Ventus – Day 107 of 135


There is a ceiling to the sky.

For a while Calandria knew this, but couldn’t make sense of why or what it meant. Gradually it came to her that she was lying on her back, gazing up at a sky blue save for a single drifting cloud–but the sky was patterned with a fine net of triangles. Puzzling.

She let her eyes track along the triangles. There were thousands; they formed little hexagons and squares, a very orderly array. The cloud was underneath them, so they must be very big, or very high up.

She knew this kind of pattern. Tesselations. Geodesics.

Geodesic structure. She was inside an aerostat.

With that realization she was suddenly wide awake, and her heart pounding. She remembered the siege, and the terrible things she had done in trying to reach Armiger. She remembered being shot, subdued in chains, and dragged before a general who promptly traded her to the Winds.

Calandria groaned. After that first incident with the Heaven hooks, she’d had a presentiment that things would end this way. She couldn’t explain it to Axel–or even to herself. She had simply known they would come for her. And now they had her.

She curled up in a ball, willing it all to go away. Even with her eyes and ears stopped, though, she could feel the slow swaying motion of the aerostat. And breathing this warm dry air was hard; they must be very high up. She unrolled again and sat up.

She sat in the center of a black plain that gradually curved upward to become walls, becoming translucent as it did so. The aerostat must be two kilometers across at its widest. Various structures that might be buildings but probably weren’t, stuck up out of the black surface. Like a half-built city, abandoned by its makers.

Once, before she came to Ventus, Calandria had been a hero. She had tricked the rebel god 3340 into “deifing” her. Although she knew what had happened after that, the memories weren’t clear. Her human mind had been buried, after all, while the god-mind betrayed 3340. With Choronzon at her side she had hunted down the rebel, and Choronzon had destroyed 3340 while she looked on.

And then she had willed herself to become human again. Axel didn’t understand why she’d done that, and she wasn’t too clear on it herself. She had been a god–immortal and free. Yet she had chosen to become human again.

In quiet moments, Calandria knew why. It came down to the phrase “unfinished business”. She was a successful assassin, a powerful agent in Choronzon’s service. Formidable and respected. But in her heart of hearts she felt that however much she had succeeded at those things, she had failed at being human. Something was lacking; she could never completely connect to people. It was this feeling of being an outsider that had attracted her to the gods and their wars to begin with.

In quiet moments, she knew she had chosen to become human in order to give herself a second chance to get it right.

Now she sat wishing she had been kinder to Jordan, wishing she had told Axel how much he meant to her. She should never have come to Ventus. She’d blown her second chance, and there wouldn’t be another.

Movement to her right made her turn her head. Some beings were walking down the inside curve of the Heaven hook toward her. Another judge, perhaps, and new executioners. She would not even die at the hands of humans.

Calandria stood up. They had removed her bonds; of course, there was nowhere to run. The surface she stood on was black, unlike the upper reaches of the aerostat–the “sky”. Below her must hang the gantries and claws and cargo bays of the Hooks.

She stretched gingerly, feeling her injuries wake to protest. It was pointless to run; at least she might be able to put up a fight before they took her down.

Five creatures approached her. Four of them were squat, misshapen figures, like parodies of men sprouting extra limbs and multiple slobbering mouths: morphs. The fifth, towering above them, was a slim female shape made of glowing crystal. A Diadem swan, much like the ones who had dragged her into the night, and plucked her into the sky while she screamed…

Calandria hung her head.

“We sought pathology,” said the swan. Its voice was clear and bell-like. “We found you.”

Calandria cleared her throat. “I am not the one you seek.” Her voice seemed small to her, and uncertain. She couldn’t seem to regain that fine control that let her mesmerize her listeners so easily.

“You are not the one we seek,” agreed the swan. Surprised, Calandria looked up.

“You do not match the signal we have been pursuing,” said the swan. “You are nonetheless a pathology.”

“I came to Ventus to destroy the one you seek. That one is here to overthrow the Winds. I have been sent to stop him. The… modifications to my body, that you detected, were made to help me find him.”

“What are these Winds of which you speak?” asked the swan.

“Ah. Y-You, you are. That’s the name we have for you. Anyway there is a creature walking on Ventus, who’s come to destroy you. He’s the one you are after. He is extremely dangerous. I–“

“You are a hunter?”

“I– Yes. Yes, I am.”

“You hunt the pathology.”

“Yes.” She was afraid to say more. Afraid to move, now.

“Have you been successful?”

“Partly. I, I encountered him during the siege. We fought. I could have destroyed him, if–“

“We may use you.”

Calandria felt dizzy. Must be the air, she thought abstractly. Her knees felt weak, but she willed herself to stay standing. What had the swan just said to her? Use her?

“How?” she tried to say. It came out as a gasp.

“First, you must cease to be pathological,” said the swan. It gestured with one fiery hand. The morphs stepped forward.

“Oh no.” The morphs’ eyes glittered like water-polished stones. They surrounded her, muttering to one another, slapping their greasy hands on their thighs.

A hand closed on her neck and instantly, a wave of numbness spread down her arms. Calandria tried to fight, but all she saw was the black floor of the aerostat coming up to meet her, with the crowding shadows of the morphs overlaying one another.

“Kill me!” she hissed. Then her mouth would no longer work. She felt herself being pulled and tugged around; her cheek dragged along the floor. Wet tearing sounds accompanied the tugs. After a moment she was dragged across a patch of dark liquid that stank like iron.

She closed her eyes, and wept for all the missed opportunities of her life.

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