by GRANT SMUTS
As we draw closer to the launch of my book, it only seems pertinent to begin the story here. Some background information on the world, featuring some of the characters who will have some significance in the upcoming story.
-blood spattered journal, believed to be the work of the infamous mage, Nexfera. These notes were found by Malak Solidor of the Order of Saint Audren, in the ruins of what we believe to be one of his old laboratories.
(the first portion of this entry is illegible due to a large bloodstain.)
…reigning from distant realms, they have commanded a savage reality of eternal conflict. It is believed that what was meant to be forged from the endless discord was a weapon of some might, to be used against others of their kind. There is as yet, no justification for these thoughts yet I divine no other purpose. I have read Myrrdin’s theses on the Aions, and though many at the Academy scoffed at the notion that they are the source of magic, I am not so certain that it is as foolish as they claim.
It is intriguing to think that these Aions might have selected a few among us to be their instruments. But far more intriguing, perhaps, that they would have walked upon this world for a time, that they might have left some impression upon the world. I go now to seek these places, guided by the visions of their visitation. The others may think me mad, and perhaps I am, but I know that my madness will only grow if I do not heed this venturesome need within me. It is time I left Cloudrend. Past time, perhaps, since I made some disparaging remarks about the archmage’s policies. He is a petty one, and not likely to forgive me for attaching a firecracker to his loathsome cat’s tail. But at least that devilspawn Mr Biscuit ( which is an utterly ridiculous name, I’ve always said so) – (the rest of this entry has been torn away, though a portion of it remains at the end.)
I’ve reached my old laboratory; haven’t had the opportunity to refer to my old notes. Raloth is dead, killed by one of my experiments. Gier is gone, no doubt ravaging the countryside. I should bring him to heel, but the truth is that I cannot begin to think that all of that is relevant anymore. I have had a visitation. One of Gehara’s lost gods has entered my dreams, granting me a vision of their imprisonment. In the dream, I beheld Alabaster, the pure goddess of beauty, chained to the surface of a dark ocean in a dreamscape where the sky is bleached white. I saw a child, released from the edge of the abyss to walk into the darkness of a dread forest.
I saw myself walking through the ruins of a cathedral, and there saw a man chained to stone, screaming in mute agony to the heavens. I tried to free him, but failed, and saw no truth in my visions. Only memory. A memory that never was, but which might yet come to be.
It’s possible that what I beheld was a presentiment of a future. Mine, and yet not mine.
Does the soul vanish when life ends? When the soul is released from its mortal bonds, does it dwindle into the empty aether? Or does it unite with some greater energy? Is there magic that can bind the soul to another vessel after death? I have thought on this these last few weeks. The answer is not so simple as necromancy, which merely conjures the shadow of a soul.
My thoughts are turned not to merely life and death, but the existence that encompasses both concepts.
Today I captured a sentient creature and have begun enslaving its energy to my will. It is not a human but a sylph – though I sense what I have done will have me exiled from the Synod all the same.
I can still hear its shrieks in my dreams. I hope I am right. I must be right, for if I am wrong, there will be no god in this world who could possibly forgive me.
Here begins my heresy.
The creature has mutated. The process of death and rebirth has yielded a new form. Monstrous, foul, and screaming in near constant agony. I have erred in my calculations, applied too much of the tapestry of fire to its soul. In moments of lucidity, it stares at me with undisguised hatred for its sufferings. I euthanised it and began the process again. Perhaps a rebalancing of the humours. I must find an appreciable sentience again. It must tell me its memories.
No response for most of the day, nothing to show for my constant application of the seven circles I wove into its essence. Have I destroyed the soul? I won’t give up yet. I can’t.
The body continues to mutate, becoming larger. I will need greater restraints if I am successful in reviving it. (The rest of this entry is illegible.)
The creature’s eyes have opened.
It looks around with lucidity. And, perhaps, intellect?
I dare not hope yet. It is too soon. I have begun to weave the seven circles into its form, binding it to my service. Slower this time, so as to avoid the agony of before. In truth, the process is rather similar to binding my previous experiments. But what I am doing is harder than merely creating life. What I must do is to bind memories to it. Would it have been easier if I had known more of the creature’s past? It’s difficult to say, but the experiment seems to preclude such knowledge having any kind of meaningful import. Instead, I will transfer a bit of my subconscious into the creature. It would remember a few of the things I dreamed. I need no oneiromancer to perform the extraction – though an oneiromancer would’ve been able to duplicate my memory, as opposed to simply excising it. But no matter, I will merely record the dream here:
‘I had a dream in the midst of chaos. I saw the gods of the old world, chained to the illusions of a false world. They lay there dreaming, awaiting the moment of sacrifice, upon a wine-dark ocean, within a fallen temple.’
(Further notes and scribbles in an illegible hand.)
I have excised my dream, embedded it in the consciousness of the beast as it lay sleeping. When it woke, it seemed confused at first. For a moment, I thought it might speak, but it merely stared at me with the same quiet hatred that its previous incarnation had. Does it remain silent to mock me? Is it aware of my wishes? I have imparted my consciousness to it, does it know what I intend? Is it spite I see in those ruby-red eyes?
I wonder what else I might do.
(ink blots out the rest of this entry.)
There has been no change in the beast. I have lost patience with it. I will euthanise it tonight, and begin again.
(Heavy ink stains across the page, bottom half is torn away.)
The revival method has taken far longer than is the norm. The beast seemed almost to resist consciousness, entering a deep stupor once I managed to stabilize its breathing. I have had to maintain fourteen nuanced circles inside its body to regulate its internal processes, which have grown immensely complex. I’m exhausted. But in time, the beast’s eyes opened. It stared at the ceiling again, resolutely silent. Its breathing fills the room, sounding far more immense than it is. There is something about it this time. I will match its silence, and see what it yields.
(The next few entries are philosophical equations and hypotheses, spanning several months – it seemed as though Nexfera was attempting to distract himself from the creature’s ongoing silence, perhaps hoping that the beast would respond. Judging from the intervening months, a mania had begun to seep into the wizard.)
It’s been many months now. Five, in fact. The creature’s body has undergone another mutation, and I hope it to be the final one. What was once a humanoid has become thoroughly demonic in appearance – a hulking creature, winged and muscled. It’s blood red eyes blaze in the darkness, above a maw filled with sharklike fangs. Yet it seems that my efforts have, at last, yielded something from what felt like repeat failures.
‘I had a dream, in the midst of chaos.’ It’s words, deep and booming, seemed almost to shake the room. I realised that, apart from my own voice reciting formulae, it is the first thing someone has said in this laboratory for months. And it is the first thing I have heard another person say in just as long.
That it used the words I used to record my dream has proven it to me; I have not spoken them since the day I excised the dream from my mind.
It recounted the dream perfectly, as I have it in my journal. This creature has retained its memory across the veil of death and into life again. Success!
Now that I know that a memory might persist beyond death, there is but one thing, now, that remains. I must grant the beast a final death.
Something is… wrong. The beast’s final mutation seems to have granted it an extraordinary hardiness. Neither blade nor magic appears to affect it now. Through my efforts, it seems to have grown invulnerable. An unfortunate eventuality. Yet it bodes well for my own future. It is time I embarked on the true mission. From here, I will go to the dream-nomads’ village to the north. I require a pure vessel for my consciousness. A child will suffice.
An infant, however, would be perfect.
As much as I have given of myself to the beast, I recognize it to be an incomplete being, as I too have now been rendered incomplete. That will be remedied by its eventual destruction. I have begun to place runes around the laboratory, which, when ignited, will trigger a collapse. If the beast will not die, then I will bury it alive.
The true journey begins now.