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[Fanfic] Whispers of the Abyss

Forewords


Hi Everyone! It's Jay here. I'd like to share with you a story from the childhood of one of our community-created characters. You can find her in-game after chapter 7, as soon as you have access to the Aecerlian commission store in Everspring. The credit for this story goes to our long-time community member, Aika.

 

Whispers of the Abyss


Vivianne caught herself gazing off into the sky, watching the clouds drift along the edge-line of the port. The crisp air felt like frigid ice on her skin, and it seemed that no matter how eager one was, the air never made exceptions. She could feel it flow between the brown draping locks of hair that rested tenderly on her shoulders, the wind pushing aside some of the ruffles on her blouse. There was a subtle silence in the air that cut through the bustling street ambiance of the day. The illusion of peace on the ports was one no longer wasted on young deaf ears, as Vivianne let out a sigh. It wasn't often one in Europa got to live their dreams, even if she was only at the first step of the staircase to climb. One day, if fate would have it, she could own a harbor just like she'd always dreamed. She hoped there was a chance she could be the one to hold the reins of the sky, allowing captains and airfares' to go as she directed. To control something that is currently seen as untamable, chaotic, and natural in the most terrifying way possible. The idea brought a bit of blush to her cheeks, a rose-like hue radiating off them. To tame the skies-


Dreams, however, can not last forever. In her daze, there was a sharp jab in her back, throwing her forward and allowing the crate that rested tightly in her grasp to tumble to the floor, spilling its contents along the ornate stone walkway. "Watch where you're going you brat!" A strong, burly man screamed down at Vivianne, stepping over her with his crates. She watched as the fruits rolled along the stone and onto the treated wood. Surely, they were bruised. The woman turned to give the man a snarl, but he'd already fled the scene. Like the wind, he'd flown through her without a second thought. No care whether she was in the way. Vivianne let out a disheveled grumble as she moved to sit upright, taking hold of one of the boxes that found its demise on the walkway. The woman held it above her head, closing her left eye to peer inquisitively with her left. The box's reinforcements were splintered, "this would be no good for travel" she spoke quietly to herself, before eyeing the fruit that was now bruised, smushed, or dented in some way "A-and neither will that." The woman spoke with a frown.


Sheepishly the woman lowered the box, tipping it to the side that was not shattered. She began to grab each piece of fruit individually and place them one by one in the box, that way she was sure they would not tumble out again. As Vivianne finished, she frowned at her work. As upset as the harbormaster would be, she could not allow this to go onto that Aetherhawk. With a determined 'hmph' she pulled herself to her feet, cradling the crate under one arm, and using her free hand to dust the dirt and fruit juices from her tight leather-like pants. Some remained on her boots- though, that's what boots were for. Vivianne took a proper hold of the unlidded crate and raced back to the supplier where she had obtained it. Surely, they would understand that accidents happen in the harbor.


"Absolutely not, Berennel. Not unless you're paying for it!" The old man behind the counter growled. Though she knew him well, the supplier never enjoyed seeing her face. It usually wasn't for a good reason, as being young and new to airfare, Vivianne was bound to make mistakes. "Please, Mister Mathian, I just need one more create to put on the Aetherhawk before it departs! I- I would real-" The woman flinched as the man stood up over his counter, his silver locks shadowing his face as he did his best to glare down at the woman. "Berennel! Out!" The old man ordered. Vivianne tensed at the barking of orders, nodding her head. as she turned on her heels and found her way outside. She took a moment to find the least rough-edged curb she could, taking a seat and resting her chin on the palms of her hands, her elbows planted firmly on her knees. She allowed her eyes to hide from the people.


"Old man Mathian sure likes to make life tough..." She mumbled to herself. 'So this is it' she thought quietly. 'Boss is gonna fire me because I can't even get a measly fruit crate to a Aetherhawk.' she scoffed at herself, lifting her head to view the city around her. Barracks life wasn't easy, constant travel from one place to another- but Vivianne sure did love the sights. The wooden architecture treacherously hung off the edge of such a beautiful mountainside, the whole establishment encompassed by a tomb of trees that brought with them beautiful evergreen needles. It was a place she could live forever if she didn't plan to depart so soon. The air smelled like a fresh cut ice cold lawn, and her lungs felt invigorated breathing it in.


It was easy to see why one could get so lost at such a small port in what felt almost like the countryside. However- that couldn't be further from the truth, as one wrong step could send anyone plummeting into a lifeless void that was deceptively warm with its yellow tones. What was usually the color of vibrance, safety, and warmth, had become known to Vivianne as the one that brought death, for the skies did not pity any that fell into them. The idea alone seemed to bring chills to her spine, as she forced herself to stand up, taking one more look at the old man's shop. Who knows- if she gets fired at the harbor, maybe they'd be hiring.


Vivianne decided that a ruined delivery was better than nothing and hurried off toward the Aetherhawk, where she was set to be a crew member. She watched as the other members readied their cargo and checked the sails one last time. Everything seemed to be right on schedule. One foot in front of the other, she walked up the studded boarding plank and took her first steps on the ‘Sea Hag’, where she'd been calling home for a while. She placed her crate down where the other rations had been stored by her unfamiliar crewmates, and looked around to make sure there were no watchful eyes to see the shattered mess she delivered to the captain of her vessel.


Once the coast was clear, Vivianne decided she would only get in the way with her inexperience. She jumped onto the studded loading board and raced down back to the harbor, looking over the edge. Defying the devil as one could put it. Vivianne brought herself down to her knees, reaching one leg over and allowing it to flow freely in the air below. Then, she did the same with her other, resting her palms behind her on what felt like a sturdy dark wood board. She leaned her head back, taking another whiff of the air around her. One day- she'd own one. She just needed to get a little wiser, a little more experienced, and a little more used to the skies. A naive smile crested her lips as she closed her eyes, waiting for the loud whistle that would signal for her to be on board the vessel that would whisk her into the skies once more.


The sounds of the harbor echoed around Vivianne as she rested on its edge. The creaking of wood, the groaning of machinery, the magical hum of mana. Though drowned out by all the noise was the pattern of footsteps that approached Vivianne. However, it would only take a slight change in the winds around her for her to notice something was off. Vivianne would open her eyes to see an excited young girl around her own age looking down at her. Her silver hair glistened in the sunlight as the breeze pushed it into her face. "Uhhh- A-are you a Skyfarer?" The young woman's voice was soft and gentle like that of silk. Her expression was anything but, eagerly the girl began to bombard Vivianne with questions. "..Where are you from? Do you fight in the war? What does it feel like to fly?" She asked so quickly Vivianne didn't even have any time to answer, but she seemed calmed down- at least enough that she was anxiously awaiting her answer.


Seeing this display, Vivianne would pull herself to her feet to examine the woman in front of her further. Silver hair- She'd seen a few like them before, though most wished not to talk to Vivianne. Vivianne figured now may be an appropriate time to poke and prod information herself, with only the tradeoff being menial answers. She let a soft smile creep on her face as she puffed her chest out a bit "You betcha, scramp! I let my wings carry me all across Europa!" Vivianne reached down to rudely take a lock of the woman's hair without asking, holding it softly in her palm. That silver was blinding in the sunlit sky so high up. It shimmered and waved out to Vivianne almost mesmerizingly. She took a moment to stare into the woman's eyes, deciding now was more appropriate to ask than later, as the ship was set to depart any moment.


"You're one of those 'airborne' good for nothin' I keep hearing about from the skyfarers, ain'tcha?" She asked condescendingly, seeming to fakely glare down at the woman. Though it wasn't an accurate portrayal of the climate, clearly some of the shipman's slander had rubbed off on Vivianne, leading to an almost venomous tongue around Aetherborne. In truth, the woman was curious, pondering what or how she became one with the winds like she had. It was clear even by her appearance that she was graced. Maybe it was jealousy? This young girl who looked not even thirteen had already begun to tame the skies that Vivianne had dreamed of her whole life? Vivianne frowned, releasing the lock of hair as she groaned. The woman's presence no longer excited her.


Vivanne closed her eyes with a scowl plastered on her face. "Where I'm from is no' your business, and I'll have you know there isn'tin't a lick of wa-" Her sentence was cut short by the realization of what her mission actually was. Suddenly so much made sense. Why she was recruited so quickly even as a child for dangerous work, why the captain pay Vivianne so much, as well as the other crew, and the tense of tension and urgency? This wasn't just an ordinary cargo vessel... This was a vessel set to travel through a battlefield to deliver relief. This was a death wish. Vivianne looked over towards the ship's quarters area, one where she knew the captain was staying. Was the man so brazenly ready to take his and the crew's life? Was he so full of bravado that she naught worry? Vivianne clutched her stomach idly before she turned to the skies.


As her globes made contact with the vast blue and gold that lay beyond her, what used to bring such joy and beauty suddenly felt as though it was whispering to her. It was calling in some manner. She felt that the skies would take her should she continue with this way of life. That the abyss was an inevitability. Vivianne felt her soul drain from her eyes as she took a step backward away from the edge, looking behind her only to reach the conclusion she was surrounded by it. There was no escape from this way of life, no escape from the windy void that lay beneath her. It sat in wait for its prey to crawl into its maw, crushed to bits if one could even be so lucky. She took a dry swallow of air. The evergreenevergreene scent that used to calm her mere moments ago, brought with it dread. She looked down at the Aetherborne child. "And you?"


Annabelle Ciel Helecan by @Aika on PixAI.art


The girl tilted her head in curiosity, as Vivianne was now seemingly terrified. Perhaps she was scared of her, she thought to herself. So then with a smile, she reached out her hand to Vivianne. “The name is Annabelle Helecan! And I’ve lived here all my life. But.. yes- you are correct... I am ‘Aetherborne.’” Annabelle seemed disgruntled with this fact as she was hesitant to confirm Vivianne’s hunch. “Though I wish I wasn’t- Father says I should be studying..” She groaned, throwing her head back, and she looked up at the mysterious never never-ending sky. Annabelle then once again righted her posture befitting that of nobility. She looked at Vivianne, sighed, and offered an explanation. “..See, don’t get me wrong the Academy is wonderful and interesting but- It’s so boring, they keep teaching us the same stuff I already knew…” Annabelle gazed at the large freighter Vivianne was a crew of. “Just I long for new things- Exciting things- Unknown things! I want to know more about mama than they teach in the classroom… So yes I am an Aetherborne, but I want to be so much more!” Annabelle then stood there hands on her hips as she triumphantly declared her dream. Still gazing at the ship, the boarding bell rang out across the harbor. Signaling that it was time for the crew to return to the ship. Annabelle, realizing this immediately shot her gaze over to Vivianne, now sad that her new Skyfarer friend would be departing. “..Oh, I guess off to the next adventure for you- While back to the books for me..”

Vivianne held her hand out to the woman in front of her. Annabelle Helecan. The woman snickered to herself, figuring now was as appropriate a time as ever to tease the woman. Though it was short-lived, Vivianne dropped the sailor accent she tried to put on to act cool in front of the child. "W-Well nice to meet you, Miss Pelican." She snickered, her grim expression turned back toward the ship. The bell toll echoed in her mind. Was this the final thing she would hear before being sent to her death? Would her getting on this ship be the story lost to ages where she would never return? She had no one to return to, but her dreams would wash away like the clouds swept up in the aether currents. Vivianne took a deep breath. "You should get going, Annabelle. Studies can't wait forever." She bowed her head lightly, moving to step back on the studded loading board leading up to the freighter. As the toes on her right foot connected with the thin board, she felt it wobble under her weight. Petrified like a scared dog, she stood there, mustering up the courage to climb up the plank she so eagerly jumped up earlier. What changed?


The woman looked back at Annabelle, giving the woman a smile, and finally putting on enough of a strong front to shift her weight onto the wood and climb aboard. The subtle swaying of the docked ship made Vivianne's stomach feel sick, her entire body no longer at ease like a feline in a cart. 'Something wasn't right' the woman thought, clinging to anything she could as she traversed the ship, making way to the crew quarters, and subsequently the captain's quarters. There was a decision to make- does she continue with this newfound hesitation of the skies, or would she hang her head in shame and throw her dream in the pit that would inevitably swallow her as well? Vivianne took a seat outside the captain's quarters, eyeing the shut door as she waited for the captain to make his appearance. Had those woman's words truly shaken her? Had she been caught up in a dream and forgotten to recognize the turmoil the skies brought with them? This sense of dread ate away at her, blinding her senses from the door that slammed itself ajar. There stood a rugged man in a long, draping scarlet red coat, the bright accenting silvers of its buttons were radiant as ever. It was stunning, though Vivianne knew this garment was no longer meant for her in her future. Vivianne shot up to her feet, looking up at the captain like a quivering animal. "C-Capt'n, I need to ask if'n you could spare me on this final voyage..." She put her hands together near her stomach, averting her gaze from the man. Soon, a deep voice grumbled out of the quarters they resided in. "An' what be your reason, Berennel?"


The woman's hand reached up to rub the front of her neck nervously, explaining the conversation that she had just had with the woman on the docks. Maybe the sentiment of fear was shared amongst others, she could find comfort and solace in the fact many had the same fears as her, and the climate of solidarity would help her resolve these qualms. "W-Well, Capt'n, I don't foresee myself headin' off so blindly into a war zone, and had I known that the skies to be so terrifying I ought not to take this job, sir..." She spoke timidly once more, looking up to see the expression she had left the man with. There was a long silence as the man's snarl formed, his face clearly tensed from the words of cowardice that were spoken by a member of his crew.


The captain reached forward, grabbing Vivianne by the woolen cuff around her neck "Berennel, you DARE speak so cowardly in front' o' me... I ought to throw you into the skies myself. I will no' have a single tremblin' mutt on my vessel where my men's lives hang on the line!" The captain barked out, his words chambering a glance from the crewman quartered nearby. There was a feeling of electricity as Vivianne's nerves jolted her body which was ripped forward. She winced her eyes as he yelled down at her. "M-My apologies, Capt'n..." She squeaked out, before the captain dragged her out on board, the curious crewmates that had overheard the scene unfold, following swiftly behind.


The captain, holding still firm on her woolen brace, lifted the young woman up into the air, moving to hold her overboard above the endless abyss between the Freighter and the dock. "Is this what you fear, Berennel?!" He exclaimed for the whole city to overhear. By now many of the city goers watched as the woman was chastised publicly. "You best learn now while you're young, bu' the sky is no place for those who fear it!" He called out, waving her as if to drop her. Vivianne felt her blood run cold, as she watched her body draped over the edge of the vessel. This newly acquired fear seemed to break her morale. The skies were nothing but horror, nothing but the unknown. What would happen if she was to be dropped at this moment? Would she fall forever, be swept by some creature, or just plummet onto the cold hard soil far far below what her mind could even imagine? How long would she fall, she thought, closing her eyes and pleading with the man. Though the woman struggled to speak, she attempted to do her best. "C-Capt'n p-please..." She mumbled out, her voice quivering. The captain, in response, tightened his grip, pulling her back on board, but unrelenting in his grasp. He dragged the woman down from the deck she used to travel on, back onto the studded boarding plank, and then onto the dark wood harbor she had recently found herself staring off to. The man threw her down, a look of disdain on his face as he did so.


"Run around the city like the young mutt ya' are, my ship has no' a place for a cowardice dog like yourself." He spit by her feet, turning to reboard his ship without a second thought. "Light em' up!" He yelled across the harbor, signaling the crew to begin getting the ship ready to depart. Vivianne felt her body loosen as she watched the ship begin to depart without her, now in unknown lands with no one she knew, no place to stay, it was her worst nightmare. Unfamiliar, and surrounded by an abyss which wished to swallow her at a single misstep near its bounds. All the woman could do was fear. Vivianne pulled herself to her knees, and for once, allowed her tough exterior to break in front of the onlooking crowd. The woman began to sniffle, her eyes watering before they began to pour. Her energy drained, she sat there, for all to see like an attraction. It was all she could think to do, for there was nowhere else for her to return.

From within the crowd, a familiar-looking girl looked at Vivianne. Annabelle softly waved to her, clearly not grasping the situation as she had a smile on her face. But as the crowd began to dissipate she came over to Vivianne offering her a hand. “Are you alright?” She’d look up at the departing ship and then back to Vivianne. “…Well, looks like you’re stuck here, like me. So how about this! Why don’t we become friends so that one day we can explore the skies together!” Annabelle pulled her to her feet and without any kind of response began to pull Vivianne into the capital walking towards her home.


- Fin -

 

And after many years of journeying, Annabelle Ciel Helecan found her calling as the quartermaster for the Aecerlian 7th Royal Guard Fleet's expeditionary force. You can pay her a visit anytime at her exclusive dealership in Everspring.



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