DIVA: Royals #4

deucexm deucexm at gmail.com
Wed Nov 22 23:12:51 PST 2017

Does it need an introduction?  I asked, you answered, I finally delivered.  Thus:

Royals: A DiVerse Alpha Chronicle
by Colin Stokes


The white void flipped startlingly to black the instant Rosewood submerged the rods
- then it fuzzed into a familiar pulsing gray static, but shot through with sparks
every color of the extended rainbow (Jack was sure he saw flashes of aetherpink). 
It was as though the Prince had been transported somewhere - and perhaps he had, he
thought as he looked around nervously.  Everyone else was gone without a trace.

He looked over, twitched his fingers - no response, nothing to see.  There was no
hand in his.  Which meant his sister probably couldn't feel him, either... Jack
swallowed nervously, feeling his pulse starting to race - and as it did, he saw the
color streaks in the gray intensify and widen, the pulse of the world matching his
own as the dull static was swallowed up in brilliant hues - and yes, there was
/plenty/ of aetherpink now, the Prince noted.  Whatever else this place was, it was
absolutely awash in the color of magic.

"It isn't that odd," Rosewood's voice echoed weirdly, making a ripple in the
rainbow ahead of him.  Jack squinted, and was just barely able to make out the
shadow of the Goddess's form - well, not so much a shadow, but rather a warping or
distortion in the otherwise smooth curvature of slowly shifting bands of light.

"I mean, it is for you at first, perhaps.  But your connection with the Throne
shouldn't surprise you," Rosewood's subtle outline continued as it slowly floated
across Jack's field of vision.  "For those called Royals, the Stardust Throne is
the seat of that special power you alone can wield; surely you were told this?"

Jack's squint relaxed as his vision started to redefine the world in terms of
movement instead of color and brightness.  "Well, yes, but - I suppose it never
occurred to me that it'd be a two-way thing," he mused.  "And I've never been here.
At least, I don't remember it..."

"You wouldn't," Rosewood's echo assured him.  "And even if you did, it wouldn't be
anything like this; we are accessing the Throne at a level unreachable by normal
means.  Well."  There was a brief pause.  "You are, anyway.  I am... standing by,
as the case may be."

Jack felt his heart skip a beat, briefly, and the world sparked with countless
sub-refractions all around him.  "Wait, what?  Haven't you /done/ this before?"

Rosewood just sighed.  "Not with royalty actually present.  There's something of an
issue... but it's not unworkable.  You're just going to have to take the lead,
along with your sister.  Here, let me guide you to the Helix."

A tracery of black lines started to overlay themselves on Jack's vision, outlining
the approaching wobbly distortion as Rosewood came nearer, hand outstretched.  Jack
reached for it - it was like trying to grasp a cloud, but somehow he managed as the
space itself wrapped around him in a tight curve, myriad colors splintering off in
all directions again.  

"Easy now," the Goddess of Design continued in a softer tone, more black lines
extending out from under Jack's sandals and slightly curving - out, and then back
in and upward; a spiral path of sorts, one that wound up more tightly the higher it
rose.  "Follow my lead, and I'll get you to the place you should be."

"What about Vanessa?  Is she-"

"Your sister is perfectly fine," Rosewood returned in that rather soothing voice,
"albeit understandably a little ruffled by this whole affair - and also concerned
about you, so I've let her know you're doing fine.  The sooner you take care of
business at the Helix, the sooner you'll be done and back together - but the
journey isn't one that can be rushed, so you may as well enjoy it, hmm?"

And so Jack relaxed, or at least did his best, and let himself be pulled along by
the invisible Deity as he watched the spiral path beneath his feet slowly begin to
slant upwards.  "This seems a most circuitous route..."

Rosewood simply laughed, a slight hint of... was it worry in her voice, or sadness?
Jack couldn't quite tell.  "Ah, I've promised to keep the Gears unmarred, at least
as far as such things are up to me," she explained patiently.  "Were we to take a
more direct route to the center, that would be much more difficult - there are
forces at work here that, while invisible to your senses, are quite... well, 'real'
isn't exactly the word for it, I suppose."

The Prince pondered a moment as the spiral rose higher and higher, and he began to
feel an odd, vaguely prickly warmth on his skin (temperature not having been a
concern until just now).  "'Interactive'?" he suggested, at last.

"That's... actually not too bad, come to think of it.  I'd rather the two of us not
interact with them, either, intentionally or otherwise."

Jack blinked.  "What would happen, do you suppose?"

There was a momentary pause before Rosewood responded.  "Why do you want to know?"

"Curiosity, if nothing else, but I can't help but wonder what would drive a Goddess
to such lengths," the Prince returned candidly.

A quiet 'heh'.  "Fair enough.  What do you know of machines, young Prince? 
Whirring devices of metal that move in the most intricate and precise ways to
perform some function?"

"I know I've never been very good with them," Jack admitted sheepishly, glancing up
at the top of the spiral where the path terminated in a large black circle - none
too far away, now.  "All the small pieces fit together obviously enough, in
general, but trying to adjust or repair them - I've never pursued that kind of
knowledge.  And I suspect I'd do more harm than good in my ignorance."

"Indeed you might," Rosewood returned as the spiral path slanted upwards a little
more toward its destination.  "But the Stardust Throne is no mere machine; it is
unique and irreplaceable - though hopefully not irreparable," she mused, almost as
an aside, "and should it sustain damage, not a single Royal would go unaffected.  I
suspect even the worlds of your domain would suffer somehow."

A frown furrowed the Prince's brow.  "Are you not sure of these things, my Goddess?
Do you not simply /know/ them as a certainty?"

Rosewood let out a quiet sigh.  "Not even a Deity can know everything," she
murmured quietly; then, with a smile in her voice, "though Tieria tries his

Jack pondered this in silence for a moment as the spiral wound in, faster and
faster, and finally deposited him on the black circle.  The prickling heat on his
skin vanished in an instant, replaced by an enveloping coldness, and he was
overcome with a rather disconcerting sinking sensation.  Looking down, he saw the
black circle widening, growing - it felt like a living thing suddenly, trying to
drag him down to some lightless abyss.

As the Prince's heart thudded heavily in his chest, the overwhelming rainbow light
began to dim - still pulsing in time, but more and more weakly as the cold
intensified.  The staticky gray began to show through between the bands again; but
before he could say anything, Jack felt Rosewood's hand on his head.

"You'll be fine," she said, simply.

And so Jack took a deep breath and let it out, though it felt as if the vapor would
freeze to his lips; and the flickering, fading rainbow finally vanished entirely in
a wash of gray, and the circle beneath him yawned wide, that terrible gravity
pulling him down-

-but the Prince looked up, defiantly, and was rewarded.

For in the last instant before the darkness closed in completely, on the border of
gray and black, the Helix revealed itself in all its fullness - a colossal
construct of whirring mirrored-chrome gears the size of mountains, perhaps even
larger, spinning and clicking and reversing with frightening speed.  It was only
the briefest flash, and then the darkness swallowed up even that light; but it was
a sight Jack would never, /could/ never forget.

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