Book of Bollikin
Walking along the rolling green hills of the Ackeleheliorna Forest, Tae and I watched the world burn. Sheets of flames crisscrossed the sky, swallowing clouds and expelling superheated mists. The smell of burnt wood clogged our noses, and the soot rained down like twisted snowflakes, typical of a combined attack of the Soulless Zenos and Muud. Fortunately, it wasn't common that the Soulless Ones worked together.
"Do not worry, little friend," Tae said at my side. "The forest is safe. Bear and I protect it."
"For how long?" I asked quietly.
"Long enough," Tae said, as always confident and sure.
Just as suddenly the flames in the sky winked out. I gave a sigh. The Domotheon Spires had kicked in again, cutting the attack off at its source. But the Fifth Circle kept warning us that it was only a matter of time before the Spires, hidden within the bubbles between the planes, would fail.
"There!" announced Tae. "What did I tell you, little friend? Everything will be fine."
More bravado, but I took comfort in it anyway. Tae gave me a squeeze and hoisted me up onto his broad shoulders. Humming, he continued his circuit of the Ackeleheliorna. But as he picked me up, I saw the concern in his eyes. He felt me trembling.
I could not help it. Even now, rabbits burned in an unnamed forest on the other side of the world. Foxes drowned in floods along the Plains of Shavarti. Squirrels, skunks, beavers, hedgehogs, fleeing certain death in all the far corners of the First World. My small creations were not meant to withstand such assaults. They died in droves, and their Great Spirits, the hive souls that formed from these my creations, felt every death, every fearful cry for help, as they ran and ran and ran. But nowhere was safe, and the Great Spirits cried out. And I felt their cries as sharp stabs within my heart.
Ironic that I was once considered the greatest of the Seventh Circle for having so many Great Spirits form out of my creations. Now, those of the Seventh Circle looked on me with pity for they knew how much pain I was in. Even though part of my envied those who had only one or two Great Spirits and thus their pain would be confined, I could not reproach their existence. I loved them too much and would never regret having created even the smallest of them.
"Are you ready, little friend?" Tae asked as he carried me on his shoulder.
"What, dear Tae?" I asked, trying to lose myself in the scent of honeysuckle and violets that grew at the bases of the honeytrees.
"We said we would help move the icebourne fae," said Tae. "Do you not want to go?"
"Oh, yes. Of course, let's go," I said, remembering that we were going to help isolate the icebourne, creatures that the Traitor Manteekan had created.
Leaving the forest, travelling along the planar byways, we entered the ethereal realm, where others had already gathered and surrounded a group of fae. As we approached, the air turned achingly chill. The forms of the icebourne had not yet solidified into a stable state, though they were obviously awakened from the spirit of snow and ice. Without their awakener, they were confused yet they were filled with something twisted and wrong. They stared at us with eyes bright with hate. Even so, who could blame them? We banished their creator and now rounded them up.
How could I not help but be sympathetic? For aeons our only desire was to procreate, but alas, creating progeny was beyond us. The Creators of the Seventh Circle created their creatures, some of whom became the hive souls which we called children. The Awakeners of the Sixth Circle awakened the fae spirits who sometimes formed into greater spirits. Even the hamadhi strived to push the half-formed to their potential, but after so many aeons in their creche, they were stuck as they were.
It was a bitter pill that we never were able to create more Elders like ourselves. For however much we succeeded and came close, our creations were never our equals. The true power of creation either died with Dynara and her nameless brother or was simply beyond our grasp.
The icebourne screamed and cursed at us as we encased them in a sphere and delved into the space between planes, a cold dark place which I hated. Even so, other elders used this place to create small bubbles to conduct their research or just offer small spaces to be alone. We were surprised to meet Crumkane in this space of aether, and I smelled the breath of the fae on him. I could guess what he did, for his fae followers loved him. Was he hiding his favourites in a bubble? What would become of them? Perhaps he hoped to save just a few as it now seemed First World was doomed.
"The Domotheon Spires are almost spent," said Loboshi, as we travelled through the aethers.
"There!" said Lisaera. "The bubble of ice is perfect for these creatures."
Releasing the creatures onto this ice world, they were not grateful but rather ran and hid in the snows. Tae bellowed with laughter and ran off to play with them, thinking they were having some sort of sport. Meanwhile, Lisaera and Nocht began directing the building of a system within the bubble that would rehabilitate the icebourne. However long that would take would be anyone's guess.
Loboshi was inspecting one of the Domotheon Spires which was on the ice bubble, She sighed and pointed out the cracks and fissures along the base. We repaired it as best we could but knew it was only a matter of time before it broke.
When were about to leave, I had to go and find Tae. He was running back and forth along the snow banks, laughing and throwing snowballs. Curious, I watched saw some snowballs being cast back at him. Tae saw me and can jogging towards me.
"That was fun," he said. "Do you want to play too, little friend?"
"No, thank you, dear Tae," I said. "What have you and the icebourne been up to?"
"Oh, they've been hiding and I've been seeking. When I catch them, I pack them into snow or ice and make little creatures out of them. Do you want to see?"
"No, no, we don't have time. Loboshi says the Domotheon Spires are more fragile than she had thought and we should report to the First Circle."
As we left the ice bubble, I wondered briefly if Tae's playing would affect the icebourne, or the rehabilitation system we had set, but there were greater concerns.
When we gathered atop Mount Dynara, in the House of Xyl, there was a large gathering of Elders. Apparently, the First Circle had called a convocation. We assembled in the large crystal auditorium where we normally did. It was then that it struck me how reduced our numbers were. The hall was practically empty. Unconsciously we all clustered together in the centre to give an illusion of numbers. But looking back, most of the auditorium was empty. Were there really less than a thousand of us left? So it seemed.
On the dais that floated before us stood Meridian flanked by Eventru and Aslarn. To their left was Roark, a Thinker of the Fifth Circle. They waited until we had all quieted. Meridian stepped forward.
"We know that since the Twelve Traitors were banished, the war has not gone well," he said. "But that does not mean that we haven't been studying the situation. We believe we have found a solution. It is a small chance, but it offers hope."
Meridian paused and we all leaned forward. Hope! It was not a word we had heard recently. But Meridian did looked neither happy nor filled with hope. He nodded to Roark, who then stepped forward.
"As many of you know," said Roark, "my research has mainly focused on the interplanar matrices and study of dimensional anomalies. A theory I've often postulated was that Magnora and Dynara went far beyond just the normal dimensional waves but left our reality altogether, beyond our knowledge of the multiverse."
Members of the Fifth Circle nodded in understanding, though others, like Tae, looked bored or confused. Roark cleared his throat and went on.
"Our first impetus was to return to the First World, Lusternia. After all the First World is the centre of our multiverse, the nexus point of all our known dimensions. While our instinct may have compelled us here, it was the wrong decision. We came here to wait for the return of Dynara and Magnora. But instead we should have been seeking them out. And to find them, we would need to search as far away from Lusternia as possible, for if there is a rift into another reality be, it would be as far away from the one point of where reality is most stable, which is, of course, the First World.
"The Void is the only logical area where the fabric of our reality is thin enough to pierce, through to another reality, the event horizon of possibilities. I have developed a device which I believe measures the thinning of reality, seeking out the event horizons along the quantum shifts of the Void; thus, enabling us search out and find the thinning of space-time where Dynara and Magnora were lost. Then, we can bring them back and restore equilibrium."
Silence. We were stunned. This was the solution? To run to the Void? The nervousness of the proposal was palpable.
"Why couldn't the Soulless just follow us to the Void?" asked Clangorum.
"We would slip out a few at a time," said Meridian. "They won't notice us going if we use the same fulcrux rift which we used to send out the Twelve Traitors."
"Lovely," muttered Mugowumpois. "And ironic. We will ultimately share the same fate as the Twelve! How do you plan on us escaping the Void?"
Roark said "I can construct a beacon in the Void, and once it is safe to return, Dynara or Magnora can activate it. When you hear the beacon, it will be safe and you can follow it home."
"And if Dynara and Magnora never return," said Mugowumpois bitterly. "We will be trapped forever in the Void. That is, until the Soulless Ones consume the First World and all of creation before going back to the Void and hunting us down."
Roark had nothing to say to that, just looked on impassively. Meridian stepped forward and descended down the dais.
"It is hope," Meridian said softly. "A hard and difficult journey it would be, to confine ourselves in the Void and search for our progenitors, but it offers hope nonetheless."
Thus, it was decided that we would abandon the First World and escape to the Void. Groups of five would leave through the fulcrux complex within Mount Dynara. According to Xyl, we would be scattered throughout the Void, just as the Twelve Traitors were. Roark was providing the devices that would search out the thinning of reality so we could search for the progenitors. As each group left, we would say good-bye. It was unlikely we would meet each other in the vastness of the Void.
I kept demurring from joining a group. Instead, Tae and I would go wander through the remaining forests, visiting the last survivors of our creation.
"I'm not going to go, dear Tae," I said. "I cannot leave my little ones."
"Of course, you can't, " said Tae matter of factly, "We will stay behind."
"No, dear Tae," I said. "You needn't stay. I would rather you go. I couldn't bear to know you are lost."
"Don't be daft, little friend. We can never be lost so long as we have each other."
What could I do but laugh and hug, my dear sweet Tae. That decision behind us, we went to tell the others, to say our last goodbyes.
When we got to the fulcrux chambers within Mount Dynara, there was a lot of activity. The crystal chambers were pulsating and the air was crackling with energy. The Soulless Ones had become suspicious at our activity and dwindling numbers. They were all attacking at once, with Kethuru leading the way, spreading himself up and out, enclosing the First World.
"The Domotheon Spires are collapsing," shouted Loboshi.
Turning to a monitoring crystal, Xyl tapped it and images appeared of the Domotheon Spires, each resting on a bubble in the aethers of space. The Spires trembled and flared with sudden dark energies. Quickly, Xyl switched the viewing crystal to focus on his research station in the elemental phase of the aethers.
"Xion Control Unit," said Xyl into a transference crystal. "Lower the Domotheon Spires. Code: Sigura-pharx Eight Three Two Five Nine."
Switching the viewing crystal back to the view of the Domotheon Spires, we watched them begin sinking down into the ground. But it was too late, they were already crumbling. Finally, they exploded, leaving behind nothing more than circular rings on their respective bubbles. As the rings began to fade and sink, the viewing crystal flared black and cracked.
"Who was in the last group that just left?" said Meridian grimly.
"Agnomenon, Fininkora, Carakhan, Luriki and Panamandius," said Xyl.
"Agnomenon!" screamed Clangorum. "My brother! Did they make it to the Void."
"I do not know," said Xyl, gesturing to the cracked crystal. "We have no way of checking. But that was the last group that would be going out. Kethuru will block any further attempts.
So we were trapped here. I know Tae and I had not planned on leaving but somehow knowing the others will be trapped with us made the decision seem hollow. It was only a matter of time before the Soulless Ones would break through the final defences. We had retreated to the basin below Mount Dynara which was more than just a mountain, but the manifestation of the heart of the First World. We constructed a shield over the Basin and held our position within.
We waited to die. I leaned back against the conforming wall that was Tae.
"Little friend," he said, "I will never leave you."
"Oh, Tae," I said bitterly. "I wish you had."
Meridian watched us, stricken silent. He walked several paces and watched the seas though tears filled his eyes. Trillillial and Xyl held hands and walked away to a dome. Loboshi comforted the wolves who followed her around. How many of us were left? Not nearly enough for the defence to hold long.
My children. I could feel them call to me, the little creatures who were my offspring. I could feel them turning to me for protection, but what could I offer them? Nothing, nothing at all. I was never much of a fighter. I never liked violence and always relied on Tae for protection. Now I'd just get in his way. My forte was hiding and there was nowhere left to hide.
Their imminent death weighed heavier on me than my own. I began to cry. Something inside of me was breaking. This was my final farewell. I hugged Tae hard, and he absorbed it and hugged me back. I could not say what I was going to do.
"I love you, dear Tae," I whispered. "I must leave now."
"I love you too, little friend," said Tae, "but where are you going? When will you be coming back?
I didn't answer. I couldn't answer. A deep peace filled me. I would join my creations. It would be my last, final gift to them, to join them in their fate. Tae's booming voice was hammering at me but his words became a blur of sound. Other voices were joining his, but they meant nothing to me. I felt the force of my childrens' love surge within me. But I was helpless to do anything.
My heart breaks for I cannot take you with me, dear Tae.