This Broken Eternity
By: Paige K Duffy
Chapter: Heaven's Observation Lighthouse
Cinier's hands were still shaking. He was just walking and his whole body still felt wrung out. Sure, breaking a Denizen's Holy Identifier took some effort, but only a bit of magic. Given that Trin was awful at putting up magical defenses, it had taken less effort than usual. But still…
She was smiling when I did it, he thought, the memory of Trin's expression still lingering on his eyes like sunspots. She was leaving and she wouldn't stop smiling.
Cinier combed his fingers through his hair, running into several tangles in the process. Trin had cut her hair short three decades ago, and Cinier had grown his out in response. He still wasn't used to the maintenance, and it got in his eyes like crazy, but he kept it up anyway. As soon as he got the strands in place, a breeze picked them up, destroying his handiwork and obscuring his vision in strands of white.
He scowled, holding half of his hair down. Outside of Asylum City, there was only as much to see as you wanted. For humans that had passed on, that view was colored by their expectations of the afterlife: heavens, hells, eternities—they all existed here. For Denizens, their vision was less clouded, and they were able to actively manipulate what they saw.
Trin had preferred something closer to the Absolute. In Asylum's case, that meant something akin to nothingness, plain structures completely void of color. That sight only made Cinier's eyes hurt, no matter how hard he tried, so adding a bit of flavor and dimension suited him more.
He nearly tripped, cursing in the process, and his wings spreading out to retain his balance. The magic currents in Asylum immediately picked him off the ground, hovering at a height of a few feet. A gnarled tree root resting in neon blue soil seemed to be the culprit, and Cinier didn't touch down until he had reached a significant distance. The rest of the pathway was clear, and the edge of a cliff rested before him, showing off a view of a technicolor forest below.
It was almost blinding how bright the whole place was. Even in this part of Asylum, the sky shimmered between bright purple and orange. The entire place was dyed with Trin's presence, even if she was no longer here.
"Figures that it'd look the same," Cinier mumbled, taking a seat at the cliff's edge. Even in its Absolute form, the spot was a pretty popular flying hang out. Trin had taken plenty of dives off this cliff, seeing how far she could drop before letting out her wings.
Cinier wrapped his own wings around him, feathers tickling his chin. Trin had always defaulted to a form closer to an angel, and Cinier had sort of copied her on accident. It didn't matter much considering non-Denizen residents of Asylum would see him as their perspective dictated, but Cinier liked to think it was a sign of friendship.
Trin screamed as she dropped down, plummeting straight towards the ground. All that Cinier could see was a cloud of blue dust that Trin had kicked up before she dived. Concern made him forget his apprehension and he raced to the edge, wings spread wide as he peered over. Trin was only a drop, but she shined in his vision, somehow standing out against the lights of the trees below.
The remaining echo of her voice reached his ears, and Cinier could tell she was screaming from joy. Down below, her dot grew closer and closer to the canopy of leaves—and she was definitely going to hit them, she didn't even have her wings grown—but then she was shooting back up, a purple streak in his vision. Trin catapulted up faster than even Cinier's vision could track and nearly took his head with her as she whizzed past.
A few flaps of her wings later and she was hovering before him. The long dark strands of her hair were everywhere, a verifiable mess, and Trin spat a few out of her mouth. It would take more than a few minutes with a brush to fix that. But Trin was laughing, even as she sounded out of breath.
"Cin," she exclaimed, grabbing onto his arm, practically pulling him off the cliff's edge, "put your wings in. You've gotta try this."
In the end, Cinier was too chicken to try that sort of thing out, so Trin had settled for just badgering and racing him instead. She was persistent, but even she couldn't force someone to put their wings back in.
So why could she force me to break her halo?
Trin didn't have any decent control of magic, though some people assumed she had excellent control of Compulsion. Cinier knew that wasn't the case. She got inside your head, but not through magic. She saw you, and that was enough to get her away.
Cinier scooted closer to the edge, his thighs halfway without support. His wings trembled, instinctively trying to spread, but he forced them to stay in. Trin had never needed to do any casual activities to take the drop. No scooting off, no closing her eyes and walking until she was falling. She took it like a swimmer diving into a pool, going for it headfirst.
Cinier didn't have that sort of courage. So he just had to do it the slow, agonizing way. His heartbeat protested, and he had to bury his hands into his feathers to keep them still. He couldn't put them away like Trin did, especially not just for a dare. Being wingless made him feel vulnerable enough already. No need to add a drop that could cause some serious damage.
Inch by inch, he scooted closer to the edge. He went ass first to the ground, not even summersaulting in the air. His hair felt like it would be torn out by the wind, and feathers came out between his fingers against the strain of his wings. He didn't open his eyes, couldn't even imagine looking as everything blurred past, especially with the explosions of colors he tended to see. The thought was enough to increase his nausea.
It was instinct that won out, Cinier's wings parachuting as air buffeted between them. He steadied himself, blinking a few times to asses where he was. Still in flight, still nowhere close to the treetops, which were just rainbow specks below him. Cinier turned and looked back up; he wasn't even halfway down the cliff, and darker shades of blue made up the rocks from this angle.
"You put up too much wind resistance from that angle," a voice criticized, and Cinier's wings turned him around. Casually floating with the cliff as his backdrop was Grand Deity Ezekiel, adjusting a set of bandages around his arm. Cinier stared in shock while Ezekiel tucked the bandage end under the others, pulling a clip from his lips to fasten the thing. "Keeping perpendicular to the ground makes you drop faster."
"It's not like I wanted to fall or anything," Cinier muttered before he realized who he was speaking to. The Grand Deity—head of all Denizen affairs in Asylum—was out in the middle of nowhere, telling Cinier how to best fall from a ridiculous height. The situation could have been awe-inspiring if a rumor didn't come to mind. "Does High Denizen Anna know you're skipping out on work again?"
Cinier hoped that Ezekiel would dismiss the comment. Instead, the Grand Deity grimaced a bit, his one visible gold eye avoiding contact. Cinier sighed. No wonder Trin was able to talk to Ezekiel without any traces of respect.
"Listen, this is technically work," Ezekiel retorted. As if technically was supposed to make the words sound any better. "You're part of my council now, so I need to keep tabs on you. Disappearing at random is not an option."
Cinier grimaced this time and flapped his wings for an ascent. Ezekiel followed, but it wasn't like Cinier's aim was to run away. Both Denizens landed on the cliff, and Ezekiel took a seat on the edge. Cinier didn't have much choice but to follow his lead.
Cinier's Creator had left for business on Earth nine months ago, leaving her fourth position in the Council open. Even though High Denizen Jeremiah's precedent didn't exactly mean that appointing a replacement was necessary, Eve had passed the position on to Cinier anyway, despite being the youngest of her Creations.
"I just needed to get some air," Cinier provided as a lame excuse, and not even the laid-back Ezekiel would take those words as an excuse. "The whole thing with Trin is ridiculous, not to mention if I stay in Council Headquarters, Daniel is going to just breathe down my neck the whole time."
"As a matter of fact," Ezekiel said, checking the bandages on his fingers like someone scrutinizing their nails for dirt, "Daniel was the first volunteer for Trin's Observation Committee. He's been excused from his duties at HQ for the duration of her trial."
That was enough to make William's feathers stand on end, and each inch of his skin tingled with chills. Observation Committees were put in place to watch over any being that could undergo a trial from Asylum—humans, Denizens, and other Supernaturals alike. In this particular case, Trin's observation committee would be looking out to make sure she wasn't causing any undue trouble on Earth.
It was also an obvious ploy for Ezekiel to goad Cinier into picking up extra work, and he wasn't falling for it.
"I'm not doing this," Cinier said, standing up. Ezekiel tried to protest, but Cinier didn't even process it. "It's shit that Daniel's trying to gain an advantage to screw over Trin, but that's a problem between her and him." Cinier worked on pulling his hair back, but there weren't any hair ties in a place like this. He let it fall behind his shoulders. "And Trin wouldn't want me caught up in this. She made that much clear."
"Oh, is that why she wanted you to break her Holy Identifier for her?"
Cinier's hand smacked the ground, but powder blue dirt muted any sound. "I don't know what she wants, so don't go asking me!" It was just like Trin to leave him in the dark until the last minute, but that minute had already passed. Short of Cinier heading down to Earth, there was no way for them to even talk until the trial was over. Betrayal stung like fresh cuts, but confusion clouded over anything else. "I'm not part of her game this time."
Ezekiel's expression was calm, but that was more of a problem than not. His usual smile was faded. Cinier dipped his head in apology.
"Don't start apologizing to me because of position," Ezekiel said, and it was a familiar rebuke by now. Of course, it was because of Cinier's new position that he was aware of these things. "I'm not accusing you or Trin of anything. But know that plenty of other people will, and Daniel being on her Observation Committee might not be the least of your worries."
"Go back to work," Cinier said, standing up. He didn't sound nearly as authoritative as he needed to, and his voice cracked at the end. "You came here to check on me; you know where I am now. I'll be back to Headquarters in a few hours." He stretched out his wings before putting them fully away. A soft breeze blew at the sensitive skin on his shoulders. "If you bring Anna to this place I'll give away your sanctuary."
Ezekiel probably said something, but Cinier didn't hear it. Instead, he stretched his arms up and dived headfirst off the edge. It wasn't as smooth as Trin's, but it got him into the air. This time, the air went by faster and he could almost taste the speed in the air.
For the duration of the fall, he managed to keep his eyes open. Even though it was just a blur of rainbows, it was something he saw completely differently than Trin ever had.
No matter how much he tried, Cinier didn't feel any closer to her at all.
And, so, chapter two begins.
Unlike Twelve Zero Zero, which was in a focused first-person POV, TBE requires a lot more jumping around. Besides just hopping characters on Earth, there's the Asylum end of things to take care of, too. Starting with chapter two, we'll be taking some time with Cinier and another character, both of who are affected by Trin's trial on Earth. Next week, we'll be seeing just who the other one is. Please look forward to it!