Chapter 14 – Speak No Evil
In silent determination, he made his way through a bare-walled, nearly desolate network of stone tunnels, alone. He moved with a swiftness that belied his lack of enthusiasm toward this venture; he knew, as always, that the slightest hesitance could dismantle his willingness to proceed.
Like a passenger within his own mind, he allowed his instinct to guide him, but without losing himself completely to it. This was as conscious an endeavor as it had ever been—he would always acknowledge the impact and cost of it, never allowing himself to trivialize the matter if he could help it.
His senses remained on high alert, trained toward the particular telltales of his quarry—it wasn’t much longer before he found what he was seeking. He followed a faint sound of wings beating the air until he detected a wavering light that confirmed the find even before its source was quite discernible. It was the glow of heat, the light that signified life in nearly every species other than his own.
With a command that was silent save for the echoing crack
of its execution, the source of that light was cut from the air. Wings crumpled as their insensible owner dropped to the floor. The sole witness to her fall drifted silently forward to look down upon her for a moment through eyes that held a regretful resignation, then let them close for a long, solemn moment. He gave a sincere, whispered apology to the fallen creature as he sent a silent prayer out unto the heavens, asking the gods for the safe and sure deliverance of the soul that he was about to send their way.
Though he had done this deed countless times since he had come to accept his need to do so, Solonn was no fonder of it than he had ever been. There was never pleasure in the hunt, no delight in the kill. For him, it was nothing less and nothing more than the obligation that it was, something done because it was demanded, not desired.
He summoned his element to task once more, and the zubat before him was frozen solid. In that single instant, the light of her life was snuffed out. Sometimes Solonn couldn’t help but be stricken by the way that his power responded just as readily to a call for destruction as to a request for a benign, artistic display. To the mother element, it seemed, it was all the same.
Solonn maintained a respectful, conscious silence as he fed, and when nothing remained of the zubat, he lingered at the scene for not a single moment more. He looked forward to returning home and not having to hunt again for at least another day. He did find at least some comfort in knowing that he didn’t have to feed nearly as often as he had when he was human or even quite as often as he’d been fed by Morgan. With the feeding habits of humans and of pokémon kept and pampered by them left largely behind now, his body had relaxed its expectations somewhat, and he was grateful for that.
It had been well over a year since his return to Virc-Dho. Through this time, Solonn had gotten as used to the demands of life as a glalie in the natural setting of his kind as he reckoned that he ever could, and he had grown accustomed to the much slower and less hectic pace of life in the warren. Even now, however, there were still quite a few aspects of the Virc lifestyle that he didn’t quite understand. His friends and family had introduced him to all that they knew of their culture and way of life, and he did as he observed them doing, yet even to this very day, he felt as though there was something more to the ways of his people that he was failing to see.
Beyond the people whom he knew personally, the Virc community in general did nothing to aid in his assimilation to the local culture. Though the commotion caused by the unexpected appearance of a steelix in their midst was hardly recent, some of its effects on the public lingered, for in truth the origins of those reactions traced back much farther than that single event.
By and large, the people seemed to know exactly what Solonn was, exactly how he had come about. They showed him no open hostility; he suspected that they were too intimidated by his stature to do so. Still, nearly every time he found himself in public, eyes and faces shifted conspicuously away from him, stealing glances here and there in attempts to watch him without seeming to watch him, and he swore that he could feel the tension in the air.
Solonn had tried for a while to get through to them, to make them own up to their fears and try to overcome them, but had found that they would not be moved. He had come to realize firsthand just how deeply ingrained their attitudes were, that they were set in their ways and unlikely to change for anyone, let alone for a hybrid.
Though still disappointed to no small degree in their behavior, he no longer tried at this point to get them to endure his company just as they would that of one another. He focused instead on just living his life like anyone else, regardless of what others thought of him.
After a few minutes’ traveling through the warren, Solonn arrived at what had been his home for the past several months, a place that had been acquired for him by Jeneth shortly after its previous owner had passed away. It wasn’t the largest of spaces, but since he lived alone, that suited him just fine.
He had been less satisfied with the featureless, ice-glazed walls of this place; it seemed that the preference that he’d picked up as a human toward more visually stimulating surroundings had lingered with him even well after his reversion and departure from a human lifestyle. Thus it was that he had decorated the cavern with patterns and images etched into the walls and sculptures raised from the material of the floor, décor that was changed every now and again to keep things interesting for him.
It was by his passion for ice art that he kept himself occupied much of the time in those days, often by himself, simply enjoying the serene unity with his element. Just as it ever did, that pastime offered an escape from the ordinary that he dearly appreciated—moreso than ever now that his life contained necessities with which he was sure that he’d never quite be comfortable, things that weren’t and would never be pretty in his eyes.
On occasion, his family and Zilag’s watched him work, but he was uninterested in performing for any larger audience. He doubted that many of the locals would be particularly interested in such a display anyway, and not simply because of whom and what the performer would happen to be in this case. Dancing ice wasn’t the exotic spectacle here that it was outside the realm of his kind; here, he was just one more ice controller out of hundreds. He had no doubt that any glalie could pull off his art form with equal or greater skill if they were to practice as long and as diligently as he had.
He was about to engage in that activity once again, musing silently on a number of shapes that he thought he might like to sculpt and carve this time, when he heard the voice of Jeneth calling to him from the entrance of his cavern. Upon unsealing the entrance for him, Solonn was greeted with an announcement that immediately drove those ideas from his mind.
“We think it’s happening,” Jeneth said almost breathlessly, with what little voice he managed tense with excitement.
Solonn’s eyes immediately widened. “Is it really?”
Jeneth nodded. “It started moving just before I left,” he said, “and moving a lot, at that. From the looks of it—” He paused as a momentary thrill seemed to arrest his breathing. “—it might very well hatch tonight.”
“Ah, that’s wonderful news!” Solonn said, a smile overtaking his face. “Well, come on then; let’s not risk missing it!”
The two departed with no further delay, making their way quickly and excitedly toward the cavern that Jeneth and Azvida shared. This was an event that the family had anticipated very enthusiastically, for it was one that had been quite long in the making. For years, Jeneth and Azvida had tried to conceive an egg, but to no avail. They were on the verge of losing hope of ever having a child together when, to their immense joy and relief, their efforts finally achieved success. Now, months later, the baby that they had so dearly wished for would enter their lives at long last.
Upon reaching their destination, Jeneth removed the barrier at the entrance to his home with unprecedented speed. He and Solonn then rushed beyond the main cavern and into a small chamber in which the egg sat, watched by its mother.
Just as Jeneth had described, the egg was much more active than it had been when Solonn had last laid eyes upon it. It was shaking so wildly that were it not for the ring of ice and packed snow that Azvida had mindfully raised around it, it could have easily just rolled away into the nearest wall, resulting in a rather painful entrance into the world for the newborn.
Azvida didn’t lift her gaze from the egg for even one second, but she caught sight of Jeneth and Solonn entering the room in the edge of her vision and smiled in acknowledgment of their arrival.
“Any moment now,” she all but whispered, her eyes bright, “any moment…”
Solonn and Jeneth seated themselves, and together the three glalie waited eagerly for the arrival of the newest member of their family. The egg maintained its high level of activity… but as countless minutes passed, the shell remained intact.
Solonn’s brows drew together in worry as he watched his half-sibling’s continuing efforts to escape the egg. While he’d never witnessed the hatching of an egg before, he was quite certain that the child within shouldn’t be struggling for so long before breaking free. He cast a quick glance at the others, and the troubled looks on their faces only reinforced that concern. As if to emphasize that something was amiss, muffled cries began issuing forth from within the egg, sounding terribly desperate and fearful.
“This isn’t right…” Azvida’s voice was choked with anguish at the sight and sound of her child’s struggle. “This isn’t right at all… Dear gods, I don’t think it can get out!”
Jeneth rose from the floor and came to hover directly above the egg. He swallowed nervously. “We’re going to have to help it out, then,” he said tensely.
Fleeting apprehension crossed Azvida’s features at the thought of what Jeneth seemed to be proposing, but then she gave a quick nod of agreement with his conclusion. “All right,” she said. “Be quick, but please be careful.”
“Don’t worry,” Jeneth assured her. He leaned forward and lowered his face toward the egg, his jaws parting, ready to break the shell and free the child within. Azvida and Solonn watched him with bated breath, hoping that the baby’s ordeal was soon to end.
Before Jeneth could lay a single tooth upon the egg, however, it literally blew apart right in his face.
A cry escaped Azvida as she turned away in an instant; Jeneth was sent reeling backwards, spitting fragments of eggshell from his mouth and shaking them from his face; and Solonn shut his eyes and raised a protect shield. For seconds after, the three remained frozen in shock, unable to think, even seeming to forget to breathe. Finally, fearfully, they dared to look upon the nest of ice and snow where the egg had been before its self-destruction, trembling with dread of what they might see as they turned toward it.
What they found there calmed their initial shock somewhat, but only increased their bewilderment. There, amid the debris of his explosive birth, a newborn male sat completely unscathed, nibbling daintily and serenely at a handful of the surrounding snow as though nothing at all out of the ordinary had just happened.
The three glalie could only stare dumbfounded at him for a long moment, gathering their wits, still rather shaken after what they had just witnessed. Finally, “Gods… what in the hell just happened?” Jeneth managed.
“No idea,” Azvida responded breathlessly, her eyes still wide with disbelief, her brow still knitted in confusion and concern. “None whatsoever… I only hope he’s really going to be all right now…”
The three glalie kept a long watch over the newborn to make sure of just that. By evening’s end, it seemed certain to them that there was no further strangeness in store for the child, and with that reassurance, they were finally able to truly take joy in their new arrival. He was then named after his father and paternal grandfather, and it was thus that Jeneth Marasahn Zgil-Al was officially welcomed into the family.
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