I watched you die.
Though, I see now that you’re not truly dead, are you? You’re stronger than death. Your mind is strong, and only your body is frozen in time. You will never move, never talk, never feel, but you will still exist: dead, and yet alive; alive, and yet dead. And then slowly, as the ages pass, you will fade away from collective memory, forgotten to the world, all traces of your history lost. Except you will still physically remain, with only your mind being outside the reach of their magic.
You drank the drink of the gods, and now you’ve paid the price. And what a way to go, too. Your own pupils turned on you. You died fighting to the bitter end, and cracked continents, erased pristine forests with your half-godly fire and moved oceans around like it was nothing to you. Have you ever thought that perhaps fighting was never the solution?
I’m your sole remaining pupil, so I guess that makes me the most powerful being on the planet for the moment, doesn’t it? I’m going to peer into your mind, and see what you’ve seen, and think what you’ve thought. Not out of malice, oh no. I saved you; I turned on my brothers and sisters, your quarter-god pupils. Because I loved you and still do.
What happened, Arca? Was it when you failed to forge a peace between those who slaughtered each other by the thousands? No, people have always gone to war, with or without you, that’s just their damned bloody nature. Was it when you argued with one of your brightest pupils, Tavos, in front of the rest of The Twenty? He was right you know, you needed to set an example through peace, not violence. Seeing inside your mind, I think I’ve got the precise moment when things started to fall apart. Let me help you understand, for your own sake. It’s going to get awfully lonely for you after I’m gone.
The greatest mistake you ever made was teaching us the gift of magic. You were just a girl then, a little ball of joy in your small tribe on the north coast. It filled you with wonder when you saw the falling star. It struck the ground so close to your village that it blew several homes apart. You approached it with awe, when others looked at it with fear and told you to fear it as well. It was an ice star, spilling a strange purple-blue liquid from its cracked core. What beautiful music. Or is that a voice I hear? It’s so warm and inviting, begging you to come closer. The voice wrapped your body in its soothing tone, and pulled you closer.
“I wish to help you, young Arca,” how does the voice know your name? Where is it coming from? The voice seems to be all around you, inside you, in your head and yet still in front of you. “Drink from this fallen star, and anything you want will be yours.”
Your curiosity betrayed you. That strange liquid filled you with an incredible feeling, burning and chilling your body at the same time, clearing your mind and it made you feel powerful. Little did you know how powerful you would eventually become.
Under the cover of the night while everyone was sleeping, you quietly kept coming back to the ice star to drink from it, and then you noticed one night that your feet didn’t quite reach the ground when you returned to your tent. A gift from the gods.
You were flying. In confusion, or perhaps excitement, you swung your arms and the earth below you shifted ever-so-slightly. Bewildered, you fell down and the smell of burnt grass surrounded you. You tried to stomp out the circle of fire around you, and a powerful gust of wind erupted each time you brought your foot down. You were a half-goddess.
As you grew older, tribes who have never seen you wanted to ally with you. People wanted to know your secret. Some of them loved you, some hated you. And as you tried to bring balance to the world, many wanted to see you die.
It was too much. You started to give away small pieces of your power, so that people could deal with their affairs without you. Many tribal leaders benefitted from your generosity, though you did not give them much. It was to your twenty most beloved students that you gave half of your power away, charging them to aid you in keeping peace in the world. What a mess you made.
And so began a bloody series of wars of fear and revenge, on a scale never before seen and with devastating magic. Those who feared magic attacked those who protected it. While The Twenty were busy speaking with the elders of tribes from both sides, you used your powers to try to silence the war by force. You grew angry, your anger turned to violent rage, and you became out of touch with the people you wished to protect. The Twenty had the role of keeping balance in the world, and you became the largest threat to peace the world had ever seen.
So we hunted you. The Twenty wanted to see you gone from the world. We knew of your immense power firsthand, so we devised a way to defeat you. We found the ice star that fell so many seasons ago, and together infused it with our magic every day. The Runestone, we called it. It was our attempt to seize the true magic of the gods. The magic of time.
The Runestone was soon brimming with magic, but we kept adding more to it, and it still absorbed everything we gave to it like a bottomless well. It had so much magic infused into it that none of us could activate it alone. We thought if we could use it against you, then we could undo you, and banish you from existence altogether, as if the Goddess of Time never made you.
I did not want that to happen, so I had to turn on my brothers and sisters in secret. The world wasn’t going to be better without you.
Let me recall a memory that was particularly painful, when we encountered you and Tavos held the Runestone suspended in front of him with his air magic.
“Arca, we have come for you. You must realize how much harm you have done to the world. Armies of men lie dead under mountains that you have moved, burnt with the fire that you breathed, broken by the hurricanes you created, and drowned by the seas you devoured them with. It is time for you to leave this world, and to let us create a better one,” Tavos said.
Betrayal. Sadness. Hopelessness. A half-goddess you may have been, but deep inside you still felt like a mortal. You kept telling yourself that you were a force of good for the world, using your power to try to stop the endless wars between the north and south. You kept telling yourself that, because you didn’t want to admit how much you’ve failed: you failed yourself, that little girl that cried when grown-ups went to war; you realized that you failed your students, and they turned on you, thinking you’ve gone mad and need to be put down, like some rabid dog. You failed the people you swore to protect from war. It’s not easy to sleep at night with such thoughts, even for a half-goddess.
“And what of Tavernel?” you asked of me, “I do not see him in your group. Have you all lost your minds and killed one of your own?”
Tavos replied, “Tavernel is not with us, but we have done him no harm. He wished not to be present, for he still admires you, and his heart cannot understand the destruction that you have brought to the people of the world. He was free to leave The Twenty, so long as he did not interfere.”
I can only imagine the troubles your power has caused you. No matter how much power anyone has, the world will eventually return to its familiar self, eternally fraught with self-destruction and eternally rebuilding itself from the ashes.
I see now, in your mind, that you did not return the same feelings as I had for you. But of course, how could you? With the world falling apart, where in your mind could you have found room for love? I saw you not as a half-goddess, but as someone of this world, who can laugh, cry, hope and dream. At one point, you were just like all of us, young and afraid and mortal. At some point you forgot about that, and I wished with all my heart that I could remind you that you were loved, even if by only one person.
A great battle began between you and the nineteen remaining members of The Twenty. That battle changed the face of the planet more than anything else in your history. Three continents split apart, islands were shattered, great forests burned, and no one could take shelter from the sheer scale of it all.
Eventually, you were cornered on a small island, utterly exhausted. You wanted it all to end, and you simply couldn’t handle it anymore, the weight of the world on your shoulders. Where every one of your decisions was both right and wrong. Who was more tired in the end? Did the world reject a deity, or did the deity abandon the irreparable world?
They surrounded you and channeled their power into the Runestone, and hoped to remove you from existence. They would be no better than you once you’ve been banished. I knew them, and I knew the tribes of the world; war wasn’t simply going to stop after you were gone. Some would rejoice, some would weep, but soon enough, everyone would return to what’s comfortable, and begin drawing borders and painting enemies and sending the young and foolish to fight for the old and bitter. Nothing is going to change that, but I didn’t want to see you go. Love was my only constant.
And so I corrupted the Runestone.
When the nineteen of them activated it together, it sent a feedback loop back onto them, sending cascades of powerful magic back into their veins, and it did not want to stop. There was so much magic in that Runestone that no one could absorb it, and their bodies quickly reached the limit of what they could handle. It still kept going regardless.
They were destroyed from the inside, all nineteen of them. Their blood boiled and their minds burned out. I came later and saw their bodies on the ground, in a circle around you.
Some of the magic still got to you. You were frozen in time, but at least you weren’t banished from our realm. You can think, wonder, and see the world evolve with your wandering mind, like an invisible eye.
Please do not forget me, Arca. I, Tavernel, turned on my brothers and sisters of The Twenty so I could save you, so I could look at you and speak with you one last time, so I could look into your eyes and see that even though they are unmoving, they still have the potential to move the world. Perhaps you will figure out how to escape from your prison in the thousands of seasons to come. Listen to the sounds of the world, and learn how to make peace without violence, for not even The Twenty knew how.
I am mortal, and I will leave this world in when I must. I can never return here, lest someone else finds the way to you. Do not forget me, Arca, and I shall never forget you, whether I am living or dead.
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