Section I: Episode 15
October 26, 2014
Fireworks had come from the Empire. As it had been told to Galavar, in the Empire they had fireworks far brighter and bigger, big enough to be anything—symbols of power, symbols of hope, of freedom, of Illumination. He imagined standing beneath their brilliant beams and feeling their pops.
Javelin and Galavar sat together on the picnic table, watching their own humble fireworks, feeling no less dazzled. The night wind was cold on them, but they had never known anything else. Galavar sat in his brim and his bolt, with only the food in his belly and Javelin at his side to warm him, and Javelin wasn't wearing much more. But neither paid much heed to the cold. They were creatures from the high place, the Sheer, and though he felt embarrassed at such a smarmy thought, Galavar felt that Sourros himself gave warmth on nights like these.
Down below, the concerts were playing "The Chosen People," a symphonic poem about the creation of Ieik. It was a soft, powerful song, and at the height of the fireworks there would be a chorus, but not yet.
"That one looks the way cute feels," Javelin said, pointing at a small, red firework as it faded to nothing.
Galavar couldn't see that.
"How do you figure?"
"Oh…I don't know. It just looks that way."
"That's not the Ieikili way," he teased.
With some small frustration, she took her eyes from the fireworks for a moment to wrack her head.
"Don't you ever visualize emotions?" she said. "It's like that."
"Less analysis. More fireworks!"
A dazzling blue one exploded.
"What emotion is that?" she asked.
"Dignity," he said.
"Ooh. I like it. I would have said vigilance, but I like dignity better."
"It's just about my favorite shade of blue. My favorite color, did you know?"
"I didn't," she said. "There's a lot I don't know about you."
"Isn't that the way of it?" he wondered regretfully. "It's so hard to get to know other people, even if you spend all the time in Relance talking to them and being together with them."
"There's a saying that Philosopher Koro has. 'Every mate is alone.' Do you believe it?"
"I try not to believe things."
"Do you accept it?"
"No, I don't think I do."
The sounds of cheers wafted up from the festival grounds below, blending with the music and giving the fireworks a floor. The Athletes' Tables were fairly far out from the center of festivities, but not so far that they couldn't hear the excitement of their brethren. Still, Galavar was surprised at how abandoned the place had become, so quickly. He'd never spent the Feast of Feats here at the Tables. It was his first time, his first year as an athlete in the Summer Spring Relay.
"What's that one?"
"Truth," said Javelin.
"What about that one?"
"And that one?"
"How can a firework be silence?"
"How could that one not be?"
Another big blue one exploded.
"That one is hope," Galavar said.
He couldn't answer right away.
"You see?" she chided, poking him in the ribs. "Not having the words isn't the same as not having a perspective."
"Maybe it is," he wondered. "That's something I learned in politics. If you can't explain your convictions, maybe you shouldn't hold them."
"I don't agree with that at all. It's the other way around. Convictions first, then the understanding."
The two of them watched, firework after firework, playfully naming words for a while, before eventually falling into a long hush. Galavar drifted to a favorite dream of his, the immense world far beyond the Sheer. His wanderlust called to him, and his dreams of seeing all of Relance. His home was so small. He knew that even without having ever left it. Just looking at the night sky, or the western horizon, told him the truth.
And then there were the tales.
A forest of ancient times and powers, the Melammorjur. The Mountains of Dragons and the almighty Keferst River running along aside it. The Great Ocean. The Garden of the Goddess, Nuajj, in the sky. The haunted Upperlands. The sprawling Panathar Empire and its cities of hundreds upon thousands. And, at the center of all things, Junction City, the City of Peers, where the Power of Relance dwelt.
All there, beyond the horizon…
Javelin stood up from the picnic table, and reached out for Galavar's hand. He stood beside her, and she took his other hand as well.
"Galavar, it's the end of an era for me."
"How can you say that? It's only the beginning."
"I don't think I'll ever feel more alive than I do at the races. Maybe I'm wrong about that."
"I hope you are. What if your belief makes it come true?"
"I know. But I can't change how I feel. God, you look good in that."
She looked down at his body, and he felt her gaze upon him. She was offering herself to him. Galavar's palms began to sweat.
"I'm not wearing much," he joked.
"I admire you, Javelin. You're one of the best athletes in Ieik, certainly the best sprinter."
"I invited you onto my team because I knew you had potential. I was right. And next year, you'll tear up your rivals. Be my mate. There'll never be a better night than tonight."
Galavar was outgoing, a creature of poise. But suddenly he felt awkward and green.
Javelin was beautiful. The perfect body, the best. No one could outrun her. Nor could anyone outwit her, at least in swagger. He really did look up to her. She had the perfect poise. Her flamboyance, her verve, her biting humor, they all spoke to him, and he had thought his share of erotic thinks about her before. To know that she felt the same, it was intoxicating. The drink and spice had let down their inhibitions. She was telling him something he had hoped to hear.
"But…I don't think I'm ready."
"I…am almost two years younger than you."
"A year?" She laughed, and hugged him. "Don't tell me you haven't beaten off before. You're old enough. You're just uncomfortable. But comfort only comes with experience. Take the risk with me."
"You've had lovers before?"
"No, but I know I'm right."
"It'd be wonderful, Galavar. You and me. I've had my eye on you for a long time now, and since you've joined my team I've admired you up close. I thought we would take home the win today. I wanted to be able to share the Springtime Cup with you. But we won as far as it counts. We did our best, and second place is no shame. Come home with me tonight, after the Well."
"I'm just not ready, Javelin. I have to say no."
"And I have to respect that," she told him.
"I don't have the words for why, but you did say that a lack of words isn't always the same as a lack of perspective. Maybe you're right."
"Or maybe you were right, and it's a conviction you shouldn't hold."
"You're beautiful, Javelin. You're fast, and you're wise. I just don't feel right about it. Not yet, anyway."
"I like the 'not yet.'" She drew him in with her arms, and pressed their bodies together. "Keep it in your mind, Galavar. I'll be getting my own house this autumn. I'm off to live my life as an adult. I have only the one. I'd love to share it with you, right from the beginning. Javelin knows what she wants."
"Yes you do. I admire that."
"So what do you want, Galavar? Feelings aside, and inexperience forgotten, what do you want your life to be?"
Galavar thought back to his dream, seeing the world. But it was more than that. He wanted to live the world. He wanted to be everywhere, do all the things. It was a beautiful dream, but a vague one.
"I don't know yet."
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!