The Daughter of Time

“Moeteria, the Eternal Law must remain unfrayed”

The dragon crashed through the woods, her translucent scales carved grooves into the trees that withstood her tremendous size. Despite her large frame, compared to the other dragons that resided in these woods, she was a dwarf. 

She didn’t often leave her den. What few times she did, she regretted. Since the crumbling of The Peaks and the surge in dragon hunting, she hated showing her face. She was more likely to be killed in Amsukar than anywhere else she might have gone, and would rather remain at home, safely watching over her tenants and her friends. There, she ate as much as she wanted, and needed nothing.

However, the journey away from the den was not without it’s purpose. She’d been sent to recover a piece of herself, orders from her betters. Clear to her, that disobedience was not an option. 

As she surveyed the woods with her eyes out for hunters, or mortals, she happened upon a small clearing. One which contained a single, abandoned human. A newborn that cried, to young to speak. She crawled forward and remembered ages before, caring for her own young, the rebellious spirit of her daughter swelled her with a fondness for the newborn and she plucked it from the soil.

There would be time to hunt later, the child needed its mother. She searched through the forest until she found a nearby cabin. Within, a woman stood still, halted in motion as if she were a statue. The human looked so familiar to her, the dragon stared, head cocked, at the woman’s form. Her countenance somehow familiar, in ways she couldn’t understand. She’d not seen the woman before, but it didn’t matter. It was clear, before anything else, the woman before her was the mother of the child. Yet, she would be unable to be so. 

The dragon, sensitive to the complex workings of time, bowed to the frozen mother a still frame against a living, breathing world. She had been halted, an improper existence which some more powerful forces labeled an abnormality. Something the dragon had come across before. Especially in her own hunting grounds, the mortals there had a penchant for fiddling with time. It was of little use, however. Despite their meddling, time was impossible to deconstruct. They could steal all of the resources of the world and time would correct itself. It always had. It always would. What should exist, will always, what will not, will never.

She took the newborn into her arm and hoisted herself with powerful wings from the forest floor and into the sky, careful to protect the babe from the harsh wind. Another mortal misplaced, and however unfortunately, locked out of her own life by an immovable, impossible to manipulate power.

A sorrow, really, no matter how often the dragon came across it, it broke her heart. Mothers deserved to be mothers, after all. No matter how little sense it made or creed, or race, or time.

“Days passed in minutes, as much as seconds pass in years.”

It was an old saying, a family saying, Keri’s parents repeated it often. They promised him in his youth, his time in the grains making money for his father would be short lived, though difficult, it would pass in the blink of an eye. The mantra of the family echoed truth when he grew of age, became a man, and left home for higher education in Karka. A City-Machine whose denizens prided themselves in their ability to manipulate time itself. Perhaps, arrogantly so, Keri hadn’t seen anyone successfully manipulate time, so for all of their boasting and showboating they were for all intents and purposes, frauds. However, it was the most prestigious school in the eastern kingdoms, and given the chance he did not hesitate. Keri was reminded of the mantra his family had carved upon the mantle of their chimney when he saw her, his first day on the Clockwork Campus.

A woman unlike anything he’d seen before. Beautiful, radiant in a way unbecoming of herself. She walked with a gentle bounce, the tap of her wooden soles along the brick lined street echoed across the carved marble faces of the facilities and her giggle carried him aloft, with a hook in his cheek, as he’d expected of a Chronomagus, through time.

Though it took him months to court her, the years that followed had been nothing but gracious to them both. Established graduates of the Karkan University, they became well known in the community. Keri, a dialect tutor for the Linguistics department, and his wife, Shar’na, a high ranking officer in the Chronomagi Guild. Their love blossomed over years until eventually, they married. The Court signed their certificates and sent them on their way, they honeymooned in the Southern Veldt of the Isle of Magi, a place known for both its beauty, and its secrecy. As soon as it began, the honeymoon ended and they found themselves once more at the mercy of their day to day lives, with the revelation that Shar had grown pregnant.

In what could have been an hour, hundreds of days passed and before he knew it, he stood beside his wife with their newborn child. They’d disagreed on a name at first, but eventually settled on “Kloa”, which they’d learned on their honeymoon was the first part of a phrase, “Kloa, er Thuun.” There wasn’t a direct translation, but it had been explained to mean “What will be one day, has already been.”

Keri knew as soon as he looked in his little girl’s eyes, she would be all there was for him, forever. 

Fatherhood swept him from his feet, but life demanded its sacrifice of hours, still. Shar remained home to care for their child and he tended the bills, the chores and as much cleaning as he could handle. Thanks to a few tricks he’d picked up from the University, he learned how to manage time far better than any schedule could have done for him. 

Then, in a second that would extend into a century, he opened the door of his home after having been out picking up supplies to find that Shar, and Kloa, were gone.

“Mother of Ages, hear us. We offer to you this child in accordance with your will.”

The voices chanted in unison around Shar, the darkness around her stood, an unbreakable wall, hiding the world beyond the firelight. Her daughter cried, some feet from her, though laid atop a stone plinth, she was alive. Her darling Kloa cooed and chirped into the night sky. Surrounding the babe, Shar counted fifteen figures, men and women, gathered in a semi circle. Crooked, knobby trees stretched into the speckled darkness above them and they continued their chanting.

“Mother of Ages, we offer you this child, that you might be satiated.”

Shar struggled to stand, through a great force that held her to the ground. She was tired, inexplicably tired. An exhaustion borne not out of magic or trickery, but of something else. As if in the moment between when she arrived home and awoke in the forest she’d aged decades. In the darkness she looked herself over. She sat on the arid sand and looked upon her hands to find them changed. Covered in wrinkles and dark spots, her veins protruded and emphasized her wrinkled skin. She felt a pain in her jaw unfamiliar to her, and inspected her teeth with her ancient hands to find them decayed inside of her mouth. The pain, from one in particular which had cracked and not been healed.

She’d never experienced such a strange, painful feeling before. She placed her hands a second time upon the sand and pushed from the earth to stand and was met with an outcry from her bones. With shaking arms she fought the pressure from gravity, and the robed figures paid her no mind. She shoved, until her arms screamed in pain and threatened to snap beneath the weight of her own body before she released and fell back to the dirt. A crack resounded in her back and shot a bolt of fire through her spine.

She fell back onto the dirt as her muscles spasmed and she screamed.

To her surprise, her voice was not her own. It was deeper, full of experience and life, none of which she could remember as she reclined. Her shouting didn’t interrupt the chants, as if they didn’t hear her.

From where she lay, she could see the faces of the figures. Though her eyesight had gone blurry and vague, she peered at them through squinted eyes. If she could identify them, she would know and perhaps, she assumed, in the next life she could seek revenge.

Among the figures she could see, few were recognizable. Though, she could make out the sharp, angled jawline of the Chaplain. The longer she looked, the more clear his face became, and her certainty grew. It was her Chaplain, her leader, her instructor who stood before her child and chanted to offer the newborn as some kind of offering.

“Help me.” She coughed, speaking to him directly.

He did not turn to face her, and continued to add his voice instead, to the chorus of chanting that drowned out the sounds of the moonlit forest.

Shar laid there, in defiance and unable to move as she watched the robed figures chant endlessly until, in a moment she wouldn’t have believed had she not seen it with her own eyes, a ribbon of light emerged from the space above Kloa. 

Two arms spans above the babe, a speck of light emerged from the darkness and floated, like one of the fireflies she and Keri had watched on their honeymoon. Still, the one grew and stretched until the speck was as large as a stone, and it grew still. The light stripped away the world around it as it elongated and waved in the breeze. The chanting stopped as the ribbon of light stretched itself taught above Kloa and from within Shar watched in immoveable horror as a hand reached down to caress her daughter’s face.

This hand was unlike any she’d seen before, it was no human’s arm. Nor was it that of the woodland people of the Isle of Magi. This arm was covered in scales, jagged and translucent. Beneath the scaled arm she could barely make out veins and muscles interwoven within themselves. Then, in a moment that Shar remembered until her dying day, a voice spoke from the light.

“This is an acceptable offering.”

A number of the figures collapsed into groveling praise as the arm, far larger than anything she’d ever seen before, hoisted her daughter from the plinth and carefully lifted her into the light.

As Shar screamed defiance, her broken voice caught in her throat. She tried to stand, and the pain in her spine flared unimaginably. Then, came another voice which spoke to her but not as she’d been spoken to in her lectures or conversations with Keri. This voice came from within her mind, foreign and unnatural, and the sound of it soothed her.

“Oh my dear beloved out of time, we will care for you forever. Lest you shed your yoke of belief.”

As quickly as the voice came, it dissipated, and Shar felt the stun of what she’d seen ripple through her body, dropping her into an uncertain, worrisome fatigue.

Kloa had lived with the wet-nurse Moeteria for as long as she could remember. From her youth, she’d been told that her mother had died. Though, she’d never been told how, she’d only known that she had. Not that she’d been curious, Moeteria had been a good stand in, as god of a mother as any, she’d assumed. Still, some nights she could see a woman and a man she’d never met. The woman ancient, well past her prime and calling out for her from a forest clearing. She laid on her back and moaned in pain. Frizzled, unkempt white hair decorated her head and she wore robes not unlike those of the tenants who cared for the grounds.

The man in her dreams was different, he was young but old enough to be a father and wore a kind of trepidation on his face she couldn’t explain. As if he were waiting for something that hadn’t come. He was dressed well, but unlike the elderly woman who knew her name, he never spoke. He simply stood in the doorway of a home she didn’t recognize, but felt somehow familiar. When she was a youth, the dreams were unclear and fuzzy, but as she grew older, they grew more clear. When she dreamed of the man, he stood before an empty crib with three tears frozen on his cheeks. The tears weren’t frozen from a frost, but rather suspended there, unwilling to fall. 

She’d described the pair from her dreams to Moeteria many times, as they looked so different from the wet-nurse and the tenants of the Villa. These people’s skin was tan, opaque, like her own. Their hair curled and shined in the light of the dreams and in some places, their skin had dark blue patches, or red marks. Moeteria called the cuts and bruises, which she’d garnered plenty of in her younger days. Still, the faces of the pair were like her own. Though she described them to the wet-nurse, Moeteria did not recognize them. 

The most peculiar of all, regarding the couple from her dreams, were that their bodies were like hers. With two arms and two legs, no wings and no mandibles that recached from their abdomens like Mother Moeteria, they were the most like her she’d ever seen at the Villa. 

The dreams of the human pair weren’t a bother until Kloa had come to adulthood and began to wonder what else was beyond the Villa. Her childhood home was large and satisfying, with hedge mazes and pools and hundreds of rooms that changed hourly. She often wondered what made the peculiar mansion the way that it was, as if it were a massive machine whose multiplicity was the hallmark of its construction. She’d wondered about the architect who designed it, but Moeteria nor the other tenants knew them. They told her “It has always been, and it will always be.”

Despite the grandeur of the Villa and the land surrounding it, she wondered what else there was in the world. She’d read stories of beings outside of her understanding. Among them, she’d grown fond of the idea of birds. Particularly, a species of bird called an “owl” whose bodies did not pass waste, but regurgitated it. They shared that similarity with the tenants, though, Kloa believed the pellets of an owl more sanitary than the muck expelled by the people of the Villa. Still, the picture books and research papers within the Rotating Library were filled with thousands, perhaps millions of things she’d never seen or known. Governments, a system of order for people, she came to understand, where wholly unfamiliar to her. Though they shared similarities to her life at the villa they were different. All of the tenants, herself and Moeteria included, were free to behave as they wished under the single condition that they not invalidate any of the “Eternal Laws” which, as hard as she’d tried to learn what were, she never could.

Eternal Laws aside, she had free agency within the Villa to do as she pleased, and despite fraught moments of unrest and the urge to see the world beyond it kept her satiated. Until she had become an adult, and awoke one morning to a violent sickness.

This sickness continued for a number of weeks, in the morning she’d vomit and through the day she came to find certain smells or tastes unbearable, and she’d purge the contents of her stomach. After the third week of this, she asked Moeteria, who had begun tending to other duties after her adolescence, and she was told that she was pregnant.

She’d read about pregnancy, something human women bore in order to increase the population, but what she didn’t understand, is she’d never seen another human in the Villa, let alone had a relationship with one. None of the tenants were capable, she’d assumed, of mating with a human. Though some of them were attractive to her, she’d never been courted or courted one and knew that through any avenue she’d had access to, to become pregnant, she could not have been.

This raised questions, and Moeteria’s attempts to dissuade her were ineffective. If she were to give birth to a child, she wanted to know why, and she wanted to know what the child would be like. Her wet-nurse had been a wonderful mother, but Kloa decided as soon as she’d found out, that she wanted to be the mother of her own child.

This was, until she was summoned by the Vectis. A Quorum of tenants who Moeteria had often referenced, but seldom described. Upon her summoning, she was, by her best estimate, in the later part of her third trimester and assumed upon entering their chambers, it was in regard to her soon to be born.

On the other side of the ornate marble door, the room whirled. As she was used to, the door which previously led to the Rotating Library, was changing form. Door panels and shelves were rotating to provide a new face to the room, for a new occasion. She waited beside Moeteria for a while until the grinding of gears somewhere within the Villa came to a halt and the door unlocked, signaling her ability to enter. She pushed open the doors and gestured for the wet-nurse to enter. A sign of respect among humans, which she’d read about earlier in the month.

Moeteria accepted the offering and stepped through, her massive scaly frame obstructed the doorway, and she was forced to fold her wings tight against her body in order to enter. Once all of the woman had made her way within the chamber and had curled her tail around her, Kloa followed. Inside the room that was no longer a library, stood twelve podiums atop large platforms. On the opposite end of each was a chair and each of the chairs varied in size dictated by who occupied them. More tenants, some similar to Moeteria, others entirely unlike her. 

“Welcome, Lady of the Sands.” A tenant spoke. They were dressed in long black robes that hung far below the feet of the chair and draped from the edge of the podium stand. Moeteria bowed her head, which was already well below the height of the podium’s base.

“What might the Vectis require from us, this day?”

The twelve looked at one another briefly before another spoke up.

“In regards to Kloa, your human daughter, we have understood that there is a child on the way.”

Moeteria nodded.

“Do you know the identity of this child?” A third of the Vectis asked.

Kloa shook her head alongside her adopted mother.

“We have a suspicion, that this is an Unnatural Event.”

“I would agree.” Kloa replied. “I haven’t laid with anyone here, nor have I either been kissed!” She shouted up to the Vectis.

“We understand that this may come as a surprise to you, Kloa, and we want you to know you will not be punished for this. However…” The voice of the tenant trailed into an echo in the grand chamber.

“The Eternal Law has been damaged.”

Moeteria’s eyes widened.

“How?” She asked, unfurling her wings to stand on her hind legs, towering over the Vectis by many feet and still not reaching the roof of the assembly hall.

“Another Kloa exists.”

Kloa felt Moeteria’s rumble deep within her chest.

“How then, did this happen?”

The twelve translucent tenants looked one another over, their brightly colored eyes glinted in the dimly lit room. 

“We do not know, but it was not the doing of either of you. This child Kloa is carrying, is not her own. It must exist outside of time.” One of the Vectis replied, a smaller being, whose voice was high pitched and echoed multiple times into the room. 

Kloa raised her hand. The high-pitched tenant gestured to her.

“Yes, my dear.”

“What does that mean?” She asked, holding her belly. “This child isn’t mine?”

Another of the Vectis nodded its head. “No, my dear. It is entirely yours. All of your children are yours.” This tenant she recognized, and had spoken to a number of times in her youth. Who identified and presented as male, according to human traditions, he was round and gentle each time he’d spoken to her, the words had been soft and carefully chosen. 

Kloa still didn’t understand.

“What do you mean, all of my children?” She looked to Moeteria, who turned away.

“It is not the matter of this discussion, child.” Another Vectis fired into the air. She felt anger on its lips. 

“We have established a resolution, to prevent further Fraying of the Order.” The high-pitched Vectis began. “Kloa will carry the child to term, and raise it here in order to prevent further decay of the Eternal Law.”

Moeteria nodded. “Understood.”

Kloa took a step past the wet-nurse. “I don’t. Explain.”

The gentle tenant turned to look at her once more. “The Eternal Laws must not be Frayed, child. This violation, though not your fault, is your responsibility. The Villa maintains a careful balance, as each of us are born of the Eternal Laws. Your original father, was unique, as you are. Your bodies are entirely human, though you were born of tenants. Moeteria is your grandmother. She sired a human child, in your father, Keri. When an Unnatural Event occurs, the Eternal Law notices and will remove it from the timeline. To prevent this, you must carry this child and birth it here, in order to prevent another Unnatural Event from resolving in the natural world.”

“I still don’t understand.” Kloa looked to the dragon beside her. “What do they mean?”

Moeteria lowered her head and placed a clawed finger atop her head. “Understand, then, my dear.”

In a flash, visions echoed inside of her mind. The elderly woman with the birthmark on her cheek from her dreams came first, teaching and studying at an academy she’d read about long ago, an academy who claimed manipulation over time. Her father, born by a tenant she didn’t recognize, raised by human parents appointed the duty of adoption. Visions of the day her father was given away echoed in her mind, Moeteria’s face distraught, her heartbreak overwhelmed her slitted eyes as she handed Keri to two humans who wore the robes of the Academy her mother had studied at. Other visions emerged in her mind, of her father vanishing and those he knew forgetting he ever existed. 

The visions continued, flashing through her mortal parent’s lives until the moment she was taken, offered by a group of robed mortals and plucked from a stone plinth in the woods by Moeteria. Her mothers corpse on the ground beside it, aged into dust. Her father’s body, frozen in what would have been her childhood home.

Then, the visions faded and Moeteria looked down upon her.

“I am so sorry, my love. The Eternal Laws dictated that you come to me. To keep the cycle from breaking.”

Kloa’s mind bubbled with understanding as she realized the man and woman from her dreams were her own parents. She screamed and turned her back from the Vectis, charging out of the doors as she did so. Moeteria whirled around to follow, and she ducked into a side room as the room began to shift. Inside of a study, she gripped the door tightly as the room rotated downward and churned until it was upside down. Around her, the walls had fallen and flipped to secure whatever room had taken it’s place. Here, she realized, she was inside of the Villa for the first time.

“Kloa it is dangerous for you to be between the walls! Come back!” Moeteria’s voice echoed above her, but she ignored it and released the handle, falling down onto a sliding platform attached to a long conveyor belt. 

Here, beneath the façade of the Villa, she saw what she’d longed to see since her childhood. Massive gears spun against one another and controlled the changing of the Villa, belts and chains dragged segmented walls and floors with various decorations and furniture affixed to them around the space beneath the Villa, which was lit by strange floating lights.

Her mind flashed a memory she did not have, that of her mother, Shar, on the first night of her honeymoon in a place called the Isle of Magi. She and Keri sat on the deck of a small cabin and watched fireflies buzz through the night. 

Kloa kept an eye on the belt, nearing the end of its path as she stepped down onto an oncoming platform, which looked to be the wall of a bedroom. Generically designed, with fading paint. She’d never seen the room to which the wall belonged, but it appeared as though it hadn’t been used in decades. Mold grew on the cracks in the paint. 

Far below her, suspended in deep, unrestrained darkness she saw a singular ribbon of light that looked identical to that which Moeteria had first taken her through when she was barely a season old. She slid from the moldy wall and onto another platform, one of many pieces of the Rotating Library, that swung down. She placed her feet firmly on the upside down bookshelf affixed to the wall and rode it down a vertical chain toward the ribbon of light.

Carefully, she continued to descend as the flickering fireflies followed her as if to light her descent beneath the revolving architecture of the Villa until she found herself on a piece of ceiling, which had been stored along with hundreds of others, disconnected from the mechanism’s chains. It was covered with filth and grime, but put her in reach of the ribbon of light.

She approached carefully, when the fireflies spoke to her in a chorus.

“Do not bend the Eternal Law, Kloa, er Thuun.”

She paused. Those words, together, pulled a vision from her mind. Deep within her, in a place she’d long forgotten about. A memory of herself, from a time after this, where she was with child. A human child, a child she’d name “Shar” in memory of her own mother. She and her daughter played together in a forest and she laughed alongside the child and then, in a moment that she couldn’t understand why she’d forgotten, she froze. The memory vanished from her, and she stepped into the ribbon of light.

Kloa danced in the woods with her daughter, Shar’na, a word in the tongue of the Isle of Magi that meant, as closely as she could figure “Part of a Greater Whole.” She held her toddler in her hands as she spun in circles with the babe hoisted in the air above her. Over and over again they spun until her mind wobbled with the motion. She sat upon the grass and laid the newborn by her side for a moment to gaze up at the stars above her.

She wondered, sometimes, about the stars. They brought about a familiar feeling. It was vague, but it conjured a memory she couldn’t find a connection to. Each time she looked up at the stars she remembered visions of light streaks around her, and a house that was more than a house. With rooms that twisted and spun and moved in strange ways, that no two of its rooms ever remained the same.

As she let her mind wander beside her daughter, she heard a thunderous crash of trees and shot up. She peered through the darkness and searched until she saw them. Brilliant green eyes that peered through the tree line directly at her. It was a dragon.

She’d heard stories about the dragons of Amsukar. A rumored threat that she’d never remembered meeting. The townsfolk made mention of them over and over, they supposedly were hunters and killers and predators, and she’d feared seeing one in the flesh.

She stood and locked eyes with the dragon for a moment before she reached down for her child, and in a second that transcended any horror she’d felt before, her child was gone.

Rather, it was that she was gone, and had been whisked away to somewhere new. Instead of the moonlit forests that surrounded her, she looked upon a grand Villa, the walkway to the mansion was paved with shining, brightly colored stones. On either side, hedges far taller than she guarded the green, flowery lawns she could see peeking through. She took a step forward, and felt the sun hot on her body as she moved. The Villa itself was massive, hundreds of rooms within, easily, and larger so than any of the noble houses she’d read about or seen. With each step, there was a new sight to behold. Statues carved intricately out of various stone from marble to granite and beyond decorated a garden which contained, at its center, a large fountain. She continued onward, her mind overwhelmed by the splendor as she ascended the white stone staircase and reached for the handle of the large oak door.

As she did so, a thought invaded her mind, unfamiliar, disconnected, as if she’d forgotten to bring something with her.

She pulled the door open and was greeted on the other side by a form, translucent skin wrapped around a vaguely humanoid body, though it was round, extremely so. It was almost shaped like a human, but each section of its body was bulbous, as if it had swollen all over.

“Kloa, I’ve waited so long to finally meet you.”

The creature extended its hand to shake, and she did so, only to find that her skin too, had become translucent and thick. Her body covered with a mucous, and her forearm bones rested exposed to the elements, where her skin itself had shrunk round it. She clasped the figure’s hand.

“How do you know who I am?” She spoke, surprised at how little the form disturbed her, as if she’d seen it before. 

“You are my daughter.” The form replied. “It’s so nice to meet you, my name is Keri. I’m so glad you’ve finally arrived. Come, I have so much to show you.”

Mean for the Holidays 2022: Entry Number Two!

This was a story I wrote about a month ago for a contest on Vocal Media, unfortunately I didn’t place but I still love what I created here. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of time travel and what might happen under certain circumstances, and this is the beginning of explaining it in my own universe.

If you’d like to read more of my writing, perhaps take a peek at Sisters of Westwinter – Chapter Two II: The Exile of Second Alley

3 Replies to “The Daughter of Time”

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