There were two holidays that were celebrated by staying awake to greet the dawn. Nightwatch, where everyone gathered together in love and support, giving gifts and lighting fires to bring light back into the world; and Dawnsday to celebrate the light and revel in all the gifts that summer would bring. It was a celebration of fertility, and a time to abandon one's self in the simple pleasures of being alive.
Agrad preferred Nightwatch to Dawnsday, despite the cold. He always had, and he suspected he always would. Nightwatch was for family and closeness and creating your own warmth and love. Dawnsday was loud and boisterous and sometimes a bit frightening with all of the costumes and fire dancers and drinking and revelry that often separated families into the different sorts of fun they'd prefer to indulge in. His last Dawnsday in Cairnborough he had stumbled upon more than one orgy, and at last he understood why he'd felt so left out of the holiday as a child.
This Dawnsday was different, though. Verwyn Castle was somewhat isolated, and he'd willingly dismissed all who lived or worked there to join in the revelry.
"Will you be joining in, Master Verwyn?"
Agrad looked at Byrek in surprise, wondering if it was an invitation or a reminder of some sort of duty he should have known. "I hadn't planned on it," he replied slowly.
Byrek shook his head and simply left, leaving Agrad with a knot in his stomach over the implied disapproval. Agrad chewed on his lower lip, but he wanted nothing to do with loud celebrations right now. He was the wizard here. He would celebrate the way he wanted.
Squaring his shoulders, Agrad grabbed a blanket and a pillow, and he teleported away. He went at first to the cave where he'd met Ysili, and then he walked to a clearing he'd found while picking berries on a rainy day, so many years ago.
The clearing was as he remembered it, with a flat marble bolder in the center that made him think of ancient altars to the gods. Had it been used as one, in prehistoric times? What sort of offerings would have been left there, if it had? He felt Nalia stir in the back of his mind as if his speculation touched her in some way, so he turned his thoughts to other things as he draped the blanket across the stone surface and sat upon it.
Must you always profane what once was sacred?
The voice of the goddess was tired, resigned. Apparently trying to shift his thoughts to first stage alchemical transmutations hadn't been enough to quell her. Agrad didn't know yet how to shut her out and ignore her, now that she had awakened. Really, on some of his lonelier days, he wasn't entirely sure he wanted to.
"How should I know what's sacred and what's not?" It was dangerous to talk to her, to acknowledge her at all, but he did it anyway. Some part of her sounded as lonely as he was, and he couldn't ignore that, no matter what others warned him.
You knew. The feeling you have here that lead to your speculation. You're no longer a child of idle imagination.
"It was just a feeling," Agrad said, laying down upon the stone and staring at the sky. Sunset colors were fading to black, and stars were beginning to shine. "Besides, I'm a wizard. Isn't that the greatest profanity ever?"
You're an elemental, she corrected gently. The wizard who killed me is dead.
"My power is still stolen," he said, shifting uncomfortably. "And I know you hate me for it. You'd kill me, if you ever got free."
I'd kill you by getting free. So, if I were to get free, it wouldn't be possible for me to kill you.
"Oh, that's a comfort," he said crossly. "So, you really were trying to kill me a couple months ago? Back in Cairnfeld?"
Anger stabbed through him, and he glared up at nothing. "I'm glad you're dead," he hissed. "If you weren't, I think I'd have to kill you myself just for that."
Uneasy silence followed for a great portion of the night, as they mulled over their mutual resentments. For his part, Agrad had to admit to himself that he wasn't really glad that the goddess was dead. He didn't know what to feel about her current state at all, really. He'd just wanted to hurt her, for being so indifferent about the possibility of his death. It was a bit surprising to him that his heated response had actually had the intended result.
I've driven every Verwyn wizard from Davri onward to death. I was Nalia, goddess of magic! The wizards were MINE! You've betrayed me. Every single one of you. Of course I want you dead!
Her silent tirade startled him from his thoughts of making peace or offering a truce of some sort. He'd actually jumped, sitting up and holding his hand over his rapidly beating heart from surprise, since she'd been silent for so long.
"Okay," he gasped, pulling his pillow to his chest. "I get the picture. You hate us. And I'm stuck with you. Great. But, it's not getting YOU anywhere, either. Take all the vengeance you want, over and over, but Davri's the one who killed you. Not me, and not any of the rest of us."
He could feel the chaos of her thoughts, but couldn't put meaning to any of them. It seemed like a pure explosion of anger and helplessness and indignation, but there were other emotions roiling in the mixture that he couldn't begin to identify.
And, finally, she somehow set it all aside. You could be right, but it doesn't matter. Vengeance and hatred aren't logical, and my hatred is without end. I'll still kill you, if I have the chance.
"I'll just try not to give you the chance," he sighed. What else could he say? "I don't want to die."
I didn't, either.
"Well, there's something we can agree on. Dying is bad. Truce?"
No, but nice try.
He hadn't expected it to work, but the mood was lighter now and that was what he wanted. "You'll come around some day. Mark my words." He laughed, lying down again to stare up at the stars.
Never, she thought, but there was a smile implied in her tone. She could be soft, and she could be kind. If the situation had been different....
"I know better, though," he said in reply to the unvoiced feeling they'd shared. "If things were different, I'd have simply grown up fearing gods and not wizards. You can't plant such suggestions in my head."
You'd still be powerful. The time of gods could have seen you as a high priest, easily. You could have known my approval and not my approbation.
"We'll never know," he said, and a fallen star streaked across the sky. "But if you think I could have, perhaps it is your mind you should be trying to change. Not mine. The rest of my life can be hell for you, or for both of us. But, perhaps, it doesn't need to be."
She fell silent again, and even her powerful emotions were self-contained. The rest of the night they spent silent, until the dawn.
"Blessed Dawnsday, merry reveler," Agrad remembered the old invocation. "May the year ahead be filled with abundance and growth."
Blessed Dawnsday, Nalia whispered within his mind.