Aetolian Game News
Fragments of Time, Part X: Recollections
Written by: Anonymous
Date: Sunday, December 12th, 2021
Addressed to: Everyone
At the confluence, lightning surged about the device in brilliant arcs, more intense and lucid than ever before. Beside it stood Copperhead of the Third Spoke, chrome-expression frozen in delighted observation. While more and more filed into Masilia, the Cogger counted down the cycles until the moment of full locality, and its arrival caused reality to splinter as time's maddened convulsions caused three displaced memories to spill forth in temporal recollection. Though the device had played jumbled scenes in fragmented orders for over a year, these three alone were rendered and subsequently recorded in perfect clarity:
~ ~ ~
It was at Creation's rosy dawn that you became aware of your consciousness, emerging spontaneously alongside your siblings. Seven of you there were, the first life upon the Prime. Then, it was an unfathomable expanse, filled with nothing but raw, untamed magic that had yet to form into the familiar planetoid. You were not the first to form; you know this. That title was claimed by your prideful sister, her winged body already soaring amidst the magic when first your eyes opened and looked upon that vast unknowable - that well of puissance waiting to be drawn. It was no surprise that you would find yourself with others. Magic was power. And power oft demanded sentience.
It was the sustenance of your kind, and upon it did you allow your gluttonous appetite to feast, and to feast, and to feast. Food was both plentiful and delectable, and your appetite knew no bounds. And thus you grew and kept growing, your size outstripping the others by measures. The others were a mystery to you, contented as they were to devour only their fill and drift upon the aether. As the planet began to form, you noted with disdain your slothful brother, the smallest and last to emerge already asleep upon its burgeoning, barely-tangible surface.
Magic thins about the newformed world as the planet grows larger and yet larger still: even larger than your impressive size. Weariness begins to seep into your body and bones; there is no longer food sufficient to sustain your prodigious, untenable appetite. No longer can your tired wings carry your weight. You descend from your final flight and settle upon the planet, now near-bereft of that which once sustained you, fed you, filled you. Beneath the terminus of your landing, the shell of the planet cracks like a world egg, its surface wrought into tectonic plates that shift, spewing lava from far beneath the ground.
Sleep takes you in its languorous embrace. You cannot wake. There is no longer fuel to stir you from your slumber. You cannot wake. And thus you dream, a somnolent reverie of millennia and ages countless, time passing with insouciant inevitability around you. Dirt and stone form upon your still body, trees and plant life growing, ecosystems taking shape as nature stakes its claim.
You cannot wake.
~ ~ ~
Thud-thud-thud. The footfalls of leather boots against the ground echoes throughout the vaunted steel halls of Drakkenmount as a crimson-veiled figure navigates the military district of the great city's central layer. Onwards she paces, until she comes to an abrupt and rigid halt, her destination reached. Before the secure entrance to a large vault she stands, presenting identification before the heavy doors - reinforced beyond imagining - commence their inexorable grind open to permit her ingress.
Strange weaponry and artifacts aplenty sit within the chamber, meticulously organised and catalogued upon the shelves filling the guarded space. She approaches the quartermaster without fear or trepidation, slamming her orders down onto his desk. The quartermaster, a Vierkathi, peruses the orders with brows raised yet remains silent for the long moments spent in consideration. A curt nod before he disappears amidst the shelves to retrieve the items requisitioned.
Time passes; she isn't sure how long the Vierkathi has been gone. When he returns, his arms are laden with a strange, barreled weapon of metal in one hand and a conch shell in the others. Xaseira accepts the provisions with her own curt nod, slipping on the accompanying belt and sliding the weapon into the sheath at her side. "Class II restricted equipment and artifact LS302, moniker: conch of Bjeornraed," declares the quartermaster in the Albedi tongue. As he checks off the items in his ledger, Xaseira pricks a finger, pressing it into the book as a crude signature before turning away to depart the vault.
The scene shifts, momentarily silence falling away with the rise of a brisk, maritime wind. Vision clears and Xaseira is aboard her ship, the Midnight Serpent, the vessel's first officer beside her in the captain's quarters. Their conversation is jovial and friendly, each speaking in tones bespeaking a familiarity and trust of years spent working together.
They discuss the benighted savages and debate over specific battle plans. They celebrate the victory in Enorian, and mourn the death of the lost agent at the docks. Vision flickers around the figures, scattered memory moving faster than real time permits. Joviality crumbles more with each subsequent frozen scene, the twin figures desperately attempting to salvage their thwarted assignment. Missives lay strewn across the captain's desk, reports and memoranda detailing battles lost and coastal ports surrendered in the task.
Darkness whirls into existence, shrouding the vision from sight. Ragged sobs permeate the veil before shadows dissipate, parting to reveal the final scene: Xaseira stands alone within her quarters, the insignia of her companion clasped tightly in her hand. In solitude she grieves before a booming clang of bells wakes her from her mournful repose. Taking up arms for the final time, she strides out of her cabin, cries of "Dawnbreaker" meeting her emergence above decks.
~ ~ ~
Three figures stand apart from each other, upon a high-set spill of silvery essence laid above the all-colourful gardens of creation. The sky is a mercurial churn of distant colour, gathered thick as though in premonition of a coming, cosmic storm. Tension presides, infusing the air with a wan, despondent pall. They are Gods - threefold - two plus One - and they grieve.
Though each in Their own right exudes divine might and authority, the Twins are younger and less restrained, absent the melancholy of strife's jaded centuries. Lanos, a pale and peregrine presence in His youth, is the first to speak, voice unstable with heated emotion as He addresses the Celestine.
The God of Truth gazes upon His Father, youthful expression a confusion of emotions. Uncertainty, underscored by His obedient silence. His hands shake at His sides.
"...and I will not destroy Her," declares Varyan, a shudder running through Him - perhaps of guilt, perhaps of repulsion, the way His face contorts. "I have already cast aside one daughter, this day. I will not suffer the loss of another - the fault of Her undoing does not lie with Her..."
Sevren, God of Reason steps forward, then, His own protest sharpened by grief. "I do not like this either, Brother," He begins, eyeing Lanos with genuine concern. "But Our Father's theory is sound. Her insanity stems from the conflict between who She was and what She has become now."
The Lord of Truth shakes His head adamantly, the timbre of His voice rising. "It goes too far," He protests, speaking forth by force of bravery and effort. "We cannot allow sentimentality to rule Us, Father. Our Jakrasul is gone. She will /never/ return." His eyes, as pale as His Father's in this time, glow with a confusion of emotion - ferocity, grief - bordered in by the glint of ill-quelled tears. Consternation is engraved in palpable lines across His features. "If You will not destroy Her, then..." At this, Lanos blinks once, steeling Himself for what He is about to say. "Then let the task fall to Me."
The God of Reason draws a ragged, anguished breath, staring at His Brother, unable to hold His expression of heartbreak at bay. "Lanos..." He begins. "...please." His voice threatens to crack beneath His pain, yet He presses on. "I cannot bear seeing You like this. If the burden is too much, let Me-" He falters momentarily, the weight of sorrow heavy on His shoulders, and grief burns gelid in His eyes. "Let Me take the burden. I will become the sole bearer of this hidden truth, if it spares You this pain." He gestures at Varyan, whose face - as flat as alabaster stone - remains unreadable. "Allow Father to take Your memory, too."
At this, the Celestine's blank countenance yields, shaping into a frown. The fullness of the expression is such that it bespeaks His exhaustion, so utter as to rob Him of His gravitas. "No." He states plainly, fatigue tinging His voice even with the single belaboured word. "You shall both safeguard My Creation in My absence." Authority reasserts itself in Varyan's deepening voice, His figure becoming more animate as He gestures to His Twin sons. "Jakrasul is not the only reason I must do this."
"There must be another way," speaks Lanos, as yet insistent. He looks first to Sevren, unbowed and adamant in the face of His Father's disapproval, and then to Varyan Himself, cold silver encircling the Celestine's coruscating essence. His voice is soft, shy after the initial rebuke, but He speaks nevertheless. "This plan... it cannot last. You must know that, both of You..."
"None can know of the prisons, lest disaster strike again!" These words hang in the air as if commanding a life of their own, the ominous threat and portent conspiring to deepen the tension. Lanos opens His mouth to argue, His own expression etched with anger and pique, but Varyan quells His imminent rebuttal with one of His own. "My time is running short, Lanos. I do not have the luxury of indulging Your arguments."
The God of Reason's throat is quivering, tense, and in an instant where He manages to catch His Father's eye, He gives a minute shake of His head, jaw tight with the unspoken disagreement.
"...yet I recognise the pain You suffer for it." The Celestine's tone softens, yet the authoritative resonance of a decisive Father remains pronounced. He considers for several long moments, the Twins exchanging glances of anticipation, and then addresses Lanos: "Ask of Me a boon, My Son, that I may alleviate Your suffering."
Lanos need not even think upon the matter before responding. "I would ask this of You, My Father: grant the mortals their own will, the agency to choose their own way. Set them free."
Grief and sorrow melt from Sevren as He rounds upon His brother, indignation burgeoning in the depths of His eyes to paint His face in outrage. "Lanos, do You know what You ask for? They cannot have free will. It will be the end of them! Father, You must know this is a terrible idea. Please, Lanos, ask Him for something else...!" He looks to the Truth God hopefully, but Lanos returns aught but an implacable stare.
Cold anger ignites within Varyan, the Celestine, as He asks, "You would ask this of Me, Lanos? After what Lurli has done? To You? To all of Us?!" He lifts His hands to His eyes, making a mock gesture of tearing them out even as His own roll in derision. A stain of red scores the sky at His back, itself a suggestion of blood. An echo of screaming rings in the red, primeval sky, a song of creation summoned forth by Their Sister's invocation.
In spite of this ruddy rage, however, the God of Truth stands resilient, undaunted by His Father's retort. Even His Twin has shied away the slightest bit, eyes deferentially lowered as though in anticipation of the Celestine's coming response.
"...very well!" scoffs Varyan, the sanguine hue melting from the air as suddenly as He had invoked its dreadful stain. "It shall be as You ask, and much good may it do You!" Sevren moves to object but it is in vain as iridescent light, sublime and magnificently white, surrounds the Celestine suddenly.
With outstretched hands He works, cradling Creation entire in the grasp of its Creator, painstakingly drawing memory from mortal and Immortal alike. Strands of history and time flow into His hands as though threads in a loom woven by ineffable will. His ten fingers become many, His hands a clever multiplicity through which the threads of existence effortlessly pass. All the light of the world seems to dim in sombre acknowledgement of that which it has lost, amassed memory coalescing into Varyan's grip.
While Lanos and Sevren - the Twins, Truth and Reason - look on, They alone unaffected, the Celestine fashions a large silver sphere, blinding in its effulgent, brilliant intensity. He pours memory into it, forming what would be a veritable source of knowledge without peer - before casting it into the heavens. There it dwells as the Celestial Star, and the Creator follows in its wake, drawn upward at an unstoppable speed like lightning as soon struck and retreated, lost to the sky's vast infinity.
Scarcely has Varyan departed than the Twin Gods clash anew, Sevren's rage turned directly upon Lanos. "What have You /done/? Do You even know?" He paces, agitated and furious. "You've doomed them. Condemned them to a fate they cannot ever hope to avoid. Because of You-" At this, Reason jabs a finger accusingly towards Truth. "They will never again know peace. Never again be content with what they have. /You/ have seen to this!"
"There will be sorrow, Brother. This We know." Lanos begins cautiously, His earlier grief softened under the boon of the Celestine. "But loss and struggle will only make them seek higher heights, strive for greater existence than that which /We/ have ordained-"
A litany of curses and protests erupts from Sevren in retaliation, but the Truth God weathers the storm of invective without falter. He does not speak, but waits instead for Reason to exhaust Himself, to stand silent and stultified, gazing upon His Brother with a mixture of grief, exhaustion - and most of all, wounded betrayal.
"Better free than forced to be happy," says Lanos at last, lifting a finger to His eye and drawing it away in an echo of His Father's motion. His sad smile is the last His Brother sees as He turns, striding away into the multiplicitous fog of creation.
Sevren simply stands there, grim-faced and trembling, until He, too, fades, as fleeting and insubstantial as mist.
~ ~ ~
Reality trembles as You reassert the timestream, shifting it pastwards many cycles to that first moment of awareness of the anomaly. A tremor in the ley. A place in the shadow of the world. Like Us, but not Us. [Urokos 341605, Thaos 100581, Kalchos -105014, Nenos -810796, Breinos 298925, Skeisos 708548, Leidos 467589]. The expected results diverge from the reality sprawling before You. There is a flaw in Your calculations.
Time moves futureward at a painfully slow crawl as You continue Your distant surveillance. Not the Other of Oblivion as You first feared; Your error margin was not that large. Yet something about that silver Creator still leaves you uneasy. You discard the feeling immediately; there was no room for such in Your calculations. Your now imperfect calculations.
Driven by the insatiable need for further data and examination, You observe the lives of these strange mortals and their Gods play out under the guidance of their Creator. Their existence is content, each soul properly ordered, catalogued, and assigned their duties at birth. The resulting force upon the Manifold is minuscule - nigh-irrelevant. You register Your disapproval briefly, immediately expunging the feeling in favour of continued analysis.
You would blink, had You eyes to do so. Weighing variable and sum upon Your ineffable scale, a thousand thousand calculations spin through Your vast, unfettered mind. The results remain unclear. This perturbs You. And thus You choose action - intervention - vouchsafing this reality as the subsequent future that You may continue Your work.
Reality interfaces with the Manifold in a different manner within their sphere of influence. You store this data, adding it to the inestimable variables around which Your theorems design. You prepare for what comes. They remain unaware that they are discovered. We - They - are coming for Them - and They do not know. You will create for them the time they need to defend. You prolong Their existence beyond what Their agency allows, and You return to work.
Folding in on itself, the aeonic confluence shatters in a panoply of electric-charged light, brilliantine forks of energy roused in a moment of sublime locality alignment. Whirling into a vortex composed of time, life, memory, past, present, and future writ upon the manifold workings of both maker -and- Manifold, the device devours itself and disappears, leaving spots of sparkling stars flickering in the corners of your eyes.
~ ~ ~
As this final vista of revelation fell silent, the confluence began to fold in on itself before shattering in a panoply of electric-charged light, brilliantine forks of energy roused in a moment of sublime locality alignment.
It whirled into a vortex composed of time, life, memory, past, present, and future writ upon the manifold workings of both maker -and- Manifold, and then devoured itself and disappeared, spots of starlight left behind in the eyes of those who bore witness.
Joy sang within Copperhead then, and the Cogger declared its directive complete. Preparing itself for travel with liberal splashes of oil and conducting a final routine maintenance check, it departed from Masilia to parts unknown, eager to begin its next assignment.
Penned by my hand on Gosday, the 6th of Midsummer, in the year 499 MA.
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