Among all the voices that spoke to him, One spoke to Saavedro. A voice that sounded very much like his own. “You know,” it said, “the ones who hurt your world so badly, they’re still out there. Still walking other worlds, perhaps still free to do as they please. Now that you’ve found a way to them… Maybe you should do something about that.”
“Go into the lair of your enemies. Take the adventure that comes to you.”
And so he began. When he found out the two brothers were no more, he turned his eye to the father. How careless he seemed, first with myriad worlds, and then with his own sons… Given that his sons had caused the sorrows of worlds, their destruction should have given Saveedro joy. It should have balanced everything out. Death for death. But somehow it didn’t.
Perhaps Atrus needed a lesson in care, a lesson in sorrow, a lesson in the losses so many had suffered. And so Saavedro built.
Metal welded itself under his hands. Vines budded forth exactly where he needed flowers. He thanked them and brought them compost. Once he could have sworn a stone sphere he couldn’t quite reach floated into his hands…
(Maybe he imagined the welding, maybe the fog took him and he melted the train tracks together with some sort of torch he found and just can’t remember. There are many things he can’t remember these days.)
And so Saavedro listened. And learned the language of vines and electrical currents humming through the wires. And read Atrus’s notes late into the night, until his eyes could read no more.
And when the time was right, stole one book.
There was another voice among the throng. It spoke, “Repay destruction with destruction. Everything you loved is gone. You will teach nothing, you have no ability… look how your first lessons turned out. Everything you touch turns to ash. You are contagious with destruction.”
“…The burning of the book will at least keep you warm.”
And the other voice, his voice, like the way he spoke to his wife Before, with gentleness and patience, said “wait”.
And so he built. And waited for Atrus to come.
When he finally saw who had come after him… And he saw hair too long for Atrus’s. And a face filled with bewilderment. And eyes filled half with wild curiosity and half with tears. He almost ended it right then.
As the stranger worked his puzzles, drank in his people’s language, held the truth of it’s destruction in their hands (for what is a language if there is no one else to speak it with), just as he had intended… He tried desperately to keep his hammer away from his own flesh. Clenching his hands into tight balls.
Until he saw, for the first time in ages, the light of Home, spilling across the backs of his hands. That orange-gold light reflecting off of the tops of tree spores in the distance – not dead and abandoned, but growing and healthy. Cared-for!
He came to the stranger in a frenzy, and when he understood that he could not reach the home (home that he had thought was lost, that some part of him *still* thought was lost) by himself, he made a deal. The stranger’s help for Atrus’s book. A future for a future.
But when he found himself on the brink of disembarking, the old voice came back, the one that sounded like rotting stalks, and spores that shriveled in the sun. It said “You have all the power now, what is it for if not to use? Destruction for destruction.”
The tome felt almost too heavy to hold. It would have been so easy to let it slip… accidentally… who could blame him if such an accident were to happen?
But then the light of home was cut off again. And in that moment he understood. Just as his heart cried out at the loss, others would cry. Sorrow paid for with more Sorrow. The book of the D’ni future steadied in his hands.
And as he left for home without it (new life for new life), he stood straight and tall – as he had done in the old days when he was one of his people. And the words that “his own voice” had said to him finally came clear.
“For love of life, and nature, and all that is, I swear to weave the power that comes to me…”