Up There so High

What do you get when you have a space fanatic, a runaway princess and a bunch of miscreants? Well, you get the three E's; Explosions, Expletives and Enemies.
You may not laugh along with this story but you may sing (because the main space man is very much fond of that).

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48. The Pantheon

 

~The Pantheon~

~Skylar~

 

The sight of her mother slamming Everett’s head into the metal corner of the cot made her second guess the Queen’s motivations.

Maeve Kingsley was bonded to the Pantheon in such a way that it made her biased. It affected her thought process and made her liable when it came to making judgements. That could be the only reason that her mother would attack someone who had not only saved Skylar’s life but her own as well.

Despite that, the decision to Persuade her mother, go against her word and track down the Pantheon, was something she never thought she would do. Skylar remembered promising herself that she would never use her power against her family and there she had just broke that ten year promise.

She had broken it further by Persuading her mother to go into the room that Fitz reserved as both an area of peace and a prison, depending on which use was needed. Her unconscious father was placed in the room with her and so Skylar descended into the role of disappointing daughter with a few words.

“You alright?” Everett asked as he put his hand on her shoulder. They were staring at the door that held her parents, the sound of her mother’s shouts still being heard from behind the walls.

“I just did something even The Miracle couldn’t do.” Skylar whispered bleakly into the air between the door and herself. “The Miracle needed me to convince the Queen, her bonding with the Pantheon offers her resistance against it, and I just did what they wanted even if it was done indirectly.”

“This will be worth it,” Everett was adamant as he turned to hug her, her face pressed into his chest as he spoke. “We have not risked all that we have for this not to be worth it.”

His dialect shifted from human to Zeldian within a sentence and Skylar allowed herself to laugh into his skin.

“Are you two done?” Reese said from behind them, causing them to shuffle apart as though a hot poker was placed in between them.

“Yes, yes we are.” Skylar cleared her throat, not looking in Everett’s direction as she stalked back to the cockpit. “The Enid Mountain Range is to the south, we should be able to get there in an hour or so.”

She ignored the way that Everett walked stiffly to reset the Aglaia into flight mode, switching off the autopilot which flooded the ship with warm light. Instead she plotted the coordinates of the Mountain Range and allowed Everett to take the driver’s seat.

“Why the Enid Mountain Range?” Reese asked, leaning over the chairs as the ship thrummed with increased speed. They were travelling faster as they descended back into the atmosphere but not fast enough to jolt their bones from their skin.

“It’s said to be the highest point of Zeld, the closest point to the Gods that we can get. That is why the Crypt is the place for our dead Royalty, it has been for years even if the public has never known about it. Their ashes may have been burned in the Valley of the Dead but their bodies and fallen souls reside there, it’s a location that is only known to the royal family.”

“I don’t think I even want to know about the Zeldian religion,” Everett muttered.

“Does Earth have more than one?” Reese asked, blinking at the human as he turned his head to face them.

“Oh hell yeah,” Everett spoke, his eyebrows knitted, “All different types and interpretations of Gods and Goddesses.”

“We really only have one since the Entity is proven by both magic and science, after all the Beings were created by it,” it seemed so logical to have concrete proof of their religion and Skylar couldn’t fathom how the religions of Earth purely existed out of tested faith.

She didn’t look down on it by any means, a religion was a religion, but she didn’t understand them.

The trees were once more below them and the three of them became lost in the forests. The rigidity of their silence wasn’t awkward, in fact it was slightly settled in between the arm rests of where they sat. They ignored the fact that Fitz should have been there, not in a cot in the medical bay, and the interrupted moment between Skylar and Everett minutes ago. They put all moments behind them and they moved on, flying through the skies as the clouds dissipated and came back again.

The world became stranger as they flew further south, the trees shortened and the mountain range dominated the horizon. Here the moons could be seen as nightfall fell and Skylar knew that at least they had some hours of sleep. Sleep was inconvenient in times when the world needed saving, at least in her opinion, but they were vital for concentration and recovery.

Everett viewed the mountains, towering high into the cloudy sky, with an air of perplexity and even his singing (a tapered, off tune verse of “I'm blue da ba dee da ba daa,”) stopped abruptly. An expletive hissed its way out of his teeth as Skylar told him the directions to the Crypt.

“We will have to stock up on thermo-armour otherwise we will literally freeze,” Reese uttered, checking an interface that read of the weather. The Enid Mountains were located in a district known as Snyde, an unpopulated area where only travelling Priests and Pilgrims occupied. Here bitterly cold weather fronts switched with bouts of rain and it wasn’t that uncommon for it to snow even despite the current mild season.

“You also better have an oxygen tank here otherwise I won’t be able to breathe,” Everett pointed out and they looked at him. “Your lungs may be able to function at these altitudes but I don’t think mine will.” He looked at the dials which clearly showed a high elevation and made Reese hunt out a compact oxygen tank, which was secured in a backpack Everett carried, and a mask that was later fastened to his nose despite his protests. Skylar would rather that they didn’t kill him, style and pride be damned.

As soon as they hovered over the pathway that would lead to the Crypt, Reese was pulling them over to chests full of thermo-armour and they were then swamped with long sleeved shirts, breeches packed with padding and coats that stretched towards the ground and tied around the waist.

Everett sighed and looked at Skylar before she opened the doors, the cold rushing in with a cry. They descended down a ladder to the snowy banks of Mount Enta, the highest mountain that existed on the entire planet, and they set off down the path that only Skylar knew. The path wound ahead of them as splintered as creased fabric and there were times that it was hardly there at all, no more apparent than the misty breaths of Everett’s oxygen mask. Skylar knew her way and she ignored the urge to look back at Everett’s pants and whispered assurances.

She could have sworn that at one point he was whispering six very distinct and strange words; do not be a wussy walrus. But she didn’t call him out on it, maybe he was just afraid of the extreme heights. Then they approached a stone door placed in the wall of the mountain with two circles engraved in it. She removed a knife from her boot, the thinnest blade that she had in her collection, and carefully swiped across the skin of her thumb.

“What the hell are you doing?” Everett cried, taking a step towards her.

“The stone needs royal blood in order to let us past, otherwise we are going nowhere but back to the ship.” She huffed and placed her bleeding thumb to the circle engraving, following both circles so that the blood covered every delicate inch.

With a silent creak the door wavered underneath her cut thumb and she felt magical locks being undone as they were allowed to enter.

“Let’s hurry, I don’t know what it will do when it realises that unroyal blood has entered,” Skylar hissed to her companions and hurried into the space beyond the door.

“This better not be something like Tomb Raider,” Everett mumbled as they squeezed into the darkness.

When the door shut behind them, sealing them away from the outside world, they were encased in solid darkness. Skylar turned and pressed her bloodied thumb to Everett’s cheek and then to Reese’s not answering them when they cringed away in disgust. This was for their own good, unless they wanted the Crypt to emit them immediately.

Let there be light, she thought as between one second and the next she saw the luminescent birds that she last saw when she was a child. After the Man had come and gone and her mother had been made Queen, the family was took there by the old King Elred and shown the complexity of the royal and wise cemetery.

The birds themselves were small creatures, a fragile body held aloft by feathery and shining white wings. There were many of them, flying throughout the Crypt and serving as torches so the group could see the way.

“They are called Gasps,” Skylar spoke and Everett laughed at the name, “They symbolise peace in being transferred to the afterlife and they are not to be touched.” That last comment was directed in Reese’s direction as she held a hand towards the ceiling to touch one. The hand was pulled back but without any embarrassment.

Skylar led the way and as she walked more birds lit the path. They entered the antechamber where the birds stuck to the ceilings and lit the room dimly, just enough for them to see the row after row of stone statues. Each statue was a replica of every royal and deserving citizen in Zeld; famous priests, Kings and Queen’s, warriors who had fought for the planet, and healers.

Her chest grew warm and she knew from her mother’s stories that it was the Pantheon reaching out to its Bonded family.

Now where would the Pantheon be exactly?

 

~Everett~

 

The sight of statue after statue was astonishing, each one being refined to symbolise Zeldian features. Cast in white stone they looked beautiful and ethereal, the very fabrication of dreams and faith. The Gasps floated above them, swerving down to gaze at Skylar every once and awhile.

“The Pantheon could be anywhere here,” Reese said, “and this place is massive.” Her awe was separated by her logic and the name of the powerful stone caused Everett’s vision to blur.

“There’s a reason not everyone can handle the stone,” a warm voice whispered into Everett’s ear and the blurring was transformed into the view of him looking down to his hands, the stone resting in palms that did not belong to him.

The hands caressed the stone, “The stone is a beautiful woman, one that will only be cared for by her Bonded and their family. We entrust it here in your hands.”

The hands allowed the stone to float over to the hands of a Zeldian man, whose eyes flooded purple when the stone met their skin.

“And like any flowering woman, this stone isn’t what it first appears to be,” the original hands, of which looked remarkably similar to Everett’s, pressed a finger to the stone and a shard unfolded like a petal, detaching and landing into the person's hand. “This means that a bit of power is always conserved, but only the worthy (and the bonded may not always be the worthy) can do this.” The shard was attached to a chain in a way that Everett couldn’t fathom and wound around the neck of the person Everett was, the stone dangling in his periphery.

We call her the Pantheon and she is a remarkable stone, one capable of great power so that you can forge your empire and destroy your greatest enemies. But believe me when I say that each destruction will waver its power just a tad.”

The last word was so Earth like that it made Everett’s heart pang with homesickness. Then his hands were his hands once more and the cave stretched before him. Skylar and Reese trailed their fingers across the statues and neither of them had noticed Everett spacing out.

“When we find the Pantheon only Skylar can touch it,” Everett pointed out.

“How do you know that?” Reese asked then shook her head, “The mysterious Knowledge, of course.”

“It makes sense, my chest feels warm so the Pantheon is here somewhere.”

“Then we follow that warm feeling until we find it.”

They touched each statue they came across, men, woman and creature that the stone depicted until Skylar gasped and snatched her fingers away.

Everett crowded around her, the statue underneath her fingers that of a man with a crown. The man was positioned in the middle of the final row and the statue showed his eyes open and earnest.

“It’s the statue of King Elred, the King before my mother,” Skylar gasped, and pulled her fingers to the crease in the middle of the statues arm. She urged the others to help her and together they pushed open the lid of the lying statue.

The statue was empty, bar from a light dusting of ashes crowded near the head, and a purple stone that they knew to be the Pantheon.

 

~

 

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