Insanity’s End: The Seekers

August 17, 2007

They had been walking across the barren landscape for days. Days that had passed in silence for Aubrick, still angry at what he saw as betrayal by his companions. Days that had passed in contemplation for Tailos, who wrestled with a growing depression despite the fact that his plan looked more likely to succeed than ever. Days that passed in conversation for Rowen and Stanley Miller, chatter over complexities of magic that eluded even the Spellweaver.

Aubrick paused at the crest of a hill, and heard Rowen settling down on the rocky ground behind them, preparing the ritual that had provided them with nourishment for the last several days. He knew that Stanley Miller would be watching in fascination, continuing to analyze the magic wielded by the god.

He wasn’t, however, expecting Tailos to approach him. The two had not exchanged many words since they had returned to their proper world – and the ones they had spoken had been harsh ones.

But they stood alone, perhaps as the last of their people, on the eve of their world’s salvation – or its destruction. It is a hard thing, to walk such a path alone… and so Aubrick could not deny a sense of relief when his friend finally spoke.

“What is on your mind? I’ve seen you staring at the broken landscape throughout our march, and I cannot deny it is a horrible sight…”

“Ah, but that is just it. Dead and lifeless, with no sign that anything ever lived here – but the hills remain, and the valleys. The world endures, at least for a little while longer. Even if life does not.”

The mage glanced over his shoulder, at the form softly chanting around a fire that had not been there but a few moments earlier. “Rowen claims there is. In the south, and fleeing across the oceans, tiny pinpoints of intelligence and spirit. There will be survivors to rebuild, when our task is done.”

Aubrick frowned, both at the words and at the figure Tailos was watching. “Why do you give her… it, that name? It did not earn it. Can we even trust such a capricious being?”

“Who is to say there is not still something left of Rowen within the shell? But it is true, I use the name out of convenience… and because she makes a valuable ally, far more than a fallen priestess would have, as harsh as it is to say. As for trust… there are few things as reliable as self-interest. Should we succeed, she has a chance to be the sole deity of an entire world – a world that will be desperately in need of gods. After ages as one among thousands, in a world that had left it behind… she will give her all to see this through.”

“If we succeed.”

“We will.”

“How? You’ve kept too much from me – the gods themselves couldn’t stop the enemy. How can we? What can your pet savior even do for us – tell me that, if nothing else!”

Tailos sighed, and looked out over the plains yet remaining before them. When he spoke, his words were soft, and his tone was weary. “You saw it yourself, in the space between the worlds. You saw what his mind could do. What we are up against… power alone will not stop this foe, but it is not impervious to harm – the gods hurt it. That may be all that has given us the time to see this through – it has retreated to the hole from which it entered our world, bathing in the light of the far realms from whence it came. That has given us the chance to complete our task – to bring Stanley Miller to it, and then provide an ending.”

Aubrick’s snort was anything but quiet – but his words had a hint of desperation in them, a desire to make sense of this, to believe that it would work. “I still don’t understand. It may be vulnerable, but what power has he that can harm it?”

“His mind defines things, by its very nature. The power of our adversary is its unbounded essence. The gods, for all their power, were firmly grounded in this world – and thus couldn’t stand against it. Its very being is beyond understanding – all my research, all my study of it, was forced to be done secondhand, for the sight alone would shatter the mind of any man! Any man… save this one.”

Shaking his head, Tailos continued, “I do not know what makes him this way, but he is the opposite of our foe. He appears human, but there is something more to him. I would claim he is order to the chaos of our enemy, but even those terms fall short – these beings, what they embody, what they are… they operate on a level that cannot be described in any terms we know. But we do know this – his mind can bear the strain of facing the elder one. More than that – by the very act of seeing it, understanding it, defining it… he will place limits on the limitless. Reduce it from the ineffable to merely a beast of great power. And then we strike – then is our chance to do what the gods could not.”

“To avenge all that we have lost, and buy in blood a future for our world.”

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