Hi, everyone. It's been a while, right? Well, welcome to another original story by this Lunatic. If you want to get news on this or other stories, you can come say hi to me on Facebook. There's a link on my profile.
These are my characters and ideas. Please, do not use them without my permission.
A/N: This is the second story in the "Falling Stars" series. The first story was posted a couple of years ago. I'm determined to finish the series, though. If you need to read the first story, Falling Stars: Burning Bright .You definitely need to read the first story to understand what's going on in this one. This story is going to have some rough spots, but I'll try to give fair warning before we get to them.
Falling Stars: Fading Comets
1: Coming Together
Etayay rolled her shoulders as she made herself comfortable under her favorite, thick oak tree in the palace garden. There were times life still seemed like a dream. She lived in a palace with space as wide as the forest she used to explore as a child. It was strange to have so much space considering she spent most of her life in a room a little bit larger than a closet. And she lived with the Wolf Tribe. It was mind blowing. Beyond that, she was the wife of the Wolf Tribe's High Prince and they had a child together. She had a loving family. She never imagined her life going in such a direction, but there it was. She was… content, she supposed it would be called. But, it was more. She did not have the emotional vocabulary.
The smell of sweet grass and peppermint wafted by Etayay and she inhaled. The scent settled the energy stirring in her soul. The simple touch of nature pulled at everything that made her a transcendent and made her want to reach out, expand, and pour out everything inside of her to connect with the world even more.
Eryna was right behind Etayay, sitting down right next to her and watching her every move. Eryna wanted to study with her and she doubted a better time would come. She enjoyed helping Eryna ascend. One day, it would be nice to see Eryna have an even higher understanding of the universe than she did. She'll be more of a transcendent than I ever could. And Etayay would only feel proud.
The day was magnificent, ideal for mediating. The sun was high in the warm, blue sky, which was dotted with a few thin, stretched out clouds.. Sunny and bright, but not too hot and not too cool, not that it really mattered to the sisters. Etayay and Eryna dressed the same all year round in their transcendent robes, red and white and pink and white respectively. The robes were generally light, as they could regulate their own temperatures thanks to their magic.
Etayay set herself up, folding her legs under her and cupping her hands in her lap. A sigh left her mouth the moment the sunlight hit her face. It was like having the world smile on her.
There were birds singing and insects buzzing around. Each noise danced down Etayay's nerves and she delighted in all of it. There was no way Etayay could have stayed inside on a day like this. It was like a magnetic force pulled her out there. It was something that set her apart from Eryna, who could stay inside for days, weeks, months on end. That was no way to discover the universe to Etayay, but Eryna had a depth of knowledge from reading that Etayay would never truly comprehend.
"It's nice out," Eryna said.
"It's always nice out to me," Etayay replied. There was no time she would not rather be outside, but when there was so much life going on outside was the best.
Eryna laughed. "You're weird." Etayay had heard that her entire life.
"Sissy!" Poya and Eka yelled happily as they ran up behind Etayay. They climbed up Etayay's back as if she was a tree and they were squirrels. Her height might have had something to with their desire to climb her all the time. They clung to her and she was grateful they were both light. They did not seem to realize they were getting too big for that, acting as if they were toddlers rather than seven-year-olds.
"What're you doing today, sissy?" Eka inquired with a smile. Her dark blue eyes sparkled and shined. It was early morning and her robes were already askew. The blue violet outside hung loose, displaying more of the white than she should have.
"Mediating," Etayay answered.
"That's boring!" Poya shouted right in her ear and she puffed out her glowing cheeks. She was already worked up from running around. She and Eka wanted to do something fun with their "sissy" and it was hard to stop them when they had an idea in their hive mind.
"I'm sure to you, it's boring, but we must take into account this is me." Etayay pressed her hand to her chest. "Also, I told Eryna that I'd help her ascend whenever I had the time. She's sick of being pushed around by Innya's students."
"They're so mean!" Eka gripped Etayay's shoulder tight in her fury with Innya's students.
"They are! They tried to hurt Sissy when she first got here, too! But, of course, they couldn't hurt Sissy." Poya put her chin in the air, boasting for Etayay in a way Etayay would never be able to do for herself.
"Of course not!" Eka agreed.
Eryna clapped her hands against her knees. "Well, I'm tired of them bothering me and coming after me. There are just too many of them for me to be able to do anything against them."
"Doesn't help that you get scared easily either," Eka said with a chuckle. Poya snickered right along with her.
"What?" Eryna huffed, nostrils flaring.
Eka shrugged her small shoulder. "What? You do."
Poya nodded, backing her best friend as always. They had seen Eryna in action on more than one occasion and they were not sure if there was another person on the planet who panicked as easily as Eryna. Etayay thought the same, but knew Eryna could be trained to stop. They needed to put the work into it.
"Don't worry, Eryna. We'll overcome this and show you that Innya's students are more show than anything else," Etayay said as she climbed to her feet with both little girls hanging off of her. They would not get anything done until the young duo was properly distracted.
Eryna nodded as she followed Etayay to a wider, more open section of the garden. They went to a clear corner and Etayay removed the children from her person. She did not say anything. They got the hint and there were butterflies not too far off.
Poya and Eka ran off to a nearby flower patch with all of the butterflies and busied themselves. They wasted no time picking flowers, tying them together to make crowns. They also chased butterflies, caught them, and released them.
Etayay watched the children for a long moment before she sat down again. She folded her legs and made sure her robes stayed proper and covered her lower limbs completely. She cupped her hands in her lap and Eryna followed her example.
"Now what?" Eryna inquired.
"It's very simple. I've trained like this since I was about nine and read about it in books. I'm sure you have at least glanced at those same books. You're going to reach down inside of yourself to reach outside," Etayay replied.
"Outside of what?"
"Outside of everything. Connecting within will help you connect outside here and beyond. You'll be able to touch the edges of the universe if you do this properly."
Eryna nodded. "Have you?"
"I've never tried. What good is the edge of the universe? Now, just relax," Etayay said. She took a deep breath and Eryna copied her big sister.
"Clear your mind and close your eyes."
"Why must you always question before trying? It'll come to you. You'll feel it take hold and dig into yourself and discover so much. It isn't as difficult as you'd like to believe it is, Eryna. Just relax and try."
"All right." Eryna took another deep breath.
The sisters closed their eyes and synced their breathing. They concentrated on the task at hand, soul searching. They blocked out everything around them, focusing on within.
Etayay allowed the sounds around her to filter through because even the noise of the children playing was sweet music to her. She could tell from their laughter that Poya and Eka were having the time of their lives, as they always did when they were together. She loved that they were both happy, especially because they were so happy together. There was a giddiness to it that Etayay did not understand and could not figure out, even through months of observation. What she did understand was how fortunate they were to have each other.
"Hey, let's go get Sissy," Poya suggested to her best friend in a whisper.
"Yeah, let's go get her," Eka replied.
The mischievous pair charged Etayay and hit her with enough force to knock her over, but she barely moved. They climbed all over Etayay once more. No one had yet to figure out why the girls enjoyed using Etayay as a cliff face and no one understood why Etayay allowed them to do such a thing. It did not bother her and they loved it. That was good enough for Etayay.
Eryna glanced over at her sisters and her face twisted a bit. She was baffled by Etayay's indifference toward being used as a toy by the children. Eryna certainly would not let them climb all over her, especially after they were just playing in the dirt, no matter how fun they thought it was. There were plenty of trees around the garden, and the palace in general, for the girls to climb all over.
"Concentrate," Etayay said to Eryna.
Eryna yelped and closed her eyes. She took a few breaths and refocused on meditating. Etayay could feel Eryna as she settled in. That was good. This will suit her well.
Everything was fine for a few minutes. The children were busy and delighted while tugging on Etayay's silk robes. Eryna got deep into her new form of training. Etayay was fine with everything and relaxed. Then, there was a shift in the mood. Etayay stiffened for just a moment. The children felt the change and paused for a moment while Eryna could simply feel the change in the air, like there was pressure around them suddenly. Eryna was about to inquire why her sister tensed.
"Just concentrate," Etayay said. If they got to train like this long enough, she was confident Eryna would be able to tap into the simple change in air pressure and figure out who was around. But, she had to get Eryna to the point where she could ignore the world around them in favor of the world within them.
Eryna nodded, knowing Etayay could take care of herself. Still, there was a tightness in her posture for a long moment. It might have been because of her lacking in an area of magic she should have figured out or she might have just been bothered because Etayay had been for a moment.
Etayay relaxed again, but the reason for why she had tensed up was obvious to them all. The presence as it crept closer and Eryna had to feel it. She was anxious now, energy buzzing through the air to Etayay. Eryna flinched once the person stood near her and her focus was gone.
Eryna opened her eyes to see Innya, Etayay's mother-in-law and by far the most frightening woman Eryna had ever met, stood in front of Etayay with a sword to the mediating female's throat. Innya was almost the same size as Etayay while Etayay was sitting down. It was a bit funny for someone so scary to be so small. Eryna gulped while the two younger girls hid behind Etayay and snickered. Etayay was blasé about the blade at her neck and remained calm, a characteristic Eryna never truly understood. Etayay hoped to train that into Eryna, though.
"Why aren't you carrying your sword?" Innya asked Etayay. Her voice, cold and menacing, struck terror into Eryna's heart.
Eryna was not alone when it came to that fear, as most people would have thought it was stupid to not be afraid. But, Etayay had been called stupid for her entire life, so that explained her attitude. Innya's eyes were a piercing onyx that Etayay easily looked into, but only she and Poya could do such a thing. Even Tonotec, a fearsome warrior in his own right, hesitated to look his mother in her eyes.
"I'm spending the day with my sister today," Etayay replied and most people would wonder what that had to do with Innya's question, but Innya understood Etayay. She was one of the few people who tended to follow Etayay when she spoke. Etayay did not have a use for the weapon at the moment and that was why she was not carrying it.
"Oh, really? She should be carrying a sword, too." Innya smirked and dropped the sword into Eryna's lap.
"Ah! I didn't touch it!" Eryna jumped to her feet as if she had been set on fire and the sword dropped to the ground. Eryna had recently learned that transcendents were not even allowed to touch weapons and she did her best to stick to the rules, even though she had touched weapons in the past. According to her, the past did not count because she did not know. Etayay did not argue that.
Innya laughed. "You're by far the jumpiest kid I've ever met and I've met Hetanu."
"Oh!" Eka howled and she pointed at the sword in her sister's lap. "I'm telling!" She wagged her finger at Eryna.
Eryna waved her hands. "I didn't touch it! I didn't touch it!"
Innya shook her head and focused on Etayay. "Your sister never ceases to amaze me. Or is it amuse me?" She tapped her chin as she smirked.
"Must you torment her?" Etayay inquired as she stood up. She picked up the disregarded sword. "You're almost as bad as your students."
Innya scoffed. "I'm looking for a laugh. They're looking to kill her. That's hardly the same thing. Now, you should carry your sword at all times, no matter what you're doing." Innya motioned to the weapon in Etayay's hand.
"You can't!" Eka and Eryna stared at her with horror in their dark blue eyes. They looked like she grew two heads in front of them.
"She can and will. She better." Innya stared at Etayay, trying to will her into submission. They both knew that was a waste. Etayay was not one who could be threatened or bullied. It was one of the things Innya adored about her.
"But, transcendents aren't allowed to handle weapons," Eryna said.
"That's why she's a Wolf," Innya commented as she put her hand on Etayay's shoulder. It was quite the reach for Innya, who was very short. It was slightly amusing to Etayay that Innya tried to intimidate her while being so tiny. If Etayay ever felt the urge, she could probably pick Innya up and carry her around.
Despite her height, Innya was the deadliest person Etayay and her sisters had ever met in their short lives. Innya never seemed to notice her own height, possibly because her personality took up so much space. Not to mention, she could devour anyone who dared to try to make her feel inferior due to her height.
"She's not a Wolf!" Eryna went as far as to glare down Innya. She and her mother did not like Innya and Tonotec declaring Etayay was a Wolf because she was not and it was obvious since she did not have a tail or pointed ears or claws for fingernails. Her sister was a transcendent and the Wolves needed to accept that, Eryna often argued. Etayay never bothered.
A half-smile settled on Innya's face. "She is. Why else would she be holding that sword?"
Etayay held up a hand to stop them. "I do appreciate the both of you trying to put a label on me, but we're all aware that I'm not a transcendent nor am I a Wolf." Eryna would not back down from an argument no matter who she was arguing with and it was pointless to Etayay to debate on what she was when she had not even decided yet.
"Then, what are you, Sissy?" both Poya and Eka asked. They had the same mind at this point. They were almost the same person. It was adorable.
"It doesn't matter at the moment," Etayay replied. What was in a label? Transcendents had thrown her away, followed her to Wolves, who had embraced her, and Wolves who hated her. She was Etayay. That was enough. Existence was enough.
"Okay!" The little girls shrugged. They did not care what Etayay was as long as she was always their "sissy." They moved on, like they were about to go back to the business of climbing all over Etayay.
"Don't do it. I'm holding a deadly weapon. Mistakes could be made," Etayay warned the children. They both pouted.
"But, if something did happen you could heal us!" Eka motioned between herself and Poya.
"I'd rather not have to heal you," Etayay replied. She would never forgive herself if they were harmed because of her, even if she could easily put them back together.
"You two shouldn't be climbing on her and such nonsense, anyway," Innya told the girls and she gave them a hard look.
Poya pouted. "Sorry, Mommy."
"Poya, what have I told you about apologizing?" Innya growled as her long black tail thrashed behind her violently because she was annoyed.
Poya's brow furrowed. "But, I didn't know the rules apply to you, too."
Innya pointed a long claw at her daughter. "They apply to everybody. You never apologize. Never do anything that you will feel the need to apologize for after all is said and done. Now, leave Etayay and her highly nervous sister alone to their practicing. You two cubs need to go get in some trouble, anyway." Innya waved them off with a flick of her wrist. Her daughter and Eka shrugged before running off.
"You're aware they're not going to get into any trouble at all," Etayay said. The worst those two would do was get in someone's nerves.
"No, they never do. Either your mother stops them or they get out of trouble because they are so damn adorable," Innya replied.
"I know." Etayay nodded. "Funny that your daughter would be so adorable."
Innya arched an eyebrow. "I could say the same for your baby sister."
"Eryna and I could've been adorable if we really wanted to," Etayay said with a small, amused smile. That was probably a lie, at least for her anyway.
Innya laughed and shook her head. "I doubt that and we all really need you to stop trying to make jokes. You're awful."
Eryna smiled. "For once, I agree."
"See, you're wising up then, little transcendent." Innya placed a friendly hand on Eryna's shoulder. Though Innya frightened the teenager beyond reason, Eryna knew Innya was not a terrible person who would ever try to hurt her. She was comfortable around Innya, as comfortable as a person could be in the company of an anger-prone, deadly assassin.
It was not that Innya was a good person either and Eryna was well aware of that fact, but Eryna tended to follow her older sister's example, no matter how weird it might be. Etayay did not treat Innya as a threat or danger, so Eryna was comfortable around her. She could tell that Innya would never hurt anyone in their family.
"Stop calling me 'little transcendent.' I'm bigger than you are," Eryna said. She was taller than Innya by a head.
Innya shook her head. "When you can clash swords with me and stand your ground, then you can say you're bigger than I am and I'll stop calling you 'little transcendent' if I feel like it."
A small smile drifted across Etayay's face. "That would explain why no one claims to be bigger than you are."
"No one that's wise, anyway," Innya said.
"Even the King," Etayay said. That was something that stood out to her. The King was rude to Innya and tried to control her, yes, but he could not. He even tried to intimidate her, but he never mentioned his height when doing it. He might look down on her, but it never felt like a literal thing, even though it was.
Eryna watched them and scratched her forehead. "Now, this is just something I don't get."
Innya groaned and looked at Etayay with a twinkle in her eye. "I'm almost afraid to ask."
"Allow me," Etayay offered and turned her attention to her sister. "Eryna, what is it that you don't get?"
"Her." The teenager pointed at Innya. "It just doesn't make sense to me why she's here. I try to add it up, but it doesn't come out right. It never comes out right. I mean, I know she's the King's wife. But, it's clear it's not something she wants to be. So, why is she even here? I mean, as bad as she is — and I'm sure she's badder than we even guess — what in the world is she doing some place she doesn't want to be? I mean, it's so obvious she and the King aren't very… well… Etayay, help me out." Eryna's face twisted up as she tried to understand how someone made Innya do something she did not want to do.
"You already said it. She doesn't understand why you married the King," Etayay explained to her mother-in-law.
"Or why your daughter's one of the most adorable, sweetest of all the little kids I have ever met, yet your son is… well… Etayay, help me out," Eryna requested again.
"She doesn't understand why Tonotec is so much like you while Poya is quite the opposite," Etayay clarified.
Innya stared at the sisters. "Is she trying to say she wants to hear my life story or something?"
"Well…" Eryna trailed off as a blush colored her cheeks and she dipped her head. She felt like she was being nosy.
"Yes, she does," Etayay answered for her sister.
"Your sister's good at throwing her voice, Etayay. Can you talk while she drinks a glass of water?" Innya slapped Eryna in the arm.
"Ow! Why'd you hit me and not her for the joke?" Eryna rubbed her bicep.
"I'd like to think I was the one in charge of our little show, but feel free to give Eryna the credit as I hate to be praised at all at this point in my life," Etayay replied. Even joke-praise at this point made her itchy.
Innya chuckled a bit. Etayay was one of the few people who could make her laugh, even though Etayay was very dry when it came to humor because she only had one tone of voice. Much of the time, Etayay was not even trying to be funny. When she did try, everyone thought her jokes were horrible. She was still trying to understand how humor worked.
"Are you going to… you know… tell us?" Eryna asked.
Innya shrugged. "My story's far from a secret. You two were just fortunate to not live here when it happened."
"You invited us to live here," Eryna said.
"No, my son and his brother invited you to live here. I just make sure you don't encounter as many problems as you would if I weren't here. Now, do you want to hear how this all happened or not?" Innya asked as she folded her arms across her chest.
Eryna held up her hands in surrender. "Okay, okay, okay."
Eryna could not wait to hear how Innya came to her current situation. Eryna had tried to figure it out since she had first come to know Innya, but nothing she came up with made any sense. Innya seemed to hate it in the palace and if Innya hated something, she changed it to better fit her sensibilities or at least learned how to fit it into her life in a comfortable manner. Neither of those things happened here, so what happened?
"Should we sit down? I feel like we should sit down," Eryna said, almost bouncing on her heels. She was eager to hear what she believed would be a good story.
Innya looked at Etayay with a small grimace. "What is this?" She motioned to Eryna and her giddiness.
"She loves a good story," Etayay replied. She was indifferent to the whole matter, but it was because she had already heard the whole affair from Innya and from Tonotec. It was supposed to be a warning story, she supposed, like to help her understand how to navigate the King and the palace. She did not need to avoid the King, as he never bothered with her. The rest of the palace was like much of the world to her, she was not there to them and they were not there to her.
Etayay thought it was best for her to stick around to provide the proper censorship of the story, though. Her sister was very sheltered and her mother would disapprove of Eryna hearing the whole story, down to some dirty details. Not to mention, Innya would like to tell Eryna some of the gory details to watch her squirm. While she was not a bad person, per se, Innya was a sadist to a degree.
Next time: how Innya's nightmare began.