Dusk was beginning to settle on Thessia by the time that Commander Korynn Shepard and Doctor Liara T’Soni emerged from Matriarch Genessa Park, a shopping and recreational plaza high in the clouds above the capitol city of Serrice. A day of shopping had ended with the taste of a delicious plate of Flames From The Goddess that lingered on Korynn’s palette as she made her way from the gates of the plaza and to the boardwalk, taking them back to the Sky Car pad.
As always, Korynn found herself mesmerized by the Thessian sunset and reminded herself to stop before she reached the end of the walk way as she admired the amber colored sky as it kissed the waves of the distant sea.
“Heavenly. I never tire of this view,” Liara said, slipping her hand around Korynn’s and resting her chin upon Korynn’s shoulder.
“Careful,” Korynn cautioned as she felt her center of gravity move forward. Her eyes went to the ledge she stood upon and the misty rooftop in the distance below. “One thing I will never get used to about your world is the lack of railings on everything. I’m surprised more of your people don’t just blow off the shuttlepad with the winds out there. I seem to recall railings on Illium.”
Liara laughed softly and encased the two of them in a gentle biotic field.
Korynn felt her center of gravity shift in favor of Liara and then Liara’s lips against her temple calming her.
“We don’t do a lot of trading with off world species on Thessia. Illium is our primary trade hub with the rest of the galaxy. An…incident with a high ranking Volus on Illium made us realize that not every species has the ability to soften their fall with a simple barrier,” Liara replied and slipped her hand around Korynn’s waist.
The sun was half way below the horizon, the sky turning darker by the moment and ships streaked across the sky as they made their way to wherever it was they were headed.
Korynn closed her eyes and placed her hand on Liara’s and leaned into her. “Remind me to stick close to you then.”
Liara nuzzled her nose through the short, black waves of hair on Korynn’s head and kissed her ear. “Remind me to help you work on your barrier that way we can take a proper stroll together.” She pulled away and tugged lightly on Korynn’s arm to pull her back to a safer distance from the edge. “Let’s also come away from here before I get nervous. We still have a Temple to visit.”
The night wind picked up and brushed Liara’s white and purple dress. Some passing asari noted the two of them and looked on with amused expressions. Liara noticed them too and returned their polite approval with a flash of color to the scales around her neck.
In the darkening sky, Thessia and its people took on a whole new hue. The plaza around them became a vibrant array of bio-luminescence that could only be appreciated on the asari homeworld itself. Planter boxes filled with flowers which were a pretty blue and pink during the daytime became neon versions of themselves, and giant cup-like flowers that Liara identified as Sarenna’s Breath became giant cones of different shades of yellow.
The Asari, Liara included, also became bio-luminescent versions of themselves, their skin electrifying in a refulgent display of their daylight colors, complete with streaks, spots, and stripes of different colors that followed their natural markings. Tattoos, clothes, and cosmetics became far more striking.
From the throngs of asari which began to ebb in from the trading and industrial centers looking for some needed relaxation from the holiday, Korynn noted flashes of dark energy fields as friends and lovers greeted each other, and dazzling changes of color on head fringes and neck crests.
Such resplendence made the sparse population of outside lighting outside the shopping center appropriate and nearly drowned out the stars overhead.
Even though the journey across the boardwalk would be less-illuminated and more attuned to asari’s natural sensitivity to lower light conditions, this was Korynn’s favorite time of day on Thessia.
Korynn became aware that she was smiling in appreciation and turned when Liara laughed softly. She looked even more beautiful than ever and Korynn squeezed Liara’s hand lovingly. “Which one are you taking me to again?” She asked.
Liara tugged Korynn close and the two of them walked toward where the Sky Cars were dropping off more weary workers. “We are going to the Temple of Janiri. It’s located in a picturesque city along the coast named Kyrie. It is one of our holiest sites and where most of Thessia’s elite keep their summer homes. One of my former employees, Keri T’Vessa, was from there.”
Korynn hooked her arm around Liara and snuggled her close as they approached a waiting taxi. “I remember her. She left with the Andromeda Initiative didn’t she?”
Liara nodded as they boarded the car.
“Where to, Doctor?” The faceless driver asked from behind shrouded one-way glass.
Liara spoke their destination and turned her attention back to Korynn. “She did, and between you and me, I’m glad she took my advice. She was one of my best employees, but far too sweet for this line of work...or what’s to come.”
The rest of the ride was spent in relaxed silence with nothing but timeless love shared between Korynn and her beloved Liara. Stars whizzed past the window and Korynn watched as shuttles and ships zipped through the atmosphere like shooting stars. They were a reminder that after this holiday was over, there was still a war coming.
Korynn remembered the young face of Keri T’Vessa, beaming triumphantly as she held up the data disc containing Al-Jilani’s actual footage. It had been an easy job for Keri to swap the footage for some Krogan porn she’d found on the extranet, and she’d had a good laugh with the two of them as it made its way across Council Space. If Korynn remembered correctly, Keri was close to Liara’s age. That thought sobered Korynn and she tore her eyes from the stars and to Liara.
Korynn opened her mouth to say something but was silenced when the taxi came to a halt on the drop off at Kyrie.
Liara caught Korynn’s gaze and seemed to read her perfectly. She flashed a subtle dark blue color along her scalp crests and paid the driver as they exited.
If Korynn remembered, that was Liara’s way of acknowledging Korynn’s emotions but saving the conversation until later. Korynn flailed her arms in return as her way of communicating back to Liara and was rewarded with an amused smile.
The two of them walked down the ramp to Kyrie’s main boulevard and to where the Temple lay along the shoreline.
“If you were Asari, your response would be this:” Liara said and turned the scales around the sides of her head a mixture of pink and yellow.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Korynn asked.
“It’s difficult to put into words, but if I am interpreting your human gesture correctly,” Liara continued, flailing her arms to mimic Korynn’s gesture, “it’s similar to ‘as you wish.’”
Korynn smiled. “I’ll try to remember that. What’s, ‘I love you?’”
“That one is easy,” Liara replied and paused. She brought up her biotics once more, the wisps of dark energy flicking an iridescent blue and purple. The scales on top of Liara’s head turned a lighter shade of the blue they already were.
Liara took Korynn’s hand and pulled her inside the dark energy field. “Now you,” she said. “Stretch out with your biotics, but not like you do when we’re practicing on the Normandy. The idea is to touch me as I touch you.”
Korynn brought up a field of her own and watched it swirl, the colors creating long tendrils almost like smoke as they spiraled together. Liara pushed where she pushed, caressed where she caressed in an intimacy that went beyond the touch of a hand or the brush of her lips.
The city of Kyrie seemed to float away into a nebulous present. Korynn focused only on Liara in front of her. It seemed silly to take her in her arms, and even the most impassioned kiss paled in comparison to what Liara had expressed to her, yet it was all she could do, and Liara responded with closed eyes and soft noises that only encouraged Korynn.
“We shouldn’t do this here,” Liara breathed breaking away.
Korynn looked around and her cheeks grew hot as she realized that the two of them had floated off the walkway and that there were a few asari looking up at them from the ground. “How...” her voice trailed off and she relaxed her biotics as Liara lowered the two of them back to the ground.
Asari voices hummed around them as they talked.
“We’ll save that for the hotel,” Liara said coyly and turned to an older asari dressed in priest robes who approached.
“Good evening, Doctor T’Soni. I’m glad to see that you come to celebrate Janiris not just in body but in spirit as well,” the Asari’s tone was cordial making the joke even funnier.
“Good evening, High Priestess,” Liara bowed her head politely. “May I introduce my siame, Commander Korynn Shepard. Korynn, this is Matriarch Atienne, she is the High Priestess of the Temple of Janiri and will be the Eminent for this year’s celebration.”
Korynn bowed to Atienne. “It’s an honor, High Priestess.”
“It’s good you have arrived when you did,” Atienne said, gesturing for the two of them to follow her to the Temple. “Make sure you grab some sort of color, Commander.” Atienne motioned to some vendors close to the Temple You’re not Liara, but we still want you to be the prettiest human in town.”
Kyrie was certainly smaller than Serrice, but with the spires and modernized buildings mixed with the ancient, it was easy to see how important it was. Salt spray from the sea created a refreshing atmosphere that reminded Korynn of rebirth. That was the point of this Festival: The celebration of rebirth, of evolution...of life.
Unlike Serrice, Korynn noted that Kyrie had turned its lights down low enough that without Liara and Atienne to lead, Korynn would have certainly tripped over her own feet, or worse. Taking Atienne’s suggestion, Korynn stopped at a nearby cart and let Liara select a wreath of luminescent flowers for around her neck.
“Here, you will want this. Eat it quickly, because you’re going to need your biotics in a moment,” Liara said, handing Korynn a meat stick of some kind that tasted a lot like Shirvan. She ate and wondered what was next while she also contemplated this day and what it meant to the asari, along with what lay ahead for them.
Atienne disappeared among the throngs of people and soon Korynn caught sight of her heading up the stairs and to her entourage composed of Priestesses, and a brightly colored Commando unit who were as comical as they were intimidating.
The Parthenonic Temple was completely unlit, and Atienne took her place behind a podium before two massive statues that were at the top of the stairs of Janiri and another asari that Korynn could only assume was Janiri or Athame's Champion. Or both.
“So, what’s involved in the festival?” Korynn asked of Liara.
“Two days of partying mixed with prayer. The Festival of Janiri is our New Year if you want to put it into human terms, but also marks a turning point in our history: Where Asari stopped being predominantly hunter gatherers along our shores and created a civilization. It is said that Janiri uplifted us from a great darkness and created seasons to help us thrive. We remember our past at the same time we give ourselves to the idea of the hope of a promising future.” Liara smiled in such a way that Korynn gathered that she and Atienne understood the gravity of what this year meant for everyone.
“Darkness!” Atienne’s voice boomed over the crowd and rattled through Korynn’s bones. A hush fell over the crowd as they listened. “Our people were born from Darkness, and for centuries our society was shrouded in Darkness. Across the land, and in our spirit. We suffered until one day we rose to a new Dawn! A new beginning! Filled with hope and laughter and triumph!” Atienne seemed to glance in the direction of Korynn and Liara. “Like our Ancestors, Darkness looms. Let us stamp it out! It is with gratitude we give our hearts to the Goddess in our Everlasting Jubilee!”
The crowd roared with delight. The Eminent and the rest of her High Priestesses, Liara, and very Asari in attendance erupted in a cacophony of color, laughter, and music the likes that Korynn had never seen. Before she had time to take in everything, Korynn felt Liara’s arms around her as she was swept up in a phosphorescent dance.
“Now?” Korynn asked, struggling to keep up with Liara.
Liara nodded and brought up her biotics at the same time Korynn did.
A small smile was on Liara’s face and Korynn fell into a rhythm that was slow enough to keep Korynn from stepping on Liara’s toes, but fast enough that it was kept in time to the upbeat string music that lifted through the air. It felt like muscle memory at this point: Being in love with Liara. Knowing when she was going to move right or left, or pull her a little bit closer.
Liara inhaled sharply and her eyes fluttered. “Korynn...” she said coyly and smiled a warm, genuine smile that made Korynn fall in love all the harder.
Kyrie seemed to disappear once more and Korynn focused on her beloved. Hope was a dangerous game, but without it, what was the point in fighting? It was so easy to be swept up in a bleak present and forget to celebrate the joy of being alive, the promise of something more to come.
The night sky above Kyrie, Serrice, and every other city lit up as Korynn Shepard, Liara T’Soni, and the people around the Republics celebrated a new season in 2185, with song, dance, love, and merriment and a rebellious sense of hope.