The surge of power that extended from Zen’s hand before resonated with the top of the pillar. My mind was afire with ifs, concerns of the cause, questions and queries. Alpha was looking around, charting for potential threats. Zen himself seemed rather stoic. Well, for him. The tension in the air grew. I could do little but laugh. Zen looked at me. “Now you’re getting it!” he shouted above the noise.
“The fool and the one who follows him!” Alpha shouted at us.
From above the preternatural corpses found their way through the barrier. They jumped down around us, hissing, foaming, and howling high. The shaking intensified, and it seemed as though the floor of the chamber began lowering. I marked the corpses. The more of them there were the lower the floor descended.
“Looks like this place isn’t stable” Alpha said.
“No need to worry. We won’t be here long. Hey Garner.” Zen pointed down. I looked down, then let my eyes adjust. Whatever we were going toward was big.
The corpses kept piling, but the floor stopped dropping.
“I think this is our chance to take these out.”
Zen lowered his hand and came between Alpha and I. “Not just yet” Zen replied. “No point in exhausting ourselves before we get to the bottom.”
I looked at him questioningly. “Why wait? What could possibly go wrong?”
Alpha looked at me in somewhat mocking horror. “If cliches hold true, you should not have said that.”
Zen had pinched the bridge of his nose. “He’s book smart. He’ll learn the rest” he muttered to himself.
The floor beneath us gave out, and we fell into a large white space. A cobalt icon was set into the top of the pillar. As we fell Zen kept a watchful eye on it. He seemed to not even notice the floor giving way and stood as if on solid ground, his rotation matching that of the icon. At first Alpha seemed to be scrabbling for grounding and adhering to the freefall as I was, but after we fixed our centering on Zen we steadied.
The corpses tried to run to no avail. Some attempted to make their way to us but had no footing to speak of.
“At least none of them fly” I thought to aloud. Zen kept his eye on the pillar, but hid a laugh. Fantastic. I was thinking in Zen. Soon the top of the pillar was facing us. On it were printed more characters I could not read. It took me a while to realize that the corpses were no longer near us. I glanced down. If there had been any less an absence of color I would not have realized they were piling up well below us. They were far enough away that I had to stain to hear the breaking of bones as they landed against each other. Somehow Zen, Alpha, and myself were suspended in midair, along with the pillar.
“Foolish children” resounded a disembodied voice. “Have I not said many times that it was folly to clamber about the Honor Hall. You would not so carelessly disregard me without cause…” The voice hesitated. As the last echoes of its words faded I could tell that I was not hearing words I knew. I heard the voice and held some understanding of it in my mind. “You did not see the Hall as I had left it…” An unseen force scored the pillar and working inward separated the ornament from the stone. Sounds of stones grinding against bone grated against my ears. Was something… gnawing? The ornament darted back and forth. Zen followed it with his eyes very carefully. His body remained still, but I could not tell if it was with purpose or not.
“…and here is the reason.” The certainty of being watched flooded over me. “What a curious thing…” I heard a breath drawn in. “Hm… that peculiar tang… living creatures are here? Oh my… what rarity!” I felt a breeze overcome me. “A native Mokshan… oh my, that brings back memories. What a loamy scent as well. How exotic.”
I looked at Zen and mouthed ‘Did it just smell me?’ He only nodded.
An invisible finger tossed about Alpha’s hair. She made a grab for it but apparently the source was intangible and not connected to a limb. “A woman? My… perhaps they were a couple searching for old rites? I’m sure the story is fascinating.” She seemed upset by the fact that she did not halt the affront to her personage. Zen seemed to have found a way to relax. He ‘sat’ with one leg crossed over the other.
I could feel the attention of the presence hone in on Zen. “Now this is curious… three forms. This one understands the Void.” It was hard to place at first, but it soon struck me. As I had been sniffed and Alpha touched, this being was extending its senses to perceive Zen. I’d never seen one so large, but it looked as though the whole of Zen’s form was licked by a great, disembodied tongue. Fortunately there was no saliva or spittle, but none of us seemed comfortable with the thought, least of all Zen. “Hm… such powerful memories it breeds. But of when? Of where? Of what…?” Zen snapped his fingers and the small ornament came to his hand. “What?” the voice said. “Such finite control in one so young.” The area began to darken. “No… not young… youthful.” The area began twisting upon itself in every fashion. Soon the fractured corpses that had earlier fallen were above us again. “But youth is not so substantial…” Alpha and I were set on solid footing. Slowly I could see stones forming around us. Not as though we were in a room, but the room was forming piece by piece around us. “Youth is not so knowing. It is not so… cruel.”
“And you are still trying to fill yourself, Tulfris the Enlightened” came Zen’s response.
At some point Zen would stop shocking me, but not just yet it seemed. Tulfris the Enlightened is a cautionary tale. Among those families within the Dreyphand it is a story told to children who intend to carry on the legacy of seeking knowledge. The story goes that Tulfris, as a youth, housed considerable talent. More than that, they were was a quick study. In this older age many masters, each of their own specialized arts, dotted the world. Tulfris sought them all out in kind.
It is the source of debate but it seems that each Mokshan is born with a store of Creation energy within them. This store rejuvenates us allowing for our long lives. It is thought, that without this source of power that we would live a third of our lifespans, perhaps only one hundred years. Years ago, orders of monks were able to expand their lifespans further through constant meditation and other forms of less taxing states. They preceded the Qryn, the current culture of healers. While having a more regular lifespan than their monk predecessors, they are able to restore Creation energy in others and take part in life. This has equalized the culture, allowing hunters to provide ample supplies for their territories. However, these advances came after the age of Tulfris. In fact, I’ve heard in a few discussions that if it had not been for Tulfris and the swath of death in their wake more radical monks would not have emerged with skills I find commonplace.
Tulfris went out to each master, learned of their art, and moved to the next. Never leaving a master as he had arrived the amount of energy he expended caused rapid aging. The mind had not reached what we consider an age of maturity, but Tulfris was left in a body of a decrepit elder. After leaving yet another master with their skills in tow, Tulfris hobbled slowly toward the next. Normally they found safe passage by caravan, but none but Tulfris passed this way. Soon the first master Tulfris served under came into view.
Having never seen one in such a state the master halted her travels to ask after the lonely traveler and offered assistance. Tulfris saw her face and beamed, speaking a greeting that was shared only between teachers and students. She was taken aback and asked how it could be, that the student she trained not even five years ago could have aged so gracelessly in such a short time. A shout came from behind Tulfris, causing student and former master to turn. A gathering of the other masters Tulfris learned from deemed the rate of growth too dangerous. It was thought that all the knowledge in one place was deadly.
Killing is not the way of Moksha. Banishing one this old was cruel, but they could not allow Tulfris influence among other Mokshans. This hurt Tulfris deeply, eyes turning to the first master. She did not have any recourse to the accusations, offering Tulfris no solace. Rage seethed, and the body of Tulfris began to burn. In the fire the decrepit flesh burned away. Knowledge became form, and the flesh of what had been Tulfris peeled away giving birth to a beast of unparalleled might.
The masters had not been expecting a battle. Each began attacking from a different angle. Tulfris was unphased. Having learned from each master in turn afforded ample knowledge in deterring attacks. The few times a breach had occurred a skill from a different master deflected it. Tulfris had given into madness. The body grew swiftly, a corrupt and raw form expanding far too quickly. The masters all began to retreat a distance away, not having prepared to fight their combined might turned at them.
All except Tulfris’ first master. She stood before the growing beast, running the risk of being consumed or crushed by its expansion. She screamed, pleaded, did all she could to reach into the beast, to the part that had once been her pupil. Having worked out the secrets of defensive arts she tried to apply them, trying to keep safe the other masters. Tulfris was simply too much of a behemoth outside of the cultivated might of the masters. Feeling a desire for atonement she subjected herself to inevitable dissolution.
It was rare to see streaks across the sky. It was rarer for them to descend, rarer still where people could see them. These lights were beings of superior power in the world. Descending from the heavens themselves came three goddesses. The first wielded a staff. A mighty wave of water surged up from the sea, separating Tulfris from anyplace else. A goddess of glowing light, borne on wings of fire, snatched the first master of Tulfris from her own chosen fate.
Equally dark and resplendent, the final goddess descended.
Her wrath was terrible. The masters all watched her in awe. As she came nearer to the ground she slowed. She took a tentative step onto the field, and time crumbled the land under her foot. Her eyes, white hot with an unhindered fire, narrowed in lament. She relegated herself back into the air, saddened. Tulfris viewed her as a grave affront to his unbound might, swung a limb at her. Like the ground beneath her, the twisted appendage crumbled, reducing to ash in her presence. She looked at the broken limb, then at Tulfris.
Whatever linked Tulfris to the mortal coil recalled emotion: Fear, surprise, anger. Pulling back the limb, and away from the goddess Tulfris could regrow the thing to prepare a second strike. The dark goddess lifted her hand. The Water goddess washed the masters miles away. The Flame Winged goddess shielded the first master, yet the master tried to peer between the feathers. As the Dark goddess spoke, it sounded as the screams of ceaseless torment from unnumbered souls. The first master, shielded, credited The Dark One with weeping. The others could not say, as they plunged themselves beneath the waters to prevent themselves from going mad.
In her hand, the Dark goddess forged a blade from the fires of Creation, timeless and pure. The beauty and destruction contained within humbled Tulfris in the twisted things’ last corporeal moments. A wave washed over it, causing it to disappear. The individual pieces, separated from the core, lashed out. The Dark goddess began to dance, and each piece in turn was reduced to nothing, leaving not ash, tooth, or nail. The goddesses of Water and Fire brought the masters back together. They flew back into the heavens chasing the Dark goddess, lost within her own might.
I now faced a legend. “Faced” being the wrong word because it had no face. The voice of Tulfris spoke again. In my ears and in my head were words I didn’t understand. We were in a stone blue sphere at this point. Zen was unaffected by this fact and stood in certainty. The many bodies began to fall together. They began to merge coalescing into a single image of a crude body.
“You bear knowledge! You know of Creation! Of Void! Free me from this prison… return time to me!” We began floating to the ground.
“We’re obviously outclassed” Zen shot back. “When we touch down, run for it.”
I looked at Zen. “If the legend I know of holds true, Tulfris wouldn’t be content to remain here. Is this a prison?”
Zen nodded. “Something like that.”
“Is there a way to lock him in and get out ourselves?” Alpha asked.
Zen looked despondent. My mind shot back to what Tulfris had said.
“Can we steal more time from Tulfris?”
Zen turned around. “Brilliant! Try to distract the bag of bones. There’s got to be something to use.”
Alpha looked at the now towering Tulfris. “Of course… distract it. Sure.”
When we landed, Tulfris roared, its body quivering. Masses of corpses shook off and began shambling towards us. I ran forward and began disabling as many as I could. Tulfris stomped around, seeming to try to find Zen. I noticed that the corpses stepped on were reabsorbed into its form. “This is endless!” I shouted to Alpha. She had noticed, as she was not using her slingshot. She had acquired Zen’s tonfa at some point. Wait… where was Zen?
Tulfris, Alpha, and I were all looking for him. This place didn’t leave much to the imagination. The slopes were extreme, but there were chips and texture, could he be… I looked up. Sure enough, Zen had climbed up the sphere and was now moving hand over hand. Gripped in his teeth was the icon now freed from the pillar. Tulfris had not reached this conclusion. The turmoil of its steps amid its frantic search started turning the room.
“It moves… the room moves!” I shouted. Tulfris began walking, turning the chamber. Running towards gravity was the only way I could remain standing. Tulfris’ walking turned the room in a way that landed Zen right in its field of vision. Zen’s eyes went wide at this occurrence. A massive arm reached up tried to catch him. This set it off balance, and it began moving into a tumble.
“Of all the…”
Alpha and I couldn’t manage another word before it spilled forward. We had to run full speed as I had before. Zen was hanging on for dear life, or so I thought. Once he was down low enough he began running towards Alpha and I. Gaining our attention he pointed at the walls behind us. “I think he wants us to climb” I shouted to Alpha. I ran back the way I came. It was rather easy, truth be told, but finding sure grips to hang onto was trying. Alpha came my direction and I threw her a littler higher than me to where I saw good footing.
Zen had a much harder road. He was on the other side of Tulfris and its hordes of animate detritus. He avoided and bounded off of the lesser corpses. At one instance Tulfris’ massive bulk nearly crushed him. Fortunately the limb raised up just enough for Zen to slide under it. Hopping from head to head he made his way below us. The room still turning, he made his way up to us quickly. As best we could we “climbed down” to meet him.
Zen looked to me. “I need you to take a good look at Tulfris, but carefully. Beings of its age and scope can fry your senses if you look at them directly. The smaller instances drew in energy, so you said? There should be one point that is amplified.” I nodded. I started to focus when Zen blurted out. “Oh, and don’t look at this disk either.”
When my awareness extended I tried to be quick. The movement of the oubliette was slowly forcing my view directly at Tulfris, plus the disk was radiant, even when I wasn’t looking at it. I was fortunate, because the phenomenon was in the head. I could see it in my peripheral. I closed my perceptions again while I brought my head up. Before I was completely in my body I got the impression that the power from the disk was flowing directly into Zen. “It’s in his head. I can’t tell precisely where.”
Zen nodded. “Alpha… I’m going to stick this thing onto it’s head. It’s as close to its weak point as I think we can get. Think you can hit it at a distance?”
She nodded. “The only thing is I need sure footing. It’s too tall to hit from the ground unless it trips again.” Zen nodded. “I thought as much. I’ll work it out.”
Tulfris stopped sprawling in the enclosed area as we were at the apex of available height. As large as this monstrosity was standing, it didn’t even rise up halfway in its prison. The limbs quivered oddly. “Freedom…” it groaned. “Finally free… no more timelessness…” The limbs retracted, turning Tulfris into a large pile of flesh. “You hold the key to my freedom…”
The amassed flesh began to split apart. On the back of the pile skin peeled back revealing barren flesh, devoid of pigmentation. It was as though the flesh was scorched and melting down the body. After awhile this stopped and a large pupil slid up and stared blankly above. It focused on Zen. Two more pupils sprang from it, locking onto Alpha and I. The forms of limbs began to take shape beneath it, and it rose up to smash us, much more quickly than I’d have expected. I thought it meant to crush us, but as it neared, numerous hands extended forth, each bearing a mouth in the middle. Incomprehensible screams followed them opening.
Zen had tucked the disk into his clothing. He looked from his hands, still grasping the ceiling, to the disk, then down to Tulfris. The hands grew closer. He looked up and sighed then looked at the hands and began marking there distance. I think I knew what came next. Safety became a relative term at this point. After he had gauged them a safe distance away he began swinging his body. I heard him say “This won’t end well” before he let go, flinging himself down at Tulfris.
Tulfris felt that Zen would be where he expected. Zen had built enough momentum that he fell between all the hands, and clutched onto the arms to control his descent. The hands all fell inward after him, chasing their quarry. At this point they obscured my view, but I knew Zen would need help in whatever he was doing. I followed his example, got a bit of force behind me, and jumped at the amassed arms. Hitting them broke my fall, and they were smooth enough that I slid in towards the center, following Zen’s path.
When I came through I found him dodging around on the head of Tulfris, avoiding the grasping hands. When I took my first step to get to him I noticed a large circle moving under me. I thought it was an odd place for a shadow, considering a powerful light source. The walls had a luminescence that was allowing suitable visibility. Then I connected a few facts. Head, white surface… that wasn’t a shadow, but an iris. We were stomping around on Tulfris’ eye.
Zen took the chance at a lull in combat to remove the icon from his armor, and jammed it at the pupil watching him. Tulfris let out a scream. I guess that regardless of how big you are getting poked in the eye is a less than favorable scenario. Zen had gotten his arm stuck in some type of surface membrane of the eye. “Alpha! Now would be a GREAT time!” he shouted. Alpha released her hold and fell toward us, readying a shot as she did so.
Zen seemed to be stuck, and kept pulling to remove his forearm. I felt a small shift in the eye and looked. The lids were closing. I never realized until this moment how dangerous blinking could be. Zen saw it and redoubled his efforts to get free. He was also trying to decide how exactly to evade, or to just let his arm be crushed if he couldn’t escape in time. Fortunately that did not become an issue, as he pulled himself out.
However, he made an attempt to jump to avoid the oncoming might of Tulfris’ massive eyelids. He may have mistook the solidarity of his footing based upon the curve, but he began careening backward. I had to jump myself to land on top of the eyelid and avoid losing the loss of my legs. I started running full on towards where Zen had fallen. Some type of wet squelching sound came from below.
“Gross” I heard Zen say. He was safe, although I couldn’t see him. I turned to see Alpha land on the closed eye, frustrated that her shot was obstructed.
“What now?!” she shouted.
“No clue” I called to her. “Zen?”
Again I heard a squelch from below followed again by him saying “Gross.” In a fairly steady rhythm I started to hear a new squelch followed by “Ew.”
I looked to see Zen climbing up Tulfris, burying his arms elbow deep into the fleshy fiend. I’m not one to complain overmuch, but then again I had never climbed up a giant corpse to facilitate survival. I felt the tale tell quiver of muscle again. I shouted to Alpha to jump, but my warning came to late. The eye began opening. I fell onto the membrane and began running toward her. Alpha was favoring her left foot and was swept away by the eyelid. I shouted “Right!” to Zen. He started climbing more to his right, staying to one side of the opening eye. Somehow he was quick enough to catch Alpha, and I was somehow quick enough to catch him.
Tulfris was quick enough to catch me.
One of the numerous hands gripped my leg and dug pointed teeth into it. The pain was considerable, but I forced myself to hang onto Zen. “Mine, little ones. All mine…” came the voice of Tulfris. The voice sounded tired. Perhaps moving so much flesh was wearing on the strength of the consciousness. I had no time to consider that. A monstrous maw opened within the eye, ready to devour us.
“Where is it?” I called down to Alpha. The pupils had split apart. Two above the mouth, and one below.
“I don’t see it here!” We were dangled closer to two of the pupils. “It must be in the other one!” she called.
I began swinging to toss Zen and Alpha over to clear her shot. A gale of laughter came from the mouths below us. “Not again, my morsels. I am not so foolish in spite of what you think.” Zen had not cleared much distance before his legs were caught by two more hands.
Tulfris laughed with glee. The teeth in my leg tightened and must have hit Zen as well. He managed to fling Alpha back into the air. He came swinging back toward me and reached out. I grabbed the short staffs and held them out. He caught hold of them, and I pulled him toward me so we were under Alpha. The mouth was centered between the pupils it seemed. When the third one followed the group it moved closer to us, revealing the icon. “There it is!” I shouted. “You’ve got one shot Alpha… Use it!”
Alpha pulled her body in tightly, canceling most of her momentum. She was directly above us at this point. She readied her shot and lined it up, correcting as she fell. Zen and I held the staffs between us, and Alpha anchored herself on them. She let fly her attack, upside down, striking true. This seemed to do nothing else but drive the icon deeper. It still aggravated Tulfris, causing its grip to falter. It released us and began blinking again.
I took hold of Alpha and tried to direct us away from where the mouth would be when the lids opened anew. Zen landed, running for where the icon had been. As the lid opened again Zen was airborne. Quickly finding myself and Alpha, Tulfris assumed Zen was near. He bore down fiercely, landing one of the shattering punches directly into the icon. It got wedged deeper in Tulfris’ eye and shattered.
The shards of the icon did less damage than the energy contained within. A geyser of ichor spewed forth. The body of Tulfris liquefied quickly. It spilled downward, and its body sagged deeply enough to settle us on the ground. It rose up and coated the walls and ceiling, and I realized it wasn’t yet beaten. The reddened flesh blocked out all the blue stone, casting us in darkness. A flash of light above afforded me hands with teeth heralding our demise.
The light subsided, and we were back in 10,000 City Anzan. However, the sky was a deep dark blue, and the body called a moon hung overhead again.
“Ah… Here we are” Zen said. He took a step forward and faltered, his legs still wounded. “Annoyances…” he muttered.
“What was all that?” Alpha asked, trying to smear effluent fluids off her, otherwise nonplussed.
Zen grinned and shook his head. “In all honesty? A wrong turn.” He pointed to the sky. “This is where we should have ended up. Pockets of alternate planes are much too close together.”
This place was calmer than where we had first arrived. Zen was cohesive, and the air tasted bittersweet, instead of thick with sorrow. Perhaps it was just the absence of a blood red sky. Zen took the scraps of cloth he used as a makeshift weapon belt to stanch the bleeding of his wounds.
Alpha looked to me. “Are you sound?” She closely looked at my leg. All the wounds had healed.
“Of course I am” I said plainly. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Alpha merely forgets how hearty the people of Moksha are.” He paused noticeably and turned. “Apparently so do I.” Zen’s wounds were gone as well. This seemed to confuse Alpha to no end. I was at a loss for such a response. Zen stood and tilted his head. “Oh no… almost morning. We must be on our way.” He started jogging again, making sure Alpha and I were keeping up.
“Now where are we going?” she asked, confusion heavy on her voice.
“Well… what I told Aegis is true. To find the materials inside the boundaries of the town one needs to be lucky. I’m an adherent to luck being when preparation meets opportunity.” Zen turned a corner sharply , leading us back into town, away from the ziggurat. “What we need is available only specific times, being our opportunity. I hold knowledge in how to find it, hence our preparation. Sometimes you can find different paths if you change your mind. Think of it as a small sound having different meaning to the same word. I mistook “tomb” for “graveyard” in my memory, and that’s how we bumped into Tulfris rather than coming here first. Many apologies about that by the way.”
“It’s alright. We lived” I said. We were back on the street outside Aegis’ shop.
“And that’s what we’re looking for” Zen said, pointing toward the shop. In the middle of the path was a creature. Comprised purely of bone, held together by some type of inky black substance, it twitched about as if hunting for something. “That is a Boneyard Lizard. It’s comprised of numerous bones of many fallen beings. The black you see is the malign will to survive. Every part of this creature is useful in the making of the outfits that should suit us well for a time to come. They’re usually tricky to catch.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“I’m not sure if you’ve ever dealt with lizards before, but they’re notorious for breaking off limbs to escape capture. Also, how to say, they are “extra-spatial”. And if you don’t know how to shift into their phase you have to wait for them to come to you. It’s here now because it sniffed out the path I carved. It hungers a certain type of intent, so I just tangled such a path through town. It will find shelter as the cycle changes, which is soon.”
“You said ‘usually’” Alpha mentioned.
“Oh yes. I was thinking we were going to need to corral it and trap it. The icon that I broke? It’s part of a little known and unused ritual. It’s said that if you walk the path you’ll gain the attention of the gods themselves. Although for different reasons it may be why Tulfris was near it.”
“How does it help?” I asked.
“Happy you asked” replied Zen. He stepped back as though he we going to throw a punch. The Lizard caught sight of Zen and realized this was its prey. It leapt at him. Zen appeared under it a considerable distance away, and launched him into the doorway of Aegis’. I don’t know how he moved from one place to the other like that. “Could you follow me and please stand in the doorway?” Zen walked into Aegis’ shop. Alpha and I followed, doing as he asked.
I saw him strike the Lizard into the store, but it was gone. Aegis was not present either. Zen snapped his fingers and the color of the world changed. The blue vanished, and the world was not overcome by it.
On its back at the counter was the Lizard, behind it, confused and startled, was Aegis. “Where did you all come from?!” The Lizard scrambled to its feet and made a line straight for Alpha and I. “Don’t injure it” came Zen’s voice in an idle warning. “Aegis? A cage please” he requested.
I managed to grab the lizard by the throat and pin it down. It squirmed and hissed. I heard an odd snap and the head began flopping away.
Alpha picked it up gingerly looking from it to Zen. “I thought they did this with their tails” she queried.
“Regular lizards, yes. If you’re already dead, what have you got to lose?” replied Zen. He ran back to help Aegis bring out the cage. Putting the body and head into the cage, Zen held them together for a time. I watched the separated parts connect, becoming whole.
“Atta girl” he said, thoroughly pleased.
Aegis looked on in shock. “You’re gone for a few hours. You come back with materials,” Aegis said. “Young Master, you apparently excel in understatement. A Boneyard Lizard is no small feat.”
Zen smiled. “As I said… you can’t teach luck.”
Aegis resigned himself to a nearby chest to sit on. “Of that level, no chance.”
Alpha stepped forward. “Will the killing of this thing bring about the materials you require?”
Aegis almost fell over. “Kill it?! Are you kidding?! It’s the rare Trapper who can bring back any living creature. This is a Boneyard Lizard! The thing came apart from its head and still recovered! I’m leaving it alive. After a little time I’ll be able to make clothes that can repair themselves. This is a gift that keeps giving. It may not do anything fancier than that but I’ll be able to stay stocked in basic wares indefinitely!”
Aegis was excited. Zen and I helped him move the Lizard back to the working area and left him to his craft. Zen, covered in all manners of who knows what, couldn’t have been happier. He flitted about from point to point, refreshed though covered in ancient rot. The three of us made our way back to Scions’ Rest. The base floor was empty, save for Winston himself. He was less than pleased, but not too surprised, at Zen’s condition. He led Zen away, telling us that our rooms were open and ready for us. He said he’d be along after a time to get us something to eat.
Alpha decided to stay in the garden for awhile. That left me to my own devices. I returned to my room and decided to get cleaned up myself. The bathing area was unusual. It seemed to be more of an artificial waterworks than a proper bath. However, the waters’ motion helped ease my mind as I tried to make sense of all that had recently transpired.
The crimson blast that drew me to the mountain, heralding significant turns in the worlds’ condition according to Ooley. Alpha and Zen. Two beings of excessive physical weakness atop the pinnacle of the worlds’ greatest physical challenge. Foreign words, foreign ways, ignorant to the norm, possessors of knowledge forbidden and forgotten. Every being had seen the event atop the Mountain of False Gods. People speculated. Beasts adjusted their habits. Yet two sentient creatures who were at the epicenter had not seen fit to even mention it. Ancient devices. Blood red skies. Moons? The living dead. Legendary fiends. All this taken in stride by beings worse off than I.
A good deal of time had passed as I bathed. My tensions were eased, vigor restored. I availed myself a nearby towel and dried off. In just a few days’ time I was forced to reevaluate my world. Zen claimed a path to knowledge unneeded by Moksha in its current state. I had yet to step into my role as Surveyor as was intended. I was curious as to what the world looked like to Alpha and Zen. How did the world look like from the perspective of those who, from as near as I would say, saw this world as but one expression of many.
Sitting here thinking of everything I found myself infuriated. That, while claiming to be a student of knowledge, I was consistently in the dark. I’d always held my own in lessons and classes. However, I realized my limitation. It was known that the world was smaller than it had been in previous ages. As such, the philosophy of the Dreyphand limited the education of its students. There were whole people that had been lost. Lands beyond the borders of this continent that just ceased to be.
And this was readily accepted.
Such things had occurred before, lending themselves to the Great Imbalance. The people of the Old Void had become as one with those of Old Creation, leading to a new world. It had started after the Twin Gods War. The very event that brought an end to that conflict caused a land mass to simply vanish. The ‘gods’ were called such only because the scope of their power could not be denied. They were not worshipped. They were neither benevolent or cruel, and the world knew only passing adversity. They were regarded similarly to the sea itself, as simply a force that washed up as readily as away.
In the War, two of the gods found themselves embroiled in combat. None on Moksha knew what started the battle. From what the current texts read it was at the other end of the world. The power was of such immense scope that even from here the effects could be seen. The Dreyphand was not present at this time, but Srenvatti was. He was perplexing, giving sway to his curiosity in a world already well documented. In the copies of some candid notes it is said he thought this to be the last great oddity in the world.
There were small skiffs to be used in transport between continents, as the distance was never so vast that it was troublesome, but Srenvatti traded in on his reputation for the eccentric and commissioned a large vessel to be made. He was accustomed to the ridicule he received. While being mocked many mused that by the time he made the journey the battle would be over. Srenvatti would not be swayed. His workers were tireless, enthused by working on projects other than rowboats and skiffs. This fever spread, drawing many others.
After a time, work on the boat was deemed an allowance of passage. What was the work of many cycles came down to only three. Setting out far more hurriedly than anticipated they reached the far flung continent. Srenvatti and his companions reached their goal and watched. The place they found was an arena, with high walls preventing landing the craft. A dragon of considerable size flew overhead, going to blows with a tiger that even while grounded a distance away could easily be seen. The combat stretched out for centuries. The people developed their own ways and culture, off shooting from those who remained on landmasses far away. Occasionally someone from the mainlands would come out, barely recognizing their own kin.
Explosions took the whole island. Leaving no traces of what had stood the test of time since the beginning of the world. The travellers, those spectators who watched the gods lock horns, were forever changed. They had seen such power destroy rather than build. People explored the island, obsessed. Orchards and crops had disappeared. Landscapes were altered. Those that had travelled and watched the battle were not welcome home. People cursed the gods for what they had done, for using their might to do nothing more than to clash against one another. One day a curse took tangible shape.
Those who wished for others to be consumed by flames bore witness to terrible blazes.
Those who condemned others to the deepest depths saw terrible floods rise.
Those who wished for others to be scattered by the winds caused flesh to be torn by tornadoes.
The beginning of Creation energy followed on the heels of disaster, and again the gods were cursed. It was then that those of the Void began arraying themselves more staunchly against those touched by Creation. Those that descended from the onlookers of the gods’ battle could take in and negate whatever could be built. They became the personification of the destruction the gods left behind. The people had come to wield forces of nature. Arrayed against one another, it took much effort to quell the world. But one did. Coming from beyond the known world she claimed herself one of the fell gods stripped of her might. She convinced everyone to lay down their arms, physical and otherwise, showed them how to control their powers, made peace, and disappeared.
After this time the world began shrinking. The people came to Anzan. Occasionally a piece of land would return, but it would soon be lost again. And with each passing the Dreyphand would seal up knowledge. If the land does not exist what is the point of discussing it? Zen had breached a sore nerve: the curiosity of my people was rather limited.
I got dressed in the attire provided those resting awhile. I laid on the bed and could not reach a conclusion. Too many questions held too few answers, and the sources of knowledge were barred off.
No. No they weren’t.
I rose and proceeded to Zen’s room.