As much as Haradeth dearly wished they were gone and had rejoined the Resistance, he was enjoying the comforts of living among the Sylvani. Now that they were past the initial shock of his arrival and the demands to meet with their goddess, the Sylvani were making remarkably good hosts. The comfort of their beds were unmatched by anything Haradeth had slept on before, and they made sure their guest did not lack of entertainment. Their fluting music, while strange and alien, still held an ephemeral beauty that Haradeth immensely enjoyed. Their storytellers were skilled, unparalleled by anything Haradeth had seen before.
Beyond those, however, were the plays. The same machines that allowed Anortia and the Tarnished One to provide three dimensional images woven from light also were utilized to put on the most fascinating plays that Haradeth had ever seen, plays where he could pause them at any moment and resume them, plays that simulated death and war and adventure and love more accurately than anything Haradeth had imagined. Combined with the Sylvani’s ability to shapeshift, the end result were prefect recreations of some of the great moments from history, as well as completely fabricated stories brought to life.
By the end of the third day, Haradeth found himself shunning the music, avoiding the storytellers, and even spurning sleep to spend his days in the room, watching these plays dance for him in the most intricately beautiful displays he’d ever seen.
They also had images brought from around Alith. As Shaaytha had explained – she was much warmer to him now that the initial disagreement had been cleared up – they had small lattice minds that could fly around the world, disguised as simple dragonflies. Only twenty of them still existed from the initial three hundred the Sylvani had arrived with, and they had to be used with utmost care since the Sylvani had lost the art of fabricating more. However, with tiny glass eyes like those of the Tarnished One, they could beam what they saw back to the Sylvani on tiny beams of light, and they could be recreated as these images.
Through these, Haradeth learned much of the world beyond the kingdom. In Xhaod, the warrior maidens had fractured, with half believing the Alohym were part of the Light and worthy of worship, while the other half believed them to be demons of the dawn and needing destruction. Their war raged on, but the half that supported the Alohym had access to their ships and unlight weapons, and were driving their once-sisters back. In Shunah, to the south, rebels with poisoned bows hid in the jungles and hunted the Alohym’s soldiers before vanishing back into the foliage, assassinating but never engaging in a standard fight. To the north, the Aegirin had taken to the sea in great ships, raiding Alohym ports where they could. They’d managed to slave Arc-drives and lattice minds to their ships, and now those ships could travel beneath the waves like great whales. Across the bay, the Kiryn – who had long ago tamed Aeromanes – rode those great beasts into battle, although the arrival of Skimmers were cutting them down.
That was the underlying message that drove Haradeth more and more to watch the historical documentaries and fictional light-plays. Across the globe, resistance to the Alohym was dying out. Several places the Sylvani watched showed no more evidence of rebellion, or what little remained was scattered and weak.
Humanity was losing, the Underfolk had hidden beneath the earth, and the Sylvani were withdrawing to this hidden city.
To make matters worth, Lorathor was becoming increasingly sullen. Haradeth sought him out, tried to get him to watch the light plays, but was constantly rebuffed. Offers to let Lorathor speak about what bothered him were met with glib remarks that held a bitter edge that Lorathor had never displayed before. After the seventh day, Haradeth stopped trying. Lorathor was struggling with whatever was eating as he soul but would accept no aid.
There were still the light-plays to distract him.
It was with half-relief, half-reluctance that Haradeth responded to the Tarnished One’s summons. He’d been in the middle of a recreation of the Kalcoan League’s war with the Cardomethi Empire, and he strongly suspected that Dornna and Ulmarit were about to confess their eternal love to each other. However, a chance to get away from the siren call of the light-plays seemed like a blessing, and Haradeth dearly hoped that Lorathor would be roused from his torpor if they had something to do.
The summons arrived in the form of a tiny lattice mind, no bigger than a shrew, that arrived in Haradeth’s room by rolling itself into a sphere. When he’d paused his light play to inspect the strange arrival, it had uncurled itself to reveal what appeared at first like an oversized pill bug. The Tarnished One’s voice emitted from a tiny mouth. “Hello Haradeth! Please come down to my house because I have news and I want to see if you’ll let me poke you in the finger with an especially long needle I have found. If you don’t come, I will wait until you sleep and stab you with it anyway, and it will not be in your finger.”
Lorathor came to Haradeth before he’d finished trying to contemplate where the Tarnished One would stab him if he didn’t show.
“You got the message?” Lorathor asked. Well, Haradeth assumed it was a question. It was the longest sentence Lorathor had grunted at him since their last visit to the Tarnished One, and it had the general timber of a question.
“Just did.” Haradeth stood up and smiled at Lorathor. They Sylvani’s skin was grey and brown, the same color it had been for days now. Haradeth couldn’t recall the last time he’d seen Lorathor shift color. Probably the last time he’d seen Lorathor smile. Both had been far too long. “We might be able to move on soon.”
Lorathor grunted and motioned for Haradeth to follow. Haradeth did, hoping – if the Tarnished One didn’t have anything directly for them – she’d at least have something to rouse Lorathor from whatever malaise was afflicting him.