When I first started writing ‘Tri-star’s’ setting, I wanted the point to be that there could be a million different worlds, and they could hold beauty or horror. It was supposed to be a place where evil was always looking to put a downer on what was happening, but the heroes were using everything in their power to maintain the light for another day. As is typical, I lost a lot of that while I was actually writing stories, as I tend to lean toward either 100% comedy, or something more grim.
With this story, I head back to the Ceti (From Maja’s Lesson), and take a look at what the Ceti do best, explore. Then I gave it a hot drama injection, oops.
When the expedition stepped through, they were greeted with green. They had come to accept green as a positive color. Despite the long wastes that divided the villages and cities of the united tribes, the green of crops was what greeted a traveller when they made it safely to another town.
This green meant something different. Las reached into his bag and pulled out a notebook, scribbling into it immediately.
‘Barren landscape. Odd surface coloration. Strong winds.’
The wind was what Todano noticed. He stopped at the mirror back to their own world, and watched as others came through. Men and women, wearing their own breathing helmets, a glowing shard of Mayen metal at the back. They each came through the portal, and immediately held their hands in front of them, and fought against the wind.
It threatened to blow Todano over. Worse, if the black clouds were any indicator, it wasn’t going to get better.
Las unstrapped his helmet, and pulled it off, “Clouds and green, you know what that means.”
In kind, the expedition took their helmets off, and packed them away in their side bags.
“It means we can be blown away,” Todano said as he got his own helmet off, “This place looks worthless.”
Las turned so he could write in his notebook, and still talk to Todano.
“You need to ruminate on Gohai,” Las said as the wind threatened to steal his paper.
“Gohai,” Todano said, squinting against the wind. He shook his head as Las turned away, “Right.”
The others were chatting among each other, those with more experience were pointing and picking out the best locations for some sort of base camp. Everywhere they turned though was as barren as the rest. It looked like a thousand yards, with the only feature of the landscape being a green discoloration in the soil, and fist sized holes that dotted the ground. There were soft slopes on the horizon, but it looked like they could stare off into forever.
“Come old friend,” Las said with a wave of his hand, “we’re going to set down.”
Todano let out a groan, “Whatever gets me off my feet.”
They made sure to get a distance from the mirror, and then set down their gear. First came tents, and then a fire. They surrounded it, and compared notes.
Todano sat with his back against a large bag of dried meat, and watched the alien horizon. The sky was a thick blue, even though the sun was clearly setting. There was no sign of the stars coming out. He unrolled a jerky, and took a bite.
“You aren’t talking,” Las said as he came around the bag to see Todano, “Something wrong?”
Todano shook his head.
Las had this way about him, as far as Todano noticed. It was as if Las was oblivious. He could know every secret about a man, but he would look him in the face and ask him every question he could, just to be sure he was right.
“Did you want to come this time?” Las asked as he went to his knees.
Todano groaned, “I’m here, aren’t I?”
Las looked over his face, as if there was going to be a clue in Todano’s scowl, “Sort of, yes.Are you going to be okay?”
“I’m not dying, am I?” Todano snapped, his hands up in the air.
The conversation came to a stop, and he knew they were all looking at the pair. He could feel his blood boiling. This was it, every time.
Las pushed up to his feet, brushed off his knees as if nothing had happened.
“Hold out, okay?” Las said, “for me?”
Todano looked away, and whispered, “Curse it all.”
Las rejoined the others, and they returned to their talks. This world was a minor one, it came at the end of a smaller mirror found in in a rocky valley. It was a long while before Las’s team found it at all, but once they received permission to explore it, they began their preparations.
Some mirrors ended in nothing, dead ends to the raw, or worlds that were nothing more than a black mass, destroyed by Mayen’s wrath. The worst was when they found Rawborn, shambling monsters with the touch of god’s punishment in it. This world looked safe, and it had air to breath so they could take a break from the suffocating helmets.
“If this world is nothing but holes in the dirt,” Said a woman named Sachan, “We should leave now and save our supplies.”
“We don’t know that,” Las said, “and since this world is hospitable, we can take our time to discover the truth.”
“If there is even one clue in a pebble of sand that leads to paradise,” A man named Noz said, “a million journeys would be justified.”
Todano scoffed, and there was a break in the talking as they waited for him to speak. He kept silent. Paradise, everyone was always so obsessed with paradise. They wanted to leave home, adventure in the endless worlds hidden among the hills, be anywhere but Ceti. They wanted to feel cold air against their skin, eat strange plants, see odd sunrises.
“Remember Yom’s lesson,” Las said, breaking the strange silence. They grumbled in silent agreement. Todano didn’t know Yom, something about pointless sacrifice?
It grew dark enough that the fire was their only light. A whistle came over the night. The wind was coming back, strong enough that they had to shield the flames.
“What is that sound?” someone yelled.
The holes, Todano knew right away. With the wind this strong, it was playing the whole plain as an instrument. The tone changed as the wind did, grew low enough to rumble, and high enough to make them cover their ears.
Then came the light. It poured out of the holes, a bright green glow that made Todano scramble to his feet. The glow took to the air, head-sized balls of light with a tail trailing behind them. They swayed in the air, moving in long circles or following the wind.
“What are they?” Todano shouted.
The others took positions around the fire, as if they were going to defend the camp with their observing eyes.
“They are…” Las stopped, and then chuckled, “creatures, wildlife.”
Todano looked over, and saw Las put a hand in front of one of the green lights as it approached. He felt his heart thicken as the creature got close, and then it curved around, slowing just in time to avoid Las’s hand.
Todano could see it now. They were like long worms, gliding on a dozen sets of fins at their sides. They swam through the sky, riding the wind like debris. Their glow made it all that much stranger.
“It is beautiful,” Las said, “They must feed during the day, and surface in the night. The holes are for them.”
Todano turned full circle, and saw joyous eyes of the expedition members playing with the creatures. All at once, they had that look of wonder, as if maybe this world would be something different.
“Maybe they listen for the whistle of the wind,” One member said.
“Do you think they feed on the green fungus on the ground?” Asked another.
They were lost in their discovery.
“Are you insane!” Todano yelled over the wind, “we have no idea what these creatures are, what they could do, what plagues they could spread.”
Glances went between Todano, the creatures, and Las. They stopped reaching out for the glowing air worms, but he could see that they weren’t stopping for his sake.
“I know you’re worried,” Las said as he crossed the distance to stand close to Todano, “but they appear safe.”
“It always appears safe,” Todano replied, gritting his teeth, “it looked safe before…”
Las put a hand on his shoulder, “You won’t get hurt.”
Todano’s eyes widened despite the wind, and his mouth fell open. It struck him just how little Las understood, how far he was from reality.
“I’m not worried about me, you idiot,” Todano said as he shoved Las, “I lost her, and I’m definitely not going to lose you. That’s the only reason I’m even here.”
Las opened his mouth to reply, but Todano walked past him, knocking one of the other expedition members aside. Las turned to the group. They all knew what was hanging in the air, history.
“We should be careful,” Las said with a nod, “take good notes, but mind possible hazards.”
They did their research, yelling over the wind, taking samples, observing the movements of the worms. Then they settled, putting up tents for sleeping, and laying out blankets for those who wished to sleep under the stars.
Las found Todano at his new post some paces from the camp. The wind had calmed down, and so had the creatures. Many were floating high up, drifting on invisible currents. They filled the sky with shifting lights that made the fire seem like excess.
“I’m sorry,” Las said as he walked up, “I didn’t think about what I was saying.”
“Well we’re still here,” Todano said, “so that doesn’t mean much.”
Las sighed, “If we could just leave all of this, you would? All of this, the opportunity, the beauty.”
Todano shook his head. “I like home. That’s beautiful, Las. I was fine with all of this while everyone was safe. I should have known better. I’ve heard the horned ones wall up their mirrors, they know to be afraid of what’s on the other side.”
“The horned ones get fat on fields of green,” Las snapped back.
Todano looked over at Las, eyes wide at the boisterous response.
“I know you don’t care about the lessons, or the past,” Las said with his hands out as if begging, “but we have been cursed, Todano. We are punished with starvation and death, do you not respect Mayen’s wrath?”
Todano snorted, his face contorting, “The only wrath I feel is the chief’s.”
“Don’t say that.”
“With all the great things our people have done,” Todano said, “we could create paradise. Instead we’ll die searching for it, just like Poja.”
Las’s shoulders sagged, as if he was deflated on the spot. He looked as if he was going to speak, but instead his eyes fell to the ground. The pain in his expression was evident, but Todano looked away.
“I cannot rewrite the past,” Las said, “all I can do is learn from it. I want, like Poja did, to find a place where our people can feel free. We forgot our caution, Toda, we can call it Poja’s le-”
“Don’t you dare!” Todano’s eyes focused in, and in that moment his rage and anguish mixed to make Las take a step back.
“Sorry,” Las said, turning and starting back toward the camp, “we leave after second watch. You should get some sleep.”