...Well, I was hoping
someone would comment so that I didn't have to triple-post, but no-one did!
Oh well, here's Chapter 4.
One thing to note: I used the term "quetzal" in this chapter. Just in case some of you actually know what a real
quetzal is, I have to say that in this case, you're wrong. What I mean is, it's not a bird in this story, but rather a member of the genus Quetzalcoatlus
. Or, in other words, a pterosaur.Chapter 4: Tears in Reality
Christmas was gone before they knew it was there, and the new year brought with it an unusual spell of fair weather. It was cold, yes, but at least it was sunny.
Some people hypothesized that it was the weather spirit's way of making up for the recent storm. Others pointed out that the weather spirit lacked the compassion to do such a thing. Most, however, simply were grateful for it.
The city-wide paper eventually reported the results of the Atlantean mages' analysis of the storm. One prominent mage was cited as calling it "the most severe Dark incident since the 2004 tsunami". Stefan read this, though it really only confirmed what he already knew, but most people simply let the incident trickle out of their minds.
And the new year also brought the onset of a new term. A new term meant new courses for Aoife, though not for Stefan. But Stefan had other things to worry about. He basically had twelve weeks to complete his first major work, to be performed at an end-of-term concert. And major it was, for he had mapped out no less than seven movements in piano score, and now faced the task of orchestrating it for a full symphony orchestra.
So the weeks whiled away, filled with work interspersed with the occasional concert. They talked with friends too, of course, but even that tended to be about school-related topics. such as whether or not a particular chord in their theory assignment included a suspension.
Around the beginning of March, an unusual sight graced the city. From the southwest, a formation of quetzals flew in five huge winged lizards in a V shape. One even bore a robed rider.
Stefan didn't notice them until he heard a boy shout, "Look, Mom! Look at the dragons!" Naturally, he looked up expecting to see dragons. A group of dragons would really
be a surprising sight, since they tended to be solitary. As his eyes fell upon the quetzals, he heard the boy's mother chiding him: "Those aren't dragons, dear, they're wyverns." She was not far off. Although wyverns were smaller than quetzals (unable to bear a human on their back), possessed an acidic spit, and had a much lower level of intelligence, their overall shape was very similar.
He watched them wheel about and land on the roof of a tall building near the university. The mage dismounted and pulled a device out of her robes. Apparently it was some sort of detector, for she moved around with it for a few moments before stop. Then she made some motions as if sewing up an invisible tear, before remounting on the quetzal and heading off again.
She must have done this in several places throughout the city, for the next day's paper included a small article on her activities. Someone had even managed to get a brief interview with her, and had taken a photograph. The photo showed her holding the detector in her left hand while the right hand clasped a sewing needle. She looked surprised, as if she hadn't been expecting it. The only thing she had said before leaving, according to the report, was: "There's a hyperdimensional storm in this area of spacetime, and it's tearing holes in reality, so I'm just one of the mages assigned to patch them up. Don't worry it's nothing truly serious."
This incident gave Stefan rather a lot to think about over the next few weeks, especially since there were periodic sightings of other people who seemed to be on the same assignment. Not all of them rode a quetzal, of course one flew a mini-helicopter, another flew on a small dragon, a fourth simply flew under his or her own power, and a fifth was a shape-shifter, coming in as a wandering albatross and leaving as a golden eagle. But all of them had one thing in common: they would pull out their detector, move it around a bit, then do something which presumably was intended to patch a hole.
Although he was a little worried, school forced him to put it off. He wrestled with his composition, moving passages to another instrument, expanding some passages and culling others until he finally had something that he was more or less satisfied with. He submitted it to the orchestra conductor a mere two hours before the deadline, then finally sat back to relax. He knew the last few weeks held no more deadlines or other projects in them the only other thing he had to worry about was his single end-of-year exam.
Several days after the submission of the score, he overheard his sister telling a friend how much she liked her part in his piece. Somehow, this dispelled a few of the doubts he had had about it.
On the morning of the final orchestra concert, he looked up and saw a city in the sky. He blinked twice it was early morning and he had just woken up but when he looked again, the city was still there. This time he also noticed the figures swarming around the edges. There were perhaps twelve mages, all on quetzals, spaced evenly around what he now realized was a hole in the sky. As he watched, he saw that they were slowly closing the hole. When he looked again, about an hour later, it was gone.
By the time his sister came home for lunch, he had almost forgotten it. Either because she was exceptionally hungry or because she was feeling especially generous, or perhaps both, she took it upon herself to make lunch for both of them. This was unusual usually they would work together and each make their own.
They chatted a little about various things, but before long, she was off for her afternoon class (music theory), and Stefan was once again alone in the apartment. He took the free time to play a computer game, causing the time to fly by.
Before he knew it, Aoife was back and practising. Sighing, he closed down the game and headed out to prepare dinner. His sister had already changed into concert black, and put her hair in a ponytail.
After supper, they headed out for the concert. Once again, they split up at the door. Once again, Stefan flashed his student card. As he took the program from the usher (whom he recognized and said Hi to), he headed into the hall and took a look at the program. The third item on the program was "That Endless Night, by Stefan Weber O'Halloran". Below it each movement was listed by name. Seeing his name on the program sent a shiver of excitement down his spine, and he couldn't help but rub his hands together for a moment. In other words, just like any other time a piece he wrote had been performed.
One other familiar name was on the program the other student in the graduate program who had chosen to write his first major work for orchestra rather than choir, solo, or chamber group. The works for choir would be sung in the choir concert the following night, and all the other works would be performed on the new music concerts next week.
So excited was he to hear his piece actually performed that he barely heard the first two works, which were some obscure works by a contemporary of Mozart. But when it finally came to his work, and the music washed over him, it washed away all his doubts about the details of the piece. For now, anyway.