The sunset mixed like living paint with the golden yellow stone of the ancient opera building, turning it a fiery orange. It stood proud and tall, a building of strong yellow stone in the centre of a city of dull grey slate. A city gouged with little canals and larger rivers as if some strange and gruesome whip had, in a distant past, wounded land and city so that it bled stinking dark waters.
Lining the roof of the magnificent house of music and drama stood six grey stone statues. Six heroes of the city, carved more then a thousand years before when the opera house had been constructed.
Time had now forgotten the great and willing labour that had moved the yellow stones from their birthplace far away. They had come down rushing rivers and across the vast ocean. But the stones remembered.
Time had now forgotten the great cheering crowd that was a city gathered at the unveiling of the new opera house that would be the heart and blood of the city for over seven hundred years to come. But the great wide stone steps and the lions that guarded them remembered.
Time had now forgotten the people who were represented in the magnificent stone statues the looked out over the city from the roof of the opera house. It had even worn away at the names carved beneath them, which were too high up for the people to see from the street below. But the statues themselves remembered.
And although time had now forgotten the man who’s statue stood on the far left corner the statue knew it’s name: Falcolm Radbridge. The figure was carved in bold and confident pose; one hand resting firmly on its hip, the other gesturing dramatically across the wide city to the ocean. A wide brimmed had that had lost most of its delicate stone feathers to the weather shadowed a finely chiseled handsome, middle aged face with a strong nose, slightly unruly mustache and beard and large smiling eyes. It was a face that had once been well known and loved in this city. The hat had also hosted more than a thousand generations of pidgins and had only managed to protect the face from the white rain they left behind. The statue wore a flamboyant, wide cuffed, long-tailed coat, a fine slender sword and large knee boots. Falcolm Radbridge had been a poet, play-write, politician and public hero in his day. And although the people didn’t know it, he had also been a protector of the city.
But despite it’s glory, the opera house stood empty and in disrepair. The doors and windows were boarded up and some of the statues were damaged. One of the middle figures was missing a hand, and the statue on the right corner had no head. Time had forgotten how this had happened—if it had been removed by an angry mob rioting in the streets below, or if a gang of mischievous boys had pluck it down as a prank, or if a particularly violent storm had stolen the head for its own. Whatever had happened, the statue only could remember, but it had not the voice to tell. This statue was of a women. Her figure was slender by any description and her body would not have been described as beautiful unless one likened it to a narrow young willow. She wore a fabulous dress that folded about her feet, hiding them from wind and rain. Her long, delicate arms were outstretch and her hand’s open as if she were giving herself to the city. And perhaps she had—as her head was now gone and her name erased.
The last people passed by on the street below and somewhere a woman was singing. Her voice was pure and strong, though she did not sing loud. She could not have known that her ancestor had once filled the opera house with a song so great and wonderful that people had come from kingdoms away to listen to her sing. Then the song from the tavern stopped abruptly. It was followed moments later by the yowl of a cat.
At that yowl a strange thing happened: Falcolm Radbridge’s eyes suddenly flashed blue. A slow breath lifted lungs that were now, in the turning of an instant, no longer stone. His eyes blinked and looked around. But other than this he did not move. He longed to turn his head and look across at the statues beside him, but he did not move. Instead he waited.
Waited as the sun sunk slowly in pools of blood in the ocean and waited while the sky turned from blue to black and the first stars appeared. Then, at last, when all was silent in the city, but for the occasional bark of a dog or wail of a child, he turned. Feet, agile despite their thousand years of stillness, carried the man softly an eagerly across the roof to the far right corner. There at the sight of the headless statue of a woman, Falcolm fell to his knees as if struck by a blow and let out a wail of grief so loud that it shook bits of stone from the side of the opera house and send them tumbling to the street blow. Children stirred in their sleep, and an old man closed his window, but no one searched out the source of this cry. Wails such as this were not uncommon in the city these days.
He went to the woman and clutched one of her cold stone hands, darkening it with big tears. As the statue was broken, so was this man broken. This powerful man with a mind more keen than three youth's minds and a will as strong as steel—this hero who had been woken, now, at a time of great need, was broken. Broken before he even learned who his enemy was. Broken by the woman he loved more than life itself. The woman whom time had destroyed and taken from him.
But as the night slowly passed and grew old Falcolm’s grief turned gradually into grim resolve. There was a chance that her head was somewhere intact, and that if she were repaired, she might return to life. And if there was that chance, no matter how slim it was, he resolved to make it happen—to find the stone head and bring it back. His mission to save this world, this future of his beloved city would have to wait. They had agreed, he and his wife Marina, that they would do this together. And he would do nothing until she was safe in his arms again—warm, alive, and breathing.
The beautiful memory of her small, delicate lips against his own, and her slender frame wrapped in his arms was still fresh in his mind, for to him, it had only been hours since their last embrace before he had turned them into stone a thousand years before on the eve of the opening of the opera house.
With that memory firmly forced in his mind, but only partly blocking out the terrible image of her now broken, still, grey form, he rose painfully to his feet and found his way down off the opera house and onto the dark street below.