I was asleep when it happened. A loud thunderclap shook the apartment building. I jumped from bed to look out the window only to find that there wasn’t a cloud in sight. Could it have been an explosion? There was no smoke in the vicinity, except for a small puff rising from a nearby park. I guessed someone had launched the first firework of the season. We were, afterall, very close to the holidays. As I walked back to my room, someone unlocked the front door and was moving the doorknob. Somehow this person had the key. The scene resembled one of those horror movies, with the lights flickering and some unknown assailant opening the door. A few switches flicked on. The lights blinded me for a second. Shortly after I noticed a figure in front of me. His body was covered in mechanical devices in what appeared to be a random pattern. When I finally saw who it was, I was shocked. Even the world around me twisted and churned. This person was tearing at the very fabric of space. Then, as he approached, said, “This is all that I can do now. The future is bleak, but I will give you a head start”. Years of suffering were reflected in his face, or, my face? My mind felt like it was fracturing. The paradox of the existence of this person in this specific space and time was altering everything around me. Before I could ask anything this visage of my future self began to disappear into a cloud of glowing dust. These little lights flew towards me and merged with my body. His memories became my own. I bore witness to the horrors I would face in a few years. Then, after the dust had fully dissipated, the mechanical parts reorganized and settled on my arms. Like a pair of old gauntlets from medieval times. Except this technology was far beyond anything I could dream of. They constantly monitored my health and, to my surprise, space-time stability. Curious about this, I managed to navigate its interface to learn more. As I investigated further I learned that this was just one of thousands of attempts to change the future. My future. Through these devices I learned that the now unwritten history was one of many branches in time. All of them greatly affected by my existence. Upon further navigation I discovered what these mergers had been attempting, full space-time stability. The number floating above the holographic display was one hundred percent. What this meant for my future was anyone’s guess. Many of the memories that I could recall from previous attempts had been sealed away in my subconscious. Perhaps for good measure. Memories of suffering, pain or loss would likely drive me insane. The gauntlets faded from view. I turned off the lights, closed the door and went back to sleep. As I lay in bed a feeling of calm washed over me. It was as if I had been waiting for this moment for years. The future may still hold many difficulties, but clearly I had the motivation to persevere, time and again.
Category: Short Story
Tessa walked into the room. A figurine strapped to her waist. She looked around, everyone was clinging to their little idol charms like it was life or death, and it truly was, for the idols are linked to the lifeforce of their owner. In return the figurines provide mystical and sometimes unruly powers. The more common abilities include the command over fire or water. Some people can manage moving objects with their mind. Others could shape the earth, create force fields or compel plants to grow. Everyone stared at each other. A few old friends had gathered in their own groups and talked about their recent experiences. One such experience was the ritual of binding. It is the reason for them being here. That was when the idol became bound to their soul and body. This is to be their first class. To learn what their powers are, how to control them and eventually to go off and fight. Adding to these young people’s burdens, there is a war that has been ongoing for the last ten years.
After a short wait, the professor entered the room. Everyone settled down at their desks. “Welcome”, he said while scanning the room. “I see many of you have started to familiarize themselves with your newfound power. In this class you will do more than just that. First off, some introductions. My name is Kristoff. I am one of the few Elder Bound, those of us who were the first to undergo the ritual. As you can see, my idol has changed greatly since the day it was bound to me. All of the idols begin as yours. A small, claylike figurine. The material itself is a mystery. It is resilient, but not indestructible. Always, and I emphasize, always keep it in mind. It is bound to your very life and you will die if anything happens to it.”. Many looked to each other, as if gauging each other’s potential for survival. Kristoff continued, “Now, as I call you, please come forward and show the power you hold. Some of you may not have tapped into the potential of the power yet, this is nothing to worry about. We will discover it soon enough. When we are done here, the class will move to the courtyard.”
Everyone here was around seventeen years old. A small few in their twenties. Those had somehow avoided the draft when the war seemed to be proceeding favorably. To Tessa this all felt pointless. The nation was now in a heavy slump, losing the war. Faranthir had been a relatively peaceful country. The advances in medical and transportation technology caught the attention of its neighbors. There was great pressure from the governing party to take action. To make an ally of one nation and then defend against the others. It was the only way they thought could help us survive. For a time, the strategy was successful. Geographically our nation is wedged between three great powers and the sea. To the west is the vast Oriallan Ocean. A route used to trade with our southern ally was established many years ago. It persists to this day. This ally, the nation Orial, has helped Faranthir through the ages. Thus, it was natural to remain close to them. In the past, Faranthir was a region that belonged to Lor’Kastas. The northland they command as their territory is rich in ores, but Faranthir possesses the valleys and rivers. We have the fertile land that fed the miners. Without Faranthir, Lor’Kastas was forced to rely on the third nation, Tal’Vir. This nation also controls a vast expanse of valleys. Their lands are just as rich for farming as Faranthir, but their produce lacks the qualities that matter to the people of Lor’Kastas. This strained the relations between the nations. When they learned of the technologies being developed in Faranthir, they questioned why these were not freely shared for all to enjoy. The government of Faranthir knew that the tools being developed could also be altered to become weapons. Problems continued to escalate from there. A new tax on imports here, minor conflicts at the borders and then full on skirmishes. Orial was forced to increase their military presence in the borders of Faranthir. This provoked both Lor’Kastas and Tal’Vir. They wanted Faranthir for themselves. War broke out with the first declaration from the government of Lor’Kastas. It was to be a war fought on multiple fronts. Tal’Vir refused to ally themselves with their northern neighbor. This was their opportunity to control all of the food production to force both Orial and Lor’Kastas to negotiate. All of this at the cost of Faranthir’s surrender, loss of identity and independence.
Delving deep into ancient traditions led to uncovering the ritual of binding. When the first bound were sent their incredible powers caught everyone by surprise. They were able to quickly turn the tide of battle. At that point, none of the first bound had any idea of the weakness they carried with them. The sudden death of one of the members led to an investigation. While the investigation was ongoing many others were lost. When they finally discovered the reason they were in shock. The toll for having incredible power was that they needed to guard their figurine at all cost. Many mysteries accompanied the ritual of binding. Not everything was clear about them, but one thing everyone knew going forward. The powerful and mystical figurine not only holds great power, it is also tightly bound to the person’s spirit. Some speculate that this is the reason for the great manifestation of power, and also why they are often unique. Sadly, the enemies of Faranthir caught on, and began to systematically target the bound’s figurines. New methods of protecting them had to be developed. The vulnerability also led some of those first bound to leave the front lines. Suddenly, Faranthir had lost some of its greatest defenders. Thus it reached this point. Losing a war and now relying on younger volunteers to try and turn the tide once again.
The courtyard was a battered piece of land behind the school. It is what remained suitable for training after years of slowly losing territory to Lor’Kastas and Tal’Vir. Many of the much desired fertile lands had gone to waste. In this setting the training started. Kristoff ordered everyone to form rows and to focus their power on the palm of their hand. Those with elemental power quickly gathered the energy. Small flames, water bubbles, sands coalescing into stone and the occasional electric crackle could be seen. Much as she tried Tessa could not form anything on her palm.
Days passed, then months and eventually a few years. The war had reached a new high. The forces of the invading nations finally made their push against the capital of Faranthir. Tessa walked the streets of the city, looking at broken carriages and houses. The army of Lor’Kastas was ruthless. They had abandoned all semblance of civilization and replaced it with an insatiable bloodlust. A month ago, Kristoff was sent to the frontlines. He did not return. This left the students to fend for themselves as the leadership crumbled. In the city, people did what they could to barricade and guard what was left. For Tessa, time did not pass by in vain. Her power surfaced in combat. It was a great and overwhelming shadow that could consume almost anything given enough time. She could also mimic the power of idols close to her. Eventually she could master such powers and permanently add them to her own. They did have one particular trait. The flames she commanded had a purple and black tinge to them. It was as if the mimicry still contained the very essence of her idol’s power. The enemy knew to fear her. Now, she was at the capital, ready to stand against the invaders. Despite the dire situation and her preference to work alone, she managed to make friends. Linus and Thalia, two very talented soldiers, stuck close to Tessa. Thalia had the unique ability to cast force fields and she made it her top priority to keep one over their figurines. Tessa was still trying to master this trait, so that she could one day relieve the burden from her friend. She knew that Thalia would never forgive herself if any of their figurines was destroyed.
The third successful attempt at defending the capital forced Tal’Vir to retreat. Tessa and her friends now command an elite unit of mixed troops. Some were bound to idols, others were common soldiers with more traditional weapons. During these times, rifles had replaced the old bow and arrow. The horse-drawn carriage was replaced by steam engines and soon with electric engines. This last development was the great discovery made by Faranthir that eventually incited the war.
Tessa’s unit pushed Tal’Vir nearly to the border. Along the way she encountered some of the fallen. Her idol reacted to the broken pieces. A new power surged within her. She figured out she could rebuild the broken idols and claim their power. Visions of the owner, now long dead, could be seen, providing some insight that would prove invaluable. Her skill became feared by both Tal’Vir and Lor’Kastas soldiers. The great advances made by her eventually made the Tal’Vir government to cease their ambitions. Within a few months a peace treaty was signed.
Much damage had been done at this point. The fertile lands had been destroyed by war. Despite this, Lor’Kastas continues to attack. Their bloodlust had reached a point where even their government could do nothing. News reached Faranthir that the capital of Lor’Kastas had fallen. An internal uprising by the military pushed the government to either resign or be killed. Those who refused were executed on the spot. Fear and rage drove the nation to implode. Few towns remained. Tessa’s mission after being so long at war was to hunt down the military leaders and free Lor’Kastas.
Within the span of a few months the elite unit did precisely what it intended. Stability in Lor’Kastas was returning with the help of some of the bound and aid from Orial. One target remained. His name is Girghiram. The last remaining general of the Lor’Kastas army who had not surrendered yet and was somewhere in Faranthir hiding away. When Tessa finally found him, he was preparing a ritual of binding for himself. After dealing with his defenders she saw as the ritual completed and the old general gained his own idol. To the general’s dismay he saw as this little clay doll shattered within seconds and drained his life away. In his mind the great power of the idol would help him gain the upper hand. By this point no one knew the extent of control Tessa had on her power. She could easily destroy any idols near her as much as she could mend them and even repair ones that were damaged in battle, saving the lives of the people whom she had grown to care for. With the fall of the general peace would soon arrive for Faranthir.
The bound whose powers were tied to the earth and the plants, slowly fixed the valleys to support farmlands once again. Lor’Kastas proved that Faranthir’s reluctance to share technology was warranted. Tessa, along with Linus and Thalia, volunteered to fix the capital of Faranthir. They were hailed as heroes. Statues of them were built in the city. Eventually Tessa left Faranthir to journey around the world, never to be seen again. Her parting gift to her friends was giving their idols the ability to regenerate and to heal any around them.
The slumber fades away again. This time my ethereal body floats in the vicinity of a large castle. The outside is intimidating. Ramparts of blackened stone. Embers floating in the air reveal the devastation of the surroundings. A moat full of lava seems to guard this place from whatever may be brave enough, or foolish enough to venture here. My current state awards me with the ease of flight. My intangibility provides protection from the environment. It also protects the environment from my own intervention, for I am viewing a historical event. Here, in this place, I witness the origin of Achymiarel. The vast lands around the castle are littered with volcanoes and pouring rivers of incandescent magma. A number of scorched trees suggest this was not the case before. Suddenly I am pulled into the castle, to a chamber with a large window to the outside and an opening in the ceiling. A powerful magician draws a rune circle using an enchanted piece of chalk. The intricate lines glitter in the flickering light of the multitude of candles and lamps. Several other mystical items have been placed on display pillars around the central object. This object is nothing more than a small twig, yet it emanates an incredible amount of magic. It may be what remains of a once powerful magical tree. Among the other items a jeweled necklace stands out along with a dragon’s nail, a horn and a scale. There is a scepter set at another altar that looks positioned specifically to channel its power to this magical construct. A low rumble changes the shape of some of the chalk lines. The magician rushes to fix the lines. He seems exhausted and at the same time extremely anxious, as if his very being depends on this to work.
After an hour of tinkering around the magician begins the incantations for this unknown ritual. It looks as if this is some form of infusion. Powerful magical items infused into a suitable receptacle. Surely this would not work though. Such a ritual needs to have an enormous amount of additional stabilizing agents. Items whose magical balance can contain the energies about to be unleashed. From the looks of it, the magician was out of time. Just outside the castle a large battalion of soldiers marched onwards. The moat would hold them for a while, until they could build a suitable bridge. Then there was the winding series of hallways and passages meant to confuse anyone not familiar with the design. Another low rumble moves the grains of sand and dirt. The shape of the chalk changed once more. This time, the magician disregards it. He knows it might be the ritual itself adjusting the chalk. Using Achymiarel’s power I could see an ethereal shape of what was the final result of the constant rumbling. That small twig, brimming with power, was causing the rumbles.
Fiery stones exploded in the air outside the castle. A magical barrier protected it from siege weapons. Meanwhile the soldiers had begun to arrange a series of stones and logs to cross the moat. They were forced to proceed quickly, for the wooden logs would soon burn. Inside the castle, the ritual was making progress. One of the items on the altars floated just above it and turned to dust. This line of dust floated into the twig at the center and started to reshape it. Before my eyes the small, seemingly insignificant twig, became the mighty Achymiarel. When the process was complete a magical shockwave pushed the magician away. He was walking near the large window and was thrown off onto a balcony. This newly created wand vibrated and pulsed. All the magic within was barely contained. The poor magician, hanging on for his life, was able to lift himself back to the room. He approached his creation, held it for a brief moment, and then an arrow pierced his chest. A sudden discharge of magic escaped his body. The archer did not expect such an effect, and was torn as if made of paper. Achymiarel, still on the magician’s shaking hand, could not be controlled. Its power, too intense to wield. Fearing for the end of his life, the magician could do little else. To protect this power from falling into the wrong hands he called down a lightning bolt. Yet, the bolt, instead of destroying him with the wand, supercharged it and caused it to open an interdimensional portal. The magician’s body disappeared and Achymiarel fell into the portal. The castle, strengthened by a multitude of spells and enchantments, began to crumble into a sea of lava due to the magician’s absence. Every volcano in the vicinity erupted. Whatever this army had come to claim was for naught. They would perish along with the magician they sought.
My body started to float away when I noticed the extent of what was happening in this world. In the far distance a gigantic tree stood. Barren of any leaves, of any life within. I surmised that the twig must have come from this tree. A world tree like that one is bound to the very life force of the world. To be in such a state means that the world was in its death throes. Floating further away, high in the sky the evidence spoke for itself. The volcanic wastelands were bordered by ruined kingdoms, dried farmlands and vast deserts. That army had come to claim the power of the last magician they knew of because they thought them responsible for what was happening. In truth, all the magically adept were searching for a solution to their problem. The dying of their world tree might have been a direct result of losing those who were magically attuned. They died out because of the arrogance and above all, the ignorance of their leaders. Achymiarel pulled me into a new dark abyss. A new slumber. What would be shown next?
(Related Story: Chronicle Zero – Achymiarel)
I awaken. The world around me is strange and unfamiliar. Where has this great power taken me? I ask myself. Achymiarel is still in my possession. There is no trace of where Ouros went or what happened to the guardians. Perhaps they were also transported here. There is no clear evidence, nothing to guide me. Standing up, I gaze upon the lands that I now inhabit. A piece of one of the large marble doors had crashed into the ground on a nearby hill. Upon moving closer to inspect it, I saw how its form shifted and warped. It was as if it lay in a state of flux. This thing didn’t belong here, but by extension neither did I. Something protected me. Could the wand have spared me? No way to be sure, but certainly my arrival here had some meaning.
A short walk to the top of the hill revealed two armies down in the valley. It looked like a standoff. Huddled down near some rocks, I looked on. The tension of such a conflict can be felt all around. After a few short minutes the armies commanded their advance. The clash let out a resounding echo of screams and metal clangs. I had not experienced such carnage in many years. Not since the war of the settlements. That old conflict eventually led to the splitting of the clans and a more lasting peace. We learned how that loss of life was irreplaceable. No kings or queens would ever drive us to such lengths. Sadly, some leaders found another way to drive us away. Ouros would pay for forsaking my people.
The wand responds to my anger. Such memories are difficult to repress. While the slaughter continues in the fields I rise from among the rocks that concealed my position. I lift Achymiarel high above my head and a bolt of lightning splits the clouded sky. Blinded by the old rage and the sacrifice of countless soldiers to some unknown cause, I decide to teach them a lesson. Yes, life is sacred, but without the threat of something far greater these people will never learn its value. A powerful thunderbolt skims across the ground sundering it and tearing apart everything that it encounters. It eventually reaches the commanders of these armies and shreds them. Their armor falling to the ground, bloodied and burnt. Not even their mounts were spared. The few soldiers that remained escaped back to their own territories. Achymiarel gave me the power to be both judge and executioner.
What have I done? What have I become? I question repeatedly as a sea of blood flows down through the valley and into a river. Thousands upon thousands of corpses lying dead. A testament of the fearsome power of this wand. This was more of a lesson to myself than to all those poor souls. For a moment I was walking through the field. Many still alive suffered from their wounds, either from sword or ax, or from the vicious thunder that split them apart. I looked back to the hill and suddenly I was on it again. The soldiers were clashing, fighting for whatever their cause was. I had seen a vision. Achymiarel showed me my rage unleashed upon unknown forces. They are innocent of the matters that affect me, but I had the power to destroy them utterly. This artifact works as if it had a will of its own. With time I would come to better understand it. For now, a new dark abyss forms beneath me. This time, it does not swallow the world around me, instead it drags me down into a slumber. A repetition of what happened at Chymus. Maybe this time I will find Ouros.
“The light of the flames serves us well.”, said elder Yelene. “They keep the miasma at bay, while we continue to live our lives in this tainted world. In our struggle to survive, we are constantly reminded of what was lost. In today’s lesson I will recount the old story so that it is forever etched into your minds. One day you will tell this to your own hatchlings.”
“Elder Yelene, we heard the story last year. Why repeat it?”, Kivis, a young crowmaran asked, curious.
“As I said, it is so you do not forget. The day we forget where we came from is the day that world will be completely lost.”
“Then please proceed, apologies for my interruption.”
The elder nodded and continued, “We owe the great lost lands of Ilneas, our original birthplace, a great gratitude. The older generations remember the lush green forests and beautiful blue skies. Those lands provided freedom, nourishment and the chance for the companionship of the other races. Thankfully the crowmaran survived the great catastrophe. It was a slow but steady decline. Very few could predict that the miasma would become the downfall of Ilneas. This horrible calamity was like a beast that hungered for everything it could grasp. As you well know, the purpur fog of death, the miasma, holds no mercy for us. Little by little the forests were lost. The skies became poisonous. We braced for what would be the end of our world, until the great flame was found. A group composed of a crowmaran, a human and a minos searched day and night to find it. The great temple of the guardian flame was discovered by these brave heroes. The miasma cowered away from the temple and the flame itself. Our greatest scholars learned that the flame could be carried by specially built lanterns. This allowed us settlements in what little remained of the floating mountains. Sadly the flame was worn thin. The temple eventually succumbed to the miasma when the last bit was taken. The great heroes fell with it. It was their final attempt at restoring the flame somehow. Without the flame at the temple the miasma grew to spread all across Ilneas and beyond. Today, few have the courage to venture forth and risk what little of the flame they possess. There is one hope remaining to save our world. If we ever find the temple of the flame again, and light the great chalice, its light might guide us to vanquishing the miasma.” Elder Yelene concluded the story. “Any questions?”
“Can we do it? Can we find the temple?”, asked Kivis.
“We can only hope. It is why the crowmaran continue to search. With some tinkering we discovered better ways to increase our limited supply of the guardian flames. Yet, we must still be very careful. We dare not spread our own flames too thin.”
“Why did the temple not guide us before?”, this time it was Alliria who asked. One of the older crows in the group.
“No one is certain, but some time after the flame at the temple was extinguished a traveler claimed he got a glimpse of the temple and that there was something new. Something different. His recount pointed to a set of mirrors that could spread the light of the guardian flame.”
“Did those mirrors appear now?”
“We can only speculate that they were always there, but covered in vegetation. The miasma, ever consuming, must have revealed them by chance.”
“Elder Yelene? Can we go now? It’s almost dinnetime.”, little Baybill asked. He is one of the younger hatchlings.
“Yes, yes. I will not keep you further.”
As the others left, Kivis stayed behind.
“You are thinking of leaving, am I right?”
“Yes elder. I cannot in good conscience ignore the story anymore. Every year we hold on to the hope that one of the expeditionaries will find the temple again.”
“Remember to tell your mother that you are leaving. Many have ignored my advice, but instead of flying off into the unknown, perhaps it would be best to keep those claws to the ground.”
“Isn’t that counterproductive? We want to find the temple as soon as possible.”
“Correct, finding it is imperative. Flying off into the miasma, hoping to follow its currents, will lead you nowhere. The expeditionaries have all ignored my warnings. Many of them returned completely exhausted and with not a clue of the temple’s whereabouts. Please, you are one of my dear students. Will you heed my words?”
“Where should I go then?”
“Us crow people once had a beautiful city in these lands. The floating rocks of Kervel have been our home for many ages. After the miasma passed they say these stones, or rather mountains, drifted slightly apart, but remain close enough. If you find a way to traverse them, then perhaps you can find something in the abandoned city that can help.”
“Do you know of anything specific?”
“Many magical artifacts were hidden in the city. I have no doubt that some may yet remain.”
“Elder Yelene! Cease this nonsense!”, Elder Xorilis abruptly interrupted Elder Yelene.
“Goodness, Elder Xorilis, why do you deny my teachings?”
“Because it will end up killing him. He must fly if wishes to search for the temple!”
“With respect Elder Xorilis but I will do as I please. Everyone before me has done the same and the results speak for themselves.”, Kivis said.
“Pah! Then go on! I will not see you off.”, Elder Xorilis left, rather angry, at Kivis’ defiance.
“Pay him no mind. I will see you off when the time comes.”, said Yelene.
“Thank you. I’ll head home now. Mother will not like it, but I feel this adventure calling to me.”
“Go then my dear.”
Kivis left. Elder Yelene was rather proud to have moved the strong hearted crowmaran to action. In all her years of teaching the old story of their world, very few actually had the courage to do so. Much less to defy the wishes of the other elders. They always preached that flight, as their gift from nature, should be the method of translation in the search for the temple of the guardian flame. Anything else would be insulting, or so they said. As was their tradition, the other elders ignored Yelene’s advice. She was aware that to find the temple it would require more than just flying around the world. Too many of the expeditionaries that left, never returned. Elder Yelene always knew that the secrets held in Ilneas would help the expeditionaries. It is her hope that Kivis will be able to discover something new that will alter the fate of the world.
(I originally wrote this short story in Spanish, my native language. A translation is available at the end)
Me encuentro al borde de un abismo. El fondo se presenta con una oscuridad inmensa. A mis espaldas un desierto, un pasado lejano al cual no quiero regresar. Cada memoria es un pedazo de mi lleno de dolor. El arrepentimiento se apodera de mí. Las mismas preguntas continúan haciendo eco en mi mente. ¿Habré hecho lo correcto? ¿Y si hubiese tomado una decisión distinta? Pero no, ya no hay vuelta atrás. La ciudad se encuentra en ruinas. Solo unos pocos pudieron escapar su destrucción. El reactor central, que energiza toda la ciudad, finalmente falló. No llegue a tiempo con el reemplazo de una pieza clave para su funcionamiento. Por meses busqué y solo encontré hostilidad. Cada batalla solo retrasaba mi llegada a la ciudad. A mi regreso con la pieza me encontré con cientos de miles corriendo despavoridos, buscando alejarse lo más posible del centro. De un momento a otro me vi en la obligación de unirme a la multitud. Tuve que dejar la pesada pieza en medio de una calle. Al final un enorme estallido hizo caer a casi todos. A penas logramos levantarnos cuando un temblor comenzó a sentirse por toda la ciudad. En el centro solo se veía polvo y humo. Aquel atardecer fue uno muy triste. Todos estábamos muy conscientes de cuán oscura sería esa noche. En los días siguientes la ciudad comenzó a vaciarse. Tan solo un mes pasó y ya solo quedaban unos pocos refugiados. Un pequeño generador portátil proveía energía al único edificio que aún quedaba en pie. Las pocas amistades que tenía allí desaparecieron desde el día de la explosión. En fin, no me quedó otra opción que aventurarme nuevamente.
Es así como me he encontrado en este momento. Mirando esa oscuridad profunda que me consume. No pude salvar la ciudad. Ni tan siquiera logré encontrar a mis amigos. Lentamente doy un paso más cerca. El aullido del viento me ensordece pero a través del estruendoso sonido una voz se escapa. Alguien cercano me llama. Miro hacia atrás y veo a un viajero que se acerca. Ya frente a mí, extiende su mano y me dice, “no des otro paso hacia allá, he visto cómo otros han perdido su vida de esa manera. Sígueme, conozco como llegar a un refugio cercano. Reconozco que estos tiempos no son para nada fáciles, pero no pierdas las esperanzas”. Decidí seguir junto a él. Durante el camino me habló sobre sus aventuras. La similitud a mi propia situación ayudó a sanar un poco esas heridas del pasado. La llegada a este nuevo refugio me ayudó a restablecer alguna de la esperanza que había perdido.
I find myself at the edge of an abyss. The depths show a great darkness. Behind me, a desert, a far away past to which I do not wish to return to. Each memory, a part of me full of pain. Regret takes over. The same questions echoing over and over. Did I do the right thing? What if I had made a different decision? No turning back now. The city lies in ruins. A mere few were able to escape its destruction. The central reactor, which powered the entire city, had failed. I could not arrive in time with the replacement part necessary for its operation. For months I searched and only found hostility. Every battle delayed my return. When I finally reached the city again, with the part on my back, I was met with hundreds of thousands running for their lives. I was too late. Everyone was trying to go as far away from the center as they could. In a quick moment I joined the multitude of people. I threw the reactor part aside. Finally a powerful blast knocked most people to the ground. We had barely returned to our feet when a strong earthquake was felt across the city. At the center a cloud of smoke and dust covered everything. That afternoon would be the saddest yet. We were all too aware of how dark that night would be. The following days saw the city slowly emptying out. A small portable generator provided power to a single building that remained standing. My friends had disappeared on the day of the explosion. In the end I had no other choice but to leave.
That is how I find myself at this moment. Staring at this profound darkness that consumes me. I failed to save the city. I couldn’t even find my friends. Slowly, I take a step forward. Despite the deafening howl of the wind, a voice passed through. Someone nearby called to me. I looked behind me and a traveler neared. Once he was in front of me, he offered his hand and said, “don’t take another step, I’ve seen how others have lost their lives that way. Follow me, I know where there is a shelter nearby. I am aware that these times have not been easy, but don’t lose hope”. I ended up going with him. On the way, he spoke of his adventures. The similarities between our individual situations helped ease my pain and heal old wounds. Our arrival at the new shelter aided in restoring some of the lost hope.
“Welcome”, said a floating ball of light.
“Wait, is this…?”
“Heaven? No, that is what a lot of you say. Some others speak of fields or whatever. No, this is your afterlife. Quite literally. The energy of your conscious mind has transcended. Those that came before you established this as an entry point, though it is not the only one”
“I didn’t believe in a heaven to begin with, but transcending? That’s wild”
“Ah, acclimating might be simpler for you than many others. Think of this as a new life, different from the previous one. You begin with all the knowledge and experiences you created previously. This is a very different journey from your corporeal one”
“Wow. Honestly, I’m impressed. What does one do though? What is in this place?”
“This realm was established by the first fully conscious mind to transcend. Said mind moved on to yet another realm, different from this one. In this place you can explore the millions upon millions of permutations that your previous corporeal life might have experienced. In simpler terms, you can explore the outcomes of different decisions. You can follow those until your eventual end. The goal is to continue the growth of your consciousness”
“What if I don’t want to?”
“Then you may roam, infinitely. You do not have a body to feed, nor muscles that tire. There is no body to age. Continuing the expansion of your consciousness will only grant you one thing, to continue on to other realms, other afterlives”
“Hmm, quite intriguing. I guess I’ll head on in and explore, as you said”
“Will I meet any others?”
“Of course, be sure to learn how to project images. If you remember how you looked in the previous life you will be able to show others. Also, those with whom you shared a close bond will be naturally drawn to you”
“Thank you for the advice”
“You’re welcome, please go on”
“Base, this is unit 351 ready to begin the expedition”
“Unit 351, this is launch base gamma, you are cleared for launch”
“Unit 351, launching in 3, 2, 1”
A large vessel activated its engines ready to leave the space station orbiting Titan. For many decades the solar system was thought to be lost, but an errant radio signal betrayed its location. The merging of the galaxies had caused havoc to the galactic positioning system. By some sort of miracle Earth had survived through the merger. The new galactic center was still stabilizing, but at least there weren’t any recent planetary collisions. Numerous expeditions explored the newly merged galaxy after having left the solar system for so long. Communications with Earth ceased some time ago and people worried the planet was no more. Even the space station was completely empty when the first expedition arrived. There were no records of any particular events other than the reports on the ongoing galactic merger. What information remained pointed to a specific day, and then nothing. Automated systems kept the station running.
“Good luck, Captain Murano. We hope you find what you’re looking for”
“Thank you Commander, Murano out”
The great Captain Murano, the first to find the remains of the Titan space station. He now heads the expedition towards Earth to find what happened to the people here. Upon their arrival they spot an unknown starship orbiting the planet. The moon has many more craters than it used to, but other than that the planet seems fine. Further scans find that there are no humans on Earth, but there are other life forms. It is a group of Andromedan researchers.
“What are they doing here? How long have they known about Earth?”, said the captain, perplexed. The Andromedans are nothing new to humans. They have had a long standing relationship that spans centuries. “Comms, I want to speak with them”
The Andromedans explained that they arrived about a week ago. They came from another direction and did not expect to find this planet, which, to them, was just another water world with large landmasses. What drew them here furthered the mystery. Their ship had detected a large energy burst emanating from this solar system. By the time they arrived the energy had dissipated.
“We will join with the Andromedan scientists and find out what happened”
Captain Murano was eager to explore Earth. The records of Earth showed how the continents had moved and the various environmental challenges that the people had to deal with. Particularly that which was caused by humans themselves. They learned the hard way, that they had to be more careful. A lot of people died during that one time many ages ago. Now, the captain witnessed the regal beauty and diversity of the planet. Of the people that lived there, only the great cities remained.
“Did you explore any of the cities?”, asked the captain to one of the Andromedan scientists.
“We did not. We recognized the architecture as your own. Even tried accessing some of the data records of the cities, but nothing is mentioned of the disappearance”, answered the lead scientist.
“Let’s head for one of the city centers, we might find more information there”
As soon as the captain stepped into the city, a beacon of light appeared at the city center. Once they arrived a message played.
“To those of you still retaining your corporeal form know this, we have passed, beyond the limits of our physical form. Our collective knowledge, so vast and far reaching, that the next natural step in our evolution was to shed any mortal remains. We achieved this together, while many of our brethren continue to explore our universe. We might not be able to interact in the future, but know that we will continue our pursuit of knowledge and exploration. Farewell”
An astonishing turn of events for those present. No one expected that the people would simply vanish that way. The Andromedans especially were intrigued and wanted to further study humans and Earth itself. The inquiries of the lead scientist were a bit of an annoyance to the captain, but regardless he agreed that learning more could be the key to someday contacting those who transitioned into a new state of being. For now, Earth was safe and humans could come back to it.
Each step sends ripples across the ground. As if walking on the surface of water. This odd forest expands beyond you. Its story is as warped as the space you are living in currently. The sky is bathed in perpetual night, while the forest itself shines in a variety of colors. All the colors shift every now and then giving the place its mystical atmosphere. The dimensional forest of eternal mana is where you have been taken to. Your training as a druid is complete. To show your prowess you transform into a bear, then an owl and then back to the forest dweller.
Drums echo throughout the air. The sound dances in the winds and even moves the flowers. You kneel before the druid grandmaster as he bestows upon you the energy of this mystical place. As a fully fledged druid your main task is to defend the forest from any invaders and keep your people safe. The mystical forest soon fades. You awaken after what felt like a fever dream. The other dwellers go about their day. Meanwhile a few are gathered at the doorway to your home, a small hollow space within a tree. Those few, family and friends, are happy to see you awake. They are aware of the experience you went through. The elder is there to congratulate you on your endeavor of completing your training. Now, the important task begins. On the eastern edge of the forest lies a human settlement. Those invaders know nothing about respect for nature nor the rules of the dwellers. Despite previous attempts to negotiate with their leaders, nothing has proven effective. This slowly escalated from animosity to full on aggression in a short time. Every breeze now carries the warnings that the humans are preparing an army to invade the forest and attack the dwellers. This must be stopped.
After months of high tension on the border and a change in the human kingdom’s leadership, a small group approached the edge of the forest. It was a royal messenger guarded by a few knights. He stepped off his horse and walked forward. This was considered dweller territory. The dense forest was proof of it. The young man exclaimed that the previous ruler of the kingdom had done serious transgressions against the dwellers and that reparations would be made. First, a nearby village, which harvested a lot of lumber from the forest, would be removed. Second, a treaty was being proposed. You listen carefully. The winds whisper caution, but not danger. The messenger’s heart is true. As an owl you fly down to meet this messenger and transform into your dweller form. Acknowledging their message you quickly transform into a panther and rush back to the village. With speed so great no horse mounted knight could hope to catch up, much less dare tempt a swipe of those sharpened claws. The elder hears the message. It is glad tidings, for a war against the humans would have been costly. Druidic teachings value life above all, to them the loss would have been twice as painful for human life is as valued as dweller life.
Peace reigned for years. The forest continues to be safe and a new generation of druids now goes about the forest in their various forms. Humans have remained distant only occasionally sending messengers with pleasantries. The king honors the commitment, but mentions that not all humans behave as such. So the dwellers, in all their wisdom, continue to keep a watchful eye on their beautiful domain. A light flute melody travels the air. The flowers and even the leaves seem to dance a slow dance. Every note is a protective charm always hoping for a bright, peaceful future.
World at Large
Four months have passed. The threat of the arrival of humans weighs heavily on everyone’s mind. Corvo’s survey team spent many days watching as the construction of the tower continued without delay. When the second tower was finally completed, the humans built scaffolding to reach the small floating mountain. Once there they began to mine into it. In a matter of a few weeks they had acquired rare and mysterious glowing blue stones from the core. Days later, some of their spell weavers had learned to levitate. Humans were on the verge of discovering magical flight.
At the Crowmaran city, training had not yet paid off fully. Most trainees were clumsy but many had the determination to continue to try their best. Magic was not easy to grasp either. Elder Kallis was patient and taught as best he could. Thankfully the group learning magic had greater skill and thus made progress to being able to mount a sustainable defense. A small few, still worried about a conflict they did not desire, decided to leave. Although it was a painful choice, they would rather avoid fighting.
One day, shortly after returning from an early morning survey flight, Corvo reported in with the elders.
“They’re headed this way. It’s a large convoy. Their army was holding a sort of defensive position protecting some central figures. From the looks of it they don’t seem prepared for an invasion”
“Thank you Corvo. We cannot let our guard down regardless. Tell Acarius to hurry and prepare a contingent of the best trained warriors. After you are done with that, find Elder Kallis and tell him the same. We need to prepare a defense”, said Elder Cairos.
“Got it, I’ll head out immediately”
Corvo flew around the city and found Acarius in a large plaza still teaching one of his defense classes.
“Why this interruption Corvo?”
“Elder Cairos requests a contingent of warriors. He says it’s time to prepare a defense”
“The humans are near then?”
“Yes, I saw a convoy not too far from here and headed in our direction”
“I did not expect them to move so quickly. Fine then, I’ll gather those most capable and send them to the meeting hall”
“Alright, I’m off to find Elder Kallis”
“Wait Corvo. I must apologize”
“For too long I have seen you as a reckless, ignorant child. The truth is, you are probably the bravest of us all”
“I have been as scared as many of us Acarius, but I do what I feel is right. It was that recklessness that initially led me to discover that tower”
“And for that we thank you. You even took some of the defense classes”
“With the other instructors, because I still thought you hated me”
“No, no hatred from this old fool. Go, Vala should be with Elder Kallis”
Another flight through the city. Even with some crows leaving, the city still bustled as they prepared to receive the coming visitors. Close to the western edge of the city, on another of the great floating mountains, was Elder Kallis and Vala. They practiced ancient spells and magical enchantments. Strange glowing symbols floated around them. Small flames erupted from some of those and danced around at the command of Vala.
“You seem to have gotten the hang of that”
“Corvo! I’m so glad to see you!”, said Vala.
“You come with news for us?”, Elder Kallis questioned, seemingly knowing what Corvo was about to say.
“Yes, Elder Cairos has asked for a contingent of crows adept with magic to mount a defense. The humans draw near”
“Understood, I will gather those I can. Vala, go with Corvo to receive our group at the meeting hall.”
“Alright. Let’s go, Corvo.”
Around midday alarms sounded throughout the city. The humans had arrived at the area below the great floating mountains. Most elders waited at the meeting hall preparing the defense groups for the worst.
To the utter astonishment of the elder crows and just about everyone only three humans arrived using a magical bridge. Not even proper flight magic was used. The elders were confused. For the longest time humans had been thought of as savages, but here was evidence that things had changed dramatically.
“Greetings. People of the Crowmaran. We have been aware of your presence for nearly a century now. We are also aware that our continuous conflict has set a terrible example of who we are. I am Queen Amelie, and these two are my retainers. To my left is our court wizard, Elena. To my right is Knight Captain Juliana”
“Greetings Queen Amelie, I am Elder Cairos. I will be direct with you, you have surprised all of us with your presence here. Please, tell us, why have you come here?”
“I am here to assure you that we have no hostile intentions toward you and that we wish to connect with the rest of the beings of this world. You are the closest neighbors to my kingdom and thus I wish to extend an invitation for your people to feel free to visit. We wish to promote trade of knowledge and materials. En fin, we wish to come to an understanding”
“What guarantees do we have that your people will not be aggressive towards us?”
“This is why I have come here myself. I am their leader. It is my responsibility to keep them in line. Rather than just tell you, your people should experience this themselves. For now, I know you are apprehensive about all this, so I ask that you merely assign an observer. Afterwards we can talk about commerce. What I offer you today has been the same I have said for others. Even the stubborn Wolven kingdom started trade with us recently”
“The Wolven?! That is indeed a surprise. Well then, you have convinced me Queen Amelie. I will assign someone to go to your kingdom. May this be a step towards continued peace”
“Indeed. With that I consider my task complete, I will head back to our city. I await your envoy. Farewell!”
And just like that the humans left. Corvo watched as the caravan moved away. He questioned why the need for so many forces for one person, but the elders reminded him that, despite those humans being peaceful it didn’t mean that they were naïve enough to let their guard down. In the same way the Crowmaran suspected aggression, they too could suspect them of being violent. Though their own conflicts had happened decades ago, the scars were still fresh.
“We are as split as they are Corvo. For example, long ago we had to split our people because of near constant aggression. Today, our yellow spotted cousins remain in control of the floating mountains far south”, said Elder Cairos. “If we can continue to have peace, then I will take it. Would you be bothered too much if we chose you to represent us?”
“Of course not Elder Cairos. I would be delighted. I am a curious crow to both my benefit and detriment, ha!”
“Just remember to report in regularly”
Peace remains in the city of the Crowmaran. Their fears about the humans had been relieved. Commerce eventually bloomed between them. Corvo was delighted with learning about the traditions held by the humans. Eventually all trade broadened to include the Wolven and even the yellow spotted crows from the south. Some areas of conflict remained, as with such a diverse world it was inevitable. The new alliance tried to deal with these as best they could. To soften old hatreds and eventually reach a peaceful resolution for them. Finally at the end of this road, Corvo was happy one day when he discovered that his parents were alive and well. They had traveled so far they lost their way, but with the new roads and flight corridors set up by the alliance they rediscovered the great Crowmaran city. His family reunited, now he had to contend with having two sisters and a brother. As for Vala, she continued at Corvo’s side for years to come.