Twilight Perceives the Unseen Third
The three left camp and entered the ruins, picking a path through it until they reached a long unused door. Time and exposure ruined the hinges as it stuck fast the door in its portal, and all three of them had to heave hard before the frame fractured and let loose the ancient door, but make it yield they did. As they looked within, stale air rushed past them going out as light tried to flow in- only to seem swallowed by infinite darkness within.
“The threshold of Twilight!” Yearling said, “We must be cautious now.”
The others nodded, agreeing, and with a still moment Zacharion let forth his light to brighten the area within. Down they went, crossing steps of stone known only in ancient buildings built before the Azure Flames, and into the earth they descended. Regularly they would pass by writings carefully scribed on the wall with inhuman precision and accuracy, as dead and lifeless as the stone upon which it rested.
“Is this a relic of the Ancient World?” Sihaya asked.
“Once, long ago,” Yearling answered, “places like this dotted the world. Ordinary people came here, seeking knowledge from the tomes and other artifacts within their walls and assisted by an order of priests who knew the secret ways to organize and care for such lore.”
“In some places,” Zacharion said, continuing, “these temples would be specialized in a particular area of knowledge, usually law or medicine. Your mother, had she lived then, would often study at such a temple because in order to become a healer one had to become initiated in that priesthood- and they long had an alliance with the priests of these temples.”
“Is it true then, that before the Wars of the Damned, the Necromancer destroyed many such places?”
Zacharion nodded. “After he consumed what lay within a temple, he bade the undead to unmake it utterly. They did not destroy, they dismantled and used the parts to construct something else- usually some form of zigguraut.”
“A form of sacred structure.” Yearling said, taking his turn, “It is designed to channel power from below to the point at its apex, and in that specific form one may easily walk or climb from one end to the other.”
“Like those that Father mentions in his stories?”
“Like those thrown down by Ilker, yes. The Dark Lords had long ago recovered and mastered that very knowledge, using it to circumvent the lawful consequences of their evils and instead shunt that to the lands and peoples under their rule.”
They reached the bottom of the stairs, where a pair of massive—and massively rusted—steel doors stood before them, marked with ancient sigils of warnings dire and demonstrably deadly.
“What does it say?”
Zacharion stood at it a moment before answering. “Something about this being a place for the creation of new medicines and healing ways, therefore significant risk of exposure to sicknesses of many sorts—or worse—awaits the foolish and unwary.”
In the light, Yearling took up a stick and jabbed at the massive door’s rusted frame. “Look,” he said, “we’ve nothing to fear. If this was as dangerous a place, its frame would be sealed such that no air or anything like it would ever escape. “
Yearling lit the end of the stick by touching it to Zacharion’s forehead, making a torch of it and again put it before various points in the frame. The flame flickered as if in a wind.
“The seals here, if ever present, busted long ago and would have let loose whatever evils lay within.”
Zacharion cut them off and motioned for them to try the door. As expected, it did not budge. Nor did the many variations of prying, pushing and pulling work. Tired, they sat before the door and put themselves to rest and recuperate before again trying.
“This reminds me of a story ancient when the ancients were young.” Sihaya said, and the boys nodded- they knew the stories also.
“Some form of sorcery, then, still holds this door in place.” Yearling said, “Zacharion, you know the ancient tongue somewhat. Try.”
Zacharion remembered that Ilker warned him of ancient sorceries. Magics rooted in a logic only partially understood by men of these days long past the Azure Flames, but known well to the Dark Lords and before them to the Necromancer and many other Lords of the Damned. He carefully searched the walls about him, seeking a telltale sign of artifice commonplace with such sorcery- and found it, small and well-concealed on the right side of the door.
It was a set of three lights, a steel eye like that of a fly and some unknown button labeled in that same queer old and dead tongue. Zacharion slowed himself, calmed himself, and threw his mind back to a time before his own. Still, silent in body and mind, he let the eyes and ears of his mind see and hear what those of his flesh could not: the ways of old, long gone to ashes and dust, echoing in the room.
For all his wisdom, Zacharion was yet a boy and his flesh could not handle such power flowing through him just yet. The vision was a brief one, but it was enough: he saw and heard the incantation to work the doors. Speaking the ancient words of power with the care one gives to holding a newborn, he awoke the door. It spoke loudly, its voice booming throughout the room and reverberating back up the stairs, but its words were nonsense at first. The three talked amongst themselves, and as they did that door soon began to speak words they understood- this sorcery allowed it to learn the tongues of those what spoke before it, and swiftly.
“Last Activation: 400 years, 4 months, 3 weeks, 5 days, 17 hours, 23 minutes and 35 seconds ago. Cannot contact Master Control. Cannot contact Northern Command. Cannot contact Lagrange. Cannot contact civilian communications. Extensive damage to internal systems. All specimens but one deceased. One specimen alive. No facility personnel present; all deceased or deserted.”
The door then paused for a very long moment before continuing.
Zacharion waved at the others and bade them be silent. “Zacharion,” he said, mimicking the door’s automaton-like voice, and the sun-like sigil on his brow burst into brilliant golden light.
“Recognized: Zacharion, heir to S. A. Star, generations removed unknown, 12-strand active. Welcome to Twilight Complex, Star heir. State purpose of visit.”
“I come to discover the location of the one known as ‘the Twilight son’.”
“Processing.” It said, and an uneasy tension descended upon them for a moment, “Access granted. Declare companions.”
“Yearling, a youth of the Moon people.” He said, and then pointing to Sihaya, “Princess Sihaya of the Sun Nation.”
The door paused again. “Acknowledged. Heir’s companions are also 12-strand active heirs, but bloodline unclear due to damage to database. Provisional access granted until damage is repaired.”
A great and ponderous creaking of long-unused gears echoed about them as the door opened itself, revealing a place that resembled the reception hall of the Solland palace- but in a form using trappings alien to them.
“What is this place?” Sihaya said, and without missing a beat the door responded.
“Twilight Complex is a state-of-the-art medical research facility focused upon eliminating the flaws in the human genetic code using a combination of techniques and technologies meant to bring Humanity to its fullest potential.”
At that point, another voice came over and reverberated. “Welcome indeed, scions of Sun and Moon. I am myself a descendent of the ancients, and also the one who knows where the one you seek may be found. Presently, a lighted path shall appear on the floor. Follow it and you shall find what you seek.”
They did, and at the far end they entered a well-appointed room- albeit in the manner of the ancients. A hairless man stood up from a desk, his skin pale and his eyes red.
“Call me ‘Gish’,” the man said, “for I too sit in the twilight between two pillars of existence.”
Just then the three youths noticed first his calloused hands juxtaposed with his dexterous and gentle handling of the many things about him, hands likely calloused while training with the sword at his waist and made gentle with the open tome of knowledge on the desk.
“What tome do you have there?” Zacharion said, curious and wary.
“The stars.” Gish answered, “In days before the Flames, the ancients spoke of another set of ancients that lived before a Great Flood, and in those days—like now—they knew and acknowledged the power of Sun and Moon, but they also knew of and acknowledged the stars. Of those stars, the greatest could only be seen in the twilight between Sun and Moon, day and night.”
Gish studied the three before him- a boy barely entering manhood, another not even that old and a girl about as old as the second boy. Yet he felt great power emanating from them, very great to him indeed, and that gave him pause.
“You are tired and I would think needing rest and replenishment.” Gish said, “Stay, let us talk, and you may move on tomorrow.”
“Time is hard to know down here.” Sihaya said, her voice nigh-imperceptibly distressed.
“Indeed it is.” Gish said, dismissive, “Indeed.”