Cry of the Phoenix

By Wanda Ernstberger

Father Time awoke in his dark room, and pressed his hands against his face to force the haunting blue eyes from his mind. The blue eyes burned into him with hatred and contempt. Of the rest of his dream, he remembered nothing, as usual. With a sigh, Time rose and knew that soon the order of the day would cause the blue eyes to fade from his mind.

After he washed and dressed, Time entered the main room of his palace. As he raised his arms, 24 candles sparked to life. They cast a ring of light around the circular room. Time’s face reflected off of the floor, the ceiling, and 24 black marble pillars. At the room’s centre, a 12-foot clock was carved into the stone floor. Garnet and obsidian hands pointed to 12 golden numbers.

Time stepped onto the platform at the clock’s centre. He looked into a mirror that was two heads taller than him. He watched every event pass from the Mirror of the Present in front of him, into the Mirror of the Past which sat behind him. By his left existed the Mirror of the Future, whose events remained as black and opaque as itself.

He was Time Blue, the Prince of Continuity. He was the Kiing of Space’s first creation in Aurea, and he wasn’t going to let something as silly as an image in a dream stop him from doing his job.

Time’s anxiety dissipated as he heard his daughter Infinity ascend the 144 black marble stairs to the palace’s only entrance. He listened as her bare feet slapped quickly against the stone – too quickly. His gut twisted as he heard her stumble and smack against the floor. As she cried out, he grounded himself, and fought the urge to run to her.

Time relaxed as Infinity strode into his palace. She crouched at the cold black mantle by the room’s entrance. She reached towards the hearth, and flames jumped from her fingers. Orange reflections danced off of her messy golden mane.

A pheasant-like bird with golden feathers waked to Infinity’s side. Infinity leaned over and stroked the phoenix’s head. All phoenixes eventually burst into flames, and as the old bird died, a new phoenix rose from its ashes. Time remembered when Infinity asked him what happened to a phoenix’s soul when it died. He told her, "It’s the same phoenix, Infinity, with the same soul, only a different body."

Infinity rose and turned to face him. Her electric blue eyes, the same colour as his own, danced as she saw him. "Dad!"

She ran forward, almost tripping on the clock’s red second hand, and threw her arms around Time.

He felt like his slight frame would snap from the force of her embrace. "Aaaagh! Infinity…!"

She raised him off of the ground, and kissed him on the glowing hourglass symbol on his forehead. She set him down gently. "Good morning, Dad."

He smiled, smoothed out the creases in his long black robe, and fixed his upswept black hair. "Good morning, Infinity."

As he looked up at her – she was a full head taller than he was – Time remembered the day that he and the King of Space created her, 52 years ago. As Infinity took her first breath, Time had realized that her power was incredible, boundless. Her energy flowed through everything and connected the universe together.

Aurea changed forever; Time changed forever. Unlike his other children, Infinity visited him in his dark home. She sought knowledge so passionately, that he had decided to train her to control her power. Someday, Infinity hoped to become a member of Aurea’s royal court. Time wanted her to reach her dream. But, if she was ever going to become royalty, she would have to learn responsibility.

He pinned her with a penetrating stare. "What happened to your nose? You ran up the stairs again, didn’t you?"

Infinity looked down at her bare feet. "Yes."

"And what have I always said about running up the stairs? Say it!"

Infinity breathed in and pushed out the breath with a groan. "Walkupthestairs, walkupthestairs, walkupthestairs…"

Time squeezed his fists until his knuckles burned. "No!" He pointed at her. "When you say it like that, it has no meaning! Now say it again, and this time, understand what you’re saying!"

Infinity bit her lip and said quietly, "Walk up the stairs."

Time nodded once, and reached up to touch Infinity’s red and purple sore. She recoiled at his gentle touch.

He ached to soothe and heal her. But only last week she ran up the stairs, tripped, and broke her arm. He had healed her then, but now…

Time breathed in deeply. "You’ll have to heal yourself this time. I won’t heal you. Infinity, you have to learn to be responsible for your actions. Every action has a consequence; you can reflect on that truth as your face heals."

"Okay," she whispered.

Time felt as heavy as one of his palace’s marble pillars. He looked away from her.

"Oh Dad, I brought you this." Infinity reached into the air with her right hand, and a shimmering blue disk appeared. Time couldn’t explain the strange sub-dimension that was attached to his daughter. The blue light opened into a barren landscape which Infinity used to store things. No one knew how large it was; no one ever dared to explore it, and only Infinity could open it.

She reached into the blue light and withdrew a red rose. Time took the flower from her and breathed in its sweet perfume. Its scent always reminded him of his favorite child.

"I’ll get some water for it." Infinity spun around and tripped on the clock’s minute hand. She crashed into a silver stand on which sat a sphere of light.

"Careful!" Time leapt forward and caught the light before it hit the ground. It glowed in his hands like a small golden sun.

"I’m sorry!" Infinity cried, apparently nervous of a second reprimand.

Time sighed, and placed the sphere back on its pedestal. "You should be more careful, Infinity. The Light is very fragile. If it smashed…"

Infinity’s face came within inches of his own. Her eyes burned with an intensity that he rarely saw in anyone. "What would happen?"

"The universe would be broken into different realities, called dimensions. Now, there are only two dimensions – Aurea and Exile."

"I see." Infinity looked at her right hand. "Dad, is my closet a dimension, too?"

Time thought deeply before answering, "Yes."

Infinity nodded, and breathed in sharply. She turned away from him.

Time stepped towards her. "Infinity, is something wrong?"

She said in a low, quiet voice, "I overheard Moderation tell Hope that it’s okay to lie and steal to get what she wants."

A shock ran down Time’s spine. "What?"

Her electric blue eyes pinned him. "I heard him say it."

Infinity’s silhouette was surrounded in flames from the hearth behind her.

"No." Time whispered. "You must’ve misunderstood. Maybe Moderation was testing Hope…"

"Dad! If Hope lies, she’ll be sent to Exile! I don’t want her to be sent away! She’s my friend!" Infinity’s anger melted into a sly smile. "You don’t want to see Hope Blue go to Exile, do you, Dad?"

Time stammered, and felt his face grow hot. "I-I don’t want to see anyone go to Exile."

Infinity’s eyes danced mischievously as she said, "Hope likes you, you know."

Time willed his heart to stop pounding, but it was useless. He turned away so Infinity couldn’t se him turn crimson.

"Oh come on, Dad! I know you like her. So, what’s the problem?"

"I-I’m too busy."

"You don’t have any "Time" for her?"

He smiled in spite of himself.

Infinity put an arm across his shoulder. "Seriously, Dad, you don’t want to be alone forever, do you?"

Time sighed. "You’re impossible, Infinity."

She laughed and said, "Harmony says I am, too. He says it’s because I’m just like you."

Time’s laughter echoed off of the ceiling, the floor, and the marble pillars.

When they stopped laughing, Infinity’s smile evaporated. "So, Dad, what are you going to do about Moderation? He can’t just go around telling people that it’s okay to lie and steal."

Time sighed. "Infinity, I have trusted Moderation’s judgment for almost two millennia…"

She scowled. "Maybe you shouldn’t."

Time took a deep breath. "Moderation is a member of Aurea’s royal court. King Zephyr wouldn’t entrust power like that to someone who is untrustworthy!"

Infinity’s eyes flashed. "But…."

Time stomped his foot. "I don’t want to hear any more!"

Infinity’s red, swollen nostrils flared, and she snorted, "So, you won’t do anything? Then you’re completely useless!" She turned and ran out of the palace.

He yelled after her, "Useless! You’ll find out how useless I am when I don’t train you anymore! How do you like that?"

"Fine!" Infinity shouted as she ran down the palace’s steps.

Time hissed through clenched teeth, "And don’t run down the stairs!"

Infinity disappeared behind the apple trees in Time’s garden.

Time fumed, "Impossible!" He stormed back into the shadowy depths of his home. "Useless! Ha! She didn’t think I was useless when I taught her how to create fire, or shift earth!" He shook his head as he paced. "How could she think Moderation would say such things? She has to be wrong!"

A voice in his mind whispered, "But what if she’s right?"

The clock in his palace’s marble floor chimed six times.

Later that day, the King of Space’s palace brimmed with Aureans as the mid-summer feast began.

Time sat at a long golden table along with the 12 other members of Aurea’s royal court and the King of Space himself. Time looked overhead to see the blue sky through the clear, arched ceiling. Windows surrounded the perimeter of the circular dining room. The white marble floor and walls glowed. Time breathed in the spicy scents from platters of lentils, curried vegetable, flat bread, and fruit.

Yet, he felt as if a fist clenched his stomach, so he couldn’t eat.

Time glanced over at Hope Blue, the Princess of Faith. The invisible hand that squeezed his stomach now seized his heart. She looked up, and her clear blue eyes met his. He felt as if an electric shock jolted through him. His ears burned as he immediately looked down at his hands.

"How could what Infinity said be true?" he thought. "How could a person as strong and intelligent as Hope become unbalanced?"

Time turned and looked at Moderation Blue, and Prince of Balance. With an elegant hand, Moderation swept a lock of red-gold hair away from the glowing scales symbol on his forehead. Many considered Moderation to be the most beautiful being in Aurea, but Time held a different opinion. Moderation smiled down at Infinity, who sat at a table with common Aureans. The large tables which serviced most of Aurea’s population surrounded the single table that was used for the royal court. The royal table was at the centre of the room, raised up on a marble platform.

Moderation spoke, his voice easily carrying over the din of feasting Aureans. "I heard about Infinity’s fight with father this morning. It’s such a shame that he refuses to continue her training. A talent like hers will go to waste, if not disciplined." Moderation smiled over at Infinity, but his aquamarine eyes were as cold as the sea.

Time fought the urge to look at his daughter. He lost.

Infinity’s eyes burned with blue fire as she looked at Moderation.

Since the day she was created, the friction between Moderation and Infinity was like flint and steel.

As Infinity opened her mouth, her lifemate’s voice echoed throughout the room. Harmony Blue, the Prince of Order, said, "Infinity’s power won’t go to waste, brother. Father and she will forgive each other, and her training will continue."

Infinity relaxed and flashed Harmony a smile that could melt a glacier.

Moderation raised his chalice to his perfect pink lips. "We’ll see."

Harmony and Moderation were created together. From the beginning, the pair were inseparable. And their functions in Aurea were also interconnected. Harmony controlled Aurea’s conscience, and Moderation balanced Aurea’s will.

Time shuddered, and thought, "What if everything Infinity said is true? If Moderation has become unbalanced, what will happen to us?"

"It’s mine! Give it back!"

Time started, as everyone did, and he turned to se Hope Blue and Truth Green clutching a golden chalice.

Hope’s crimson hair matched her face as she yelled, "Give it to me! I want it!"

The gauntlet slipped from their grasp, and it crashed against the table. Red wine exploded everywhere.

"Enough!" Zephyr, the King of Space’s voice boomed from the head of the royal table. Today, he took the form of a nine-foot-tall man with shining black hair and earth-brown skin.

The pair silenced. They stared at him.

Zephyr held out his right hand. "Give me the cup."

The King of Space turned the grail over in his hand. "I can tell by the way this chalice feels that it belongs to Truth."

He placed the cup down on the table and turned his gaze to Hope. "Hope Blue, you were trying to steal this cup from Truth. Why did you do this?"

Everyone stared at Hope. She wrung her hands. Red wine stains covered the front of her white dress.

Infinity leapt from her chair at the other side of the room and ran to Hope’s side. "Your Highness, it isn’t entirely Hope’s fault. Moderation told her she could lie and steal to get whatever she wanted!"

Harmony’s ice blue eyes fixed Moderation with a penetrating stare.

Moderation rose slowly, "I said no such thing."

Time saw Infinity squeeze her fists until her knuckles glowed white. "Yes you did! I heard you! Hope, tell everyone what he said to you! Hope?"

Hope had thrown her arms around Infinity’s neck, and she sobbed uncontrollably onto her shoulder.

Time’s stomach twisted as he saw an imperious, insidious smile break across Moderation’s face.

Harmony rose, and walked gracefully over to Infinity, his red silk robes flowing behind him. He placed an arm around her shoulders. "Infinity doesn’t lie. In fact, she’s usually painfully honest. If Infinity said she heard you, then it must be the truth. But I don’t understand why, brother."

Moderation’s eyes froze on his brother. He turned his back to Harmony, and spoke to Zephyr. "Your Highness, Infinity claims I said these heinous things, and I say that I did not. Obviously one of us is lying."

Time saw Moderation turn so that the King could see the blue scales symbol on Moderation’s forehead. "I have served in your court for most of my life. Now, why would I have to lie? Why would Infinity claim such a thing? I think little Infinity has always been jealous of me. I have her Harmony’s love and respect. Father Time trusts my judgment above all of his other children. And I am a member of Aurea’s royal court, a position to which young Infinity aspires. I understand why Infinity attacked me. I embody everything she desires."

"That’s not true!" Infinity screamed. "I know what I heard!"

Moderation laughed lowly, and shook his head. "Oh, Infinity, you’re sinking deeper into your own guilt. Now this matter must be decided. Truth Green is usually called upon to decide these matters, but she’s too upset at the present. Father Time can decide which one of us is lying."

Time stood. Everything became silent. Time looked at Moderation. Moderation smiled confidently. Time looked at Infinity. He turned away from her.

"What do I do?" Time’s mind raged. "Moderation controls the universe’s balance. If he’s lying, then the universe has become unbalanced, and chaos will overtake Aurea. The peace we’ve enjoyed for over ten millennia will come to an end. Everything will change forever.

"But…has Infinity ever lied to me?"

Time’s mind thundered, "No…this can’t be happening! Infinity must be mistaken. All I have to do is agree with Moderation, and everything will be fine. Aurea will still be perfect, and our lives will go on as usual.

"But…has Infinity ever lied to me?"

Time breathed in deeply and faced Moderation. "Infinity does not lie."

Moderation’s eyes turned from ice to fire. "Father!"

"Dad!" Infinity cried, her eyes filling with tears.

Zephyr nodded. "Time’s judgment is sound. Moderation, I know of your attempts to unbalance Aurea. I only allowed you to continue with the hope that you may change. But I cannot condone this. You lied in order to try to send Infinity to Exile. The fate you wished upon her is now your own." Zephyr’s bass voice boomed, "You are no longer a member of my royal court."

Time stared as the King of Space waved his finger and the symbol on Moderation’s forehead disappeared.

Moderation’s eyes flashed, and his hair flew wildly as he swung around and faced Infinity. "You did this to me, Infinity Blue! You took Harmony! You took Father Time! And now you’ve taken my honour! I’ll never forgive you!"

Harmony stepped between Infinity and Moderation. "Brother, you’ve brought this fate upon yourself."

Moderation’s eyes filled with tears. "Even you, brother? Even you?"

He shot a venomous glance at Time. He hissed, "Father, you betrayed me."

Moderation was escorted to Time’s palace. He stood in front of the black Mirror of the Future. The opaque mirror glowed blue, and it opened into the grey world where the exiled existed. Moderation was thrust into the other dimension. His screams were drowned out as Time’s clock rang six times.

After the sixth ring died, Moderation’s voice faded away, "I’ll never forgive you, Infinity Blue! Never!"

Later that night, Time stood before the entrance to his palace and looked up at Aurea’s infinite worlds. The stars shone as brightly as they had the night before, but he knew they would never be the same again.

Time’s thoughts bombarded his brain like a mine field. "How could the King let someone as corrupt as Moderation continue to serve in his court? How would this affect the universe’s will? Why didn’t Zephyr, if he knew of Moderation’s deception, do anything before now to stop him?

"Why didn’t I do anything to stop him?"

Infinity had come to him countless times questioning Moderation’s odd behaviour, and he had always dismissed her.

A light breeze carried the sweet scent of roses. He breathed in deeply and looked down at his garden.

Infinity knelt under a pear tree, and cradled Harmony’s head on her shoulder. She held onto him as he cried for his brother. They stayed in the navy shadows, halloed by the moonlight.

After a long while, Infinity rose and wiped her ivory face with the back of her hand. She walked up the 144 steps to Time’s palace and stood before him. "Dad, thanks for believing me," she said quietly.

Time wanted to speak, but he felt an invisible hand squeeze his throat. He grunted, and nodded his approval.

Infinity continued, "Dad, I’m sorry for all those things I said. You’re not useless."

Time’s eyes burned as he stepped towards her. His hands glowed with a golden light, and he placed them on her face. His energy entered into her, and the red sore on her nose evaporated.

Star-like tears shone in her eyes.

Time smiled. "You’d better go now. It’s late and you’d better get some sleep. I want to see you early tomorrow so we can continue your training."

"Oh, Dad!" Infinity swept Time up into a bear hug and squeezed him so hard, he felt like his skeleton would shatter.

A voice thundered above them, "Infinity Blue!"

Infinity dropped Time. He staggered backward. "Moderation! What do you want?"

"I? I want nothing! Aurea, however, that’s another point altogether! I control the will of everything! I will now unbalance the universe, so it will be ruled by its desires!"

"Moderation! Stop this at once!" Time demanded.

Moderation laughed. "You have no more power over me, father. I will make the universe fear you, so they will never learn your lessons!"

Harmony appeared by Infinity’s side. "Brother, please don’t do this!"

Moderation sneered, "Oh, my dear brother. Your job is finished. Aurea will no longer listen to its conscience, and order will crumble into chaos."

Moderation’s voice faded from their minds.

Time rushed into his palace and ran to the Light. The golden ball’s radiance began to flicker and fade. A tiny black spot appeared on its surface, and the blemish grew, swallowing its golden glow.

Harmony and Infinity also crowded around the Light.

"How is he doing this?" Harmony cried. "He should have lost his power when he entered Exile! How are we going to stop him?"

Infinity breathed in deeply. "We have to destroy Moderation."

"We can’t." Time shook his head and said, "If we destroy him, we destroy the will of everything, including the will to live."

The darkness grew over the Light like a cancer.

Time gripped the silver pedestal and threw it to the ground. The Light smashed into thousands of glowing shards.

Infinity gasped. "Dad!"

Time stared at the floor. "This will stop him from destroying everything. But now the universe is broken. Everything is separated into thousands of realities."

Infinity nodded. "Moderation won’t be able to cross the barrier from one dimension to another. He’ll be trapped in one reality."

"Yes." Time said quietly, his eyes never leaving the glowing remnants of the Light. "He’ll be trapped in one dimension, and the others will be safe."

The pieces of broken Light reflected off of the floor, the ceiling, the walls, and the 24 black marble pillars. One shard flickered and faded to black.

"Look!" Infinity pointed to it. "That dimension’s been corrupted!"

A wave of darkness passed over the sea of glittering shards, turning them opaque against the black marble floor. The darkness swept across each dimension, until only one golden glowing piece remained.

Moderation’s laughter echoed throughout Time’s palace. His silhouette appeared in the Mirror of the Future.

Time shuddered as Moderation’s right hand punched through the blue barrier. Moderation gloated. "Here I am! And you can’t stop me! I’ve unbalanced everything but my former home! You didn’t think I’d be stopped by all those dimensions, did you? I learned how to cross the barriers between dimensions only this morning! But before I corrupt Aurea, I’m going to destroy you, Infinity Blue!"

Moderation’s left hand broke free.

"Get out of here, Infinity!" Harmony rushed in front of her.

Moderation’s legs stepped through the mirror.

A sharp cry rang out. Time swung around to see a phoenix burning. As the old bird turned to ashes, a new bird rose in its place.

Time saw the phoenix’s flames reflected in Infinity’s eyes.

Moderation broke through the mirror. The last shard of Light flickered.

Time rose his arms, and a gale-force wind erupted. Moderation was pushed back against the Mirror of the Future. He gripped onto it frame, and pulled himself forward.

Moderation raised his hand, and threw a white lightening bolt at Time. A red-hot pain burst behind Time’s eyes as it struck him. He fell, and his head smacked against the marble floor. Infinity and Harmony called his name.

Moderation hovered over him, a victorious smile on his face.

Time saw the last piece of Light fade.

"Goodbye, father." Moderation sneered.

"Dad!" Infinity pushed past Harmony. She ran to Moderation. She threw her arms around him. He smirked at her.

She whispered lowly, "Close the circle."

Infinity burst into flames. Moderation screamed. She opened the blue disk by her right hand, and thrust Moderation’s burning body into it. Her own body continued to burn.

Horrified, Time froze. Harmony screamed her name.

As she died, the glowing blue symbol for Infinity appeared on her forehead.

Time’s clock rang six times.

When the sixth ring faded, all that was left of Infinity Blue were ashes blowing into the Mirror of the Future.

All day Time knelt unmoving before the pile of Infinity’s ashes. He held what was left of the Light in his right hand, and in his left, he clutched the rose Infinity had given to him the day before.

"Oh Infinity," Time thought, "I’m sorry for not taking you seriously. I was the irresponsible one. I was so busy nagging you about little things, I completely ignored the big issues."

Harmony had been taken home hours ago. Time was alone, so alone…

Father Time looked up into the Mirror of the Future, and its opaque blackness shifted to reveal his reflection. His own blue eyes burned into him with hate and contempt. He sat frozen, staring into the depths of his own loathing. He shivered as he thought, "It’s all my fault. There is no way to undo what I have done."

He felt a pair of warm hands rest on his shoulders. He looked up to see Hope Blue. Her eyes were filled with agony. "I’m sorry. It’s all my fault. I’ll never forgive myself."

"It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. Infinity is dead."

Infinity is not dead," said a voice behind them. Zephyr stepped out of the shadows.

"How can you say that?" Time bellowed. He dropped the rose and picked up a handful of Infinity’s ashes. "Here! This is all that’s left of my daughter Infinity!"

"Infinity’s body is dead, but her soul still lives. When she burned, she threw Moderation into the dimension that she carried with her. As her body died, the porthole was sealed, so that Moderation could not escape. Yet, although she has died, Infinity’s soul has been reborn into a new body."

"Infinity is alive?" Time felt the darkness lift from his heart. "Where is she?"

Zephyr motioned to the infinite shards of Light that lay on the floor.

Time looked into the Mirror of the Future. "Is Moderation alive?"


"How could you allow him to continue to serve you in your royal court if you knew he was corrupt?"

Zephyr sighed. He explained lowly, his bass voice echoing through the palace. "Moderation was balanced once, but he became consumed by his own desire for power and glory. I always hoped he would change back into the son I once created, but he did not. So, I created someone with the power to stop him—Infinity Blue, the Princess of Light. She watched him, questioned him, and stopped him from unbalancing our home. And someday, she will rebalance the universe."

Time thought for a long moment. "If Moderation finds out that Infinity is alive…can he escape?"

"Anything is possible."

Time picked up the rose that lay by Infinity’s ashes. "I don’t want her to face him alone." He breathed in the rose’s perfume. "I want to go to her."

Zephyr said, "Step into the Mirror of the Future, and you too will be reborn."

Time nodded and stepped towards the mirror. He felt a warm hand touch his shoulder. He turned to se Hope Blue. She held out her hand, and he took it in his.

They walked into the Mirror of the Future together.

The End

Copyright © 2002 by Wanda Ernstberger

Bio:"I’ve recently returned to Toronto, Canada from Taiwan. I taught English, and studied Chinese over the past year. Although I’d like to go travelling again, my first love is writing. I’ve been writing for more than half of my life. Someday I hope to incorporate the experiences I’ve had into my stories."



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