Carpathia III: Episode 14 - The Blue Star
It was not a long drive to Zhail Hills, but seemed like it took more time than it did. The clattering of the truck's engine and creaking of the frame made it impossible to carry on any kind of conversation during the trip. Every bump, dip, and rock in the road made the truck rattle so much that Kaoru kept watch in case it lost any parts.
As they passed between the two statues, the truck slowed and the road became smoother, enabling some basic conversation.
Kaoru: What are those?
Ixon: I don't know, honestly. My research seems to indicate that they were created by a previous civilization.
Ixon: Same goes true with the statue and the park.
Ixon: The inn where the festival is held is a mystery too. It's clear that it was once used for a different purpose. However, and there's no good way of saying this, we are scavengers. According to our records, our little society was built up around this building. We eat and drink here. Visitors stay here. We hold our festivals here and under the big tree by the lake out back.
They soon pulled up to the inn. It looked to be more than a mystery. It didn't fit with any of the surroundings at all. While the other buildings and houses were small, humble structures, the inn was massive and ornate. It had large, black marble columns in front and was decorated with statues on the roof. The statues were grotesque, cat-like structures that hung from the corners of the building like gargoyles.
It was already crowded outside as people streamed in from everywhere. Kaoru was amazed at the diversity of species there. He'd never seen such a diverse group of species gathered in one place in his life. There were plenty of humans, nekohumans, elves, and other species he could not identify. To his astonishment, he saw full nekomi, rather than nekohumans. He spotted at least one neko who appeared to be his age. Until then, he'd never seen one so young before. In Carpathia, the youngest full neko he knew of was already in her late 40's. This was, it seemed, a place where the disease that sterilized the nekomi never existed.
Everyone was dressed as strangely as any group he had ever seen, as though their clothes were cobbled together from every style from a dozen planets over the last 50 years. Most comical, he thought, was a green, lizard-like creature with brown hair, yellow spikes on his head, and a long, thick tail. It was dressed in khaki pants, a frilly, Victorian shirt, and a top hat.
Reuli opened the tailgate of the truck and leaped out with his guitar.
Reuli: Can I go in and set up?
Ixon: Yes, you should, since we're kind of late.
Ixon looked up and waved excitedly another lizard-like creature walking by.
Ixon: Hey, Kaut! I haven't seen you in a long time! Are you playing tonight?
The lizard-like creature he was addressing turned and upon seeing Ixon, smiled as Ixon scooted himself to the edge of the truck's tailgate.
Kaut: Hi Ixon. Yes, I am playing tonight.
Kaut held up a bass guitar, which was dirty and cracked in several places. Kaoru guessed that it was another object that had come through the wormhole. He wondered more and more how often the portal appeared and how many people it had taken over the years.
Ixon: Tarja will be very happy! Anyway, I wanted to introduce you to Kaoru. He recently arrived through the portal.
Kaoru scooted towards the end of the truck's tailgate next to Ixon.
Kaoru: Nice to meet you.
Kaut: Likewise. You came through the portal? Sorry to hear that. I came the same way, a long time ago.
Kaoru: When you were a child?
Kaut: That's right. I'd like to hear some news from my home planet sometime, if you know any.
Kaoru: I'm sorry, but I'm afraid your species isn't known to us yet. You're the first one I've ever met.
Kaut: Interesting. I didn't know that. Anyway, I have to go in and set up now. See you inside?
Kaoru: Yeah, I'll be there.
Kaut waved at the two of them as he turned and walked towards the bar. Kaoru took his crutches from the truck as Ixon looked behind him at the cab.
Ixon: Hmmm... I guess Tarja and Quilyon have gone in already. That just leaves the two of us.
Kaoru didn't notice the man coming up behind Ixon until he was already upon him. The man was dressed much more shabbily than anyone else and wore a tired scowl on his face. He bumped roughly into Ixon's right shoulder, sending him staggering forward.
Man: Watch it, Ixon.
Ixon: Oh, it's just you, Ghestalt. I see you're as cheery as ever.
The man ignored Ixon and swaggered up the path to the bar. Ixon rolled his eyes and turned his attention back to Kaoru, helping him down from the tailgate. Kaoru noticed that most of the crowd was now entering the inn. Ghestalt clearly went out of his way to bump into Ixon.
Ixon: Don't mind Ghestalt. He never forgave me for marrying Tarja. What can I say? She picked me.
Ixon grinned at Kaoru and he smiled back as they walked up the path together.
Inside was even more odd than the outside. The outside, at least, had a harmony of style, but the inside was a mishmash of decor. The floors were marble as were the columns that held up the ceiling, and were decorated with ancient art depicting what appeared to be animals of some sort. Everything else seemed to have been added by the current residents. There was a long, wooden bar on the other end of the vast room as well as a stage in the center where the band was setting up instruments.
The inn was jammed with people. Tarja, Reuli, and Kaut, along with a drummer and a keyboardist were up on the stage while everyone else was milling around on the floor. Ixon found an empty chair and dragged it through the crowd, pulling it up next to Kaoru. He took a seat and placed his crutches against the wall. After that, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his galaphone.
Ixon: Oh, you still have that? I thought it was broken.
Kaoru: Just damaged. The video camera still works. I have to show this to everyone if I ever get back home. Nobody will believe me if I told them about this!
Kaoru flipped open his phone. The screen had a small crack and one of the corners was badly deformed, but it still functioned.
Ixon: Well, now's a good time for it, because I think they're going to start soon!
Quilyon: Daddy, I think I saw Ghestalt here.
Kaoru turned to see Quilyon rushing up towards them.
Ixon: Oh, I saw him. Just try to keep your distance, okay?
Quilyon: Pfft. Don't worry. He creeps me out.
At that moment, the lights dimmed a little and a soft melody began on the keyboard. Kaoru switched on his camera and pointed it at Tarja, who was on the stage just turning to face everyone. The music was about to begin.
Tarja: Once, I had a dream. This is it!
It was the beginning of a beautiful melody, Kaoru thought. He leaned back, awaiting the gentle music that he expected to fill his ears.
Until Reuli started playing the guitar.
It was a very fast-tempo rhythm, with an aggressiveness that Kaoru had never heard before. The rhythm was far from just noise, however, as even to Kaoru's untrained ears, it had a very dynamic, complex structure and it showcased Reuli's immense talent. It was a sound that could only be described as heavy metal, a sound that never interested Kaoru. However, the experience of seeing it live, performed by people he knew, made a strong difference. He was enjoying himself.
Tarja continued singing, her melodious, almost operatic, voice strangely complementing Reuli's riffs.
Tarja: Fly to the dream, far across the sea! On a burning star, open the chest once more!
At the end of the song, the entire bar erupted in applause, but Kaoru maintained a firm grip on his galaphone, not wanting to miss a single moment capturing everything with the video camera. Ixon leaned in close to him, still clapping himself.
Ixon: So, what do you think of Tarja's elf-song?
Kaoru looked up at him, his eyes still wide in amazement.
Kaoru: That was incredible! And it was nothing like I expected.
Kaoru turned his attention back to filming. They played their set for at least a half hour, the crowd roaring with delight at the end of each song. At the end of the set, Reuli leapt from the stage, followed by Tarja, who descended far more gracefully, and waded through the crowd to where Kaoru, Ixon, and Quilyon were watching.
Kaoru: Tarja, it was almost worth falling into that portal just so that I could come here and hear that.
Tarja: Well, aren't you sweet! Thank you!
Reuli: Me too! Me too!
Kaoru: You too, Reuli. Do you want to see the video?
Quilyon: Not now, we should go outside so we can get a good spot. The Blue Star will be rising soon.
Kaoru clutched the back of his chair and, with difficulty, stood up. Quilyon grabbed Kaoru's crutches and shoved them under his arms. They departed together with Ixon and Reuli assisting Kaoru down the small hill to the lake shore. The vast lake stretched out before them, all the way to the horizon with the starlight and the lights of the town dancing upon the gentle waves.
Behind them, the rest of the inn patrons followed and soon, everyone was looking towards the horizon. Like the watched pot that never boils, it seemed to take forever for anything to happen, but finally, a tint of blue appeared in the evening sky. Slowly, the entire horizon filled with a rising mass of blue light. It was the first time for Kaoru to see Amphitrite, the planet that Ixon told him they orbited. Everything around them was cast in a brilliant blue hue. It glistened and reflected off of the lake making it appear as though the entire world was alive and dancing to the light of the Blue Star.
The first time Jaze was told he was given night patrol duty, he was surprised he could be so lucky, but he soon understood why it was a task given only to new people and undesirables. Nighttime, when the temperature was tolerable, was the best time for sleeping, and he feared to do so lest someone catch a glimpse of him dozing and have him in even more trouble. As he walked along the wall, he noticed long shadows appearing. It was too early for morning, and he gazed out to see if the sweltering sun was rising once again.
Instead, he saw a mass of blue rising over the horizon, casting everything in its gentle light. For some reason, he felt less alone for just a moment as he watched the Blue Star rise up into the sky. He thought of his friends again as he closed his eyes and whispered to himself.
Jaze: Toma, where are you?
Rising Falls, Yseri
Adell, Artemis, and the old man sat on the highest point in the Rising Falls. The old man insisted that they make the trek up the steep hillside and across the rocks. Though they asked why, they couldn't understand his excited gestures. He would only wave his arms wide, leaving them to believe that whatever was coming, it was supposed to be big.
From there, they could just see over the top of the falls and, in the breaks of the mist, see the glittering lake stretching to the horizon. The old man kept looking straight ahead, like a kid waiting for an ice cream truck to come down the street.
Artemis: Adell, I think your shirt is turning blue.
Adell: So is your hair.
They both looked at the old man, who was now pointing frantically towards the horizon. Both turned to see where he was pointing and they could see a large, blue mass rising up behind the mist of the rising falls. The mist of the falls glowed serenely in the light of the blue star and cast its light over everything around them.
Artemis: This is a moon. We must be orbiting a gas giant.
Somewhere in Yseri
Toma laid his hammer down on the anvil and stretched his back. It was a rare moment of respite that he could only take when the guards had their backs turned to him. The shackle on his leg chafed incessantly and every muscle in his body ached terribly. He couldn't remember the last time he had a break as he lost count of the number of days he'd been in that village.
As he reached down to pick up his hammer before the guards could see him, he noticed that the anvil was beginning to glow blue. He looked up into the sky to see a blue mass rising up over the horizon. The Blue Star gradually sent more soothing blue light down upon him and he relished the glow. He allowed himself a moment to close his eyes and whisper softly to himself.
Toma: Jaze, where are you right now?
A moment later, he heard the familiar sound of the crack of a whip and felt a sting on his back. Right away, he picked up his hammer and went back to pounding the hot lump of metal that was before him.
Planetrise image by Jenova87
All city pictures from SimCity 4