There were many things in these woods that could have kept Kiran up at night, had the situation been different. That's just the way the world worked now, but no one had time to really think about it. No, what kept them on this particular night, staring up at the canvas roof of their tent, was not fear. It was the memories. The world has changed so much in the last five years. they had asked Queen Spider about it once, she had looked at them with bright, starry eyes and said “the world ended, you know. Or maybe it began. It doesn’t really have an end, nor a beginning, no front or back, yet it floats in that odd way it does. but I guess you can't see it. Maybe someday you’ll figure it out” Kiran had no idea what exactly she meant, but then again, they doubted anyone did. The betwixt were odd creatures, after all.
Kiran left their tent, shivering in the cold air of the woods. They picked up a lantern, although it was hardly necessary, the stars above were so bright they were beginning to wonder if Spider had something to do with it, asking the skies to clear and let the light pass. The gravel crunched below their feet, a mix of the black volcanic earth and the crumbling asphalt of the old city streets. A wisp floated by on the breeze, illuminating the crumbling brick and collapsed metal scaffolding in its soft blue glow. It smiled as it passed, a few to many jagged teeth showing through its flames as it flew around Kiran curiously. They laughed, gently batting it with the back of their hand into the lantern, lighting the candle. It churred happily, flying away into the night, its pale blue tail illuminating the twisting trees.
Kiran kept walking, gazing at the ghost of the city where they grew up. Five years was a long time where magic was concerned, and the trees now grew jagged and rough from the rubble, reaching up to touch the sky where the buildings had once stood. Kiran missed the people who they had lost in those first weeks of darkness before the sun finally penetrated the ash and dust that seemed to coat the whole world now. They thought idly about their brother. He had a little farm on the outskirts of the kingdom, growing crops in the rich volcanic soil. Turning a wasteland into an opportunity, like he always did. Kiran had spent an autumn at that farm once, helping bring the harvest to Mecharia at the market in trade for artifacts from the dragonesses travels.
A bird call split the night, an odd trilling tone that pulled Kiran from their thoughts. It was not a call they had heard before in these woods, and it was too loud to have come to the river. They looked up at the trees above. They saw a very familiar silhouette, with furry ears and small antlers sticking out from the thick mane of hair that framed a relatively human-looking face. A bird-like creature sat on her arm, asleep. Kiran cleared their throat, “good evening, Fetharay,''. their companion turned her head and laughed, revealing a mouthful of sharp, serrated teeth. “Little late to be the evening, Kiran, what are you still doing up anyways?”. “I couldn't sleep,” Kiran answered honestly, shrugging.
Some people would have probably said that a Willderine was an odd choice of companion, but Kiran was in no place to complain. Fetharay had found Kiran lost in the forest one cold autumn morning. That had been almost a year ago now. Fetharay had told Kiran she would bring them back to the city, but neither of them really wanted to leave now. It turned out that the little beast Fetharay carried with her, named Kiro, was a very good hunter. So the three of them had developed some semblance of a routine over the last few months since they had met. they would hunt and fish in the forests as they traveled from town to town selling the furs.
There was a long pause before Kiran spoke again, sitting down next to the tree and putting down the lantern. “I haven't heard that one before,''. Fetharay looked at them quizzically, “the bird song? Pygmy Griffin. Guess you haven't been to Europe since…” she trailed off, looking down. There was an awkward pause. Neither of them liked to talk about what happened, the worlds that they had both lost to one another's kind. There was nothing that could have stopped it, they both knew that. I was just another byproduct of the passing of time.
Fetharay sighed wistfully, looking up at the stars. “You know something strange? It’s been over five hundred years and the skies haven't changed at all.” Kiran thought for a second, a question forming in their head. “Did you know? When you went to sleep, did you know when you were going to wake up?” they asked. “I'm not sure, to be honest,” Fetharay answered, “I guess I kinda knew we would be asleep for a while, but no one expected it would take that long… or that humanity would develop that much. If I told a human from my time, I don’t think they would have believed me. Hell, I don’t think I would have believed it myself had I not seen all the rubble,”. Kiran picked up a stick from the ground, fidgeting with it as they spoke, “you should have seen it when it was standing. Those old skyscrapers really did seem to touch the sky…” they trailed off, looking up at Fetharay, whose eyes were still trained on the skies above.
Fetharay hummed softly before speaking, “Skyscrapers… what a romantic word. I do wish I could have seen your cities. They sound quite beautiful,”. A soft smile settled on Kiran's face as they spoke, “I guess they were, in a way. There were so many people that the lights used to wash out the stars at night”. Fetharay shook her head “the lights were really that bright. I can’t even imagine...”
The two of them sat in silence for a while, gazing up at the glittering stars above. The silence said more than their words ever could. In melancholy tones, it spoke of a million dreams left behind, lost to the time that turned one world to another, that lost a person their home and built a new one of spare parts and messy paint. Around them the woods were alive, shadows stalking within the darkened night as uncountable lives continued on, changing history in their own little ways.
It was Fetharaywho broke the silence, “we should reach the city by tomorrow evening, I think.” she said, getting up from her spot in the tree. The sleeping beast on her arm squawked indignantly. Kiran laughed, “ that's assuming we get any sleep” they pointed out, standing up and picking up the lantern as Kiro flew down to land on their shoulder. “You have a point,” said Fetharay, jumping down from the tree. The two of them walked back to their campsite, the lantern light illuminating the vast forest around them in a warm glow, like a single ember in an endless void.