Pan Post 88 takes place during Shadowtane Fest, a Halloween-like festival in the city of Urbs Dei in the High Empire. Usually Highemperor himself would rejoice but he is remembering the tragedies of his daughters. He thinks of Indigo Shade, the girl who betrayed him, then of Kimleigh, killed by the God-Killer of The Imperium, and then the unborn child of Ameryl Hypericum. He had attempted to follow Ameryl after Imeryn Hypericum had banished her twin, but he found that he was blocked from Ameryl by a Writer's narrative-lock. Later, after Ameryl told him of her aborted child in Pan Post 84, he had gone and collected the spiritual essence of the unborn child and planned to, one day, place the spirit back into Ameryl's womb.
In Memory of Those Lost
The imaginatively named city of Urbs Dei is the crown jewel of the High Empire, always bright and gleaming. Tonight is a special occasion though, for it is the Shadowtane Fest. Terran humans would recognize it as a variant of their own Halloween: a holiday where darker and more secretive powers are celebrated and called to come out into the light for a night of wild rejoicing.
Costumes and pageantry abound, as do many anonymous trysts between those wearing masks. Highemperor costumes are fairly common, and it is likewise a commonly held belief that the supreme ruler mingles with the masses in disguise on this night.
However, while Highemperor may have indulged in such disguised mingling in the past, or may yet indulge in it in the future, he does not tonight. Instead, he is the grand citadel at the heart of Urbs Dei, the Stronghold of Powerplayers. Deep beneath the surface, within most of the most protected vaults, the Highemperor sits alone. Three candles are lit on the floor in front of him, made of mystic ever-burning crystal rather than wax, and they release a sweet scent into the air. One glimmers faintly purple, another vivid green, and the third pure white.
He remembers a young girl, laughing and playing in her youth, with the long black tresses inherited from her father and the lavender eyes of her mother. A girl who could manipulate the very forces that bent time and space, and who constantly sparred with the biggest swords she could get her hands on.
Indigo wasn't her given name, of course, but in her teen years she had insisted on being called that, and of course as a divine princess her whim was obeyed.
But one whim, that was more than a whim, was not obeyed - she revolted against her father and his empire. In his mind's eye, Highemp sees the duel playing out before him, himself against his daughter, she trying to kill him, he only defending himself. He sees her face as he imprisons her in a vault older than remembered human history, and her eyes haunt him, for they hold only rage.
Highemperor: One day, I will win your love back...
He tears his eyes away from the purple candle, and his mind from those memories, and gazes instead at the green-tinged crystal candle. He sees another young girl, one who chose to remain forever young even while her mind matured. A girl who loved creatures and pets of all kind, be they large or small, savage or docile, sentient or stupid.
Highemperor: My little beast tamer...
He tried to remember only the good moments, yet he could not stop himself from scrying the moment of her death, in a strange little ship far from her home or anything she had ever known. A gigantic construct hanging in space, with a hungry gaping maw of white-hot anti-power--
With a gasp, he forces the memory of the scrying away. Utterly annihilated, her soul shredded and removed from existence beyond resurrection.
Highemp: One day, I will find away to undo anti-nihilation, and to bring you back. Oh, how your mother will smile then...
He blinks away moisture, and looks to the third candle. Its light is a pure soft white. Memory assails him once more...
Highemperor lived a happy existence with Queen Imeryn, their child the infant princess Chimaat, and the Queen Consort, as the King Consort. Yet on their wedding night - after a wedding of extraordinary pageantry - after Imeryn lay slumbering in exhausted contentment in his arms, Highemp disengaged gently from her, careful not to disturb her, and got out of bed, magicking his clothes back on.
Highemp: I'm sorry, Imeryn. I know things didn't end well between you two. But I have to find her. Maybe...maybe you'll even make up.
The sleeping queen of course does not hear him, and he leans over to kiss her brow.
Highemp: I'll be back in but a moment, love.
Then he vanishes through time, rewinding several months, and then watches invisibly, flitting from moment to moment. He sees a feud over the peasant girl who is now Queen Consort, he sees the duel between sisters, and he sees the banishing of Ameryl.
The princess is sent away with a coterie of servants. It looks good for Imeryn, and as far as the new queen is concerned, she's only removing those sympathetic to the exiled princess anyway. As soon as that royal barge leaves the galaxy at hyperspeeds, Highemp flits after them.
The ship of the exiles makes several hops before stopping over a lush green world. Perhaps the exiles seek to refresh their spirits with natural beauty. Highemp takes the opportunity to streak towards the space barge - only to be repulsed by a field of invisible force.
Highemp: What? There is nothing that can resist me!
Yet try as he might, he can't break through. Nor can he send any sort of communcation or the slightest indication of his presence. Frustrated, he conjures a glimmer of silver light into his palm, and it unfolds into a contraption that resembles a compass, if a compass had three faces, several dials, and lots of blinking lights. Highemp fiddles with the dials and watches the color changes of the lights and the spinning of the arrows closely.
Highemp: A fixed point in time? And narrative-locked? But I should be able to--
Highemp: My Writer's Soul has damned me again.
He is wrong, or at least not technically correct, for it is another Writer who has locked this particular narrative...but he would still rail at his own Writer even if he knew, for allowing such tragedy.
Still, he follows the royal barge closely, for years, flitting around in time and space, unable to see Ameryl or get a message to her. He wonders if she was pregnant, if she has given birth to a daughter, and he wonders if they both are happy. But try as he might, for years of shadowing, he cannot break through the narrative lock.
Highemp: One day, my powers will be great enough. I will set right all these wrongs that my Writer inflicts upon me. And then, on that day, I will return to you, Ameryl. I swear it.
He zips back through time and space, and appears at Imeryn's bedside, scant minuts after he'd left. He is weary in a sense that has nothing to do with physical exhaustion. He gazes at Imeryn for a long moment, wondering how he can love a woman who was so callous to her own sister...yet love her he does.
He crawls back into bed, and as Imeryn snuggles back up to him in her sleep, her largely pregnant belly pushing into his side, he approaches something resembling contentment for now...
Highemp: My unborn child...fate was cruel to you, and to your mother, and to me.
He gazes into the white crystal candle, for this candle is more than a candle, but holds an unformed soul, the spirital essence of an aborted fetus. Highemp journeyed through a hundred underworlds searching for it, and found it. Cradling it in his palms, he brought it to his world, where he safeguards the non-sentient, unborn soul within an unbreakable crystal.
The other two crystals in this room are merely candles - but this one is not a candle. Its light is rather the light of the nascent soul within.
Highemp: One day, I will reconcile with her. I will restore you to her womb. And we will choose a name for you together...
A tear trickles down his cheek. Hope tears at his heart, yet he knows that his hopes are mere fantasies. Still, his entire empire is built on fantasies, fantasies that he has wrenched into reality with the strength of his powerplaying.
And so he remembers, and hopes, and dreams, while the city around him celebrates.