Chapter 23: Put your money in this basket, heathen. Therein lies salvation.
“Sha-eek Ta eel?”
“Yes. Your pronunciation is impeccable.” Ecstatic, Achron shakes his massive fists. “We can speak to you in our tongue if you prefer, young cloak bearer?” Achron asks politely.
“Ha! Plain English, Achron. I’m good,” I respond, casually waving my hands in disapproval. “So, are Aemon and Shaik’Tael the rulers of each end of The Abyss? … or were they?”
“No,” Achron begins. He crosses his arms and paces pensively. “You see, my dear boy, Olacium Sorti and the boundaries of The Divine Source never existed until Aemon’s defeat. To reduce the possibility of corruption, the divines rotate responsibilities and switch Thrones every so often.” He sighs. “Each throne selects beings whom they trust will place energy where appropriate, ensuring that purged spirits are sent to a vessel, a proper physical body. Only those who serve the thrones know how the vessels are assigned, how a mind forms within a human soul and the spirit-conversion process,” Achron says. He pauses, then smiles at me. “As above, so below, young cloak-bearer. The rules are essentially the same. Though there are not many spirits on Mordis, most of the low-resonance spirits come from Earth.” Achron sighs, then rubs his human face. “There was one soul in particular, who created tyranny time and time again. Despite being purged, he has been reliving his evils since the end of your world’s second major war. Interestingly enough, there are many vile creatures from your quadrant of the cosmos, but the worst come from your planet.”
“I guess that doesn’t surprise me… If the general human population is good, of course most of the evil would come from Earth,” I respond. I think about the prejudice and hatred I’ve seen on the news.
“In most cases, it is because of the reinforced negativity and selfishness Earth-humans are taught. Unlike many other human species within the physical realm, those of Earth are pious, xenophobic, homophobic, arrogantly ignorant, not having the fortitude to challenge the status quo,” Etriyenne chimes in. She hovers closer to the Mordisian gateway’s center.
This is embarrassing. “I get it, Etriyenne. I-I get it. I can’t answer for Earth mankind’s stupidity… There’s nothing I can do about that.”
“That is untrue,” Achron interjects. His tone is soft, reminding me of my grandfather when he was still alive. “If the Devil exists, dear boy, it exists within hopelessness, false hopes, and empty promises. Many creatures lack the wherewithal to seek a purpose or ponder the nature of their own deeds and the meaning of their existences.”
“Why?” I ask, confused.
Achron, Kanti and Etriyenne stare simultaneously at me. Achron glances at Kanti, who nods back.
“They fear who they will encounter within,” Kanti responds, solemnly. “Humanity fears the unavoidable truth that all creatures are the sum of their deeds and intent, not the circumstances that created them. You see, young Emery, life has no purpose other than what one wishes it to be. That said, any search for one’s purpose must begin from within. As above, so below; as within, so without.”
“So, what’ll happen when I die?” I ask Kanti, abruptly. I pet his head, but he moves away and gives me a strange look. I guess that’s not his thing…
“Depends on how you live,” Kanti responds calmly, with an omnipotent air billowing behind his regal voice. “The bearer of the Cloak of Nothing is tasked with protecting human souls in the physical realm, serving The Abyss and the divines indefinitely.”
“So, are there more cloaks?” I ask.
“As a cloak bearer, before you can die, the one who receives the cloak must separate your mind and soul, if you wish to be reborn as a human,” Kanti declares, ignoring my inquiry. “As the Kalook Mal, the wielder of the cloak of nothing, you always run the risk of becoming a Nothing, or vanishing entirely, if the cloak were to separate from you.” Kanti lets out a soft, pleasant hum when I scratch behind his ears.
He seems to like that, but not like a normal dog would. Is it appropriate to call him a good boy? I smile and hug Kanti around his torso. He licks my face. Maybe he is a normal divine dog? Entriyenne and Achron laugh.
“If I were a dog, then yes, Young Emery,” Kanti responds after reading my mind. He smiles up at me and chuckles. “I take this form as an homage to my formeself,” Kanti inserts stoically.
“Your death and afterlife are dependent upon your choices. It is as simple as that,” Etriyenne inserts, joyfully gliding around.
“Last thing,” I insert abruptly, as Kanti nudges me with his snout. He stretches and I climb onto his massive back, then he stands on all fours. Kanti, who is much bigger than I thought, trots like a horse. “What is exactly is the Cloak of Nothing then? Is it alive? Is it like a parasite? Does it feed on me?”
“Despite our parasitic description of the cloak’s nature, it is merely pure energy directly from the Divine Source. It enhances the existing resonance of it’s wearer, quelling negativity upon initial donning. That said, the cloak of nothing judges its wearer, but does not use its host’s energy. It is an independent tool with an internal gauge that determines your worthiness to utilize it.”
“Oh… ok, this time, for real, last thing! How was it made?” I wonder if I’m asking for too many details. Maybe, I should just let it go. I’m making this drag on, and I’m sure they’re busy.
Etriyenne’s eyes peer into my soul. Her voluptuous, porcelain body catch my attention, but I keep my eyes on her face. “It is better to comprehend something new as best and as early as you can to avoid problems in the future,” Etriyenne responds to my thoughts. “We learned the cloak’s abilities from the earliest bearers; however, as Kanti said before, the pride of their successors contributed to their missteps and, in some cases, Nullification. In addition to Achron briefly explained, long ago, Sha-ik’Tael created the four cloaks after we destroyed Aemon, to answer your question. Aemon, unbeknownst to us, had been devouring The Nothing for some time, waiting—”
“—Wait? What? Why?” I screech dismayed, interrupting Etriyenne mid-sentence. “I met the Nothing, they were peaceful, for the most part… except for one, I mean he—it, was an ex-cloak bearer. But—”
“—Aemon,” Etriyenne interrupts solemnly, flashing images of chaos into my mind.
“Whoa,” I ejaculate, as pictures and emotions flood my mind.
“I apologize for not warning you, young cloak bearer. For your comprehension, I’m linking my thoughts with your mind,” she says, explaining the images in my head. “Aemon,” she continues, “tricked millions of Nothing into worshipping him, claiming he could grant them the power to ‘ascend’ the ‘low-resonance curse’ that plagued them. After ascending, they would become divine beings,” Etriyenne says. A marble tear rolls down her smooth face. “Unfortunately, he was able to convince many Nothing that the physical realm was their domain, and that the low-resonating energy from humans was their key to reaching their evolutionary pinnacle…”
“Aemon promised them divinity and freedom after harnessing the energy of one hundred human souls,” Kanti elaborates.
“That monster!” I shout, breaking Vivus’s calming grip on me. “How could he do that to them! Most of them live in enough turmoil!” My fists tremble when I think of the young, confused Nothing who stared at me before Nil pulled me to the upper Void.
“Aemon knew full well that the Nothing would become addicted with the negative energy humans could produce,” Etriyenne says. “He watched his followers’ actions in the physical realm for entertainment. They began corrupting the first humans, enslaving them with fear, prejudice and lust. Shortly after, Aemon’s followers did all he pleased for a small taste of regret, despair, or anger, as slaves to Aemon’s will. The divines eventually discovered he was stealing The Nothing’s essence, while giving them minuscule amounts of negative energy with the intent of re-absorption.” Etriyenne pauses, staring into my eyes, assessing if I’m following along. “In the end, Aemon consumed millions of Nothing, who had consumed hundreds, even thousands, of human souls apiece. Insidiously, Aemon spared the most ignorant and devout members of his wicked religion, allowing them to keep some of the power they had absorbed while serving as his concubines, knights, prophets and organizers.”
I slide off of Kanti’s back when he sits up. “The Nothing,” He says stoically, “are among the many civilizations of The Abyss that Aemon, his sub gods, and the original deity that I used to be, were bound to love and serve,” Kanti add, letting out a low, sorrowful howl.
“That’s messed up… hundreds of millions of lives… gone, just like that. As powerful as he is—was—why didn’t Aemon just do his own dirty work?” I ask firmly.
“You see, dear boy,” Achron responds, “Like the higher entities of The Abyss, Aemon cannot cross beyond the boundary for more than several seconds without creating a substantial backlash. The big bang that created your quadrant of the cosmos, along with several black holes, was created from Sha-ik’Tael’s attempt to end Aemon’s worshipers from consuming more human souls. When entities traverse beyond the boundary, they require assistance from one who possesses equal or greater power on either side of the rift…” Achron clasps his hands together, making a gesture similar to a prayer. He sighs, then continues, “Aemon built his power by devouring Nothing to avoid rendering himself vulnerable.”
“Eventually,” Kanti adds, “he felt he possessed enough force to devour the rest of his companions: L’chte, Elfri, T’ch-Leck’t, Ai-viol, and Mies-Um’d. The remaining six, as well as Sha-ik Tael, partnered with the twenty-four divines who served them, along with my generation: the genderless, twenty-four sub-divines,” he laments. “We shattered Aemon, but could not eradicate him. He simultaneously resonated as high as the highest divines, lower than the Nothing, and every level in between. We were only able to vanquish his energy at levels we could resonate at. The result was Te’viel: the event that destroyed all the second-generation divines, except Sha-ik’Tael, Aemon’s other half.”
“Slow down, slow down, Kanti. I get it, but this is a lot of information at once,” I wail impatiently. “I feel like I’m in school.”
“The fate of existence rests on your shoulders. There is no such thing as too much information,” Kanti snaps. “Twenty-four third-generation divines shielded their underlings, sacrificed themselves for their underlings, my brethren and me. As a result, the last generation of gods, did not perish: we were divided in two, forced to be incomplete for eternity. Aemon’s fragments scattered all over creation, with those resonating at human levels crossing into the physical reality. I, along with the remaining divines, suspect that was part of Aemon’s contingency plan since the start.”
“What was his first plan?”
Kanti sighs. His large blue eyes pierce the veil of my curiosity. “He wanted to live as a human with no regard for nature. His plan was to concentrate the energy produced from destroying the divines and do away with the boundary separating the Abyss and the physical realm. Aemon craved to be the only god of both realms, while being able to reap the pleasures of a physical and an ethereal body. He wanted to see, hear, feel, and experience being every organism, at all points in time. Existence was to be his exclusive plaything: he could create scenarios every creature in existence would enact until he wiped them out upon being bored, only to create an entirely new game of existence.”
“That… sounds… kind of bad,” I respond. It doesn’t sound like it would be the worst thing ever.
“Imagine,” Kanti begins, “an existence where someone narrates your life, makes you do things against your will and enjoys feeling your pain and pleasure. Now, imagine every creature in existence, past and present, experiencing that as one entity pulls all of the strings: can you conceive a reality where past iterations, seconds apart, of yourself can exist simultaneously, all controlled by one being who could force you to eat yourself as it feels the pain of the cannibalized, experiences the cannibal’s torment and confusion as it devours its own flesh?” Kanti asks sternly. His red and blue eyes flicker with a fear that I can’t grasp. “Though divines can see all, past and present, we cannot see through multiple eyes simultaneously, and we cannot feel another being’s pain or pleasure without expending great amounts of energy. There is no god that could fathom controlling any being for more than a moment with causing some harm to itself. Aemon, if he had gotten his way, would have even controlled every being, and divine in the Abyss, along with every human.”
“Well, he’s all over the place now! How could either plan even work for him?” I yell courageously. “It’s not like he exists anymore! He’s not here, or anywhere! He can’t be put together, so even if he does awaken, he’s going to be a weak little—”
“Ah, therein lies the conflict, dear boy. You see, the Nothing left behind who still worshiped Aemon after his destruction began getting their fix from the malevolent spirits awaiting reincarnation. The rest of Aemon’s followers who exist all over The Abyss, and have since spread the religion of Aemon, still possess the ability to cross the rift and the power to grant it to other beings. They seek to revive Aemon by feeding his dormant fragments since they cannot harness energy on their own. It was only after Te’Viel that Sha-ik’Tael created Olacium Sorti, The Meta, in an attempt to protect at least the humans’ souls from being imbued with Aemon’s fragments or attracting low-resonance consuming creatures. She created the Meta’s surfaces as barriers and safe havens for the departed. Sha-ik’Tael stabilized the Divine Source, which before then was not a protected path to purging and rebirth. The order her sacrifice created allows all to exist, free, peaceful and without fear,” Achron concludes. He takes a deep breath before continuing. “As a result, Aemon’s followers can only get human souls by traversing into the physical realm, which makes it more difficult for them, since humans in the physical realm have fluctuating moods and energies. As you have seen, it doesn’t fully eliminate the risk they pose. Hence, Sha-ik’Tael gave us the cloaks, explaining that they will prevent Aemon from reforming.”
“How could that even happen? There’s no way Aemon could be put back together, from what it sounds like!”
“Do not be so naïve, dear boy,” Archon’s sinister fourth face whispers in its eerie, breathy tone. “The Nothing, like all the creatures of this plane, have an indefinite lifespan. Those devoted to Aemon will never cease to convert more followers, feed on humans. In turn, they feed themselves to Aemon’s fragments until the pieces have enough power to escape their host and reform.”
“Wait! But, how will the Nothing do that? How could they feed Aemon’s fragments?!” I ask, angrily.
Kanti, Achron and Etriyenne stare at each other.
“Well?” I ask forcefully. “How can they bring Aemon back?”
“Just as you stated, Young Emery,” Kanti responds.
“Which is what exactly, Kanti?”
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