Eleven: Flare Personae

Luminarist + November 2015 – June 2017: Chapter Eleven — Flare Personae

Celestial Institute, a boarding school for adults, is located on the fabled world of Terra. Only those chosen by the Shining One may enter. People of all walks of life come here to hone their gifts and effect positive change. The newest recruit is Meissa, a young woman anticipating the future.

She becomes fast friends with Nadir, a man with little self-confidence whose guardian is the powerful Zenith. Upon the school throne stands Alhena, the Shining One herself. Backing them is the Acolyte of Archangels. Becoming entangled in Celestial Institute’s inner workings, Meissa knows that everyone has purpose, and her light shines the brightest of them all.

Why?

As nervous as hell itself faced with the constant threat of freezing over, Nadir maintained an air of calmness as the gates to the expansive stone castle, decorated with a raiment of nature based colours, opened for him. The gates were nothing like the walls of flame of the Gate of Fire on Terra, these were fashioned out of iron that was coated with some kind of substance that he could not name, in order to protect the gates from oxidation. Long eared men, women, and androgynous folk watched him with suspicion etched into their faces. The Acolyte had to be at a complete loss to send him out of all the Terrans and students of Celestial Institute available for this assignment.

Sure, Nadir was quiet and for the most part, peaceful, but did that truly warrant a death sentence to spy on the now King of Faerel? Those history records in Celestial Institute required a massive update – they still referred to Zeru as “the little Prince of Faerel.” Little, his ass. He’d thought Zenith was appealing to many on Terra, female and male alike, even to Nadir, but he had nothing on this young king. Not to mention, the man was practically claimed by Alhena, and Nadir had no doubt that Zenith preferred things that way. The white haired man knew the Gatekeeper viewed him only as his charge – a special one for some reason that he couldn’t comprehend – but a charge that needed constant protection and no hint of anything beyond a strict guardian-ward relationship.

Nadir’s mouth twitched in exasperation. He was about to meet his almost murderer face to face. As long as he didn’t sneak up on the man, or reveal his ability to shapeshift into a macaw, he should be able to prolong his hide’s safety long enough to find out what this violent creature wanted with Terra and then bust his ass out of there. It was too hot on this world; it was a summer without end. He preferred the springtime, but autumn wasn’t so difficult to deal with a constant basis.

He expected Zeru to be lounging on an elaborately decorated golden throne, bored out of his skull, waiting impatiently to determine how grisly of a death Nadir required, but instead was greeted with a kindly forest green gaze as Zeru grasped his hand and shook it firmly. He hadn’t even been sitting down; the man had been standing, awaiting his slow approach. “Greetings, Ambassador of Terra,” went the sensual baritone. Nadir’s thought process stopped dead, he was unable to speak.

The word that most spoke of intelligence was uttered by his mouth. “Um …?” Clearly not. His amber darted to the longbow attached securely to Zeru’s back, and his brain resisted his eyes’ desire to thoroughly investigate his new host. He didn’t think the king would appreciate a stranger’s visual interrogation.

“Come now,” Zeru laughed heartily, “while no doubt I am well known to Terra, I know not who you are.”

“I’m … the ambassador? Your friendly neighbourhood diplomat?” Nadir offered weakly, his confidence completely ruined at his expectations being shattered.

A single dark blond eyebrow rose, amused and curious. “Surely you bear a name?”

I bet a ton of your people cry out yours at night, he smirked inwardly, pulling himself together. “It’s Nadir, Your Majesty.”

“The bottom of the celestial sphere relative to an observer?” Wait, this man had some basic knowledge of astronomy? “How curious it is to call yourself that.”

“It seemed appropriate,” he answered smoothly, wondering if Zeru would understand the implications. If he did, he made no appearance of acknowledging any of them. Names had power, as every Terran knew. “If I may be so bold to ask, what does yours mean?”

“Sky.”

“Oh.” He certainly didn’t look like a person named for the sky, dressed entirely in greens, silver, and cream. When he pulled a throwing knife from his belt to twirl through his fingers, Nadir tensed.

“Worry not, it is merely a nervous habit of mine.” Zeru seemed almost embarrassed at the confession. “I enjoy the sensation of something potentially dangerous in my grasp.”

Nadir supposed it would be an honestly foolish idea to inquire about the thin line that served as a scar on Zeru’s right cheek. “So ah, what will I be doing here?”

“You shall remain close to me at all times,” Zeru stated, turning in the direction of the dining hall. “There is unrest on my world regarding Terra, and there is no telling what a wayward Faereli may choose to do to you. Be an example of your people’s wish for peace. I am quite sure that the High Priest of your world would expect no less of you, Ambassador.”

“Oh, we don’t have a high priest, or any priest or priestess for that matter, but the Acolyte of Archangels is close enough to that description,” Nadir corrected.

“You associate with angels?” Zeru stopped before the hall, presumably to observe the bustle of people gathering and preparing for the evening meal. Nadir detected something amiss here. The king made the business sound almost despicable, the way he said it.

“Well, just the Acolyte really, but Celestial Institute was founded by an angel and each of our programs are based on a quality of the four greatest archangels.”

Zeru’s next words were harsh, deadly, and full of hatred. “We of Faerel are not to be manipulated by the angelic race. We are not like you humans.”

Nadir obviously touched a very sensitive nerve here. He was about to object and defend the values of his spiritual home and probably mention that the Acolyte of Archangels looked like one of the Faereli, but his inner voice warned him that he was treading a very thin line and further commentary would prove dangerous to himself, Terra, and perhaps the Acolyte as well.

“Keep my words in mind, Ambassador. Speak of angels to no one. You may be slaughtered for treason. Another word out of your mouth regarding those despicable creatures is to be overheard by anyone. Am I quite clear in this matter?”

“Like crystal and glass, Your Majesty,” mumbled Nadir, his pride affronted. Zeru spun to face him, grabbing hold of his shoulders that could nearly crack under the pressure.

“I will be as lenient as I can when no other ears pry on our conversations, yet there is no telling what another may do. Think before you speak, be at peace, and you may survive your term here on this world. Remain close to me.”

I always need protection like a small child, Nadir thought bitterly. Despite this, what sort of world was this, where the king himself couldn’t trust a seemingly friendly diplomat with his own people? Resigning himself to follow orders, Nadir remained a couple of steps behind Zeru as the king and the foreigner graced the dining hall with their entrance.

——

“You shouldn’t be here, Meissa,” warned the Acolyte, his back to her, gazing intently at the tapestry that concealed the painting of Mirai and Nairn.

“Look,” she said crossly, “I don’t know what kind of high horse you’re riding, but I want – no, I demand – to know your name. Why do you isolate yourself from everyone?”

“I am hardly isolated,” he retorted, impatience colouring his voice.

“Don’t talk like that to me!” He spun, that serenity to him all but vanished. She clapped her hands over her mouth, shocked at her own impulsivity. “I-I’m sorry, Acolyte. I spoke completely out of my authority.”

He sighed and relaxed, shoulders no longer set. “It’s quite all right, Meissa. Alhena learned to cease asking for my name a long time ago.” The crushed look on her face must’ve touched something deep within his resolve to remain distant, because he smiled at her, then at where the painting was hidden. She followed his line of vision, and suddenly came to a question.

“You said we’re alike, a lot alike. How can that be?”

“Our primary clairs are very similar in how they are expressed within us. And you … remind me of Nairn in some respects,” he chuckled lightly.

“You’ve met her?” she demanded excitedly.

“No, but I have come into contact with the one who loved her.”

She digested this, shocked. “Then Mirai is alive?”

“Very much so,” he answered slowly.

Blinking at him, she wondered aloud, “But you’re not Mirai. Or are you a reincarnation?”

He shook his head, putting those fears to rest. “No, I am not him. He is his own soul, yet he is operating in the background of this school that he created.”

She clapped her hands together. “Oh, won’t Alhena be so happy to know her father is out there? Why won’t he reveal himself if he’s really helping out Terra and Celestial Institute?”

The Acolyte’s teal left her dark purple. “I keep him at bay.”

“Why?” she turned on him, angered. “Why would you separate a father from his daughter, and a creator from his creation? Especially when his inspiration is dead and gone?”

Teal closed as he sought his inner strength, opening again after a time with a hard light. “Do you know what is the meaning of the name of the Founding Angel?”

“What does his name have to do with anything?” She glared at him. “You’re dodging my questions!”

“In a roundabout way, I am answering those questions. You must understand the power of names. There is a reason why creatures of the spiritual world bear the names that they do. Names speak of purpose, of personal power and influence.”

“Okay, so what does ‘Mirai’ mean then?”

“Future.” She stood there, not understanding, although she knew this was vital to something. It was like a muddled call of fate and destiny, so faint that she could almost hear it. There was the obvious relationship to Celestial Institute. It was a school built to train people for their return to Earth. Their futures were implicated, but she couldn’t help but feel that something else was afoot. “Do you know the meaning of your name, Meissa?”

“Not really, I just picked it because it’s pretty.”

“On the surface, yes, it’s a beautiful name. I suggest you look into why your soul would choose it.”

She thought this over. “It’s the name of a star, a very bright one. I want to shine like a star.”

He nodded, muttering under his breath too shallowly for her to overhear. “There’s more to al-Maisan than that alone.”

“What did you say? I mean, can you repeat that, Acolyte?”

“You’ll find out for yourself soon enough. You may leave now.” He moved away from her again.

She grinned. “Not until you tell me your name!”

“I have no name worth the ears of anyone,” was the dismissal.

“Fine, then I’ll just nickname you.” She was deep in thought, and something dawned in her expression. “Okay! I’ll just call you Othin, but that’s between you and me, ya?” She wasn’t prepared for the shudder that ran through his body, the stark whiteness that came over his already pale skin, hands clenched so tightly into fists that she suddenly thought his fingernails would cut into that alabaster.

“Why?” he choked out, “Why would you refer to me as ‘god of the sky?’”

“Is that bad?” she whimpered, deathly afraid that she’d irrevocably offended the gentle wise man.

“N-no.” He didn’t sound like his ordinary serene self, voice shaking in an effort to speak. “N-no, not at all, it’s not bad at all.”

“Then why are you acting like you saw a ghost?” she questioned worriedly.

“No one has called me by that name in a long time, a very long time.”

Her volume hushed. “Is it your real name? Like, it’s legit?” He nodded; still his back was turned to her. “Oh, all right, I won’t tell a soul, okay?”

“The fact that you of all people would come to intuit it is cause for alarm,” he said with pain inflicted into his tone.

What was so bad about that name, she wondered to herself, but she promised to tell no one, and she intended on keeping that vow no matter what. If names bore power and hints of a person’s destiny, then her blunder could cost her dearly. Did she just sentence the kind Acolyte of Archangels to a fate she had yet to understand? She tried to pull information out of him, yet his mind remained as impenetrable as a well-guarded fortress. Meissa at length comprehended something through the whispered thoughts of fabled winged creatures, but she kept the realization to herself, not wanting to disturb Othin any further. She bid him goodnight, and with a heart pulled down by a leaden weight, returned to her room in the Earth Tower.

At least he promised to tell her of his life before Terra, but that would have to wait with her breath baited until after the Title Examinations. She’d pestered him about when she would be tested, if she were on the right track or anything useful, but he refused to divulge anything in the name of fairness to his adopted daughter.

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