Dance of Light and Dark
Saria’s earliest memories were of being alone and abandoned. In the hazy flickering images of the days before she was taken into the protection of Hershel Guideman she was not able to recall much but the feeling of helpless solitude. The sense of isolation Saria remembered from those days was as vivid as when she was living through them. Fortunately, after the Marquee of Lighthouse Bay took her as his ward Saria was surrounded by warmth and comfort. The darker emotions that plagued Saria as a child all were washed away by the splendor that Hershel Guideman introduced her to. The world of exquisite things that the Marquee brought Saria into provided her with scores of doting attendants and serving folk. After being moved to the Marquee’s manor on the cliffs of Lighthouse Bay’s harbor, loneliness was something that only existed in the memories of Saria’s past or one of the rare evenings that a nightmare came to find her.
The unbridled ferocity of the chimera who roamed the wilds had turned all mortals in Argaia into prisoners. The seal walls of the great cities were tall and sturdy. They offered safety and security but they were a constant reminder to all who dwelt within that they were not free. The Marquee’s ward had grown to womanhood inside of the most magnificent prisons. The manor at Lighthouse Bay had everything that someone could want, fine food, warm sheets, shining pretty trinkets to admire and a never ending procession of social gatherings and festivities. Men and women worked, slaved and broke themselves to enjoy a fleeting taste of the kind of life that Saira enjoyed every day. Lighthouse Bay had it all save for the thrill of the unknown.
Saria was eternally grateful for her guardian’s benevolence and generosity but she quickly grew tired of the repetitious grinding of fancy and whimsy that abounded in her adopted home. She had spent much of her recent years longing for what lay beyond the certainty of Lighthouse Bay’s indomitable seal wall. For countless nights before Father Samuel came to call at the manor Saria had felt like she was living a waking dream every day. She had begun to obsess about the mystery of what lay beyond the towering pillars of silver and gold light towers that confined her. When the Vermillion Councilman came to whisk her away, Saria had nearly exploded in excitement. She did not care what lay beyond the seal wall of her home as long as it was something new and different.
Her first day in the foreign city of Viros had been filled with a euphoria brought on by the adventure of something experienced for the first time. To her surprise the thrill of Viros quickly faded and took on an air of foreboding. As the train of attendants and servants returned to Lighthouse Bay Saria found herself being drawn back into feelings of isolation that she had not experienced for many years. A single bound lady’s maid was all that Saria had to keep her grounded in the familiar world that she had grown up in. While madam Gertrude was a modest conversationalist at best and grossly wanting for culinary acumen she at least kept Saria from feeling the dread of being fully alone. In only a few days’ time the ward of Lighthouse Bay’s Marquee was rapidly growing to regret her enthusiasm to leave her home and take part in the Vermillion Council’s grand plan to best the chimera. The matronly face of Madam Gertrude and the knowledge that she was taking part in something of truly great import were the thoughts that kept Saria rooted and calm. For all her inner conflict the Siren of Lighthouse Bay never once let any of the denizens of Viros see a crack in her expert sense of poise and bearing.
To make matters worse for Saria, Viros was a far cry from the cultural icon of refinement that was Lighthouse Bay. The great city was by no means impoverished or otherwise a filled with squalor but it did not have the luster of the world Saria had grown up in. The food was adequate but Saria could readily think of a comparably superior meal from the Marquee’s kitchen each time she feasted upon Viros fair. The accommodations she enjoyed were comfortable but far from lavish and there were pitifully few works of fine art on display, even in the officers’ quarters of the Amurai barracks where she had been situated. The one and only place that reminded Saria of the excessive glamour she was accustomed to was the city’s archives.
The Viros Archives were an unmatched collection of books, texts, maps, charts and every fashion of written word imaginable. No other library in Argaia was as comprehensive as the crown jewel of the Viros community. The looming columned structure of the Archives was larger than several of the noble houses and keeps that Saira had visited in her homeland. When not sheltered within the confines of her personal chambers the towering mountains of scroll cases and forest of bookshelves offered Saria the greatest measure of peace. If she was truly honest with herself she would say that she rather enjoyed the grandeur of the great collection of academic knowledge and fanciful stories. Saria never thought it possible to find something that could show up her guardian’s vast collection of luxury but the Viros Archives put Hershel Guideman’s personal library to shame.
Like the days recently past Saria found herself buried in the wealth of texts and books contained inside the Archives. Saria let her eyes fly over page after page. Every printed word helped to combat the growing sense of apprehension and homesickness that were snapping at Saria’s heels.
“That was quite the introduction you made for yourself. It is too sad to see that you have failed to live up to the promises you made on your first day within our walls,” came a darkly rich baritone voice from out of the dimly lit rows of bookshelves that sounded the woman from Lighthouse Bay.
Saria whipped her eyes up from the collection of early Argaian poetry the she had been attacking. With her other hand she lifted the candle that she was using to navigate the dim passages of the archives. She strained her eyes and tried to pierce through the shadows that rapidly consumed the endless collection of ink and parchment. Saria understood the need to keep the archives cloaked in shadow and free from the abrasive rays of sunlight for the sake of preserving some of the ancient tomes within but in this moment she wished for proper illumination. The comfort that the people of Viros had with darkness struck an ill note with Saria.
“Who speaks?” Saria said cautiously as she lifted her candle high and swept its tiny flame from side to side in an effort to reveal the mysterious speaker.
The soft orange glow of her candle’s flame turned an ominous red and grew in intensity. The flame separated from the wick and gently floated to land in front of Saria. In a moment the red flame flashed bright and illumined the form of Noah Redmoon holding the flame in the palm of his hand. “Who speaks? That is the question indeed. As I recall you seemed to want to make some introductions with the folk of Viros. As I said if you had made good on your promise then you would know who speaks,” Noah said with a cavalier grin and matching cadence in his voice.
Saria looked at Noah with a masked disapproval. She could appreciate the theatrics but resented the man’s oozing self-assurance. Not to be undone Saria blew softly on the smoldering wick of her candle with her bright crimson painted lips. The candle was rekindled to life with a tall burning purple flame. “Sir, Viros is a large place and I have only been within her for a precious short while. Perhaps I simply have not gotten to you yet. Many important people for me to meet. I am sure you understand,” Sarai said with social expertise in her riposte.
Noah looked at the marriage of purple and red supernatural fire fighting and interlacing in the darkness. The dance of burning serpents was seductively hypnotic. After a subtly appropriate silence to allow Saria’s counter attack to linger Noah pressed back with suitable bravado. “My city is most certainly a large place with many important people. I should think that making proper introduction to one of the three favored children of Viros would take precedence.”
“And I should think that the impeccable Noah Redmoon needs no introduction,” Saria said without missing a beat.
After a brief moment of stunned flattery and the purple flame of Saria’s candle completely encircling the red fire in the Viros man’s hand, Noah found his wits enough to speak. “Well it is a pleasure to meet you Saria Guideman,” he responded with added inflection on the woman’s name. “So you come all the way from Lighthouse Bay to do some reading?”
Saria fought to keep herself from smiling. “I am still adjusting to your city. I am anxious to assist the Vermillion Council in any way they require but they have not been the most forthcoming with direction. I have found you archives to be a good way to pass the time,” she said with a candid measure.
“Ah, are you only now coming to realize that the Council is not known for swift decisions making. The senior brethren will be fervently talking behind closed doors at great length before deciding on any definitive course of action. In the meantime Viros is yours to enjoy,” Noah said with a sarcastic quality as he referenced the bureaucracy that mired the Vermillion Council’s upper echelons. “I will take no more of your time and I will leave you to your… poetry,” Noah continued as he craned his neck to read the spine of the book Saria was clutching. The shadows of the archives started to envelope Noah as the red flame he held in his hands quickly faded to a dull glow.
“Wait a moment, if you would,” Saira said to her own surprise as Noah had began to disappear into the black nearly as fast as he had appeared.
The darkness was repealed as the red flame in Noah’s hand flickered back to life. The Viros man said nothing but his face wore and intrigued and curios expression.
Saira’s mind raced to find something to say. In the span of a few heartbeats she had gone form feeling provoked and irritated by Noah’s intrusion to finding a strangely pleasant quality in his company. “I have actually read this one several times before. Tell me are there any other enjoyable distractions here in Viros?” she asked with a gentle but enticing quality in her voice, bat of her eyes, and a tilt of her head that accentuated the beauty of her delicate neck.
Noah took a bold step towards Saria but maintained a respectable distance between Saria and himself. He leaned in slightly and spoke with an unabashed mischievous quality in his words. “Many enjoyable distractions, in fact. Would you like me to show you?”