Veylis Avandaer: Why?
Jaus Avandaer: Veylis, listen
Veylis Avandaer: No. Do not use your rhetoric on me. I am your daughter, not your enemy. Tell me why. Only why. Tell me why you see to cast us back in chains.
Jaus Avandaer: That is not what I'm doing. You know this. You can see that?
Veylis Avandaer: Can I? Father, you are rebuilding a god! A god of such sophistication. A god with past pantheons imbued. That Gatekeeper is the very thing we all sacrificed so much to destroy. Eons. Eons lost. Trillions upon trillions of lives delivered unto them, their hunger unslaked. Geniuses, icons, visionaries, heroes, and champions all rendered little more than sacrifices. For nothing. I showed you what I witnessed in the paths. I have shown you what Ive seenthe unspeakable calamities that will follow. And still. And still, you choose this?
Jaus Avandaer: Veylis, please. It is good that you have shown
Veylis Avandaer: Enough. I am not mother. You cannot turn me from sense with whispered words of passion and nothingness, a calculated hand on my shoulder! We have seen the horror. You and I. We have seen it. So why do you choose blindness? Why do you choose to ignore the ruination that this will bring?
Jaus Avandaer: It is only a possibility
Veylis Avandaer: One that manifests time and time and time again.
Jaus Avandaer: My duty to our futureto existence itself is too great. Greater than even your fears, Veylis. I trust you. But you have seen the other roads as well. We are trapped. If the power of gods rests in the hands of humanity, then we will fall to chaos. We will fall. War between the cultures is inevitable. And the Ladder offers to much. Too much for man to resist. We need to be controlled.
Veylis Avandaer: Of that, I think we are agreed. But not by a thing. By ourselves. By each individual triumphing over their own follies and weaknesses. Foundationally, then mentally, and finally spiritually. Our forefathers were debased because they fell to their animal natures. But you can show the rest what it means to be worthy. Letting a god cradle us as pathetic whimpering infants is foolishness, father. Hubris. To see you succumb to stubbornness and delusion is
Jaus Avandaer: To let things stay as is ensures we stand apart. Ensures that the cultures remain broken and that the tyranny within ourselves will triumph. How can we talk about being worthy when we are failable? When the lure to make the world perfect for usand only uscan be materialized. At the cost of everyone else.
Veylis Avandaer: But our natures can be overcome. Triumphed against. We can resist. We can triumph. And when we reach the precipice of self-mastery, we can reach down and pull the rest up with us. But If we give away our Heavens, if we surrender our Frames
Jaus Avandaer: Then we spare ourselves the risk of succumbing to our very natures
Veylis Avandaer: Father, you are being irrational. Driven by fear. The Hungers attempt on your life has shaken you from the rightful path.
Jaus Avandaer: Its not just them. The others. They cannot endure this.
Veylis Avandaer: I can resolve them. If that is what you wish.
Jaus Avandaer: No! No. I do not I am twisted by the fact that if I do not control my fellow humans, we will turn on each other when the Ladder is formed. As if apes! Dogs! Upon each other! What worth is all my worthless prattle when power provides such pleasure? When power makes whores of men and woman alike! Betraying the promise! Betraying the dream!
Veylis Avandaer: They can be corrected. Order can be enforced.
Jaus Avandaer: Your solution, then, is tyranny to ward off tyranny?
Veylis Avandaer: No. I am not a tyrant. I am not afraid of the rabble, of the unworthy. But we are the masters. And they, the fools. I love you father, but I see the difference in us now. I always thought us most similar, but today, mothers teachings have shown me things you refuse to face. The gods cannot save us. The minds broke existence. They were the reason for this fault; they could not even save themselves. And [REDACTED] still seeks them for a reckoning.
No. There is only one end to this. One way a modicum of utopia can be realized, and that is if all people rise beyond the limits of their potential and claim self-mastery. Divinity is a thing that should be achieved. This I learned from you. From mother. From those who walked with us on this path. From the masters of the void. We claimed power, and then we understood it and refused its addictions. But giving it back we will not have a chance to ever decide our own will again.
Jaus Avandaer: Veylis. You ask too much of people. You ask too much of me.
Veylis Avandaer: No. I ask of them what I have asked myself. And it is as you once told me when I was but a child: how do you kill the fears of one who has known only shadows?
Veylis Avandaer: You drown them in the light.
Jaus Avandaer: Veylis. We have seen the light. And despite my fondest hopes, we remain ugly.
-Fight between Veylis and Jaus Avandaer, overheard by mother and bondsmate, Zein Thousandhand
No? Avo asked.
No, Zein repeated, sounding almost regretful this time. Her ontology quivered as if a nest of accelerating strings, and he surmised she was peering into manifested futures. You have capabilities. That is true. That is true. With each word, her tone grew tighter. More mournful. With each second I see you clearer. With each exchange. I see you. I see you. I see you.
She returned to silence, her eyes glaring into his. Her anger was still there, but it was like a sizzling ember slowly dying out. In its place, however, was something else: reluctance, wariness, weariness.N♡vεlB¡n: Unleashing Imagination, One Read at a Time.
Perhaps the girl can be allowed to live, but Her ontology came alive as if it were a nest of surging strings, time accelerating around her, reshaping their surrounding stimulation.
Flashing scenes and flickering sensations flooded in from a thousand channels. They stood at an intersection of paths now, speeding from one place to another, passing through soldiers fighting each other in alleyways, fire licking out from corners as fusion burners sang. They speed through fusion bombs pounding through armored megablocks and golems rising from the rubble, fighting in defiance of the devastation. They passed through districts burning and Sovereignties breaking. They speed toward the Tiers ablaze, and the mountain fortress of Scaletypically unseen and absentnow stood a cracking egg.
From it emerged a segmented spire, the tapestry of reality sinking into it as if water down a whirlpool. A metaphysical presence extended its wings around the structure, its presence felt, yet veiled. To it flowed every remaining path, every possible sequence of events.
One inexorable conclusion.
Around them, reality tightenedand then lurched.
It was as if someone had seized everything, clenched all of existence like it was a curtain, and torn it from its rails. The Sunderwilds werent. The sky wasnt. The world turned to splatters and smears, fluid icons and symbologies bleeding into one another as the Voidstar devoured day for one final time.
An ineffable color leaked down from the place that was space. Between the vast nothingness, Avo could feel themthe fleets of the voiders holding tight in protective pockets. His Frame wailed. So did those belonging to his cadre. The color. The color. The color. It crept. So close to purple. But not quite. As the tip of the spire pressed through the softness of the star, the light of night was pierced like a needle, and all the Heavens, all the paths, all that was known and of Idheim was injected into the wound of dusk, filling it with a building taint.
What the fuck, Chambers gasped, summarizing their situation. They stood scattered amidst streams of incoherence, the fabric of reality parting around them like torrents of madness. There were isles where fragments still remained. A drifting platform. A tumbling room. A burning heavy war drone.
In time, they would dissolve as well.
Avo pulsed his Skimmer. His perception of reality clawed at his consciousness, the collapse inimical to his mind. His Conundrum flared, traumas firing to counter the damage.
Hard to conceptualize how something could damage something like him, but then again, how was one to perceive raw chaos?
Then, he felt it.
The Hell to his Woundshaper rattled, a resonance passing through its structure as walls of entropic wind began to rise, spilling upward from the Maw unburdened. It too was anchored. Bound to the Ladder. As threads of existence were uploaded, so too were other strands cast downa counterweight to feed the dark. Concepts, histories, forces, thoughts, beliefs, and more unwanted. Cast away. Never to return.
The Maw drank everything in with greed and rumbled, its presence a metaphysical scar building to a final vent.
Motes crawled out. But they were eating away at foundational concepts as well. More than just matter, everything could be lost. Everything that the Ladder deemed unnecessary.
Oh, gods, Kae said, her mind reeling in horror at the implications. At what harm the edifice could inflict. At what it could remove.
[Avo,] Kare said, trying to control her mounting terror. [Im afraid. I dont want to die. Im dont want to die.]
+I know,+ Avo said. +Wont let her just have you. Not my dream.+
Do you know what Ninth Column is in its finality? Zein asked. It is an initiate. To preserve the legacy of my love. To see the world he dreamed materialized and all cultures preserved. But disarmed. We will live under our own minds. Perfected beings of higher intellect and discipline, shepherding us away from our follies.
And you believe this? Avo asked.
I have not known Jaus to ever be wrong? Zein said.
Never took you for one to surrender your blade, Avo replied.
Ah. But the Heaven is not a blade. To have a Heaven is to wield power beyond power. And Im drunk. Im an addict. You have seen me. She took in a short breath. I am a terrible person to be granted such power. If there is a fight to be had, perhaps. If there is a tyrant to topple or a rival to slay. But my heart cares little for the nursing of my lessers. So long as I have something to duel, my family returned, and a substance to whittle my whirring mind, I will be pleased.
But not you. Her eyes became as if daggers. Not you. She swept the cadre briefly and flexed her fingers.
Dice took a step forward, but Draus caught her by the shoulder.
+Just think it,+ Draus said. That was all she needed from Avo to open fire, to start the fight against Zein in earnest.
One no other than he would likely survive.
I have seen many colors, Avo said, finally dispelling Peace utterly. The schemes he was trying to play withered inside him. He was in uncharted territory now. With each passing second, he felt more and more ontological mass building within Zein, as if she was retracting her focus, abandoning echoes to move only as herself. Changed me. Made me want new things. For myself. For my he looked at the others. Consangs. For the world. And youre going to ask me to shackle myself to you. Tell me I cannot spread where you dont want me to. Or maybe even ask me to surrender my Frame.
A request is given to a superior. A negotiation begins with an equal. A demand is delivered to a lesser. Zein let silence punctuate each of her sentences. But you are different. You cannot match me, but Ithough I have manifested path after pathcannot seem to kill all of you. Not enough to stop the spread.
Draus scoffed. Fuckin glassjaw. Stillness defined Thousandhand. Then she glared at the Regular from the corner of her eye. Draus remained unshaken. I mean it.
I know, Zein said. But you are mistaken. It is not competition I cannot suffer, but what he takes. And what he might inflict on us if
If I win, Avo said. He looked beyond Zein and at the tower itself. He imagined himself ascending it. Claiming it. Consuming it. And then
And then what?
If he could do anything, what?
There was so much to try. So much to learn. For him. For everyone else. To live every life possible. And suffer every consequence imaginable. What kind of people would emerge from absolute freedom balanced by absolute karma? And spared of death, no less.
There, Zein said, catching him in the moment. That is what I cannot abide. I had hoped you limited. Obedient. Or perhaps dull enough to heed my orders. But I looked further beyond the point you proposed. The point where you turn the trial into your personal stageplay. Never mind the Heaven of Truths gazeyou will just rewrite everyones memories in advance. Twist them to be yours in permanence. As you already have too many. As you will somehow do to Naeko unless I stop you.
It was pleasing to his ego to know that he inspired such primal fear in a being like Zein Thousandhand. However, inspiring such fear was how he found himself entrapped.
[Godsdammit, Avo,] Kassamon said. [Couldnt you have been less gluttonous? And bragged less to the time-jumping psychopath.]
There were nine of us in the beginning, Zein said, topic turning without warning. Nine of us when our crusade against our gods properly began. Jaus. I. Your father. Infacer, the broken mind we uncovered beneath the waves. Veylis, born here, born in Noloth. Six others. Six others, and I cannot recall them. Only shadows. Do you know why?
Somehow, the answer was there, told to Avo by the Maw. They dont exist anymore. Speaking the words formed a slab of ice in his gut. They were removed.
A huff of affirmation came from the Godslayer. Despite my efforts, they had to be unmade. She closed her eyes and sadness passed through her, spilled from her accretion. They deserved better. We knew they were going tothey would take to use the Ladder for themselves. The paths warned usit was hard to resist, I understand. But we couldnt allow it. And so we had to make sure.
Make sure of what? Kae said, voice almost too quiet. The Ladderall the patterns. It could it could theoretically create anything. It is past the Ninth Sphere. Past the high conceptual! Into theoretical omnipotence
No, Zein said, tapping her armored sternum. No. It can do whatever it is willed to do. But wills clash. Desires clash. Beliefs clash. And you know this better than I, Agnos. But what happens when two conflicting absolutes are made manifest?
The Agnos bit her lip and hesitated before answering. Paradox.
Paradox, Zein concurred. Paradox. But imagine that for time. Imagine a clash between paths already laid.
Avo froze. The Ladder. It was used once already. The paths youre talking about arent just those generated from your Heaven. There are events already laid in advance. Temporal architecture leading to the end.
And your presence is breaking them. More and more.
And Avo understood. When she spoke of him being loud, it wasnt just from the use of his Heavens or the spread of his mind, but the changes he was making to structures already in place.
He was as if a fire spreading down the threads of a spiderweb.
I cannot threaten you with death or pain. I cannot risk losing you to Veylis. I cannot allow your unfettered spread. There is too much at risk, andlovely monster that you areI just dont trust your nature. She shrugged apologetically. Call it prejudice. Call it old grievances, but you are the Strixs inheritor through and through, and he has already insulted me oncewith you.
Zein stopped. She speared a finger at Calvino. You. Did you tell him why the Tenth Sphere isnt possible?
In the same instant, Kaes eyes swept over to the EGI as well.
The mind remained silent.
Calvino, Avo asked.
+It cements itself.+ The mind replied.
What? Chambers muttered.
+The Souls inside you. They snap back into place. Theres enough sustained death inside your Heavens that they can affect existence irreversibly. And they bridge your Soul back to where it was meant to be.+
Chambers still looked lost. Most of the cadre did. But not Denton. Not Zein. And not Avo.
The core of the galaxy, Avo said. The center of the world that was. Every Tenth Sphere is a restoration.
+Yes. But just the Soul. Just the Soul and nothing else. Not even the Heaven, once its done bridging.+
And so no changes are made. The mind simply dissolves. The reality functionally usurps the Godclad past a certain point. But the tenth section of the Ladder remained.
But there was something else. What if someone wasnt just their own mind? What if someone was coded into their Soul?
Avo looked at his hands and understood. Understood for the first time the significance of his Frame.
But the Imitators, Kae said, eyes widening in realization. But but they havent emerged in us. Even after days and weeks. Which means
I am my Soul? Avo asked.
More so than the rest of us. But perhaps the better way to look at you is as an infection vector for existence itself. Even existence to come. Zein faced the Ladder again and sighed. I suspect Veylis wanted a means to subsume the Ladderor obsolete it. Make it so she had another chance at victory, even if someone claimed the Ladder before her.