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The Snowed Abode

By @Magicite

The Snowed Abode

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It was but another world, one where life tries to co-exist, like so many other times. It was a time not of strongholds, and yet people were still hesitant, still apprehensive about an existence which relied on friendly relations. It was a realm which transcended the usual fantastical archetype, and yet shared many a thing in common… 

It was a snowed abode, a fortress where possibility existed, but mostly beyond the confines of such land. Nevertheless, it was where Pax lived, he who was named for the hope of peace, the hope that one day a certain calmness might descend upon this strange, never-ending conflict that affected mainly this regional quarter. It was all Pax knew, but it was not all there was. 

Peaceful this existence is not, though. The cries for the beyond, for what may be, have always existed, but what fool is hope? Why, when heat overwhelms? Why, when the cold pierces one from the opposite end? This might have been the situation for Nix, this forsaken land up in the depths of an unknown, random world in this haphazard universe. The cold, the solitude, is all one knew… until conflict arose, and indeed like a rose, pierced through the emptiness of this mere survival. 

Pax wakened to respond to his friend’s insistent calls, unlike many other days when lethargy is the usual, and as such concluded, shortly in that hazy mental state just before full consciousness, that something was amiss. That much was for sure, but what could possibly happen in this disregarded corner at the edge of the world? 

“Pax! It is but another day in this snowed in, forsaken abode, with the exception that Pons, our soothing seer, seems to need to speak with you…” 

She said this with her usual nonchalance, except that there was a hint of worry there somewhere, but otherwise her hair remained underneath, as always, but then again, one would surmise, there would need to be some widespread disturbance for that too to be out of place… 

“What possibly might occur now…?” Pax asked, with his surprise painted on his face. It was not the usual outing, to visit the ‘seer’… this, like with so much tradition, is usually reserved for either formalities or specific incidents, and this seems to be of the latter. Although, whether Pons could really help, who knew? Why anyone would believe someone set up as a seer Pax did not necessarily get enlightened to… 

His friend continued… 

“One knows not, but as few as we are here, we all still seek to learn what is possible about this world… so for now, then, Pons in the elevated plains could tell us…” 

“Go on ahead beyond our home… mystery might, possibly, lay behind Pons’ possibilities… beyond this frigid frontier…” 

One might describe this as cryptic, but in reality lack of knowledge was the problem, and Pax indeed also wondered whether seers could ever truly have any more of that than anyone else… but why would people look up to them if they do not? Why, truly… 

The air was still… for now. What could possibly be a harp could be sensed, for this was where Pax grew up, and so, sensory perception, like a vague feeling, indicated that this was what was, ideally, associated, along with a pause filled with memories conjured up only in one’s imagination. A dream, one might say, divined from the middle of many adventures. Other times, a still image of a tree could be seen in Pax’s mind, one that might have formerly brought cessation of life. At any rate, he wanted to know what could be used from his place… 

 

He could go back to sleep, for now, weeks, or more usually a few hours, but as he had literally just woken up, why would he? Or so he thought; sleep was still alluring, though… for reasons unknown to anyone stuck in some dream which felt like hell transmogrified (but then again, so much of ‘real life’ is as such too, bits and pieces, like parts of a long sleep, even those that seem nigh unstable of gravity). 

There also happened to be a black cat, because what other hue would one be in the midst of all this snow? Felines do need to stand out, after all… and mostly, at any rate, the cat liked to be petted and cuddled, like most other cats, and so did this one… and, despite all odds and contrary to all rational evidence, it seemed to communicate some desire? Or maybe it was Pax’s imagination… in all likelihood, surely? There were some trinkets… perhaps to be played with later, one thought… but not the kind of trinkets a cat would like, no, even a beige one… a lamp also sat idly there nearby, as if trying to illuminate the nooks the snow could not, that bounty of many a night’s light… there were also some boxes and a bin, but one would think that when a seer needs oneself, uh huh, perhaps doing some household chores would not exactly be on a list of priorities, but saying that, the mind always has a way with making one want to do things now or later… 

But this was not the time to waste… although sitting a bit on a sofa never went amiss, and so Pax did, with all his peacefulness, rest a slight bit… and what happens to be found? Why, there was a fluffy ball stuck in between the cushions, who knew! (I suppose one can always play with those just before meeting seers… right?) – “What is this for…?” Pax thought, but of course it is obvious who is most likely to play with such balls… cats… and so the fluffy ball was given to the nearby fluffball. What does one know, then, catnip was left behind… who ever said barter trade ceased? Still, it was probably just forgotten there… 

A small kind of shelf with some books one could also notice in the room; not exactly a library, one cannot say, and not precisely a whole load of books, but it always seemed sufficient lest one ran out of an actual library, which presumably is not quite possible. It did, regardless of how one described the physical, contain this one pertinent titbit… 

“It was but a world without mercies, for if one had such the next would not, and so the nightmarish formula unfolded.” 

To which Pax, of course, was required to idly wonder… 

“Who writes these things…? It… might… make sense? Possibly… maybe?” 

But why anyone even attempts to wonder is, and does sometimes remain, a mystery. 

There was also a bath, and why not take advantage of all there is before the fateful meeting? One could always return back some other time, but distraction could prove possible… in any case, Pax thought “how many moments of eased relaxation have I experienced? But a brief interlude from the chaos outside… will it last? Will the ravage of time settle? Or… would I be unable to even fulfil this mere desire for a pause?” – after gazing a bit idly for no apparent reason other than nostalgia perhaps, there seemed to be something left over, forgotten after the lull from life, a kind of magical quality to that which was so commonly seen, to which Pax wondered “How did the essence of water, the very substance of our relaxation, be able to even do anything else…?” 

There was also, of course, a place to store items which need a certain cold quality, as this was not a bygone era, when only perhaps ice could freeze that which could use its molecules slowing down. Electricity exists here, as it does in many other places, despite its risks and conditions to which it subjects a world… but, at any rate, before talking with a seer it could only be useful to look for what might remain in this box fuelled to simulate solid gaseous water (a fridge, of course)… Pax thought, then, for this line of thinking was certainly more stimulating than the seriousness of some self-appointed seer… “The storage for all of our vital needs! Now, if only it could also contain the solution for our conflicts…” 

Then, as Pax merely thought of the remote possibility of even daring to look towards the exit, there loomed two potted plants! But how do they matter, one asks? That is indeed a relevant question, for if Pax did not even solely gaze (although it was more of a line of sight sort of incident) – even thinking of, through recall, that there were potted plants, would have resulted in the following somewhat mysterious encounter, that made Pax not quite yell out, although not surely say internally… “something seems to be emanating, almost…?” – and it was thus that out of the potted plants, somehow, came words… 

“It is not what these objects represent… 

…for they are but symbols for words to augment… 

…but it is still metaphorical for birds to collate…” 

It was then that the ever puzzled, perplexed Pax merely sighed… 

“Uh… not sure where that came from, but maybe it will make sense in the future? Like, over a lifetime…?” 

And it did indeed take nearly a life for this one fellow to overcome everything one could attach oneself onto… to avoid encountering the permanently serious seer. For this was a narrative accorded to thought with regards to sociology, and that cannot exactly be done within the confines of one’s home now, could it? Well, one supposed, if it concerned the interactions between items hidden in sofas and plants perhaps, but then one wonders if they ever interact at all, and would they even exist at all if Pax had not come across them? 

Procrastination, though, and frankly a slight bit of lazing, had to come to an end, and while Pax would not immediately go and meet this aforementioned seer, a step needed to be taken… outside, where snow and ice reigned supreme. 

Nix 

It was the frigid frost of icy waters that first clashed with Pax’s senses upon journeying outside his home. Not quite the most pleasant of temperate climes, but it was where one had rested, for if life does not stay anywhere, where will it? It was a wide world, larger than any mental explorations could even attempt, but Pax had mostly, so far, resided where he happened to be thrown at – that could always change, through necessity or gradual progression, and today he happened to need to meet this seer. 

Not that Pons – the name he is usually called by, as a sort of symbol for the guidance of this forsaken, frozen abode named Nix – was typically unreachable; this was not some oracle at Delphi, this seer was but another of NIx’s citizens, but as opposed to Pax’s occasional joviality, Pons was indeed preternaturally serious, for would not one be if the future could be perceived but, like Kassandra (if one were to extend the mythological metaphor), everyone around ignores the possibilities? Why, one barely even needs to be in such a position… Pax was, at any rate, going to meet him, but not before the very essence of this place was upended, for why would a procrastinator do anything else? (Well, there was a hint of urgency when one was told a visit was requested, but only a hint, so why not err on the side of the everlasting optimism for those who need an excuse to delay until no longer possible? Pessimism then comes, of course, when all hell breaks loose…) 

Now, the initial impression that could be had upon exiting, for some reason, similarly to the potted plants, as if everything was full to the brim with life… were the flames that radiated like a single candle in an eternal, hopeless darkness with no end in sight except for an atom of a flicker. These flames then, not quite uttered, but appeared to imprint upon consciousness, the words… 

“Touching a fiery element… 

…while the cold snaps… 

…might be not clement…” 

Now Pax had seen and talked to many people in the past, and maybe the cold was getting to his brain… perhaps one could not quite figure out anymore what one heard or not, but those words appeared to be said, and since it did not seem to matter anyway… and he would probably have a better conversation with the few people around, Pax thought he would leave the matter alone for now, although he did quietly grumble to himself that the rhyme was ever so slightly strange, though stranger still that it had come from blazing rivulets… somehow. 

Below in the distance, opposite his own home, there was an old lady, seemingly a permanent fixture for most of his life (due to the age difference, mind, one could make a reasonable guess that she was not there before her own birth, or that would indeed present a small problem for the continuum of time itself). She was quite homely in appearance, and one would think that she, being probably the oldest villager (in other places one assumes the ideal candidate for seer-age, but here age is not quite the main issue in contention, rather it was… something else that fitted in the context of Nix being in the far north near another village that hinged on the mood of one solitary individual) – was probably also the wisest, or at least the most knowledgeable, but she might also be humble. 

“This olde fortress is but a bastion in the north of the world, just would not be if the last kingdom to the south willed itself.” She proclaimed, having not quite yet adapted to a more modern usage of the language; of course, it is ever-evolving, never constant, but the brain is not as plastic with age, and so one adds that as more of a feature than a defect usually, especially as, just as with old books, time usually reserves interest in the possibilities. 

Pax replied, thereafter, to clarify… “Do you mean we might be overtaken by them if we are not careful enough?” 

“Likely. Possibly. But with Pons around we could forestall all such possibilities. Well, perhaps all… so far, at least.” She clearly seems to believe in the seer, despite there being, shall we say, quite the difference in age, but it could also be actually her advanced years relying on the hopefulness of patterns seemingly foretold by some hidden order. This has always seemed to be what people throughout the millennia thought like, and in this instance there might indeed be elements of that, especially in this person’s mind; a cerebral desire to be comforted by an illusory structure, and although the name Pons might conjure up such an image, Pax knew that he was not really some cryptid, or a relic who makes virtually no sense. He might not entirely call him a friend, but they were on friendly terms, and he was certainly still more comprehensible than some ancient oracle, or a random method to divine the future. No, Pons more likely derived sense from multiple viable sources and made them cohesive, something that even the person Pax was talking with could do if only neurons did not overly rely on what could be. 

“I have lived here for decades, and in that time he has always managed to see through the façade of history… well, nearly all…” She suddenly showed some doubt, not something that seemed usual… 

“Not all? There was a time?” Pax enquired. 

“Yes, once, but… I would prefer if I did not have to venture to that point in my mind again…” This cognitive avoidance may possibly stem from the same source as the aforementioned reliance, but then again if trauma occurs why would one necessarily want to have anything to do with it again if one is not subjected to it again? Perhaps, if it is absolutely needed, but in this instance Pax thought that it might be better if a secondary source was questioned instead, one who in turn got it possibly from someone who does not mind recalling, or a text. Either way, it did not seem urgent to know. 

“Sure, understandable… but wait! Pons did this for decades?! He does not look that old!” Pax exclaimed. 

“Ah, but looks may deceive… I myself feel as sprightly as ever! Also, Pons is not quite the same as us…” The old lady seemed jolly, and not quite understandable at the end, once again… 

“Pax, I think you might want to go forth and speak with Pons for the way…” 

So, despite the desire to talk with everyone due to an inherent spirit of procrastination, it seems even these others simply suggest that the seer is somehow the only inevitability in this strange existence. Perhaps the old age wants the young to rely on possibly hidden structures too? Or perhaps determinism is the only option? One knows not, but then again Pax is likely merely thinking about how Pons certainly does not look decades old, despite it being virtually irrelevant to either this specific incident, or the perception that even if one were to take away the image of a seer, Pons really makes slightly more sense than most others historically, as one might possibly soon attest to. 

Now, in the other corner of Nix rested some middle-aged man, not quite as retired seeming as the previous old lady, but more, how shall one say, apparently ‘available’ to tackle practical issues… possibly? Or perhaps that was the supposedly dignified stubble he happened to have? Either way, he opined… 

“These streams are the veins of hope to this abode… without them, we would have been overrun by the monarchy down below, for we would not have had resources to counteract…” He seemed fairly metaphorical, as water can, one guesses, seem like veins keeping a place alive, except it certainly was not the same hue… 

“Where do they lead, I wonder?” Asked Pax. 

“Nowhere but the frozen glaciers of interminable ice… from which water still flows. A fitting metaphor for the world’s difficulties, perhaps? For our hope against the monarchy, perchance?” He speculated; one feels the necessity to point out that many years had passed without this apparent problem down south, as nothing had stirred, but recently it seemed inexorable… for some reason. 

Pax continued, “hm, maybe… I’ve known nothing for all my life except this feud between these two places… it gets tiring after a while… now if only we could resolve this problem once and for all…” – it is, to be clear, that he was merely referring to his relative timespan, as this was not exactly an everlasting conflict, and if anything was indeed brewing it was mainly recent, but Pons should be able to clarify that. 

The serious man concurred, “I wonder indeed if we could, and if its inhabitants even support the monarchy’s downfall? They did, after all, never decide on having one… surely, then, could this region find peace.” 

He finished with… “speak with Pons on the lofty airs first, then… it could be useful if you interceded on our behalf against this aggression… possibly… if, ever, it could be extinguished…” – and with a stroke of the pen any possibility to procrastinate without distraction was made incalculable, but perhaps this could be… fate? Or that would be what the romantics would think… 

Shell 

With all the effort one could muster Pax did indeed try to go upwards to the seer’s lair… not that it was not some place that anyone would not want to be in, just to be clear, as it was indeed delightful, but personalities quite contrasted to such an extent that one would not necessarily want to spend much time in the other’s company, as it often happens elsewhere too… but then, one supposed, this was more of a ‘business’ trip, perhaps? Not as in commercial business, but more of a transactional nature… at any rate, Pax did indeed go upwardly, for why not would he? As it happens, also, going though this door to the north does not quite automatically transport one to Pons, no, for abodes are never quite such close quarters… 

No, it was instead, what looked like, a castle; not quite the whole smörgåsbord, for Nix was not a place for such affairs, but it was perhaps a bygone relic, a shell that is now stood upon. It was, of course, also snowed upon quite a bit, for any place in this direction suffers such a fate, and this might be the reason why Pons does not exactly reside here, although one knows not if it is just the cold that is intolerable. It was a shell because, if indeed one might presume, in such a situation as Nix is in, with an unstable monarchy nearby, some sort of ‘shell’ might be useful, although how a seer and his ‘lofty plains’ could help in a physical war one knows not… unless it is a mystical conflict or such, but even that could not be guaranteed, for as mentioned before, no one actually claims this one seer has any supernatural capabilities, he can merely seem to calculate the odds, although of course most people, even throughout history, seemed to think of them as something other than that. 

The outer shell of a fortress, in any case, did exist, for some reason… and although snow might cover it like dust percolates on the insides, the people of Nix thought that, if indeed a conflict did break out, that a bit of snow would not stop them from defending themselves using this structure… and despite the snow, as if to contradict its very existence, fires existed here and there too, and like before they seemed to emanate something other than just some fire, but Pax ignored them, for there were… statues this time, too, ones that almost possessed Ares’ spirit, conflict frozen in time, etched in marble… and something does, it appears, seem to be inscribed on them too, with yet another odd structure… 

“If a sword is, indeed… 

in a fiery pit, restored… 

what, though, is spilt in a fjord?” 

Why statues questioned onlookers Pax did not know… one supposed, they could not even receive any answers, so why at all? But, perhaps, he thought, stimulating one’s thoughts while looking at something could possibly be interesting. There were not, though, hints as to how and where these statues came from… since his birth they were always there, and did not seem to represent much, except for that hidden fear of a looming possibility for conflict, which lay there like a thunderstorm behind clouds of rain. 

Besides all that, Pax happened to notice that there were people around the status too, as it happens… a slight bit difficulty in recognizing their patterns, considering they are not standing on plinths too, and so do not quite stand out, but Pax did indeed finally realize their very existence. 

The one fellow to the right, slightly stout, brown-haired, seemed to proclaim… 

“If one doth seek the seer’s advice one must heed it… or so one always thought, but lately it happens to be a bit more disposable, maybe? Kind of, like, a rubberstamp…” 

This seemed to lose the air it began pumping at the beginning, or so one thought, to build an argument and then present the opposite as more likely, and so, Pax asked… 

“How, exactly…? Is it unreliable? Why else does it go unheeded, then?” 

“Not quite, but you see… a stamp may direct a package, but one may also deliver it themselves or so… perhaps do not deliver at all? Who knows? Like all forecasts they are not perfect.” 

This seemed reasonable. For someone who seemed like they were of a haughty nature, and hung around a seer’s lair too, presumptions might confuse reality… 

“Does one, then… uh, do people not care for them? Do they not think they are useful?” Pax continued. 

“Well, they might be useful in reality, but some people are looking for other uses…” 

One needs to point out an omission one made, a slight oversight of something that seemingly just sprung into action – the man’s moustache. Why it did upon emphasizing other usages for forecasts one does not know, and perhaps shall never know, for there is barely a link between moustaches and prophesies, or at least one would hope so… 

“By all means, though, go ahead and see what use you might… divine…” 

That seemed like an interesting, if slightly odd sort-of-meta discussion, one thought. Would all the people around here be so academic about the subject though, considering the times that might threaten? 

“It does at times feel a slight bit claustrophobic in this area… there is a whole wide world beyond this northern frontier, yet we are stuck here due to a hostile state?” Someone said, indeed, as if in reply to the previously unuttered thought. She looked as if a nun, but these parts were not quite seeped in any sense of a religion, in fact the whole world at this point seemed a slight bit beyond that, just like they were ever so much over the whole monarchy as a concept (except for the nearby threat). So, one must conclude, her attire might be a fashion thing… possibly? 

“From what I could gather they have not always been hostile, but recently things seem to have become a bit volatile… for some reason… I will speak with Pons and see what I could do…” Pax tried to assuage her concerns, but in reality he did not know what Pons will say, nor what the outcome of this whole affair will be. The future too, of course, was entirely as hazy as a cloud, but then if it was not so it would not be time that has not yet occurred, would it? 

“Thanks again, Pax, if you manage to resolve any conflicts on our behalf… also, if, in the future, you need some advice on… ethereal matters… I would be available.” 

Well, who would have guessed that one would have talked with some ethereal nun on this frigid night of yore? Metaphorically speaking, this was not quite the past, yet remnants littered the place like seashells on a shore. Pax thought of asking her further questions, but thought they might be possibly extraneous to what was supposed to be done (then again, he has bartered with some cat, so why could he not ask her about such pertinent mysteries? This might have, likely, been solely due to Pax’s interests… one supposed Pons could be talked to at length too, but would anyone want that?) 

Yet further on a couple more people seemed to inhabit this bit of the world, for some reason… a green-haired girl who seemed preoccupied with her thoughts then wondered… 

“Why do states conflict? Why does nature conflict? These seem to be questions of an eternal nature, but still they must be asked, as, if they are not, what do we question at all? Why, indeed, when existence is all there is?” 

“Why, indeed…” is all Pax could muster. Clearly, based on all evidence so far, he does not quite initiate much thought by himself, but one would assume that the prospect of meeting Pons would give anyone thought for concern to begin with… 

The other person, this time a blue-haired fellow for some reason, seemed to be, indeed, the most concerned of all… 

“Would you, Pax, know by any chance whatever we would happen to do if we do cross danger’s path? As a state we have merely invested in our defensive capabilities, but beyond that…” 

“I am not sure… I was going to check on the status, and I could check a bit more than that. Maybe? I am probably going to need some help…I wonder who might…” 

Pax clearly did not know much, as it happens, but then again, he has never been thought of as the symbolic brains of this abode, now… peace is hopeful enough. 

“How would I ever cope if I was ambushed…? Maybe I should join you? But that would be similarly, potentially perilous… how, then, could I remain in my safe, bubbly existence… 

To that no further reply was forthcoming, for these were but fragments of anxiety, and one would have thought that going anywhere near the threat would only further worsen such feelings, but then again Pax was not quite a psychologist, he merely intuited, as one does in this remoteness… 

Lofty 

Upon entering the lair of the seer the air was not quite the same much anymore… in fact, it was not even ground air anymore, for the shell that led to where Pons usually resides, almost by some ethereal quality, transported Pax to a place above this damp world, above the seeds of mundanity, beyond the imagination of the mind. It was a land not too far away from where Nix was, as a matter of fact it was close enough to nearly be representative of a certain protective quality for what was underneath – although this was, obviously, because the realm above was inhabited by lives that did not wish harm to the people below. One would wonder why those few that hung around the shell would not just go ahead and bask in this effervescent atmosphere that lulled about in this lofty temple, this qualitative impression. 

It was a land as if sprung up by strings, and in the air melodious symphonies combined to present a certain satisfactory quality, like juice in a summer’s breeze. The clouds hung below as if one was going ever upwards, and smaller pieces of land swayed about the background, like they were leftover rocks from some geological fissure millions of years ago. It was a place that inspired thought, that relished feeling. Why Pons chooses to mainly hang about here, though… is not quite certain. Although, one supposed, it is more incomprehensible if anyone chooses not to live here (and one assumes he does go down to Nix every once in a while… unless resources magic themselves into existence, like the very island itself seems to have done…) 

Certainly, from up here it seems clear that… clarity itself may be reachable. One could see why a ‘seer’, who does not quite rely on hocus pocus but a more deductive, reasoned approach… could be helped by being here. It seemed to stimulate thought like the waterfalls that rested on each side of this entrance that also hosted iconography with dragons on them (for some reason). Pillars also were on the sides, along with… yes, more statues. It seems like the people of Nix liked them, although why they have such obscure inscriptions Pax did not quite know yet. This time they seemed to represent some sort of angelic beings, with wings and all, and now they seemed to whisper… 

“It is but stone… 

…it, that haunts us… 

…and to the wind, merely it is blown…” 

Pax thought that this was slightly more clear than the ones before, but why ever it also seemed to rhyme he could not quite tell… perhaps statues always do that? Fires do too, though… it was, thus, quite confusing, especially for someone who merely wanted to see what some officious, overly serious prophet of logic wanted to say… Pax would have hoped Pons did not also speak so obliquely as these rhymes, but then he knew from his limited past interactions that, although as non-jocular as a stone, Pons was not quite as bizarre as some fire spewing mysteries. He might have been slightly haughty, but then who would not be if they spent their entire life trying to decipher the future? Not quite disdainful per se, more quiet and reserved… though. 

This was the world both of them inherited, essentially… a world which is not quite too damaged, but not as seemingly perfect as this floating temple to the senses, either. It stood above the clouds like some majestic wizard, and indeed it was as equally comprehensible (although one assumes that if studied the engineering of how it floats could be revealed). It was not quite the largest of places, though; beyond the petrified angels lay two pathways that led to the east and west of a fairly rectangular central square. Whoever walked through it could take either side, or go through the middle, all of which led to a slightly more elevated plain where Pons contemplated the mysteries of levitation (presumably). 

Pax, though, being the procrastinator he always knew he were, decided to explore this little island in the clouds, instead of going straight upwards, for it had some interesting corners. So, he first thought of checking out a couple of walls that the east and west sides led to; as if cryptically describing the very qualia of such a state, these walls had this inscribed… 

“When a world is marred… 

…and the ground tarred… 

…the heavens a shard, of blue and air…” 

For once Pax thought that this, despite the allusions, seemed to obviously refer to this ascended shrine’s place above a world full of strife, that much appeared to be self-evident. What was it a shrine to, though? Nothing religious, Pax always assumed, no, it was more of a testament to how one can metaphorically rise above the world and see the big picture, but it was always so difficult to accomplish for most people, so symbolically it was usually inhabited by no one except Pons, who at least tried to, as optimally as possible, to see all that could be seen. It was similar to the image of the pale blue dot, even though it was seen as a two dimensional picture by many people it could still not at all be fully absorbed, for it never is unless one inhabits a certain existence. 

While thinking about all this, Pax also somehow noticed, at the tip of his peripheral vision, a certain simplistic stone at the end of one of these crevasses (which, as it happens, were surrounded by some lush greenery, although one wonders how, if ever, they are watered… then again, even plants on the sides of buildings can cope lately, and with this place being so high up one might reckon the moisture of the clouds could possibly sustain them naturally) – simplistic only to contrast it with the many other, intentional formations around here; this stone, or more precisely a small bunch of them, seemed to be quite simply left where they always were, as if from the beginning of time, high up in the heavens long before any other living being found out about this wonder that defies gravity. 

These bunch of stones, then… no, they had nothing inscribed, but… upon examining them Pax was immediately thrown to the other side of this square up in the clouds, diagonally per se, to a place within this other square made out trees and hedges, where some kind of water was found… perhaps from the aforementioned clouds? One knows not… 

It was with this that Pax thought this sanctuary to peace seemed to be more than it seemed, although there could not have been many surprises, simply due to the relatively small size of the whole place. At any rate, he decided to go to the far end of each side now, both of which seemed to have – for some strange, although not that strange considering this is a buoyant rock one is standing on – statues of, this time, some sort of wizard, which, inevitably, engraved… 

“The static art… 

…with the effervescent sky… 

…in tune, the dark of the heart…” 

But no, this time Pax had absolutely no clue what these wizards might be hinting at… truly, he thought, magic is as obscure as these random mutterings scattered all around for some reason. One would go on to think, though, that perhaps they are still a bit mildly more interesting to read than to outright ignore them, although in the end, if one was not a procrastinator, that is, going straight to the seer, as Pax was supposed to have done now for quite some time, would indeed have been so delightfully more direct. But, why should anyone simply run through this cathedral of awe without noticing it? 

For it was indeed awe that one could feel upon gazing at the leaves hovering above some shallow water. Or this might be overstating it, really, but for Pax, who mostly knew the humdrum, cold existence of the world down below, it was an interesting change of scenery. Of course, seeing this was not at all the point of his goal, but then when was the end ever more important than the journey? 

In any case, he went back the way he came and thought of going in the middle for now… except he suddenly noticed that at the crossroads of this quadrangular airborne isle, one pillar out of the four was clearly much smaller than the others, and so he examined it… which took him to the other closed green space, adjacent to the one from before. This time, though, a… fox, seemed to inhabit this one (and so it seems there is life other than Pons…) – but, foxes being foxes, this one simply disappeared almost as soon as Pax appeared at the corner of this cosy, leafy embrace… leaving behind only its hair (why, do foxes moult…?) 

Pax went back, in any event, considering there was not much else around, back to the middle… a middle which seemed to have… more statues, but the same kind that the ‘shell’ had previously, so not much time was spent looking at them. There was also another angelic one at the very top, just before the elevation, as if to say that the supernatural wing is mightier than the sword… possibly? 

Up the highest point of this lofty abode Pons awaited, in contemplation and… a little bit of staring at the horizon, but then it never hurt anybody, right? Pons, the symbolic representation of this town’s brains, was a… kind of a short person, also more accurately known as a ‘child’, with a mop of purple hair, but thinking back to the old lady’s proclamations Pax thought this might have been some sort of mystical halting of time, perhaps… or he would not have guided this town for so long that even an old lady can attest to, of course. This, clearly, was no typical person of his apparent age, though… that much is clear; now, whether the people in town have lost their minds, or indeed he is that impression, shall be known promptly, but either way… the trip to this place has instilled a few mysteries in Pax’s mind, certainly, and it will not at all be the last time this happens, for the world is massive, and a variety of affairs occur… 

“Pax… one can barely guess what just so happened…” Pons began, looking back from his never-ending gazing to more effectively communicate with the person behind him. A stereotypical seer would surely not even bother to look back, but as mentioned previously he is actually just another citizen… with a slightly differing perception by all else, but still someone who communicates like most others… 

“Pons, what possibly might have now…?” Pax replied quizzically. 

“The state of Ignis to the south is deliberating on whether to attack us…” That much was glimpsed from earlier conversations, but the place’s name was new, Pax thought. One thought that it was so called due to the historic possibility that somewhere in such a situation might be so unstable as to ‘explode’ at any amount, or boil over with rage, but then, Pax thought, that might be a similar possibility to any other state, really… just a few differing variables. 

“Why must they?!” Pax interjected. 

“Our realm is rife with greed… ever since kingdoms and empires transitioned to democracies, whether real or not, the machine that powered the engine of the previous states has clearly …not died down… and so we continue to strive in this quixotic madness… this relentless inevitability into the chaos of selfish violence and mutual annihilation…” Pons rambled. Now, while this was not quite what a ‘seer’ normally bothers with… as aforementioned Pons here is more the passive leader sort of character. Certainly not anything like what a monarch appears to exude, brute force, for passivity works in the background and only when needed, and Pons certainly did not think of himself as a leader even, merely someone who wonders and thinks, and then converses when others want to. If sociology must be what this conversation at this point in time should be about, then it is… no cryptic prophesies, merely deductions based on contexts. 

“Hm… not sure I get all that, but what I do understand is that our homes seem to be in peril? If so, I must investigate…” Pax replied in earnest, having been thinking about this since exiting his house. He did at times go outside, but not that often lately – now it seems to be needed, though. 

“Indeed, that is what should be done now… anyone would seek to check for any possibility of reconciliation… go south and see for yourself the state of this world, Pax! Go forth and seek out reality…” 

Suddenly, though, after finishing the conversation just now… someone came up quite fast and nearly bumped into Pax, proclaiming “Pax! Pax! There you are!” 

He was someone dressed in blue, and Pax knew him, being someone of a similar age, but why he came all the way up here at this exact time, he was not sure… 

“Clemens? Have you too heard that something was afoot? How neighbourly aggression is increasing?” Names, clearly, were all inspired by one language, somehow… 

“That was indeed why I came here… I mean, I do not normally come here to see the clouds or skies, no… or maybe I do, but this day I did not! At any rate…” Not that, of course, gazing at clouds is anything other than an utter joy, to be clear… 

“You are always a slight bit indirect…” Pax claimed… one presumes that stands in contrast to his personality then, possibly? 

“I suppose… in any case, would you like to investigate whatever is happening in Ignis?” 

“Sure, I was in fact about to go just now…” Pax said with his eyes closed, as if he was going to do this regardless if Clemens even existed… 

“Oh, but I mean check it out together, for who knows what lies outside! Who knows what misshapen crawlies slither outside! Who knows what metallic, strangely-spoken oddity does!” What Clemens refers to here is unknown, but one might conceivably find out if time could ever advance any further… 

“Oh, not a bad idea, actually, possibly one of your better ones, as normally they are not so…” Pax says this having known him for quite some time, of course, and so it does not necessarily come across as rude, but more like two felines’ jousting, if that was at all a sensible analogy… 

“What?! Never mind! Let us go!” He might have not taken it as lightly as Pax thought he might have, after all… oh well, never mind. 

This was, thus, where the little frolic to the majestic, aimless boulder ended. One might visit it again in the future, for some verbal aid can always come in use, but for now Pax truly does not need to procrastinate to come here any longer, for he did finally do so, and it was worthy… 

Out 

After coming out of that bizarre concoction that somehow flies… Pax, along with Clemens, named because his parents presumably thought he was kind as a toddler, although as an adult one would think it would be difficult to equate, and from now on will be referred to as Clem since, I do not know, but he might look like a mollusc… the two, at any rate, start to think about making their way out of Nix, mostly the only place they know of and have lived in, but they might have wondered around the corner every now and then in the past… anyway, in order not to procrastinate too much the two shall… talk to some of the people in Nix again, because why not, no? Talking, after all, can be said to be the heart of the narrative, but not all are impressive… 

The first two in the shell do not appear to say much, so Pax thought better than to waste time with them for now and went over to the next couple of people on the outer edge, the moustached one, who simply said… 

“I see you have thus resolved to go and seek out our possible ailments? Well, do remember that even if Pons is always available to consult – it might be merely anxiety. Still…” 

And… no, the other one will only help with ethereal matters, whatever those are, so presumably we are not at that stage yet… and so, Pax exited the shell into the main town, and noticed the bearded, slightly militaristic fellow who earlier mused about streams, say… 

“I wish luck in your quest to resolve our problems, Pax and Clemens, for if the last monarchy fell… what a possibility for a merciful peace… if only…” 

Pax then thought, possibly… that it was nice to be so relied on, was it not? Or, perhaps, too much pressure? And why is it these people all around are just there to talk to, anyway? Why can there not be, possibly, a big party of villagers to ever so politely ask this monarch to dampen down his aspirations lest there be consequences? It is not as if the French revolution only happened because a couple of guys went to play tennis or something… well, perhaps the latter bit… also, why tennis specifically when there are so many other similar sports, who knows… but anyway, the point is, verily, one knows not how it is always a few people who happen to resolve some grand, complex narrative (besides the rationale that to the perceiver the individual is more important than the collective, since it is usually a singular spectator, per se)… 

Either way… Pax suddenly glimpsed a shop, and thought why should he not visit it just before going into the wide, wild world… in it, a variety of items, although most were for show one suspected, like the façade of society itself, at any rate… 

As soon as Pax entered the shop, the thing is… something strange occurred as soon as he jumped on this… magic circle thing; a certain amount of visual noise was suddenly in the air, as if the brain’s neurons were not seamlessly passing information along synapses anymore, or perhaps that twilight state in between sleep and wake, when the world has not quite switched to high definition, and was possibly a few decades behind still (due to subjective perception being so). This happened as soon as Pax went on this symbol (so it must have been it, he inferred), and there was not quite any other way he could have gone, either, as the corridor was narrow. Appropriately, now, there were also a couple of those wizard statues that he saw previously, which said the same thing really, with the exception ‘art’ did not match ‘heart’ now, it went along with… ‘mart’, and so the inscription proved comedic, he thought. In any case, he went along, and the owner proffered… 

“Hello there, Pax, I have heard this is but a lull in a potentially upcoming conflict, and so… I would have thought my items could prove useful, especially if you venture outside…” 

He had a variety of items, but suddenly one did not seem so interested in getting any for some reason… whether one would regret this in the future, when they might be needed, is another matter… but, living on the edge has its interests… the shopkeeper then clarified… 

“Oh, and… what happened as you entered is a curse a mage once put on my shop, unfortunately… it will resolve itself as you exit, but it sure would be nice if I could somehow lift this spell… perhaps with something around the shop, and something else? Not sure… but it is surely ironic that this happened with my side hobby here…” 

His side hobby turned out to be… a lot of magic-related items, as it happens. Besides the circle and the statues, there were several other items lying about too, which, of course, Pax went to tinker with… 

There were also some potted plants, though, as it happens, which meant not everything was related to magic… unless they were somehow used in some ritual Pax simply did not know of… 

“What is incipient life but magic within? 

What, though, makes this so tragic? 

Which percipient would reveal?” 

This was, then, what they seemed to utter… one did not know if it was simply animated or living beings that made such utterances, or perhaps art did… unless it could be argued that it was all art (but then would that not be inclusive of the whole universe which would be stretching it a bit?) – what indeed Pax was certain about, though, is that he was uncertain about what the above possibly meant, for opaque it was, although still appropriate considering the setting, he thought. Why, also, are they all questions? 

Nearer to the shop’s counter there were also… 

“Scales… of justice? Hm, not quite in an item shop, I assume… but maybe magicians like to weigh their baubles? If indeed they do have baubles, for one is not sure… perhaps the seller weighs… portions of potions?” Idly wondering about random items’ usages is always a good hobby for a procrastinator, especially, because what else are items for in one’s eyes? 

Close to it there was also… 

“An hourglass? Why, are there some time mages around…? Those rare creatures… somewhat not as potent as the job description makes them sound, not quite equivalent to… a certain sorceress…” Pax truly wondered about the innocuous and trivial, but if he did this not how could some problems be resolved in the future? Who he refers to remains a mental mystery, though. 

There were also some pretty empty jars in the northern edge of the shop… 

“What would one fill these jars with? Some time later perhaps they will become useful, but as for now…” Could this, perhaps, be useful to resolve the curse…? 

More bottles could be glimpsed still, but this time they were not quite plain and transparent… 

“Plenty of pigments to choose from, but whatever might these be? Maybe the actual items the shopkeeper says are on sale? Or do those always need to be invisible or something…? Perhaps condiments? But why would magic users need those?” Why indeed, one would think… it is not as if it is a prerequisite for spells to be in such a a variety of jars to be cast, and even then one is only assuming that this is what they are for. For all anyone knows the shopkeeper simply needs to remember something indicated by that variety… some things may be more than decorative. 

Next to them were something even more… plain, though… 

“Oh jolly, just brown sacks, whatever does anyone want to do with such special items? I, myself, would have no idea unless I thought of this before; why, the hue probably does something to the items inside… possibly.” Why indeed would some item shop have such sacks… unless the items are potatoes or something, that is? It is even more of a mystery when containers are opaque… 

More bags then, but with a bit more variety… 

“Is this where everyone does their daily shop? Because it does not seem to be very packed with everything… and it does seem to be geared towards a certain type of consumer? Or am I misreading it?” Maybe it is, in fact, where sacks are bought? Maybe potions are an illusion… 

Downwards a slightly more interesting bunch of bottles… 

“No… can it be? Alcohol? Magic users imbibe this?! Do not tell me this is their secret weapon… stumbling around, people would ignore them, and suddenly they play their tricks… the devious creatures…” If it was it would be news to me, too… 

Then a laboratory sort of aspect to the next few bottles… 

“A chemistry set? Is that what magicians rely on after all? But where do they get out all their equipment on stage? Some sort of ‘hammer space’? Or am I getting the wrong sort of magician here?” Who knows if you are, Pax, for all we know rabbits might come out of those containers… 

Lastly there was what… 

“Looks like ketchup, goes well on chips and such, except… there does not seem to be anywhere to buy that from? Unless we need frozen ones, of course… plenty of snow here to keep them cool. Ah, warm chips, such alchemy…” Well, one hopes it might be more useful than the items currently being sold if one has no money to buy them with (who dreams of that…?) 

As one can delightfully witness, it is no easy way out, even from a simple shop, for procrastination is ever present, and there are always shiny things to tinker with… but Pax made his way out of the shop finally, at any rate (why, if he left the heavenly floating abode, what would make him stay in some place cursed with visual noise?) 

Out he went back into Nix generally, all the way back to that old grandma that for some reason hangs about in the cold and yet not much health-wise seems to happen… 

“So, you are now fearless and venturing forth to the south? Maybe I shall have an ending not mired in conflict… if so, I would be ever so grateful, young friend…” She said, seemingly aware that Pons had been talked with (was she psychic perchance? Is there an entire layer here we are not aware of? Or does quantum mechanics seem to be involved like it appears to do with the seer’s age, possibly? One knows not what one knows not…) 

Pax also went back to his house upwards, maybe to take a nap if one desired (and why not? It is the very engine of procrastination, and besides no one had said Ignis will come tomorrow for certain or such, and so in denial he hopes in, for no two pair go better together…) – but also to talk to his housemate, in case she needs to say anything just before leaving… 

“Clemens! I assume you’re going with Pax to seek out what might be the cause of strife? Saying that, one might only dig so deep before the fundaments of idealism are encountered…” Clearly, then, these three knew each other for some time, but what do I know? Especially about the aforementioned fundaments… what if they are more like a fractured base? A leaky roof (if roofs were ever indeed used to build idealism upon, somehow)? How, also, can idealism even be integrated in architecture, or should one not take this literally? 

Now, finally, Pax made his first tentative steps outside… just beyond the gate of the wall, in order to exit this place, and there happened to be two other characters waiting outside, as if barred from entering for some reason, or maybe they had no keys? They likely tried knocking, though… one seemed slightly sketchy, but the other one merely enthusiastic, although what for remained a mystery, as it could not have been the cold or the infinitude of snow… 

“Hey there, citizen, I’ve been stranded here, as it happens, since I was about to travel in between the two places, north and south, but as hostilities increased I was wondering if…” The enthusiastic fellow, with spiky hair and goggles for some reason, stopped abruptly, as if the cold shut his mouth frozen after all, but no, it was clearly a psychological issue… 

“If…?” Pax prompted. 

“I could be caught in the crossfire… wars know no middle, you see… I was working on my engines, but had to pause for now, for no one would anyway if I were not around…” He finally finished, with still some thoughts seemingly left out. What he was referring to, though, no one knew, and for all anyway did know it was all imagery… or not, as one needs to assume some things happen to be true… 

“Engines…?” Pax inquired. 

“I construct these machines, some say a relic of a by-gone day, but the past is never the past I think, the future merely incorporates it, and so I continue…” Well, that was a somewhat interesting interlude and thesis of what time consists of, Pax might have thought. Why, though, someone who constructs machines thinks this… no one is sure, for theory of mind might be as elusive as antimatter in outer space… 

“Say, could you possibly retrieve something I could use in my repairs? It does happen to be in the town below the castle which is nominally ruled by the monarch, and so is in a state…” He continued, somewhat more practically minded. 

“Hm, I could try since that seems to be my general direction and we may already be at risk at any rate… I’m also a bit interested to see what kind of machine this is…” Pax surmised. One has to wonder, though, when risk is evaluated are future events taken into account? Would multiple events then appear to lessen the risk, just because it appears to be more worthy? 

“Thanks! I’ll let you take a look… it is a sort of tool that could fix a capacitor – one in a sort of flux? I’m not sure myself. But we could see once it’s ready…” What he is referring to one has no idea, but one assumes the future will reveal, possibly… 

He was indeed a strange fellow, one usually stranded in some dystopian, cyberpunk narrative, but if so does this mean this is the world Pax inhabits? Oh, one must mention, as it has likely not been mentioned, that this world happens to be called ‘Locus’, in keeping with the naming tradition it seems, it plainly means that this was where they lived, the place, but genetically it is where genes are too, so in a way it makes doubly sense? Who sensibly knows…? 

The other guy was even stranger, though, for he sneered like no one imaginably does, and he did try to hide it, but not quite so well… 

“Why, hello there. I am but a humble representative of… the town down south, the domain the monarch holds, and…” He hesitated too, but unlike the other, nearby fellow, this did not seem to be borne out of apprehension, but more out of a hesitancy to the way he could conceivably be perceived perhaps, as he was scanning Pax as if a mechanical device was installed in his mind and it was its entire, sole mission to do so, all the while still perpetually sneering…. 

“Yes…?” Pax replied, in order to get out of this little impasse… 

“I just wanted to say how much the town needs you, how useful you would be if you would then next go to the castle to put an end to this… oppression… why, yes…” He clearly was not being forthcoming or even remotely as honest as, say, the other person was with his enthusiasm, or the old lady with the way she sees and saw the world. He was hiding something, not even trying too hard to do so, which makes one wonder why… 

“Sure, just as I have been told by so many others here… (why does he seem hesitant though…?)” Pax noticed, but as he was going to go anyway, and Pons seems to think it was the next best step, he did not think it would be better to drop out now (as much as his procrastination begged him to… at this point it was either that or wait until something happened externally…) 

“Why, yes, you would be greeted so… handsomely – if you do go to the castle. Why wouldn’t you be? Why, indeed…” He was clearly a strange one, but as long as he merely talked to Pax, and did not enter Nix, one figured he could not do much damage… at best, this might be an intelligence gathering exercise, but from behind the gate not much can be noticed… 

At any rate, beyond all this chit-chat, Pax was indeed finally going to exit his hometown… I mean, it is not like he could not have done so before, or at least just after he talked with Pons, but the journey is worth more than the destination, surely? Unless, of course, it is some castle in the middle of the desert and one needs to escape hastily for one particular reason, only then it is the shadows which plunge one into despair… 

So, Nix effectively is a sort of base for him, at least at the beginning (as the world is only so large, and one might not be sure distances can be travelled quickly), and there did not seem to be many places one could go to, at any rate – besides those two below, that is. But that is where Pax intends to go, so he is not quite worried about much else right now, except perhaps about this last dodgy character, but a deferred problem is still a problem that comes later, he figured, and so he made his way outside… 

Ignis 

The world outside was as cold as it could be; not much different from Nix, being that it is covered in snow too, but the heat dissipated by living beings was nowhere to be found, of course… it was, though, sort of interesting to see the many trees, covered in what seemed like fragments of icy shards, and mountains full of reflective, intense light, almost as if it was some archipelago forgotten by the seasons themselves. It was, thus, ironic to say the least, that the town below was named after fire – presumably not because it is the predominant element around here (although one knows not if some of the scattered mountains around could become volcanoes, even though with all the snow one would think they would have reasonably cooled off) – but, people always assumed, because of the fiery temper of some of the monarchs, especially historical ones. Then, it is to be wondered, would they still call it that if there was no such institution at all? Why are names even retained if they do not describe what they are supposed to? 

At any rate, Pax along with Clemens, the ever mild (or… not), were finally outside. They might be at greater risk than before – wilder things coming across them, say – but at least they were out and about to explore the wide externalities, or such. It was, as previously mentioned, a snowy northern edge of the world, the kind that would set hypothermia off if the two were slightly less organized and, say, dressed for the summer up here and now… but just outside of this bright landscape bounded the vast seas… and the tiny streams and rivers, but they were all connected, certainly. Beyond the mountains they could not quite go for now, as it would indeed prove difficult and perhaps even more naturally hazardous than going to some old castle, and so they did not even try going anywhere to the east, where they capped the horizon. They simply headed to the direction of Ignis, finally – its castle was visibly nearby, but seemingly hindered by some literal, ever-raging flames… for some reason. And so they resolved to just go to the town for now, as it was likely where they would find out how to get into the castle in the first place… except something, or someone… metallic… did indeed catch up with them… 

“Who… art… thee…?” The strange, clanging suit of… something, seemed to say. This eerily seemed to coincide with what Clemens mentioned before, but Pax put it down to pure coincidence (unless he has been going out for some reason and he happened to encounter this being of weirdness manifest…) 

“We are… no! Who are you is the better question! Who are you allied with?” Pax puzzlingly responded… now, responding to an anthropoid suit of metal was strange indeed, but so was the fact that this creature was just hanging out with a couple of other goblins, as if somehow they were the best of friends since time immemorial. 

“I am the monarch’s ambassador to… oh, whatever I’m just here to stop you from advancing!” The tinny outfit had a slightly croaky voice, but nothing too much really… and was the monarch just mentioned? If so, might they be connected? And in thinking this, could there be a connection between this suit and that strange person at the end of Nix? 

“We’ll see about that!” Pax declared, and after which the suit just lunged. It literally tried to attack Pax, even though we have not even yet established whether it is an empty suit or there is possibly a small person inside that is not quite as visible from the outside. This is quite strange, yes? But so did the so-called ambassador do, indeed it did, attack the two. 

After a bit of dancing it so seemed that the suit was bereft of heft after all, and in fact the goblins might have been a slight bit more threatening than the shorter creatures they appeared to be, but then one should never judge a book by its cover. Why the suit made such a fuss over a mere trifle, one knows not, but soon peace and mercy were on their way. Oh, no, that was not quite what they were called usually, no, but after the suit attacked one almost expects a shirt and a tie to trade blows, for who knows what occurs in this strange world? 

So, they went downwards and towards Ignis, the town that is not quite on fire but would make total etymological sense if it was (but neither does anyone wish it were, mind). This is a slight bit below the cold slopes, in an area that was actually more green than bright and garish (otherwise the castle’s flames would be extinguished before they could ever make any grand entrance, they sure would). It hugged the ocean too, for why not if hugs are free? 

At any rate… they went frolicking into Ignis, finally, and… it was not too impressive, but it was still adequate – quite different from the frigid Nix surely, a more temperate clime, with grass and trees that do not look like they have just seen a ghost… there were lamps, but I do not suppose there is much use for a lamp in the glare of sunlight… there was also some kind of wooden thing, whereupon was written… “the fiery character of numbness”… for some reason, yet again, although one assumes it might have to do with the place’s name; why numb though, one wonders… perhaps institutions make one so? 

There was one person visible from the entrance at around the middle of the village (it was not quite the largest inhabitation, why and whether it has always been like this, though, it is not certain; could have been recent events that pushed people away, but there could have always been some personal, obscure reasons too, and I suppose one might think it a surprise that even Nix was more popular than Ignis, but then it had more of a purpose, and more of a community, so perhaps that is the difference, but perhaps also we should not excessively speculate…) 

Before talking to that one person, though, the two travelling friends heard a rustling coming from some nearby plants, for some bizarre reason… 

“The green vibrancy, a life… 

The corrupt constancy, strife… 

Thanatos, in between, does not…” 

Why they seemed to whisper this they did not know; they barely knew what other people might be thinking, so why and how could they possibly ever know what bushes, of all things, were indeed saying, if saying that they were? I mean, perhaps they were just imagining it? Either way, it was being put out there in the world, so this makes sense in any case. Was Thanatos, though, which is a symbol of death, involved in with these bushes? That would certainly be a greater mystery than these two could ever figure out, certainly, but Thanatos does not… what? Thinking about this eternally would get Pax and his companion nowhere, nonetheless, and they might get to know the gist of it in time anyway, so they continued on to finally chat with the person in the middle of town, who seemed to be by all accounts a soldier, visually at least… 

“Welcome to our speck of a homely corner… except we can not, as of now, live as well as can be – for autocracy has risen up more fierce than before… not that it did not exist before.” He began, clearly forthright in what he wanted to say about the current situation. 

“Oh? What happened before then? The difference is? Also, how did it suddenly rise up? I do not mean to ask so much, but I happen to be curious as our home is also apparently threatened…” Pax replied, wanting to get an overview like Pons suggested he does, and he was curious too, not that he was not, but Pons also asked about this… 

“You do indeed ask quite a bit, but the curious are useful… well, you see, we co-existed before… never formally consented to the state of affairs, but the monarch never decided to be as brutally oppressive as now… indeed, beyond our town it seems it wants to take over the northern frontier too, which would include your home… which is why we need to stop it…” This seems to have been the summary offered by this citizen of Ignis, although of course Pax and his friend sort of knew this already; it was never quite clear on what history was like, but why it seemed to suddenly change… it was not sure. 

 

“We sure do, but what I don’t quite get is how one can co-exist with what one did not consent to… is it some form of a complex symbiosis? Like a parasite?” Pax inquired, as indeed inquisitive he seems to be increasingly becoming, but then again this was a fact-finding mission, so one assumes it makes sense to ask questions; the fundamentals of certain concepts are kind of like extras, but they are still worth asking about. 

“It makes sense to compare it to such a function of biology… except, of course, this is more sociological – at any rate, this goes beyond me – I think Prudens below might know more…” Whoever this person was is not certain, but Pax knew he had to talk to him almost positively before being able to continue on to the castle to which he was destined to end up in. There were flames as large as a hill blocking the way, so that was surely worth asking about. 

“Speak with the monarch’s former advisor if you want to know more… the wooden abode below.” All the houses were wooden, but at least he pointed to the one below, of which there was only one, so that made sense… 

There was, actually, also a wooden sign nearby, so Pax naturally became curious about it… 

“Whereupon, Janus said 

it is thus heinous 

for if west we go 

we shall be digressed.” 

Yes, yes… wait, what? Who is this Janus, and why would whatever be heinous? Pax expected some simple directions, but it appears even wooden signs in this world have the capability to confuse the everlasting wonderment out of him, he swears… 

He suddenly also spotted some person hiding behind some bushes for some reason… bushes that did not quite speak, or whatever, yet, as it happens… 

“I’m hiding here… from our oppressor…” He said, as if somehow that made total sense and the monarch (the presumable oppressor) would just leave him alone if he noticed him thereabouts… but anyway, Pax decided not to pursue this further, and instead continue on to investigate what might possibly, in the future, resolve the ailment this person had, after all… 

He also happened to notice a statue in the middle of town, all blue, as if a mermaid dancing in the air, and it happened to have inscribed… 

“This deceitful silence 

This lying ambivalence 

From what theoretical violence? 

From what hypothetical deterrence?” 

And he also observed that for some reason four lines were used now, as opposed to the more usual three, but figured this was some side note and of no import to the investigation, but still… what silence? Which ambivalence? So many questions did he have, but he also figured that this was not some sort of puzzle that needed to be resolved right now in order to advance, but more of a hint towards the general picture that one might observe as indeed one does happen to advance… possibly. 

There also happened to be a pier, since as mentioned previously this town ‘hugged’ the ocean… there was a boat, but it did not seem to be usable, as of now anyway… with another sign… 

“An ocean this way and an ocean that way.” 

Pax thought, who is likely mayor of this place, Captain Obvious? I mean, there were oceans, but this sign might as well say “go to your left for your left” etc. Why people need to have such signs he did not know, but perhaps the monarch wanted them made when boredom set in? Arbitrariness has such effects at times… and besides, even if that was true, it was still a far cry from the plain oppression citizens are expressing, and the apparent threat the institution now poses to other places outside its castle, so clearly it still needs to be looked into (but it is certainly not being investigated due to some redundant signs…) 

There was also some… 

“Wood… can we use it to build a boat, perhaps? Oh, what am I saying, I am no carpenter… I can borrow a boat, but not much else…” Pax was apparently defeatist, but he did not need a boat as of now… not unless, say, he wanted to escape as far as possible to get away from this manifest menace, but he could not possibly be so cowardly and abandon his own hometown now, could he? I mean, procrastination is still sort of thereabouts within the vein, but not exactly… at any rate, no, he had no use getting across any oceans, this town is big enough as it is despite its small size (a few curious artefacts, though) – he obviously did not need to be anywhere else, and he was curious, in any case, about the curious happenings at this castle… 

“A raft maybe? Wait, where are we even going? With no destination why are we even looking to go anywhere? Or maybe we could venture to a forest with bananas and a monkey in a tree and a parasol? Ah… never mind…” Even a pig would not be sure what that is a reference to, but it does sound indeed childishly interesting… 

There also happened to be some wooden flanks on top of some sort of cup… 

“Perhaps lighting it up would open a mystery cave of… wonders? Wait… there are no caves nearby… no, still, if we light it up… it could be more satisfying…?” Pax clearly wants to simply procrastinate further, exactly like he did in Nix, but could I ever convince him otherwise? One is not so certain… animated, contained flames are still interesting, though… 

A person nearby moreover seems to exist too… only the third one so far in this town… a bit on the older side, when he was approached he said… 

“Once this used to be a bustling little town… before the town’s ruler decided that whatever one desired should take priority over the betterment of the collective, and so the economic flow stopped, for who cares about somewhere under the yolk of an oppressive frenzy? It’s one of those situations where both that and the social factors would improve if only this problem was resolved…” That must be another sort of explanation one supposed, somewhat surmised before… one still wonders what happened now that made this somewhat urgent, though? 

Suddenly, Clemens piped up for some reason… but that was always a better alternative than just Pax always being vocal, of course… 

“Hm, I wonder why the supposed leader of a place would go so far to destroy its prospects? Could there be an external influence, perhaps? What one could not foresee?” So he was also wondering about this… sometimes there seems to be a confluence of thoughts… although why one with arbitrary decision-making does that, one is not sure anything external is needed… 

“I would not know about it, for despite living here most of my life, I did not ever have the opportunity to see how the castle up above functions. Talk with Prudens for more on that.” So, this older fellow seems to be slightly less informed than the prior soldier, although what he said still creates a fuller picture… 

“If only all could simply live and let live, we could then conduct what is needed in peace, but as it is chaos seems to be our only future. How I envy the rest of the world…” Sure, then again chaos is simply the natural state of the universe, the physical concept of entropy, so why would he expect otherwise? Really, expectations these days… 

Also, this being a pier with a tiny bit of sand (did I mention that?) – apparently meant that palm trees sprouted out of nowhere… who knew? And like most other living or animated beings, they seemed to trill a few words out into the sea’s wilderness… 

“Far and yonder beyond land… 

…to dream and ponder… 

…but what life may stand?” 

To Pax this seemed to be a bit more idealistic than most, although as usual it had a somewhat dark undertone for some reason. Why most of these were like that one was not sure, but as it did not seem to be any pressing issue he did not think about this too much, it merely sat at the back of the mind like someone sitting in some shade to somewhat appreciate, but not too much, the sun (but then he would not know much about this, coming from a place that did not exactly package that sort of atmosphere on a regular basis, and even Ignis, despite its name, had barely a glimpse, although more so). 

This was Ignis, the nominal and supposed town symbolic for the fiery wrath of a historic institution, but it certainly did not appear to live up to its name – not unless one looked outside, at the castle’s entrance, at any rate. If one follows this pattern it is almost to be expect that somewhere there is a desert with the name of ‘Glacies’, perhaps. Well, this was not quite a frozen town, either, but why names at times point to the opposite direction one knows not; there was, in any case, still an inn, a shop, and crucially, the library to explore, and the two intended to do just that… 

Library 

There was a library in the middle of this village down below, the wooden house the people referred to before; not quite noticeable it was from the outside, but within it was unmistakably a place for books, and… statues, it so seemed, for some reason. There was this gigantic one of a dragon that seemed almost plucked out of the sky to leave near a bunch of bookshelves, along with two smaller ones, one of some kind of knight, ensconced in this silver they build these objects with, that seemed to have inscribed… 

“The fundament of oppression is what? 

The tip of this sword’s impression? 

Or the mind of a horde?” 

 

Pax thought this might have been ever so slightly more straightforward than the ones before, but why would anyone bother with this when there are books that can even more readily impart information? Or so he wondered… but then again, perhaps, it is another facet with which impressions, as indeed it talked about (but faintly different definition now), can be made… 

The other, that of a magician of some sort, seemed, as if in dialogue, to say… 

“From thine pointed sword 

to mine magical cord 

is there no disjointed continuum?” 

This, he thought, must have been more obscure than most, but then so is this strange concoction called ‘magic’, no? The very word ‘occult’, meaning secret, implies as such, one supposes… still, it seemed to be making a comparison between the tools of both characters, and how different, or not, their implementations might be… perhaps? 

Either way, he decided not to spend too much time on it, as it did not matter that much, ultimately… he always indeed seemed to explore all for the sake of curiosity, but sometimes going too far with this reduces still the possibility of wonder… 

Finally, the aforementioned dragon, almost in the middle of the room, as if channelling another atmosphere and dimension, equivocated… 

“Choices once made, in time… 

could chime, in blood and monologues… 

would, though, ideologues climb?” 

These might or might not make sense in the future, Pax thought, but at any rate the books did make… slightly… more sense… 

First, though, he went upwards, ignoring the stack of weapons oddly hanging in a library nearby, in order to talk to the sole person there… 

“Who might you be…?” He said, looking above the spectacles waiting, as if with grudge, on top of his nose, with a slightly wrinkly face… not that it had anything to do with any of this, but trivia could be sometimes almost as interesting as other types of information… 

“I am Pax from the northern frontier, and I came here to investigate what exactly is happening in regards to the apparent threat… I assume you are the one known as Prudens?” 

“Why, yes, I am… I was once this monarch’s advisor… before madness set in, although it always seemed to be almost seeping in… now it is thoroughly infused, though…” Wait, how? Infused like a lemon juice might do with water? Or perhaps, more relevantly, dopamine in the amygdala? I suppose some monarch’s advisor might not think of it in these terms, but what else is madness? 

“Infused…? How, ever? And how is it that there always seemed to be something?” Pax asked, as if he was so eager to know the answer, which considering the wording and grammar one might suppose it was relevant to clarify, for something ‘seeps’ interestingly.. 

“You see, try to understand this from a personal and subjective perspective… a psychological first-person view, if you can… ego can grow or shrink based on differing experiences…” So, is it like a balloon? Metaphors are not so metaphorical after all, then? And one wonders, are we also to deal with the id and superego, perchance? Who knows… 

“Uh huh…” Pax ascertained, as if totally listening in onto a lecture but he was really about to fall asleep, for what does ‘peace’ do realistically at every hurdle? 

“Advisors try to steer the course in case of an irrational perspective, but can only do so much – so it was in my case. I even stayed as much as I could, but in the end it became dangerous.” So, are we talking volcano about to explode danger, or maybe a more infectious type? Well, one surmises, madness might be a slight bit more internal and subjective, but if one were to compare then infection would be more relevant, as interpersonal interactions inevitably affect each other, but then it is more of a sociological influence, rather than raw biology… 

“How…?” Pax asked, eager (or not) to know the mysteries that lay behind the fiery castle. 

“The ego grew out of proportion… but not out of character… and more power was desired. In this monarch’s mind that was equivalent to destruction, though… deceit too.” So… the status quo? One really does not know how this is quite so different from… well, the world is down to one now, but before they were almost collectible… 

“The ego thought that as long as one can do all that, that one held the capability… it is actually the reason why monarchs were usually overthrown… this inevitability.” Well, yes, it is how exponents work, and minds, which house the ego, work heuristically too… 

“Hm, so, now the last remaining monarch wants to take over the whole world? How does it not appear to them an impossible task? There must be quite some delusion inculcated…” Pax figured out… which was not exactly the wrong kind of figuring out, but the kind that missed some vital information as we shall see… 

“There is that, but there is also… something else. Something more… unnerving. It seems to be of an otherworldly nature, as if an ethereal essence pervades the castle…” There always is in castles, though, no? I mean, this is not quite something unusual… and with the ego and all one might say it is merely quotidian… but, what can one say, Prudens here has been inside this structure, beyond the towering infernos, not I, nor Pax so far, so one can never exactly presume, you see… 

“In other words, I can only assume there are external forces aiding this potency… which is why I had to seal off the castle after the situation became oppressively bleak…” But what external force might this be? Perhaps alien? Or some underground creature that has not seen the light of day for millennia? One can only speculate… 

“Hm, I did notice the raging fires… hard to miss on our way here. Two questions, how was the situation bleak, and…. how can we put out the fires?” Suddenly Clemens interjected, as if he could not possibly hold back from saying nothing anymore, but why not give us his opinion? A variety of perspectives are always refreshing, after all… raging fires or not. 

“I can dissolve them if you wish, but… be careful. I put them there in the first place due to a spill of the monarch’s insanity… his ego leaking, metaphorically…” Are you sure it was not leaking literally? I suppose, it can, possibly, but what would it look like? And does it just ooze, or merely drop all at once? (Why am I even thinking all this nonsense…?) 

“A certain miasma was already filtering out to this town… the one the monarch was supposed to protect by treaty, once… well, things never pan out according to papers.” Yes, what miasma? Like a dark, ominous cloud? Ah, who knows, it might be as relevant as those obscure rhymes… 

“I feared all sorts of creatures might have thus overwhelmed this place… they appear to be resident at the castle now, so be warned… they might be violent, but mostly… mad, too.” If they are merely mad creatures, then… they are merely in reality? I mean, who is not mad these days? 

“Mad creatures? That should be a spectacle… I do, though, suppose that going there is my only course of action, lest the flames are overcome anyway and both our habitats…” Pax also opined, but so he would in any case… and sure enough, this waiting on a problem is quite the classic dilemma… a problem of strategy too if one so would think, although strategy might be a bit much if the only reason someone ‘waits’ in some incident is due to procrastination… 

“Indeed. Also, if the last remaining monarchy is overcome instead… surely that would lead to a better future? Perhaps? One could only possibly hope for…” Prudens prudently proclaimed, but then again was it prudent of him to be an advisor in the first place? Or does mitigation indeed become so important that it overcomes the inhibition? Or… is it merely an excuse? 

“I shall break down the fiery barriers for you but, also, feel free to peruse the many books here for a more thorough background into this world’s affairs…” Well, how studious of him… and how exactly can a mere advisor break down some huge flames, at any rate? Is he also a magician without telling anyone, maybe? If so, could he not have used his capabilities to stop the maddening monarch…? Or perhaps this mystical practice holds no candle to psychology… 

So, after this slightly bit prolonged conversation (according to Pax, Clemens though seemed curiously interested…) – they, of course, went to the nearby shelves to indeed see what else they could learn, for why would they go to a library without reading its contents? A library, like a jar of coffee, spilling all over the table… or into glasses, where they can be more readily tackled… 

“It was such a world of wonder, once… when life sprung into being, but why? It was the question many had asked thereafter… why, especially with extremes as readily accessible as the median? Why would life even be needed?” So, one assumes they are attempting a chronology of all world history or such? Quite an aspirational beginning, at any rate… how are extremes accessible, though? If they are extremes then surely, by definition, they are not as accessible? Or perhaps this is sort of has an artistic licence type over it like many prior inscriptions seemed to have… 

“It was, thus, that existence happened… not that before life matter did not exist, but how would matter perceive itself were it not for consciousness? Life, therefore, was a matter of mere focus, but then what would distraction be?” Uh huh, just the topic for a procrastinator… but maybe not all of cosmology or such… generally, though, this seemed too long-winded if we are to find out specifically what might have happened at the castle, although this is a library, can never exactly expect concise now, can we? That is more for dictionaries… 

“After life hung about, what was to make of it? Could it be a serious affair, or merely a punchline to the absurdity of existence? This is what those alive thought, or might have thought in the annals long forgotten… perhaps.” Oh, so now we are comparing all of biology to comedy, are we? I am not sure I have heard many biological jokes, but alright… one could entertain the absurdity of it all, presumably, but then would that also not be the thoughts of those long forgotten…? 

“Why should anyone care about life if there was a before? Or could it perhaps be that, once born, existence becomes merely solipsistic, whereas before it is… diffused? One would ask, does any of this make sense, and should it?” Is this not more philosophical than psychological, which one thought this ‘external force’ was more about? Not to mention sociology, of course… but then again, philosophy is always there in the background, I suppose… solipsism is consistently a fun topic to discuss though, is it not? I mean, if it is such a universe, then who am I supposed to discuss it with…? Why, also, should no one care about before life, if it is effectively how life came about? How could it be diffused, though? All of life being spread out like butter makes it a somewhat funny, if strange picture… 

“Conflict was destined to clash with the inevitability of fate forevermore, both in the past and present. One may try to prevent it in the future, but could it ever succeed? For if resources are limited what can two do?” Pax at this point had some sort of minor mental breakdown… he did not know the meaning of many things, but more crucially, he thought, what ever might that ‘two’ refer to…? Conflict and fate, perhaps? But would that not be anthropomorphizing them? Or… maybe the ‘two’ refers to the past and present? But then how can ‘they’ ‘do’ anything? For now, with Pax at least, he decided to leave the matter at bay. This was entirely theoretical, at any rate, and not at all anything required in order to go through this castle finally and understand exactly what is happening with this maddened monarch… 

“Indeed, then, when resources become bountiful it is but theoretical that clashes will cease, for even in ideology what would there be to fight over? But the world is not so light, it so seemed, and humans created artificial limits.” How is my subconsciousness even discussing theory when future books do the same…? Never mind… well, this does make more sense at least, when it comes to logistical ecology… or such (one is by no means knowledgeable at this point). What limits, though? Is it, perhaps, like with digital games and their programmed capabilities? But then, this world is not digital… is it? Pax decided to move on to another book, anyway… 

“It is, one can say, how the very essence of physics works. Through supply and demand, but in the case for geology, it is the need for tension that drove continents apart, and so it is with societies and cultures, ever driven away…” Well, that is quite a pessimistic outlook, is it not? Or… perhaps it is backed up by centuries of strife, one admits, but is the future inevitably like that? Could this ‘essence’ truly be something so much at the core of all interactions? Almost biology? 

“They did try to quell anger through common governance, but does this also quell lust, greed? For that another solution was needed, one rooted in psychology, one that might touch on the very archetypes of life… if such were in place.” What is this hinting at, exactly? Perhaps Jung? But then, how does this relate to society at large or any of its structures and strictures? 

“It is from this archetypal well of chaos that a diamond of insight was found; here societies were built upon from the ground up, and so, just as with any fundament, the root can be pulled up, then either manipulated or destroyed…” So, kind of like reverse engineering it? But then, how will anything still work after? Well, gene editing seems to, so one assumes… this might too, even though it is, as of yet, a bit specious and hypothetical? 

“This, after many conflicts throughout all of time, is when this capability was found. This abyss from which the very primordial essence of life could be found. Creatures that defied expectations, creatures that fulfilled no patterns…” Chaos, then? But no, that is not a creature per se; perhaps there are ‘packets’ of chaos? Pax thought this fantastical, at any rate… 

“This existence was comparable to the hadal zone, in the depths of the dark oceans. The archetypes thus rose up from an undying, unconscious manifestation, and through this quintessence of life the mechanism for nigh perfection seen.” This seemed to have that inscriptional licence yet again, but for the sake of understanding one admits that metaphors are useful… still then, are not creatures of the deep like any other life? Why would they specifically be compared with these archetypes? Or is it perhaps merely relative, and a holistic comparison of the entire seabed along with said creatures? Wherefore perfection, however? 

“Would anyone notice if the roots of the psyche were altered, though? If a minute neuron was exchanged with another while the populace slept? Would it also not be for the better good if the end result was more peaceful societies?” Ah, but this now verges on morals and ethics surely, Clemens (this time) thought, and somewhat an inception of ideas? But still, were they not ‘creatures’ before? Or is this simply a way to explain their method of acting? Strange books… 

“This is what some thought, that an improvement would be made; just like the Industrial Revolution improved efficiency, but that included wars. What the archetypes unleashed was slightly more subtle; it was a change barely noticeable, subjectively.” Shall we say, then, that this was an… archetypal revolution? One would wonder, still, how this relates to the situation at the castle, though? Has an archetypical abyss plunged all to their (psychological, perhaps) doom? What, also, is the equivalent of the ‘wars’ here? And is it personal, or sociological? So many questions the two did not know the answers to, but then, their journey had just begun, so they will, mayhap, give it time… 

“Like prions in brains, the archetypes seemed to envelop the whole essence of what life is, but crucially it changed relations. Perception was altered, as if some parasite was nested, and so did society.” So this must be closing in on what occurred, why the change seemed palpable, and yet conceivably similar in nature to what was already the essence… prions, though, are lethal… are these archetypes similarly? One also questions how perception changed, and if it was possibly the reason for the altered relations? 

“Societies, thus, emerged out of this renewed symbolism of the limits of what could be. But it was not all plain sailing, no, for the archetypes developed a shadow of their own, and like the very emergence of energy in cells, they almost merged with societies to form what limits the imagination. The only question remained then, were these the same creatures as before, with their innate, raw reactions, or were they truly, possibly altered?” And thus did the books end with, not quite any actual conclusions, but with questions, for where would anyone be without questions? If science never did ask where something came from? This is what Pax is on a journey to find out, the reasons for why, the answers for how, if at all possible. 

“Did you happen to learn any more about our situation? I shall remain in hope that ego does not transform this world into a desert of mere desire…” Prudens then said, as a last farewell to the two, before venturing out beyond the vanished towering conflagrations. The two might have or not… 

Castle 

After so many conversations and so much reading the two did, though, feel tired, and so straight after exiting the library they went not to some potentially dangerous castle as one assumes someone who would like to quickly come to the bottom of all this would do, no… they went to an inn, for why would they not relax a slight bit just before they were going to go out once again? 

It was a modest sort of inn, of course, for Ignis was such a village too… nothing grand, a simple place by the coast; it had some flowers, but it also had a painting, on which was inscribed… 

“The landscape, anew 

…the minds, askew 

…for what binds sanity?” 

Good question, Pax thought, except he could not quite figure out how the landscape, or the painting more generally, had to do with sanity, unless of course one loses it trying to figure this very thing out… and whose minds were askew? Perhaps the ones using archetypes, he thought, now more knowledgeable than before… still, a painting could not possibly know of that, surely? 

There were two pieces of papers near these painting… for some reason… and one of them said… 

“Be patient today, for tomorrow might test you” while the other one… 

“Rest in the present, for the future might be tiring”… and sure enough, Pax had no idea inscriptions will suddenly become some self-help one-liners? He hoped not, at any rate, for there might not be anything more insufferable, surely, he thought… well, some things. Then again, one must admit that these were not too inappropriate in an inn… 

There was the innkeeper there in the corner of one room, an ancient looking fellow… 

 

“Hello, there. I am the innkeeper, but I presume that is obvious. What is not at first is the arbitrariness of what seemingly just sprouts up from behind actions… this sudden hostility by our formal ruler, for example…” This guy does not hold back, Pax thought… most innkeepers say, what, “would you like to stay?” 

“Why, do you reckon, spontaneously someone just decided to do something? From a potential for repercussions, possibly… lack thereof would enable certain actions, but even if there were, sometimes actions are still committed…” And sure enough he keeps on keeping on… some intense night this will be, Clemens concurred, as if they just could not stop from being connected to this incident, as if this whole thing with the archetypes was the be all and end all of their entire existences (from now on at least); like really, can they not catch a break and sleep a little? Or so they wondered… 

“Ah, why have I myself acted to ramble on needlessly… might you need a bed to rest?” Well, he finally grew some self-awareness, it appears… and so they rested, at any rate… 

As they woke up they noticed a… 

“A curious, red hat… I do not suppose it belongs to the old man, but then who wears pointed red hats?” Who indeed? Perhaps a certain type of magus? 

There were also some plants at the back, which this time seemed to also animate the words… 

“Sleep when you can in this world… 

…for until you are unfurled, to keep the calm is… 

…not quite in the palm of your hands…” 

Pax assumed this was but apt for an inn, yet again, but what exactly is unfurled…? He did find it strange, to say the least at any rate, how plants would commentate on sleep, I mean do they even sleep themselves, or perhaps like dolphins do it only partially? Anyway… 

There was also a… 

“Mirror of shades, why must one not see the outline of thus” which completely baffled the two, one must say, until, that is, they realized in the other room that there was another mirror saying 

“Thus, see the outline why must one not of the mirror of shades” – not that this clarified things any further, but Pax noticed that this seemed to… mirror, in fact, the words in the other room… well, not quite perfectly, but then absolute symmetry is not usually reality either, is it? 

Also noticed was another hat… 

“A blue hat? Is that the Merlin magic kind or maybe the blue type?” Or maybe one and the same? Why would an inn have so many fashion items, anyway? 

The two decided to leave this inn finally, at any rate, but not before they noticed lights flickering in the day’s hum… or wasted electricity when there is such brightness outside… 

There was also a weapons shop in town, but they might not have had so much money to spend on anything right now, maybe after spending some time exploring the castle… 

Thus, they went upwards, now free of the red pillars of doom… 

Beyond the moat, beyond the only vestige of what separated the castle now threatening this nearby region of the world, lay this structure. Grand in scope, it was indeed as red as the very fiery inspiration of its etymology, with varying shades of the hue. 

Pax and Clemens were greeted by the usual statues with swords, but then noticed that their progress was apparently impeded by an entrance that was not quite straightforward; a small cliff sort of structure, the rope they had they discovered could be useful in this situation, even if it was not exactly a mountain. But before that… 

“…There seems to be an odd aura here, a sense of hostility. Crow-bats also appear to have ensconced themselves here. Why would a monarch have them?” 

Why, indeed? Perhaps we were about to deal with Count Dracula in person? One supposes a count is sort of like a monarch, but not exactly, and blood was never previously mentioned by anyone in relation to anything… was it? (There was that one statue that made no sense…) 

Or perhaps, more to the point, the aforementioned archetypes were vampires, after all? But how could they be if ‘types’ generally is a plurality? As in, not a single category of creature… kind of like referencing ‘viruses’ or ‘bacteria’, and not any single species… 

“Never you mind”, is probably what Pax thought, being headstrong and all… and promptly climbed the rope to go beyond the ledge that seemed like some poor attempt at keeping anyone but the most lazy out… even a quite tall person could go over it, likely. 

The first thing that seemed to greet them as they climbed over was a flickering candelabra, one that almost had this beastly vibe to it, considering the castle they were in, but the two did not let that occupy their thoughts too much before it seemed to mutter in their ears… 

“While the candles burn at both ends 

…and psychology handles the incomprehensible 

…an impossible duality becomes indispensable.” 

Now, while they did not exactly know what that referred to they could reasonably speculate, but what specifically might the duality define? Perhaps the state one is in before they have anything to do with archetypes, and then after? By ‘psychology’ one can conjecture it mostly relates to perception, as mentioned previously in the books. It does seem like when something is incomprehensible the mind wrestles with it as best as it can… what, though, could the metaphorical candle be? Explicitly the monarch, or any person that interacts with archetypes? Were there even others that did this? The answer to that the two did not know, but might soon… 

The carpets leading up the stairway were as red as blood, but the impression that there was something off could not exactly be shaken off due to differently hued squares that separated each section of the castle it seems. They were not quite bright, garish shades, but they still seemed to transmit a certain kind of comedy that made as much sense as any average inscription seems to have done, if one were to try to comprehend them rationally one supposes. 

In the corridors that isolated one room from another, some minor sort of lights hung about, that seemed to also utter these strangely reassuring terms… 

“This candle will let you know that if… 

…you handle it with care and precision… 

…there will be no collision between elements…” 

Pax and Clemens then wondered if this merely referred to simple, natural physics… but then, why would some light hanging off the wall of a castle with a moat of water previously separated by towering infernos want to commentate about the physical separation of elements? It is a bit hard to come to terms with all this strangeness, the two did indeed think, for how could such a world even exist, one where such irrationality was seeped in? Then again, the above seemed to be one of the more reasonable passages so far… 

This ground floor seemed to be one large square (filled in with lots of smaller ones); two rooms occupied the upper front, one seemed to have some food left there for some reason, and a table too if one were to desire to partake. The other room was a more run of the mill weapons storage, which one supposes is not quite too foreign for a castle to have. Each corner of this giant square floor had this insignia… a dragon… for some reason one could not yet quite fathom… was the monarch, perhaps, a dragon in secret? An occult serpent from beneath the seas? A large wyvern merely disguised as a human and suddenly unfurling its wings? Pax liked to fantasize… 

Suddenly, he seemed to also notice this little plant sitting at this castle’s foyer.. he was not quite sure why he missed it so far, it might have had something to do with its size, but maybe the enchanting glow from all the candles led the two away like some drunken moths… 

“For the green idyll it is a mere fantasy 

…for it would need to wean off the association 

…for the abomination reigns in whichever hue or time.” 

The plants… so said… but no, the two plainly had no idea what exactly it referred to… although one might surmise it had something to do with what might be perceived as idyllic not actually having such a history, with their current state reflecting that which is not quite the superficial calmness that it is on the outside… 

The two upper areas had extremities that seemed to have been blocked by some sort of… purple… miasma, possibly? They were like as if a sword of energy just cut through, as if the castle had hands that just shot through its walls to decimate anything in its path. It was as though a stream ran through these entrances, but instead of life, which most streams seem to be filled with, this was jammed with death and all other sorts of negativity. 

What could be done about them, the two wondered… well, they could, for a start, check out the rooms individually… which they could do as soon as the aforementioned crow-bats stopped annoying them… which they could do any second now… 

The atmosphere was foreboding, with Pax not quite feeling like he could still be as jovial as he usually is while interacting with others or environments generally, but there did not seem to be anything worse than crow-bats… so how bad could it be? 

Enter the giant beetle thing… resident in the room on the left section of the castle’s lower floor, this was some kind of creature, a blue or possibly purple in hue… but it was no casual, typical beetle (the tiny kind), for this was taller, or about as tall as, Pax and Clemens (the latter was a slight bit shorter than the former, and this is why his self-esteem was a bit drained throughout the years he had known Pax, but never mind that now, the beetle…) – this was a bipedal organism too, although how quite it achieved this no one is sure. Perhaps, if ever we may have invented a time machine… we could possibly send Darwin to study it, but until then… oh, and did I mention it was in the middle of this red carpeted room with giant bear plushies nearby? I never claimed this was some rational scenario, of course, there might have been one reasonable recent inscription, but even the fact plants say anything is bizarre, surely, and with a blue bipedal beetle and a red room with big bears… let us just say we do not normally perceive this as we casually do a usual situation, with a more uncanny valley type of feeling enveloping our minds… and of course, one wondered if this was always the status quo at the castle. 

“It is, so, written, that fortitude is naught but might held in a pocket… but is it? Or are logically sound axioms merely uselessly… misled?” The beetle thus said, now besides the fact it can even talk in the first place… but then again, it is a huge walking insect, so talking is not exactly the most innovative thing when its very size implies the world inside the castle might have gone back in time to such an extent that even insects are the size of dinosaurs… besides that… what in the world did it say? Pax thought the random sentences before sounded strange, but this was beyond opaque surely, he thought, with Clemens agreeing… but apart from that, fortitude held in a pocket is might? Is that perhaps like saying patience is a virtue? But why would some gigantic bug say that? Have we gone through the looking glass? (Well, the two did technically look into a couple of mirrors before coming here…) 

One also assumes that if this creature is not just saying any random thing for the sake of it, that “useless misled” is what we might end up being here, because over-analysing axioms, especially as said by some large, anthropoid critter, might be a bit useless… so let us continue… 

“I am… so… terribly… sorry… what? Also, somewhat more relevantly… how could a creature such as yourself be able to converse as such? Am I even holding this conversation?” Pax did indeed say, but then again why he did not simply run away in fear of being eaten is a mystery… 

“Bring me a wholeness and one shall know… for it is merely oppression that brings courage afore… or is thee recklessness? Why one ascribes intelligence to form is unknown…” What this means is, again, a mystery; but, that said, it is also unknown as to how such an evolved insect can say anything, so one shall be content with the fact that it is even being said, surely… however still, why not be misled, if so? I mean, this sentient being does seem to be merely comparing recklessness with courage, that much is for sure… then the latter half might possibly be a reference to the theory of mind? From an insect, though? Quite interesting, if so, quite… 

“Wholeness…? You want something…? Is it around these parts? I can’t quite make heads or tails of this… which is funny, considering you got both…?” Pax replied to the non-sequitur, puns asunder… how he managed to figure out that ‘wholeness’ is a ‘thing’ one does not know, though, for even I assumed it was some abstract notion… authored by a beetle. 

“…” This was the simple non-response it gave thereafter every time one tried to speak with this otherworldly life once more, though. How it vocalized an ellipsis one is not sure. 

“Nope, cryptic beetle here does not seem to want to talk… but maybe if we find something they could? Just possibly…” Pax confirmed with positive nonchalance. 

By the way, the bears had some one-liners too… with the right next to the bug saying… 

“Thou must not heed the one to the left!” 

All well and good, except the one to the right of it, but left according to the viewer, said… 

“Thou must not heed the one to the right!” 

A bit confusing it must have been, especially after talking to a giant incoherent beetle, but the bear to the other side of it appropriately added in… 

“Which direction is relative to perception, though…?” 

Let us, thus, conclude that this is but a waste of time, for if not we might end up thinking like the last one, at the very end of the room, too… 

“Am I dead or alive…?” And truly one might think one is dead, talking to insects and toy bears, what possibly might be next, a cognizant curtain? With these salient tinctures, perhaps… 

There was also a lamp, but one would think this castle is sufficiently alight… 

 

“For within light, darkness 

…externally bright, but hollow 

…for who would wallow in such misery?” 

Makes sense, I suppose? A lot of lights have a lot to say around here, it seems, Pax thought… a book was additionally available at the end of one of the tables (the rest were not reachable since the beetle, along with his cadre of teddies, blocked the way in…) 

“It is but the confluence of both forces, of that which gives and that which takes, that enable all this. Why, one must ask, has every society ever needed a chair to sit when all else stands? Why, when in reality it contributed nothing to the overall result? Why, people need symbols, and like magic they are but distracted. This is how such small numbers have held out against much bigger majorities, through illusion. Why, even though Ares is aggressive, the populace prefer him over Apollo, for independence is as scary as the reality of unbounded chaos. This is why the vein of history is littered with contradictions, for where would we be without fear? Where would monarchs be without the insect of doubt?” 

That was… intriguing, one must say. Who it was written by, though, it is not clear… presumably not a monarch? Unless it is one of those ‘show and tell’, although instead of an object there is society, and telling merely involves the psychological implications of such possibilities. It is, though, all theoretical, clearly… but the fact it is inside this castle must mean we are not possibly dealing with a completely insane person… or perhaps this was before the archetypes…? 

Also, it is not entirely clear why Apollo is the contrast here, as he was not quite the absolute opposite of Ares (representative of war), as it seems Eirene would fit that definition (which, incidentally, would be the counterpart to Pax in Roman mythology, whose namesake now tries to find peace to this northern, far-flung region…) – one supposes, though, that Apollo is also about culture, and so away from raw brute force. 

At any rate, the two decide to go upwards again, where they might possibly have some hope of finding whatever it is the strange beetle said was wanted (which was somehow an item disguising itself as a concept…?) 

Back at the room where weapons were stored… and as it happened Pax did wonder if the monarch would notice if one of those were taken… alongside a quite solid-looking helmet, and golden armour, which made him question if gilded makes it any more durable… and also some kind of blue clothing with yellow extremities, which almost looked like the suit of a certain red-eyed fellow… 

There were also some empty bottles… nothing to fill them up with, though… some brown sacks like before too, and moreover a helmet which looked like it had wings… so Pax naturally wondered if it could fly… 

In the corner, however, lay a purple globe sort of thing, which almost looked like it was emanating raw evil, if that was at all possible… 

“The glow, glows…” It so succinctly murmured… it, apparently, was an object called the Space Within, which from any other angle seemed to be exactly an item disguised as some sort of concept… and so, Pax wondered… 

“Could this be what that… strangeness… wants…?” 

It was, of course, a legitimate inquiry, and so the two headed back down below… but “…” was still all the creature could manage, before… nowhere it was to be found… as if it disappeared from the face of the world… so Pax went back up to check if the energy ‘sword’ (or miasma, one supposes, based on perception) was still there… it was not. 

Abyss 

One of the top corners was suddenly broken free of its pulsating cage, the same side where the room sat in the grand scheme of things at this fortress, one side of the square. No one knew how suddenly, just because some large insect got some glowing globe, the energy beam disappeared, but some might think it might have been connected to its very will to keep on standing guard for no apparent reason, with its only role to dish out random non-sequiturs to whoever, not too dissimilar to a sphynx, one supposes, except the poor insect never got to lie down all feline just because somehow it grew and evolved a way to stand up on its hind legs, as opposed to crawling on all four. To this day no one is sure, either, why there are sometimes such consequences for random branches of evolution, but someone and their archetypes might know… or perhaps they are more like epigenetics, where changes do not take centuries? 

Indeed, though, before going through this new portal to chambers unknown, Pax and his companion thought it better to pore over the items at the back of the room which the insect previously blocked. There is one advantage to sudden disappearance, unless for some reason the atoms connecting all things lost their connectivity and anyone could go anywhere… 

At any rate, the nearest pamphlet to the entrance, a slightly ageing piece of cloth that lay there, left by who knows exactly who, seem to have had written on it… 

“The monarch hath, since time immemorial, co-existed with the people, but where would one be without them? Always consulting them, this is how the people came to respect, for that is never just demanded and given for no reason… but, then, what else could there be that could one want? What one could not get from fear, one gets from understanding, but what if that runs out? What if changing the opinion of the populace was impossible? What if…” The writing stopped abruptly, but so did Pax pause in order to ponder upon this in such an eerie chamber as this… do they really think about all that? What if, instead, they never care at all? Why, many have always seemed to think that if, through fear, the same, or even better result than through respect, then why go with the latter at all? But, Clemens suddenly chimed in, we do not know who the author of this is, and as such we can not exactly verify the perspective that was held and why. Just as Machiavelli began to write The Prince after being expelled, so it is with anything else that context is useful. Pax seemed to concur, but really just wanted to read more… 

“Why, it is never impossible”, replies the voice “for often it does not even need changing.” It continued, in a haughty tone, “do archetypes even need to be summoned when the state of affairs barely changes?” This was clearly, then, when they begin thinking about these beings from the abyss, these strange concoctions… but when did they take over, if they did? What exactly, then, were they thinking… is it merely to change the opinion of the populace? But how ever would that be possible with these so-called archetypes? Are they not extensions of strength, or such? Or are we getting the wrong end of the stick here? Whose voice, also? 

They then went to a book opposite to where they currently were, on the other table near the aforementioned lamp, and adjacent to the… bear plushie, not that that had anything to do with these writings the two assumed, being merely some odd inclination that the insect had and happened to forget to disappear with for some reason… 

“Why is it that the aspect and concept of mutuality is in existence? That is to say, the way one relies on the other, and vice versa, although this seems to break down when relations come into being. The question then becomes, what use is there to relations? What use is there to reliance when parasitism seems to be functional? Why, the cuckoos have flourished, and they do not even declare themselves a point in any relational continuum.” Why, Pax thought, there might be a naturalist in the castle after all… or an anthropologist covertly studying the strange machinations of someone who wants to cling on to superficial regard to such a degree they would use some bizarre physics which no one yet knew the workings of? 

There was also a quill as it happens, presumably left over from all these writings, although who the author was, again, remained a mystery, quite, and it seemed to articulate… 

“The tool which spills 

…and fills the cruel absurdities…” 

Pax assumed this was some sort of attempt at an ironic meta-analysis, although it would be quite a surprise if the monarch wrote it, and if it was it would have been some evidence of self-reflection; so then, the question remained, was better judgement ignored to undertake the possibility of going even further beyond? Or, even more likely, it was someone else… someone who, perhaps, knows how all this works and yet chooses to remain here to try to assuage the dire scenario of unbounded madness. It might have been the former advisor even, Clemens thought, although why it remained here after he left was not quite clear… unless the monarch just does not visit the ground floor, one supposes, and the others who do possibly agree with it? 

One other book occupied this table, along with the quill and another pamphlet in the middle… it was, clearly, not exactly a library, as extensive as the one Pax and Clemens went through before, but this still had a few items that were seemingly left there by some theoreticians, people possibly employed by the castle to research some things, but also possibly others in their spare time indulging in their hobby… regardless, still, no one knew who or where the authors were, but it seemed somewhat irrelevant now, considering their writings were still here anyway, still somewhat useful in aiding understanding of the situation if indeed that is what was desired… 

“Why, if I use this I will be granted capabilities from beyond this world! This archetype, this emblem of universality, contains nought but the vein of everlasting possibilities!” 

“But our monarchy has lasted for so long, more than any others! Why would you desire such outlandish occult? Is it not an unnecessary risk?” 

“No, my loyal retainer, for loyalty is indeed what is usually reflected back, and so if I give this my heart it will but reflect it back!” 

“If you think so…” 

This, then, seemed to be the proof that these archetypes were being messed with, however that happened… but the logic of that. Someone was clearly trying to dissuade the monarch from taking any risks, but they went ahead anyway, based on some spurious nonsense about loyalty (as if people do not themselves deviate from that continually) – risk then it was indeed, but then again what goes through the mind of someone who is the last of their type? This is not exactly an extinction scenario, but then again, from that living being’s point of view, their perception (that is, if they were indeed aware of the concept of species extinction), death to them is the same, whether others of the same kind keep living or not. We are also not even talking about that in this specific situation, either… although, I suppose, being dethroned does carry the risk of physical reprisals if there was enmity, it still does not automatically equate to that. 

At any rate, one supposes, it is still a risk that might not be entirely necessary, not unless the whole institution was crumbling at their very feet, in any case… one assumes it was not, and so it was a risk more of the reckless sort. One can also imagine that this might have been due to success in the past making one think it is guaranteed in the future – but this is all speculation. 

Finally, the two checked the last remaining pamphlet, which contained… the concept of mutuality, which confused them ever so slightly, considering a concept is not usually an object per se, but then they have just seen a huge, bipedal beetle, so even if concepts were to grow wings and take off they would not be as surprised from now on. They did not yet entirely have an idea of what this castle could be about, but the monarch seemed to be an arbitrary fellow, with equally arbitrary objects and creatures, and so from this vantage point it is kind of consistent. 

They did, then, go back up towards the now vanished energy beam thing, to a newly revealed entrance to the side of the castle, although before entering there seemed to be another torch… 

“The potency of what animates… 

…embellished into an agency to scathe… 

…with only time that approximates…” 

They did not, quite, think that this was as direct as the prior fiery sticks, but between themselves they figured out that the reference to a potency might be, as with most things in the castle, a reference to the institution, or perhaps the concept behind it, which in turn animates passions, they surmised, with the agency being the flow of will of that concept. Time, then, they assumed, is the countdown that everyone runs against, regardless of what superficial influence those bound to the mortal coil are given… 

Speaking of which… something seemed off; purple beam might have gone, but there was still a certain atmosphere around this part of the place in particular, a certain unbearable weight, almost an insanity distilled. They went inside, but what they found there was not the nigh garish, bright hues that illuminated the rest of this dwelling – it was, essentially, the opposite… quite dark, and instead of the apparent mania of the sanguine tones of the previous rooms, this was verdant, for some reason, with flames that were not quite their normal selves; as if taken over by the former gleam, they were violet, as if the fuel that these animations required to digest in order to keep dancing along was about to expire, as if the raging infernos that connected through another dimension were about to lose contact – this was how these were apparent, the dying embers of a crushed existence, and they seemed to whisper ever so softly… 

“Why does this flame of intensity, this regal extremity… 

…stretch its limits like an eagle soaring beyond? 

An attempt to break the chains of mortality?” 

Clemens remarked how the ‘flame’ here seemed to function in multiple ways… as a literal one, that anyone can bear witness to, about to be extinguished, which changes its very, vivid character… and, it seems, this last monarch, grasping ever so tightly along its last vestiges, gripping anything that might possibly resolve its likely extinction (the ‘archetypes’, it so seems). Although, of course, there were still differences between these two, and while an institution is not at all similar to a natural combustible, they might be contrasted as a metaphor in a person’s mind for the above stated reason – and indeed it is that person, or the whole unit behind it, society, that imbued and constructed the institution to begin with… while fire is merely the amalgamation of chemical processes, a tired rotting behind all physical processes… entropy, Pax agreed (although he was not quite the most knowledgeable in this area, having mostly observed societies throughout his life, while Clemens having a slight bit more interest in more natural processes). Entropy seems to be the source of all causes, here… 

It was, otherwise, more of a temple than the rest of this place was. A temple to what, though? That neither of them could say, and based on prior readings they were not sure they would be able to in the near future, as in all likelihood it would merely be more symbolism and metaphor, but then again they might possibly encounter some prose too which could conceivably enlighten them a slight bit more. One needs to acknowledge the existence of the random scholars (if one can call them that) that were present around here, as the alternative (the beetle) is not quite so incredibly coherent… 

In the middle of the first room (which was more of a square connected to a corridor hosting another square… maybe that is the monarch’s favourite geometrical shape?) – were pillars, although Pax noted the perception that they seem to be standing up while holding nothing, but presumably they were, and it was merely one’s point of view that hindered the eyesight. A square within the square room was a circle (ah, so he might have liked other shapes, then… perhaps he was, like a toddler, just learning how much of a variety there is?) – within which seemed to be some sort of star, possibly related to magic, but one can never be quite sure… there are no hints that the monarch was some magician or, as they are usually known, a mage… but perhaps someone else who hangs about is? Why, though, would they construct the very foundation of a whole structure to accommodate some people who were not even integral to the castle? Or, maybe they were and the monarch found them useful? Thinking of which, where would the archetypes even have come from? Were they summoned perhaps from some otherworldly dimension? If so, it would have likely been some sort of mage… 

This is all speculation of course, though, although this circle on the ground does happen to be there… and would presumably not change according to differing perceptions. There was also a statue of some sort in the very middle, not entirely sure of what, though, as they were not quite as stereotypical as the ones preceding it, but it did seem to have something in its hand, which was the only non-monochromatic source. It also had this inscription… 

“This is but a path to that which is here and, yet, is merely a microcosm of the whole.” 

Pax began to think this might possibly have something to do with alchemy, then, for that is usually cryptic and yet is about how inversion can function (if indeed it does function, one can never be sure)… also, he thought, could that not be a description of most rooms, passageways etc… well, one supposed they are not exactly all microcosms, and how any engineered physical structures can fit in one another… is not certain. Then again, is anyone even sure the path it is talking about is this corridor in front of us here? What if they were merely words, or even the path a life can take (which not physical, per se)? When one is not dealing with raw practicalities then this is all possible, Clemens agreed, but like with most writings before (except perhaps for those detailing what might have happened with the ‘archetypes’) they do not seem to be entirely practical, but as with the ‘whole’ mentioned here, they might possibly make sense in the future… or everyone might be hit by an asteroid and all is over by tomorrow, which makes all this redundant… but even if it is all futile, even if life is a trickle of hopelessness, passion might still exist, mystery might still lurk in the background… 

Besides the flame whose hue was thrown at the very end of the spectrum, there were also smaller blazes, which hung about as if they needed to illuminate that which needed to be and yet could not be, and these seemed to sigh… 

“The perpetual blue within the heavens flickered… 

…the meaning to construe, the hue a symbol… 

…the downfall, existentially inevitable…” 

To Pax this confirmed how these… mysterious things which seem to communicate such oddly rhythmical paragraphs… seemed to indicate that, indeed, just as they had suspected, the monarch, in a twist of irony, might actually be the least capable of exercising will here, the least powerful, essentially… for who is if they sense their very being under threat? Being the last of this ‘species’ too (but only in the mind could institutions be equated with such a concept as a species, for in reality they are nothing but sociological constructions, and unless violent revolutions happened, historically there were many monarchs who simply faded into the background, merely to live in not as much prominence, so how this one seems to think life itself is threatened is not entirely clear). 

The spectrum of hues suddenly seemed of interest… one notes that red is on one end, while purple on the other, with blue just next to it… so, it might be speculated that while an institution is alive and well, particularly worldwide (pre-1848) the symbolism of a flame at its peak, while waning blue, and just before extinction a purple… such systems are never as obvious as natural combustion, of course, but it still might remain a tangible comparison, and the monarch of Ignis knows, smells the last remaining sulphur of doom. 

“Why ever is influence… 

a confluence of will or mind… 

or is it merely… blind?” 

This was in turn also written on some statues in the corner of the room, the last remaining objects… which seems to be fairly transparent in meaning, Pax thought, although how statues inside a castle may seem to question that castle’s very monarch one is not certain, for one would think that, if powerful, the least such a person might do is remove such inscriptions, but somehow they remain, as if an emblem not only of oppression, but incompetence… or perhaps it is a literal blindness that is the problem? 

Beyond a few more purple and blue flames arranged in some symmetrical pattern, along with more pillars and some sort of stone arch that seemed oddly out of place (but not so much in the Parthenon), there lay another presumably magic-related circle, this time more of a blue one (the other one, with the statue in the middle, being of a pale shade), with azure torches in all four directions, although for some reason east and west were further apart, and… suddenly Pax and Clemens were transported elsewhere as soon as they went in the middle of this circle. They were quite confused at first, but then assumed the geometric designs might have had some function after all… and as long as they were still whole, why worry? 

Now, it was a slight bit confusing, but the teleport seemed to be diagonal to the opposite end of this, the castle’s gloomy part of its structure… and there happened to be a dragon’s statue at the start, like at the library, with the same inscription too… and suddenly the reference to ‘blood’ made a slight bit more sense in this context (with the monarch, how people felt in relation, and the perceived near future extinction that enabled the reckless descent into archetypes)… but it was also, as if, in the air… this lament, an incipient insanity, a spontaneous (internal) image of a pink flamingo for some reason… blue, though, was more the mood of this place (despite the green architecture, the fires seemed to resonate more). 

They continued on, further, and beyond the meandering corridor of atonal confusion… there was someone. Was it, though? It seemed almost a trick of the eye – what appeared to be green hair blended in with the flooring; it was quite bizarre, and then as if to further accentuate the issue directly below was what looked to be grass, but with the hair directly above it could have easily been perceived as a continuation of that, an eternity of verdant follicles that extended throughout the entire castle… underneath, seeping, like madness rooted in neurons decades before its siege upon the mind… 

When approached it indeed seemed to be a person, apparently female, who very simply said, quite cryptically and randomly… 

“Whence did one come, from two or more? 

Since when did conflict conflate, and one abhor? 

If it became one once more, what would carry ashore?” 

To this the two had no clue, frankly… although, if they did happen to have time to figure it out and some green-haired stranger blending in almost seamlessly into the ground was not intently staring just after saying all that… they would possibly reason that, well, the number one might come from two or more, but only as a constituent… then again, considering the context, this could not have been so rational of a picture, with the second ‘one’ clearly not referring to any numbers, in any case. But conflict is conflated with what? Perhaps with the opposite of ‘abhor’, with the prior ‘one’ being a universal denominator? But they had no time for all this… 

What seemed to be curious was that if they did not have ‘mutuality’, the strange, conceptual item contained within the earlier pamphlet, this verdant-haired maiden would have simply said “a chore” for some odd reason, but since they did she appeared to say “outpour” for another peculiar rationale, and… simply disappeared. Which might have come as a surprise if this was the first ‘person’ Pax and Clemens talked with, but since there was also a ‘beetle’, very similar in the incoherency department, who also disappeared after that globe was in possession… this was almost to be expected, and they were not even sure she was truly human… or, one supposes, if she was then perhaps a mage? But even mages are not usually so cryptic… 

There was a crystal soon after, not quite the same hue as most everything else here, but it still mingled in, being turquoise… apparently these cryptids had access to hydrated phosphates of copper and aluminium by some fluke, but the two did not think that thinking about this too much would be at all practically useful… and Clemens soon exclaimed that there seemed to be a blinding reflection from the crystal, before suddenly being transported again, randomly once more, to the castle’s entrance this time. They thought not much of that, and went dextral… 

Underground 

They were teleported back to the beginning for some reason, so they wondered why… but, at any rate, they had the right side of the castle yet to explore, and it seems principally they had this other room, parallel to the one formerly with the bipedal, talking beetle in… so, they were not quite sure what to expect, and this place had already proved certain madness… 

They went in, either way, and what they found was bizarre yet… a clown. One wondered if it might be the monarch himself… perhaps finally a career change? Could be viable… clowns are not exactly at risk of extinction, not as long as people want to be entertained through silly mechanisms, at least… but, one assumed this is but a clown with some sort of madness, considering in their place before was a beetle (on the left side of the castle, from the point of view of Pax and Clemens, for relativity works like that)… and indeed the clown was, at the very least, incoherent (one supposes madness might be relative too, but then presumably risking life to save what is bizarrely perceived to be an institution about to go extinct despite no immediate threat, using some ancient, unknown beings, and thinking that loyalty could somehow supplicate them… that could be a candidate for insanity, possibly). 

“Would you rather be here or not? Why, do tell here, are you not elsewhere? The stench of corruption is palpable, it enlivens, oh it sustains. Would you like this or that? How, we know not what we know!” Thus, Pax assumed, the clown might be a touch unstable… perhaps only ever so slightly, of course… but then again, if one was to entertain oneself, why not consider the questions, rationally or otherwise? 

Pax assumed that, as he was here, that he would rather be here at this exact juncture, presumably, not that this odd place was his hobby to wander around, anyway… and if one was indeed here, how could they be elsewhere? It seems to be, surely, a problem with logic… then again, we are dealing with a clown, who one could argue makes their best effort to, visually, palpably, and directly make it known that logic is not exactly the most crucial aspect here… if it was why would bodily features be exaggerated, to start with? Thinking of which… that was the same case with the beetle too, considering that, you know, they are usually about an inch long and crawl on all fours… not upright and as tall as people. So, one wonders, if this castle did go back in time when most creatures were as massive as a house… does that mean there are miniature clowns? It could… possibly… be even funnier, if that was the case… no? 

Anyway, it should also be noted as a strange artefact that the clown seems to acknowledge corruption? The monarch’s, presumably? If so, that would likely rule this jester out as the candidate for being the person? Well, Pax supposed, it could also be possible that insanity kicked in and identity was suddenly confused, or memory loss happened… based on what the clown is saying that could be true, but there are several other alternatives too. Also, if corruption has a ‘stench’ (with the expectant negative connotations), how does it enliven, sustain? Does that imply the stench is a positive, then? One supposes some people might think it is… but clowns? What reason for or against do clowns have against corruption? How would it matter, and why? What, also, could ‘this’ or ‘that’ be referring to? Different types of corruption, perhaps? By definition, too, we do indeed not know what we do not know… or do? Is this some kind of ‘mental’ clown? As in, one that fools around with minds? Then again, everything here seems to do this, from the beetle to that green-haired strange… person? One shudders to think of what else could be uncovered… truly. 

“Whoa… who, or what might you be?! And what is all this weird stuff? Maybe a bit imbalanced in your clown career?” Pax replied, as if somehow reading all my thoughts beforehand and channelling them? Wait, maybe he could read one’s analyses all this time? Should keep that in mind… also, he doubts the clown has much of a career in a relatively small room full of armour and boxes. I have never personally seen a box laugh… 

“Hahaha! Why would anyone assume anything of anyone? Species, animals, plants? Why, I could be an atom taken form and made whole for all you all know! Why would I ever not do this? Why would I ever be here!” Why, indeed? An atom taken form? Is that not, perhaps, redundant… as atoms are, in fact, constituent of the whole? Or maybe it is one atom in this case… suddenly growing large, as if repeatedly cloned? Cloned… clowned? Ah, maybe there is a conspiracy yet… or not, and this joker is but manic, and… lost, confused? Or maybe the clown is indeed a dog in disguise? A bowl of petunias in a large coat? One admits this is going too far with the analysis of what is, ultimately, befuddling random nonsense by someone with a red, puffed up artificial nose… who somehow thinks the appearance is threatening? Although, I suppose, that along with the red, slick hair that somehow juts out at the corners as if they were about to form horns… could be perceived as somewhat horrific, possibly? We shall see… also, how the clown went from questioning the reason for Pax and Clemens being here, to questioning oneself… is indeed a strange reckoning. 

“Look, can we even communicate at all here? Can you possibly tell me what you are for?” Pax said, as if somehow one could reason with irrationality… and what for? Is that, like, what a whole being is for? Quite a grand question to ask someone who is, evidently, losing it a bit… 

“The split! Taken apart, torn to pieces! I need the smell of dire! The crimson river of eternity! Where? Where?!” Ah, yes, I suppose this is about the time when the two should clearly back off as slowly… or as quickly, as possible… but, I mean, they even stood in front of some giant beetle, how was that ever a guarantee that it would not have just crunched up their heads? Done indeed what the clown is only just now rambling about for some macabre reason? I am guessing they were merely lucky that the creature was just cryptic, and not a murderous psychopath… could that be what this buffoon is? Could the whole visage be there to be, indeed, merely a veneer, a façade? Also, with this we might have confirmed that, indeed, the clown seems to like stenches after all, whether of corruption or… dire straits? Wait, is that what Pax and Clemens are in right now? Crimson river does certainly not sound anything like they would want happening to them… maybe the clown is a Maenad in disguise after all, and is about to unleash all…? 

“I am guessing the answer to my question is a no… but there seems to have been something expressed, still…” Pax concluded, without necessarily backing off and running for the hills, if there were indeed any hills (I suppose they could go into the icy mountains, and it will be quite a sight if a crazed clown decided to pursue them…) 

What was expressed, though? I mean, even if someone – anyone – needs a “crimson river of eternity” you would not just give it to them, right? Unless it was, I suppose… something else? A metaphor if someone so seemingly fanatical was capable of such? What could it be, though? 

“…” was all he said from then on, regardless… and what Pax whispered beneath his breath was “did mania reverse to silence…?” 

For indeed it was as strange as a situation can be, but they did not intend to be bothered by such small fries, if indeed there was such a food around here… speaking of which, what is that smell? 

The two followed it, beyond a corridor and more flames, with this side’s corner also having a purple energy barrier thing that was as of yet apparently ready to cut grass at any moment. They also happened to notice some diamonds in the middle of the upper section of this floor, which appeared to be identical to the one that previously teleported them back to the entrance, except there were three of them this time, and they seemed to be blocking the entrance to stairs below. 

There was a room just next to this mid-section, though… a room where the smell intensified, and just who would not follow quite the delectable aroma? There seemed to be a table, although it seemed to be made for ghosts, as there was no one. The first plate had… 

“Food that still seems to be sizzling? Looks alluring…” Pax said, not even bothering to think twice as to how physics could even allow it to still be sizzling… unless it was just cooked about now and the chefs were hiding inside cupboards, or something… why is it he is so reckless? First the giant beetle, then the clown, now food left on its own?! Clearly, for Pax and possibly Clemens there is more of a possibility that they would succumb to food poisoning than some strange bat-crow chimera getting to them. But then, I suppose, everyone has their priorities… was it some kind of soup? Not the tea next to it, though, he suddenly wants to “continue our investigation”, despite doing nothing but procrastination for most of the time up to here, including when they were in front of those two strange beings. No, it is definitely the tea that gets rejected here… now who would not want tea likely made by some clown who wants to tear you asunder? 

There was also that painting from back in the inn too, and suddenly the reference to insanity… made more sense. Two empty barrels, and another dish with a umami taste, because I suppose why would a mad monarch who had just tried some alien recipe for disaster and who houses some strange clown and an over-sized beetle, not want umami food? Priorities, I declare! 

Clemens also suddenly noticed the “air is full of its savoury flavour”, with reference to a plate next to a lamp which bizarrely also sat on this table as if it was edible. This was like the one in the room with books, large beetle and teddies… but at least one could arguably say that it could be useful when reading, in that context. Instead, here, near the food there was not one, but two lamps, as if someone was trying to ward off vampires? (Or was that only sunlight?) 

There were also… 

“Some raw potatoes… want any mash, Clemens?” Oh, sure, so you refuse tea because we still need to finish this investigation, but suddenly you want to mash these potatoes from scratch? Do you not know how much time that would take, O non-peace symbol? What is next, pasta? 

 

“Hey, maybe we could pelt the monarch with these tomatoes? Uh, yeah, doubt it would affect the ‘archetypes’…” Suddenly he remembers what we are investigating… and sensibly figures out that some creature of the abyss would probably not even budge if a tomato hit it, or a potato for that matter. Why also, do tell, would you need to do that when you have a sword…? A… bowl? 

“I guess if I had some free time and wanted to cook in some insane monarch’s lair with crow-bats around, purple energy beams, bipedal talking beetles, and maddened clowns… this would be available at any time…” Oh, you are so close to realizing the precarity of the situation you two could possibly be in… why does no one ever do until they do actually have a problem on their hands? And why would anyone be so easily distracted by food? Oh, fried… oh… 

“Whoever made this is actually a somewhat skilled chef… wait, why am I even trying some stranger’s food?” Exactly! It could be even worse than food poisoning! Besides, your home is just some five minutes away by the hand of the virtual clock, so you could always return there and do whatever you fancy… you could even sleep in your own bed, cuddled near to a fuzzy cat… so, why in the world are you tasting some potential psychopath’s cuisine? (Why do I even bother…) 

After this they finally come to notice a glaringly obvious red orb in corner of this room, just beyond all the dishes… I wonder how they could have ever missed it, such a mystery… 

“A knife for cooking near a blood-red globe…? Not a good vibe…” Only now do you notice the vibe? Where were you half an hour ago? Why am I even talking to myself about this? Suddenly I do not seem to mind if these two could establish bilateral communications, or such… 

Either way… the orb, or globe, seemed to… drip, drips… as if the very essence of this sanguine symbol of a nightmare was oozing, like a porous surface, or sweat after exercise, but no need for more analogies, for unlike its blue counterpart, this one seemed to scream urgency. As if a thousand souls were trapped in its wake… as if the incipient lunacy of many around here was but the symbol of possible impermanence… 

But Pax and his colleague took the orb, anyway, caring not an iota, even now, as to whether their hands might burn at the touch, or so… at least it looks that kind of object…. 

“Could this be what that… oddity… wants…?” It might be, it would fit, if by some strangely twisted geometry, the definition of a “crimson river”, although it was not quite as free-flowing as one might have imagined… and if so is what is inside an entire river? Well, could also be a metaphor, I suppose… and since we did not seem to find out what the blue orb contained before, I somehow have my doubts that we will find out anything about this too… 

Before leaving, suddenly, free of all sudden and mysterious diversions… a clock could be glimpsed on the wall, although one would not know why a dinner guest would need it… 

“Time flies out of perception as readily as a bee… 

…for if a banshee could chime practice deception how could it…?” 

Was this the first reference to time this world makes? It seems original. It plays with position, and clearly it is deliberately confusing, but then so would time be if it reversed its flow as it theoretically can do… still, Pax had no idea why banshees would chime, or otherwise utilize deception in any way… I mean, do they even exist? Oh, why am I even doubting this when… yes, big bug, exists… and bees? I suppose some are purely metaphors… 

The two went back with the carmine blob of horror… or so it might be viewed as… back to the crazed one, and… not much of a surprise really, clown vanished into thin air, and so leaving space to the back of the room… where the concept of ‘oneness’ could be found in yet another bowl. Which was not quite comprehensible, really… this is implying we are one with… who? The clown? Can never think about such a horrifying image… then again, it would make sense if we take the etymological root of ‘monarchy’, ‘rule of one’, although why there would be some concept in some bowl no one is sure about… mutuality and oneness, perhaps this is implying some sort of transactional relationship? One broken with the introduction of archetypes, possibly? Let us not overthink this, at any rate… 

They, thus, went back to the front of this floor, back to where the energy beams were blocking their way, and indeed it was gone once again… so, they entered. It was the gloomy place’s other side, with most of the same artefacts, statues, and inscriptions, with one exception being the one in the middle of the first room subtly changing its discourse… 

“This is but a path to that which is not here and, yet, is merely permeating the whole.” The other one was a microcosm to the whole, so one supposes this fits in with the hypothesis that alchemical principles have something to do with it, as it is with yin and yang, with the implication of one permeating the other. To further pinpoint this, the teleportation circle seems to transport Pax and Clemens not to the room in front of the circle itself, but the one to the north of the room on the other side, that is, where they currently were now was the south of where they teleported previously, from left-side of the gloomy floor. Either way, just trivial details… except, one assumes, this was why the green-haired talked about ‘one’ coming from ‘two’… 

Speaking of, there was another one in this room on the other side, this time male, hair ever so slightly less intense, but still verdant, still as if attached to the floor’s hue in some bizarre amalgamation. Who these two were, no one knows… 

“Why is there that which creates mutual suffering, why?” Ah, this time indeed it is about mutuality, the item we had previously, actually… good question, though, for one would think if it is mutual suffering then one would stop as it harms self-interest, but some studies have actually revealed how some would continue on because the other one is suffering, regardless… 

“Why is there that which annihilates mutual bettering, why?” Some would speculate it is cooperation which resulted in the modern world, but was it? If it was, why the aforementioned? If one out of two are not cooperating, then what even is its definition? 

“Why must cohesive units of lives be so inclined on destruction?” I suppose, it might have something to do with them not actually being cohesive, nor units? I also presume, like the individual’s body is a whole, that errors might creep in, as often happens in both biological and technological units, and as such the statement above might not be absolutely true, even if one is a cohesive unit… ‘inclined’ also might possibly imply ‘Thanatos’, which I believe was mentioned in Ignis, although its meaning was not entirely clear at that point… Thanatos in this sense, then, just like in mythology, is an inclination towards destruction, whether conscious or not… 

“Why does this happen at the same time reproduction is evolutionarily encouraged?” Life does seem to contradict itself, does it not, green-haired oddity? I mean, I am not even sure you are alive, being here in this room by yourself, seemingly connected to the entire architecture, spouting random questions and statements, but might one always assume here is at least the slightest bit of a desire to keep existing at the very least, even if one happens to be a clone? 

After this he seems to say nothing else except “salvaged” if the concept of oneness was held by whoever was the interlocutor, as Pax did, or “damaged”, for some reason, if not, as if somehow damage was the fundamental unit of destruction, or such? 

They, in any case, went on forward, towards this other, second crystal, and indeed it teleported them back to the main floor from before, with one main difference now… the three crystals were gone, and all there was left were accessible stairs leading to some lower floor, a place anyone might be hesitant to go to, but investigating this is why the two came… 

Twos 

They went down the stairs, and what they found was a bit of a surprise to them… some sort of holding, with a stream running past on the side, but what was a surprise mostly to Pax and Clemens, was who also was there… actually animated people (as opposed to the somewhat static creatures from before, their lives we were not even sure of, since for all anyone knew they were holograms, or robots who happen to disappear as soon as a certain condition is fulfilled, or creatures from millions of years ago who somehow slipped past time and for some reason decided to hole up in some strange castle with odd inscriptions). Then again, there was something strange still about them… they were quite small, for instance, and… Pax was not certain, but there seemed to be another oddity… 

“Currently locked…” Pax confirmed upon checking the gates which had these people inside, “perhaps the possibility for unlocking is nearby, maybe?” Where, though? There was not much space around here… no switches or keys could be in water, likely, and behind these rooms there was a short, concrete passageway, some of which seemed cracked… 

From behind the gates’ bars Pax could talk with them, but what they said was even stranger… 

“We were there, once, then suddenly… where were we? Who are we?” I think the common denominator here is the letter ‘w’, but besides that… how could one both not know where and who they are? At least one of the two would be a known quantity, one would reckon… unless it’s total amnesia? Like, perhaps an asteroid crushed into the ground and it turned out to be a spaceship? Pax would not be surprised if they were aliens from outer space… but even if they were, why would they effectively be inside a prison guarded, bizarrely, by three crystals which in turn do not turn off unless some strange, organic-looking green people have accepted that whoever found certain concepts written in some pamphlets, guarded respectively by a giant beetle and a manic clown? One has got to admit, it is the stuff of utter fiction, but here the two are now, below the staircase and face-to-face with some other strange lives (that at least we could presumably confirm are indeed alive, unless now dead creatures can walk around too? I suppose zombies do that, but they do not look like those at all… also much shorter…) 

“Who…? Twice over? Am I seeing double here, Pax?” Clemens asked, because the second strange thing about them was… they walked in two. As in, they seemed to walk synchronously… they did not seem to be conjoined twins or such, in that sense they were separated physically, but they still walks absolutely in sync, somehow… 

“Not quite, I see them too… and… eight others here? I can not understand what happened exactly, besides who they are… and what the monarch seems to have done for all of these (people?) – to end up here… seems confusing.” One could say, especially since they were not any people, but ones (or twos?) – that somehow do not walk around separately. Perhaps that is the reason why they are here? Only speculating here, but that seems to be the common factor… 

“Indeed… hey… misters? Can you tell us anything more?” Clemens asked them in turn. Misters, one supposes, is a bit of a filler here, an awkward address in lieu of any other kind of knowledge about them, but I guess if the synchronous two were called Tom we could call them that. 

“We seemed to have lived so distinctly… this concrete, this disease… not us, we are not, at all…” They replied in turn, which I suppose was not quite a lot of information, and not actually very distinct from all the other symbolic statements we recently encountered, but still not as much perhaps, and it did provide a slight bit more information about this specific conundrum the two were wondering about, with concrete likely referring to the flooring and walls, but disease was not quite as obvious as to its reference… also, how one lives distinctly, one is not positive… 

“I still do not understand how or why they ended up here, but we seem like we could help them… as soon as we find out where they were…” Clemens said in response, which I assume is epistemologically correct, as one indeed can not exactly help if it is unknown as to how to help, and where they live? I mean, has anyone ever seen somewhere full of people walking in sync, anywhere? Which is what makes them being here even stranger… than even a giant beetle. 

“Why, where, what? We would want…” This is all they said thereafter, which is clearly where they display their preference from the alphabet, although why would that matter here? 

There was, actually, a table in the middle of this room with these four other squares which had the four… I mean, eight, others here… presumably the two noticed it as they came, and would have checked it out were it not for a more distracting fact… at any rate, it had a quill, like the one from the room before, and a pamphlet, this time with… 

“We are not to be, for if we were we would be not. We, then, choose.” This did not necessarily enlighten anyone as to its meaning, but Pax assumed it was a statement of some sort, presumably written not by those inside here, despite ‘w’ being the majority starter letter too for some reason… never mind such trivial issues, though. Was this, even more nefariously, some sort of a declaration as to why they were inside, perhaps? As in, they choose this option, as otherwise they could not exist? The monarch possibly, fearing for the demise of the institution? But why would they need to be here at all for that? Let us try to free them first, then, to know… 

The other two down below could also be reached from behind, so Pax tried to talk with them to further possibly understand the murky situation here… 

“We were at once in our households, but suddenly, oh so sudden… we are not sure, for what would this be?” Hey, we do not know either what some big bug or clownish maniac could be, nor were we sure of the very existence of those two at the end of that sullen floor, but here we are, trying to somehow make sense of this dreary, confusing, and sometimes foggy world… but suddenly, really? How does anyone suddenly disappear from their own home, and… presumably end up here? Such strange happenings, truly… 

“Suddenly what? Taken by the monarch’s forces?” Exactly what I was thinking of, Clemens, perhaps you can read my mind yet… or maybe it is the conclusion everyone would come to… 

“Spontaneously… we are not sure… how, how?” No use asking us, we did not even know you existed before some time ago… and how someone could be in sync without being physically connected or have everything choreographed before… we do not know, either… 

“Spontaneously? Could they have been… teleported? Like those crystals did with us?” Good point you make, Pax, at this point this is the most likely candidate for an explanation, but still the question remains… why? Based on the pamphlet this served a function, and was not done for absolutely no reason… but it is still not clear what. Could it perhaps be related to archetypes? 

“That seems possible… I am, though, still confused over who they are… I am sad to say I had never heard of them before, or any description…” Clemens stated, making it clear that it was not just any individual who had not heard of these people before… not that Nix has many people… 

“I did not, either… but then again, it is a big world that we mostly have not explored…” Exactly, Pax, very much stating the obvious here, also no one explored outer space too! Imagine how much more of the universe you still need to learn! 

“What is this existence…?” Is all these two said thereafter, which makes one feel sad enough to try to see what could get them all out of this state, and so the two went back, beyond canal water, to check if anything could… and, indeed, a crack in the wall seemed to click something into existence, sufficient to open the doors wide apart. 

There was another crack nearer to the first set of squares, which also unlocked them… why anyone would have this one is not sure, for it seems to paint incompetency, at the very least, but then I suppose crystals cannot exactly be exactly be exactly check for nooks and crannies and fix architecture, so whose fault is it? Clearly someone has been preoccupied with something else… 

There were four jars in the room, besides these now freed people, with one of them having a potion, although one wonders who left it there… either way, Pax and Clemens went to talk with the other two as well (two of two, makes sense), to try to see if they could glimpse any other information from them, while also wondering if they could just walk straight out the castle with them… or perhaps the beetle and clown will finally try to murder them? They hoped not… 

“We were… making a drink… when…” The one at the bottom left started by saying, hesitantly… 

“Must have been traumatic? Do you have any idea why this happened?” Pax replied. 

“Our technology? Perhaps?” This is a new theory, I wonder… 

“What kind of technology? Does the monarchy lack it?” Pax inquired further, with the fervency of a neo-noir investigator (or so he hoped…) 

“We are not sure… we do much…” Clearly it will not be easy to extract much from these fellows… 

“When will we wake up in our comfortable home again…” Oh, how comfortable are we talking here? Sofas? Bean bags? Hopefully more comfort than Nix could ever provide… ugh, that cold desert, I swear, it freezes one’s consciousness. In fact, I barely had these many background thoughts when I was there for a bit, such a frigid paralysis… 

Pax and Clemens, then, thought of trying to talk to the last remaining couple of people in the northern section of this floor, with barely any hope remaining that anything could be found… 

“We were working on this prototype, you see… and then, out of the blue, the blue skies descended upon us!” Oh, this one can possibly say more, I see… prototype? I wonder what of. Must be a technology of some sort, as that is the one new word we could get from the previous two. Who knows, though? 

“That is quite the picture… how did they come from the skies?” Clemens asked, clearly more distracted and intrigued with the cinematic vision, but not quite concentrating on the more crucial aspect of the story, here… 

“They had an airship of some sort, we were not even sure what it was, for it seemed rather primitive technology, you see…” Now this is certainly more information than we ever got from the other three… I mean, six… twos. If that makes any grammatical sense. Clemens, try to concentrate and ask about the relevant prototype! Read my thoughts! 

“Airships are primitive? Are they not, like, standard these days? Who… are you, anyway?” There we go, then, positive proof that they cannot read anything… although, I admit, how can they ever say airships are primitive? Every adventure has one in them! Sure, they might malfunction and go down in a blazing ball of fire… but then so can anyone else. Spontaneous combustion exists! So, let us not blame these big, horizontal balloons, even if we might be ambushed by dragons, I swear, we should certainly not blame the balloons themselves! 

“We shall tell you as soon as we are out of here… can you find a way, please?” Ah, I guess even if Clemens asked about the prototype that would likely be their answer, anyway… curiously ignoring both the question about airships and identity. These two were the most enlightened so far, though, so good prospects I reckon if we manage to go past any maniac clowns… 

“I would rather prefer if I can get back to my research if at all possible…” So that is what he did… if so, these two might be the very ones working on the prototype? Let us try to get out of here, then, to then get some answers… 

Need not to worry, though, about avoiding anyone or anything specifically, that is. For as soon as Pax and Clemens tries to go back out… the crystals were back there, for some reason, but instead of transporting them anywhere else in the castle (they never did before, anyway, they merely blocked the entrance downstairs, and then vanished into thin air)… they were entirely gone from this place, away from ever meeting this supposed monarch, back into the cold air of ice and loneliness, but this time these eight people, also seemed to follow them, back where… 

Lab 

They were teleported, back to… somewhere. For the ‘twos’ it was a case of ‘back to’, though… 

“Where…?” Pax said in utter surprise as somehow they ended up here, in some unknown place with glittering devices and a rather jaunty tune if I may say so myself, the kind that reminds one of pixels and clashing samurai, possibly? Never mind that, just one of those random flashes again; let us see what the first response of the ‘two’ that earlier seemed most comprehensive is… 

“Welcome to our humble abode! Finally, we are free!” They said in a rather celebratory mood, just after approaching Pax and Clemens somewhat hastily… then again, if one was in some underground place after being randomly taken from your “comfortable” home by some airship invaders… one would be as happy, I suppose. Of course, here we are talking about ‘two’, not one. 

“Abode? This is your home?” Clemens asked with a penchant for an inquiry. “Where you were taken from? Wait… why did the crystals even transfer us here? Also… what is this place?” Whoa, hold your horses, my dear mollusc, this seems to be a non-threatening environment anyway, from the looks of it, so why ask so much and so often? You did not even bother to question yourself when you were busy indulging in random foods left out in the open… what if someone came while you were vulnerable? Or possibly worse, bacteria! You know germ theory, right? 

“I know you might have quite a few questions, but relax! We are back here now, and I assume there is no risk of being taken again, for what was wanted is gone, now… as for your questions, yes, this is our laboratory. Well, mine mostly (we are the two who mainly conduct experiments)… and… the crystals… I think were reprogrammed by someone, not sure when, though…” Well, that seems to answer a lot now, does it not? Except for the fact of how in the world crystals can even be programmed in the first place, yes, and the little thing about what was wanted? Or… perhaps that is just another attempt at starting three more words with the same letter, because these people seem to like doing that quite a bit, even if they mean little behind the words… and this is coming from this one too… two, I mean. They have been the most sensible and clear, so far… the others were as cryptic as the speaking flames… well, maybe not as much, but at least as obscure as the random pamphlets scattered around the castle, surely you would agree? 

“This all makes little sense… as usual, but never shall we mind, I suppose. More crucially, what more can you tell us about why you might have been abducted? Did you… mention a prototype?” Clemens! You finally ask the pertinent question! You might not have done it due to my suggestion, as clearly you do not… or can not read any of this… but at least your random lottery of questions resulted in the most relevant one. 

“Why, yes, indeed… you see, we were developing this innovative technology that might tap into… some primeval force, although we are still not sure about that… our home here is so isolated from the rest of the world… that we detected some sort of energy, that is usually apparently suppressed elsewhere. We speculated that is because of the preponderance of life in most other places, but we are not certain about that, either…” Suddenly, so much information… so theoretical, though. Seems interesting, nevertheless… could it be…? How did these people even end up building all this, anyway? Do they conduct experiments while walking in sync, too? I suppose it can sort of help, having four arms… practically choreographed science… without the need for practice. How convenient, is it not? Not that any of these are crucial questions… 

“Curious and curiouser… lack of life enables this energy? What kind of technology could possibly tap into it too? Hey, are we possibly talking about the ‘archetypes’ here, that we have heard and read so much about? That the monarch likely wanted for some strange reason?” That would get my seal of approval as a crucial question, now… although, by all means, now that they are back at their homes I do not suppose we need to be so urgent with the amount that needs to be investigated… the monarch still needs to be stopped, but for now we should recuperate and think about our next steps… well, Pax and Clemens should, anyway; the narrator does not exactly need to do much within this world, except perhaps become exasperated at the impossibility of direct communication between the different dimensions…. 

“We are not quite sure about that… we were just testing for its qualities before we were interrupted, you see… until then we had only developed this novel technology that just only began to use this weird energy as a source for fuel, in way… but we still need to confirm what that energy was in the first place. Say, until I conduct some verification analysis why do you not speak with the others here?” A technology for novels, you say? I could use one of those… but seriously, weird energy sounds… bizarre. Kind of reminds me of antimatter as a spaceship fuel? Well, its theoretical usage, at any rate… currently it’s produced at such low amounts that I think it would take more energy to produce than it would be used for. More relevantly in this context, though, could it have been archetypes as fuel? The very source of all personalities and psychologies… as a source of fuel? How would that even make any logical sense? I guess we will have to wait and see as to what this analysis brings up… 

“I have still not finished yet… so much to do, such a minute amount of time…” Is all they would reply with if Pax or Clemens tried engaging again… one did notice the apparent pun ‘minute’ can be along with ‘time’, due to its multiple definitions… so, I guess, let us indeed speak with the… stranger, others… 

But before those, why not take a look at this place? Instead of chairs, it seems to have a… 

“Pod? It is quite strange…” They were rotund and circular, so they were indeed somewhat odd-looking, as if these ‘twos’ were indeed aliens, and just returned to their planets every once in a while… in between breaks. Because, one has got to admit, who would not do that if they could? Then again, why would they ever return to such a dreary world, if there was elsewhere? Could it be even worse? Perhaps they are time machines, and the twos time travellers come to warn us of an impending invasion by androids from another dimension?! Alright, I certainly do need to temper my enthusiasm for fantasy… a bit much just because I saw these little, tiny pods, I admit. 

There was also, at the back of a couple of rooms, taking up quite a bit of space… 

“Quite solid-looking pieces of hardware. Must have cost a few Zs.” One should say. Although, I suppose, size does not always correlate with expense or how advanced technology could be… well, maybe the former, as bigger usually costs more, but who knows in this context… with these ‘two’ living here, all isolated and cold, and… maybe lonely? Possibly not, considering that they are in sync with one another, and there are… eight in total, although four separate individuals. It can get a bit confusing sometimes, I concede. Also, where did the currency letter come from? A bit unusual, is it not? Writing it as ‘Zs’ makes it seem like… the expression for sleep? As in comics? Why sleep, though? Anyone ever verify that? Ah, no one could possibly be reading this… 

Beyond the central room in this laboratory, there two others on each side… it was, really, quite homely and small, but one suppose that only applies if one considers lots of scientific instruments as home, because it might otherwise be a sterile environment… these ‘twos’ could be somewhat fun to interact with, though, one might argue…. they are, as mentioned, miniature in stature, and so it could be hard to determine who is who specifically, but there are generally four (two) persons here, the green-haired one (two…) who seems to be the most scientific, a black-haired one (two…), who seems interested in drinking stuff, and two brown-haired couples, who might be distinguished only by their clothing from afar, but if one goes close by one guarantees individuality… or is that just ‘duality’? Either way, they have long and shorter hair, pink and red clothing, respectively. So all of these four (eight?) people, I think, could be argued to be sufficiently ‘individual’. So, we shall now see what the red-clothed two want to say… 

“We live here again! No disease, we were worried! Distinctly we shall keep going on!” Is that opposed to not living here before? Or, I assume, only in reflection of not doing so while in the castle… but, really, why do they keep using these specific keywords around which conversation is structured? One would think that… as scientists, if that is what I assume they all are in one capacity or another (one presumes living in a laboratory would imply that… most career scientists do not even have that much dedication) – that just specific words would not be such an obsession? I suppose one could form a hypothesis, and have fundamental concepts that encircle it, but these contextually are not at all exactly scientific… 

“Ah, that distinction again…? What does that mean, exactly? Also, I assume ‘disease’ here is kind of metaphorical?” Pax replied, indeed trying to clarify this specific conundrum. 

“We would not be able to exist, just… for us, we would want to persist forthrightly, with scientific research in our home, here. Otherwise, we wither…” There that penchant for ‘w’ is revealed once again, although knowing Pax and Clemens, they likely have not noticed it, and as such are unlikely to ask them about it… not that it is so crucial to do so, mind… but seriously, persist forthrightly? What is this, a wolf howling to signify its very existence? A bit of a strange adjective to follow such a verb, one must admit… and how could one wither without researching, at any rate? Does one waste away if art is indulged in? Would one wilt if the flower of life never blooms in the first place? 

“So, that was what you meant… what do you do specifically here, though?” Pax asked… a quite relevant question, although one could possibly guess the answer? Vaguely, anyway… 

“We amplify what might wane. That is, we check to see if chemicals might replicate like cells do, and if so what use they might have…” Or… not. Would not, could not have guessed that. How could anyone have? How could someone seemingly obsessed with a single letter go on to… replicate cells? Oh, no, it is ‘like’ that… after all, unless one wants to make a clone it does not seem necessary to do exactly what nature does by itself, usually… but I do not suppose it is what they do, for no clones are visible, nor would a monarch need such technology one presumes (unless, perhaps, they want to copy themselves to reign for eternity in visage, if not literally? Nefarious thought…) – but no, from a cursory look at the environment it seems what might happen here is to potentiate nature, in case there might be a use for that… 

“I see…” Ironically, Pax said this while his eyes were closed… and one doubts he saw anything, physically or through conceptual understanding, but it might be unnecessary, anyway… 

“We were what we would!” This is all these two would say after this, and one starts to wonder if they are also trying to replicate that letter, possibly… 

Pax next went to the room on the right of the lab, which seemed, from all intents and purposes, to have a kitchen, as opposed to a room with solely scientific equipment… or computers. There was still, though, a cabinet with… 

“All sorts of vials and other scientific instruments are stored here. They seem much more neat than I could ever be…” Pax is not neat at all, no, his roommate from earlier could attest to that… the cat, in fact, is neater than him, but he does not let that get him down and just passes on balls of fluff… what he did certainly not have, though, is vials and such… 

Besides that there was, nevertheless, an oven and refrigerator that seemed, in all likelihood, to be perfectly normal… just like Pax had, in fact… but not very much used. At any rate… 

“They seem to be cooking something here, it smells of bread, and… cherries? Why that combination, I wonder…” A cherry loaf? Is there such a thing? I could not possibly know, but I am quite certain some connoisseur will soon promptly to confirm there are even strawberry doughs! 

“It could not possibly be polite to look into someone else’s fridge… I can always go back to mine. I do not think it is too far from here, but we would need a few… crystal ‘hops’… I guess?” Pax said, just prior to being a bit too nosy inside someone else’s icy compartment, but I suppose ‘hops’ is a good food-related pun? Well, ‘food’, and… ‘good’? I suppose he just imagines the crystals being all over the world now, that he could just use to hop all over… but they are, as far as we know, still under the monarch’s ‘spell’? We still do not know how those were ‘reprogrammed’, and if they were not it seemed like we could have been trapped there ourselves… but, somehow, a deus ex machina arose from within the depths, as if the existentialist philosopher himself suddenly developed an interest in crystallography and travelled through time just to sort us out… alright, that is a bit much considering this was just nearly a look inside a fridge… 

There was also a sofa that belonged to these ‘twos’, for why would they not want to synchronously sit down and relax too? For all we know they coordinate their breathing too! 

“I do not reckon there will be a ball of fluff here, no… for there do not seem to be any cats, nor anywhere else on the island…” Why are you surprised at all? If there were cats here… and we are talking the usual size of a house feline now, not lions or tigers, which could intimidate anyone… we are talking about felis catus… even they would probably dwarf the ‘twos’. Their version of a cat is probably just a mouse, and even then we are talking about the smallest ones. Anyways… 

The who previously complained about about being the middle of a drink, now asked… 

“Would you like a drink? We can finally have a beverage once again!” Is that just not some nice hospitality? If only the maniac clown offered us something… but, what offer… if there was one it would have likely been something gory, based on what he was saying, at any rate… 

“Ah, maybe? We were meant to just ask questions, but why not, I suppose?” Clemens replied, more happily than could have ever been seen before… in fact, Pax thought his face had been semi-frozen in some sort of surprised or a frowning state, before now… who knew he was capable of other emotions too? Or, perhaps, happiness or smiles are not exactly relevant in some gloomy, spooky castle with weird jesters and strange beetles… 

The liquid could be heard being poured out, before these ‘two’ exclaimed “Enjoy!” 

“Thanks, that was as tasty as honey…” Clemens confirmed, not entirely sure how he knows what that tastes like, as Nix is not exactly full of bees, you see… the cold is not very hospitable to them, especially with the ravaging winds, blowing them away like a hurricane in full bloom… there could be imports, but that results in an increased expense… 

“It was actually honeyed liquid. We were able to squeeze every last molecule away, weaken their bonds, to create a more liquid form!” So, that is their trick… these strange, individual ‘couples’, they seem to merely enchant others using the by-product of an insect to… wait, I wonder if that just did not work with their abductors? Perhaps they did not like honey… but also, why would anyone need a more liquid form? Is the ooze not delectable enough? Just melting there, a stream of a sugared idyll… liquid makes it seem like any other drink, but in any case… 

“Ah, so it is not just technology you experiment with…” Clemens replied, suddenly realizing that, perhaps, these people were not just about the most advanced hardware, but also possibly invest in the advancement of the senses… 

“We are going to try to create food out of snow, next… our great ambition!” Well, that sounds just a bit weird? Granted, if possible then a whole lot of food will suddenly be available, all natural, all… ah, no, I see a weak point, a certain… no, just no… 

There was a nearby computer, just before an arrow somehow felt the need to mark the way to go, a computer with some sort of stand underneath it… seemed mobile. 

“We have seen the shadows through which the energy rises. What could it be, quintessentially? Could we possibly understand how it operates? Or where it originates from? How does it seem so mysterious yet?” Good questions, one supposes, but then again they seem to have more of a philosophical bent, than scientific… still, questions that lead to answers need to start somewhere… could it be something quintessentially that is not essentially, though? 

“Hm, these shadows… could they be the ‘archetypes’? I wonder if they are indeed the energy’s shadows, because it seems a slight bit counterintuitive as to how energy can have shadows… if it is not the archetypes, also, the ‘twos’ would have been taken away for nothing, and whatever it was was stolen too… oh, there is more…” Pax said, presumably deducing that they might be indeed what the monarch was after, although of course, it can never be certain unless it is verified through experimentation, as I am sure the ‘twos’ carried out, and which we could soon find out the answer to… energy would, though, be a bit bizarre to have shadows itself, as it is kind of a shadow to begin with, a kind of ghost emitted by physicality… 

“We shall now conduct research to verify the very essence of this matter, if indeed it is matter, and whether or not it truly exists in this universe or is merely, possibly, quantum mechanically appearing spontaneously… which might hint as to why it was never before detected…” It seems like they were quite determined to find out what this was, and rigorous in their search for it… which is why someone might want to steal it, I assume. If they are certain that what they found, and their resultant experiments, were successful and produced something practical, then getting one’s hands on it would seem only logical for someone who is ready to risk even the unknown margins of existence to get to the bottom of all possibilities… 

“Might this be a… payphone? No… why would they need one usually used not in homes? Or perhaps some kind of satellite technology?” Pax speculated while checking out the nearby contraption… it would indeed be absurd to assume that a less advanced device would be used by people who generally seem to have the latest in research, but then again people might have peculiar attachments… whether these ‘twos’ do, though, one is not sure… 

“Might it be plasma, or gas perhaps? What form is this? It is as if we need to restructure our building blocks to even begin to understand the very fundaments of its existence and functionality. We shall, thus, conduct extensive testing until we find out something…” This was from a computer right next to the other one, and near that earlier strange thing attached to the wall… and the fact that it seemed to have flummoxed them is kind of interesting, for if it did, to them, then what hope do any other sort of casual scientist have? I suppose testing the very foundations of one’s beliefs are indeed where one would start if there was no other direction from which to tackle an imperceptible understanding… 

Some papers in the far corner of this middle room also happened to have written on them… 

“We would, if by chance, be interested in finding our own origination, for this is why we venture on our quests in the first place. To find the atom, along with understanding the vast cosmology of existence.” These were, by any vantage points, laudable aims, but what if indeed clarify of mind escapes reality? What if two can never become one? 

“We shall now try to see what we can do to elongate the essence of this substance, in other words, to possibly replicate it, for our later, hypothetical usage.” Is what yet another computer claimed (I know, lots of them, have no idea where they even get the funds for them, or maybe they build from scratch? Atom by atom, perchance?) – now, what exactly they mean by ‘elongate’ is not entirely sure… one supposes, if that could be done that they would have tried it on themselves already… but anyway! Replication is, I assume, the more scientific synonym for it, but they surely do a lot for potential hypotheticals, at any rate… 

“Oh, this seems to get right down to the action… I wonder what happens next…” Clemens commented, somewhat excitedly… which is not quite his usual state, but there are always exception… and ones to the contrary… 

“We seem to have failed on our first try. It did not at all react to our reagent, and as such we shall temporarily suspend our research. We hypothesize that it might be some kind of alien element that simply does not recognize any in the familiar universe, but we are not certain of that either, as so far all we have seem to be hypotheses.” There we go… always the contrary antithesis, you see? Now, one has to ask, do they have more hypotheses or antitheses? Valid question, considering the evidence, I say… 

“Well, that is disappointing. Still, after the analysis we might learn something new…” Clemens said, now dejectedly. At least, though, he adjusts to the situation… has to be admitted. 

There were also, remarkably, a few plants in this lab… not quite so expected for such an environment, but then these ‘twos’ were not at all expected to begin with… 

“Might plants be compatible with… 

…laboratories, wide and sterile, with chants of curiosity… 

…or could nature, in all its random wildness, build but stories out of sand?” 

This is what, in turn, these specific plants seem to whisper, for some reason… one has to admit they are, mostly, all contextual and relevant, but then one is not quite comfortable with ‘chants’ of any kind, really, but one supposes that curiosity would be more worth than anything… it does also seem to be contrasting the sterility of labs, with the chaos of nature, which can be two points of views… kind of like the ‘twos’ in sync? Stories… out of sand, though? Sounds like narratives that could give way at any time… 

In the corridors there were also, plastered high on the walls (how did they get up there?) 

“Are these the switches for electricity? I better not touch them, who knows how much essential technology is connected…” But of course, Pax, one should surely never touch switches, even if it is one labelled ‘popcorn dispensary’, for you know it might always turn out to be a trap door just waiting to reveal itself… well, maybe so the popcorn itself could go down below… 

“Quite a large chip, I wonder what it is powering…” Pax also said, upon seeing this on the wall too… why walls would have chips one could not possibly tell in a million years, unless indeed in such a timescale walls are, in fact, powered by chips, for it does not seem at all unlikely that chips could ever stop fuelling every last bit of existence… 

Then there was the room on the other, left side of the lab, and this contained technological equipment, but not quite as much as the one in the middle… 

“What might this be, Clemens? Just a screen, alight? What would be the point of this if, with all this snow, it will likely just reflect it for eternity…?” One supposes a screen might reflect light, but… that is why there is a lab, to get away from the outside with such garish lights, how Pax forgets this crucial detail one cannot quite suppose, though… near there was also…” 

“Water inside some tub? What might they be brewing here…?” Ah, Pax, I think this is when you should really begin to exercise caution, for these ‘twos’ might include small and cuddly, but in reality might be even more psychopathic than that clown and, who knows, you might end up inside this… thing, whatever it may be. Or it is just an aquarium. All possibilities… 

A computer was just at the entrance of this room too, although it did not quite have the whole enchilada of peripherals, a monitor mainly, with… 

“The required data for the approximation of the necessary integers is off by magnitudes! If we were, though, to calibrate the instrument by a slight bit…” Now that made sense, not, But then again, I suppose, in the fervency of the moment, when data is only off by… well, a lot, it seems… rectified, though, by a bit of an adjustment… one would excuse being so excited as to not be so clear with language, surely, not to mention – different words exist for a reason. The real question is, regardless, how can they possibly forget the poor decimal numbers…? 

There was also some kind of tube that presumably facilitates the maintenance of the lab… 

“They can even manage plumbing themselves? I mean, it almost looks like the pipe is as big…” Maybe it is the only thing they had in the store? Commercial ventures are notoriously without many options… brands, sure, tons… all with practically the same item in them… admittedly, though, I do not think many people know of these ‘twos’, and as such cannot cater to them… 

The last of them was meandering around in this same room, the ‘two’ with the slightly longer hair than usual (but then again, one can hardly notice), the one who talked about spontaneity… 

“We are so here, we are!” Yes, you are. That is quite circle. One has to but wonder if living in a lab results in such logic… or perhaps it is their confinement? 

“So you are… but, what do you do here, again?” Pax asked, clearly a relevant question, but I wonder if they forgot to ask them about who they might be, fundamentally? What one does is still the next best pertinent question, however… 

“Oh, much not, simply this and that, maintain what needs it…” That is quite generic for someone in such an environment. Surely, they do not simply wake up one day and decide to do this and that? Surely experiments involve a bit more planning? 

“Sort of like lab assistant, then? Or did you ever come up with any technology?” That could lead to an interesting answer, Pax, yes… well, the latter would, the former is just… 

“I do bits. But I once made a converter of snow! It rumbles to generate energy! Oh, snow was so warm, suddenly!” I’m sorry, what? How could snow ever be warm? What even is the point?! These people cannot possibly have much more to do if all they do, practically, is play with snow! But, what have I just missed from that… energy? Like a biofuel? Oh, it suddenly seems useful… 

“That sounds like… something our home town could use…” I thought Nix could! I mean, it is… how far away from here again? I think we might need to exit the lab for a bit to get our bearing, but based on the snow around it does seem to be somewhat close… 

“What, oh what could I be fixing now?” This ‘two’ then said, but surely if you are wondering what you could fix you must enviably not have many broken things around… 

Pax and Clemens, then, felt somewhat like they needed a bit of fresh air, and since the central scientist still needed time anyway, thought of wandering outside, into the cool, cold, but somewhat frigid air (why they would have a cold storage, in fact, one certainly knows not)… out onto a lonely island. 

Archetypes 

It was quite a remote island here, where the lab happens to be situated… Pax and Clemens had never, actually, been here, but they felt as if they knew the area well, for it was along the same clime as their own, glacial dwelling, except this little isle was the further geography can eat into a more temperate environs… and nearly in the middle of these two aspects of the weather. 

Full of trees frozen by the weight of their very existence, there were also snowy hills encircling the lab… that led to the northern part of this little piece of the land. Following the woods covered by the heaviness of the soft, crunchy texture of the blizzard that blanketed all, both alive and inanimate, the two companions went to see what the edge of this land floating on water told them in visual terms, but there seemed to be… someone there. Just gazing into the nothingness beyond, solitary and meditative, what could be noticed from afar was a pointed hat on top of this person’s head – at least we presume a person, for all we know a hologram from the furthest distance in the universe was beamed at right this point to deceive us, but never mind such fantastic notions for now, and let us only judge based on empirical evidence in front of us… 

“Pax…” This person said as soon as they were engaged, surprising both of our travellers with their apparent foresight and knowledge of their own very identities. 

“How do you know my name? Who might you be?” Pax asked, with utter amazement at the sheer fact that a stranger… on an island he has never been to before… knew who he was… 

“I am the mage, Ventus. I have observed you and your home, Nix, for as long as Ignis seemed to be about to pose a threat. For even if it is the last remaining state of its kind, it could still unleash chaos… especially with the archetypes.” Now this seems to be a knowledgeable person we have come across… still, is it not a bit creepy to observe strangers under normal circumstances? Or, perhaps she had some birds’ eye view of Nix and only occasionally glimpsed Pax and others when they happened to mingle outside? I mean, she could not see all and hear all with her mage abilities, surely? Or am I too optimistic? Also, why only with the archetypes? Thousands of years in history have went down with states and empires waging war, and they had no special capabilities other than offensive technology. Or maybe the archetypes could be classified as that… as natural versions of tanks, possibly? I might be overthinking it, here… 

“You know about them? We have only read of them being mentioned in books, so far. Would you know for certain if the monarch did indeed get hold of them? The lab down below is trying to confirm this, but what is it you could tell us?” Well, yes, Pax, and do not forget to ask her if she is related to the lab, considering their scientific point of view about this (although she is obviously not a ‘two’)… knowing you, though, you will in all likelihood forget, albeit the questions asked at least are still mostly relevant, I got to admit… would also like to know how much she monitored Ignis’ institution, but let us strive for the former, at the moment… 

“I did happen to study the possibility of archetypes, since as a mage they are related to my capabilities to utilize the ethereal qualities of the netherworld, but they are far deeper than even that. Imagine if the ethereal is the ocean, and all land on top is what can be seen, primarily physical abilities… the archetypes are at the bottom of that ocean. Not just on top of the solid rock in the depths, though, they fill the gaps and nearly reach the very core of the planet…” Oh, quite the strident analogy, if I may opine… but ‘netherworld’, really? Who is she, Hades in disguise? Her comparisons do seem to reference one of the books from Ignis, though, which I believe connected the archetypes to the Hadal zone, the deepest region of the ocean… this is, I assume, all merely a metaphor, but I suppose it might make sense if one were to try to categorize and characterize various capabilities. With regards to physical abilities, though, If, say, a ‘punch’ is an island… does that make martial arts an archipelago…? 

“The core? What does that represent now? Is there possibly an emergent danger from these archetypes?” Clemens clamoured, although they were all indeed very relevant questions, it is just that the question-to-words ratio is particularly high, is it not? Well, for all anyone knows mages might love such quotas… ’emergent’ is an interesting word, by the way, for it implies that acting as a collective, along with presumably something, or someone else that might… instigate, perhaps? That they would suddenly come into being. Kind of like how consciousness is purported to emerge when there is a congregation of neurons… the ‘core’ in this similitude could mayhap be the neurotransmission involves in relaying chemicals, with the archetypes’ apparent amendment of social interactions (if, hypothetically, each person is a nerve cell). 

“There might be. That is what I need to seek out even further, though, and why I would like to ask to join you on your investigation and attempt at getting to the bottom of this. For the core, the quintessential interactions that each life has to one another, might be at risk of alteration if archetypes get even more embedded than they might already be…” Well, that seems reasonable enough, and we get to have another interlocutor… although perhaps not one we were already too familiar with before, and maybe not someone who goes very much beyond information, but who knows, there might be hidden depths yet… 

“Makes sense, I suppose… you would be welcome to join us, in any case…” You just suppose, Pax? I mean, based on everything we know so far about these creatures… or whatever essence they may be… you just suppose what someone else, who happened to be studying them for some time too, happens to say? It is merely a matter of inference, honestly… 

So, then, at any rate, they themselves went from two to three, with this new ethereal mage joining them (that is to say, she dabbles in ethereal sources, she is not quite ethereal herself yet, although she might possibly dream of being some day…) – all the merrier, one supposes. And, so, they went back down below, to the lab once more, to see if, perchance, the central scientist there had finished their analysis… they could have also simply tried to transform snow into food like they said they wanted to do, or turned some other viscous substance into a liquid, because why not… but one hopes that they concentrated specifically on this analysis for now, being of utmost priority to Pax and all… and even if Pax himself is an expert procrastinator, one might still truly hope that, as these purportedly professional scientists, that these ‘twos’ did indeed not fall to the eternal trap of the lure of procrastination, and instead… oh, let us just go… 

As soon as they entered once more, just like before when they were suddenly teleported to the lab along with their inhabitants… the main scientist guy came near them quite quickly, just to announce, so excitedly… 

“We managed to finalize our understanding of our analysis!” That is our answer, then… the trap remains unsprung! (That is a word, right? But, really, “finalize our understanding” sounds so robotic, does it not? Maybe they are two robots? Like a duopoly? Ah, never mind…) 

“Cool… what might it be, then?” Pax said with almost an equal amount of excitement… but not quite, as he himself had not done the research, of course… in fact, how can anyone be excited for anything they do not do in the first place? One is barely excited for things done by oneself, seriously… anyway, at any rate, let us thus see what the results were, finally… 

“Before our capture it seems like we did manage to translate all the data to a useful implementation, but since it was done automatically we had no time to go over it, you see, and then somehow the monarch found that out and arrived here before we could do anything about it…” Wait, a useful implementation? As opposed to one done for no use? Why would anyone even implement anything if they do not find any use for it? Talk about redundancies… and ‘translate’? I do not suppose that merely implies a language translation… although with all the jargon they commit to, one supposes that might be useful… actually. Who does anything automatically, also? Why would anyone have potential breakthrough research result in anything automated? For how much these ‘twos’ are assiduous, they do seem to forget to… implement, some… useful, features… do they not? 

“That is… quite a fast reaction… what did the analysis reveal?” Pax responded, with an equally baffled facial expression, as he was kind of expecting the result itself, not history… but it is still all contextually interesting, certainly… and truth be told, the speed of their capture does seem suspicious… might need looking into, too… 

“It seems like our experiments did cope with the energy produced by the inherent potency of the essence… in other words, with the aid of one of my colleagues here, we replicated the atoms from this substance, and by doing that it appears it started some sort of chain reaction that opened a portal to the world of, what we presume is, the domain of the archetypes. We think it is them because the substance appears to envelop the entirety of life, a boson that links all, if you will, with the exception that these fundamental types… before… had not yet quite managed to rise up to the surface, from the depths of the abyss…” And here one thought that Ventus had quite a slightly confusing analogy… well, not really I suppose, maybe confusing if one focused on the ‘top of the land at the bottom of the ocean’ part, if one fails to imagine and visualize where it might possibly be referring to, but this… where does one begin? First of all, how do experiments ‘cope’? Is that sort of, like, the machine calculating all the data coping with the heat? Or having enough of a processor, or memory? Well, anyway… what about this ‘inherent potency’, though… is that expecting energy to have some quality by default? What if it is lifeless and dull? Also, I am not sure they ever quite explain why atoms need replication? Are they so small that otherwise they would disappear from the first of the universe as soon as they arrive? But, then, how does anyone notice them at all in the first place? Also, if there was a chain reaction, does this mean it might have gone… nuclear? These ‘twos’ might be playing with fire… but, so far at least, they have had a lucky escape… a substance that encircles life itself, though? What a thought… kind of like water, possibly? A boson, though? Is that, perhaps, the sibling of a certain bovine fellow…? 

“Uh, huh…” Pax, completely and utterly flummoxed, thereafter responded with… for who would not be? Here I tried to make my own non-computational analysis, but I was not in the middle of a conversation with a scientist while standing up, to boot… makes a difference, you know? 

“Now it seems the institution at Ignis stole the result of that experiment… we have the data, you see, but not quite the materials produced from the substantial reaction thereafter, if you can imagine… oh, my apologies, I was too absorbed in my research, but I just noticed you got someone else with you?” Well, only now they notice… how absorbed can two be? I also would not imagine it was past their capabilities to have been so occupied by something else that somehow made time seem to go faster than they thought it would… and so giving the thieves a good while at a chance…but who knows? What could the materials be, anyway… the energy? Surely they did not just bottle up a chain reaction, or something…? 

“Hello, there.” Ventus promptly replied, having been referenced… “I have too been studying these archetypes, although not from a scientific basis like you do… mine is a more direct experience, as a mage, but I realize how potentially dangerous it is that someone so unstable has gotten the results of your experiment, and as such I suggest that we go and try to retrieve it, for if we do not who knows how many other lives might be affected…” That is a good point, still, one has got to wonder, if she rarely changes her countenance, and yet seems to think about others’ safety… does that mean all of that is buried deep inside? Emotions that see no daylight? Sounds like another analogy for these archetypes in their abyss… 

“Ah, well, ‘we’ can not quite go ourselves, of course, for all we are dedicated to is conducting academic research, and we are quite too small too to go against such mighty force… if we may say so ourselves… by all means, though, if you three can try to do so, we would feel ever so safer…” Ah, they finally admit their stature… or could they have possibly realized only realized? Since it is all relativity, you see… with Pax, Clemens, and Ventus being so much taller… they must feel like they’re ants in comparison… although one assumes they do not quite have an inferiority complex when it comes to scientific thinking… well, perhaps when it comes to losing materials and results, yes… but then, living on such a remote island, they could not have had much help… 

“We could try,” suddenly Clemens piped up… “but with these enhanced capabilities at their command now how much could we truly do? Could anyone make a reasonable guess as to our chances?” Come on, believe in yourself, three heroes of destiny! You shall truly not be forgotten if you step onto… your fate! 

“Abysmally, sorry to say…” Well, that went well, after my little pep talk, there… “a sword is no match for these infernal creatures… but, I know of something that might help… you see, there is an island, not too far away from here actually… the clime is still too unbearable for us, though, which is why we settled for this compromise here, slightly below the edge of the world, on the colder side, which we delight with… this tiny isle, though, could be described as the furthest one can go before polarity reverses… the tip of Locus, our rock in space… it is, though, on the temperate side… not quite our preference for permanent living, and it is more of a ruin, at any rate…” Alright, so, besides your weather preferences… are they suggesting we just live there, or something? Perhaps just long enough until the archetypes destroy all down south, below, and everywhere else… before we re-emerge into… a new and odd world, looking for friends… but in reality some jester has taken over? Ah, wait, this is just some flight of fancy of mine, so it will likely have nothing to do whatsoever with what what comes next… but seriously, a reversal of polarity truly sounds like a moment when one is travelling by airship straight into some drake… 

“How… could a ruin ever help…?” Exactly what I was thinking about, Pax! Never anyone mind the fantasy, how could a ruined world ever help us?! Oh, they mean just some regional ruins, not an entirely ruined world, got it… 

“Ah, quite the relevant question… as if you can read our mind” – no, they really cannot read any minds, I guarantee it, you are just a lucky two, I swear… “as it was what we were about to get to… well, you see, we have read of a legend once, an ancient tale of forgotten lore… of scientists, centuries ago… who once had an experiment go a slight bit awry… we admit, maybe not ‘slight’, as it destroyed their lab and a few personnel too… the isle up north was, in fact, once their laboratory, which had to be evacuated thereafter, by the few that survived…. well, you see, we read that the resultant experiment unleashed an overwhelming amount of energy from an unknown origin, and no one could live for very long up there, but you three could go there a bit we reckon. It is not quite radioactive or such, just a ruin mainly… but then again, some people might look at our lab, what we consider our home, and think it is a ruin with all this spread about like a vicious tornado just waltzed in here…” Oh, well, at least they are self-aware… also, I wonder if those centuries ago were their ancestors… and if disasters are genetic? Although, if they were, they are certainly their unlucky counterparts… these, on the other hand, have mostly been on the side of Tyche… 

“Ah… well, possibly, that could be seen as such, all depending on perception… but, at any rate…” Pax was saying, before being interrupted by Ventus… 

“Yes, we should go up there. I know of the place too, and I think that due to the amount of ethereal energy that perpetuated for so long there might weapons, if they were left behind all these centuries ago, that were imbued with some of the capabilities of this potency. This, along with the legend you read of, is all hypothetical though, of course…” Why does everyone always speak hypothetically? Is there no one ever here who just says what is most likely reality? Well, I suppose it is not quite ever certain, no (wait, who am I even replying to, here)… also, I thought ‘potency’ was some scientific jargon used only by them, but she suddenly uses it, thus destroying my hypothesis… sadly. Does what she say imply that the energy at this place turned it into some potential forge, at any rate? Across time, forged through centuries… sounds cool? 

“Indeed it is… but it is also your best hope against the institution as of now. Since it is an island, though, you would need a way to get there… luckily we have been working on something, but it is yet again a prototype, unfortunately… could you possibly help us construct what we have so we could see if it works?” Are we going to be scientific interns now, or something? Well, one has got to admit, though, it is quite interesting to construct… something… that gets one on an island? I mean, how is that physically possible? Or is this simply another one of those crystals? 

“Could you possibly… grab an oblong from the fridge, and place it in the metallic chute; pick a single leaf from the pot in front of the fridge, and lay it on the stand of our portable computer. Also, get the vial with the miniature thunderstorm in it from the cabinet nearby also, while you are there, and mix it along in the glass cylinder… I think these three could be used in the construction of the mobile jazz!” Whoa… what is all this? It was going so scientifically smoothly too… for the twos. Are they suddenly dabbling in pseudoscience, by any chance? Because all of this cannot possibly, for the sake of all that is rational, be anything remotely scientific… I mean, what oblong? Is that an noun, or an adjective like it normally is? As it does seem some random item they conjured up from their literary legends… and why it is in a fridge I could never fathom, honestly… and by metallic chute I assume that refers to the ventilation system pipe that comes out in the room on the left? Unless it is for something other than ventilation… as I doubt an oblong is ‘air’… and what in the world could a single leaf do near a computer? This all makes even less sense than Pax ever did, I swear… not the mentioning the vial… 

“Mobile… jazz? These cannot possibly be scientific terms…? How… a miniature thunderstorm…? Ah, I am not even going to bother asking any further…” Well, for one we share a similar sentiment… as, one assumes, it could only be more nonsensical words, really… science makes eternally more sense than that, even if it uses all the jargon possible, and the reader is a novice, for it is at least decipherable… what all this is and does, on the other hand… 

So, before they went and tried doing any of this whatsoever… they decided to take a tiny break (procrastination is always the path of least resistance), and chatted to the other… three twos… if that makes any sense, but it should by now… they themselves are not perfectly comprehensible, but in comparison to our latest request here surely they would be a slight bit more… and they could be fun, why, I bet after we leave here we would miss them, marginally… 

Now that the results had come back the other three also had some time to think about them… and process them through whichever logic may be that they usually think with… 

“Our experiment worked! We were delighted that replication seemed to work, even if it was stolen soon after!” The two directly below the central room said, very apparently happy that it worked, although how someone can be happy after saying and acknowledging the latter is incomprehensible to me… or perhaps they are eternal optimists? 

“Ah, but would not that be worse than if it had not been stolen at all? If it did not work then it probably would not have been stolen… or if it were then it would have been non-functional…?” Pax replied, kind of mirroring my thoughts for once, and I suppose that presupposition makes sense… but then, if nothing was ever invented, so it would never be stolen, nothing is ever made… so, it seems it might be a tad self-defeating… 

“But! Our proof of concept! We are no longer theoretical! The world has not ended, either!” They are indeed what I theorized they might be, then… it still is such poor reasoning though, that because the world is still here it is all fine, as nothing could even be said if the world was no longer here, so the point would have been moot… and thinking that they themselves are not theoretical is so laughable… so if they did not have this proof what would they be, illusory? 

“Yet… is this not being a slight bit reckless, not caring about new, stolen technology? What if it was something that could annihilate you all?” Pax stated, apparently being more reasonable than usual… why, typically all he does is procrastinate, and while it does not carry the risk of total obliteration… it does slowly erode one’s will… 

“Then we could invent something else to annihilate them first, possibly!” Oh, yeah, and I am ‘possibly’ going to take another step whereupon I suddenly grow wings in my feet and become Hermes incarnate… possibly… 

“Not if it was stolen again…” Exactly, Pax! Since… when did you actually become logical…? 

Thereafter this ‘two’ simply resorted to his absolute obsession with alliteration, if one can indeed call it that, and not just plain incoherency… 

“We will water wriggling waste!” To which, of course, our three had no clue whatsoever as to what their reply could ever be composed of… 

There was also the one in the room with the vials and fridge, the two who offered us a drink before… and thinks one of life’s great ambitions is to make snow edible? Either way… 

 

“I am wondering now… could these hypothetical archetypes possibly go well with food? They might be like a spice, coriander or cumin…” Well, of course this is their line of thought, why ever would they think about anything other than everything that could possibly combine well with food? How, though, could it ever be a spice, and not, say, some soup… the primeval kind… 

“Uh, I think you have got the wrong end of the stick here… perhaps you can keep trying to turn snow into some kind of food? Because I doubt some creatures from the abyss of the netherworld… will have nothing to say about your current aspirations…” Of course, Pax! Oh, these little ones would probably be food themselves if they ever came face-to-face… but, who knows, they might be adopted as pets too? Or… mascots! 

“Oh, that is what they are? But wait, is that like snailfish or… a demon from the depths of an inferno?” Well, at least the train of thought is heading in the direction, now… just be sure not to crash straight into a wall of metaphors, here… 

“Whoa, you seem to go to extreme ends pretty quickly… but I suppose one might see why those two might be confused for these archetypes, being so down below the literal ocean floor… although I reckon demons are mostly mythological… but no, that is mostly used just as a analogy…” Are they though, Pax? Do you not know that classically daemons used to ferry messages between gods? Are you now going to convey the surprise that all those I mentioned previously are fictional, too? Why, they had temples built for them, and if Pons has a whole flying thing he lives in, then that should be proof enough that the temples represent something concrete! (Or so would some logic go…) 

“Analogies, metaphors… if you cannot cook them, what use are they? Can we even double-blind experiment with them? No? Waste of time, then…” What… no, that is not the point… are these two gastronomists, anyway? I bet those small portions they serve for critics would fit them… 

“Well…” And why do you need a bore with water, Pax? Oh, not that kind of well? Oh, well… 

After that the only resounding thought this two had for all eternity was… 

“What if… snow can make us bigger?!” To which Clemens could only manage an ‘oh’, for what a mouthful of a surprise such a random idea is, although I am certain we would be more surprised if indeed snow could elongate someone… 

Last, but not least, those at the other end of the lab, who before seemed quite interested in fixing and/or maintaining, so what does anyone reckon was managed, now? 

“I have heard about the research results… do you think this energy might benefit by a helping of snow?” Not snow again… I mean, I understand one can be quite interested in something that is so abundant all around oneself, but rarely do people do that with air, so… 

“Uh, I do not think so? Why do you happen to be so fixated with snow, anyway?” Exactly, Pax… hey, could he, per chance, be reading this now? Maybe just not telling me? I mean, some thoughts seem to correlate every so often, but then again there are coincidence all over time… 

“If we were surrounded by sand then I would be looking for ways to use sand, but until then we can only have an endless supply of snow…” Well, at least sad does not simply melt away… 

“Of course… you know, actually, if you do find a way to turn snow into… energy, as you mentioned you were trying to do… I think now that might be useful in solving some problems that might lead to conflict… but I am not entirely sure that… if what is in the data is archetypes, that they could in any way change with any amount of snow…” One would think that is obvious… what is next, pouring coal? Smelting cheese? They might be random idea generators… 

“No, but we need the energy to power our experiments in the first place to find these novel substances!” Sure… but at this point you might have more luck if you construct tiny wheels and hope ants would think that they might arrive somewhere, some day… maybe? Also, why novels? Have you, by any chance, considered encyclopaedias? Just wondering… 

“No one is arguing against that…” Pax ended with, in some sort of serious pose, with his eyes slightly shut, presumably so he could avoid being tripped up by the tiny wheels… 

“Such snowy energy!” Is all this two could muster after that… I believe, for all eternity, and reverberating through all time, as snow could do with its alteration of sound perception… 

In any case, the trio decided to finally give in, and get the other trio (of items) in place, for even though it seemed entirely improbable that they could somehow transport them to some island separated by an ocean… they decided to trust in the zany ones, for once… and hope that they are not just spuriously wrong for some odd reason, which is probably even more likely… 

Jazz it was, too, like a wave of sound just riding them off to this nearby land… how they got this, though, they were not sure about at all, for how a miniature storm is able to become some improvised raft of melodies… one knows not. That was also just one of the three eccentric ideas that could serve as some conveyer, and impart it did, like a smooth ripple along the bay of some cool trees. It was their latest in their exploration for what could likely be beneath, and why would they ever merely cease at the uttermost reef? Until they gained knowledge about these archetypes they would not cower from a tsunami… 

Time 

The three were inexplicably brought over to this jungle-type of a ruin, where nature took over, but one could still see the influence of whoever happened to live there prior. There was a mixture of architecture, with random stones hewn all around, but mostly in a state of disrepair, along with a bridge that connected a rift in between these two places, separated by a stream. It had a certain vibe to it, like a drum that was ever-present in the background, harkening back from the times when states might have comprised continents, but people still lived underground. What the trio were looking for and where, exactly, they did not know, but they continued on inside, in any case, for if they had a chance to defeat whatever possessed the monarch it would have been here, although that still remained to be seen. 

There were statues just in the middle of a bridge (besides some solid, vertical slabs of stone), but they did not seem to have inscriptions, nor was it possible to make it budge. Whether this was due to the ruined state of the place or not, they were not certain, but instead they went to a vertical stone, not too dissimilar from a couple also available in the lofty temple, and what was written, this time, was… 

“This desolation, this abomination… 

…this decay, greenery which attempts to portray… 

…an abyss, but what could have gone amiss to reminisce?” 

Now, Pax and likely the other two would agree that this might have been a bit much; ruined architecture, and then somehow on it itself there is some meta-commentary about its own ruination? Well, at any rate… there were also three choices the trio seemed able to make, some sort of code, that if correct presumably something would happen? The answer, ‘archetypes’, seem to fit in with the above (perhaps the rest will make sense later); the statues disappeared. 

As they made their way from one ruin to another, from merely the periphery of their eyes… they could see something… or someone… but they were not quite sure, for based on what the scientists told them… and the fact that, mostly, no one lives in such ruins, or it would not be so ruined as much… they would have thought that there was no one, and yet at the very corner of the limits of their line of sight… 

They continued on, anyway, onto some sort of cavern connected to these ruins, a cave which also seemed to be eaten up by greenery; it did not have many meandering paths, and what there was led them to only one path (the other, with a waterfall, seemed blocked by trees as of now)… a path which ended in a corner occupied by… another crystal, but it was smaller than the ones before, and it… made a strange sound as soon as they touched it, whereupon someone immediately seemed come in front of them, somehow… 

A giant, it so seemed… about twice the size of the trio, but something seemed odd… 

“Who might you be…?” He said, looking upon Pax and the others as if they were mere ants… 

 

“We… are… we do not mean you any harm! We thought these were abandoned ruins!” At this point the supposed nominal peace was more representative of fright, but if the worst was to pass how impossible could it be to overcome this mammoth with three (smaller) people? They previously went up against crow-bats… and the possibility of aggressive large beetles, maniac clowns, and some odd, green-haired people who could seemingly integrate into and utilize a whole castle for their own use, or such… I am simply saying, if Pax did not care to worry about some stranger’s food, why is he now worried merely due to size…? Well, I suppose food is much smaller… poison still a possibility, though, and goliaths are not necessarily aggressive, either… 

 

“They are mostly, actually, but they are also our living tombs, unfortunately…” The gargantuan person said (who kind of looked like some office employee, actually…) 

 

“What… why is that?” Pax asked, reasonably curious about this odd state of affairs… 

 

“This was our temperate laboratory from centuries ago, the lone isle, furthest that a crow could fly… but we made a mistake, we were not perceptive enough to our surroundings, and recognized only too late the alterations…” By ‘we’ he means who, exactly? Perhaps he just has some imaginary friends? Or are they those who we glimpsed earlier? This is such a strange affair, would you not agree? Almost as strange… although could become stranger… than those ‘twos’ being underground in the castle, and turning out to be researchers who apparently had their ethereal technology stolen… these ones here, on the other hand, are gigantic and apparently free… but also from a laboratory? 

 

“Wait… centuries ago? How could you still be alive?” Pax asked relevantly… but seriously, are they vampires? Because they do not seem like any stereotypical one… maybe golems? Ah, why am I even wildly speculating, let us just continue on… 

 

“What leaked from our experiments… from the universe… is a certain essence that… both annihilated everything, including our mortal coils and any possibility at having the usual lives again, and…” That is quite the statement, one has got to admit… but how does one’s mortal coil be annihilated… perhaps that means they are immortal? Does this not sound somewhat similar to the others who were also negligent with their experiments? Instead of going through the effects themselves, though, the results were stolen… and I suspect (if indeed whatever leaked from here is the same as the production of their probes) if they knew that they could have become immortal, and tall… that they would probably regret having it stolen. At least they have their optimism going for them, though… 

 

“Was it… the ethereal archetypes that leaked?” Clemens suddenly said, specifically homing in on what the trio were probably all thinking, although one supposes that it was more of the ethereal energy that does the leaking, with archetypes likely following in its wake… 

 

“I believe they may be called that now, but centuries ago we had no idea as to what they might have been. Not just nominally, but what they were capable of too… the first time we witnessed that was when our other half vanished into the ether… taken away by an incomprehensible abyss, never to know them again, swallowed whole by the netherworld…” That is… quite the explanation, and clearly he is more than just some huge person… technically, though, could an abyss ever be comprehended? Is it not just a bottomless hole? I suppose if one shone a light strong enough to go to the bottom, if it was not literally bottomless, then one can ‘know’, but otherwise it is just like any space where eyes cannot bounce light off from… 

 

“Other… half…?” Pax asked, while contemplating the possible implications with a sort of meandering solemnity usually only reserved for a meditative pause… 

 

“We are from a species called the ‘twos’, although we are mainly known as that only by those who meet us here in this dimension… not exactly a twin, but whenever our kind cross a certain spatial barrier we seem to be forever intertwined through synchronization… it is a bit strange, but it became second nature to us, up until that point…” Well, that should perk up Pax’s interest, considering where they just came from… what kind of spatial barrier, though? Like a black hole, perhaps, whose event horizon transforms all? I mean, usually it just makes people into individual spaghetti, theoretically elongated to infinity… so, perhaps this is the opposite? Or not, strictly, as it was never explicitly said that short or tall were their original forms, so far, anyway. Could this be a new kind of physics? One where phenomena does not just destroy life? 

 

“Twos…?! You must be related to a few scientists we were just talking with! We did indeed notice this strange phenomenon of synchronized walking… as they have not been separated, like it seems happened here so long ago…” Exactly, now the crucial question here is, I think, the one the whole of existence depends on… are they, literally, all scientists in their species? 

 

“Well, the world is surely small… we might need to speak with them at some point, then… meanwhile, why would you not meet with the three others that inhabit this place, just before this cave, where you came from? They might like to know this also, and possibly provide you with some other information…” Oh, so those were not just shadows whispering in the dark… 

 

“Ever since that accident aeons ago we were never the same, hollow and lifeless do we feel…” Well, one might feel like that if somehow one lives forever in some dilapidated cavern, one has got to admit… 

 

There was a tiny water nearby, among all the green shrubby and the multi-pronged crystal, water that fell from the cave itself, as if it was sobbing, and saying… 

 

“What could time, in all its vastness, mime… 

…and this blue, in its elastic dewy wet, imbue… 

…when eternity does not hold a candle to modernity…?” 

One supposes, then, that it makes some contextual sense after talking with this giant ‘two’… although there does not seem to be any candles in the vicinity… I assume, though, by modernity one can compare the ones at the island below this one, and contrast their ‘ancestors’, as such, stuck here because of what happened long ago, due to ‘time’… 

As soon as they went back down, suddenly, those who were formerly on the margins of the ruins came on the forefront, beginning with the upper left one, saying… 

“We have not been visited by anyone in such a long time… why might you have come?” I suppose this being the furthest island, and a ruins, might have something to do with it… 

 

“Uh, well, you see, we came after being told… by these ‘two’ scientists, who I think might be related to you, although they are quite much smaller, you see, for some reason…” It is almost like they have a problem with moderation… 

 

“So, you must know we were once ‘twos’… and, yes, as it happens, we were also much smaller once… but the netherworld has a way to upend physics, and reality itself… we figured it might be the reason why creatures were much larger historically too, but currently it seems only we are, trapped forever more in this ruined dystopia where we can no longer do that which imbued us with such passion, so long ago, scientific experiments…” Well, that then does imply that they are originally smaller than usual… and that the netherworld was originally in the… upper world? By definition does not make sense, but then why would creatures have been larger? Gravity, perhaps? The atmosphere? I suppose if one does change reality, generally… 

 

“That is… indeed, quite interesting… I was about to say, though… we were told by them that… in some legend, anyway… there might be something that could possibly help us here, potentially a weapon enveloped in some ethereal coating or something…” Are you it is not a chocolate coating, Pax? Would certainly be more delicious… but one cannot possibly eat a weapon, regardless of its coating… ah, never mind all this diversion… 

 

“You mean the very energy the archetypes use to traverse the universe… and sure, there is such a thing here, but there is more, too… talk with the two below to find out more…” Oh, and I just made light of the coating, when in reality it is possible to go through the cosmos with it…? 

 

“We… or should that be ‘I’… are ever so tired, being so large, so alone, so cast out of existence…” I suppose it would make more grammatical sense if one transitioned from those two, yes… but, most importantly, you can say ‘one’ now, finally! But being cast out of anything is not fun, no… 

Then there was another large one, slightly to the lower side in comparison to the one we just talked with, but still left-side of these ruins… 

“I heard that you came from conversing with others of our kind, which is interesting in itself, but they must be more like our past selves, with barely much in common now…” So, one must wonder, is time passing for them or are they mere shadows in a static world? Because if time does not flow, then how they past? But if it does, why can they seemingly not change much? 

“How… did you ‘hear’ that? I had only just told the one in the cavern over there…” Good point, Pax, and here I was rambling about a minor point of contention… 

 

“Well… in the time we spent here we mostly linger… but, also, developed a certain type of sensing, one where we seem able to feel through objects and the space in between… we think it may be the remnants of what the netherworld is capable of… and suspect that it is but one, basic ability possessed by the archetypes…” Is that, possibly, the definition of telepathy? Perhaps through a slightly different mechanism? Speaking of which, the first of these four… seemed to, almost, spontaneously appear near Pax… could they have the ability to teleport too? 

 

“Curious… could we ever be so capable, were we to spend time within such an environment, then?” And why would you want that, Clemens? Why would anyone want to creepily know what is in another’s mind? Selling the data that someone voluntarily released, perhaps, but if they got that data when it was safely tucked within brain cells… that would surely be a step too far… 

 

“Possibly, but we are not sure, for double-blind studies have not quite been conducted, you see… we could have done those so long ago, but the state of this place, now…” By ‘we’ here I assume he has not momentarily forgot that he lost his other ‘half’ and is referring to them again after centuries, no… I assume it is merely a reference to the four here, and their collective experimenting in the past, perhaps… but who knows, I conceivably could be presuming too much, and memory loss kicked in, possibly? By the bye, if time does not flow as it normally does… I wonder how the brain might change, and if perception itself changes, or it is merely reality being reflected, as opposed to differing types of sensing… 

 

“Not even sure if we prefer our former, more logical life, or this bizarre existence in between dimensions…” Is what he said thereafter… which, I suppose, is an interesting thing to think about and debate, possible… although not many debaters would have experienced existing in different dimensions, so they might decline the discussion due to a lack of experience… 

 

The only one left, now was the one on the right section of the ruins, within… some bushes, as if trying to conceal the bulk within overgrown nature. It was ever so slightly reminiscent of the two strange ‘people’ in front of the crystals in one of the castle’s floors, but one should assume this one here is more ‘alive’ than those two who were more likely to be holographic automatons, or such… alive, of course, being a relative term, as after centuries it seems to be as alive as one might be awake after a day or two of no sleep… 

“We have noticed you as you entered… not sure if you noticed us, but perception is always interesting to observe, is it not? As in, how it was that my green hair faded into the background of the verdant foliage,.. but never mind about me, what brings you to our ruins?” He began by saying, apparently revealing all his cards from the get go, or at least the trick he had up his sleeve as we entered… not so much now that their guards have been lowered, and we can converse in comparative friendliness. 

 

“Hm, interesting thing you said there, but we are wondering… what else could there be here? What have you done throughout these… centuries? Still hard to believe it has been so long, and you are still here…” That seems to be a two-in-one question, Pax, which, I suppose, is only reasonable in such circumstances, but still, you know many answerers seem to ignore, or forget, usually the first question, because their minds happen to be suddenly preoccupied by the next one in line… always seemed somewhat inefficient to ask one at a time, but it can be better than sending three messages by the end, otherwise… and why do you assume that it is hard to believe that anyone can exist for centuries? Do you realize some trees do so for millennia, even? Sure, they do not go saunter about so jauntily, but still… 

 

“Indeed, it is also difficult for us to understand, but we have now merely resorted to observations of the world around us… after living within intense ethereal energy, do understand, the world just looks and seems different… it is as if one could be an object, instead of merely a subject, within an objective world… oh, and with regards to your little question there, an archetype has been situated here ever since, the source of all this energy, our own very black hole forever confining us to our past…” Well, he did at least answer both questions, clearly surpassing my expectations…. I wonder if intense energy feels, or tastes different… an object, not a subject? Like a tree, possibly? One assumes that trees still have a sort of consciousness, but they are apparently more of a static object, more of an object than many objects, in fact, which can be carried around… but, just to observe, sounds interestingly calm… 

 

“Wait, did you say there is an archetype? As in, a living, breathing creature from the netherworld…? How does it even survive here?” Ah, I knew I must have missed commenting on something earlier, and it so happened to be the most crucial highlight of what this fellow said… 

 

“Oh, it does not quite need to survive… in fact, if there were alternative intentions, this world would be of such need… but, we, along with the rest of this physicality, seem to still exist because the archetype appears to prefer to… perceive, instead of merely destroy, like it can do… not that that prevented it from annihilating our former laboratory and our other ‘half’, mind… but in the time since it seems it does not act purely on instinct, anymore…” Well, that is settled, then… what is this an archetype of, a scientist too? How many of them are there?! They must be replicating… but really, how can a being so powerful just restrain itself so…? 

 

“Quite… interesting…” Is all Ventus had to say on all this, but one assumes she took it all in, digested it, and is currently processing it at the speed of a quantum computer… 

 

“We went from objective testing to sensing, these last few centuries… from attempting to reason, to merely feeling, existing… such an odd existence…” Or, I suppose, one could do both at the same time, but perhaps different dimensions necessitate separate existences? That could be plausible, possibly… but the question here is, after so many centuries how would it feel? Would chocolate taste the same, or would over-exposure to it make even the most potent taste bland? 

What the trio then decided to do, after talking to all of them, and learning about the archetype here… is to know to attempt contact… whether it was possible to create such an encounter with a creature of such definition was not quite known, but they thought it was one of their best possibility to defeat the monarch with his own archetype possession. So, they went inside the cave, further on than they had done when they first met the first of the giants… 

“You… three…who might you be…?” This misshapen soul asked. They looked as if a shadow had taken form, and left only two red eyes and a mouth to interact at all with the world. It did appear threatening, but based on what one of the giants said prior, the trio decided that the threat might be only visual, and perhaps unwarranted… and so, they decided to continue on after this initial contact, for they might yet possibly get assistance… 

 

 

“We are explorers… searching for… archetypes… you must be…” Pax replied, as hesitant as he could ever feel, for visuals are not quite easy to shake off… he intended to persist, though, for if the giants observed this archetype for so long, and they were truthfully so ancient themselves, now, then what they claimed could only be epistemologically correct, for if it was not they would have likely been annihilated themselves, by now… the only way all of this would not have been true is if they were in a conspiracy along with the archetype, but how likely was that considering they did indeed look like one half of the ‘twos’ and did also talk quite a bit about their prior scientific research? I suppose they could also be physical puppets, but at that point… all would be uncertain, so… the trio decided to continue on with the bet that they would not be crushed… 

 

“Indeed… how did you figure that out? I am that of which you seek, but I have been here for so very long… I do not seek to annihilate, even though I can still recall my last accident… but not now, I derive serenity from mere observation…” Well, that was a safe bet, then… as safe as any reasonable deduction can produce… I wonder, though, how the archetype themselves could think it was an accident? They did not intend to come here? I can only imagine them falling from the sky, like some raving meteor, and being unable to not destroy everything they happen to land on, but other than that I would know not know how this all transpired, and the others will likely not ask this specific question, since there probably are a limited set of questions to ask… 

 

“How… could that be possible? To go from destruction, to solely perceive…?” I thought Clemens would not go for that angle, specifically… but, still, this one question is interesting, from an abstract, sort of generic basis… ‘solely perceive’, though, makes it seem like they are a brain in a vat… or perhaps we could be that too, and all is mere simulations… 

 

“I saw a tree. When I noticed it, I asked myself… what is the difference between it and me? Could trees spend a miserable eternity in one place? If they did why would they have not evolved to move away? Suddenly, then, I had assumed the tree’s consciousness… I was the tree, and there I had reached a state never in my dreams had I ever even imagined… a certain oneness, a mere unit of absolute calm….” Well, that was kind of unexpected, was it not? A tree… faced an archetype, that is sort of like the very essence of creation in opposition to destruction, and instead of the usual expected outcome of life… one of the two being annihilated… one changed the other, and presumably both kept on existing. It is an interesting thought to ponder, though, whether there are any trees that are more miserable than others… trees are so static, and it is not like they can exercise to release neurochemicals that would possibly alter their moods… they cannot even create roots to absorb nutrients in places that are rich with them, merely having to find what they can, where they are… such a stasis. But, assuming another’s consciousness… is this something only archetypes can do, I wonder? Is it, also, merely a matter of… possibly, mirroring neurons? Wait, do archetypes even have neurons? One would assume so, if they are indeed alive, but based on what the giants mentioned it seems like they might be existing in between dimensions, and the implications of that are not quite known… if so, the question becomes, was this truly just a mirror, or had they perhaps indeed become the tree? 

 

“Hm, does that mean all archetypes have felt this, though?” Pax asked, among the many possible questions… this was not quite irrelevant, and although many others could have possibly been more interesting, this impacted their current investigation also… 

 

“Far from it… we are creatures of bottomless despair… for that is all there is at the very fundament of all life, and existence… you all feel it occasionally, but our very habitat is that of which makes a cascade, an infinity of negativity. This is why, at the base, root, and crux of the archetypes is destruction… and it is the same reason, to different degrees, for many other creatures too…” Well, that was quite the downer, if I may say so… but, realistic, presumably? If, also, these archetypes are the creature representative of life at the very substructure of all lives, and there is also despair at the bottom… it kind of seeps up, in a trickle perhaps, to the whole tree of life? An infinity of negativity, though, does indeed seem… negative. 

“Sounds… sad. How did you get so far away from that, then? Just that momentary calmness with a tree…?” Clemens opined… and while it does indeed seem strange for someone to be so totally changed due to a plant… I suppose anything can make sense in the world of ethereal creatures. At this point I would not be surprised if they can transform themselves into other beings too… they seem to be able to do quite a few things… 

 

“Essentially… and the realization that perception and understanding of a variety of angles is what seems to be fulfilling. Creatures who solely destroy can never be happy, for it is a desire that only seeks a greater quantity… but sitting here, at the depths of a cavern in a ruined island at the furthest of the world… this is where the potential is for perfection. My visage might never alter, and so will only still communicate destruction… but being mostly alone, here, meditating, seems to me, at least, the way I should pursue…” Is it not curious how the archetype does not seem to mention that little bit of trivia, the fact that this is a ruined island due to their own ‘accident’? But, I suppose, if they regret it… perfection, though? More so than what this fabled species can already attain? Quite an aspiration… such a contemplative existence, though, one has got to admit… 

“That is… good, but… from our understanding there might be at least one other archetype out there, and I do not presume they met any tree, yet… based on what we experienced so far, too, it appears that it is rooting everyone in raw insanity, and possibly more as well…” The castle was insane, Pax? Yes, I suppose I would agree… to say the least. The fact we need to go back there to finish all this makes me shudder… but archetypes and trees, truly, perhaps we would solve all our problems if we just bought an arboretum, and hope that they all want to observe… 

 

“I do actually know all about this… for this is what my observation leads me to perceive, too, even though I have never left here. The archetype you speak of is indeed hell-bent on annihilation, but… it will not be immediate, swift… it wants to crawl its way into this world’s innards, to consume from within with fury, and mad intensity… I had known them, centuries prior, and they did not seem likely to want to change… but, then again, I did not either, until I had my visceral experience…” Well, that sounds a bit icky, I suppose, and maybe the idea with the arboretum would not work? Could we arrange a visceral experience, then? If not, we could settle for combat, or perhaps arm wrestling? Well, that is a strange idea, to arm wrestle an ethereal creature from the abyss… but hey, all will be well! 

“What… can we do, then? I can help by utilizing the ethereal, but I reckon it would still not be enough… could you… help us?” Ventus asked, as if awoken by a faraway call that resounded upon the very life of the brain within her. Although, of course that could only be her, for the two others cannot utilize such a thing, why, Pax can barely utilize a sword… 

 

“That would be difficult as I had never left here, and I would still like to merely observe for all eternity, but… alongside our many other capabilities, archetypes can also clone ourselves, essentially… my consciousness will still remain here, my central existence just to perceive… nevertheless, I could assist you by allocating a slight bit of my will to accompany you on your journey to possibly defeat this malevolent archetype. First, though, I need to see if you are capable of this arduous journey, I shall test you… if you feel ready?” For… what? Only a slight bit, too? Can we possible haggle about this? Ah, so many questions, but we need to be ready for… wait, is it combat with an archetype? But the trio will be annihilated, surely! Or, perhaps, now that this archetype has calmed down a bit… they would not be as devastating? To hope… 

 

“Uh… maybe?” Is all they could muster, for of course, how could they not hesitate? 

“Let us, thus, initiate this splendid ballad of fear, and uncertainty…” Well, that sounds inviting… 

 

 

The battle began… well, one would hope it was more of a simulation, as otherwise the trio would be in real trouble based on prior definitions of what archetypes are capable of… and indeed it did not seem so amazingly impossible, and after a while, following a few trades of abilities here, and there… always interesting to see what an ethereal creature can do, especially before encountering one who will likely not hold back as much, this perceptual archetype said… 

“You seem like you can handle even worse than myself… I have, actually, been restrained in my dealings with you, for I think I could annihilate reality itself if I concentrated all my perceptual observations throughout all the time I have been here, but I will not, of course… what I shall do, though, is copy myself to lend you a fraction of my abilities, in order to put a stop to all the malevolent possibilities of the archetype now taking residence near Ignis. Shall we go now, then?” Well, it is a good thing there was restraint, then… but also, if they can truly do all that, then even if it is only a fraction, it will possibly still be proportionally potent? Hopefully… 

As an side, though, if they were to have not been prepared to withstand this archetype’s test, they would have simply settled with… this little brazen bit… 

“I am ever so sorry that you do not seem capable to withstand the harsh reality in the future… by all means, though, do try to ameliorate yourself like I do ever so often, and come back when you feel like you can tackle me, once more…” Is that… like… the first time passive aggression was implied? I had no idea archetypes could be cheeky… who knew? 

If they were simply not ready, on the other hand, time’s hands themselves were summoned… 

“Do approach me again, then, when you feel like facing eternity head on…” 

Nobody can accuse archetypes of not being grandiose, I suppose… 

So, then, they went back… but first talked to the ‘giants’ once more, because why not… 

“I notice that you finally got to meet the archetype that had existed here ever since our accident… we were around too, but had never quite had the courage to approach. We… merely observed… while they observed the world, which is how we presumed that there were no malevolent intentions still present, but one can never be sure, you see…” Is what the one in the same cavern, on the left, said… and, one would think, after centuries that they would have, surely, gotten some courage… but, I suppose, if one’s laboratory was destroyed like that, then that must have instituted some kind of trauma that even observation cannot overcome… 

 

“Yes, of course, but for now we really have no other option except to use any help we can… there does not seem to be any huge risks, though, after that little tale was recounted…” Yes, Pax, but there could not have been any tales, and perhaps the only tale there would have been would be one in the future, where the giants recall how you were eaten in one fell swoop… just like you ate that strange food in the castle, and yet still lived to (possibly) tell the tale… 

“That was our impression too after observing for so long… certainly, it does seem like the one at Ignis seems far more ill-intentioned… we do hope you could manage to settle this, or the very world might be at stake…” We sure will try… but, really, we never quite read or heard anything specific about the Ignis archetype, have we? Merely, it was all about the monarch… could it be, perhaps, that the archetype absorbs the intentions of the ‘wearer’? Or is it the other way round? 

“We might persist for a few more centuries… but forever…?” Is all he kept saying then, potentially for centuries thereafter… the poor soul… 

Outside, the one on top of the hedge on the left now seemed to say… 

“You have an archetype’s capabilities? We do think that is a major boost towards the likelihood of defeating the oppressor possessed by the malevolent ethereal creature… certainly, you could do quite a bit more…” Well, yes, that is exactly why they bothered with the test, not to mention the fact of coming here… I suppose, we could have come just to talk with you all, but then again we were not even aware you were here in the first place… 

“Let us, indeed, hope so… for if it does not work, we are not quite sure as to what else can possibly happen, no… but, using one archetype to defeat another seems to be the most sensible option, here…” Of course, Pax, always fight fire with fire… except when it can only potentiate and worsen the situation, so be sure to learn the physics of flares beforehand… 

 

“Indeed, it does… and based on the destruction wrought on our laboratory, as can be witnessed, this archetype has quite a few capabilities in storage, and that was centuries ago, too…” Why, does time not usually wear life out? Or does it work in reverse in this other dimension, perhaps? 

There was also the one on the lower left, who earlier conversed about the archetype’s abilities… 

“That creature… be careful with it, for archetypes seem to be a double-edged sword, and even if well-intentioned… ‘accidents’ happen…” Yes, we can see your dimensions in front of us, it must have been quite the accident… but, then, immortality does not sound that bad…? 

“We are aware of this place’s history, but would hope that it was indeed an accident that did not occur due to intention…” Well, Pax, technically that is the definition of an accident, yes, although I suppose rehashing the point further emphasizes it… 

 

“Try to use logic in any decisions you make, at the very least… then, perhaps, you would not make such a miscalculation as we have…” You were all in pursuit of science, too… what hope does Pax have, then, truly…? 

“Do we… forever dance along with this creature to some sort of infernal, eternal rhythm…?” Maybe? Hey, thinking about silver linings, but it could also be the new samba or such… 

Lastly, the one on the right side of these ruins, who before went on about perceptions, said… 

 

“That archetype! The one we noticed for so long, at the depths of the caverns… could it really help, not hinder?” When it comes to depths does not usually refer to vertical spaces, not horizontal ones? I mean, if archetypes are from the depths of an abyss… can it be a vertical abyss, perhaps? Like a really long hall…? 

“Well, so far it seems willing to assist us, but we shall see if anything deviates from the stated intentions…” Of course, Clemens, that is the logical way to approach this… 

 

“If they had not destroyed us completely in the centuries we have co-existed here… then perhaps they are indeed not intending to destroy… unless, of course, they are merely disguising themselves for some ulterior motive, until the time is right or so…” Like he disguised himself among the bushes, perhaps? Well, I suppose, not much of an ulterior motive there, unless one includes chilling with greenery as a motive… 

 

“Could seeing nature take over here have changed them? Seeing all the growth…” It might have changed them, just like it seemed to change you, former scientists… 

It was, now, after a thorough exploration of these ruins and a cave, that the trio decided to head back to… the dreaded, insane, maniacal castle of damnable doom, full of crow-bats and one, solitary, but malevolent archetype who seemingly wants nothing more than to possess all! 

Daemon 

They went back to the castle, just after chit-chatting a slight bit with the ‘twos’ once again, for telling them that their ancestors are still alive is only a polite thing to do, surely. Then, they rode the waves of ‘jazz’ once again, to arrive in the main continental area, and straight to the castle, for who wants to bother with the people in Nix if one can procrastination in some spooky abode… they were, at any rate, curious as to how this will turn out… 

Turn out it did… the first upper floor seemed to be accessible now, and within they found… what seemed to be… possibly holographic images of… someone they assumed to be the monarch, but this was strange for every time the went onto one they disappeared as soon as something was said, and as such, due to the hazy atmosphere too, the trio assumed this was some re-enactment from the past… possibly before the possession of the archetype? 

“I happen to be so alone, in this time and age; I feel as if I expired, and soon to be extinct…” This is what made them think this was the monarch, for they only ever read about extinction in relation to this institution before, in this very castle… 

“Ancestors, what ever shall I do? Not that I mind too much, but if I let go I would be the very last of my kind, and you would never possibly look upon that positively…” Wait, he was an ancestor worshipper…? Well, I suppose, slightly more interesting than other types of religions, possibly…? Hey, he could always consult the archetype, soon… 

“These scrolls that inscribe the very essence of my kingdom… I wonder where they happen to come from? Our recent past has gone so well, too, why then would anyone put these up?” Gone well? I suppose we were sort of told that the more outlandish madness began recently, presumably after the meeting with the archetype… but, scrolls? Perhaps that is what these ethereal creatures use? But, why? Are not scrolls physical… not ethereal…? 

“Fear, for archetypes shall annihilate.” 

“Fear, for houses are built on crumbling rock.” 

“Fear, for only the ethereal reigns supreme.” 

Well, that is definitely some threatening vertical paper, but honestly, why would anyone effectively sell their ‘soul’ just because of some writing? Would that not have been even more of a risk? Being alone and all, one supposes that changes perspective… 

“Are these a direct threat to me and my stable prosperity so far, perhaps? Why else would they be here?” But how stable was it, really? A foundation not directly voted to be built by anyone? That could never be; prosperity, on the other hand, might be more subjective… 

“Dread, for despair is dark.” 

“Dread, for dreary is dire.” 

“Dread, for detestation is doom.” 

These other scrolls… they seem to have a fascination for one specific letter, too. If it was a different one I would have suspected the ‘twos’… but they are far too cuddly to write any of this, of course. This is all… definitely… dark… 

“If only I had someone left to consult with… but they all seemed to evaporate into thin air, just before shrieks could be heard for some reason…” Shrieks…? Could it be, perhaps… the giant beetle and maniacal clown… were once sane civil servants, or something? 

“But how would I handle the social contract, if I were to…?” Presumably he is thinking about possessing the archetype at this point… but, really, what contract, with such a fundament…? 

“Ah, but everything was so smooth too, despite being the last institution of the kind… could archetypes be rebels?” Not… quite… you see… well, hopefully he got to know what they are before totally consuming him, I suppose? 

“No, the ethereal seems to be… I see… so, this is an existential threat, is it?” Yes, it surely is… so, will he give in? Find out in the next episode of… 

“This… power… this… immense… energy… such… intensity…” There we go… weak personalities, and all… but, this monarch was not as one-dimensional as we might have always thought up to this point… clearly, other things happened in the background… more than these spectres reveal too… and the internal, unspoken conflicts, no one could know about, too… but, in the end it is still a fact that in order to try to sustain this the monarch resorted to some bizarre concoction… 

They proceeded upwards, to this room which seemed to be made out of the universe itself, it was quite the sight, and at the very top of it was this creature… not quite the recognizable form of the (presumable) monarch we just saw apparitions of… it was a more otherworldly creature… one that seemingly integrated the universe in itself, too… 

“You… are… you! What have you come here for, after so many centuries…?” So, presumably, he is not quite speaking about the trio, for they have, in all likelihood, not lived that long… I suppose Ventus might have, looks being deceiving and all, but who knows at this point… 

 

“To put a stop to your meddling, my old friend… I have observed you for so long, but finally I have this opportunity to end you, once and for all…” Is what the perceptual archetype who just so happened to have become our companion (one would think) said… ‘end’, though, is strong… 

 

“We… shall… see… about… that…” Is what this other, more malevolent archetype uttered… as if anger cannot be contained, and yet is still trying, for some reason… 

 

“We shall, but if you truly think that through sheer instinct, and no contemplation whatsoever, that you will have the upper hand… you will be sorely mistaken…” One supposes this is what the perceptions of our new associate have indicated…? 

 

 

“What makes you think I have no grand plan…? Do you think I merely took over some individual’s mortal coil…? We can play chess if you so wish, but be also mindful that we will not have an eternity within such a game, and so your centuries of observation will come to no use…” Well, that seems fair, after all chess is never play for all time… or is it? Time does seem to slow down a tad bit… 

 

“En… garde!” Is what our friendly, ethereal colleague now said… admittedly, not the most thoughtful of phrases recently said… 

 

 

After quite a bout… this was a formidable, grandiose creature pretty much outside of time itself, after all, and so, it needs to be said, it had a lot of… fortitude? Well, thereabouts, at any rate… after all that, the battle ended, but not quite in the way the trio, or apparently our immaterial ally, had thought it would end… 

“Ah… what is happening, where am I? Last I remember…” The monarch said, dishevelled, and more physically devastated than we could ever glimpsed prior… worse than our impression from all the writings could ever impart, too… 

 

“The mortal… where has the ancient archetype gone?! They have fled their coil… we have but defeated a human…” Is what our insubstantial fellow stated… perhaps outwitted, despite all those centuries of pure observation? I suppose a strategy can do that… 

 

“We have defeated the monarch… but… was the archetype really in control of all the actions thus far? Have they really disappeared from here? Have we still a problem, then…?” Pax finally admitted, as if somehow he never even considered this possibility… then again, truly, does he ever consider anything? Well, perhaps eating strange food… 

 

“Unfortunately… it seems like we might have… but, for now, the immediate threat Ignis posed seems to be over… for the future, though, who ever knows…?” Is what our intangible mate now said… but, really, how is it over if the malevolence has merely escaped…? 

 

“Have we… not been mindful enough of what our problem was…?” Clemens proposed… for once, it indeed seems mindful consider that we have not been so through out journey, but I am of the opinion that we could still rectify all this… 

 

“Not necessarily… you see, I think archetypes have indeed more of a will than any mortals ever could… but there is still consent that is needed, the monarch still conceded to the archetype, and in turn… ironically, it merely led to the extinction of not just the institution, it appears, but life itself…” Ventus asserted, seemingly knowledgeable about ethereal matters, which should really be what is expected, considering that is their stated specialization… 

 

“This is sad, really… a confluence of forces seems to have been the problem, but in the end we only managed to separate them, for now…” Indeed, Pax, we merely detached reality from the ethereal, but that does not mean that, like magnets, they could not simply conjoin once more… 

 

“Indeed… now, it depends on you, your will, as to how to proceed, but as always… be mindful…” Is what our incorporeal friend now said, as if… somewhat of a hint, a challenge, perhaps? Or maybe just my perception… 

The trio, then, and… their odd sidekick… observed, and thought about their next move, but what seemed certain is that there was, apparently, an inherently interesting element to this tale, a quality which seemed to transcend mundanity… hopefully.

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