Lucci didn’t know how many days passed on their journey. It was impossible to measure time in day and night on the Mainland. Everything was dark, and a storm always raged over their heads.
Where are we now?
The youth leaned over the map and scratched his head. When he looked at the little marker that the First Voice made on the map, it seemed that they were covering ground a lot faster than steady walking could account for. The map spoke of the landmark called Hawk’s Perch. Looking up at the tall rock formation just a short distance away, and noted the very winglike shape in the stone.
Just how fast are we moving?
-Fast enough,- the First Voice echoed in his mind.
Lucci turned his head in the direction of the Voice. A hazy, swirly form stood there, as if the mist was attempting to become a real person. Though the shape had no features, it was easy to tell from the outline that it was a man. A tall man – maybe even as tall as Zemi and Aur. Sometimes when it spoke to him, he could see the mists part and move where a mouth should have been, which fascinated Lucci. It was a good thing that the First Voice had lots to say.
“How?” Lucci asked, folding away the map neatly.
– It’s nothing for you to be concerned about.-
It was only two sleeps ago – since it was hard to measure time without the passing of the sun, Lucci measured it in sleeps – when the First Voice took a form. The youth remembered being afraid at first, and rightfully so. None of the other Voices ever had a form. They were nothing more than the feeling of eyes in the Mist.
Maybe it was because Lucci spent more time with the First Voice than any. That’s what he tried to tell himself. The truth was, he also knew that the First Voice was a creature of great strength, possibly great power, even beyond death. To take on a form from the Mists was no small thing. As time passed, the First Voice grew more stable and shaped.
“Is it safe to make a fire here?” Lucci asked.
There was a momentary pause. Then a mental nod. -Yes, a small one. I don’t sense anything dangerous within this area.-
Though he was afraid of the First Voice’s unexpected development, Lucci also found himself relying upon him more and more. A journey was not as easy as he imagined it would be. There were so many complex things that he did not know how to do — like reading the map and plotting a course… finding a good place to make a camp for sleep… making meals for himself… and especially avoiding potential dangers.
I’m glad I’m not alone. First Voice knows a lot about all these difficult things. If he wasn’t here, I’m sure I would have gone the wrong way!
First Voice also knew where to find the item that Lucci was looking for. Though the youth questioned time and time again exactly where their ultimate destination was, he never got an answer. When he asked why he was never answered, the First Voice patiently told him that he would understand these things in time and to wait.
So Lucci waited. He held on to what little trust he had – even if it was in one of Them.
The youth prodded the little fire into crackling warmth and held his hands out over it. It was colder down on the Mainland than on the Island at this time of year. Sometimes a dismal grey rain fell over the land, leaving the hunched-over scenery slimy with a sickly dark film. Lucci was glad that he brought along one of Zemi’s cloaks, at the First Voice’s suggestion. It was big enough to cover him fully and kept the rain away.
There was no rain now, so there was a fire to sit next to. Lucci didn’t realize how nice fires were until now, with both hands cupped over it to find warmth.
The image of the First Voice sat not far away. It never came too close to the fire. Lucci didn’t know if it was because, being made of mist, if the Voice would put out the fire, or if the fire would melt the mist away instead.
Taking out a roll from his pack, the youth ate. Though he wasn’t ravenous hungry at the moment, he knew that he had to eat consistently. Traveling took a lot of energy.
For a while, the occasional crackle of the flame was the only sound. It was strange that They were so quiet now. Even the First Voice seemed to have nothing to say. Lucci could only wonder why, even though the silence was a rare and kind thing when he got it.
Maybe They’re all asleep?
A warm chuckle came from First Voice. -They don’t ever sleep, Lucci-boy.-
“Then, what do They do?” the silver eyes peered over the waver of flame at the mist form.
-They wait. And make plans. They are the restless ones that never found peace in the Mist.-
“Is the Mist the place that everyone goes to when they… die?” Lucci frowned suddenly.
-I don’t know,- came the honest answer.
Lucci found it strange that a creature who passed through life and death didn’t know such a thing. His curiosity must have been apparent, because the First Voice spoke again.
-It may be different for those who were born after the Time Before.-
The youth’s head jerked up in surprise, “Did you live in the Time Before?”
Lucci wasn’t sure if he was more surprised at the answer, or the fact that he actually got an answer. His breath came in an astonished gasp and he didn’t know exactly what to say. It never occurred to him that creatures that existed in the Time Before might be in the Mists as well.
Maybe that’s how he knows where to find the items that were used by the Sygni in the Time Before?
-Ahhh, now you’re catching on, boy.-
He gave an open mouthed nod, “So, these items are really on this world somewhere?”
-If my memory serves me correctly.-
“Why this world?” Lucci didn’t know how he knew. He felt, deep down, that there were other worlds out there. Alive. Somewhere.
-This world has always been a Living World, home to many types of people, ever since I’ve known. I don’t know that there is a reason why. Just that it was,- First Voice answered. Then his voice shifted, sounding somewhat sad and longing. -It was also the homeworld of the Dragonkin. Back in the Time Before, they were very powerful. In fact, they were so powerful that even the Mistake did not completely kill them.-
“Really?” the youth blinked. He hadn’t known that anything actually lived through the Mistake. “Are they Zemi’s Dragons?”
-No. The Dragonkin grew weak after the Mistake and eventually died away. Zemi imitates the Dragonkin through his creations for reasons I don’t think he completely understands himself. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.-
As usual, First Voice decided to stop right as the story was getting interesting. Hints and pieces of riddles. Fascinations that tugged at the back of Lucci’s mind. It was all so hard to be given these little mysteries without a means to answer them.
The youth broke a deep sigh and leaned back. “If you come from the Time Before, that means you know about the items that were used by Sygni. You know about the Sygni that lived then. They were evil, right?”
-There’s a difference between that which is evil and that which is not understood.-
“You don’t think that Sygni are all evil?”
-I think it’s hard to make a judgment call on something that is so unknown.-
“Is that why you’re helping me?” Lucci asked, looking puzzled.
-It’s a part of the reason,- First Voice replied. -I saw the events that led up to the Mistake. I don’t want to see something like that come again.-
“Do you think it will?” the youth blinked, shifting his weight where he sat.
-I hope it won’t. I believe that you may have a part to play in keeping it from happening.-
“Me?” Lucci’s head jerked up. “But I’m the one that’s supposed to be the Bane? How am I supposed to save people?”
-You’re trying to save people by what you’re doing right now, yes?-
-Then keep right on doing it. Keep following what you know is right. What we choose is what we become.-
“Lord Zemi tells me that, too,” the youth gave a slight smile. Something about the fact that the First Voice would echo the words of Lord Zemi made him feel better somehow.
-He does? That’s interesting.-
Lucci didn’t understand what that meant, but he didn’t want to pry. Instead, he drank some water – careful to conserve it just like the First Voice taught him. As he wiped his mouth on the back of his sleeve, a passing thought tickled the back of his mind. Something that he should have thought to ask long ago.
“What’s your name?” the youth asked, tilting his head back at the strange misty form.
“You do have a name, right?” he asked. Then it occurred to him, “Or do people in the mist not?”
– Yes. I had a name once.-
“Will you tell me?”
-I don’t know. You might laugh. It was just a pet name, really. I didn’t have another.-
“Nooo. I won’t laugh. I promise!” Lucci held up a hand to show him that he was telling the truth.
-I was once called Kaz.-
Lucci smiled, “Kaz?”
-See? You’re laughing aren’t you?-
“No! I’m not laughing!” the youth grinned wider. “I think it’s a good name.”
-Uh-huh. I can see it. You’re laughing.-
This time, Lucci did laugh. It was the first time in a long time, maybe since Suzume left, that he really laughed. Like a funny sort of laugh. It felt good.
The feeling that Kaz gave was one of pleasure, as if he was glad to cheer the boy up. -See what you can do to get some sleep, Lucci-boy. We’ve got a long road tomorrow.-