Fornus opened his eyes and he was flying, but not in his usual way. He was in the shape of his smaller self: a small man. He was rushing downwards in an endless sky of cyan. He zoomed by fluffy, white clouds so quickly that his eyes began to water. He shifted into his other form, that of a pale, three-eyed leviathan.
Rapidly his body expanded, causing a small shockwave of energy. After his transformation, he was able to stay aloft. In the distance, he saw a golden glimmer and heard strange noises. They sounded familiar, though he could not think of why. He flew in their direction to investigate.
As he approached he noticed shapes that moved in the endless sky. He peered closer and was astonished to see that they were all leviathan. Though, in colour they were more of a slate as opposed to his ivory.
Fornus, in excitement, called out to the nearest whale. “H-hi!” he stammered loudly in a deep bellow.
The nearest whale looked at him for a moment before flying over gracefully. “Yes?” they replied in a voice that, for some reason beyond his current understanding, Fornus identified as female. The timber and tone were melodious, vibrant to his ears and mind.
Fornus stared at her head, studying her cranium. She had a small eye on each side and a large lid housing a great third eye upon the front of her brow, like himself. He swam around her amidst the thin clouds. She was slightly smaller than him in length and girth, though she still had powerful-looking fins and fluke.
“Excuse me, but did you want to talk or just stare at me like a weirdo?” She interrupted his examination by turning to face him so that they made eye contact from the side, her left and his right.
“MY APOLOGIES!” he shouted, still unaccustomed to speaking in his leviathan form. He racked his memory and cannot recall a single instance where he was able to communicate with others while in this state. Anytime he tried, others either fled or attacked. “My apologies,” he whispered in apology for his apology.
“You’re kind of creeping me out, I’m just going to leave…” she said as she began to slowly move away.
“No, please wait,” he pleaded as he swam in front of her, blocking her path. “Is this a dream?” he asked.
“A dream? She repeated, confused. “If it is, we’re having the same one…unless I’m dreaming right now and you’re a figment of MY dream…” she then hypothesized jokingly.
Just then another leviathan swam over. This one is a darker gray and looks feminine as well. “Nalu, is this guy bothering you?” asked the darker one in a deeper female voice.
“No, Ao, I think he’s just…confused. He thinks he may be dreaming,” the one named Nalu explained to the one called Ao.
“You’re not dreaming pal. This is real life, so don’t try anything crazy!” Ao said to Fornus. “What is your name?” she asked him
“I’m Fornus,” he replied cautiously, though he seemed to be able to control his volume better than before.
The two gray whales looked at one another before both turning to look at him once more. “You…and I, and Nalu, we are all fornus. That is what our species is called,” Ao explained calmly. “Do you have anything else that people call you by?”
“Uh…leviathan, beast, monster, fiend, terror from above, laser-face-“ he got out before Nalu interrupted him.
“No, a name,” she insisted, but through stifling a chuckle. “Laser-face…” she repeated quietly in a humorous tone.
“Hmm,” Fornus pondered what he heard. “Just call me whatever you want, I guess,” he suggested, his mind still reeling slightly.
“You’re albino, so maybe… ‘Al’?” Nalu suggested.
“Sure,” he agreed. He mulled it over for a few moments. “I think I can get used to ‘Al,’” he then concluded amicably.
“So, Al, where are you from?” Ao asked, she seemed to have relaxed at having identified the newly named Al as a non-threat.
“A land with small beings. Some with strange powers,” Al responded.
“Are they the ones who call you ‘laser-face’?” Nalu asked melodically.
“I think so…” Al pondered; his mind felt like one of the clouds floating around his new companions. “I think it’s because I can shoot energy from my third eye,” he said as he opened the huge eye on the front of his cylindrical brow. He charged energy behind the eye and then looked away from the other leviathans. He then let off a small burst of energy towards a distant cloud. The beam blasted through and vaporized it before dissipating.
The two gray whales backed away, “Whoa…” Ao said, astonished. “Our eyes just…you know, see things. No magic.”
“You could be one of the Mobius, a member with amnesia?” suggested Nalu.
“The Mobius are known to study many subjects, magic included,” Ao clarified, to which Nalu nodded, confirming.
“Other leviathan…other fornus with magic…” Al digested. “Where can I find them?” He asked the pair.
“Head towards the city, it’s those golden towers in the distance,” Ao directed.
“You’ll likely see a member of Mobius in the city, or on the way. They’re hard to miss,” Nalu added.
With that, Al thanked Nalu and Ao for helping him and flew away, pointing his brow towards the golden towers. It is not long before he realized how large the structures were. He thought that he was near to them, but as he approached they hardly seemed to get any closer.
He looked around for the sun to gauge how long he had been flying but became puzzled when he could not find it. There was not plenty of clouds, he observed. He tried to find the origin of light by gazing all over the cyan expanse from every possible angle he could turn his head, but to no avail. It was as if the sky was somehow lighting itself.
As he turned and gazed about himself, he noticed a commotion above. A whale with blue skin was being set upon by a group of smaller creatures. These smaller beings had fins as well, though many more. These fins seemed to be spread over their bodies evenly. They darted about the blue one, biting and slamming them with their bodies. The blue leviathan retaliated by swinging their great fluke at one of the dark streaks behind them. The attack connected and smashed the small dark brown one with a wet cracking sound. The body of the smaller one went limp as it careened away into the distance.
There were many more though, and they did not cease their attack on their target. The blue whale turned their head about, scanning their surroundings. They seemed to spot Al and called out, “Hey! Help me out, if you would be so kind!” They said in a tone that was more of a demand than a request.
“I will lend my aid,” Al called back while flying towards the conflict. “But afterward I would like to speak with you.” The blue fornus nodded before turning to fend off two of the attackers that approached from the left.
Al opened his third eye, adding another perspective and increasing his field of vision by a great margin. He contemplated blasting some of his new foes with his energy beam but realized that they were too small and nimble to track. Instead, he took inspiration from his blue companion.
The blue one battered a pair of the brown biters with a flurry of tackles and head-butts. After a few strikes each, they drifted away into the clouds, bodies limp. But from behind the blue one came three many-finned attackers in unison. Their mouths were gaping open, revealing many curved, conical teeth. Before they got a chance to sink them into their prey, however, Al set upon them from behind, slamming his fluke into the one nearest to him and knocking it into the other two.
These jagged fiends were fast but frail it seemed, as Al proceeded to deliver more devastating fluke slams to the aggressors. Within a short length of time, the two fornus had rid themselves of their foes.
“What were those things?” Al asked his ally.
“You’ve never encountered kahuas before?” the blue one asked in disbelief, turning to face Al.
Al took a moment to gaze at the pack of broken kahuas floating away slowly. “No, where I’m from there are no kahuas, most smaller beings that I’m used to are incapable of flight,” Al replied before a flash of memory struck him.
A stoned-skinned swordsman in an orange toga. A living shadow. An owl with the lower half of a snake. A blue wizard with horns. And then a moment later the memory was gone.
“Are you alright, pale one?” the blue fornus asked, noticing the blank expression on Al’s face.
“Yes…just a ghost from the past, I suppose,” he said before shaking his head to dissipate the fog within. “I’m…Al,” he continued, introducing himself with his new name.
“Well met, Al, thank you for your assistance,” the other whale replied, “I am Wai, a Learned of Mobius.”
Al sighs. There is so much he did not know of this world. He began to speak but was cut off as Wai shouted out in alarm.
“Down below, a fiend approaches!” He pointed his body downwards, toward the new threat.
Al followed his gaze and saw a large creature approaching. It looked very similar to the kahuas from before but much larger. It dwarfed the fornus that it was rushing toward angrily. Its reddish-brown skin stood out against the cyan sky as it howled in rage.
“An elder kahua! It must be here to avenge its smaller brethren,” Wai concluded as he began to glow with an azure aura. “Stay back,” he warned as his third eye opened swiftly to reveal a bright iris. It burned like blue fire. The aura around his body thickened until it condensed into solid forms. What appeared were great spikes of ice with proportions rivaling the fornus and elder kahua. With a ferocious battle cry, the blue whale launched the massive ice spikes at the incoming threat.
As the spikes flew, the kahua weaves around them, only being grazed by one.
“Damn!” Wai lamented, but Al paid him no mind. While the blue one was launching his attack, Al was preparing his own.
The energy pressed against the inside of Al’s third eye with great force. He aimed and led his shot to compensate for the elder kahua’s speed and agility. The moment he released the river of power, it sped forth like light itself, striking the body of the elder kahua with a concussive force and burning its flesh. Even though the body of the foe was great in mass, the force of Al’s energy beam knocked it completely off course. Its smoking corpse sailed by the two leviathans harmlessly, though the scent then lingered afterward was unpleasant.
Wai stared at Al, in awe. “What type of energy was that?” He asked.
“Uh…Laser energy,” Al replied while scanning his surroundings; he was wary of further attack.
His companion scoffs, “‘Laser’ is not a type of energy, you simpleton. What kind of distant cloud did you blow in from?”
“I’m not from a cloud,” Al said, answering the metaphor literally. “I used to live in an area overgrowth with vegetation. Below a large tree, actually,” he recalled fondly.
“No wonder you’ve gone unnoticed for so long. You must have recently escaped from a mental institution.” Wai declared, though with a humorous air. “Regardless, you must meet the Enlightened. I believe that your power consists of neutral energy. Put simply, no living organism should be able to utilize neutral energy under normal circumstances. All energy output from a creature is tainted by its natural affinity and its biology unless such aspects are somehow suppressed.”
“So you have a natural affinity for ice?” Al asked, trying to wrap the concept around his brain.
“Yes. I was born in a very cold place. A crag in the sky near a natural mana well. The ability to control ice and water comes naturally to my kin,” he explained. “The same is true for everyone, some may have the ability to control flames, electricity, or even less perceived energies. Ones that we don’t even have names for.”
“But no one with the ability to control neutral energy?” Al queried, drifting about the area, more relaxed than before but still on alert. All he saw in the area were other fornus milling about and the golden towers in the distance.
“Some can, but only after long years of meditation and refinement of one’s being. It should not be possible otherwise…” the blue one stated. “This is why you must meet the Enlightened. They can also manipulate neutral energy.”
“Very well,” the albino agreed. This was exactly what he was hoping for; a chance to learn more about this world and its people.
Together, they sailed off towards a distant peak of the colossal golden towers. As they approached, Al observed the magnificent structure now taking up most of his field of vision. Dozens of large sub-towers branched off from the main column, not unlike a tree. Though, one made from splendorous golden materiel. Smaller towers also branched off from those and ended in peaked roofs. Each of these small towers looked grand enough to house several fornus at once with much room to spare.
“How was this even built?” Al asked as he had trouble digesting the scale of the architecture.
“What do you know of petramancy and aurumkinesis?” replied his guide with a question of his own.
“…Nothing…” Al admitted.
“Hm…what about metallurgy and architectural theorems?” the blue one continued to question.
“…Nothing about those either,” Al admitted again, beginning to feel dim-witted.
“Magic. It was built with rock and gold magic,” Wai explained finally, before chuckling softly.
The rest of their trip passed with little dialogue, though it was not silent. Al caught parts of conversations from passing fornus. This area seemed to be full of whales going about their business. Some chatting, others travelling up and down the nearest tower. Soon they reached the base of the peaked structure they saw from afar.
Great stone doors greeted them on a gold-striped ramp. They swung open upon the pair’s approach to reveal a huge cylindrical chamber lined with nooks along the walls. Each nook housed a fornus, though many here looked as striking at Wai. Red, blue, yellow, and some dozens more colours all mixed in the spacious chamber upon the tall walls. There were many vertical slit windows as well, allowing plenty of light and a pleasant breeze to enter.
In the centre of the chamber, resting upon a floating dais, Al saw a great white leviathan, nearly twice the size of himself. “That is the Enlightened of this chamber. The one who you should speak with. Fear not approaching him, he is kind and wise,” Wai stated before drifting casually toward a violet fornus nearby.
Al nodded in response before slowly swimming over to the Enlightened. As he neared, the Enlightened one looked at him and spoke, “Greetings fellow pale one. Our likes are not seen often. How may I be of service?” the larger fornus slowly said in a deep voice. One so loud and low-pitched that it rumbled the air.
Now that Al has reached his destination he asked himself what it was that he wanted. He travelled here for answers, reasons, and an explanation as to why and how he ended up in this realm of endless cyan sky. He made eye contact with the huge fornus’ smaller eyes. “Why am I here?” He let out, unable to articulate his complex question properly.
The great one blinked and looked to be thinking of their response carefully. When he replied, he did so in the same slow, deep voice as before, “Existence is a curious thing. What propels an individual to persist is up to them. Each has not only their own path to follow, but to find as well.”
Al pondered the sonorous one’s words. When he began to get lost in thought, the great one interrupted.
“An excellent place to ponder the greater questions in life is nearby,” He began. He then rose slowly from the floating dais and looked upward. Above, there appeared to be a massive hole leading into a bright light.
“What is up there?” Al asked.
“A peaceful place to think,” the Enlightened responded before resting upon the dais once more.
Al thanked the Enlightened for his time and flew upwards. During his ascent, he spotted Wai down below, conversing with a violet fornus. If, or when, his mind clears, Al decided that he would thank Wai for guiding him here. As he approached the gap in the conical roof, the light grew brighter. The intensity increased until Al could not see his surroundings. When he was about to stop and turn back, his vision cleared and he found himself in a dense white haze.
In front of him, he saw a small gap in the haze. Beyond, the same cyan sky that he had become familiar with glowed blue. As he stared at the patch of light blue, he felt the white haze warming his body. It was soft and comforting. His mind relaxed and he felt a clarity envelop his body. He had no answers to where he was, or how he got here, but his sense of purpose had been emboldened. He merely needed to look harder, he determined. But, in doing so, he wanted to learn about this strange, dangerous, and wonderful world.
Through the haze, he flew into the clear cyan sky. The expanse before him was infinite and beautiful. An endless distance that was full of endless potential. He opened the eye on his brow, taking in the full majesty. He inhaled, breathing the fresh air of the free sky. One where limitless knowledge and adventure awaited.
Thank you for reading Cyan Skies!
Al the white whale is actually a character from my book Inner Expanses.
Although not directly connected to the events of my novel, this story is meant to expand upon the universe in a subtle way that can be enjoyed before or after one reads Inner Expanses.