Copper threads glistened in the dying light, cleaned and scrubbed of most of their tarnish, though his body was still heavy with it. Panicked whimpering had filled the caldera for most of the afternoon, the first sounds within those cavernous walls in so long... He'd thrown himself into the big pool without thought nor concern, the moment he'd realized how dark the verdigris was on his skin, on those treasured ornaments he wore in his hair. Little rivulets of blood mingled with water at the soft alloy of his shoulders, so desperate had he been, so afraid to see that he had indeed succumbed to age.
He grew older and older, and the world had marched on without him.
Hours ago, he'd emerged from the pool to fall at its side, simply lying there, gazing out at nothing in particular. Numbed. When time had claimed and ravaged his wings, had it taken his heart with it? He could no longer tell. He only knew that the wind was cold where once the breezes would have been warm, the caldera silent where hisses and whispers of geysers had once lulled him in safety and security. Just like the rest of the island, this place had become an empty shell, the remnant of something dear that had faded so, so long ago. And he was just as empty, just as hollow.
Braided hands lay over his heart, a tangle of copper chains clutched tightly in still fingers. He hadn't known what he was doing when he drew the breath into his lungs, when he dived deep into the pool as though trying to outswim the corrosion of his wings. He hadn't known what he was hoping to find, what he'd been hoping to see. But lifting those chains from the bottom of the pool had stilled any and all feeling within him. He'd broken the surface, dreadlocks taking the precious burden from his hands as he'd remembered the verdigris and turned his attention to that.
Was his sight fading? He didn't know. Even basked in the warm glow of the setting sun, everything seemed washed out. The shadows stretched long, casting sharp, harsh shadows on a once familiar landscape. The light was fading, fading... though the last few rays caressed his wings, they no longer shone. His gaze remained upon the water, heedless of the locks that still drifted there. Warm where it once would have boiled him alive. Mild where once he had choked upon the very air.
Eyes lulled closed as the sun set, as the sky overhead grew thick with stars. So tired, yet unable to slumber as he had before. Even that peace he had had while he rested seemed to be gone. Blocked by something, beyond his reach once more. Lying upon his back, one braid lifted, stretching up towards the sky.
The soft clink of the chains in his hand coaxed heavy lids open once more. Azure and steel eyes lifted to the heavens, following outstretched fingers to swipe and grab idly at the stars. Once he'd flown so much closer, trying to reach catch them in his hands. He wondered if it would be possible to strike out towards the stars now, wondered if it would be possible to reach them as he was. What did he have to lose...?
But even as he contemplated the thought, a breeze gently shifted his dreadlocks, eyes widening slightly in surprise as one of the stars seemed to dislodge itself from its celestial home and drift down, down, softly down to land upon his finger. He blinked, lips parting in surprise as his locks shifted, pushing him slowly up as he drew the braid down to examine this little wayward star that shone so brightly in the dark, a flickering little ball of green that crept down his finger and wandered over his wrist.
His head canted slightly to one side. Not a star at all, but a firefly... where had the little thing come from? Chains were carefully passed to a waiting dreadlock as he lifted a finger to caress the little glowing light. He understood that this place had cooled, but fireflies? Here? So far from home in the forest... how could one lone one have come so far...?
Something flickered in the corner of his eye, a soft little glow beyond the caldera's entrance. Lips parted softly, unconsciously in his curiosity as he rose slowly to his feet, awkward and limping, locks aiding where shambling steps fell. The little firefly lifted from his hand, drifting toward the entrance before him, his footsteps all but silent for all his uncertainty and aches. A breeze sifted through his hair as a braid steadied him against the natural stone, blue eyes lifting to the slopes beyond with a sharp gasp of surprise.
Over the path and the ground beyond, fireflies drifted hither and thither, lighting up the night, just as he remembered from so long ago. There presence here by the caldera was... such a surprise. What had drawn them here? Why had they settled? What could have been their reason to stay...?
He stepped forward, looking around in surprised wonder at the little beetles and their bright green glow. They fluttered low to the ground, settling upon the rocks, the grasses... lingering at little clumps of flowers, swirling and dancing about them, as though joyful in their very presence.
His eyes grew wide at the sight of them. White petals. Strong, dark stems. Little clusters of two or three, swaying softly in the nighttime air. He lurched towards them, heedless of the lights shimmering around him, falling heavily to his knees by the nearest plant, his back bowed and hair twisting fretfully about him.
Could it be...? Could it be?! Braided hands reached down to touch the little blossoms, little white stars, their centers tinted with the faintest blue. It was. A delicate reminder, a memory of that heart, of a moment so dear and precious, held tightly to even when all hope had gone. Here it lingered and here it had stayed. The flowers of Firunsar, the blooms that had once grown in his hair.
He felt his throat tightening, his eyes stinging as he gazed upon the cluster in the dark. Yet even as his fingers brushed the delicate flower, it fell from its stalk to flutter down to the ground. And as he watched, he felt a stirring within his chest, his heart move, only to fall along with it. Shaking fingers reached down to retrieve the blossom, hold it in the palm of his hand, bring it to his face in the soft light of the fireflies. He trembled. He stared. He drew the flower to his cheek and closed his eyes, trying to will it all away. His face, his laughter. His shyness at the asura's discovery of these very things.
Memory. One simply drew on another and another and another. Every single instance of him, of the things he loved, of the times they had shared. Whispers amidst the soft hissing of the caldera, warmth shared in the waters of the springs. And in those final days, his face in peaceful sleep, something the asura had never seen in all his life until that moment, the tiredness in his eyes, in his voice, pulling at the corners of his mouth and lulling him deeper and deeper into its embrace. Those last, dearest days and the soft plea to take him skyward.
The soft sigh barely heard among the winds, the gentle smile as all tensions had eased in him, all pain had left him.
A memory, that was all that this was. Of a life lived to its fullest and far beyond, a life now faded away to nothing. A memory of all that he had lived for and sworn to defend, all that had given him meaning to exist. His fingers had curled inward, his eyes screwed tight shut. The flower crumpled in his squeezing palm, crushed against his cheek as tears fell, softly, so softly at first. His breath drawn deep, his shoulders atremble.
Something harsh ran out into the night air, a wretched, choking sound, so garish in this beauty. It took him a moment to realize that it was his own voice. His own sobs, harsh and broken with disuse. His forehead rested against the ground, the stems of Firunsar's memory brushing softly against his face with every whisper of wind. Every breath hurt, his heart opening, breaking, over and again. The one he loved, the one he held so dear. Faded. Gone. Lost forever. A great reserve had been released, overflowing in his pain, in his loneliness. What was he to do now, with nothing left to guide him. What use were his wings without that beautiful being to protect, to treasure, to fight for...?
The caldera's heart lived on in this memory. A gentle reminder of what had once stood here, what had once believed and defended and lived. A heart that had once loved and loved with all that it was.
And he had loved it in return.
Even as he wept, always, always.
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