Shall Wear No Crown: Pt. 2
The heat emanating from the Dragon was near unbearable by any normal person’s standard. The very essence of the statue maintained the fire of the industries used to create every piece used. Aegon reveled in the warmth and closed his eyes for a moment. It seemed to him that sentiment was continuously getting the better of him though he would need nerves wrought with steel for the coming transition.
He could feel the folded papers on the inside of his tunic. Maegor had returned the documents as promised though not without more words. ‘I am not running. You have no idea the difficulty in this decision,’ he told him. No words were ever truer and would echo in eternity. ‘I have been vilified for what we have tried to accomplish, my son. It is time for me to pursue the most important goal. Remember our true purpose for this dynasty is yours now and so is the duty to your peers throughout the allied city-states, nations, and kingdoms.’ Aegon’s lips moved as though reciting the conversation as it played in his mind.
His eyes opened, reddish purple gems glaring upward at the sky. It was not necessary to speak or make any gestures. His intention was conveyed by thought alone to someone greater than himself. The lightning was blinding white but invaded no senses past the change of color. There was no heat nor was there pain or remission of sight. For a split second he knew he was between worlds, riding Asgardian magic that was all too familiar. It reminded him of her again, among the others in a world he feared he would never see again. The Time-Lost Gate was his only reprieve from the pain of a lost love but it only softened the blow. She would never be there when he visited.
His feet felt solid ground again and the landscape became a canvas of lush pastels. The world beneath him was filled with the greenery of forests and flowers. It was a sight to behold and a welcome change to his usual surroundings that felt very industrial. It was then he realized that he was on a small island above the world below, not just elevated on a mountain or hillside. Aegon turned to see a humble but beautiful home and a familiar face.
“Well met, old friend!” He stepped toward the Warden with a smile.
“Well met indeed!” said Cryptite. The two of them shook hands. The man before Aegon was not as he remembered the last time they were together. Despite that he presented a smile he seemed more worn, more tired. It did not take away from his spirit though.
“I’m glad you accepted the invitation, Aegon. It seems you’ve been causing quite a stir with the rest of the realm.” The Targaryen only nodded with a diminishing grin at the mention.
“It has been troubling to see even from the position that we hold. We’re made to be monsters for what we try to achieve, no matter our attempts to better things for the denizens of our world.” Cryptite only nodded as they approached a couple of chairs and each claimed one. Aegon glanced at the small table between them, trying to keep his apparent curiosity at bay for the garment sitting there.
His attention was drawn quickly to the architecture and craftsmanship of the small home. It was something of a privilege to see the constructs of an Asgardian, especially its founder. However, it differed from all he knew when he visited so long ago. The thought of Asgard only provoked another moment of remorse. I should have stayed. I should have been there for her. Cryptite snapped him back to reality before it could get any worse.
“Regardless of the dealings and conflict within this world, you and I both know there are bigger concerns. The fact that you have come shows me that you realize that…. Freyja has spoken with me about your efforts. She tells me of Midgard and the Gods’ aid in bringing it to fruition.” A nod was given in reply.
“It is just a small step toward the efforts to better this world and ultimately toward ensuring we do not have another conflict like that which you had to endure.” The mention of Freyja tugged at the heartstrings again. What would she say if they were to speak again after so long? Would she find him unfit to be the father of her grandchild?
Cryptite’s smile had faded and Aegon could see it was only given out of courtesy to greet him. The internal conflict felt petty now. His brow had furrowed slightly and the corners of his mouth fell into a curt frown. The pain behind his gaze gave way to a story most would never know. Cryptite carried the weight of the world solely on his shoulders for a long time. It wasn’t until then that he realized the Warden was not wearing the same garment he normally did.
“You have no doubt continued to monitor the Artifact’s weakened state…” Cryptite started, “and we have discussed what could be causing it. That being said, you can also see that I am not as spry as I was before I became a conduit…”
The memory of Cryptite losing control of himself after reading from the Ancients’ text was difficult to relive. His voice had been almost ethereal with shouts of ‘Go Forth!’ while speaking of things he had never known before.
“I don’t believe anyone who was there could forget.” The Targaryen hesitated a moment to think about what the man was getting at. “I hope you’re not going to tell me your life is in danger because of the connection to the Artifact.” The thought was not foreign but it only concerned the aging King because it was still the life of an old friend.
Cryptite stood and walked to the other side of the deck they sat upon. He stood behind his guest while peering out into the clouds and farther down into world beneath them.
“No, my life is not in danger anymore…but the world may be.”
His words were puzzling but only enough to tell a tale that no one wished to speak of. This was a fear that had been lingering for a while; it was a fear since Cryptite’s episode if he were being honest with himself. The situation consumed him, provoking a stream of thought of how they might be in danger and how it could be fixed. The most prominent concern hit him like a boot to the stomach though. He reached forward to take the garment on the table into his hands. The material was foreign, strong. It seemed to have its own aura, a life within that pulled at him.
“We’re unprotected…” Aegon whispered. He stood and turned to walk over to where Cryptite was. “This is not something you can give…nor is anyone worthy…”
“No…but I have a feeling someone will try, even if it cost them their life.” Cryptite did not even turn to glance at him. The Targaryen stepped forward a few paces to get a better look at the landscape below. The voice of his old friend enveloped him.
“There must always be a Warden.”
A moment of silence followed as Aegon only stared below. He knew this was not something that was given to anyone…only a mantle one could take of their own free will. Everything flashed before his eyes. It was as proverbial as the moment when someone’s life was extinguished. The far reaches of his memory showed her face, the silhouette of Asgard on the horizon, his son as a baby, each new world meeting him with more trials… He saw the aftermath of Preksak, the destruction of the blight, the deaths and suffering of everyone unable to defend themselves through these things. It would be the end of his era among the people. It was bittersweet to make such a decision.
“The weight of such a burden must be mine…” Aegon turned to face his friend once more. He was unsure whether the look on Cryptite’s face was that of relief or sadness. It quickly became apparent that his attention was being drawn elsewhere. His eyes cut quickly to the West as he took a few steps. It was as though someone had cried out for him.
“I am sorry, Aegon, but this meeting must be cut short.” Aegon felt a hand rest on his shoulder and everything began fading into a blinding white light once more. Cryptite faded before his very eyes.
“Wait! What should I do ne---”
His words were cut off before the sentence could escape his mouth. He was nowhere, and everywhere, if for nothing but that moment. The world passed through him and he through it. With a simple blink, he stood in Dragonstone once more. His hands felt lighter, empty. The garment was gone…only it wasn’t. It clung to his frame now, replacing the regal tunic and chain with a humble uniform the color of the land. The crown that once rested upon his head was gone and his hair hung loosely, playing at his periphery.The ethereal sound of Cryptite’s voice invaded his mind once more.
“Go forth, old friend. May the Artifact’s light guide you.”