Selera sat at the Captain’s desk, inspecting the small palm-sized device in her hand. It’s gold, bright platinum and some type of mysterious black metal glinting and shining in the rising glare of the dawn through the aft windows. She looked across to the sleeping form of Tiffaniel on the Captain’s bed as she heard a slight break in her sister’s breathing and resettling. Selera shook her head and went back to inspecting the device. It matched the description in her parent’s notes and in the uncovered concept drawings that had been found and supplied by the Enclave. Two serpentine dragons, one white, the other black, grasping and surrounding a golden sun. It seemed a trick of the light, but the golden surface of the sun seemed to be transparent, as if it contained slowly moving mists. Bright light seemed to penetrate it, but under closer scrutiny, it did not. She turned it over in her hand and the opposing side of the two dragons framed it. Instead of the burning sun there was a dark moon rimmed with golden fire. She perused her parents notes again, in their mind the dragons were purely ornamental, nothing more than a clasp and outer assembly to hold and lock the golden orb in place. It was obvious that the orb could be rotated within the assembly of the entwined dragons. The only thing stopping it’s free movement were the opposing locking ridges that needed to be depressed simultaneously.
She quickly wrote her thoughts in her flowing hand, that the device was clearly designed to be firmly gripped on activation. Again, a strange movement beneath the surface of the golden sun caught her attention. She shook her head as she observed it suspiciously. While Tiffaniel had slept she had spent most of the night quietly probing the device with her magical talents. It was brimming with an energy she had never seen before, an arcane and eldritch power that filled her with unease. It was unlike anything that had been presented to her. Any thought of activating it out of testing its function was far from her mind. The ancient concept notes and designs that were presented to her were on a sheaf of strange paper that was semi-transparent and slick to the touch. They had yellowed with time but the notes and calculations scrawled all around the diagrams were clearly conceptual, genius, but untested even by its maker.
The calculations, while the notes accompanying them were in a language she did not recognise, the calculations led her to the same conclusion as her parents. It was some type of key that opened a door to a parallel or mirror universe, the theory was sound. Rifts to different dimensions and planes of existence had been brought about by mages and other magic users. Not to mention whole wars surrounding the closing of such travesties. But a device, here, of unknown origin or purpose just laying out in the open was something to be feared. The following day she would deliver the device to the Enclave vaults, to keep it safe and secured, locked away with the recommendation to never activate. She carefully placed it back in its lined box, sitting back before standing and moving to the open windows, breathing in the fresh sea air. Tomorrow evening they would be free and already on their way back down the coast, away from the desert heat and suspicious stares that always followed them wherever they went. She turned and looked at Tiffaniel. She would finally be able to get her siblings away from this infernal research and exposure to the broken technology that brought a cataclysm of damnation on the world. Away from the danger of those outlying human tribes, religious sects and outlaw bands who were seeking to resurrect the cursed technology for their own gain.
She smiled to herself, Sialin was right. She has been so focused on completing her late parent’s work for the Enclave that she rarely had time to truly be with her siblings. Her only goal was to complete it so they could return home. Sialin understood better than most, the feeling of being alone and misunderstood. She quietly chuckled to herself, her and Sialin’s roles were reversed in this. Suddenly she was the one needing guidance, on how to play parent to her younger siblings when she herself had not even had time to grieve. The night before had proven that there were many misunderstandings. The gulf in maturity between her twin siblings was more due to Tiffaniel’s easy reliance on her brother rather than a case of immaturity in itself. The cumulative effects of Sialin’s sudden punishment, Groyven’s emotional outburst and subsequent loss of control had demonstrated to her youthful stubbornness that maybe, somehow she was wrong. Additionally, Sialin’s actions the night before and this morning had showed Selera that she had been relying too heavily on a deceptively mature but sensitive young boy who was also struggling with loss, to take care of his out of control sister.
She had no right to stand in Sialin’s way. In one afternoon she had shifted Tiffaniel’s perception, set a physical boundary to her behaviour and had made her responsible for her actions. She had taken Groyven into a shameless, loving embrace that he so desperately craved and needed. Even the Captain who had taken to fathering Groyven in his own way, was amazed by the fyrelf’s sudden and effective control over the situation. Many times over the last few months Sialin had brought up her concerns when she had looked after the children, and Selera had dismissed it as them just needing time. In some small way, she felt ashamed, and at the same time relieved that her apprentice, Sialin had stood up to her and taken control, where she could not. The children could not even remember playing with the fyrelf when their parents had welcomed her to their home and their family, giving her a place to stay and call home outside of the academy. Even then, her warmth and authority with the children was enviable.
She looked at Tiffaniel, sudden movement from her sister drawing her attention.
Tiffaniel looked blearily around, ‘Ven, I am sorry. I don’t want you to turn into a demon. Please?!’ she cried out, disoriented.
She rubbed at her eyes, ‘Ven, I am sorry, I just, please Ven, talk to me.’
Tiffaniel, her eyes now clear, looked around the room. Momentary confusion set in as she looked past the glare from the window and saw the adult figure approach her.
Selera reached the bed and sat on the edge, ‘Bad dream?’ she asked.
Tiffaniel looked up at her face, ‘Lera? Where is Ven?’
Selera sighed slightly as she approached the inevitable conflict, ‘He is with Sialin.’
‘He is not a demon?’ Tiffaniel asked, her eyes wide.
Selera looked at Tiffaniel curiously, ‘Bad dream?’
‘Ven was on fire, and everyone was screaming at me, I had apologised but it was too late, he turned into a fire demon right in front of me, fire for eyes. When I called his name the demon laughed at me.’ she shook, ‘But I apologised, I know I was wrong. And he still…’
Selera pulled her into a hug, ‘He is fine Tiff, it was just a dream.’
‘Lera?’ Tiffaniel looked into Selera’s eyes, ‘I am sorry. I have been terrible to you. You came for us. You have been working so hard. And, and I have been attacking everyone.’
She looked down, ‘I just didn’t, I just, I don’t want to let them go.’
‘Neither do I, Tiff. I understand, and it is why I want to take you home, to our real home in the mountains. Where I used to play with you and Ven when you were little. So you can be close to them. I want to be there with you and Ven, so we can find ourselves again.’
‘Lera, but Mother and Father, they…’ struggled Tiffaniel.
Selera looked at her younger sister sadly, ‘Mother and Father are always with us, in our hearts, in our memories that we hold close. They will never leave, for they are just a thought away.’
‘Lera, I am scared, I am angry with myself.’ said Tiffaniel.
‘Because I can’t remember what Mother and Father’s voices sound like, no matter how hard I try. They are gone.’ Tiffaniel said quietly.
Selera took a deep steadying breath as she fought back tears, ‘I can’t remember either, Tiff. And it hurts that I will never hear their voices again. But I remember their words, their wisdom, the songs that they used to sing, and every now and then I sing them too, and for a moment, just a moment it is like they are right here in the room with me.’
Tiffaniel looked at Selera momentarily as the words sank in, before hugging her almost painfully, her voice but a whisper, ‘Lera, I am so sorry. You are my sister and all I could see was you trying to replace Mother. You just look so much like her.’
Selera nodded, ‘Tiff, Father always used to say that Mother and I could be mistaken as twin sisters. I understand, sometimes when I look in the mirror I see her looking back at me before I see myself.’
Tiffaniel nodded, ‘Lera, do you think, that maybe tonight we could sing before bed, just a little… Just so we could have one moment?’
Selera hugged Tiffaniel close, ‘I think we could try.’
‘I am so sorry, Lera. I am so sorry.’
For a while they sat in each other’s arms. Tiffaniel crying quietly and tears silently leaving trails down Selera’s cheeks as she breathed deeply, fighting her emotions. Selera looked over her young sister’s shoulder as she heard a soft knock at the door, it cracked open slowly and the Captain’s broad and strong frame filled the doorway. Seeing the questioning look on his face, she nodded. He tipped his head in return and withdrew with an understanding smile. The door latch clicking sharply as he left.
‘Ven?’ asked Tiffaniel.
‘No, the Captain just wanted to check in.’
‘You like the Captain, don’t you Lera? I need to apologise to him too.’
Selera rolled her eyes at the dismissive question, ‘Tiff, you really don’t remember anything of back home?’
Tiffaniel shook her head, closing her eyes as if trying to remember, ‘I sometimes have dreams of a place that is not the Enclave or the desert. And there are blue flowers that come out at night. I also remember a man, he was so big, and when he laughed you would go red in the face.’
‘Then you do remember something, Tiff. Those dreams were of home.’
Tiffaniel frowned slightly, ‘They are?’
Selera nodded, ‘That device on the desk is the last. After I file it at the Enclave’s vaults we are free to leave.’
‘We couldn’t leave?’
‘No, our parents took part in a contract, an agreement with the Chancellor of the Enclave to uncover, research and deliver if possible, any reported pieces of old-world devices that used a combination of magic and technology. It was to stop these things from the getting into the wrong hands and to store them securely in underground vaults. They call them bunkers.’
She looked over to the desk, ‘That is the last one.’
Tiffaniel looked over at the desk, ‘What is it? Do you know what it does?’ she asked with interest, getting up from the bed.