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J Hart F

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Changed Earth (Part 7)

Two days, relentless and exhausting with how productive they had been. Knowing exactly how outnumbered they were, the inhabitants of the Keeling/Cocos Islands were opting to strengthen their defense. Hiding was not an option, and since the decision for an aggressive defense was made, Ethan had constantly been preparing. Little time to sleep existed; training was to be prioritized, protections needed to be built, strategies were discussed, histories were looked through, and social stability was encouraged.

This was Ethan's first moment for relaxation since the congress wherein he was elected to lead them in the matters concerning Charles. This was the first time to truly have his heart slow down, to allow his body to not require muscle contractions to keep himself upright. Ethan knew two days was his limit without sleep.

Within the sanctuary, he lay on the cool grass. His eyes closed before he got comfortable, and the heavy feeling of falling into deep sleep descended upon the mind. Darkness upon darkness wrapped itself within itself, and hovered around Ethan, caressing him into a soft lulling state. There were few moments before consciousness was lost. Footsteps softly caressing the leaves and grass upon the floor stepped calmly and carefully throughout the sanctuary.

Ethan woke up suddenly.

The light in the sanctuary was muted; the shades of blue, red and green of the Aurora Borealis, yet somehow even more bright than they had been originally. The sounds of the waves beyond the trees was completely gone, replaced by a whooshing of wind over the plains.


And a deeper, harsher voice popped into his head: The world is changing, Ethan...

Sitting up abruptly, Ethan knew who was outside the sanctuary, waiting patiently for him. He moved his body, and the movement happened so smoothly he found himself standing before he could remember moving his muscles to obtain that position. Looking around him, the light was so dark, but his awareness of the loneliness in the space was so complete Ethan felt he could see the entirety of the sanctuary.

The sound of the wind intensified, and the sanctuary started to spin so the doorway was before Ethan. Come to me, my brother...

"Akakios! What are you doing?"

Come to me...

Ethan stood still for a moment. His mind was struggling with the decision of whether to go or attempt to release himself from the nightmare he found himself in. Another whisper, though much more faint, whispered to Ethan in calm soothing melodies.

Worry not. The struggles of the dreamland are free of actuality. The land of the moon is strong in thought, weak in body; and temporary only with moonlight strength.

With his first foot forward, Ethan left the sanctuary quickly.

What he saw outside was a clear plain with a tree far down the way. The sky was covered in light gray clouds, the sun gone and the white sheen of the moon's light filtering crudely through the layer above. Glancing behind him, Ethan saw the doorway he had exited; it sat in the air connected to nothingness.

When his sight returned to the open plains with the tree in the distance, the outline of Akakios appeared beneath its shelter from the light. Ethan didn't like the dream world; the rules of reality were bendable and distances were mere feet away. And so he stepped once, and found himself nearly face to face with his younger brother. The tree smelled of rain and honey, humid sweetness of their hometown. Such a subtle memory lowered Ethan's defenses, if only slightly. As soon as Ethan realized he was starting to drift off in the dream world, which would allow Akakios freely into his mind, he asked abruptly, "What are you doing, Charles?"

"Remember that smell? That feeling of home?"

Ethan didn't answer.

"Oh come now, Diodoros. We have such little time to enjoy our history. Albeit, a history with little significance now." The landscape shifted quickly. The Aegean sea lapped against the rocky coast a little ways behind Ethan. Behind Charles was a small village; kids playing idly in the grass just off in a field and the adults working the farms while the breeze gently swept the smells of the earth all throughout the houses. "Don't you miss it, Elder Adair?" The sinuous tone was unmistakable.

Paying little attention to the illusion, Ethan focused clearly on his brother; his foe for all he cared. "What do you want?"

"Such anger!"

Be weary, Ethan Adair. The winds shift in ways unknown; the skies are darkened by intent.

"Why did you choose the name Ethan Adair? I've always wondered."

Ethan smiled. "I'm not playing into your games, little brother." Charles' face became rigid, impassible. Taking his chances, Ethan felt for the power of the moon; she sat directly above in his portion of the work. Its influence was strongest for Ethan: a full moon above, lying on an island whose oceans were at their peak, and the energies converging due to the moon's gravity.

He grabbed what energy he could, which was difficult since the illusion was not his own. Gaia aided the transaction; a Blue Morpho butterfly appeared above Charles and ascended into the tree to hang on a branch. A surge entered Ethan's body, and he felt his corporeal body tingling with the embued energies of the tidal forces, Gaia, and the moon. Keeping himself in the illusion, he shifted it slightly, testing his own abilities in the dream world.

The children disappeared.

Charles' face shifted slightly, a second or so having passed since he disengaged from his illusion. "Fine, if you won't play my gentle games, perhaps we should try something a little more... aggressive. That's what you're expecting isn't it?" His smile was wicked. "I don't want to let down my big brother."

The wind changed course, suddenly, heading directly toward the tree. However, the tree was no longer under Charles' control. The Blue Morpho lept from its branch and flew toward the oncoming gusts, growing in size with each flap of its fragile wings. Failing to notice his own surroundings, Charles reached out and pointed at Ethan.

Flames blossomed in his irises.

Ethan contorted his fingures into a symbol of protection and held his hands together before his chest. When the flames sprouted from Ethan's feet, they climbed around an invisible shield. He refused to detach his eye contact, despite the terrible hatred pouring from Charles' eyes.

The wind hit the butterfly, and both disappeared into nothingness: the abyss of dreams brought back into the real world. Charles felt the sudden lack in his world and turned his head to see what had happened.

Taking this sudden moment of freedom, Ethan moved into the tree, leaving his shield on the ground surrounded by flames. From there, he grabbed a branch, which came freely and silently off the trunk, and moved gracefully into the village without his brother's awareness. Moving into the center of the buildings, he planted the branch into the ground and made it spin into the dirt.

The facade of the dream world split into millions of jagged forms, and burst into a flourish of leaves which twisted and twirled in echos of tidal forces ripping apart a star. As they lifted into the air, they caught fire and shifted into vortexes of solar flares. Charles' voice resounded around the broken village. "I shouldn't have underestimated you, Diodoros."

"A seemingly constant theme in our relationship." With flames dancing in the sky, the ground cracking further under Ethan's feet, Charles appeared in front of the spinning branch. "What do you want, Charles?"

"TO KNOW WHAT YOU'RE UP TO!" he yelled with rage, firing spawning in packets around his head.

"You shall not learn this way," Ethan calmly indicated the dream world around him, wrought with chaotic beauty. Feeling the pull of the moon reach its peak strength, Ethan flicked his left hand out away from his body and transformed the flames into pockets of flowing water which began to rain upon the cracked landscape. "Nor shall we easily lower our defenses. If you wish to speak with us, peacefully, we will create an audience." Ethan knew this was upsetting Charles even more.

Charles reached for the branch, only to find it protected by Ethan's spells. The fire which graced his head burst into a brilliant radiance, creeping down his limbs to encompass his body completely. Reaching for the branch again, Charles broke through the protection and removed it from the ground. Every crack slithered back to the source and restored the scenery. "You cannot beat me, not with my powers so vibrant and lively!"

Ethan smiled again, though sympathy softened his blue eyes. "And you think you can succeed here? The dreamworld is not a battle zone, brother."

"I never meant us to fight here. Just for me to get into your mind."

"And never will you accomplish that."

"Don't think me so naive, Diodoros."

Relinquishing his smile to a more tranquil visage, Ethan brought forth his own powers, having only relied on what Gaia was willing to donate and the subtle pull of the moon. "Stop calling me by my birthname." Ethan felt his power welling around him, and sent it out, gently, sinuously toward Charles. Ages of practice allowed this action to come as second nature and he prepared to strike as soon as Charles showed rage again. "We both took an oath to the powers that be to adhere to the laws. I am your Elder, and thus you must address me as Elder Adair."

"I do not answer to the POWERS anymore," he bellowed, flairing in intensity for a second.

And that's all Ethan needed. Stinging like hundreds of wasps, the tendrils of energy tightened and entered Charles' mind.

They both gasped. Surprise spasmed in Charles' mind as he lost control of his own concentration as he became overwhelmed with fear. Ethan, on the other hand, was overcome by the sudden weight of power. He burned, as Charles surely burned with the power of Helios. Holding onto the fragile connection he had established, Ethan began to pull Charles out of the dream world.

The tone of Charles' voice became more real. "No. NO! This cannot be happening!" The sun shone brightly around Charles as he sat on the ledge of a green overhang, the southern seas blackened with ash under a blue sky clear of smoke.

"Now sleep, brother," Ethan said quietly, forcing a soothing tone through his stressted mind. "Sleep."

Charles fell into darkness.

Ethan opened his eyes and found himself drenched in sweat, shivering on the soft grass. He sat up and looked around, finding Alexis' staring at him with serene intensity.

She spoke. "I felt his presence here as you went to sleep. I came to assist you, but the protections were too strong. So I've waited, and lent my energies to Gaia as she saw fit. I hope it worked."

Nodding, he found his voice hoarse and dry, "It worked perfectly well. I never expected Charles to attempt something like that."

"He is stronger than we anticipated."

"Unfortunately, yes." The sigh sent violent shaking through Ethan's exhausted limps. "We'll need to fortify our defenses tomorrow morning. He'll not be awake for at least eight hours."

"I'll get started now." Alexis stood quickly and bowed. "Get some sleep, Elder Adair. You have more protection now than I believe necessary." She left the sanctuary and started talking to someone immediately.

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