It has been four weeks. (...)
With Berwyn and Harel in tow, Thirteen had returned to the Agate and worked to quickly establish the beginnings of his newfound Sidereal operation. (...)
Now numbering 13 infants spread across all five castes, the group quickly bonded, forming an unnervingly tight-knit unit, and set to work almost immediately in gathering -- or rather, in tasking others to gather -- a variety of destiny-relevant items and resources. (...)
Now, after a few brief excursions to various locations in pursuit of the infants' leads, Thirteen has judged them to be sufficiently established, and his next step is clear: to follow the sign his nether destiny had placed before him, and return to the world of his birth.
Thirteen steps onto the familiar branches of Wasirru, and takes a deep breath, looking at the foliage for the first time.
Thirteen He begins to climb.
The Wasirranu is even more glorious in sight than Thirteen could have imagined -- uncountably many leaves of green and blue and red, and branches blowing gently in the familiar breezes; dappled sunlight casting plays of light and shadow upon the living wood beneath his feet; the orange-violet sky above and the beauteous clouds below... (...)
It is altogether an intense and moving experience, every part of his lifelong familiarity with the great tree heightened by the presence of this new sense, every familiar touch, smell, and sound now simultaneously new and invigorating. (...)
The climb is easy for one who has lived so long in this place, even after years of absence; Thirteen makes quick use of the various elevators, vine pathways, hidden staircases, and other shortcuts that those dwelling amongst the higher branches might use in their journeys; (...)
though he does not pass through the areas of civilization (for a hero's welcome would only delay his purpose here) he sees the signs of flourishing society here -- paths recently trodden, the slight traces of tentative settlement out from the trunk and onto the branches themselves. (...)
As he reaches the higher branches, those once held by the Bone-Dagger Kings, his progress slows, but only slightly, as he hunts down new shortcuts and pathways that finally, after much marching, lead him back to the crown. (...)
Today, a great tragedy is undone, for Thirteen sees now the glorious sight that his companions saw before: the sun itself, streaming through the maypole-knotted pillar where the Wasirranu's twelve branches rejoin to form the Spire, casting a reddish-gold light upon everything and causing the vast fields of leaves to glitter like gold itself.
Thirteen stops for a moment, just in awe, and then proceeds to the Spire.
Thirteen spits up a rope and slowly begins tying it to his leg and the pillar once again, breathing evenly and slowly.
The breeze that blows around the Spire is intense and cold, but the effect is bracing on Thirteen as he fastens himself to the hook at the top of the thousand-foot tall twisted pillar. The branches and unripened fruits wave violently beneath him as the cool wind of the Corpse cuts across.
Thirteen 's hair flicks in the wind as he stands straight up....and takes a step off the edge.
Time seems to almost stand still as Thirteen feels his body, momentarily weightless, plunge downward off of the Spire.
Thirteen "My people need saving again," Thirteen whispers. "Again, I must find enlightenment."
There is a sound like the world's largest gong has clanged as the rope snaps taut under Thirteen's weight, and at that exact moment, a flock of deep black ravens -- more than any human could ever count -- emerge from within the vast field of Wasirru's canopy and fly into the distance, their obsidian silhouettes breaking the orange-red sky into a thousand pieces. (...)
Thirteen feels his senses heighten, with a clarity that is beyond any and all he has experienced before -- and then he notices that the sky is in fact really breaking, and he watches tiny fragments of it like broken glass fall away until all he can see is the canopy beneath him and a great black void.
Thirteen thinks to himself, Something went wrong.
The cavernous emptiness does not move for a long moment, as Thirteen merely hangs in place. Then, after a long moment, something appears on the horizon: a tiny gray dot, moving slowly across the sky.
Thirteen With little alternative, Thirteen waits patiently.
The dot grows nearer, and as it does, it splits and breaks, forms lines and curves in the air, still ashen grey upon a backdrop of inky blackness, until it grows, larger and larger -- but well before he can see its ultimate form, he recognizes what he sees: (...)
for the line forms the outline of the vast bulk of Erevel, That Which is In Between, the Father Dragon -- and though here he is cast only of smoke lines, drawn across the air by channels of Essence, he is still as unimaginably vast, and holds exactly the same elegantly dangerous form, as when Thirteen saw him in a vision of the space beneath the world, over 2,000 years ago.
Thirteen .Here we go again.
The smoke dragon grows until it fills the entirety of the sky, and it turns its baleful eye upon Thirteen, a familiar look, and its thoughts seem to thunder and reverberate through the entirety of the world. I see you, it thinks.
Thirteen .I see you as well, Erevel.