EP 7: 4/4 THE TUG OF GRANDEUR


This story is the CONCLUSION of a 4 WEEK STORYLINE. It is recommended you READ the prior 3 EPISODES.


“We know of you, Opaline of Dahn, and we know of your exploits,” said the Godspeakers. All nine spoke in unison. A red, devilish looking behemoth flew across from us. His wingspan—in all its enormity—was still dwarfed by the titanic worm behind him.

The mountainous worms had not moved. The darkness of their mouths were caves into the abyss. Such blackness existed only in nightmares.

“Porbiyo of Eggnaut, you, too, are known well by the Eldest Oldes,” the Godspeaker before us landed on the pillar. In front of the slumbering Peridot. He grew to six meters tall, with arms so muscular they were thicker than trees and harder than steel. His blaring red skin creased with veins and brandings. He said, “Your names have transcended name. But your time as wanderers between worlds has come to an end. Such dealings are unnatural.”

I fought the shakes, and stood upright. I would not converse with these beings on my knees.

I said, “Your masters have Peridot in their grasp. You speak of a plague she brings—that you are going to end this plague. Can we not have an explanation? We deserve that much.”

The Godspeaker laughed, “Masters? This body is no slave, rat, but a vessel.”

The Godspeaker had not acknowledged my request, but focused entirely on its form. I added, “You are truly the voice of this Genesar,” I motioned to the hundred meter tall worm mouth ahead of us, “you are a Godspeaker wholly?”

“I am the vessel of Varteriusilion, and Varteriusilion myself,” the red demon grinned, “the voice of the worm would destroy you, little one. We will settle for the words of an immortal. Varterius, I am called, by many, though my names are scattered wide.”

“I may call you Varterius?”

“Titles are for those in need of reassurance. We need no such thing. Our names are names, and that is what we are called.”

“A humble way to think.”

“Simple.”

“And is it not simple to ask why?” I opened my arms in front of Peridot, and turned to face the other Godspeakers and their respective worms. All nine floated nearer, surrounding us like a pantheon of idealized deities. My voice came back, and confidence returned. I didn’t shake, and said, “We are cursed alongside Peridot. You’ve trapped her here, but why? You speak to us as though we are plagued, but this plague lie within us. Are we not victims?”

“Victims you are,” spoke another Godspeaker. A sinewy goddess, blue of skin with dress hanging from her shoulders like ruffled waves. She lacked wings yet had antlers ornate enough to carry kings as thrones. She continued, three eyes blinking, “You could be unfortunate casualties in a battle not yours alone.”

Varterius said, “You walk a line between Existence and Nonexistence. A place unknown to all but those who have witnessed it. Yet somehow, you have not been devoured by this Liminality.”

“She anchors you,” the blue goddess said, “and allows you tether to Exist beside her, despite the forces at bay. Her divinity alone provides anchor enough to remain Existent.”

I set my jaw, “She protects us, then?”

“Protection is active.” The red Godspeaker said, “Ehlonniabatur, or Peridot as you call her, lie to the whims of these forces, unaware of her own danger. Until we informed her of this problem, and the danger she possesses, and the danger you all cause. A great looming threat to the architecture of Loche’s Garden.”

“Loche’s Garden. . .?”

The red Godspeaker stepped above me as a pedant, “All you have ever seen or will see is the Garden of Loche. The All-Dragon, They Who Were Birthed By Stars, and a million names. This is all They created. The Father, the Mother, the Creator, without comprehension or dimension. . . Loche is the great Dragon who planted the seeds of universes. They have blossomed the flower. And you—rat—have wriggled into the fabric of this grand tapestry.”

The blue Godspeaker slid between Varterius and I. She motioned for him to back away, and said, “Time. . . remains the single constant. There are no multi-realities. You are the single Opaline who has ever, and will ever, Exist. Your soul is finite. Your destiny, singular. Ehlonniabatur—Peridot—has looped herself into this stream. She, and all she touches, are transported through the universes between all times. She has. . . glitched.” The Godspeaker reached a hand for Peridot, but did not touch her, merely gestured lovingly to the slumbering Dragon, who was now the size of a hound and not a moth.

The blue Godspeaker continued, “We are unaware of the consequences of your glitching. None of us know what the Garden was before Ehlonniabatur’s incident. But we know one thing for certain—a piece of information which has brought attention to her transgressions against the Garden and all who Exist within it.”

Before she could continue, a voice interjected, “She must be destroyed, and her soul must remain Existent.” Varterius said. “In your mortal terms, her physical form will be obliterated, and her soul will fade to the furthest reaches of the Garden. Ehlonniabatur must die.” He pointed to me and Porbiyo, “All who have contacted the Glaire must be purged, lest her affliction inflict harm upon Existence. . . and bring forth the enemy.”

I panicked. “I’m sure this is all a tremendous mistake. There must be a way to correct this,” I said, eyes fixated on Peridot. She slumbered half dead to me. To see a sleeping god at the mercy of others humbled all I ever knew. I said, “You are almighty, are you not? Eldest Oldes, Genesar. . . I have heard tales of greater gods, beings so magnificent they were untouched by worlds, and lived between them. You are all so mighty yet you fear this great mistake? Help her—don’t keep her prisoner for slaughter.”

“Ehlonniabatur made contact with the Glaire herself,” the blue goddess said. She shrunk to my height, and gestured to the sleeping Dragon. “The choice was hers. She touched a piece of the Garden none were ever meant to touch. Her consequences are dire. But the solution is absolute.” She smiled to me. Her three eyes were warm, almost loving. “We cannot allow the might of the Glaire to fall into the enemy’s grasp.”

“What enemy? Peridot would never hurt a soul.”

Another Godspeaker rose beside us, and shrunk down to my height. This one resembled a cyclops, with a single eye cloaked by a large circlet of gold. The green skin morphed into a set of long golden robes which tapered into tentacles. The Godspeaker said, “You are Opaline of Dahn. The world from which you hail, how did you come to know of its proper name?”

“Proper” name meant the Draconic tongue, which ultimately meant song. Dahn was indeed the name of my homeworld in this ancient and divine language. I said, “I happened to blip into the same timeline in which Dahn existed, and met someone aware of worlds beyond their own. Which is. . . quite rare.”

“And how many times has this happened, where you somehow arrive at a world which exists at the same time as your own? Quite a rare occurrence, should you take the scale of the Garden into consideration. Statistically it should be impossible.”

I thought a moment, “At least ten. And those are only the ones I know about. It is difficult to learn anything of the Garden when stranded on a world without any knowledge of the universes, planets, and worlds around it. Most places aren’t aware they’re part of anything larger than their county, never mind worlds.”

“Yet despite these odds you glitch into the timeline of your planet’s life. At least ten times you have run into people with ‘outer’ knowledge. This is no coincidence. You continue to glitch into the time where your planet lived.”

I said, “Not. . . always.”

“And why is that?” The Godspeaker’s single eye furrowed. He knew that I knew.

I said, “Because Dahn is destroyed. Sometime, in the soup of this time-line, my homeworld gets destroyed. No trace left. That’s how I learned its name. . . from another WorldWalker who spoke of mice kingdoms in the orchards. The coincidence was uncanny. When he said the world died, I couldn’t believe it. But I looked at his drawings, and his journals. . . and the sorcery he described was accurate. My world will eventually, or is currently, or was already, destroyed.” I set my jaw. “What does any of this have to do with Peridot?”

“We Exist, Opaline,” said the Godspeakers together, “but Existence is not the only state. For Nonexistence spreads, devouring all in its path. That which lives does not only die—it simply ceases. The soul is destroyed, and all meaning lost in the chaos of Annihilation.”

“Have you ever wondered why you spent half a century trapped on a single planet—a planet which was forged in the same period as Dahn?” The cyclops Godspeaker said. “Have you ever attempted to understand how you keep arriving on worlds which live on at the same time—or live on in Dahn’s death—as your homeworld?”

“The critical piece of information we learned,” said the blue Godspeaker. “Is that not even the greatest and most powerful forces we comprehend can see past Dahn’s time. The Seven Spheres which were born at that time, are an anomaly. Not even the greatest magic can penetrate the mystery of what lie beyond these universes’ existence.”

Cyclops said, “You are stuck bumping into the wall of what could be. The thousands of years in which Dahn Existed are not attracting you—you are flying into it. The space, and time, beyond this point does not yet Exist. Meaning it will never Exist. You are slamming yourself into the infinite wall of the ‘end.’”

“We knew of Dahn before it ever was born,” Varterius said. “Due to Ehlonniabatur’s travels across the Garden and the timeline, we have seen statues of Opaline of Dahn going all the way to the first of us being born, and the first universes being Annihilated. Somehow, none of our minds, and even our combined Songs, can witness what lie beyond the destruction of Dahn and the sister universes around it. We believe this is the true end—where Nonexistence swallows Existence whole. Now, in this Uhkanadumud. . . we have come to an impasse.”

“That is?” I said.

“Moments before your arrival, Dahn’s planetary crust was given life by the Wyrmling Inollyn. With the power of his Syndels, Inollyn gave birth to the world on which you will be born. . . some twenty thousand years from now.”

I fell to my knees, “My home was just Created. . . born. . .” I glanced over to Porbiyo, who was absolutely silent.

“Yes. And the clock is ticking. . .” the blue Godspeaker said. She set her hand on my shoulder. A spark of power jolted through me. “Ehlonniabatur has spent too long in the light. She is one of us—a leftover power from a dead world. She is a survivor. But she has refused to comply. There must be order to our ways. . . the more reckless our actions become, the greater consequence we have on the Garden and all those who Exist. The enemy senses us Genesar. She calls attention to our presence. And Ehlonniabatur will cause our destruction in this senseless ‘blipping.’ This, we know.”

“She is vain, and arrogant,” said the cyclops. His tentacle feet turned into fans and he hovered into the air. He returned to his place amongst the other Godspeakers. “The Dragon is the most holy of forms, and upon surviving into a new selection of universes, it is not our place to maintain such a form. Loche will birth new Dragons to rule their worlds—new gods to Create with their Syndels. For us to maintain our Draconic hide. . . ugh! The disrespect to the next generation is immense. We have taken the shape of worms. . . humble, unseen creatures. She is grandiose. This parading through time must end.”

The blue Godspeaker smiled, and set her hand beneath my chin. She rubbed my fur like I were a mournful pet. “How long have you traveled in this hell, Opaline? All of this can have an end. We will put a stop to it. The purposelessness, the pain, the chaos from world to world. We will free you from her curse.”

She grew to several meters tall, and floated in line with the other eight Godspeakers. The beings cast Porbiyo, Peridot and I in shadow.

Porb trembled. He did not look at me once.

I stood again, and clenched my fists. I opened my palm enough to feel the summoning of my top. I shut down the summoning but kept my paw at the ready. Everything shook. I couldn’t control my body, anymore. The fear. . . the might of these beings, and the scale of what they spoke. . . I felt like a child in a lecture hall.

These were simplified voices for the Genesar. These were gods turned into voice boxes for the giant worms behind us. These voices were almighty, and yet simple. Their words were quick, and somewhat casual. I had spoken to lesser beings with greater vocabularies, and more pronounced cadence.

But this was the point. . .

How could they appeal to me, if they projected their true strength? The Godspeaker’s forms were terrifying, and mighty, yet they spoke kindly, and simplistic.

If they showed me their true might. . .

Spoke their true voices. . .

I’d be paralyzed. At the very least, uncooperative.

The question was: why did they want to appeal? If these Genesar were as intense as they appeared, then anything they desired would be theirs. Magic could give regular men the power to control the minds of millions. . . why couldn’t these Eldest Oldes fulfill their want?

Because they didn’t want anything from me.

They needed something.

These beings were desperate.

But what for? And what blocked them?

The Godspeakers said, “We can break you free of her curse. All of you who are afflicted. The Agglomerates, you have been named. Yes—you will be freed upon her destruction. Ehlonniabatur will be destroyed and all your wishes granted.” They looked to Porbiyo, “You, Porbiyo of Eggnaut, shall be given to the Garden itself—the true Garden. The world upon which all things ever created exist. . . all beasts from all universes from all time. . . a vast Sphere with trillions of species.”

Porb glanced up for the first time.

They said to me, “And you, Opaline. . . we can give you what you always wanted.”

I set my jaw, “And what have I always wanted?”

“Home. . .” Varterius hovered down. “Once your Dragon is gone, your soul will be unattached to the Glaire and the curse. We will keep your soul, and your body, in a state of suspension. And when you ‘blip’ for the first time. . . it will be as if you never left home.”

I lost my breath, “No. . . that’s impossible.”

“It is very possible. All you ever wanted—the fame, the fortune, the power to be an adventurer amongst a small minded peoples. . . you’ll return the wisest and most traveled being your homeworld has ever seen.”

I fell silent.

To return home. . . to see my family, my friends, the orchards once again. . . all I had wanted for so long was simply to settle down. To return to a place where I was loved, and could love.

“You’ll be a god amongst them,” Varterius said. “An ascended.”

“What must I do?” I eyed the Godspeakers, “To be free of all of this, what do I have to do?”

Varterius grinned, “You were given a gift, we understand. A piece of the Dragon lie in your soul.”

My top.

“Yes, what of it?”

The blue Godspeaker said, “Elhonniabatur—and you all affected by her—are stranded in the Liminality. You burst between sections of the Liminal dimension. We misunderstood the nature of this in the beginning. Your souls are bound to the ‘inbetween,’ and thus are unable to grasp to any piece of Existence.”

The cyclops said, “To free yourselves, you must free Ehlonniabatur. But her destruction is all that can do this. For as a Dragon—and thus god—her soul has taken your individual souls as mortals. You are, for lack of grander terminology, her ‘moving world,’ of which she is the sole deity.”

“The gift you have been given,” Varterius said, “is a piece of Ehlonniabatur’s Draconic being. Only a Syndel can shatter a Dragon.”

I said, “So. . . only a Dragon can kill a Dragon. Only god can kill god.”

“Precisely.”

“You need me to. . . to—” my paws shook.

“It is mercy, Opaline,” said the blue Genesar. She smiled, “You will be the one to end her eternity, and free you and your compatriots. Do not think of it as death. Death is a transportation of the soul to freedom. . . Annihilation is far greater a terror. Annihilation is at stake.”

I stepped to Peridot, who hovered above a large pearlescent slab. My hands could not go near the slab. It seemed there were some kind of shield over it my eyes couldn’t detect.

I reached out and ran my paw along her scales. I’d never seen her so large, before. She was always so small, so innocent, so horrified at the notion that everything she touched became cursed.

She was scared of herself. . .

Of her power.

“I’ll do it,” I said. I opened my palm, and the top shined bright. It spun for a second, then fell into my hand. The Genesar did not comment on this. I let the top hover—motionless—in the air, and grasped Peridot in my paws. Her neck fell as I carried her to the ground.

I reached into my bag, and took the Kaihan helm. I slipped the helm over my head and coiled my ears into the horns. In as solemn a tone as I could muster, I broke into tears, and whispered, “All these years, you and I. But I can free us both, now, with the very gift you gave to me.”

I took the Syndel in my paw, allowing my sorcery to open my soul to its incredible power. I knelt in front of the slumbering Dragon, and eyed the Godspeakers through my helm.

They wanted my Syndel. . . and somehow, couldn’t take it from me.

They said only a Dragon could kill a Dragon—a Syndel being a part of that. But maybe a Syndel could revive one. I ran my claws along Peridot’s scales, and prayed harder then I had ever prayed in my life.

I glared through the Kaihan visor holes. In the light of the milky dimension, the worms surrounded us as magnificent shadows.

I said, “You say she is grandiose for being a Dragon, yet you take the form of kilometers long worms. You say the end is near yet you don’t know what can happen. You project this might and conviction, yet you spend all of this time persuading me—a mouse—to your belief. . .” I growled, “Why won’t you move on me? Ah, I see,” I let the top spin as fast as possible in my palm, “because of this. . . a Syndel? You could feel the power inside me. Peridot imparted this—one of the great artifacts of Loche’s Garden—because she wanted to make me happy. . . could you imagine the evil in her. . . the arrogance in that act of friendship?”

The Godspeakers rose eyebrows, cocked heads in confusion.

I said, “You offer me home. Perhaps a short while ago, I would have accepted your offer. But I’m not broken anymore. You offer me power. The tug of grandeur is nothing against the drive of devotion.”

I pressed the top against Peridot’s scales. Her eyes opened.

We blipped.

~~~

“Fuck. That actually worked.” I collapsed on the shoreline. We blipped onto a massive cliffside shore, where waves battered the rock below and the sky was open blue with shining gold sun. I shivered, half expecting it to be a dream.

“AHA!” Porbiyo jumped and tackled me. He screamed at the top of his lungs, “Take that you elderly, fat, narcissistic, monstrous, colossal and terrifying, stupid, buffoonish, want-to-be-real-gods!” He danced as if he’d been the one victorious, and not the trembling man unable to speak a word before the Genesar.

I allowed him his victory. We all needed one.

Peridot floated in the wind. She returned to her moth size. As Porbiyo skipped down the beach, we sat in each other’s silence.

“You could have accepted their offer,” she said. “I would never blame you for that.”

“Never.” I said, and paused. “Never. They could offer me anything. Never.”

“You don’t even know what’s going on. What if what they say is true?”

“Then it’s true.” I said, “I trust you. You’ve run from them. I’m willing to bet you don’t care for your own life. You running has nothing to do with survival for you. You know something they don’t.”

“I do.”

“Can you tell me that?”

“I need you to trust me.”

I nodded, “But Peridot? Or, Ehlonniabatur?”

“Don’t speak that name.”

“I won’t.” I fell onto my back and caught my breath. From the conversation my body was drained. “I need to ask you something. All I ask is for an answer.”

“Anything.”

“Alright, maybe a few things. And a few answers.”

“Anything.”

“How did you find your way into all of this?”

Without hesitation, she said, “I missed my Father. I wanted to know that very answer. How did all of this begin? How can I be born? How can I forge worlds? Why? Why? Why? I asked all of the questions, and got many answers. . . and I came to the place where my Father, or Mother, or whatever They truly were, birthed us. Only after thousands of years of searching did I even know where I was born. I clawed through universes and every corner of the Spheres both Outer and Core. And I found it. . .”

She paused, and continued, “In the beginning, we were Dragons raised like mortals. . . taught life, and love, and happiness, and pain. We were raised on a farm in a small valley. So small I could’t fathom it now. And in that valley lie a humble lake within a thick brush of vines and forest. And in that lake was an island. . . an island we could never touch as children.

“The being of Loche gifted us the Syndels, bound them to our spines and we became Dragons in every way. The moment the Syndels touched our bodies we were separated and woke in our own Sphere—an empty universe. So, I set off to find that place again. And after millennia of investigating, when I came to the barn in the valley, nobody was there. I swam through the lake and came to the tiny little island. . . no larger than a bedroom. On it was an egg. A broken, glowing, enormous egg. The voices called too me. . . and I touched the glistening sap which leaked from the break.”

I said, “the Genesar mentioned Glaire. . . they meant it, then. I thought they meant some kind of light—they did mean egg.”

“Yes. This Glaire tore me through time and the multiversal plane. Now, here we are, an afflicted group of fools. I dug too deep into the bowels of Loche’s Creation, and touched forces never meant to be seen, heard, and in the very least—touched. It was my mistake.” She sighed, “I am so sorry. I can never apologize enough for what I have caused.”

“One earnest apology is worth a thousand lies,” I smiled, reciting words she’d once shared with me so long ago. She flew up and landed on my shoulder. I said, “Those ‘Eldest Oldes’ were persuading me to their view—why not destroy me and take the Syndel?”

“They can’t.”

“I noticed that, otherwise they would have. How?”

“I don’t know. I really don’t. But those spires are powerful, Opaline, and none dare transgress against those who wield them. Not even the Genesar and their Espari hordes would risk miscalculations against someone wielding a spire. But hey?”

“Yes?”

“Don’t use it again. Really—something of that power level repeated, and you may just destroy it. Doing what you did required tremendous energy. They had my subconscious thousands of levels deep. . .”

I stood up, and started following Porbiyo as he frolicked down the beach. I trudged in his wake, chuckling at his gaiety.

I said, “As far as I know, you gave me a top. Nothing more from now on. No more magic awakenings. But I do have to ask. . . especially now, knowing you’re under threat. . . why would you ever give me a Divine Spire?”

“I love you, why else?”

“They’ll summon you again.”

“Yes. And they will have something far worse planned. I cannot imagine Varterius and Eskithir will take your display kindly. The negotiations, and kindness, will be gone. No more mercy.” She nuzzled into my fur, and began dozing off. She whispered, “Why’d you wake me? You could have given in. After everything you’ve been through, you still couldn’t kneel.”

“I love you, why else?”

Eventually, Porbiyo collapsed into the sand, and I lie down beside him. And for once he didn’t try and paint Peridot, or capture her in a jam jar, or obsess over her magnificence, and us three stared up into the vastness of space, telling stories we did not know about one another.

When the night was done, a silent agreement was made: that when the Genesar called upon Peridot again, she would resist to her fullest, Porb would not sulk like a child, and I would not be so reckless.

Together, maybe we’d stand a chance.

And even without a chance, we’d still stand for something. A tad sentimental, yes, but when you blip between worlds and see nothing but strangers, sentimentality is as divine as the Dragons.

END