Last Flight of the Admiral Stalkforth 3
He surfaced in a large room with a low ceiling. It was lit warmly, though he saw no visible source of illumination. The walls were pale and smooth, and a rug of tightly knit blue and green fibers covered the floor. A small desk with a cushion to kneel on looked out the sole window onto a tangle of branches and leaves. A slim, fragile door without a handle led into the only other room. The Admiral sat on a chair made of woven reeds, watching the Officer with a wide, toothy grin. In the close, welcoming light of his quarters, his eyes were brilliant pebbles.
“What a day it is!” the Admiral said.
The Officer stood slowly, taking care to not bang his head on the ceiling. A wave of nausea passed over him as he surveyed the room, he felt soiled just standing in such a place. “Admiral, do you remember who I am?”
“Yes, you’re Lord Grefa, Admiral of Andredony.”
“I recognize you, you’re the Admiral.”
“No sovereign, you are the Admiral.”
The man laughed merrily. “How can that be my friend? If I'm the Admiral then who are you?”
The Officer wearily sat down on the blue-green carpet. “Sir, do you remember nothing? I fought under your command on the Jade Javelin for a dozen years, I was there during the Battle of Fletchers when we extinguished the Ulstrums once and for all and brought glory to the house of Andredony. I was present at the greatest victory of the last five millennia!”
“The Battle of Fletchers you say? Hmm, that brings to mind a beautiful atrium I spent some time in many years ago—”
“Admiral! You are thinking of the ceremony on Trychon where you were awarded the Quantum Skein, the highest honor in all the Galaxy invented especially for your magnamity. I was there by your side!”
The Admiral stiffened and his eyes lost a little of their luster. He was silent for a time. Then he said, “Yes, yes, I remember. That was a short time before I came here, to Lumina. Do you remember? Upon my exile they promoted you to Admiral.”
“This is true, but in name only. You still control the fleet. Your rank has been preserved, such was the enormity of your gift to our galaxy. Until the day of your death you will carry the mantle of Andredony, for better or for ill. If you were to say the word now, the entire navy would assemble at your feet and defend you to the last ship.”
Some of the humor returned to the Admiral’s voice. “Andredony can lay any claim it wants on me, but it doesn’t mean a thing if I don’t lead the dance.”
“And that is why I am here. I didn’t thread the Gas-Giant Triad just for the view, however splendorous it may be.”
Before the Admiral could respond, a voice called from outside. “Toruln! Come over here, I need to ask you something.”
“Excuse me,” the Admiral said and went over to the window.
The Officer remained seated, listening to the conversation.
“What is it?” the Admiral said out the window.
“Which side are you joining for the Hymn tonight?”
“Oh, an excellent question my friend. I suppose the Eye of the Giant suits me best right now.”
“Very well. I look forward to your autolute Toruln.”
The Officer watched the Admiral return to his seat. “Why did he call you ‘Toruln?’”
“It’s just his name for me, I think it means ‘mighty swimmer’ in his native tongue.”
“I see, and what was he asking you exactly?”
“Which theory of the creation of the universe I believe in at the moment.”
“Oh, how rude of me, I assumed you were briefed on the Hymn. At the conclusion of every sun cycle, the entire village of Lamptown assembles to celebrate the birth of our home and the surrounding universe. We have two theories explaining this miracle at the moment, one of which is the ‘Eye of the Giant.’ Would you like to hear it?"
“No, not particularly—”
“Well too bad. Listen closely now, this planet’s sun is believed by some—including myself at the moment—to be the Eye of the One who Created All, the Giant. For aeons it was closed, and all around it was the void. But then, for reasons unknown to us, the Giant wearied of blackness. She opened her Eye a slit, and out of its red depths flew the first Lantern Hawks. They set upon the void and brought together matter in their beaks, building and shaping this planet out of the raw materials of nothingness. When at last our world was complete, the Giant’s Eye opened fully and looked upon it. So began the planet Lumina.”
All color drained from the Officer's face. “I see. And how do you explain the rest of the universe?”
“Easy, it’s the Giant’s forehead.”
He shot to his feet. “Admiral! You were schooled at the Aegis-of-Elucidation Institute on the moon of Fledera for fourteen years, the leading institutional light of the galactic arm. What scythe of unreason has unmanned you so?”
The Admiral laughed again. “You should be more ashamed of the man I just talked to, I believe he’s a Meta-sage, one of four in the entire galaxy. Anyway, if you don’t like the 'Eye of the Giant,' maybe the 'Yellow Hearth' suits you better. How does that one go? Ah yes. In the dawn of Pre-Time, when darkness ruled—”
“No!” the Officer barked, as if giving an order. “I do not have time for creation myths. My sovereign, we must discuss the matter at hand or all of Andredony is doomed.”