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EP 51: A SCORE AND SIX CENTURIES


Cover illustrated by Taylor Yerdon.


{Welcome to the beginning of Arc II: Eclipse the Name. We're back for another 50 episodes published weekly. I humbly hope you enjoy. Thank you for everything. . .}



Stars aren’t stars,

Not always, babe,

They see you, too.

In wicked ways.


The lullaby waded in my ears and put to rest the waking life I’d lived, plunging me into slumber. A sleep of a score and six centuries. A rest far longer than I’d lived thus far. A thief of a dream who’d stolen my time—time I’d always been told was forever mine, yet I’d come to learn was never mine at all.

I knew that song that the God-Mouse Opsalat spoke to. The rhythm to which he forged worlds and wielded Creation.

In his voice I heard my own. An echo from the eventual so mighty that it burst into the past.

“You touched the Glaire. You touched the Glaire,” said the minuscule Dragon on my nose. “What have you done, Opaline? What have you done?”

No answer came to me but silence. No understanding came but observation.

I lie before that endless sea of glass sand in clothes once stripped by the gods who tormented me, then reforged by powers I couldn’t comprehend. The voice of the Genesar destroyed my flesh, my bones, my body in its entirety.

Was I the same person within this new puppet for my soul to pilot?

My claws trailed over my clothes—over my beloved red scarf. I wondered if these were the same clothes as they were before Opsalat restored them. One voice destroyed myself and my belongings. Another voice reforged us.

This held significance, I knew, yet the variety of significance eluded me.

I lie between mountains above and below, where gravity tugged in many directions and starships soared along sailboats through clouds unknowing in their patterns or rhythms. Hundreds of kilometers above me, I saw another land mirror this one. Both deserts of glass sand intermixed with splotches of strange. Forests of green, or red, or blue. Snowcaps flanked by moats of volcanic inferno. Cities whose skyscrapers had been torn by gravity, wading in the skies between the realms. A thousand islands dancing in the void. Cuts of tundra, or dunes, or beaches with bubbles of seawater still attached at their edge. Storms of resplendent chromatic gases in every hue bursting with energy.

Wind caressed the fur along my jaw and massaged my whiskers, smelling of six thousand storms.

Amongst the vision flowed persons, and non-persons, and other things even my worldwalking mind had difficulty in accepting. I had expected the Liminality to have been empty—void—not a rabid realm of hauling freight trains speeding in the sky, pirates in starships skidding across the sand, tribes in the distance primitive as could be traipsing to their next destination.

A wave of warm wind burned past me. Butterflies—or creatures that looked something like butterflies—pursued the warmth. In the light the heat danced with pollen or spores.

A mountain at the edge of my sight disappeared, and in the vacuum caused by its disruption blotted forth a massive black cloud. A dark blackness which glowed in its majesty.

Splotches of that black lie across the lands. In the shapes of trees, or islands, or churning masses.

I lie there watching for longer than I can discern. No sun or stars or night or day to know time. But I lie there, sitting with the song which the God-Mouse Opsalat spoke to. The rhythms of his words. The rhythm of my words. The lullaby bequeathing dreams each night as a child.

“You’ve hummed without end,” Ehlonniabatur said. The Dragon curled upon my nose for so long that I stopped seeing her. Only the void. Only the eternal endless vision. “The song has no beginning anymore.”

“There is beginning,” I said. “There is always beginning.”

Her tiny god eyes perked. I doubt gods even needed eyes to see, so why have them but to express to their Creation? “Beginnings are like distance. As are ends. Where we stand in relation is how we judge such a thing. Beginnings and ends, our ways of classifying the changes in complacency.”

“For beings trapped in timeless time, I maintain that is a dreadful deal,” I whispered.

Peridot smiled a half grin. My eyes should not be able to focus on her so close to them, but they always did. One always sees a true God when they come to you. “You touched the Glaire.” Peridot said. “Sent us all spiraling here. The true Liminality. The place between places. Nonexistent and Existent at once. Timeless but always forward facing. I don’t know if there are. . . rules. If there are rules anymore, for us.”

I didn’t want to think of those implications. I’d already spent lifetimes accepting the Curse before, and the Agglomerates I slowly knew to call friends. I accepted that existence and my purpose in it.

Perhaps I’d broken that now-comfortable Curse, but I had escaped myself in doing so. The shadow of my future hung heavy.

“You watched,” I said, remembering Opsalat’s—the God-Mouse’s—words. My eyelids shut and became a theater for my mind to project film. A film so many had seen across so many worlds. An epic, a fantasy, a myth. Except I’d lived it. I’d been witness and actor and, perhaps, the architect of it all.

Peridot saw it. Opsalat said as much.

The Genesar—Eldest Oldes, gods beyond gods—frozen by His will alone. A mouse and his army of a million mice called Discounted floating in the atmosphere of the White Island, summoned by the name Alfarin. A god of technology, organics, and magic combined in one unnatural form, wielding eleven Divine Spires. Opsalat—a shadow of me.

He was me. Is me. Will be me.

My future self.

A god, if such a title is even high enough for what I became.

I ran my fingers through the fur on my head, rubbed my eyes. My body shook imagining the sight of Opsalat. My own touch grounded me, sent the sensation of reality through my bewildered body. Peridot watched all which occurred.

I said, “What did you see?”

“I am unsure.”

“You have traveled across the Garden so long that your Agglomerates are practically gods,” I said, “and yet you have never come across the Alfarin? You have never heard that name, Op—,” I stopped myself short, as the Draconic tune of Alfarin sang out into the cosmos. Opsalat would surely follow. My body shivered. My eyes burned with the Alfarin song. I collected myself, took Peridot on my finger, and eyed her through the soul, “It has become a challenge, my friend, to accept that you have no knowledge of me beyond our relationship now.”

Peridot returned to that state which most gods prefer—silent.

I set my jaw, half expecting the Alfarin to arrive at any moment.

“Op—.” I began but my lips shut before the word—the melody—ended. I ground my teeth. Opsalat. . . “He is me.”

“Yes.”

My eyes shut. “Ehlonniabatur,” I whispered to the wind which picked my fur into whisks and tails and curls. The endlessness of this place of places trailed through that breeze, tracing the tufts of my coat. A trillion fragments of a trillion universes, planets, realms, creations all pushed through that breath.

I had never felt so alone than with my fur curling to a boundless wind, the name of a friend gone silent echoing off my tongue.

In that moment I did not ask or converse. I knelt, begged, pleaded, wanted.

“I spent my entire life fearing the sky above. The eyes of an owl who blended with the moon. The threat of a fox’s glare camouflaged with constellations. I will not falter in the face of challenge or danger. I have stood against those most kneel to, I have spoken against those most dare not whisper of, I have been felled by enemies and yet risen to face them again. There is an instinct in my soul, bound to what I used to be, that flutters when the stars come down upon me in unknowable threat. My future is the night’s sky, blackness swallowing all but hopeful specs of light. But instinct doesn’t allow me solace in the starlight. No hope or levity. It is the light to come which frightens me, not the deep dark of despair.” I closed my eyes, remembering the might of Opsalat. The words he spoke. The presence of me. “Why do you remain silent? Why had you not told me of my future?”

My friend Peridot retreated into her godhood. What began as conversation became prayer.

“I fear what I become,” I said, “I fear it. What was that? That army? The songs they sang. The sheer force of numbers. I have never seen a force like it. I have never seen anything like what I become.

“He forged worlds upon the White Island and dismissed them as if sketches scrapped to the pile. His Syndels did not fade as you said they could. What God can do such a thing? Why will you not speak to me? Why do you keep this from me? My fate. My choices. My power. You know what I fear and how I fear it, and still keep this from me?”

“I am sorry. I do not know what you believe me to know. I did not, and do not.”

Her words trailed off into a faded tone. Her body fluttered into the ever-wind as if by instinct and not choice, her eyes staying on me, convincing herself to stay by my side.

I felt abandoned, though she did not leave me.

I felt alone, though in her company I remained.

I rose from the glass marble sand and shook free my fur. My clothes had been destroyed by the Eldest Oldes’ song and reborn by Opsalat’s, but beside me lie my Boundless Bag, unscathed by the might of the outer gods. I ran my paws over the ancient leather, woven by a woman on a far world I’d never see again, shorn from the hide of a beast I’d known only by his skull upon the butcher table, given its power by my dear friend on our first meeting over an enchanting bardic flame.

I reached into the humble bag. My paws slid against a smooth surface, sensations of memories too old to appreciate vibrated through me, and I grasped the utensil tight.

A spoon from my home.

All else from my home—my homes—was lost.

The Kaihan Helm, a gift from That Time which bequeathed memory of my family and my life all those years. A marker of who I was and who I had become. A heroic relic given life again and again by my donning of it. Each time I peered through the visor I faced the memories I had convinced myself to forget. Each time I fought in that helmet I saw my children and why I fought to begin with. That Time which I so pretended not to remember.

My companion. My Beep. A friend I’d gained before my growth from mouse to mouseling. A friend who grew alongside me—from the size of a honeybee to a housecat—who had been thrown into this Curse the moment my flesh touched Ehlonniabatur’s. We were like hunter and hound, souls together in tandem. She’d died before. Back in That Time. Porb bound her soul to a painting. But now? Now she’d been killed for all time. The Vicar slaughtered her soul.

Beep, my beloved companion, was gone from my life forevermore. Murdered. The last piece of my first homeworld that I carried with me through all these years. And the Kaihan Helm, the final piece of my second home, where I’d live the majority of my days and formed a family, shattered in the Vicar’s claws.

I touched the Glaire to escape Opsalat. I broke the Curse that bound me to blip across realms. In a way, that chaos ordained itself my third home.

Now, in that sea of sand, beneath thousands of sights my eyes had never seen, I stood alone. Truly, utterly, entirely, homeless.

Alone. Reformed in a skin not quite the same, in clothes not quite mine, without any sense of self besides my own sanity.

That spoon in my hand? A gift from Skedder was all that remained of my past. A reminder of what I was but without the memories or meaning of something I’d carried with me through all my time. Not mine. Not a piece of me. Merely a reminder.

There was one thing which remained. Something of mine none could take.

“Did you know my name before I came to you?” I asked Ehlonniabatur, who hovered quiet as I traversed the depths of introspection. “Had you heard the name Opaline prior to our meeting that day in the dark?”

“I heard the name Opaline before our meeting,” she said.

“I find it funny. My name is a common one in the meadows where I’d been birthed. ‘Opaline.’ A moniker of theological importance. . .” and so I told her the story as such:


~~~


I find it funny. My name is a common one in the meadows where I’d been birthed, Opaline. A moniker of theological importance.

Opaline of Usarum was one of Callobite’s eight preachers. Callobite being the mouse who led our people from the book-crawls of the human city into the wilderness of the Orchards of Laska. We’d been bred and born by the sorcerers of Laska’s civilizations as messengers. Sorcery-enhanced rodents able to speak messages and use small sorceries.

Callobite led us away from our original purpose. Out of the walls and floorboards and into the Orchards. Far, far away. And, born beneath the starsign Opal, Opaline of Usarum rose as Callobite’s closest friend and apostle.

Opaline convinced Callobite to teach meadow mice and other wild cousins of our ways. He pushed Callobite to keep going after the death of his parents, siblings, and half of the preachers who aided his cause. He embodied hope and heroism. Purity of mind and heart in equity.

When I was born, something in my eyes prophesied a greatness. All parents believe their child to be great. They lie to themselves of their offspring’s potential, and impart the names of past great ones to their children in the hopes of them taking the same significance as that name. A grandeur wholly unrealistic. Hopeful, yes, as all parents hope—but a strange marbling of reverence for history and blind hope for the future.

And so they took the name Opaline for me.

I still can recall those early days of life, you know? Pink, eyes glued shut, squiggling for milk from my mother with my dozen other siblings. Do you know how I remember?

By song. By the lullabies my mother sang pulsing through her chest into my sleeping body. The way the music moved through me, over me, took hold of my infantile form. And instilled itself to my soul the way each culture and peoples’ songs do.

My entire early life on my homeworld I believed my name to have belonged to a figure so far beyond my humble life, and belonged to so many others, that I’d been promised humility. I hated my name. I hated what my name meant in my mediocrity. And, with the push of my friend Bigby, I vowed to rise above the commonality of Opaline. I vowed to let go of what my mother called me and become something truly, solely, great. But my name would always assure my station: one meaningless life among so many others.

Now I come to find that long before, and after, my original birth, that name Opaline echoed into the corners of realms unimaginable to Opaline of Usarum or the thousands of mice who bear this name.

I walked countless worlds. I spoke to almighty gods and the beings who strike fear into those gods. I existed before I was ever born, travelled across innumerable societies, met countless persons, and the name Opaline carried across language and station and possibility.

Do you have any idea what that feels like?

You couldn’t.

You were born to Loche and Their Creation. You were given Syndels, not sung lullabies. You were sang the songs to forge a universe in your image—I was squeezed out of a bloody womb in the straw beneath a tree root.

You were given emptiness and sang to fill the vacuum. The stars were a suggestion in a song lyric—a possible detail in your vision for your world and all within it.

I was given warning through hymn. To hide. To duck. To protect myself and my siblings. I cowered from the predators hiding amongst the stars while you could snap them in and out of existence.

Your name, Ehlonniabatur, is itself a song. One of a kind. Actually one of a kind. Singular in all worlds at all times.

My name is one of many.

It belongs to me. Is mine. But despite echoing throughout time, and space, and universes, and Existence, Nonexistence, and the Liminality, and all of whatever else lie out there in the Garden, my name remains a name. A collection of syllables and letters and sounds and symbols and etymology. Do you understand that?

My name carries no rhythm. No god-like song.

My name is just that: my name.

I find solace in that. I worked for so long to escape that truth. But now, I find beauty in the humility of ‘Opaline.’ Of the fact that when I say my own name, my soul doesn’t come alight and it does not echo across Loche’s Garden. As do the other names I apparently carry.

In the humility of my name, it becomes distinct. A name carved by its singular language traversing the Garden. Opaline. Opaline. Opaline. Evading the Draconic tune but becoming immortalized in its own mortality—in my mortality.

That name which the Alfarin’s leader answered to? The Draconic language instilled in symphonic syllables? The God-Mouse which you believe to be me? That is not me. I do not answer to a name so pure that it is melody.

I am proud of what I am and where I come from. I am proud to carry the names of countless others of my kind. A name recognizable all the same as the Children of Loches’ not because it is unique but because it belongs to many more than I—because it confirms what I am, who I am, where I come from, even.

All these years. All this time. I always wondered how an almighty Liminal being such as you can be so clumsy as to be touched by a mouse on the Orchards of Laska. But upon that heath rumbles the name Opaline of Usarum, taken by parents for their children. Upon those forests echoed the name of a cosmic vagabond you’d heard so many times.

You heard the name. A mortal name whispered on winds between worlds. It touched your ears and you realized you were in the one place in all time and possibility where that name originated. Where that name belonged to its historical genesis and not to its future holder—Opaline of Dahn.

You knew. You always knew.

It was never an accident.

You wanted me to touch you. You invited me into your curse. You, my dear friend, who apologizes to me unending for this insufferable state, took my hand and brought me to this hell by your side.

I don’t know why. I don’t care why.

I only care that you did.


~~~


When I finished, she met my eyes and dared not abandon them. Quiet. Such quiet. Despite all the roaring ships in the distance, maelstroms on the horizons, mountains melting into rivers, civilizations appearing and collapsing, all held silent at her stare.

Ehlonniabatur exhaled as if she needed air to breathe, a way of—I’d wager—relating to my mortal form. She spoke, and she spoke cleanly, “I have known you for countless time. You ask me what I understand as if I am unknowing? As if I am a fool? I have known you for countless time. Do you understand that? I do not believe you are capable of understanding it. Our souls exist in the states between all comprehension, phasing all around time and being, long before our initial inceptions and destined destructions. And on your home, I knew our lives—if life is even the right manner of expression—crossed. I felt the beginning of one life and the end of another. I felt change. The change. The change that reforms, repurposes, contextualizes all before and after it. And so I accepted that beginning—that change.”

“There is always a beginning.” I said. “Or, how we ‘classify change,’ as a wizened mind once told me.”

She whispered, slyly, “For beings trapped in timeless time, I maintain that is a dreadful deal.” She’d used my words against me. Well, not against. Merely with me. She continued, “I know of what you seek, but do not hold the answers. I am not so privileged as to understand change.”

“Malabeenith,” the name sounded out in tune, “called to me.”

“Perhaps she holds the answers you seek. Perhaps she can give to you what I cannot.”

“Or, she’ll give more questions,” I sighed. I touched my tear upon my cheek. The tattoo simmered, still. A faint blue-orange glow. I struck my finger across the scar and summoned my Syndel. The beautiful song shimmered in the shape of a single tear drop on the tip of my claw. “I’ve been in denial for some time of what you gave to me.”

She did not respond.

“I knew,” I said, imagining Opsalat with his Eleven Syndels. The incredible, almighty nature of such Divine Spires bequeathing the engine of godhood. The vision of the Syndel being torn from my soul by the Genesar and returned effortlessly by Opsalat resounded in my mind. “I knew I’d change. I’d transform. I’d become something more. But you gave me a song of Creation, a Divine Spire, a Syndel of Loche in my weakest moment. You snapped a part of your godhood and gave it to me because of my disconsolate heart. Because I was sad. That, I need an answer for. That, my friend, you cannot stay silent over and pretend not to know what I seek.”

She did not speak.

I set my jaw. “You do not have answers? You don’t know of the Alfarin or my future self? I don’t believe it. Why did you give me the Syndel? Is there some alliance, some deal, some scheme of which I am a part? Because I will use this,” I inflamed the Syndel, pushing my will and desire and hopes and dreams into it, “to decimate my soul and destroy all that I am if I am to become what I witnessed on the White Island.”

“Syndels cannot Annihilate. Only Create.”

I laughed. “You speak to correct me, now? What am I! I must know. I need to know. What part do you have to play, Ehlonniabatur? And your name I shall use. What part do you play? I must know. Answer me please. Please. What do you know of me and my name? Why give me this Syndel? This weapon, power, possibility? Because you ‘felt change?’”

Tears streamed down my face. I hadn’t realized I’d even grown upset, never mind wept before her. The stonefire tattoo of my tear scorched.

“It is simple,” she said, “so entirely simple. Such simplicity breaks trust and causes doubts. Not many things are as simple as why I gave you my song, Opaline.” She grew to my size. A Dragon a meter tall. She let free a single laugh, light, airy, humble. In mild shock. This wasn’t a calculated expression—an attempt at appearing humble or mortal. In earnest, she felt surprise, and my tears ended with her astonishment.

I had never seen Ehlonniabatur—Peridot—shift size. She’d always remained a fairy-like, insect-like, nearly unnoticeable being.

My prayers ended as she took my hands in her own, and the veil of godhood fluttered away with the cosmic wind. We stood as friends upon the endlessness. I regretted any hint of doubt or fear or shame I’d made her feel.

She could not help being born to Creation as I could not help being born in a womb. Why I’d made her feel sorry for it came only from my insecurity. Only from my fear of being left alone, never understood, perpetually lorn until illimitable time gave me a death worthy of destiny.

Peridot continued, “I haven’t shifted my physical size and shape. I have feared my Curse inflicting others. But now don’t you see? Don’t you understand?” In her eyes I saw myself. How choices carved personhood. Each time I’d helped or saved or altered a life. Only the good. All of the “good” which stretched across all time.

My tears began again. And her hand—Draconic and clawed and divine beyond understanding—rested on the side of my face and swiped the tears away.

This time, I am the one who stayed silent.

“You were in pain,” she said, “the same pain I’d been in for innumerable time. And so I gave you a piece of myself. You don’t want this. You don’t want this power for anything but to help. To help those like yourself—humble folk. I did not fear giving you a Syndel because I knew you would only use it to brace yourself for the next change, the next heartbreak.” The Dragon’s deep purple hues, melded with emerald sheen, brightened as she kissed my forehead. A gesture of love. A gesture of mortality. “I love you. Perhaps I knew. Do you understand?”

“I’m not certain I do.”

“You may have been running when you escaped, but even when you flee, you are more a hero than the universe could possibly dream.” She began to flicker, her voice became a whisper. Her eyes played scenes of my deeds. I could not believe the emotion she drew from me. Peridot continued, “Even without a simple thought or reason, you make great choices. Even when the stars come down in unknowable threat and you follow those instincts of yours—and you run—you save someone. You save without even trying. You were never a mouse, Opaline, no matter how you cling to it. You were you. A savior, a hero, a god amongst the godless.”

I didn’t understand. I could not see what she danced around.

Peridot grinned. “Even now, I must explain your own deed plainly for you. You. Freed. Me. You freed me. You freed me from my immovable misstep, my most resounding regret, my incurable and incomprehensible Curse. You freed me from a fate and destiny that I chose—freed me from my mistake.” She faded into a wind that circled me, body transforming into a glittering divine dust. Her hand left my cheek in regretful goodbye. “And I swear, my friend, I will spend all I have left to free you from yours.”

I eyed her, inquisitive of this mistake from which I needed freed.

“You fail to see yourself for what you are.” She smiled in her phantasmal form, and disappeared as she was so good at, fading unto the wind.

When she left, I stood alone and yet not lonesome. When she left, all fell silent and yet answered I had been. Her words hung heavy. Heavy as the lullaby that Opsalat sang. Heavy as the realization of what I’d become. Heavy as the memories of what I had been.

None of my companions or friends seemed in sight. I tried to send the call—the summoning of Agglomeration that each of us used to summon the others when needed. I felt a light connection. A chain between Porb and I whittled down to wire. How to navigate this Liminality? How to find those closest to me?

Waiting wouldn’t help.

Walking would.

I stepped through the Liminal sand, feeling ten thousand worlds spread between my toes. The emotion of our conversation passed into wonder bordered on fear for all around me. Awareness peaked for my surroundings. The starships and mountains and cavalries of outsiders everywhere.

Auroras bloomed between misty mountains. Creatures galloped in humungous herds. The raids in the distance concluded. A castle on a hill rose from the darkness and the occupants waged siege on the tribesman I’d seen before. The castle grew legs and the tribespeople transformed into beast-forms. An age old rivalry? My lip curled.

I found solace in seeing such mortal interactions take place in this profound, wondrous place.

A massive white sailing vessel loomed nearby—cut through the clouds. A kilometer away? The sails shifted towards me. Three sails. Main mast upon the deck and two masts flaying from below in mime to a shark’s fins. An ornate vessel reflecting all light around it.

The gambeson over my shirt and pants remained from Opsalat’s restorations. Striped in tan and red—Kaihan colors. The clothes I wore about my palace. The clothes I’d worn to a council meeting early in the evening before I’d blipped. I hadn’t changed them.

Still, after all this time, I couldn’t change them.

I couldn’t let go.

My scarf trailed between my paws. A comfortably light material for someone cloaked in as much fur as I. I wrapped the ends—each fluttering as crimson flags in the breeze—and smelled deeply.

The scent had been gone since the beginning. Since that world where Peridot gifted me the Syndel.

The scent of my daughter’s hands knitting every fiber, every weave, every hour spent creating her masterpiece for me.

Why did it smell of her now?

Her perfume returned.

The ship approached. Still distant. Thrust once again into my new existence. Into the next phase. A journey lacking logic and reason and law and a part of my very long tale that is more dream to me than reality.

I buried my clothes in the sand and struck my saber down. I curled the scarf my daughter knitted as a headstone and kissed the smell of her goodbye. Any longer and I’d feel too attached to accept what that smell truly was.

Those weren’t my clothes. That wasn’t my scarf. That wasn’t my daughter’s perfume.

They were lies from the future. Mimics to the originals. The molecules and patterns and feel were all the same. But something reborn or remade is never the same. Even if it carries the smell you so desperately desired to experience again—that wasn’t the smell of her hands sewing me that scarf. It was the scent of my future gifting a memory.

I left my clothes and my scarf behind me, leaving only my fur to the cosmic wind, and wondered what I’d choose as my new attire. How I would find new clothes. What styles and such would lie out in the Liminality for my choosing.

The sky-sailer barreled towards me. I outstretched my arms in acceptance of this promise for adventure. I readied myself for this journey to begin. So naively, I expected a great quest, a grand epic, a tale to be told in pride and with answers at the end.

Instead I walked towards the unknowable dream.

The ship soared down to me shining like a star, and the lullaby of my past and future played in my ears, taking me to the state between the waking and the weary.


Stars aren’t stars,

Not always, babe,

They see you, too.

In wicked ways.


So began a sleep of a score and six centuries.



END




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