Fae had come to find Eventide Archive as a place of comfort and healing. No matter how long she was away from home —for her, that was her dorm room — as long as she could keep stopping in at Eventide Archive in the course of her journey, she felt she could keep going, rested and refreshed.
A lot of that owed to Selphine’s gentle, graceful demeanor, and how excellent a guide she was every step of the way. Now, seated around a table with her, seeing Selphine take the news of Oliver’s fate with such poise kept Fae centered and grounded.
“I’m so glad to hear he’s alive,” Selphine said with a soft smile. “I do hope he’ll return soon, and… thank you.” She looked at Mercury. “Thank you, for making him promise to come back.”
“Sure thing,” Mercury said. “He doesn’t belong out there all alone anymore, anyway. And I think he misses you as much as you’ve missed him all this time.”
Selphine was silent for a moment, and then tapped the surface of the table. It rippled like water, transforming to display images on its surface. “Now then, you’re near the end of your journey to the Core Locations,” she said. “All that’s left is the Chapel of the Unreturned.” The table’s surface displayed a familiar image: the entrance to the Dragon’s Den.
“We can get there through the Dragon’s Den?” Fae asked.
“For a long time, the easiest path to the Chapel of the Unreturned was through what was then known as the Deepgrave,” Selphine said. “And as you saw how it was before you restored it, that being the ‘easiest’ path says much.”
“So now that we’ve restored it as the Dragon’s Den,” Mercury said, “it might actually be easy to get to the Chapel.”
“We can hope,” Neptune said.
“It’ll be good to see Kairyu though,” Jupiter said. “Especially now that we’ve met all her siblings. She was actually a nice Dragon.”
“And she might have answers for the hints the other Dragons gave us,” Fae said. “Soryu seemed to be trying to say that there was something the Spiral Dragons need, some help I might be able to offer them. But I’m no closer to an answer.”
“Then thank goodness we need to visit his sister,” Mercury said.
“What should we be prepared for at the Chapel of the Unreturned?” Madeline asked.
“With that kind of name,” Olivia said, “it can’t be an easy place to come back from.”
Selphine shook her head. “It isn’t. The Chapel of the Unreturned… one of the ways many end up there is through becoming lost. They left, and never returned, and arrived at the Chapel of the Unreturned… only to now never return to where they came from. There are very few who leave that place once they’ve been there.”
“Have you been there?” Sonya asked.
Slowly, Selphine nodded, a grim look on her face. “And I’m glad I wasn’t there alone,” she said. “Without my friends, I think I might still be there now.”
“Gerick and Maxwell, right?” Mercury asked, earning a surprised look from Selphine. “We met Professor Hawthorn and he told us about you three when you were students.”
“He did, did he?” Selphine asked, relaxing. A small smile appeared on her lips. “That was so long ago… and it’s been so very long since we’ve seen each other.”
“What happened?” Sonya asked. “Did you have a falling-out or something?”
“Nothing like that,” Selphine said. “Enchanted… live for a very long time. It’s not uncommon for close friends to simply… drift apart. I became the Head Archivist here at Eventide, bringing my travels to an end. As far as I know, Gerick and Maxwell still traveled together for a while after that, before Gerick settled into his role at the Plains of the Fallen. And even then, he still goes on travels from time to time, as you well know.”
“And Maxwell’s just outside your door!” Mercury said, earning an even more surprised look from Selphine.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“He’s the Master of the Basin of Antiquity,” Fae said. “He gave us most of the items we needed from there, along with some surprises.”
“Oh, that’s right,” Mercury said, tapping her chin thoughtfully. “We didn’t mention him much, and not at all by name, because Neptune was so upset with him.”
“As if you can blame me,” Neptune said flatly.
“I see…” Selphine said, sitting back, staring at the table. “And until you met him, I never even knew there was a Master of the Basin. I only knew about the repository. I thought all of it was self-sustaining.” She chuckled softly. “I suppose that position suits him, though.” She let out a sigh, then composed herself. “You have some time before a path opens to the Plains of the Fallen. It’s a rather predictable Location, frequently linking with Eventide. Take some time to rest and prepare. I’ll find some books and other resources about the Chapel of the Unreturned so that you’re properly prepared.”
The girls didn’t stick together after that, but instead split up throughout the Archive. Now that they had a moment, it was the right time for them to each look at the bottles given to them at the Celestial Shore.
Each of us got a unique message. What could mine be?
Fae sat at the reflecting pool, her pant legs rolled up so she could let her bare feet kick slowly, absently, in the still water while she stared at the bottle in her hand. It was small, and beautifully clean, making it easy to see the small slip of paper contained within. With surprisingly little effort, Fae pulled out the cork, tipping the bottle over to deposit the paper into her hand.
For a moment, she hesitated.
What could it be? What kind of message do I need besides all the other hints and clues I’ve gathered so far? And one that could fit on such a small piece of paper…
It was folded in half, so she unfolded it, and stared for a long time.
The paper only contained one word: Vicious.
There it is again. Each of the Dragons said it… and now it’s on a piece of paper, specifically chosen for me.
So then… that “vicious one” they keep talking about… he’s part of my own journey somehow? But how? Who could it be, and why should he matter to me?
The vicious one met Kairyu, and it sounded like he put her and the Dragon’s Den into that darkened state. That stuff… it was like the living darkness. Was that actually what it was? Does this vicious one have power over the darkness?
And he’s the one who, with Jormungand, helped Wasuryu find his “solution” to his metaphysical state. It’s because of him that Olivia and Sonya…
And he was mentioned, I think, in that journal about Collapse. I can’t be sure if he was the same person, but using the same word… “vicious”… it can’t be a coincidence, can it?
Fae’s eyes widened. She remembered, now, remembered details she shouldn’t have forgotten.
Kairyu didn’t just call some man “vicious” and leave it at that. She called him the “other Greyson.”
And Lairah at the Fault Line Dungeon talked about “the other Greyson.” Both she and Kairyu called him “false.”
Is a Greyson?
But he visited Kairyu so long before I was born. And Lairah said he visited many generations before my time. How could he still be alive?
Fae filed away her conjectures and the possibilities at hand. For now…
I was right to keep that word close in mind. It — and he — are more important than I thought.
Fae tucked the piece of paper carefully into her bag. And for a while she still sat there alone, gazing into the distance, pondering so many things.
Mercury sat with her sisters on the edge of the fountain, each with their bottle in hand.
“Screw the whole ‘for your eyes only’ thing,” Mercury said with a grin. “These most likely came from the Silver Star Sanctuary.”
“Besides, we’d share them with each other after looking anyway,” Jupiter said, uncorking her bottle and dumping the scrap of paper into her hand. “I’m going first.”
“You’re always so hasty,” Neptune said with a sigh. But she and Mercury both halted any further comments, because Jupiter had gone uncharacteristically silent.
“Sis?” Mercury asked, peeking over Jupiter’s shoulder at the paper. Neptune followed suit, and all three were silent for a moment. Then Mercury and Neptune both pulled out their own messages and held them out alongside Jupiter’s.
Each message was a verse, and the girls sang them softly in order, from Neptune to Jupiter to Mercury:
“Light of a star lost to long-broken wings”
“Mirrored silver resounding with gold ‘til it sings”
“Waters like glass tumble down, down, down into springs”
Letting that last note hang in the air, the girls went silent for a time. Then Jupiter finally made a face, then let out a sigh.
“So we know the full verses, and they still don’t make sense?” she asked, glaring at her message.
“It’s a start though, right?” Mercury asked. “We each just had fragments of a verse, and now we know the full thing. It’s like a hole in each of our memories has been filled in.”
“But after all this wondering and pondering the answers,” Jupiter said, leaning back with a loud, frustrated sigh. “This is what we get? A pretty song with pretty nonsense words?”
“It’s probably a start,” Neptune said. “Or maybe the song is a riddle. It’s strange, but it probably only seems like nonsense because we can’t see the relevance yet.”
“So it’s just another step towards an answer, instead of an actual answer,” Jupiter said. “Well, I guess I should be optimistic about it.”
“It’s worth something,” Mercury said, nudging Jupiter playfully. “We just need to keep them more in mind going forward.”
“I was hoping for something more dramatic,” Jupiter said.
“You always are,” Mercury said, ruffling Jupiter’s short, spiky red hair.
“Quit it!” Jupiter said, slapping away Mercury’s hands, which only transformed into them both trying to tickle each other, fighting for a way past the other’s guard.
“I’ve got her!” Neptune suddenly cried, grabbing Jupiter from behind and pinning her arms. Jupiter shrieked in dismay, but there was no help for it. Mercury went to work, tickling her sister relentlessly.
And she laughed, even though she wasn’t the one being tickled. They’d found part of an answer. One more clue from their missing memories, a song from their forgotten past.
For years we searched without finding anything of worth. But ever since we’ve started this adventure with Fae…
We’ve found so much. And soon…
We’ll finally reach the Silver Star Sanctuary. And there, so many answers are waiting for us.
Madeline sat in the library proper, up on an elevated tier in a somewhat secluded corner. Raven was perched on her shoulder, head cocked to the side, dark eyes gleaming with curiosity.
In Madeline’s hand she clutched her message.
“They probably should have sent this one to Fae,” she said with a chuckle.
Her message was a drawing. There was a wide, circular stage, and in its center an elevated square pedestal. Inserted vertically into that pedestal was a giant, ornate key.
Two things stood out the most to Madeline about this image, though. The first was that, on the walls surrounding the stage, were dozens and dozens of mirrors. Not all that unlike a certain place she’d traveled through on her journey to find Fae.
Second was the single word scrawled right below the drawing: “Finale.”
Does that mean this place is where we go last in this journey? Or…
Well, let’s not think about the alternatives.
But is this place really in the Hall of Reflections? I never saw anything like it, but… there was so much of that place I never explored. I was in a rush, and…
Memories of the reflections of her mother came flooding back to her.
I was a bit preoccupied.
She set the paper down on a nearby table, using the empty bottle as a paperweight. She didn’t want to fold or roll it until Fae and the others had also seen it, just in case creasing such a small drawing ruined the details.
“If I hadn’t been through the Hall of Reflections, they might not have anyone who would have a clue about this picture,” she said, stroking Raven’s chest.
There was more to it than that, she knew. This drawing had to have some further significance for her for it to be specifically given to her. Most likely, that significance would take its time being revealed.
That’s okay, though. I’m in this until the finale… no matter what that finale is.
Olivia turned her bottle over and over in her hands, unopened.
A message specifically for me. What could it be?
Do I want to know?
She found herself glaring from beneath her hood, glaring at the bottle, and glaring at her reflection in it.
Why am I so frequently fearful?
When faced with a monster to fight, I don’t hesitate, and I feel no fear.
So why does everything else frighten me so?
I fear that this message won’t hold any answers for me.
But… I also fear that it will.
Why am I afraid of the answers I seek?
But I mustn’t fear. There’s only one way through this: the truth.
She took a deep breath, opened the bottle, and dropped its contents into her hand. Slowly, she unfolded the paper.
At the top was a drawing of the Dragon’s sigil: a Dragon’s eye with three spiraling lines of fire, water, and wind surrounding it.
But the sigil was scratched out. And beneath it…
“Free now and forever from the Dragon’s hold.”
A tightness gripped Olivia’s heart, and for a moment, she couldn’t breathe. But when she could…
She sobbed. Tears stung her eyes and then rolled gently down her cheeks. With such simple, quiet crying, the tightness within her released, and much more. So much tension she didn’t know she’d been holding onto just fell away.
After all that time his Vessel, now…
I really don’t have to fear him anymore. I’m free, forever.
As she cried herself dry, and her eyes cleared, she saw there was one more line on her scrap of paper.
“The Blade of Dawn can cut the seals.”
“The seals…” Olivia said softly, staring. Just like the Guardian of Memory had said…
My memories were sealed. And “the seals are breaking.”
But… they won’t all break on their own? The Blade of Dawn… and our journey will take us to the Orphan of the Dawn. They must be connected in some way. Maybe the Blade is even there.
Olivia stretched out her hand, and her alabaster scythe materialized. She gripped it tightly, staring up at its long, curved blade.
The seals of my memories need to be cut with a special blade?
There’s something poetic in that.
For the first time in a long time, since long before Fae saved her from being the Sealed Vessel…
Sonya’s hand shook as she held her message. It only bore one word.
After a moment, Sonya closed her hand into a fist, crumpling the message tight. She felt a small burst of heat on her palm, and the faintest pulse of crimson light emitted from between her fingers.
When she opened her hand, the message was no more than scatterings of dust, pulled away by the wind. Sonya stared at her hand.
That’s the first time it’s come out since Fae saved me. I’ve kept it under control so far… and I think that might have been my own choice…
How can I be sure?
She pressed her shaking hands together, placing them on her lap to still their shuddering.
The same word that woman said when she saw my power. Just moments before it…
Sonya looked up and around through the bamboo forest, but she saw no one. She was still alone.
She bowed her head, pulling her knees up until she was curled into a ball, hugging herself tightly.
Mineria said not to fear my power… but how can I not? After all it’s done…
I need to keep it under control. That’s all.
Because I… despite how afraid I am…
I want to keep traveling with Fae. I want to know the truth about her, Olivia, and me.
So I just…
Need to keep the Wellspring at bay. Somehow, someway…
I won’t let it loose.
Selphine stared at the door for a long time after the girls departed for the Plains of the Fallen. They had books and other resources, as well as her own words and explanations, to guide them for what was to come.
I’ve done the best I can for you. I always do. And yet every time, watching you girls leave…
It never gets any easier.
Be safe, girls.
She stepped away from the door, heading back into the library proper.
But as she did so, she heard a door open and then close. It was the door that led to and from Millennium Vista.
A guest from Starlight Spires? But who…
She headed towards the room that held the Spires door. The guest didn’t immediately come down the hall, so perhaps they knew the rules and were taking their shoes off first?
But when Selphine stepped into the room, she stopped in her tracks. Her breath caught in her throat.
“Hello, Selphine,” said Oliver.
He barely looked a day older than the day Selphine had last seen him. And yet he had changed.
His eyes held so much life. And he had that youthful nervousness, the way he shuffled his feet, kept looking down.
And he smiled. How long had it been since she’d seen that smile?
“I…” Oliver started, hesitating. “I… did miss you. I’m sorry that —”
In an instant, Selphine crossed the space between them and threw her arms around Oliver’s shoulders, pulling him into a tight embrace.
“Oh, my dear boy,” she said softly. “There is nothing to apologize for.”
Hugging her in return, Oliver shuddered with sobs. Selphine cried, too, but…
They were the happiest tears of her life.