Swans Over the Moon
crystalline waterfalls spilled into spray.
Pillars and arches thrust up through the vegetation, a sensual
dance of flora and architecture. Bird and small animals, mostly
lemurs and chameleons, moved from branch to branch, some even
leaping up into the background of falling stars or sun rays above
the buildings and trees. Beneath the band lay a stark landscape of
bone-white desert plains and the gray, desolate mountains of the
moon.
    Lifeless.
    Sterile.
    Emaciated.
    Sepulchural.
    At the bottom of the sphere, beneath the
blood-tinged, churning bath water, lay a carving of a darkened
crater, its gaping maw black and all-consuming, an abyss. Only now,
these many years since he ascended his father's throne, did he
begin to fear that darkness. He looked into it, and tunnel vision
closed in on him, drawing his sight into the blackness, his
consciousness into the pit.
    From the midst of the void he heard a voice,
distant and indistinct, yet familiar. Deep in the well, a muted
glittering cloud appeared from nothing at all and slowly coalesced
into almost un-decipherable words. Beneath the words merged a
female figure, who voiced the words written in the darkness above
her. The letters and the figure slowly became clearer, and though
they remained difficult to see and hear, as if his ears were
stuffed with cotton and his eyes blurred by a sandstorm, he
recognized the voice and body as his wife's. He also knew the
cadence of those words, burnt on his consciousness so long ago:
their last conversation as they lay naked beneath a pillar, spent
from lovemaking, lazily caressing each others' bodies. The rumble
of rock sliding on rock, followed by the couple's mingled
screaming, which grew more and more clear in the Judicar's ears, as
if coming out of a tunnel or waking from a dream, immediately
preceded a shift in the image and in the voice.
    The image changed from the darkened,
barely-recognizable form of his wife to a clearer, lighter, yet
still-blurred image of Cimbri, as if she were surrounded in an
illuminated mist. Her voice was clearer and seemed to emanate from
an area in closer proximity to her body than had her mother's. The
old words melted into new letters to reflect the words that Cimbri
spoke: “And in the darkness, mother hid this thing from you. She
feared that you would not see . . .”
    And again the voice changed as the body and
face matamorphosed, now into a vision of his second child, Basia. A
faint aura shone around her, outlining her in a glowing light. But
her beauty was twisted in anger, her blond tresses flailing in the
blackness, a soft, glowing waterfall of gold disturbed by the
vigorous action of her shaking head and the wide hand gestures
indicating negation. Again, the words formed from the detritus of
those last spoken: “No! I am in charge of my own destiny. I will
not be the tool of you or your counselors. I refuse to marry for
the sake of power. I am in love. Do you remember love, father? Do
you? Love? You once had that for mother, but you've forgotten it
since she's been gone.”
    Basia's face and form melted into a bright
white, almost blinding, shining image of Selene. Her voice was
soft, but increased in volume as she spoke. “Father. I love you.
With all the affection of a loyal daughter for her father, I do. I
love you.” She smiled – but her lips did not move as her voice made
its annunciation – and as her smile grew, the whiteness that shone
from her grew more and more intense as the volume of her voice
increased until, at last, the Judicar's vision was filled and he
plunged face first into the water of the bath, blind, save for the
image of Selene seared into his brain.
     

Chapter 5
     
    Heterodymus sat opposite the Judicar as they
jostled along in their pygmy-born carriage. Blinding spears of
light stabbed past the swaying, pitch-black window shades, due to
the carriage’s bumpy ride. On the outside, beneath the holocaustic
sun, eight pygmies hefted the carriage on two long tree
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