A Lost City
The Wasteland – The Stilled Sand Crater
Descending the incline, the floor grays and then blackens, finally losing all color. And before she knows it, Eidos walks upon an inverse mirror. No light reflects from this crater’s sandy surface, nor do any shapes define themselves within it. A complete absence is all she sees. A bottomless pit. Yet, her continual stumbles and falls into the dark dust covering the floor reveal the hidden physicality to it—though visually and viscerally it remains hard to accept.
This is… nauseating.
Gripping a loose collection of powder, she lifts it for closer scrutiny. The shards rake at her closed fist, yet draw no blood from the wounds they open. Unfurling her fingers, she stares at what appears to be a hole in the center of her palm. Violently flipping her hand over to regard the back, she sees the skin is pale, but otherwise undisturbed. Turning the hand once more, her gaze falls back on the palm. The dark powder is gone, dropped from her previous convulsion, and the illusion is dispelled; the hole is gone, and only the unbroken pallor of her skin remains.
Last time I died… She looks north, gaze settling upon a forest of pillars as white as the floor here is black. …was up there… She looks down at the invisible powder she stands upon. …blood as dark as this stuff… Then regarding her pearlescent skin, …skin as white as this… An awareness begins to dawn.
She goes for the dark powder again, this time scooping up a handful. There is a surprising continuity between the powder in her hand and the powder on the ground. Even knowing the trick, her eyes still see a hole piercing her flesh.
What is this stuff? And what’s it doing to my body?
Eidos wiggles her fingers, letting the grains shift in her hand, and ultimately pouring the powder back to the ground. The illusory hole in her hand disappears, pale skin rapidly replacing it. As the last grain falls, Eidos dusts her hands off, but a fine powder yet clings to the wan skin, staining it with grayish trails.
Sudden movement steals her attention from the dark dust. Ambling off in the distance and gradually slipping into view are thousands of humanoid figures. Slow in their approach, their features are nearly impossible to distinguish other than as swaying shadows dirtied by smears of white flesh. They roil and pulse like pustules bursting forth from the crater’s black skin.
The shapes close the distance with increasing speed, ever-gaining in proximity to Eidos.
I’d say run, but who cares at this point?
She does not react. She just stands there motionless, simply resigned to whatever will be.
onhagefuokuzhua, after all.
She allows the procession of unholy abominations to march toward her, and soon, splinters of tooth and bone gnash all around her, as the rotting draugnir drool their sooty fluids.
Now close enough to touch, the creatures circle around her like albino buzzards, eyeing a fresh corpse.
Accept the end without fear, body.
They stagger their circles, giving the impression of a rotating spiral, with Eidos as the unmoving center.
Their furor increases, dancing to some perverse, inaudible beat.
Yet, despite their frenzied orbits, the draugnir somehow seem utterly indifferent to Eidos.
And she herself senses no connection to these beings whatsoever. Indeed, her mind feels more isolated than ever, even in spite of their apparent desire to mirror her thoughts.
If you’re not going to devour my Trueflesh or whatever, then I’d might as well leave.
Shrugging her shoulders, she walks away. However, the band of draugnir move in synchronous with her, perfect reflections of her every step, her every pause.
She stops. Are they following me? Her pale companions halt in unison. What? Am I supposed to command you or something? They eagerly await. Then leave me alone.
And just as quickly as it appeared, the draugnir horde then disperses, returning to whatever corrupt pockets whence they emerged.
They were waiting for my command then… why? Biracul’s balls! It doesn’t matter; they’re gone now. Go where you will, body. I get why those creatures would want to follow; it’s easier than deciding for yourself.
Eidos remains fixed in place, a marble statue emerging from the void.
Fine. Move, body. Go east.
Reluctantly overcoming her emotional inertia, feet drag Eidos eastward, to the far edge of the crater.
Hours pass in the span of a thought and days in space of a breath. Incessant, albeit lumbering, motion brings her to a steep incline leading to the edge of the map, as far as she can tell.
The grueling ascent ends as Eidos reaches the charred lip of the crater. While reining in her chaotic breath, she surveys the surroundings.
Toward the northwest, ivory pillars of salt point skyward slicing regular white bars into the cloudless gray beyond, giving the impression of a celestial prison. This forest of pillars melts away as it continues its expansion eastward toward her current location, ending suddenly at a precipitous decline just north of her—neither too high to seem daunting, nor too low to be accessible.
Here, the sun’s burning heat and the Wasteland shadows’ chilling cold are noticeably absent. All color has been replaced with a monochromatic veneer, blurring the lines and shadows that would otherwise define the boundaries between objects.
It’s like things here are trying to be forgotten…
Some fifty paces east is a drop of indeterminable height; the bottom remains shrouded by a thick blanket of colorless mist. It is here, at the brink of this precipice to non-being, that Eidos feels she stands in a place that is no place at all. In a place that denies existence. A narrow strip that sits between form and nothingness.
Yet, somehow her sense of thought and perception seems heightened here.
Scanning across the horizon toward the east, beyond the sea of colorless mist, she sees only the desolate flatlands spanning off into infinity.
And at last, facing south, her perception penetrates the murky gray haze and for once sees clearly the ruined towers of a walled city. The city’s spires, though broken, all stretch further skyward than even Tambul’s great Moon Tower.
This place is huge. How could I not see this? It should even be visible from the Dawn Fortress, given how damn big it is.
Suddenly, a very special tower soon draws her attention. Red as blood and remarkably intact, Eidos regards the tower, vaguely aware that something within returns her gaze.
Well, it’s either stand here and do nothing or go there.
She simply stands there staring vacantly at the city, and occasionally wiping the drool from her jowls.
Just move, will you?
Feet kick the drab mixture of gray sands, carving lines to mark her passage. The wind, however, dutifully erases the tracks and any evidence of her passage.
Ur’Ruk – The Gates of Awakening
The burning sands, the arid air, the setting sun… Eidos stops for a moment and begins to stare directly at that radiant mass off in the distant sky, unable to pull her eyes away from it, trying to extract every drop of truth from it—or perhaps simply taking a rest after the hours of constant trudging.
You’re staring at the sun, body? But… huh… it’s doesn’t hurt—or at least I can’t feel it. And I can still see, it seems.
But her lazy scrutiny is all to no avail. The external world makes almost as little sense to her as the mysteries of her origins, or even the uncertainties of her inner workings. She feels her mind at conflict. A battlefield for any number of bizarre and inexplicable whims and wills.
She feels helpless—as well she should.
A sudden urge to sit wells up within her, then morphs into the urge to sleep, and then into the urge to advance.
Locked in a mutual gravitation of desire, pulling in different directions, tugging at her Trueflesh.
Time begins to slow.
And in an instant, Time flattens so that it is entirely visible from Eidos’ vantage point, as though a sphere looking upon its flat reflection in a mirror. She sees Time begin and end at the Red Tower beyond those ghostly walls before her, the endless spiral of existence, racing away from its origin by racing toward it.
Thus dispelling the vision, she renews her steps toward the gates of the city, not but a hundred paces hence.
Eidos is soon enveloped by the shadow of cyclopean walls. These walls stand in stark contrast to the broken buildings they protect, for they are in pristine condition. No gaps, nor joints divide the surface, giving the impression that the walls were pulled up from the very ground they now stand upon, pinched into position by some godly hand. The surface is enmeshed throughout by twisting bands of shimmering metal, the outlined scales of a gargantuan beast, girding an inner skin of stone.
The walls, however, are in alliance with a rather unlikely bedfellow. The sole opening in them is guarded by a makeshift gate that seals the entry portal to the city. The gate is as dissimilar to the walls as a Sentry is to a Warbeast. Like a burlap patch on a silk dress.
At Eidos’ appearance, the silhouette of a person appears briefly. It turns around and whistles toward some unseen compatriot below, only to then melt back into the shadows.
But before long, the gate begins to crack open, allowing barely enough space for a single person to slip through.
And forward she goes.
Ur’Ruk – The Hall of Vanargand
The makeshift gate closing behind her, Eidos now finds herself in a space that dwarfs its entrance by comparison. A domed ceiling arcs overhead, its fading blue color giving the impression of a fabricated sky, complete with clouds and birds in flight. Dully shining crystalline sconces adorn the walls, and work hard to chase away the shadows.
This place looks a little like the Sanctuary or the Wellspring.
Some stubborn darkness yet remains, however, and countless statues now stare at her from their shadowy alcoves. Irreparably scarred from their war with time, all of the carvings are now faceless and most seem little more than amorphous stone pillars. A number of sharp edges hint at the angular and idealized forms they were born with, but whatever artistry or feeling they may have once been imbued with has long since been devoured by the city’s ruin.
But where are the people that run this place?
Nearly invisible at first, she soon detects the first signs of life, for standing along the edges of the hall, in imitation of the statues behind them, is a cadre of men. Their crudely cobbled cudgels impart the sense that they are guardians, though their bearing belies their inexperience. Likewise mirroring the stones they seek to mimic is the deathly pallor of their skin—a pallor with which she is now most personally acquainted.
So what, a society of draugnir?
A granite table stands as the centerpiece of the hall—though it appears to be entirely ceremonial, as there are none sitting at it save a stately lady scowling down at Eidos from on high. At her side, a lone attendant kneels.
I hope these idiots don’t try to follow me like the ones in the crater…
The leader beckons Eidos, firmly and matronly, without bothering to rise from her chair.
“You will hold your tongue and speak only when given permission, outsider,” proclaims a voice, raspy as a blade on a leather sharpening strap. “Come forth.”
Biracul’s balls. Another self-infatuated leader in Kabu? Must be something in the water…
Eidos approaches. A raised palm from the leader signals her to stop, and she immediately complies.
“Of all the peoples of Kabu,” the leader continues, “we alone aren’t enslaved by either will or thought. If you stay, you will assimilate. Or you will depart immediately and be one with Wasteland. Which do you choose?”
These people seem rather… extreme.
“Doesn’t much matter to me.” As expected from this Eidos...
The stern lady hesitates, narrowing her eyes. “You are without an apparent will it seems. Perhaps it’s because you are one who wishes no harm…” her tone grows darker, “Or perhaps it's because your mind is a Famlazian nest of betrayal and lies…”
“Nope, just genuinely don’t care either way.” Don’t think this lady will take kindly to that kind of candor.
The leader attempts to pierce Eidos with her gaze, to see the intent behind the words. Suddenly, she casts her eyes skyward and speaks, “Aizos! Hazanna, your servant, is whole and unified with the Form! So too must the one before me become if she wishes to remain! As it pleases you, our Mother, the Mother of all Form!” Then returning her gaze to Eidos, “Now answer. Will you be counted as a sister among us?”
“Okay.” You just always want someone to tell you what to do, don’t you body?
Hazanna’s scowl turns to a triumphant smirk. “Mother Aizos accepts your submission, sister!”
Then rising, she signals one of the guardians to approach, and after a brief conference, the wan warrior clumsily traipses out through an exit behind Hazanna’s table.
“Know that you have not merely saved your own life, but many,” Eidos’ new leader says. “We only harbor those who would work for the survival and care of all lives, not merely their own. Ours is a higher calling, a mission to feed the Form that lives in all of us!
“Your contribution to the well-being of your brothers and sisters begins now! Report to the Greenhouse, with haste.” Sounds like you’re in for a lot of work, body.
Eidos lazily moves to leave.
“However, I warn you that your acceptance is a serious oath,” Hazanna adds, the fire of zeal crackling in her voice. “We do not tolerate apostates who would rather dwell in the House of Dust than make a table for the children of Aizos. Abandon the family by leaving Ur’Ruk, and it will abandon you!” Hazanna then points toward the exit the guard had passed through and adds, “Now go!”
Shock at the intensity of Hazanna’s tone spurs Eidos to move quickly toward the exit, all eyes in the room silently tracing her progress towards it.
This place is going to be messed up, isn’t it?