the Crimson Docks,” she said. “There’s the city… and then there’s everything out there. There are dozens of islands, all with different people and cultures and specialty goods to sell.”

“Hundreds of islands,” Neptune said, leaning against the wall. “They’re still working on charting the waters, and Enchanted have been sailing them for thousands of years.”

“How do they get to other Locations?” Fae asked.

Mercury jabbed a thumb back up the way they’d come. “The main – some would say only – way is through Crimson Square. There are rumors that those who travel to the Fates’ Dwelling leave it by a different path, taking them to some far-flung Location, but no one’s confirmed it.”

“So it’s not like a lot of the other Locations,” Fae said. “Are the Crimson Docks even in motion?”

“Everything’s in motion,” Neptune said. “Just like in the wider universe – even galaxies move. But just because a Location moves, or even comes into contact with other Locations, doesn’t mean they actually connect. The Crimson Docks only has two entrances and exits – one to Sunset Square, the other to the Fates’ Dwelling.”

Fae turned around, trying feebly to gesture at the enormity of the city behind and around them. “So of all these people, how many are from the wider Dominion, and how many are travelers from the islands in this Location?”

“Most are native to the Crimson Docks,” Neptune said. “Though by ‘most,’ I mean perhaps eighty percent. And with how many people are here – pushing into the hundreds of thousands – that means there are still plenty of visitors and tourists.”

“Like us!” Jupiter said. She hopped up to the wall, leaning out over the edge. “Hey, you can see our ride from here!” She pointed down and out towards the docks, at a mid-sized ship with a crimson hull. It had several rows of white benches across its deck, while the rear of the ship housed an enclosed cabin.

“Is it a motor boat?” Fae asked, wondering why there were no sails or oars.

“Sort of,” Mercury said. “It’s powered by magic.”

“Why aren’t there more ships like that?” Fae asked. Nearly all of the boats she saw, from small row boats up to the massive galleons, had a sort of old-fashioned style to them. Sails and oars abounded. They weren’t all European-style ships, either – Fae spotted Polynesian-style skiffs, long and low Japanese-style ships of all sizes, and quite a number of ships and small vessels that she didn’t recognize.

“They’re expensive, for one,” Neptune said. “Many of the materials involved have to be brought in from other Locations – they aren’t native to the Crimson Docks, or they’re tremendously scarce or difficult to harvest in the amounts needed.”

“And the people here like their traditions,” Mercury said. “They’ve been voyagers, wayfarers, explorers, and adventurers for countless generations. Most of the ships you see are hundreds of years old, carefully maintained. They look outdated, but they can move really well, especially under the command of experienced sailors and captains.”

“We’re almost there, we’re almost there!” Jupiter said, bouncing up and down. “Come on, let’s go!”

Fae smiled, taking one more look down at the crimson boat that would bear her to the mysterious Fates. “Let’s go,” she said.

They only had two more layers to go. The first and second layers were very similar in theme and design. Since they were so close to the docks, they served up a lot of warehouses for temporary merchandise storage, and lodgings for travelers like inns and taverns. They felt older than the rest of the city, and probably were, considering their proximity to the ocean, and that the city was probably built, quite literally, from the ground up.

And then they reached the docks. The sound of the tide was stronger than ever, mingling with the creak of wooden hulls, heavy footsteps on wooden boardwalks, shouts and conversations among hundreds of travelers, and the wind rushing through the trees whose leafy boughs hung out over the boardwalk, providing shade from the bright sun above.

“Try not to get pushed around,” Mercury said, giving Fae a little nudge to head along the right boardwalk. “It’s chaotic down here, and people aren’t as polite because they’re in a hurry.”

And they certainly did get pushed around. Fae got the sense that it wasn’t so much a lack of manners, but just a sort of unspoken understanding: “We’ve all got stuff to do, and we don’t have time to always watch where we’re going and apologize to everyone we trouble. Let’s just move along our way.” And indeed, despite all the pushing and shoving, it was surprisingly civil. No fights broke out. No heated arguments erupted. People bumped into each other by accident, and just kept on walking. Lots of sailors and merchants walked backwards as they worked to pull or carry heavy objects, so of course they couldn’t always see through the thick crowd around them.

They traded out some of their manners for expediency, but they haven’t left manners behind entirely. They just know everyone has a job to do, and they’ve found the best way to get those jobs done efficiently.

The sisters ended up linking hands as they walked, and Fae reluctantly took Mercury’s offered hand. It was helpful for them to not get separated as the crowd thickened, and Fae certainly didn’t know the way. Not to mention, she was very liable to get distracted by all the sights and sounds. She wanted to take the city in as much as she could.

Their trek through the thick swarms of people was much shorter than Fae expected. They suddenly branched off from the main path, turning out towards the sea and leaving the crowd behind. The long pier they were on led to where the crimson vessel was docked. Fae found it eerie just how empty the pier was – the long walk out to the ship suggested there was an expectation of long lines, and yet no one was out here, save for a single man standing at the boarding ramp.

“How do you do, ladies?” the man asked, tipping his navy blue hat to them in greeting. He was dressed in a snappy blue suit with silver buttons, and his face and hands were surprisingly pale, considering his job out at the docks under the constant glare of the sun. “Here seeking passage to the Fates’ Dwelling, I presume?”

“That’s right,” Mercury said, giving Fae a tiny nudge forward.

Fae nodded. “When do you depart?” she asked.

“As soon as you wish,” the man said, flashing a dazzling white smile. “We have no appointments today, and no regular schedule of late, so we can depart for you at a moment’s notice.”

For a brief moment, Fae’s mind went back to the warning of Roland Soundingstone: “The Fates have changed.” But she couldn’t be fearful now. Whatever had happened to the Fates, they were integral to Fae’s journey. And, like Jupiter said, how could she know if she didn’t go to visit them? Besides, change wasn’t always a bad thing.

I really hate it when people give me vague “warnings.” If you’re going to warn me about something, be specific.

“We’re ready to go,” she said.

“Well then,” the man said, turning back towards the boat, cupping his hands around his mouth. “Captain! Four passengers for the Fates!”

“All aboard!” came the deep, sounding call from aboard the crimson boat. Where the voice had come from, Fae couldn’t say. But she didn’t have time to wonder. “Departing in ten!” The voice continued to count down from ten, and the four girls raced aboard the ship, taking their seats on the deck, in front of the cabin. The countdown finished just one second after they took their seats.

And then… all sound vanished. The world seemed to warp before Fae’s eyes, stretching around her on the sides, her vision seeming to zoom forward, centering on a single dot on the horizon. Her head felt fuzzy, her eyes ached, her heart lurched. She thought she was screaming – her mouth was wide open, and she felt the vibration of her vocal chords in her throat – but no sound reached her ears. Seconds seemed, like the ocean before her, to stretch out into infinity, elongating and twisting into something beyond the very concept of time. Motion was so fast, so absurd, that Fae had no conception of whether they were even moving, and how she could possibly tell.

Why was Fae here? What had happened to the world? Had it always been this way?

Questions swirled in Fae’s addled mind, as she found she struggled to remember or know anything at all. Fear itself at this strange fate washed away, for what was fear, anyway?

And then, suddenly, mercifully, the world returned to normal. Fae’s mind righted itself. Her vision recovered, the stretched and twisted world snapping back into place. She remembered who she was, why she was here, and everything else she was supposed to know.

Her heart pounded in her chest, though, and her stomach felt like it had been doing cartwheels. While her mind and vision were restored, and sound returned to her, her ears felt fuzzy, and when she tried to stand up, her balance failed her for a moment and she fell into Mercury, sending the two of them crashing to the deck of the crimson ship.

“Passengers safely delivered to the Fates’ Dwelling!” the strange, deep, disembodied voice announced, as Fae and Mercury worked to disentangle themselves from each other and try standing again. “Will wait for your safe return. Pleasant journeys!”

“Will wait for our safe return?” Fae asked, taking two swaying steps to the edge of the ship, where she grasped the railing to keep her balance. “I thought no one ever returned from the Fates’ Dwelling.”

“Does that mean they never even make it back to the boat?” Mercury asked, her voice hushed.

Fae finally had enough of a grasp of herself to look around.

The ocean had simply vanished. There was water beneath them, gently rocking the ship from side to side, but even looking back the way they’d come, Fae only saw a dark, narrow tunnel. Ahead of her was a black stone dock, with a winding staircase leading up into a cavity in the ceiling. Torches here and there sputtered with crimson flames, shedding wisps of scarlet smoke, and casting long red shadows.

“It’s a charming place,” Mercury said, stumbling out onto the dock, collapsing to a seat on the stairs.

“So I guess we go up,” Fae said, following after her, with Neptune and Jupiter in tow. While the other two sisters collapsed by Mercury, Fae kept her feet under her. She’d regained her equilibrium quite quickly, and walked a few steps ahead, peering high up the dark staircase.

“See an end to it?” Jupiter asked.

“Nothing,” Fae said, shaking her head. “But it winds back around on itself, so I can’t see very far anyway.”

“All right!” Jupiter said, hopping to her feet. “Come on, let’s not waste any time. We’re finally here, let’s –”

Neptune leapt up, putting her hand over Jupiter’s mouth. “Not so loud,” she said in a low voice.

“Yeah, something feels weird about this place,” Mercury said, standing.

“Let’s be respectful,” Fae said. “We’re guests here, after all. And we don’t know anything about the Fates.” She turned forward and started climbing the stairs. Up they went, ascending in a somewhat spiraling pattern. The stairs weren’t even, and seemed carved into the stonework of this strange cavern, so they didn’t wrap around neatly, but made their way upward in a jagged, rough fashion.

The climb wasn’t long, but every step made Fae feel more wary, more unnerved by the space. Despite the stairs not being wide enough for more than two people to walk side-by-side, and the ceilings were low enough that Fae could reach up and touch them, she felt very small. She couldn’t place it, but perhaps there was something in the black, somewhat shiny color of the stone, or in the crimson flames of the torches, or in the way everything was constructed, that made the place feel grander than it looked. And not simply grand, but also…


It was as if Fae was surrounded by something powerful, something ancient, something that knew more than she could ever know, that held powers she would never be able to understand. And on top of that feeling was an eerie sense of apathy.

This place, and its denizens, Fae thought, didn’t care anything about her. There was no care for the world here. There wasn’t even morality. There was just knowledge, and experience, and power.

The stairs came to a sudden end, turning sharply around the corner before instantly leveling off, opening up into a dark chamber. Before Fae set foot in the chamber, she suddenly stopped.

A voice was speaking, and before the first word was audible, Fae knew she couldn’t move until it finished.

“Welcome,” the voice said, a voice so ancient and alien and powerful that Fae couldn’t have described it in a lifetime. “Fae Greyson. Mercury Star.”

“Neptune Star.” A second voice seemed to speak – similar to the first, but different somehow.

“Jupiter Star.” A third voice, too.

“Enter.” The first voice, or it could have been the second, or even the third, or none of them at all, spoke. “Let us discuss your fate.”


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