Chapter 60 The Screaming Abyss

Arc 6: Psychology of Thrones

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Title: Archaeologist Discovers NEW Talis Cave

Body: I am posting on behalf of my source. He reached out to me discussing an urgent and classified subject. He is working with the team decoding a SECOND Talis Ranis message located in a cave. According to my source, not only are they keeping knowledge of the cave’s existence secret, but the decoded message as well.

I cannot stress this enough, NO ONE CAN KNOW ABOUT THIS!

My source’s life depends on it. Should the city find out he’s leaking top secret information he will be executed on the spot. There will come a time when we can go on the clearnet with this, but for now this information doesn’t leave this site.

Here is my source’s message;

“Hello, this might sound a bit absurd but I ended up on a team that is translating writings of the Fable Talis Ranis. I am not native to this city and therefore neither hold any allegiance to it nor here of my own will. I accepted that I will probably die during this excursion but the importance of this work for the world cannot be downplayed. We do not currently know what the subject of these writings are, the translation process is time consuming and of a completely different coded language than Talis’s previous book and far shorter as well. That being said, we have finished a full sentence, which will appear as incoherent ramblings until more context can be deciphered.

I am closely watched so do not expect frequent updates, I will do my best. That is all.

Here is the first piece of the translation.

“Behold the sky, behold the sea, behold transient dreams, severed heads and several dead, an ephemeral shaking sensation which is fate grinning in its wake.”

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“That cloud looks like a turtle.” Deo noted, pointing to it before letting his hand fall back down.

The Palaot woman chuckled. “We are heading to the Island of Turtle, there will be many more stranger things than that.” 

They were on the last leg of the journey, the final stepping stone before the Shaman’s dwelling. The island they were rafting to was tiny, barely large enough for the four tropical trees that protruded from its sandy and grassy landmass.

Deo’s guide pushed the oar in the sand and dragged their raft to bank on the shore. Deo stood and stepped onto the land. He was used to the transition from ocean to land by now that solid ground didn’t jolt his balance. 

“On the other side of this island there is another raft. You will take it and head southwest, when the fog lifts you will see the Island of Turtle. You will reach it by evening.”

Deo nodded. 

The woman said nothing else and found a place to sit, where she would stay until Deo’s return, just like the other eleven other guides had done on each of the islands before.

Deo found the raft and untied it from the tree it was harnessed to. The paddle was resting in the sand, likely untouched for months.

He shoved the raft into the ocean and boarded it. Deo was nervous. If he got turned around before the fog lifted he could easily be lost in the endless abyss of the ocean…

He propelled the raft with the paddle and felt the water lap up and down rhythmically.

The full journey had taken an entire month. Through jungle and brush, cliffsides and rapids. Avoiding venomous predators and poisonous vines. There were fewer harmless things than deadly ones. The Palaot guides were fearless and extremely well versed in natural sciences. Herbology and pharmacology were necessities in obtaining food that could nourish and heal, separating the edible from the dangerous. Reading signs of weather, marks of territorial animals, use of flowers to repel insects and so much more. There were thousands of different plant, fungal, animal and insect species and each of the guides knew in great detail enough to write full biographies on each one. Their interactions, functions, behaviors, physical description, habits, likes and dislikes…

Deo switched to a sitting position after his legs grew tired. He paddled a few times on the right, then switched to the left. He got so used to the motion that it became like a background action. His unconscious dealt with cell division, digestion, heartbeat and blood flow, nerve operation and now paddling. 

The fog did begin to clear and Deo spotted the tiniest of black dots in the distant horizon. It had to be the Island of Turtle as Deo confirmed his direction was still on course based on his relation to the sun. 

He saw seagulls flocking northward and even a pod of dolphins swimming and jumping like lords of the sea. They were so far from his vision that he only caught glimmers as their oiled tails reflected sunlight. 

Deo was tempted to change course and follow them but they were gone before he could make that inane mistake.

The Island of Turtle slowly grew larger as Deo drifted towards it. It didn’t look quite like a Turtle, which he assumed it would, but it was larger than he anticipated. And much taller too. There were a few areas of the island that seemed to plateau on different levels, giving an unnatural depth of height to the island.

“It’s manmade.” Deo said to himself. Now how anyone made an island this far into the ocean was beyond him, although it could have just been carved from its original shape. Still, it was a cool looking island, but it didn’t resemble a turtle.

Deo didn’t know why he was so caught up in it needing to look like a turtle.

“Ocean madness is getting to me,” he muttered.

Another hour of paddling to the island before the tide worked with him, pulling him to the shore and doing the rest of the moving for him. He laid the paddle across his lap and enjoyed a moment of reprieve. The island looked ominous under the light of the evening sun. Shadows played out the scenes of horrifying monsters and the trees themselves were twisted and grown in odd shapes and sizes. It was jarring at first to see, but there were miniature trees, kept tiny by a process Deo knew to be nanization. 

Deo finished pulling the raft onto shore and dragged it a few meters from where the lines of high tide ended. 

He examined the strange arborean life on this island. He recognized trees from all over the world, living in the surreal harmony of this island. Some trees had wires tugging and yanking branches and trunks in different directions. There were more than a few trees grown conjoined in synanthy, their twisting bodies fused together for as long as they lived, forced to work together. Whoever managed this island looks after every single tree, helping to shape and cultivate it as a unique ecology. 

Deo noticed a turtle with a frog riding on top of its shell. The two creatures were casually meandering around, looking for berries and flies to munch on or else just exploring. 

Deo crouched to get a better view at one of the tiny trees. This one was an orange tree bearing its fruit the size of an acorn. 

Deo made his way through the island, strolling towards the center. It wasn’t quite a forest as the trees were planted too purposefully apart and there were a lot of flowers, vines, bushes and fungus.

It wasn’t until he noticed more and more frogs with vibrant colors that it hit him.

“This whole island is a garden.” Or like a haunted paradise, he added mentally.

The frogs were poisonous! There were slugs, bats, snakes, worms, spiders, scorpions, everything venomous and deadly. Deo started noticing all these critters and realized the plants here were largely poisonous as well. Nightshade, hemlock, periwinkle, oddly shaped bright fruit, likely poison, mold growing on bark that smells sweet, plants blooming in the dark, plants with distinct petal shapes. Deo was educated enough from his old life of flower collecting that nature attracted its prey with lurid colors, full flavors and opulent scents. 

Deo found a curtain made of animal skins and vine. There were multiple stakes with animal skulls wedged on, guarding the entrance. There seemed to be an odd amount of moths just resting on the trees surrounding the shelter. Deo glanced to the sides and it looked like the brush was so thick around it that the owner, presumably the shaman he was here to see, lived inside a naturally encompassed hearth. 

“Come in.” An old, dry voice called.

Deo let out a breath… and stepped through the animal skins.

Inside he was amazed to see the floor was actually a massive tree stump. There were thousands of concentric circles in the wood, indicating a tree that had lived for more than a single millenia. 

The room was at least twenty meters from one end to the other, in a large, mostly circular shape. The thick bramble created a natural wall, and Deo realized the edges were trimmed so that the inside wall was mostly smooth. There was no ceiling, the sky on full display as sunlight turned to moonlight.

“Welcome, Deovulis, to my home.” The old man, skin like leather and voice croaking like a coffin, smiled, revealing missing teeth and bones added in as crude replacements. There were piercings in his tongue, along his eyebrows, on his lips, in his nose, around his ears, all bone as well.

“Shaman Sumedi.” Deo returned the greeting, “thank you for inviting me, but I do not go by that name.” 

“It is the name given to you at birth. Come, take a seat.” He gestured to a pile of leaves.

“Very well.” Deo accepted and took his seat.

“My vision is not what it once was, lean closer. Let me see you.”

Deo leaned slightly forward, cautious of the old man.

Sumedi cackled and laughed wrily, then produced a cough that rattled his body. He spat out blood but retained the look of humor.

“You are wary of me, boy. That is good. You will need your wits about you, from now until the day you die!”

Deo scoffed. “I have no plans of dying.”

“No, I imagine you don’t, Aspect of Death.” Sumedi gave a slight chuckle, careful not to trigger another spurt of coughs.

“Why did you summon me here?” Deo asked. 

“I believe it was you who came to the Palaot islands first. Why did you come to the islands?”

“I was travelling.”

“Travelling or searching?” Sumedi asked sharply.

“Is there a difference?” Deo said, he kept his voice low. The entire conversation would barely be audible from even a couple meters out. They were right next to each other and had no need to raise their voices and disturb the peace of this sanctuary.

“Perhaps running away?” Sumedi offered.

“I do not wish to play word games all night. Kiasmus, the Palaot elder, said he’d been waiting for me. He said as a boy you told him to wait for someone like me. Why?”

“Ah, how was Kiasmus? No, I don’t suppose you want to make idle chat.” The old shaman scratched his chin. “He is the Aspect of Marrow”

“As in bone?” Deo pressed.

“Yes. Kiasmus needs bones. Who better than to supply it then the Aspect of Death?”

“Tell him I’m not interested.”

“You have your own path, Deovulis. Will you take it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Would you like to find you? The shaman’s brew, is that not why you came? To learn of yourself and of the world, to experience what meditation impersonates, to delve inside the psyche and the void of nothingness, devoid of life, avoid of light!” Sumedi was shaking by this point. “The screaming abyss, the bottomless pit where even gods fear to tread. You seek it, the quinta essentia. Your hatred of humankind spurs you to forge through the strange and horrific side of noetic enlightenment. But let me ask this, do you seek purpose or justification?”

“Neither.” Deo replied. His expression like steel amidst the eeriness of Sumedi’s words. An eeriness that amplified the forest around, as if life was breathed into the woods, an ancient and terrifying life of unknowable dread.

“Oh-h-h-?” Sumedi dragged the word, raising his eyebrows. Deo thought he looked ghostly, phantasm-like. Who better for the Aspect of Death than a corpse shaman. Deo smiled, embracing the night.

“I am bored.”

“We will find the true reason.” Sumedi gave his most wicked smile yet. Deo shivered. “I will prepare the brew, but first let me see your Aspect at work.” Sumedi handed Deo a dead flower. Deo took it and identified it as Jimsonweed, or Datura.

He focused on the flower, squeezing it with his hands tightly. The light, in a sphere around the flower, in a brief instant, became twilight before returning to normal. The flower became preserved through Deo’s Aspect. Normally consisting of white petals, the faded color of the dead flower was as sickly bluish-black. Deo handed the flower back to Sumedi. 

The Shaman held it for a moment. Feeling it, smelling it and turning it over in his fingers.

“Interesting.” Was he said. Sumedi handed back the flower to Deo, who then placed it on the floor beside himself.

Deo watched as the shaman lit a torch and began gathering ingredients from small jars and cabinets strewn about the enclosure. He divided them into two groups. He prepared the ingredients by cutting, pealing, scraping, rubbing, mashing and pouring so many different pharmacological substances that Deo grew nervous. He remembered how many poisons were growing here on the island.

Sumedi busied himself with all kinds of strange procedures, following a recipe he alone in the world probably knew. Odd smelling plant extracts, foul goo which Deo guessed to be secretions from the poison frogs, vivid flower petals, mushed fungus and who knows what else added together in a pot hung over a small torch.

While that pot was simmering, Sumedi prepared equally exotic ingredients into a second pot. There must have been something in the incense as Deo swore he felt somewhat sedated. Though it could merely be the anticipation playing tricks on his brain. 

The preparation took nearly half an hour, although Deo felt it as mere minutes. Sumedi was finally finished and brought the two brews to the center of the room near where Deo sat crossed legged.

The shaman lit more incense and doused the two brews, chanting strangely in his ritualistic ways.

“There was much I did not recognize, but I saw you add Datura into the brew. You are poisoning me.” Deo stated, partly angry, partly in acknowledgement to himself, a simple warning to himself.

“Poison? All is poison in this world. Rather, all has potential to be poison. The way in which you use a substance or material will determine its effects. Can you not die from drinking too much water? Is that not poison? Is bee venom not a potent medicine? It is the way you use things, boy, this recipe is three thousand years old and with each generation of shaman the recipe is refined, added to, expanded. Knowledge builds upon itself, that is the goal of teaching. What started as a bowl of fermented honey from the first shaman has become, through my ancestors into me, a brew of poisonous and hallucinogenic chemicals you are better off not knowing the names of.”

“But yes,” Sumedi continued. “Datura was my personal addition to the brew.” His smile touched his ears.

“The most violent flower…” Deo said quietly.

“You must know,” Sumedi started, “what’s in this brew can kill you. Put simply, if you are weak you will die. Follow everything I say exactly. Are you ready?”

Deo nodded. He was serious and focused, the reality of the situation calling for his absolute attention. So odd, Deo thought, that this shaman should happen to add such a nightmare inducing flower for Deo’s visit. That he should be here in the first place unsettled him.

Sumedi procured the first brew, with an old wooden spoon in it.

“This is the antidote, you must drink all of it.”

Deo took the spoon and slowly brought it to taste. It was bitter, a woody and soily flavor. Much like eating dirt. He forced himself to down it as fast as possible, managing to hold back a gag and cough at one point. Thankfully there wasn’t as much as he initially thought.

“We must wait five minutes for the antidote to be processed in your body.”

“Surely the antidote is better suited for after the poison?” Deo asked.

“The potency of the brew would kill you before the antidote could neutralize it. But not so if the body already has its defenses prepared.”

“And if I decide not to drink the second brew?”

“Your body’s immune system would go into a state of shock and attack your healthy cells until you die. You see how delicate such a concept as poison is? Even the antidote is poison.”

“What is going to happen?”

“An experience the likes of which is beyond your comprehension, beyond the capability for you to understand how beyond comprehension it is.”

“You’re speaking in riddles.”

“The Monoamine oxidase inhibitors will block activity in both oxidase A and B allowing the ingested bufotenin to escape deamination, freeing it to travel through the blood-brain barrier in order to bind itself to serotonin receptors while the scopolamine acts to-”

“Enough!” Deo interrupted. “Just give me the damned drink!” He was feeling noxious and lightheaded. The incense and antidote scrambling his brain. He tried to focus but the lighting, the way the torch flickered and the moon shining in and the swirling smoke of the incense made the room feel nonphysical. Like he couldn’t grasp anything solid. Everything was just light and smoke.

Sumedi began chanting again and started to play on a small metallic bowl with a wooden stick, producing a deep resonant humming noise. 

Deo suddenly felt the brew at his feet, he remembered just a second ago that the shaman had handed it to him after laughing hysterically. Or maybe it looked hysterical. That had to have been a few seconds ago. Deo’s senses were muddling together but he tried to fight it, forcing himself to regain control.

Drink the brew! Deo found the spoon for this bowl and started to scoop it, tasting the shaman’s brew which he suspected to be as nasty as the first one. But this one was sweet, floral and honey-like.

Deo recalled how nature always flaunted the vivid and sweet with the deadly and poisonous. 

“There’s no poison.” Deo reminded himself, or maybe he was reminding the shaman. 

He could feel the chanting and the singing bowl put him in a trance as another stick of incense was waved in his face, the smoke blown to bathe him in its hearty and spicy scent.

Deo felt as if he were eating for an eternity before it hit him that there was nothing left in the bowl. How long ago did it finish?

Deo tried to shake the feeling but noticed soon that the edges were all being sharpened. But there were so little edges in the room that he could see so the room melted together and formed shapes and patterns. The incense especially seemed to come alive. 

Deo found himself staring at his hands. He never paid attention to the lines of the hands before. There was a short line that wrapped from the end of his wrist around the muscle of the thumb in a wide arc so that it ended closer to his index finger than his thumb. There were two large lines starting on opposite ends that went across his hands from side to side, curving away from each other so that one went to end near his middle finger and the other back towards his wrist but stopping halfway on the palm. From those lines branched many smaller lines of varying patterns and lengths. 

Peering again into his hands there was no line going straight up from his wrist towards his ring finger. Deo thought he remembered that humans had such a line but his train of thought went elsewhere as he realized people do not take the time to memorize their own bodies, that such an ungrateful and ignorant creature doesn’t deserve to have a body, that those bodies should bleed out, drained of all fluid, and fall to the dirt.

Deo groaned. His stomach was upset.

“Do not puke.” Sumedi warned. “Not yet. The acid will burn a whole in your esophagus and you’ll breathe the particles in and your brain will shut down.”

Deo leaned over with his hands supporting his weight.

“Fight it boy!” Sumedi spurned.

Deo sat back up, trying his best to hold the contents of his stomach where they were, all the poisons he ingested.

He was openly sweating and an intense dizziness swamped him. “I’ll kill you.” he muttered.

“Survive this first.” Sumedi teased.

Deo cursed but felt the worst of the nausea begin to recede. Waves of pain pulsed through his body. First his stomach and arms ached. His neck felt rigid and his feet started to cramp. Deo fell to the side and tried to breathe but found himself gasping.

The shaman continued to chant and Deo concentrated on the strange language of the old man. It gave him something else to feel. He found himself interpreting the chantsong as color and shapes as his brain confused which sense went with each organ. The bout of synthesia perplexed Deo enough to ignore the crippling pains of his body fighting the poisons. Colors became sounds and sights became smells and smells became words. 

And then he puked. He panicked at first but realized when the shaman didn’t react that the period of stress was behind him. Deo had no sense of time. Everything felt in slow motion but oddly enough things happened before he knew it, without realizing they had already occured. 

Deo picked up on the pattern of the shaman’s chant, realizing it used a geometric cadence. The first line was long and complete and the second was identical to the first except cut short by a single syllable. The shaman continued until the first syllable was the only one spoken. It formed an upside down triangle. The first line of the chant made up the base and it descended toward a peak, which was therefore the last single-syllable line. He would move on to a second chant but using the same scale and cadence. There were four chants in total, each with the triangle shaped pattern so that it formed a three dimensional pyramid.

The words vibrated in Deo, along with the singing bowl, and Deo found his mind clearing. The fog in his brain no longer prohibiting his thought process. The pain, however, did not lessen.

“Deovulis, tell me, what is it you want from this life?” the shaman questioned, though the words sounded muffled and distorted.

“Nothing!” Deo spat the words out.

“Liar. You are the Aspect of Death. Do you not desire things to die?”

“I don’t…” Deo spoke between gasps and groans of pain. “I hate…” he corrected, “humans.”

“Are you not human yourself?”

“Don’t… lump me in with them.” Deo managed to add some steel to his voice.

“Then what are you?”

“The Aspect of Death!”

“That is hardly an identity.” pointed out Sumedi, directing Deo’s logic.

“I never… wanted it.” Deo was leaning over, ready to puke again. His hair was matted from sweat.

“You wrestle with your conscience. A peaceful life is all you wished for, isn’t it.” Sumedi stated. “A flower collector enjoying your mundane existence. But welcome to the other side of flowers. The ones who consume all life around them. Plants have existed for far longer than humans. They are expert killers, chemists at the precipice of immortality, they have bent most creatures in this world to their will for everything relies on their oxygen, their pollen, their fruit, and their medicine and nutrients. They have even gone so far as to purposefully evolve to die, so that they may start fresh, learning from the past generations and spreading their seed to new lands. Animals were designed by plants to be as vessels in which to carry out their domination of the world. You see what I’m saying boy?”

Deo groaned, the old man went on and on and there was much to decipher in his words. The visuals started to become terrifying. Even though Deo knew enough of the influence from the Datura could cause such dire hallucinations, it did not diminish the scariness.

Shadowy shapes and figures lived in the wispy smoke, stalking toward him, the moon was bleeding and the ground was morphing into agonizing fractals. If he stared too long at the floor, the shadows creatures would devour him. But the floor demanded his attention because it would move inward on itself, like a pit of shifting sand when he looked away.

There was no purple in Deo’s eyes, only black from his dilated pupils. They were horror stricken as he panicked, trying to escape the visage of terrible reality overwhelming him.

Deo screamed in agony and fear as the whole world felt like it was closing in on him.

“Where is your resolve, boy! You will go into cardiac arrest if you cannot gain control.”

Deo tried to focus on his breathing, to calm his heart rate but he felt a drowning suffocation envelop him. His vision darkened and he could no longer see the shaman.

“I am dying.” Deo said.

“Aye. But death is a trifling thing, as you should know well.”

“I accomplished nothing.” Deo said to the blackness.

“Most don’t.” Sumedi agreed.

Deo was fading out of consciousness. “Datura… do you think it is using me?”

“For what?” Sumedi asked, curiously, begging an answer from Deo so that he could stay awake just a little longer.

“Information from the plants. They are teachers. You decided… to add Datura at the last moment. Why?”

“That is perceptive of you. I have seen you in visions before. I determined only the darkest, most hateful of plants could inspire in you those same characteristics.”

“I… regret coming here.”

“We are but shapes and molecules and chemicals and energy. Deo, nothing in this world is separate, not beast, not tree, not rock, not human. Allegiance is nonexistent. To eliminate your own species is but a star fading out or a cliff eroding away. Life is a banging drum, noise in empty space, it dims to a whisper then is gone completely.”

“You finally said… my name.” Deo’s own voice was barely audible.

He lost feeling completely, and died…

Deo woke up in a corridor, an endless hall of discombobulated greys with tiny particles of color strewn in the mix, all dancing around but maintaining the general shape of a hallway except there were no real walls, a blank empty void surrounded the hallway.

“Is this hell?” Deo asked.

A figure appeared beside him. “No, Deovulis, this is not hell.”

The figure was old and decrepit, Deo recognized him as the shaman.

“But I am dead?”

“If you say that you are.” Sumedi allowed.

Deo looked at himself. They were the same hands, weren’t they?

“Where am I?”

“A dream of sorts. The inner consciousness of your mind, of the universe. Perhaps you are nowhere, the end of a rainbow.”

Deo rubbed his head, trying to keep up with the old man. Deo looked up as there was no ceiling. His gaze found no light in the infinite darkness.

“This is impossible.”

“Do not be so close minded, it does not fit someone of your intellect. This is the universe, a portion of it.”

“Tell me truly, Sumedi. What is this place?”

“Walk with me.” The shaman set a slow pace and Deo followed behind, lost in the nothingness of this abyss.

“You are in the hall of your Aspect. A corridor is simply the way in which your mind perceives it.”

“Ah.” Deo reacted, still hard of understanding.

“Mind the steps.” Sumedi cautioned. “I doubt I need to warn you what would happen should you fall off.”

Deo couldn’t say for certain what that might be, but an educated guess told him he would be astray in the void forever.

“Your brew brought me here. So I am not dead after all?”

“True. Your flesh is laying comatose on the floor in your own bile.”

“How nice.” Deo said dryly. “I suppose I can understand why I am here, but you, you did not drink the brew.”

“I lay beside you. I travelled out of my body and into the same place as you.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“Your belief has little to do with reality, boy.”

“Apparently.” Deo descended the steps and found himself in more hallway, only this one boasted open doors staggered every few meters. Much like an apartment or hotel.

Sumedi stopped at the first open door. Deo caught up and inside the door was swirling colors of something transient and powerful.

“Interesting,” Sumedi started.

“What’s inside the door?” Deo pressed.

“Each one must be the access, the means of unlocking an ability of your Aspect.”

“Is this the sort of thing that takes a lifetime to cultivate, what is considered the ultimate enlightenment among humans? Absolute power. And your brew has given me full access to it all…” Deo pondered for a moment.

“Not all of it.” Sumedi corrected.

“If I reach inside, I will have that ability when I awaken?” 

“You will at least be able to practice it, the potential energy if you will.”

Deo nodded and tenderly extended his hand into the open doorway, the void all around. He felt exposed as a simple push from Sumedi could send him hurling into madness.

Deo felt the power behind the energy. In his mind he saw the nature of the ability, what he could do with it.

Soul Leech.

Deo reached further inside and gripped the handle of the door… and pulled it closed.

“You have sealed this power from you forever.”

“It wasn’t for me.” Deo said plainly. He went to the next door, this time the shaman trailing behind. 

Feeling inside the mass of energy, Deo read this power as well.

Reaper Form.

This door he closed as well.

He went one by one to each door, with no obvious end to the hallway.

Grim Fire. Closed.

Ghost Shackles. Closed.

Putrificaction. Closed.

Sumedi remained quiet as Deo continued to close every single door he came upon.

Deo passed on the likes of Death Balls, Screech Fiend, Dire Teeth.

Nothing seemed to entice him. Sumedi could only smile because he knew Deo’s thought process. He had come to know the Aspect of Death in this short time, his tendencies, his predilections, his strategies, but most importantly, what made him angry.

To know a human, one must know intimately their anger…

Deo did not care for Ghoul Touch nor Crone Speech.

Volley of Decay and Mirror Demon held no interest.

The power Blood Cairn was sealed like the others.

The Aspect of Death proved to be diverse as there are many ways to end a life.

Deo closed a dozen more doors.

At last an end to the hallway came in sight. It was another door, open with a small incandescent twist of light.

Deo closed the remaining doors leading up to it until there was one other door on the side before the final door at the end.

Deo reached in but felt nothing.

“I do not know what this one is.” He called to Sumedi.

The shaman caught up and examined it. “It is the pathway that leads to further cultivation of the Aspect.”

“As in Master and Fable?” Deo asked.

“I imagine so.” Sumedi said honestly.

Deo closed the door.

“You even sealed off the potential for becoming a Master…”

“I sealed off the limitations that such a thing would chain me to. I am not so obsessed with the Aspect that I must pursue it endlessly like some quest for perfection.”

The shaman gave an ear to ear smile of approval.

Deo nodded.

He felt inside the final door. He recognized it as his own, current power, though the specific name was new to him.

Light Trap.

With every other door closed, Deo stepped into that final room. Darkness embraced him and he was flung into a deep, dreamless, numb sleep…

Deo groaned awake, sunlight poured in through the open canopy. His eyes were sensitive to the brightness, a side effect of the previous night’s brew no doubt.

He realized the filth he was in and looked around. The shaman was not in the room. Deo stood slowly, weak and dehydrated as he was and groggy too.

His footing was unbalanced and the aftertrail of objects made the world appear vibrant and alive, another lingering effect of the brew.

Deo staggered outside and heard the soft noise of a rivulet streaming down its channel. He walked to it and stripped his vomit drenched clothes off and let the exquisitely cool water sober him. The river was crystal clear and so he drank deeply from it. He dunked his head in and soaked his clothes clean. The previous night was catalogued to be thought of another time. He enjoyed a peace wrought of his newfound, clear-headed hatred.

Deo was more lucid than ever before in his life. Everything around him was alive and sought to hunt the thing next to it. In some cases they worked together and in others that teamwork was met with betrayal.

The flow of life. All is one and one is all. The transition of energy from one force to the next. From insect to mammal, mammal to corpse, corpse to fungi, fungi to soil, soil to plant, plant to insect. And in the mix was water, minerals, metals, sugars, proteins all being consumed, transmuted, devoured and changed again. In endless patterns this happened and in glorious colors. 

And Deo in the middle…

Light Trap…

“How odd.” Deo said to nothing in particular.

The water made him chilly so he found a place on grass to sit as he and his clothes dried. He redressed after some time and went back into Sumedi’s house.

The old shaman was hunched over, preparing a broth, this time of nourishment and food.

“You will need to eat, boy. Your body is lacking in nutrients.”

Deo nodded, though he did not feel hungry. Just physically weak.

“You survived.” Sumedi pointed out.

“To the unfortunance of the world.”

“True enough.” Agreed the shaman.

Deo accepted the broth but laid it at his feet to cool.

“That is smart about the leaves.” Deo noticed that the bed of leaves he slept on was to prevent the throw-up from dirtying the place. It had been swept out when Deo was bathing.

“I do not wish to see this tree stump soaked with bile.”

It was such a trivial thing, something probably as timeless as the recipe itself. This tree was sacred to the shaman, revered and protected from generation to generation.

“What is this tree?” Deo finally asked, intrigued from the beginning as to its origins and identity.

“Birch. How it grew so large and lived so long is only recounted in legends.

“It feels like the tree of the world.”

“What does that mean for the world since it is a stump?” Sumedi asked rhetorically.

Deo ate the broth, feeling it rejuvenate his body and clear his head further.

“Why is my ability called Light Trap?”

“You trap light.” Sumedi said shrewdly.

“The flower fell apart.” Deo said with apathy, looking at the dried pieces reducing further and further to dust as the breeze trickled in. “I noticed.” Sumedi replied, busy tending to his assortment of botanicals and jars and tools.

“I have lost the ability to preserve flowers, I think.” Deo contiuend to eat before reviving conversation. “Travelling out of your body, that is a useful skill.” Deo observed.

“One that you are unlikely to ever learn.”

“Is it your Aspect?” Deo asked.

“I do not have one, boy.”

“That’s what I thought. You know a lot about them, yet do not have one. The Aspect is just another tool, a way to use energy. I have sealed the possibility of growing my Aspect. What I have is enough. I can grow in other ways too, aside from the Aspect. That’s what I believe.”

“That is why I like you Deovulis. People place so much faith in the Aspect, in enlightenment, in their sciences and technologies. They know nothing the moment they begin to categorize. Knowledge builds upon itself. Learn from everything, boy.” Sumedi turned and grabbed a torch. “You see this fire? This torch burning, it is light. When something burns that means the light is escaping. All things contain light. Death occurs and light leaves. When you use your Aspect you are trapping light back into an empty vessel, this is the meaning of your power’s name.”

“That is why there is a brief moment of twilight when I activate it.” Deo said as realization dawned on him. “I have much to do,” he announced suddenly. “I am leaving.”

“One thing, your power is not gone. It is strong now. All the potential in your Aspect is dedicated to that single move.”

“I know, I can feel it.” The grin on Deo’s face suggested he couldn’t wait to experiment.

Sumedi smiled. “Talk to Kiasmus on your return trip.”

“I will.” Deo left without another word nor a glance back. He found his raft where he left it the day before. The same or similar turtle was wandering around the shore. Deo pushed the raft into the ocean, boarded it and once more faced the ocean alone, leaving the Island of Turtle.

He watched his hands after some time, noticing again the lines etched into the palms. He saw a line extending from his wrist toward his ring finger, the line missing from the previous night.

“Strange. I must have imagined that it wasn’t there.”

That night was already like ashes in the wind, the dream of dreams to Deo, the violet eyed Aspect of Death. And that biologic thread tracing vertically up his hand is the line of fate.

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