It was raining and grey. The clouds were covered with still more clouds and the wind blustered and howled through the rain-slick towers of Arderial. Sensible Arderians kept to the safety of their lofty homes, few daring to venture into the treacherous winds. A lone sentry struggled to stay aloft amid the unpredictable gusts of wind, his cape and hair heavy with rain. A sudden thunderbolt brought Sorreah to a halt, his wings beating furiously to maintain a stationary position in the storm. Beyond the flash of lightning, from below the rolling waves of thunder, he had heard a new sound - a most unusual and unexpected sound. Music. A song perhaps, though he couldn't distinguish the words. The melody was slow and melancholy, a sadness that seemed to embrace the dreariness of the day.
As he listened, the music became clearer, lilting up through the heavy clouds from the lands below. There were words, although he still couldn't understand them, coming from a voice that was sweet and high, ringing out through the storm with the sound of bells and chimes. Curious, Sorreah dove into the thick clouds, his drenched cape tossing and tumbling in the wind behind him. The clouds parted and he swooped downward across a rain-filled landscape of enormous trees. The colors of the forest were muted to olive drabs and dusty browns, only momentarily revealing their true vibrance as lightning flashed across the cloud plane above. The music drifted up from below the treetops, continuing its steady melody which spoke of sadness and lament.
Sorreah made a careful descent into the trees as thunder rolled through the forest and gusts of wind brought cascades of rain pelting down on him from the soaked foliage. He touched down in a bed of springy moss, water squishing from beneath his feet as he settled his weight. The music drifted clearly between the trees and he began to follow the sound through the dense underbrush.
The forest rose up a steep ridge, but the music led the Arderian down a slippery path alongside the ridge, where he discovered the opening of a small cave. From within, the music emerged loud and clear, its haunting notes echoing in the depths of the unseen cavern beyond. Sorreah was wary, realizing that this music was far more than ordinary. It was deeply moving, filling him with sadness while at the same time inspiring a strange sense of awe for its unlikely beauty. It was magical in nature, of that there was no doubt. Sorreah deeply mistrusted magic, yet he also could not deny the exotic pull of the song. It beckoned him to enter the cave, to come and find its source, to stop the sad loneliness and bring joy and comfort to the singer.
Sorreah recognized this cave, of course, from the many stories he had heard about the ancient warriors who had once been turned to stone within. Tony Jones, by defeating Morag and Agram, had also broken the spell upon these brave warriors, allowing them to escape their dark prison at last. Although he had never been to this part of Naroom himself, he knew that this must surely be the place where Tuku and his follower's had once thought to take on Agram. The fact that such powerfully magical music was now emerging from within was a clear warning sign of possible danger for all the Moonlands. He bent to examine the cave entrance more closely and then hesitated. This place, the site of so much dark magic in ages past, was suddenly alive with mysterious new magic. He knew he should return to Arderial and bring back some of the Arderian Guard before venturing within. Hadn't he heard a rumor that Morag might still be hiding somewhere in Naroom, perhaps in this very spot? Yet, the pull of the music was so strong, so urgent. It seemed to be pleading with him now. Come and end the sorrow. Come and bring an end to the loneliness.
Carefully, Sorreah stooped to enter the dark cave, his furled wings scraping the stony walls. Down a short incline, the ceiling opened up and the floor became level. A grey fog crawled over the ground and the walls were wet and glistening in the dim light from the entrance. The air was heavy, with a strong musk-like odor. After all these years, Sorreah mused, the stench of Void magic still lingers.
The music filled the musky air, surrounding him. He could feel its pull as a physical force now; tickling his feathers, teasing through his ebony hair, pulling at his dripping cape, tugging at his heart. Taking his staff in one hand, he passed his other hand over the small red crystal embedded in the crown. Soon, the crystal began to glow with a soft pink light, sending the darkness of the cave fleeing into the nooks and crannies of the stony walls. Ahead, a tunnel opened in the far wall. The song beckoned him to hurry.
The tunnel led downward, becoming ever steeper. Soon, the rocky slope gave way to a series of magi-carved steps in the slippery rock, easing his descent. Down and down he went, wondering if the stairs would ever end. No wonder old Tuku and his followers had thought this would lead them to the Core! Sorreah knew that was impossible, of course, as there was no physical way into or out of the Core itself, but this surely felt as if it would go on and on forever until it reached the center of the Moon itself! Finally, after many long hours spent in descent, the stairs began to widen and finally came to an end upon a broad stone plaza. Before him opened a vast cavern, as big as the Orothean Vault!
Unlike the colourful mushroom jungles of the Underneath, this cavern was devoid of life. Nothing but cold stone adorned the towering walls. The song filled this space with its lonely yearning, swirling about him, swathing him in silken folds of magical notes, beckoning him forward across the plaza. Sorreah, it called him by name now. Sorreah... help me. Sorreah... save me. As he shuffled forward, now half-dazed by the power of the music, he discovered a series of statues, arrayed in a semi-circle. Various magi, wearing outdated clothing, were all carved in various combat poses, their stone eyes all focused upon a single spot where an invisible enemy had once stood. Suddenly, Sorreah remembered that the tale of the ancient warriors had also claimed that not all of them had been set free of Morag's spell. Those poor souls who had been caught in the direct line of Morag's spell had taken a much stronger dose of his vile magic, and they remained frozen still; haunting the dark lair to this day. And here they were.
Sorreah shuddered, the fine feathers along his wing crests standing on end. But then the music took hold once more and he found himself moving to stand where Morag himself must have once stood to cast the stone spell upon these foolhardy warriors. Slowly he turned to face the statues, suddenly dreading to feel their accusing stares fall upon him. As he turned, he saw something completely unexpected.
The gargantuan form of a mighty gorath rose up from behind the statues to stare down at him menacingly. His heart leapt in fear as the music suddenly stopped. He raised his staff, the words of a spell upon his lips, but before he could utter the final phrases, the gorath reached out with a mighty fist and slammed him backward into the rough wall of the cavern. He lost his spell as the wind was knocked out of him and he felt himself beginning a slow slide to the ground. A flairing pain in his right shoulder told him that one of his wings was broken. The gorath began to reach out for him as he completed his fall to the stony floor. The last thing he saw before losing consciousness was the cold stony stares of the ancient warriors who had once thought to save the Moon from the ravages of the Core and who had, instead, come to their own terrible end.
"Hey!!! HEY!!!!!! Beautysleeper!!! Wake up would ya!" Sorreah heard the coarse young voice in his ears, piercing through the fog of his dream.
"WOAH!!!" Sorreah yelled, still remembering the gorath reach out to grab him. His arms shot out in a defensive gesture. Kalius jumped away from his sleeping cloud.
"What's up with you man?! Didn't ya catch good dreams?" Kalius asked.
Sorreah sat up slowly, his head still filled with the images from his dream. "Wow... I just had the most realistic dream..." He stopped when he looked up to Kalius and saw that the young scout wasn't paying attention. The dream still clung to him and he shook his head to clear it away. So real, he thought.
"C'mon, sleeping beauty... Up and at ‘em!" Kalius chimed. "Jaela has a job for ya!"
Slowly Sorreah rose from his tangled bedcovers. A twinge in his right wing told him he had folded it under himself in his sleep again, an unconscious habit which often caused him to be sore upon awakening. He flexed the wing to loosen the aching muscles, yawning hugely as he did so. He turned to ask Kalius a question when a new voice said, "Sorreah... help me. Sorreah... save me." There was a hint of music in the air as well, which dissipated as quickly as it had come.
Sorreah whirled to discover the source of the voice, but there was no one else in the room. "What? Hey, what's the matter with you, man?" Kalius sounded irritated. "Who was that speaking?" Sorreah turned to demand of the scout.
"Whaddya mean, who was speakin? I didn't hear nothin?"
"You didn't just hear that?"
"Hear what?" Kalius shook his head. "Man, you gotta lay off the Kybarite brew! You just can't hold your liquor!"
"No... that's not it..." Sorreah gave up. It's just that dream, he told himself. I need to get out in the fresh air! He turned to the balcony of his sleeping chamber and strode out into a foggy morning. The land below was hidden by dense gray clouds. The smell of rain was in the air. He breathed in the cool air and felt his head beginning to clear. Over his shoulder he asked, "So what's this that Jaela wants me to do?"
And so it was that Sorreah found himself racing before an approaching storm on a reconnaissance mission for the Regis, who was curious to know what the Dark Twins were up to down in Vash Naroom. They had been suspiciously quiet of late.
Back on the balcony of his sleeping chamber, his friend Kalius watched him disappear from view into the thickening clouds. Shaking his head with a low chuckle, Kalius muttered to himself, "Poor Sorreah! Hearing voices in his head. Insane from loneliness is what he is! He needs a girl for sure!" He leapt from the balcony and swooped up into the lighter layers of cloud which lay above the towers and spires of the city. Still talking to himself he proclaimed, "Yah, right! The day ol' stuffy wings finds a girlie is the day that the Dark Twins will visit my home door! Sorreah's problem is that he's stuffed with his own feathers and they're all soaking wet!" He laughed merrily at his own cleverness. He found his remarks so clever that he decided he must share them with Sorreah right away and decided to join him on his flight. He turned and dove recklessly into the storm clouds below, wondering if he could persuade his older friend to take a side trip to go vellup hunting.
Some time later, their recon mission completed, Kalius and Sorreah had discovered a half dozen or so vellups swirling thru the air.
"Yahoo!" hollered Kalius, pleased that Sorreah had joined him in the hunt, knowing that his friend needed the diversion. Fortunately, the storm had not yet broken and they had been able to find a flock of the notoriously dim-witted vellups with ease. "Check this out! You take those three and I'll take the other ones." Kalius pointed his ring toward his chosen targets. In a flash a Warlum was dreamed up near the vellups which flitted away in three different directions. The Warlum dove after the vellups while Sorreah was just watched and waited, a smile of mild amusement on his face. He enjoyed the youthful enthusiasm of his young friend and he appreciated Kalius' obvious efforts to distract him from his disturbing dream.
"Yah!!! Chaos everywhere! Hit ‘em hard!" Kalius yelled to his Warlum while casting a Shooting Star on it. Sorreah grinned at Kalius' youthful enthusiasm, preparing to join him in the game. Suddening the chirping cries of the vellup were silenced and the music from his dream filled his head once more. His mind travelled far away. He saw the gorath reaching for him, felt the accusing stares of the statues. Suddenly, a loud yell broke through his vision, returning him to the present.
"HEEEY!!! Are you out of you're mind!" Kalius yelled in Sorreah's ear.
"Uh... what? What's wrong?" Sorreah asked, surprised by the sudden anger his friend was displaying.
"What's wrong?! You don't gotta Shockwave my vellup! What were you thinkin', man?" Kalius' ears were turning red. The sky suddenly lit up with a jagged flash of lightning and thunder boomed all about them. "Did ya hafta go and open up a hole in the clouds just now!" Kalius had barely finished his sentence when hard rain started to pelt them both. Kalius yelled to Sorreah over the rising wind, "Let's get back to the Sky Ring before this gets worse!"
The two Arderians dove headlong into the storm, fighting the increasing winds as they made their way back to their city in the clouds. Rain tore at them in heavy sheets, stinging their eyes and saturating their wings. Lightning ripped the air between them and suddenly Sorreah had lost sight of Kalius. A ferocious crash of thunder rolled across him as he hovered, trying to find his friend. The echoing waves of thunder died away to leave behind the soft melancholy notes of the song from his dream. Sorreah shook his head to clear it, but the music merely grew louder. A voice seemed to come from the rain and the wind, "Sorreah... help me. Sorreah... save me."
Before he knew it, he found himself in a steep dive, whipping through the sleeting rain and the gray mist of the storm clouds. The forest suddenly appeared below, and Sorreah gathered his wits enough to pull up sharply before plummeting into the trees. The song filled his head, pulling him downward. He descended through the treetops and found himself landing on an all too familiar patch of rain-soaked moss.
He had one final moment of clarity, where he realized how potentially dangerous his situation had become. He was obviously being controlled by a powerful spell of some sort. "Sorreah... help me. Sorreah... save me." The music swept away his fears and doubts and all he cared about was following it to its source.
He found the cave easily, his feet almost moving of their own volition. Ducking within, he paused only long enough to light the gem on his staff before hurrying to reach the endless downward staircase. Down and down and down he went, the music pulling him relentlessly onward. Finally, after what seemed a very long time spent in a foggy haze, Sorreah reached the bottom of the stairs and stepped into the cavernous plaza. There, in the distance, was the semi-circle of statues, their backs turned to him as they gazed eternally upon the empty spot from which their enemy had once confronted them.
Curiously, as he set foot upon the smooth floor of the plaza, the music faded away. Sorreah's head began to clear from the effects of the spell and his normal cautionary self took over. He glanced around warily, looking for signs of a trap, an ambush. He remembered the gorath from his dream only too well. The cavern was enormous, certainly large enough for him to fly about in, and so he took to the air, flying slow circles over the periphery to look for signs of trouble. He found nothing. The cavern appeared to be totally empty aside from the statues.
With a sigh of resignation, he landed before the statues and turned to face them. Now their stony gazes bore into him once more, but they were not quite as he remembered them from his dream. Their eyes held the anger and accusation he remembered, but now he saw that there was also fear etched upon those stone countenances. One statue in particular caught and held his attention. This one was somewhat smaller than the rest - a young woman, barely old enough to be a scout, he thought. Her face was frozen in a howl of rage, her wings pulled tightly to her back and her fist pushed forward as she prepared to invoke a creature.
"Sorreah... help me. Sorreah... save me." The words echoed through his mind, and suddenly he knew they were coming from this statue.
"What's this?" he asked himself, moving closer to the statue, his eyes never leaving its cold gaze. She was pretty, he admitted to himself, even with her face contorted in anger.
Suddenly, the floor of the plaza began to tremble. Sorreah prepared himself to meet the gorath, sure that it would appear now. But the trembling continued and the gorath did not appear. The statues began to wobble. Several of the statues crashed to the floor of the plaza, startling Sorreah. He reached out to catch the falling statue of the girl before she met the same fate. The weight of the statue put him off balance and he went down under, cushioning its fall with his own body.
Suddenly, he held a warm, living breathing girl in his arms. Amazed, he lifted her up so that he could look into her eyes. Deep and blue, filled with tears. "....Ssss? Sorre... Sorreah???" Her voice was light and musical, the voice from the dream song. Her gaze met his own and he found himself trembling slightly.
"How... how do you know my name?" He asked, too stunned to think of anything more eloquent to say.
"I've been... dreaming... about you," she replied. "You're real! You're really here! You saved me!"
He tore his eyes away from her long enough to glance over at the other statues to see if they, too, had returned to life. But no, they remained as silent and stony as ever. So why had this girl suddenly returned to life? "I don't understand," whispered Sorreah.
The girl shook her head. "I'm... not sure I do either. But, I'm very glad to see you!" Tears were running down her cheeks now, cutting shiny paths through the stone dust which covered her pretty cheeks.
Suddenly, Sorreah became aware that he was still lying on his wings on the floor, holding this strange girl in his arms. His cheeks reddened and some of his usual manners returned to reassert themselves. Slowly, he lifted himself and the girl from the ground and stood on shaky legs before her. "Who are you?" he asked in a quite voice.
She looked up into his eyes. So tiny, he thought as her gazed back, so delicate, so... beautiful. "My name... is Amara." The name echoed through his head like the ringing of a great bell. Beautiful... just like her. He found himself suddenly very glad that, just this once, dreams really do come true.