The Runner

He ran. Arrows thudded all around him and still, he ran. The rich tones of the warning bells permeated the wind and rain bustling past his ears and he did not divert. An arrow whirred before his face and he did not slow down. Indeed, each arrow seemed to fuel his speed and strengthen his resolve. It was these moments, and these moments alone, when he felt free. While the others rushed to find shelter in their ever-shuttered houses, he sped through the fields. The fear and uncertainty and hunger and loss melted away from his stride, and he was left alone with his race amongst the corn. Like a master artisan of old finding renewed purpose with each stroke of the brush, the corn fields were his canvas, the rain was his palette, and his feet were the brushes.

In the citadel, rain never ceased even with the sun shining. Sometimes it was just a drizzle, other times a storm. It was always present and had always been so; he knew of no time when it did not rain. The winds were loud and furious at times, but most often calm and tranquil, and he took pleasure in walking through the peaceful drizzle of the most common days with the sun on his face. This was one of those pleasant days. When the arrows stopped falling from the sky and the warning bells subsided, his run came to an end, and he took a leisurely stroll back to his home. He knew what awaited him.

His father was waiting in his room, as usual. Father stood there with his steel face while wringing the belt between his hands. No words needed to be spoken. He dutifully took his position and awaited the inevitable. It didn’t matter in the end. The consequences were irrelevant to the freedom he found in his races through the corn. The hunger he felt later as he lay in bed would give him pause in his disregard of the consequences, but he knew that his pause would be forgotten at the first sound of a warning bell.

He lay there unable to sleep because of his hunger. His thoughts turned to the door; the door with the three locks. Every house in the citadel was the same. Sometimes, they were different shades of stone as if they had been painted, but even the differences were all the same shade of drab. All were small square houses with solid steel doors and permanently shuttered windows. Two bedrooms were upstairs and one bedroom was downstairs along with a kitchen, a main room, and a small privy in the back. Every kitchen had a sealed door of which no one would speak. His house’s door was sealed with three locks all down its side, approximately in the same locations as the hinges would normally be located but on the opposite side.

He had no idea what was behind the door. None of the children in the citadel knew, or they just weren’t telling. It was forbidden to ask and doing so was only met with harsh consequences. Nevertheless, he had asked his parents no less than five times. Not knowing what was behind the door was far worse for him than any amount of hunger, belts, or time-outs. He had tried other adults only to be met with looks of horror and further punishment from his parents. He had begged the other children to ask their parents (mostly their mothers since there were so few fathers left in the citadel), but the other children had little interest in asking and would turn up their noses or, more often, turn up his nose in the form of a fist to his face.

He was determined to find out, however, and he had a plan; a rather bad plan, but a plan nonetheless. The locks were all of various shapes and sizes, but they were all tumbler locks, and likely made by the citadel’s locksmith (may he rest in peace.) He had studied them whenever afforded the chance. The keyholes were mostly the same shape, but for some minuscule differences, and he had a rough idea of what the keys should look like. The real problem was the massive amount of keys in the citadel. Keys were everywhere. The locksmith had made hundreds, maybe thousands of locks, all with different keys (he’d heard that the locksmith had been appropriated for the locksmith’s lock-making prowess and forced to live in the citadel, but that was neither here nor there), and the keys had seemingly been scattered all over the place. In his own home, he had located twenty-nine keys that might fit those particular locks; nine on his father’s key-ring and twenty in various cabinets, cupboards, and hiding places throughout the house.

He was the youngest in the citadel and felt almost certain that many of the other children knew what was behind the doors. Why was he so excluded? And for that matter, why did he feel so shunned? The children and adults avoided him and he could hardly get a word out of any of them, even a simple greeting. He would often see them chatting together, sometimes with a smile or a laugh, their downtrodden faces and lifeless eyes notwithstanding. Yet, they never failed to shy away from him. Even his own mother walked in silence and would not even hazard a glance in his direction as they made their way home from the fields after a day of work.

But, it didn’t matter. His runs gave him freedom and the thought of discovering the mystery behind the door gave him excitement — a rare emotion that only he seemed to know. He had a plan. Father’s keys always hung in the same place (in the kitchen no less!) and he spent the next few weeks trying the keys whenever he was certain he could get away with it. One of them worked! He almost shouted with joy upon its discovery, but he managed to stop himself just before; this was too important to give away.

A retaliation meeting was to be held soon. All of the adults attended. It seemed pointless as they rarely actually did anything, but he was glad for it. He planned to quietly slip the working key off his father’s ring the night before the meeting, but his father never returned that evening and did not do so the following day until it was time to fetch his mother for the meeting. He had a backup plan, though, for just in case a key didn’t work. Rust would be his ally.

He set his plan in action as soon as they left for the meeting. First, he gathered the keys. He darted from cupboard to cabinet to hidden places in the walls to underneath beds. Then he began the arduous task of trying them one by one. He tried the first key: nope. He tried the second key: no again. He tried the third key: nothing. The fourth key jammed a bit when he tried to turn it, and so on and so forth until finally! The first lock was open! Then he began on the second lock, and after he felt for sure he had found the right key, he had some trouble getting it to turn all the way. It had rusted inside. After it opened, there was no way it wouldn’t be noticed, so it was all or nothing at this point, and he set to work on the last lock.

He picked up his hand-axe and wedged it between the rusty gap of the latch and the door, then picked up the smith’s hammer, and with a mighty clang! attempted to drive it further in. The force of the sound made him take two steps back; it was far louder than he had expected. He wondered if anyone had heard. Then he thought it best to change his method.

He grabbed a large metal spatula from the other side of the kitchen, raced back, placed it flat against the door, placed the hammer’s handle between the spatula’s handle and the door, and drove the spatula far between the axe and the door. Then he set to work wiggling the hammer back and forth and slowly driving it upward. This was all too loud, as well (though not nearly as much as his first hammer strike), and was certainly loud enough to be heard outside.  But it was too late to stop, then.

After many long minutes of working the hammer upward, he finally managed to get it underneath the butt of the axe-blade, but he could no longer move the hammer! With a hushed cry and sore muscles, he pulled the spatula out and the axe and hammer both crashed to the floor. But the latch had definitely pulled further away from the door! His heart raced at the progress he had made, and he set to work again. After a time, the tools crashed to the floor yet again, but he did not stop for even a moment before he picked them up and tried again. The end was in sight! The latch was coming loose! Soon he would know what was behind the door!

“Stop! Do not open that door!” his father exclaimed as he rushed into the kitchen.

Father’s eyes turned down and swelled as if he might begin to cry. He then took a few steps closer, and in almost a whisper said, “That is… that’s where we keep our hope.”

Jupiter 1

Captain’s Log, June 3, 2232: Being a pre-EoE, I still find it difficult to adapt to the council’s not-so-newly-chosen calendar system. At least my personal logs are still allowed to use the old system. I think they humor me with this. Or maybe they just pity me for being so old. It doesn’t matter, I will die eventually, and the old system will be forgotten. It seems entropy will not be denied my generation, and honestly, we would not deny it if given the choice. We have entered Jovian orbit and preparations have begun for construction. J told me he loved me this morning.

Captain’s Log, August 1, 2232: Construction has progressed to the point where we are required to take permanent residence in the core. Many of the crew and passengers were nervous about this, but the move completed without incident. J told me he loved me yesterday.

Captain’s Log, September 21, 2232: Construction is nearly complete. The attraction system has proven to be a bit of a challenge, however — the metallic hydrogen is far more volatile than the probes reported. We have made it work because of course we did. D is investigating what went wrong with the probes. In other news, a divide has arisen between some of the crew and passengers and the council have deemed it my responsibility to squash it. Since when does my job description include arbitration? J has not told me he loved me in 11 days.

Captain’s Log, September 30, 2232: A crew member has been murdered by a passenger. One of the elites took it upon himself to enact revenge for some petty little grievance that didn’t really matter to anyone. The elite has been consigned to a jail cell; cells I thought we’d never actually use. The crew member’s remains were given to the recycling system per protocol. I have assigned D to investigate what might be the cause of all this nonsensical squabbling. Construction is complete and the H attractor is fully operational. It will take another 412 days to harvest the energy required to get this thing moving. J told me he loved me last night.

Captain’s Log, November 1, 2232: The Halloween festival was a disaster. A riot broke out between the crew and the passengers leaving 15 dead. This is unacceptable and not just because we literally need every single person on this vessel. I have issued a quarantine dividing the crew from the passengers and they are no longer allowed to interact until I have figured out some way to solve whatever this is. Side note: even the council has started bickering amongst themselves. J told me he hated me this morning.

Captain’s Log, November 29, 2232: By some miracle (not really–she knows what she’s doing), D has discovered the source of our rampant hostility. (It’s a good thing, too, since I punched J in the face two days ago and I haven’t seen him since.) A combination of the metallic hydrogen’s excessive volatility, the gravitation neutralization system, and Jupiter’s massive gravity have caused an imperceptible hum to propagate throughout the vessel. It seems this hum was the cause of our agitation. Gravengineering (why did we let this word happen?) has determined that we cannot shut down the grav-n system to make the modifications necessary, so we took a portion of the audio system, turned it outward, and matched the frequency to cancel the hum. The effect was instantaneous. Much weeping and apologies could be heard throughout the vessel and afterward, and we’ve done little more than sleep for the past week. J and I made love today for the first time in what-felt-like forever.

Captain’s Log, January 15, 2233: A side effect of our make-shift hum-canceling system has caused us all to be sleepy all the time. We made adjustments that seemed to help, but we still require more sleep than should be necessary. To compensate, we adjusted everyone’s sleep schedule adding an additional 45 to 75 minutes depending on the individual’s physiology. For the crew, this means less time to get things done, but we’ll make it work. Yes, Recorder, I am aware that I started those two sentences with a preposition; I thought I turned off the grammar check system for my personal logs. J and I are making love regularly and I have no complaints in that regard.

Captain’s Log, June 3, 2233: It has been one year since we reached Jupiter. J has insisted that I begin using the new calendar system. The years are longer and the days are slightly shorter in the new system and it is technically the year -274 BNE. Preparations have begun for the launching of the larger moons out of Jovian orbit. Goodbye Ganymede. Goodbye Callisto. Goodbye Io. Goodbye Europa. J told me he loved me twice yesterday.

Captain’s Log, July 1, 2233: The four large moons are now safely on their way out of the solar system. Callisto will eventually make its way back and fall into a stable orbit becoming another dwarf planet, but everything will be gone by then. Preparations have begun to attract the remaining 65 moons into the atmosphere. J and I had an argument that was resolved amicably.

Captain’s Log, September 9, 2233: The 65 moons have taken their residence in the atmosphere altering its shape. The new spherical shape is more than adequate. Everything is going smoothly. The H attractor is ahead of schedule and we will be launching on November 1. The council convened on whether to delay the launch or adjust the new calendar system. I was amused. They decided to adjust rather than delay. Like much of the crew, J is depressed, and he has not told me he loved me in 3 days.

Captain’s Log, September 30, 2233: An unspoken sadness has fallen over the entirety of this vessel’s occupants. We don’t talk about this, but there are survivors on Earth, albeit ultimately doomed survivors, but they are people nonetheless. Jupiter was not only necessary for the evolution of Earth but remains necessary for this solar system’s sustainability. By removing it, we are effectively sentencing Earth to a much quicker death. If only they had come with us.

Captain’s Log, October 29, 2233: We held a memorial for Earth today. D organized it. Is there anything she can’t do? J cried like most everyone else.

Captain’s Log, October 31, 2233: This marks the end of this log system. Post-launch, I am required to make a new public log system using the new calendar system and of a more formal tone. J and I had a long conversation about hope last night, and I feel much better about things. I do wish I could see this journey to completion, but, honestly, those experiences are intended for the next generation.

The Shannon Ferry

“How does it work, mister?” The old helmsman was in a daydream and found himself startled by the young boy’s question. He turned around.

“Well, that is a very interesting question, isn’t it? But, how does what work, exactly? How does the wind blow? How does the water flow?” The helmsman raised an eyebrow and swept his arm outward. “How does this mist form? And, why does it always smell so much like some wondrous childhood memory that I can’t seem to remember?” The old man’s face carried a puzzled look.

“No, sir. I mean, none of those things. How is it that the boat knows the way across? Mother says that only this boat knows how to cross The Shannon. She says that all other boats get turned around and wind up right back where they began. She says that only this boat can reach Albion.”

“Well, now, is that what she says? Well, tell me this: how do you know it is the boat what knows the way across and not the helmsman?” He studied the boy’s face while the boy pondered his question. “Hmm… Have you ever heard of magic?”

The boy looked up and his eyes came alive. “Oh yes! We had a magician in Beland! He could heal people and make fire! He made the sky explode every year at the festival of Bel! Oh, but…” The boy’s face turned sullen and tilted downward. “He… Well, he died when the… Well, mother says he saved us, anyway. She says we’re going to Albion to start over.”

“Oh, is that so!? Well… forgive my disbelief, but, I can scarcely believe that you know no magic. You are practically brimming with it like a tea kettle about to blow its whistle.”

The boy was taken aback. “N… No, sir,” he replied as he shook his head.

The helmsman grinned and winked at the boy. And then, with a wave of his fingers and a mumble of some words the boy did not understand, he drew some of the mist into his palm. The mist began to take shape–the shape of what the boy thought must be a fairy. A misty, winged ballerina pirouetted on the helmsman’s freckled, wrinkled old hand. And then with another wink, the ballerina was gone. The helmsman leaned down and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Magic exists in everyone if you know where to look.”

The boy’s eyes might have bulged out of their sockets had the helmsman not interrupted the amazement running through the boy’s mind. “Now it is time to get back to your mother, if you don’t mind. I have a ferry to attend.” The boy turned to run back to his mother. The helmsman brought his hand up to his temple in that sort-of half-salute one does when they’ve remembered something. “But, before you go.” The boy stopped and the helmsman pointed toward the far corner of the deck near the bow. “You see that man slouched in the corner? He must be asleep, and sleep on the Shannon is the most peaceful of sleep. It is said that it can conjure the most fantastical of dreams. Do try to not disturb him, if you please.” The boy nodded, thought better of running, and decided to walk back to his mother, instead.

The ferry drifted along the water as if floating on a cloud, with nary a hint of list or pitch or some other disturbance in its course. In fact, if not for the sound of the lapping waves, the passengers might have believed they were truly sailing the skies. No shore could be seen in any direction and it was often difficult to tell which direction they drifted, causing unspoken doubt and fear to propagate throughout the passengers. The helmsman suffered no more disturbance until the ferry reached the other side.

He plopped the gangway down on the shore. The passengers made no attempt to hide their relief and then their excitement redoubled at having reached Albion. They departed post haste, nearly barreling over the helmsman before he had a moment to step to the side. He stood at the gangway and wished them a good evening and thanked them for their patronage. He noticed the boy was being shuffled along by his mother and gave the boy a wink and a grin. After the last passenger stepped off the gangway, the helmsman raised it and the ferry departed.

After a time, the helmsman stopped the ferry, weighed anchor, and sighed. Not one of the departed passengers had taken note of the man sleeping by the bow as they departed. He approached the sleeping man, bent down, and gave him a shake.

“No doubt you’re wondering why you can’t move.” The helmsman pulled out a projectile device and tapped it on his arm. “This is what you call a tranquilizer gun, and it is the best investment I have ever made for this job. You see, I shot you with this as soon as you sat down and the dart was small enough and the gun quiet enough that nobody noticed. It’s a shame nobody checked on you before they departed. If it’s any consolation, they never do.”

The helmsman grabbed the man under his arms. “It’s about time for the effects to start wearing off, so here, let me help you to your feet.” He heaved the man up and leaned him against the side of the boat. “The truth is, this ferry belongs to the Lady of the River, and it requires neither passengers nor helmsman to find its way. However, she requires payment, and some folks have need to cross, so I am here to ensure that payment is made. The tranquilizer gun is so great because, well, she wants you alive.” And with that, he pushed the man overboard.

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I See Darkness in My Dreams

I see darkness in my dreams.

The darkness hints at a sense of peace just beyond the tips of my outstretched fingers.  But it is never truly reachable, like a woman for whom you bare your soul but she refuses to give yours even the slightest of glances.  It is a short-lived respite and I welcome its frigid embrace for the quickening moment that I am allowed; for I will soon wake up, and that is never pleasant. This brief moment of darkness–this gentle kiss from the Night Mother–is all I now await; all I now desire; all I now portend.

It is always the chair I first notice when the darkness begins to recede. Then my hands. I can never move my hands. The chair is my seat and my arms are bound to its arms and my legs are bound to its legs; though I cannot seem to feel my feet. Why is it her face that I always see when I open my eyes? Why can’t I open my eyes to some other sight, just the once? Her face is full of hatred and malice and revenge. Deservedly so.

How many times must I endure this?

Once upon a time, I had a bit of a bottle problem, or that’s one way to put it. I had a numbness, well really the numbness was all I experienced any longer, and the bottles made it less so, at least for a while. I was lost in a sea of the past when time was my artistry was worth something. A time that seems so long ago. A time before the destitute wretchedness my life had become. A time when a brush in my hand and a palette of color in the other was my sorcery; my true magic. A wave of my hands could record the very essence of all emotion, and the results were coveted more than gold and jewels, more than the elation and proclamations exclaimed at the height of erotic passion, more than the temporary powers granted a victorious election. But, that was a time long past, if ever it truly existed in anything more than my imagination.

My bottle problem was less of a problem for me so much as it was a problem with the self-proclaimed and self-entitled aristocracy permeating this damned society. It’s like a disease with no cure. Bottles are easy to come by and I needed little else. Not thinking myself a burden on society, other than my apparent insult of having to be looked upon when the occasion arose that one of those pretentious haughty pompous supercilious cane-toting trolls happened to walk by, I simply awaited my death whilst numbing my numbness with the bottles.

This woman was not a troll.  She found pity when she looked at me and decided to act upon her pity. She did this, not only for me, but for a great many others, in spite of herself, and with little regard for her own well-being. In fact, despite the wrath unfolding before me, I believe she is a good woman still, and always has been; the epitome of goodness if there is such a thing. She is a woman that can bend your own desires to coalesce with her own before you even realize what had happened; and after the realization hits you, you are glad that it happened. She wasn’t particularly pleasant on the eyes, in fact, she was a bit plainer than most and her figure reminded me more of a wooden box than the luscious curvature you envision when you think of a typical woman–well, it was more of a rectangle, but it doesn’t matter. She was kind and gentle and patient and wise and all the good things that entice you trust a person. And trust her I did.

She convinced me to give up my bottles, and for a short while, I chose to help her in whatever way I could. And for a moment, I think I felt something beyond the usual numbness, though I can no longer recall what that something was beyond the hollow space of love I once felt for her. In addition to helping wretched old souls like myself, she also ran an orphanage, and I was good with the children. I think I truly loved them in my own way, but it was for her that I took care of them. It was for her that I taught them to express their artistry. It was for her that I helped them learn their letters. It was for her that I read them bedtime stories. I loved her. She loved me. She told me as much on many an occasion. We shared a bed. We shared a life for a while. The numbness was abated.

But it did not last.

The numbness never really leaves you once it has taken hold. Thus, I began to consult my old bottles on the occasions that she would not notice, mostly in the dead of night during the sleeping hours. It is strangely difficult to sleep when you feel nothing at all, and the bottles numbed the numbness if ever so slightly. It was one of these occasions that I committed the worst sin of my wretched existence.

The bottles not only numbed the numbness, but also the senses. And, on one of those nights, I accidentally (at least I think it was an accident) tipped over a candlestick, which tipped over another, which tipped over a third. The dry wood of the orphanage burned rather well and I was powerless to stop it.

She managed to save five of the twelve children before the orphanage collapsed on itself.  Half her uncomely face was burned beyond recognition. I managed to stumble outside before getting injured.

So here I sit in this chair. Strapped to it. Offering no resistance. I shall never offer resistance no matter how many times this repeats. In point of fact, I lost count quite some time ago.

Tears and snot and all the fluids of despair stream down her face as she screams at me. “WHY!?” she screams. Occasionally it descends into some desperate wail or a sullen sob. Sometimes it is a whisper. Sometimes she can not speak it aloud, but her eyes scream it louder than her voice is even capable.

I offer no answer. I will not offer an answer. I have no answer. She deserves this bit of vengeance.

Eventually, she comes close to me and gently presses her knife through my chest. Everything she does is gentle. She is a gentle soul. The last thing I hear before descending into darkness is her whisper through her tears, “I love you.” Thus ends this cycle.

I see darkness in my dreams.

The Three Cycles

Eliador was the purest of the Dùsgatàlaidar, being both pure of mind and of intention. Boundless creation existed within her and she became its symbol amongst the Dùsgatàlaidar and amongst all the planes of existence. Her wisdom was only surpassed by her husband, Entassada, with whom she shared an unbreakable bond.

In the elder days before the days of men, she walked among the mur (now known as trees) and elves and fey of what is now the mortal plane, befriending and teaching as she went. Life poured forth wherever she walked and she traversed the entirety of Everlast in those days, greatly extending the lives of the mur, fey, and elves. The mur were the first to endeavor their own creation and thus the bushes and grass and flowers and all the smaller greenery of nature were born.

It was when she walked among the hills of Belgaduin (now knows as Crimson Valley) that she came across Baeleir, a most peculiar woodland elf. Baeleir took great delight in the mur, feeling more akin to them than even his closest of elvish relatives, and he spent most of his days among them, befriending, teaching, and learning, whilst also caring for their creations. Indeed, the creations of the mur would not have been possible but for Baeleir, for their creations were unable to grow roots long enough to reach the Fothalamhbiadh: the great life-giving stream coursing deep below Everlast. It was Baeleir that first created the isgeacha, the first irrigation system, delivering nourishment to the mur’s creations from nearby lakes and rivers.

Eliador marveled at this new creation and Baeleir’s love of a species not his own. She befriended him immediately and taught him much in the ways of the wisdom of the Dùsgatàlaidar. She labored alongside him to maintain his isgeacha, which was toilsome and never-ending. Baeleir did not mind the toil, however, for he was glad to be of service to his beloved mur and their creations.

After a time, Eliador began to miss her husband and longed to see him. It had been many years since she had returned to him. But, she was reluctant to leave Baeleir to toil alone, and so, upon gazing into his heart, she took leave of him and sought him a mate that might toil with him. She again walked the entirety of Everlast peering into the hearts of all she came across, mur, elf, and fey alike. However, in so doing, something happened she did not intend; she began to learn that not every being is pure of heart. She saw jealousy and malice and sadness and all the negative things for which we are now so accustomed, and she saw them in the hearts of all mortals, be they mur, elf, or fey. She began to despair. This newfound knowledge had been hidden from her somehow, or else she had been unable to see it before, for she realized that it had always existed so.

Little did she know that Entassada had begun to yearn for his wife, and had begun searching for her within the mortal plane. It was at the height of her despair that he found her. She did not speak. She did not look at him.

“My wife, my love, my purist of light! You have seen that which you should never have seen! You have come to know that which you should never have known! The purity of your being is such that it cannot contest with these evils from which I have tried to protect you. I fear you have been tainted beyond mending! Woe for the planes that be for the loss of my dearest Eliador! Woe be the Dùsgatàlaidar for the loss of my dearest Eliador! My love, you must rise! You must walk! You must search your being for the rectification of your purity!”

Entassada wept as he left her, for he knew naught else could be done. No help could be found for Eliador, for no other soul was so pure. The reconciliation of her purity and this newfound evil would have to come within herself. And thus, she wandered. She wandered for years as if in a daydream. After a time, she found herself back in Belgaduin, Baelier still toiling away with his isgeacha as if no time at all had passed.

Enceilg of the Dùsgatàlaidar, then also known as The Curious, also walked the mortal plane at that time, and shortly after Eliador’s return did he find her together with Baelier. He too marveled at the creations of the mur and the isgeacha of Baelier, but he also saw the flaw overlooked. Water in those days was a finite resource, and Enceilg knew that it would run out eventually, and he began to wonder about things. He saw the sadness and despair of Eliador and knew of her purity and an idea began to grow within him, and his excitement could not be contained, and so he presented to her his idea.

“Eliador my friend, I wonder how you feel toward the mur creations you see before you.”

Eliador, bearing her never-ending sad demeanor, replied with a sigh, “They are wonderous.”

“Indeed, I agree. The mur give them life, they grow and are beautiful, but they eventually die. Do you see the constant drain on the waters to sustain this cycle?”

“Of course I do, Enceilg. But I also see the ingenious of Baelier’s isgeacha in his everlasting toil to provide the waters the creations require.”

“Ah, yes. It is ingenious, indeed. However, do you not see that the waters run lower than before? Do you not see the waters recede little by little with each cycle?”

And she watched for a time. The curiosity of Enceilg being infectious, she could not overcome her desire to confirm the truth of it. And she saw that he spoke true. She understood the ramifications and she became afraid for Baelier. Again, she looked into his heart and saw the purity therein, and her fear grew.

Enceilg had more to say, “I wonder. I wonder if there might be a way to sustain the cycle indefinitely.” He looked deep into her eyes so as to appear genuinely concerned. “The life out-flowing from you is never ending and I wonder. I wonder if you might be able to sustain their cycle instead of the water.”

For this, she did not know. She again peered into the heart of Baelier, yet this time she peered ever deeper and saw the nature of his purity: that being the love for the mur and their creations and an overbearing sense of wonder at the world around him. There was no malice or jealousy within him, only love and wonder, and for the first time in many a year, she felt a sort of joy. She could not allow this creation to die.

She began to give herself over to the mur’s creations. Her life force gave them a will of their own and they drank heartily. They ended their drink of the waters and only drank of the life force of Eliador. Soon, they sprouted seeds for their own procreation and more and more of them began to grow. They spread out from Belgaduin to the whole of Everlast before they had drained her completely and she was no more. All that was left of her was an abundance of red roses that grew about the place she once stood (now known as Carda Vale). The roses remain to this day.

Upon seeing what had transpired, Baelier felt something new within his chest, and he faltered. He looked around and found the flaw in his isgeacha and knew immediately what had transpired. He then realized his love for her and he began to weep openly. At the same time, Entassada sensed the life force of Eliador drain away and rushed to the place of her demise, guessed what had transpired, and also wept openly. Enceilg fled before him. Baelier and Entassada wept for many days.

Eventually, Baelier spoke, “Is she really gone? Is there no way to bring her back?! Oh, what cruel fate for pure Eliador!”

Drying his tears, Entassada searched deep within the mortal plane for any sign of her life force and after a time, he caught a glimpse of something that felt akin to her purity. He latched onto it and studied it for a time, but alas, he saw that it was not the same.

“She exists still, though she is Eliador no longer. She no longer has consciousness, though I sense there may be memories of her. Perhaps that is all that remains of who she once was. Furthermore, her life force is still being drained by the mur’s creations. Soon there will be nothing left.”

Baelier cried out, “No! There must be something we can do!”

Entassada searched himself for an answer. He poured the entirety of what creativity was given him to the task. At last, he found a solution, though the consequences would be dire.

“This new creation is unsustainable because it requires a cycle of renewal that does not yet exist on this mortal plane. Mortals die and their bodies fade, but this must change. Death must be used to fuel new life. Water consumed must be returned and water must be made readily available in all places where creation can grow. Energy must also be consumed and returned and made readily accessible. Accomplishing this will sustain Eliador’s (and the new creation’s) existence, and in so doing, we will create a new cycle for them to consume and take part in. Yes, we. You and I must do this. For it is not one cycle that need be created, but three, and three souls must be sacrificed in the doing.”

Entassada knew that no protestation would come from Baelier and he continued, “However! In doing this, I fear that we will lose all of who we are except for the memories that exist within our immaterial beings. Our memories will be all we have left until the end of this mortal plane, when even they shall perish.”

No words needed be spoken, for Entassada and Baelier knew that they would gladly give this sacrifice for their beloved. And thus, Entassada expended the entirety of his power, the three were unmade, and in their place, was born the cycle of nutrients, the cycle of waters, and the cycle of light. The only evidence of their prior existence is the scent of their collective memories which lingers after every rain.