Welcome to the Arc I WorldWalker finale! Thank you so much for reading and supporting A Many Tale over the course of this past year. The growth in readership astounded me, but the passion of that readership is even greater than the quantity of people. The emails, messages, and convention meets has frankly blown me away. The reader retention this story keeps truly enlightened me as to why I began this in the first place. I am so humbled that this weird serial about crossing genres and exploring sketch-story ideas is able to touch people in the way it has (and entertain, I hope) despite violently flipping tones and subject matter.
I am honored you gave this a chance. I am humbled you've read until now. I am excited to give you more.
Now that Arc I is over, we won't return until spring. In the meantime expect updates on quite a many related projects, collaborations, and other fun experiments involving Opaline's tale. Until Arc II drops, all I ask if that if you love this tale then tell it. Tell anyone and everyone you think will read. Or read it alone in your blanket fort and keep it your special secret. Either way, thank you kindly. Opaline's tale will return in full force Spring 2023.
Until then, welcome to the end of the beginning:
My body cried in agony. Chills tightened my skin, forcing my fur straight and tail to curl. Eyes pinned shut with pain, I saw nothing.
Cold. Immense cold.
I vomited, body unable to process whatever just happened.
I had been standing. Yes, standing with Porbiyo. I remember green skies shifting with violet leaves. My fur tingling with the forest breeze. Clean, clear breaths accompanied by the silent wilderness.
I lie on my side, now, fetal in fear, impossible to move by some will greater than my own.
My body rose into the air and corrected upright.
My eyelids were torn open.
Nine worms the size of mountains, shadows so great that worlds could be swallowed in them. Nine of their thralls, gods dead and born again, came forth from the shade of their grandeur.
“Are you satisfied with yourself,” said the Godspeaker. The red behemoth, like a demon clad in muscle and brutish runes, hovered across the cosmic space. Varteriusilion of the Genesar. His Godspeaker’s voice projected before him as his enormous, kilometers’ long worm body loomed in the misty background as a mountain. His throat burned with hellfire as he spoke. Six meters tall, arms built to form continents, the physical presence of this puppet dwarfed in comparison to the shadows behind him. Varterius spoke again, hellfire churning through his teeth, “We extended a mighty deal and you defied our trust. I thought you better, Opaline of Dahn, then some self righteous hero bound by loyalty and pride.”
“We offered you a choice,” said the blue Godspeaker in her sinew grace. “You were incapable of acting beyond your own interests.”
The green cyclopean Godspeaker floated beside them, along with the many others who’d been silent in our last meeting. Their sheer determination to remain quiet struck fear into my heart, and my blood ran cold.
I could not move a muscle. Even my heartbeat, by pumping blood, my breath, my brain. . .
I did not control my body anymore. They kept me alive.
“You feel that?” said Varterius. “Yes. Your speaking in our last meeting can be considered a privilege. Your very cells and their minuscule operations are nothing but an extension of my mercy—our mercy—and by that I hope you can see the gravity of your sin against our compassion.”
I fought to speak. Not a twitch to my lips nor moving of my tongue.
Varterius grunted, “Eskithirimura wishes for you to speak,” he nodded to the blue Godspeaker, who I’d heard been called Eskithir. The red Godspeaker floated towards where I hovered which I still could not see. Did I hang above the white pillar as I did last time I’d been there? Was I suspended in the nothingness between these cosmic overlords? My eyes could not move for me to see. Varterius descended and rose his muscled crimson hand before me. “Do you wish to speak?”
I pleaded in my mind.
“Eskithir and the others vote for your request to be granted,” Varterius said of their silent telepathic conversation. “Though I have but one stipulation.” Varterius turned me. Behind I saw the white pillar on which Peridot’s body laid last, only now it was not Peridot on the white pillar rising from the godly haze, but the spinning unconscious bodies of Porbiyo, and Threshold, Owyle, and Bigklau, Yiz, and Hum-Dum, Goyath, and Skedder, Vispar, and Saxa, Cadava, along with Venefica and all of the forms I’d come to see in shadow or in name of Peridot’s thirty-seven Agglomerates.
Varterius appeared between me and the Agglomerates, so far away, a hundred meters below me. The vastness of space once more dug into my puny being. The vulnerability of my body—more corpse than alive—sickened me to vomit again. Against any biological reflex, vomit poured from my throat.
Light of the Genesars’ eyes to my back, the projected form of my mouseling head and ears draped over the Godspeaker and my Cursed brothers and sisters.
As Varterius spoke, the words of the Godspeaker did not align with his lips. My eyes began to whirl. My vision skewed as Varterius’s Godspeaker form warped like a carnival illusion come alive into the circular, eerily still mouth of his worm master Varteriusilion.
I SHALL SPARE YOU THE SIGHT OF MY SOUND, OPALINE OF DAHN, AND INSTEAD IMPART MY VOICE ALONE.
His voice sang against my back. Each word spoken in Draconic, divine tongues, syllables clashing like the notes of an orchestra and blazing in symphony. Ten thousand languages all at once, barreling with the force of storms of fire and ice and sand in a marbled elemental maelstrom. My eardrums burst and blood drained from my ears, tearing skin and flesh and the nerves near my brain to pulp.
SHOULD YOU LOOK UPON MY LIPS YOUR EYES WILL SUFFER THE FATE OF YOUR EARS. MANY DO NOT SURVIVE. YOU ARE CONSTITUTE ENOUGH TO FEEL TORTURE BY MY TONGUES.
My body tried to scream. Instinct pressed me to flee.
There I remained. Trapped. Immovable. Chained.
YOU ARE NOT NOTHING, LITTLE ONE. DO NOT MISTAKE YOUR VULNERABILITY FOR BEING INCONCSEQUENTIAL. THAT IS THE DANGER IN YOU, IN THEM, IN EHLONNIABATUR’S BEQUEATHING OF HER SONGS TO YOU.
THE AGGLOMERATES. DO YOU KNOW THE TRUE NAME? THE WORD, THE MEANING, THE CONCEPT AS SUNG BY THEY WHO FORGED THE GARDEN—LOCHE?
The song of Ialaitu brought waves into my mind. Glimpses of my past. When I first contacted Peridot in the tunnels, my chase with her for all those months, my finally touching her scales. The magnificent blast of our touch. The months afterwards, living with my knowing I’d leave someday, and never telling Bigby—my childhood friend—of my success. . . I had become like the gods. . . like the humans who gave us our intellect.
Those first worlds ran past my vision. The tears and fears. Myself and Beep alone in the vastness, Peridot presenting all the comfort a god capable to give. Bigklau finding me, showing me this life and what it could be. My first encounter with Porbiyo on the coasts of that salty marsh, Bigklau chasing him off and Yizzimis cooking a brilliant stew—the smell of which still wafted through my whiskers as the first true safety I’d felt.
The transformation. From a fearful mouse in the meadows of Laska to a human-sized mouseman. The banishing of instinct and absolute animalistic terror for certainty and confidence. World by world chased me by and the dreams of myself and Bigby and all our friends came alive. I saw everything they’d ever wished to see and more. They’d never know.
A world where years passed and my mortality showed. I fell into the blanket of comfort and swaddled myself in the small pleasures. Heroism on a local scale. The ascent through the ranks of the Kaihan Kingdom. Battles, and adventures. Friendships, and foes. Exploration into the deepest recesses of that world and all its oddities. Freeing the slaves as soldier in the armies of Kadarance Besiles, finding others like me. . .
Rodent peoples. Mouse peoples. Rat peoples.
Finding love on the front despite the malevolence of war. Adjoining ourselves in that love, and having children as the Kaihan helm passed to me on the Wespaross Fields upon my slaying of Grand Krill Gabo’Manon.
My wife became a queen, and my children princes and princesses.
Laughter chuckled through the palace halls in the day. Terror in the nights as I lie restless, eyes piercing the constellations on my ceiling, impending abandonment of this life forever held upon my chest, seizing the life from my gut. All that life that I spent dreading the end. All that time that I spent mourning the conclusion.
Benjas, named from my wife’s father. Eyes like storms.
Ophylas, named from my mother. Hands always active.
Dellian, named from the first friend I betrayed. Quiet but stubborn.
Keshes, named from my wife’s terminal friend. Cruel in her humor.
Kedrine, named from my wife’s home. Broody, built, boisterous.
Manon, named from the Grand Krill. Performative and wise.
Bigbalon, named from my childhood friend. Furtive, inquisitive.
My children danced in the vision—in the song of the Genesar—and as time ripped them from me came the next vision. That last night at home beneath the constellation ceiling. Constellations which never mattered, for even those stars were dwarfed by what my eyes had seen. And how I left her sleeping to go gaze off the balcony.
My youngest, Bigby, had a nightmare, again. He always had nightmares those days. I held him in my lap and sang him a song,
Eyes to all the world above,
Misty moors echo the dove,
Rays of light stream on down,
Impart the day her golden crown.
Rays through leaves o’ autumn red.
Gold and rust and purple, dead.
In day their death brings beauty, great.
Green passed on, their love lies late.
Hear the wind turn wicked cold,
As whispers turn to dark untold.
Crickets cry and owls screech,
Night consumes the silver heath.
Eyes to all the world below,
Bright white eyes upon the show,
Owl, raptor, fox and vile,
Cloaked behind the stars o’ wile.
Hide your eyes,
Silver streaks will shine them bright,
Stars aren’t stars,
Not always, babe,
They see you, too.
In wicked ways.
A dark lullaby from my home. For where I was from, joy and laughter were luxuries. Children weren’t reared to find joy. They were reared to survive.
I held Bigby in my arms, and I asked what was the matter, and my son whispered that he’d had a dream. A dream he couldn’t speak to me. He believed it too terrible to say. When he finally told me, I felt the fur rise upon my body, and my blood run cold, and my soul begin its tearing through all time and Existence.
“I dreamt you’d leave. I dreamt you’d never come back.”
His voice, fighting through sniffles and tears, haunts my every waking moment. I couldn’t even speak to him—I hadn’t the time.
I never came back.
I woke on that world when I began this tale. I woke knowing my child would weep alone on that rocking chair beneath the cool moon, forever believing that his dreams banished his father away, and that maybe he’d never dream again. That the dark thoughts and fears would always cloud him. And he would have to tell his mother and his siblings what happened—what he believed he’d done.
FEEL YOUR VERY BEING RUSH ACROSS YOUR SOUL, said Varterius. NOW DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF SONG? TRUE SONG?
I thought of Alfarin, and how that melody rushed through my soul to empower me. This was not so dissimilar. Though the Draconic word of Ialaitu sent me into a fit far greater than the enhancements my Aura gained from Alfarin.
Porbiyo once warned me of speaking the name Genesar too often. Was this why? They could sense the song being sung in some connection beyond my comprehension?
YOUR PRIVILEGE IS REVOKED.
YOU MAY NOT SPEAK SO LONG AS THE SONG SINGS WITHIN YOU. WE SHALL NOT ALLOW YOUR CHOICE TO BE GIVEN AGAIN. SO THEN. . . DO YOU WISH TO SPEAK?
I begged in my mind.
THE SONG OF EHLONNIABATUR IS OURS.
My body lurched as if slammed by a hurricane. My Aura screamed as if drawn by a thousand needles. My blood boiled and eyes scorched. Stonefire leaked from my flesh like sweat and fur fell from my skin. My broken ears bled further and my tail shattered along all its bones.
I tried to turn, to see what happened.
NEED I REMIND YOU, MY MERCY SHALL HAVE YOU STARE INTO THE DARK RATHER THAN GAZE UPON ME AND BREAK THE MIND.
I stopped, eyes down to the Agglomerates.
I felt empty. Dead. Like all my being were drained from me.
Before me crystallized Peridot’s top. The Syndel shined brilliantly, but broke that top form. The Divine Spire churned into itself, forming wicked patterns in liquid geometry.
Where was Peridot?
She’d disappeared after that strange world. She dodged my questions. And now she was nowhere to be found? Had they captured her too?
Below the dancing Divine Spire hailed a different shard of divinity. The God Glaire. A piece of that almighty shell from which all things had been birthed. A piece of what Peridot had originally made contact with. The genesis of our Curse.
The Glaire behaved not unlike the Syndel, though its facade warped both light and matter, as if repulsed by its own physical manifestation. In that shape so esoteric and incomparable, I found myself longing for my youth.
If I’d stayed on Dahn, my mind would not be concerned with such enormity. If I’d only stayed home, I wouldn’t have to stand before such almighty matters, and be tortured to make sense of them.
The Syndel was theirs.
Peridot’s gift to me belonged to the Genesar of the Uhkanadumud now.
My soul lie empty, mortal again. I had not felt it before. That grand divinity. Not besides hints and mild dismissal of the truth. But now I truly fathomed it. For without the Syndel my mind came to understand that I was divine while wielding that top.
I’d been some kind of god beyond just Agglomerate. I’d help back all of that power. All of that ability. Peridot instructed me only to use the Syndel as a top. It was never only a top. It would not die and be used like a battery as she’d so warned me.
Venefica was right.
I could have done anything with that Divine Spire.
I’d been. . . on some level, no matter how low. . . a Dragon.
SPEAK, OPALINE OF DAHN. FOR YOU ARE WITHOUT THE SONG TO SING YOUR SOUL IN ESCAPE.
“Give me the freedom of movement,” I said, “I wish to gaze upon those I speak with.” I could barely hear my own words in my ears. I felt warm blood drizzle down my cheeks. Something inside of me refused to lie down, refused to take defeat.
YOUR EYES WILL MELT.
“I fear not blindness, as I have seen the dark.”
YOUR MIND WILL BREAK.
“My mind has broken before, I forged it anew.”
YOUR SOUL WILL BURN.
“And from ashes comes fruit.”
YOUR BEING SHALL CRIPPLE.
“All that I am, I shall be in death. All in death, I am now. I do not fear what you believe me to fear, Varterius of the Uhkanadumud. For you tore the song from my soul. I have nothing left but what remains. And that which remains shall be melted, and broken, burnt and crippled until the end of all time. What is your might compared to a snake on the heath to a mouse? What is your voice compared to the songs which bind the Garden? What is your presence compared to the company of a friend beside a warm fire?
“Face me, or do you fear that I will not melt, and break, and burn, and cripple? Do you—Genesar—fear the face of this mouse? As I have been clear in my renouncement of terror. I feel it. In my blood, bones, in my very heart. The body you now keep alive? You feel it too, do you not? That is why you don’t turn me to face you.
“You cannot bear the concept of me. Such wisdom and might, such vastness of knowledge, and yet you cannot bear the idea of me. That I may speak words I cannot hear with broken ears. That I may gaze upon you as you speak—and though blind, still stare. That I may die here in your presence and yet, so determined in death, I’d haunt you forevermore.”
The Genesar turned me to face the worms and their Godspeakers. Varterius’s Godspeaker had disappeared. Instead, his kilometer’s long host had shifted forward. So enormous and impossibly huge, the still, open mouth of the cosmic lord appeared like the pit of a skyscraper.
My eyes scorched as he spoke, as the songs from deep in his throat began to pulsate into physical rhythms. He bent light to his words and changed reality in their speech,
MY MERCY IS ENOUGH. YOUR ARROGANCE IS BEYOND EVEN MY COMPREHENSION. WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE, THAT YOU HAVE POWER BEYOND US?
My eyes melted from my skull. I felt the nerves attached to my brain simmer as the liquid drizzled down my cheeks like tears, drenching my stonefire tear.
WE’VE STRIPPED YOU OF YOUR SONG.
TOO MANY ASCEND INTO THE PLACE OF THE DRAGONS, WIELDING THEIR SPIRES LIKE TOYS. TO CLAIM A SYNDEL IS NOT A GAME. THE CLAIMING OF SUCH POWER IS NOT MEANT FOR THE LOWEST CHILDREN OF LOCHE.
FOR WHEN THE IMPIOUS ASCEND THE RIGHTEOUS FALL.
Despite my eyes going, my mind still saw. The songs themselves pressed passed the threshold for visual light, and imparted vision directly into my brain. I could see everything in crystal clear color. Colors new and terrifying. Colors in hues and richness that my eyes could never see.
Heat and composition became just another sight.
Atomic structure and radiation like scents.
I could map the world in sonic waves.
All of Creation became a sense as Varterius spoke and my body broke. Only as he sang, however, did I experience this psychedelic sensation.
THAT IS THE DANGER, DO YOU NOT SEE?
THE MIGHT OF GODS IN THE HANDS OF THEIR SERVANTS.
THE SONGS OF CREATION IN THE HANDS OF THE CREATED.
THE IMPIOUS ASCENDED.
“Too many Ascend?” I screamed into his song, ruining the melody. “If mortals weren’t meant to bear Syndels, our souls wouldn’t bear them. If I was not meant to carry Peridot’s spine, I couldn’t bear it. Yet a mouse from the heaths of Dahn can hold the heart of a god in his own. Do you not find poetry in that? Humility in that?
“You say Peridot and her Agglomerates are a danger because of the Liminality. You say I am a danger. A friend once told me that ‘Threats are often assumptions surmised in haste.’ Despite all your time and planning and existence, I still believe this true of you and your vision of me and mine.”
WE ALLOW YOU SPEECH AND THIS IS WHAT YOU SPEAK? AS YOUR FINAL WORDS, YOU DIE INSOLENT?
“I will not die today. I’ve seen what you’ve seen. I have seen what you really fear. Heard what you really fear. For the Syndel is not the only song in my soul, Varterius of the Uhkanadumud. I am Opaline of Dahn, the Discounted.” I focused on the melody and pronunciation of the song, and felt a divine rejuvenation pulsate inside me. “Alfarin.”
The Draconic name echoed across the cosmos.
The worm stopped speaking. The clouds and their eerie mist halted. The Godspeakers froze. I could not see or hear or even smell without Varterius’s songs to throw my mind into that Creation vision.
All became still.
Minutes passed in the stillness. I believed myself dead. For if death were to have feeling, it would be no feeling at all. Hovering there, heart done beating, breaths unable to breath—my blood stopped by the Genesar’s freezing—I accepted my death.
If this were the end of ends, then maybe all I’d seen of myself were mere fabrications. I doubted even myself in that moment.
“Oh how long I have wished for this moment. Patience kept keen by thought of you and you alone. . .” said a voice warped by synthetic elemental force. Like some electronic voice box.
Some untold melody upon those words.
My body reformed. My eyes returned.
Before me hovered a shade of a mouse five meters tall. He—and yes, he it was—shifted in the light so magnificently that a blur overcast around him. Darkness and lank. The shine of his suit. Blackness. Pure blackness with silver shadows, an inverse of all light I’d ever seen. A helm formed to his mouse head, ears sharp and protruding like horns upon the skull of a dragon.
Sinewy arms and legs. Muscled, cloaked in that cosmic armor, but long in strength and poise. A cape fluttered off his sharp pauldrons. In that cape I saw every star from every world dancing as one.
The Syndel moved between us, and then shattered and glittered into me, sliding between my molecules and revitalizing my soul.
“A song not theirs to sing,” said the mouse as he returned the Syndel to me. As he spoke, blue and orange light cast in the blackness of his suit. The steam of stonefire burned from the eyeless helm’s visor.
Was that a suit? Or some organic piece of his self?
He hovered there above the Godspeakers and their masters as if he owned them. As if they served him.
In the dark above the head of the Genesar wyrms formed a rift. A tear in the fabric of this reality. And light so mighty even the suns would be shadow against it burst from the seam. Fleets of vessels stormed the light and poured between the Genesar and their Godspeakers.
The vessels played with my eyes. I could not tell shape or form or function. From the vessels hailed an army to black out the Genesar.
In moments all my vision were mice armored in stonefire suits.
Hundreds of thousands.
That is all I saw. Millions of mice floating in flanked formations. The Genesar and all their mighty White Island were swallowed in the innumerable count of this army.
“We knew of this day,” said the Grand Mouse before me, “this day we’d come voice to voice.”
I said, “The Genesar. . . they’re—.”
“How did you—.”
“We wished them still and so still they will be.”
My body shuttered at the precision of those words.
The Alfarin said, “Do not fear us. I feel your heart struggling. Do not struggle. This is not a time for struggle.”
“I don’t know.” Was all I could muster.
That voice carried rhythm. What was this song? A faint whisper at the edges of his syllables. A light tune at the fringes of his words. A heartbeat of harmony drowned by its own resonance.
The Grand Mouse turned to face his army, who bowed in waves beginning from bottom to top. As they bowed they sang the name Alfarin, and from that name came a shattering blue and orange light. The steam and heat of stonefire poured over me. No true stonefire, only the scent and feel of it. My Aura stretched and bent with them. My eyes alit and the stain of that tear on my cheek scorched. Fur stood across my body.
Their lightless silver and black suits vibrated in blue and orange. A shimmering wave of our collective name turning physical.
The Grand Mouse appeared like a mouseman five meters in height but from the back that musculature did not adhere. As his legs and shoulders were built beyond mine. Even beneath that armor I saw hulk and mass moving across his skeleton. And his tail was not so skinny as a mouse, but long, and muscled, and forked at the end in two spines.
His neck built from the shoulders into the back of the skull. A dense armored plate of muscle cloaked in his cosmic suit.
From head to tail spines glistened in the armor.
Beautiful, colorless, perfect spines.
I had no words to explain my revelation. As he turned back to me, eyeless helm glistening in the light of a million mice and his shining spines, he moved down and came close. The scent of scorch and fire came from him. The scent of stonefire peeled from his breath.
“You hear me as a voice,” he said.
“Most hear song when I speak. When we speak.”
My eyes widened as I trembled. The revelation would have forced me to my knees had ground been beneath my feet. This being before me was no mouse.
“You. . .” I could barely whisper it, “. . . you are me.”
“We are beyond such soul or self,” said the Dragon. That silhouette cast a mesmerizing shadow across me. I saw that form in the shoulders and legs, muscled arms and graceful head, ears sharpened and suit cloaked in cosmos.
A Dragon indeed.
“Alfarin is not the song by which you sing,” I said, feeling true in my words. His Syndels forged onto his spine did not brighten as far as I thought at the name Alfarin. “Sing your name so I may hear it.”
“As you wish, Opsalat,” that name carved into my soul. I thought Alfarin had sent waves through my being? Opsalat—not unlike the call of the Agglomerates in the Genesar’s voice—flashed my life before my eyes as a great vision.
When I recovered, I said, “Your name?”
“I spoke to you as well as I.”
Once more—I shook in terror.
The Syndel inside me vibrated at the Dragon’s synthetic, song-like voice. When Dragons speak their voices are melody. Peridot’s gift gave my ears the power to hear them as speech. But this Dragon before me now spoke as an echo of myself, a voice I’d heard from my own throat, descended into the dark of eternity.
Or ascended. . . perhaps.
“Ehlonniabatur?” I questioned her whereabouts, her purpose, everything.
“She watches as we wished.”
“You have her.”
“Do not state on surmises. She belongs to the Glaire. I wished her to watch. Thus, she shall.”
“Do you always get as you wish?”
The Syndels lining the Dragon’s back churned and danced. Each plucked from his spine and spiraled around his head. Divine Spires. The tools by which Loche’s children forged universes. Eleven spun around his helm as a crown.
“Septar Saengal,” sang the words, “is nought against Dent’Un.” As the Syndels spun, the Alfarin sang, and worlds flashed around us. Molten material and glass castles. Windy heaths home to tribes on the hunt for woolly beasts. Glaciers rising and cracking into the seas filled with ships at war. Stars dying in brilliant arrays only to be harnessed by vials of gods. Beings of impossibility come alive by thought and purpose.
Magma splashed before me and I walked that glass castle. Wind chilled my fur as the rain swept the hunters’ facepaint away. Ice crystalized on my ears and whiskers while cannon fire blared out. I felt the nuclear might of a dying star only to be bottled like spring water. I saw Nonexistence encroach into that which Exists by thought and will alone.
He pushed me through a dozen worlds formed and destroyed in seconds. Populations, environments, possibilities all forged from his hand and then demolished shortly after.
Overcome, my eyes wept as my lips lie still.
This was no vision.
He formed worlds around us. . .
When he finished and banished his own Creations, letting me gaze upon the might of that Alfarin army once again, he came close to touching but never did.
“Others wield this power such as we, though lesser in all ways,” Opsalat began. “As the Dragons share in it, still we march incomparable. Septar is nought to Dent’Un. I called because I remember. I remember this place by our name and its sea. That ocean of Alfarin lie at the shores of your being.”
His voice did ride tune.
That melody could be heard.
Opsalat turned his wrist, and I lowered nearer the other Agglomerates so that the Glaire hovered between myself and the Alfarin lord. In the lightless light of the Glaire his armored form appeared home.
Opsalat said, “I have spoken our name across all the Garden, sang for each corner of Loche’s Creation and Annihilation. I have leapt across streams rushing between realms. I have shaken hands with the stars and told tales around their flames. I have waded in the waters where Their Children gestate and I have drank of that pond. I have wondered as I wander, and worlds form in my wake.”
Opsalat swerved around the Glaire, clawed hands coveting the vessel of All Things. “Valymus. . . Vaeohin. . . Renafira. . . Violentine. . . Everrest. . . Ejo. . . Artibania. . . they and the others claimed right to their ‘piece.’ Just as we sing the true songs, as do they, and with those songs hold that piece Ifan’s spawn coveted beyond all else. They succeeded where the Ukhanadumud did not. Mortals. Ascended achieved what eternal gods could not.
“Khazaruun blazes symphonic war with the Nnaki and his kin alike—Bhelleckhan and her Dracular. Dicerians shattered their Hegemony through the Ade Enperia, Genesar nosing into conflicts not their own. Rotamar awaken through the Core Spheres as a final call for Creation, though their slaves do not submit as they once did. Hunters and scavengers enter Gesspar’s labyrinth in search of the true end. This Ukhanadumud is one of a thousand coalitions like it. All fighting the same ‘foe’. They see the pond not the ocean. They drink of the stream and not the sea.”
Opsalat eyed me beneath his helm. In that eyeless face I saw all that I ever was, and glimpses of what will be. My Syndel pulsated to his sound.
Opsalat said, “Fear not the Uhkanadumud. Fear their ignorance. They cannot help but adhere to a perspective beneath ours. They have felt only one way. They were born in the waters where Their Children gestate. They did not come from the womb and breath air, and walk dirt, and taste life as we did. They can do nothing but fall as we rise. And rising? Rising is nothing. . . what is height compared to mass? What is height compared to volume?”
The Alfarin sang their name.
“Even I do not know what is to come. . .” said Opsalat. “I have spent all Our Lives waiting for this day, Opaline. You would be proud. I only wished to make you proud. But pride is for those to whom it matters. I am not held by what I once wished, though some sliver of me,” he pointed to the masses of mice—millions strong—who’d invaded the White Island, “one part of my many still desires your approval, your love, your pride.”
“What are you, then?”
Opsalat sang, “I am born again.”
And I heard the melody, and knew it well.
“I am a mouse,” I whispered, “that is all I wish to be, not in some sliver of me, but the whole.”
I reached through the dark and the cold and the might of the Alfarin. My paw stretched through time and Existence and Nonexistence. The Glaire—ten meters away—stretched to meet my intent. And as I pressed into the egg of all things, all things flashed before me.
Peridot had touched the Glaire to forge this Curse.
I’d touch it again. I’d escape this possibility.
White dunes of luminescent pearls as far as the eyes could see. Darkness and light hurdling into one another. No sky, only land above me. Islands big as continents floating in the aether. Starships waged war in the distance. A caravan of merchants on the horizon set shop with tents and billows of smoke.
Around me, many of the Agglomerates lie in the sand.
My tear tattoo burned.
A mountain appeared in the distance, only to turn to snow and then a sea. A cargo freight sped through the sands kicking up waves of molten lava around it. A jungle of three hundred meter tall trees rose from the distant islands—hanging upside down in the spacial gravity—and apes in the canopies leapt from the tops towards the sand, inverting their gravity with parachutes and jumping onto the cargo freight to hijack the ship.
“What. . . what is this place?” I whispered to the void as Threshold, Skedd, and Porb woke near me.
Welcome, Opaline of Dahn—Alfarin, Opsalat, Ettershawl, Cadallin, Zeniph—and by any names you sing across the Garden. Welcome to the true Between. It has been some time.
“Malabeenith,” I said, recognizing the voice in my head.
You’ve made contact I see. . . the second Uhkanadumud has ended.
So it begins. Come to me. There is no direction nor compass to find it. Come nonetheless.
I collapsed in the sand as the other Agglomerates woke. Ehlonniabatur crystalized before me, landing on my nose. She spoke but I did not hear. She sang but I did not listen.
All I could hear was the rhythm on which Opsalat sang. That melody pressed in my ears for all time. The song of Opsalat danced in my head, melody latching to the lyrics recessed in my memory. . .
Stars aren’t stars,
Not always, babe,
They see you, too.
In wicked ways.
END OF ARC I, WORLDWALKER
A Many Tale will return.