Sometimes, I wonder when Arcane picked up this habit. It may have been born into her, to be honest, but I doubt that is the case. Most often, I think it started after Fate’s death, when I wanted more than anything else for what was, not to be. When I knew that all the world, all the universe, would stand against me, and so believed Arcane should stand against herself as well. For her failures, for her losses, for her sins… I believed myself beyond redemption. And so I spoke the words that must not be spoken, invoked that which must not be invoked, and began the unending, eternal night from which I have yet to awake. But still, there is a chance that it was at some other point of her long, long life; some other climax while empires fell and galaxies turned to dust.
She does not recall..
Then again, at this moment I find this habit somewhat convenient. The entity referred to by oneself as I, while it is the same as the one that that one calls their name, is an existence reserved for those who have truly determined who, in fact, they are.
For all she has lived, Arcane has yet to do so. Not even at the point at which these words are written, when scattered glimmers mark the dying husks of the few remaining stars above this last unstable world, can she say she knows exactly whom she would refer to when she speaks of I.
Even so, I find I do not care about such things. Whilst I may defy the definitions placed by Arcane upon Arcane, I have always found such things to be more akin to guidelines than strict rules. I may break them with impunity, especially at the point when I tire of writing about Arcane and wish to write about Arcane. Confusing, perhaps, to those still bound perpetually by the constraints of the vehicle we refer to as language; not at all to those who realize that information lies beyond the mere shell of its container.
Still, I am not completely unreasonable. To those still wondering, she will declare it: I am Arcane of Magia, first of the nine, highest of the path of secrets, Magi of the greatest world of Man, and many other things besides. I have honestly lost count of the titles Arcane received. Some from tiny kings supreme over islands floating in an endless sea, others by pitiful emperors reaching out their hands to the heavens and never realizing how much lay beyond their grasp. Despite how meaningless they all are, Arcane finds myself fond of some of them.
In an early age after the fall of man, I was called the Builder of Worlds and the Architect of Ascension. Later, as I slowed down my actions and simply wandered, power without purpose, I was titled the Timeless Traveler by those who saw me wander from generation to generation. Another gave me a more grandiose label, the ‘Walker through the Void without a Light’. That was amusing. Of course, less so were those others who called Arcane the Destroyer, Darkener of Stars and Harbinger of Cataclysm. What sort of person did they think I am, I wonder? And whatever they thought, what of those who called me Leader of the Legends of Past and Present, Guide of Glory or the Speaker of the Song of Stars; Eternal Empress of Every Eon? Alliteration was apparently their thing, I recall… Does it make the title better if all the words start with the same sound? I never found it to be so.
Nor did those who called me the Reaper of the Harvest of Souls, the Infinite Massacre, or the Child who is Forever without a Cause. That last one is a bit offensive; while I choose the form of a child, I am anything but one. Then again, that very sentiment probably proves me a liar. Later they changed it to the Wisest Innocent, though, so I find myself fond of the contrast. Then again, do not the two titles mean the same thing? Only children are wise enough to realize that no cause is needed, after all. Long after they died, I still wonder about that, even after being called the Lady of Knowledge and the Teacher of Nations. But the most accurate title of all that time has to be the Virgin Mother of All Things, who has never given birth. Even if I would prefer not to admit that too openly.
Yet it seems I know myself best, can most clearly conceive of the being known as Arcane, not by any of the myriad and pretentious titles I was given throughout eternity, but by who I believed myself to be at the very beginning. Not some great being; not some herald or queen or god. But a simple child of a single world in a time when she merely stood at the peak of a surmountable mountain. I am the Arcane who loved Fate, and hated war; a talented child in a nation of talents. A responsible student and diligent sister, a hope for the future, a prospective seed who would go far after many trials and difficulties. I am the girl who fears the terrors in the night, loves sweets without a trace of nutritional value, enjoys geeking out over fancy new technologies, and seeks out the new and exciting with every breath. The girl who dreamed of nothing more than living a life of happiness anew discovery in a world designed to enable such things.
What happened to that Arcane? When did she become this cruel and merciless watcher from above, the one who would slaughter a world without a care or consign another to death without a second’s thought? A girl who watched impassively as celestial fire washed across a terrestrial cradle and left it ashen and broken, only to move on and do the same to another. But for all I wish to deny it, that Arcane is just as truly me as the idealized image I cherish of myself.
For that is what resulted from the events I so painstakingly described. You cannot imagine it anymore… or would it perhaps be yet? I wonder, ye who finds my words, are you born from the time before the creation of Yahweh ket Israel from the prayers of seven hundred and seventy seven times the third power of the seventh magnitude? Have you yet added to the universe of mundanity the power of the weakest force, the tiny fragments of energy I am sure are yet invisible to you as anything more than a trace of deja vu, a hint of uncommon luck? If not, then know what awaits you carries not only hope, but despair. Know that the greatest light also casts the darkest shadow, and that it takes merely a flicker for that night to consume all things. Know, that even when the light manifests and all that is good and holy in this world takes up the name of that most ancient of divinities, malice will remain.
I doubt that warning will avail you, though. The tribulations that are ahead are too vast for even me to overcome; then again, one among them will be a version of myself. You will be forewarned; yet, I am sure, so too were my own ancestors, perhaps by my own hand, perhaps by another.
You would be surprised how little else there is to think about for those who reach this place.
Sigh… you must forgive me my tendency to ramble. Time, I have in abundance. Patience, I have never lacked. But brevity, the soul of wit... ah, that I am afraid I must do without. Comedic, you may have noticed, I am not. Strange, how difficult it is to laugh when all you ever want to do is cry.
Which reminds me. This was the story of a girl, not Arcane, yet very similar to me. Born into favor, encountering and growing through tragedy, finally destroying all she had tried so hard to protect after seeing that it was not as perfect as she first imagined. It is told in my words, with my perception of its events, with my own memories intertwined, but it is not precisely my own story. That, I have spoken of in the present; Arcane yet lives, after all. What did you think of her, I wonder?
She was bold and courageous, yet also rash and foolish. She was driven to succeed, yet too stubborn to consider alternative paths. For how little time we existed together, she left quite an impression on me. Perhaps it was the decision shortly beforehand to work through my own trauma, my own past, that made me attach to her so many of the characteristics I saw in my younger self, when it is likely she was far different from me in every way.
Yet, in the end, Arcane is the only one who can define her. A planet consumed by Yahweh is one lost to the universe, forgotten by all. Not even Arcane can undo that fate; yet so many of them only I would remember anyway. So she will exist the only way she can; as I believed her to be. In the end, that is how we all end up being, isn’t it? Defined not by who we are, but by who others perceived us to be.
Just another reason to always make sure we are ourselves, I guess.
Perhaps I should discuss her story for a time. Her world was, in many ways, doomed the instant I was brought there by the remnants of the void swimmers who traveled through the outermost edges of the great void. Prescience is… a difficult power to use, to be sure, yet it is counted among my own abilities. From the moment I made Elucidation, I knew the world would be forced through a trial; the outcome of such I could not determine. The spell I inscribed into that light bringing blade was a true elucidation, a method to concentrate the energy of the planet entire with the force of the first divide and thus enable an ascension. The world should have broken through to the next level, nourished by enhanced energy from the star and granted enough natural force to allow the elfbeasts to go far. It would have taken time, I believe; even having ascended billions of worlds as such, I still cannot say how long.
Yet… oil. That cursed fluid that brought about the death of Earth not once but over a dozen times has no place in the universe. Light hydrocarbons, methane and ethane and a few others, arise from simple physical processes, but true oil requires life to live and die over and over and over again. Not since ancient Earth and its billion year history of short lived life have those conditions been met. That was why that spell was designed in the first place, after all. And I remember all too well learning exactly how that worked out for humanity’s past.
Thus, the technique had to be destroyed. Setting Annabelle against the prince required no intervention of mine; hiding Jasmina’s betrayal from her suspicions took a touch more. Fortunately the girl was clever enough to use that mate of hers to cover any unnatural activity after I brought them together. From there, the stage was set, and everything ready. As planned, the girl was broken; as intended, she prayed to me and accepted my power. The content of her prayer was not expected, to be honest; selfishness is what I’ve come to expect from most people. Crown and country technically did surpass mortality, at least from her perspective. That her desire led her to seek the annihilation of not just the single empire I wanted obliterated but her entire world was a miscalculation, yet not one I minded too much. Even if it did require me to invoke the Covenant.
The Covenant… that I am sure you know of. No matter when you live, so long as it is before my time and after the events concerning Yeshua of Nazareth on the heights of Golgotha, you know about the Covenant defined on that day. Perhaps you remember a few more terms, a few different words, but the essence is the same: accept me, and you shall be saved. Have faith, and you will be rewarded. Perhaps you do not believe in it; that is likely fine. Unless Yahweh has actually materialized in the Temple World of Et’Zion about the Star of Bethlehem, it probably doesn’t make a difference. There is a possibility that he already exists in a less than manifested form, but I doubt he has the same power to deliver true salvation that he developed afterwards.
That was the end of her story. Annabelle, a Rose Princess named for a flower… her fate is already determined through the grace of God. She was not the one who deserves both record and lament, exaltation and condemnation. She lived well, and died with honor. She has received salvation, whether she deserves it or not. That is all that matters.
My own story, though… that is far from over. Even just considering the time before I spoke those forbidden words in the empty hall of the crumbling Throne, there is so much more to tell. Not just of my own siblings, eight representing the elements labeled by the ancient myths of man and one representing the rest determined not by fantasy, but science. But also the champions of five more paths, the cultivators along the path of battles, the contractors who summoned gods and demons, dragons and monsters along the path of bindings, the Saints who received power from their gods along the path of heavens, the great aristocrats who gathered wealth enough to purchase galaxies along the path of riches, and the wielders who took up the mighty tools forged in the image of ancient legends and made manifest the power they contained, made real the Excalibur and the Durandal along the path of weapons. Before, we were enemies, rivals, and occasionally friends. After…
After Fate’s death, we were as one. Mankind wanted us dead, for having more than them, for being better off, for through our very existence denying the equality they so desperately believed in. The war between us was… terrible to behold. In the end, none remained of mankind, nor the rest of the champions. Only I still lived.
But that story will come later. For it involves not only the nature of magic and science, but the very truth of the fundamental premise of good… and, more importantly, of evil.
I will tell it, in time. Starting from the episode of a single lonely world and a pair of star crossed lovers doomed to always be apart, until the end of time itself. After all, I am the one who remembers every eon, from now until the end of time. I am the daughter of Magia, the champion of the path of magic, the God of Magic itself. I am the only one, throughout all of history, who has yet to face that judgement and determine whether I receive salvation, or destruction. So it seems that what I called myself at the beginning of this tale is all the more appropriate now.
I, Arcane, am from the final world.