You can hear the whispers of the heavens, so far above the canopy of your nursery. Your new limbs reach out, stretching with all their might towards the twinkling lights, but they remain just beyond you. You have never wanted anything more than to touch that brightness, and the denial is too much for you.
Those are stars, Redglare, a silky shadow whispers across the tip of your mind. You thank your lusus for the knowledge, but wonder at the tone the dragon supplies; concern, caution, and a dreadful longing you barely understand. You have never seen the dragon, but he has always been a strong presence in your life, just beyond the scope of your eyes but always dwelling within your mind.
“Can I have them?” You breathe out a desperate wanting, your heart dazzled by the promise of those sirens above. They are more than simple lights to you and hardly a simple entity that Pyralspite would name them with so simple a word as stars.
No, they are all voices, each begging for your ear, a magnificent chorus of promise that you can only brush the barest of comprehension. You have heard the callings of the stars and it has left you wanting them with every aching scrap of your young, wriggling body, more than you have ever wanted anything else.
And that wanting shatters around you as Pyralspite sighs lightly across your mind. No, you will not have them. Your lusus speaks the absolute truth, and for the first time in your young life, you understand grief, just as certainly as you know it will not be the last you feel of it.
For in the loss of those stars, you are instantly filled by all your lusus cannot say. The whispers are more than truth, they are the possibilities for it, and fear strikes your heart as you slowly realize just how many possibilities the stars contain.
And as you realize this fact, the stars fall closer, sounding loudly the possibilities your own life will face. They flickr briefly into the next, each a bloom of sensations which overwhelms even as they enlighten.
Brushes of gray skin tinged a familiar but heartbreaking shade of blue, the ghost of hands centuries unborn; you shiver as they run comfort down skin that has fallen to brittle bone ages ago. The stench of brine and slain bodies overwhelming your being, and every ounce of self will fighting to hold your own against a tall shadow you know will bring forth your greatest victory… and your only defeat. The stiffness of a new legislacerator robes, unnaturally smooth beneath your calloused fingers as you push down the nervousness and demand Justice in a storm of fiery oration your people will never witness again. That moment of triumph, swiftly falling by the rough rope slipping tighter against your thin throat. The last moments before darkness, as you ache for those simple stars as the ropes strangles you awake into what you know will be the next life, the only real chance you have to fix what the scratch doomed.
Your world tilts and never quite recovers. Too much, you gasp, a Seer awakened before the talent can become what it needs to be.
And for the first time you hear Pyralspite, howling for what you were before. The sound tears you from the perfect clarity, and the possibilities fade into the shadows. You cannot see them, but just like your lusus, they will remain for the rest of your life, whispering. But they will never truly be yours. That control, you are certain, will fall to another’s hands.
“I’m fine, Pyralspite.” You manage, still panting from the strength of the visions as you feel your life slip into a new path. “Please, stop howling like that, I’m fine. Please.”
The howling ceases, but there are no comforting caresses of the dragon against her mind.
“Don’t worry Pyralspite, we’re going to be just fine. Right?” You whisper, even as you know that Pyralspite will not bring himself to answer.
The dragon can speak no lies.
How can you know what truth is when you can see a billion lies with more clarity?
It has been a full solar sweep since you have last felt the comfort of your lusus, since you listened to the voices of the stars preaching of spoilers you no longer trust. Because there is no justice in what the stars whisper and you refuse to believe there is no path that can lead to the equality the Sufferer speaks of.
The great rebellion still roars in your chest as you remember that anger that fueled you into abandoning Pyralspite, the hive, and the stars to begin training as a legislacerator. You will find justice for your people, even if you have to do it without the visions.
“Are you alright, Redglare? I’m curious what crime that scroll committed which merits such a forceful strangling.”
You smile distractedly at your fellow legislacerator student, relaxing your hold on the notes you have been taking for your final. A mock trial, your first chance to demand blood before you join the ranks. The studying den is alive with legislacerators striding the breadth of the rooms, shouting their best orations on justice and the law. You observe their efforts for a moment, sizing up the competition you will soon face, and find it all lacking.
Their passion is exhausting to watch and will move no jury to conviction.
You know the real competition is not in the den, but bolding standing before a real jury right this moment, demanding justice for a minor criminal. The jury was sure to convict, and your rival will soon have earned their first, real blood. A genius move, tracking the minor criminal down themselves to earn the right to trail.
It is sure to earn your rival top honors.
You find the scroll a poor substitute for your rivals neck once more, ignoring your studying partner’s nervous giggling. The notes you have taken are useless, and you know there is only one path to beating your rival and clenching the top honors for the class. But that would require riding the possibilities, and you are quick to stifle the urge.
If you cannot see justice for your people, why should you trust what minor truths they might say?
Your studying partner snatches the scroll from your hand, smoothing out the paper to study the middle section where you have crossed out each mock-trial you’ve heard another classmate is trying. “There aren’t a lot of options left if you are going to stand out from all this,” She waves distractedly at the crowds, as unimpressed with the offerings as you are.
You knew there was a reason you chose her as a studying partner.
She taps a pen at the edge of her mouth, considering the list. The best options left are pitiful— you know you have the ability to be a damned good legislacerator, but it wouldn’t take much talent to sway a jury on a boring case of textbook sopor contamination by a potential kismesis. “Nothing left is worth mounting any sort of an case. Too bad you can’t capture your own criminal as well.”
“Not all of us have the luck,” You sigh, reaching for the scroll. “And at least this is a case of passion. I might be able to turn this into something worthwhile.”
Your studying partner snorts, letting the scroll go. “I wish I had the guts to go after a criminal.” Her eyes are gleaming, wistfully bloodthirsty. “You’d have to bring in someone really awful to avoid looking like a copycat. You know, someone you’d have to be absolutely mad to go after.”
You let that sink in for a moment, cycling through your mental list of Alternia’s Most Wanted. Your studying partner is right, going after someone on that list would be crazy enough to work. And after the latest strike of the Gamblignants, you know their leader, the murderous Marquise, is alone at the top of that list.
And taking out the Marquise would also be a gigantic leap for equality for your people.
But you also know that the only way you could defeat someone like the Marquise would be to use the sight, and you’ve given that up, even if you can feel the whispers rising above the dim of your fellow students.
“The pursuit of justice can be a little mad,” You manage, forcing down the visions. “But that passion does make for an exciting execution.”
“And what more could a legislacerator hope for?”
And suddenly, you can see it.
The murderous Marquise, standing low and broken before a jury, surprised by defeat to a mere lowblood. The justice of the vision brings shivers, and your breath catches in your throat. You can see the truth in this moment, know that it is more than merely a longing for glory. You have the ability to defeat this criminal, and that defeat would send a clear message to their people about just how equal trolls truly could be.
You ride the possibilities further, surprised as they echoing those first visions you experienced those many solar sweeps ago. You know that endless sea, flying above it countless times on Pyralspite’s back. And you see smoke rising from that sea, a smoke thick with death as the Gamblingnant armada strikes another fleet. It is a battle they will win, but one that will provide the perfect distraction, the only real possibility a novice such as Redglare could have at bringing in such a criminal as the Marquise.
You ignore the ghost of a noose, tight against your throat, and manage to your shaking feet, waving off your studying partner’s concern. “You’ll have to excuse me, I’ve got a dragon to catch.”
You've never enjoyed these waters, and falling down the sky towards the battle does not make you any fonder of them. You wrench at the stench of brine and a recognition that isn't quite yours as you catch a first glimpse of your query, shouting orders on the deck below.
Her skin is laced by wounds spitting out a poisonous dark blue; you have never met this Marquise, but that blood is as familiar to you as your own. You cannot afford the confusion your mind is offering, the gasp your mouth bares to the world as an old betrayal cuts across your heart. It is a wound you know will never quite staunch, a lifetime yet to be lived, but that doesn’t make the pain any less.
Painfully, you let go of your lusus and fall to your fate on the deck below.
“Marquise Mindfang!” You call out with the full fury of the law. “I am here to bring you to justice.”
She is taken aback, obviously confused how such a low blood managed to find passage onto her ship in the middle of a battle, but quickly collects herself when you are revealed to be alone. “Justice? Oh what a pitiful little tealblood you are," She sneers, and you can feel your only chance start to slip away as her eight fold eye begins to awaken. “You, bringing me to justice? There is no such thing as justice, little fool. Our world is built around strength, not justice. All that matters is what you have the strength to steal-- and I, lowblood, I will steal it all."
"You speak as if you've already won." The words are filled with all the gumption you can summon, and you can see that it unsettles her. You should be terrified, submitting blindly to her will, not standing before her as an equal. It angers her, and that anger is going to be the last mistake she makes.
“NOW!” You shout, hitting the deck as your dragon lands, eyes blazing with the brightness of suns and the truths of the stars.
But you can find no pleasure in the awful screams of the Marquise as her eight fold sight is striped away. There is no victory in that moment; you can barely breathe, so tight that noose around your neck. The stars no longer whisper to you, yet it no longer matters. You know exactly what will come next, and a part of you has always known it would end this way. Always known that this was merely a half-life, a moment before the real you could travel to those stars and mend what should never have been scratched.
Clumsily you mount Pyralspite, fingers digging into your lusus’ hide. The dragon is already mourning, a terrible resonating out from within his body. There was never enough time for you, but at least you will have this one last ride before the end.
You clutch at the dragons cool skin as he rises, his talons tightly encasing the criminal you have the oddest urge to name friend. And above the wind, you can hear the voice of a future unborn, waiting for you just the other end of that trial, one little kiss of a rope you’ve known your entire life would lead to the only way to save your people.
You are Neophyte Redglare, and you are about to legislacerate the greatest case your people will ever witness.