The Casualty's Causality

A common theme in many religions is that when one's physical form perishes, the soul, their very essence is protected. This is where most all beliefs differ. Some say that the soul is sent to a place of judgement where a ruling normally based on morality is made. The soul is then sent to a rewarding place if they performed good deeds, or sent to a place of punishment for bad deeds. Others say that there is a place created specifically for the soul's essence so they could recover and eventually be reincarnated, or perhaps there is nothing at all. The End. There are versions, however, told in folklore that tells of a man who was reaped by Death, but defeated him. Sometimes by combat, sometimes by trickery, and sometimes by bribery. Either way, it was all the same. Man stood above Death as the victor, overcoming the predestination paradox. Unless, of course, it was the planned causation...

A beam of light shined bright in Acasius' eyes, causing him to stir from a deep slumber, only to find himself in a small darkened room with nothing but a single door and the cot he was lying in. As he moved out of the light, he noticed that the light was coming through the cracks in the door. He heard voices come from beyond.

"What's going to happen to us? What's going to happen to me?!" a worried man's voice begged.

"Is all you ever care about yourself? This poor man is dying and he requires our assistance!" Dying? Acasius thought. Is that me?

"No, I clearly asked about all of us first. Besides, we created him. In reality, we're only helping ourselves. What, you don't care about yourself?"

"Consilium, Vayle. Enough!" a third voice spoke up. "We have a guest..." The men turned to see the door opened and a groggy Acasius behind it. "Welcome, take a seat," he offered, pointing to a nearby chair at the table they were sitting at. Acasius slowly walked in and took his place at the head of the table.

“Who are you?” he asked. “Where am I?!”

A young man dressed in a dashing gray suit and navy-blue bowtie stepped forward, extending his hand. “My name is Consilium Ucciont. It is a honor to finally meet you.”

Acasius clasped his hand. “You already know me?”

“But of course! We are a part of you, after all,” he laughed. A shadowy figure sitting behind him scoffed. “What is it now, Vayle?”

The darkened man stood up. “Why don’t we just ruin the surprise for him, Connie?” He turned to Acasius. “Vaylen Dreth at your service,” he said with a nod of his head. “And you may remember this old geezer here,”

“Vayle, enough!” Consilium shouted. “He’s more than an ‘old geezer,’ you ignorant little-”

“Easy, Consil. It is fine. I can deal with him later,” the old man mediated. “I am Arden. As Consil said, it truly is a pleasure to finally speak with you.”

“I would love to say likewise,” Acasius said. “But I’m afraid I don’t know any of you. I don’t even know where we are!”

"Perchance, do you remember anything about before you woke up in the cottage?"

"H-how did you know that?" Acasius stuttered.

Arden smiled. "We are a part of you. You are literally made up of us. The minds of a practiced and deadly elven archer, a genius and chrono-keeper not past the age of 23, and a wise old wizard. We merged together long ago, surely you remember?" Acasius shook his head in response. "Very well, let us recall the details."

Arden, Consil, and Vayle retold the story of how they all met in a dark room in the Void. How Vayle fired an arrow directly at the other two men, on which he argued that he did not. "I may not be entirely trustworthy in your eyes, but I swear I never fired a single arrow!" He would say. Consilium would shoot right back at him, then Arden continued, explaining how Consilium pulled a cord and a strange liquid started filling the now enclosed room they stood in.

"The liquid penetrated us through our wounds, both physical and mental alike. The liquid seemed to have an aura about it, like some higher form of magic. I, being previously worn out from thousands of years without a form, used the last of my energy to protect Consil. The water found the weak spot in my defenses and overtook myself. My body dissipated, leaving only my consciousness to swim about in the liquid. Vayle who had attempted to kill them was next; the arrow I deflected had pierced his kidney, allowing the water to replace his lost blood. However, it didn't stop. The liquid, now having a mind of its own, drained the body of all remaining blood. The consciousness of Vayle was then torn from its physical form and began to float around with mine. Consilium was still fully conscious and aware of the situation."

Consil chimed in at this point. "My brain was working one hundred times faster than it normally did, all with the goal of trying to process what was happening. How can I breathe? What is this liquid? How did I feel pain if the arrow never stuck me? Why am I still alive? Perhaps it was something to do with this faux concrete surrounding us, but how could that have such an effect? The water stopped flowing into the room and was now as black as coal. I was left adrift in the spiraling current of the water, the unconscious minds of the other men encircling me. What felt like years passed, but there was no way of telling. The very essence of time itself was lost. Eventually, my body began to deteriorate. My brain activity slowly halted and my mind faded away like the others. The liquid began to spiral around the room, faster and faster, gaining speed and pulling everything into the center. The water pressure crumpled the bodies together, cementing them into one and bringing the minds, us, together. The water torn them apart, practically killed them, and now was slowly piecing them together for whatever reason. Muscles melted together, organs were replaced, features were removed and some were added. The coal-water began to swirl into a brilliant red, pumping the body with new blood, cells, enzymes and more. The red liquid began to drain through the bowl in the floor, leaving a brand new body in its stead. You."

"The only thing I remember from this whole experience was waking up, watching you," Vayle mentioned. "You awoke a few moments later and screamed out of anguish and terror. There were the three extra minds of Arden, Consil, and I inside of your head, and each of them were as confused as the next. Eventually, you stopped screaming and took a step out of the bowl, only to stumble into the wall. Almost naturally, you placed a hand on one of the wall panels and the door sprung open. You fell to the floor and crawled towards the door. Your body wasn't exactly weak, but the muscles were brand new and hadn't been used. It took all of your strength to hoist yourself up again."

"I don't understand," Acasius stammered. "Why me? Why us? Where are we?

“From what I’ve gathered, we’re inside your mind,” Arden answered. “Your personal ‘world’ inside your head, if you will. This is where all your memories are stored. You see, you never really forget anything, you just have to remember it again.”

“I don’t see anything here besides us...”

“Well you haven’t had much to experience yet, have you then?” Vayle interrupted. “Sure, that bedroom you came from means that cottage you woke up in, and then the window with a view of a large mountain,”

“What he says is true. You haven’t honestly had much to remember besides that trek up the mountain,”

Another window appeared behind them. Acasius turned to see a large white dragon hurtling through the sky with two men on it’s back. Acasius smiled. “And flying with a friend,”

Arden clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Exactly, my boy,”

Just then, the room grew silent. The bickering between Consil and Vayle faded. Arden and Acasius turned around to see them staring at a brand new, inky black door. Acasius gulped and started walking towards it. He knew what was behind it.

“We’ll always be here if you need us, Acasius,” Consil whispered.

“Aye,” Vayle said in a soft voice. There was a pounding on the door. Arden nodded and beckoned him to go through. Another slam, the door started to crack. However, when he opened the door, there was nothing there but inky black nothingness. He took a deep breath and stepped through into the abyss. Acasius looked behind him only to see that the door frame was there, no Arden, no room. He was alone, floating there in the dark, his consciousness fading slowly until he drifted off into another deep slumber.

Moments later, he felt a shock of pain in the back of his head and awoke. The weightless feeling he had soon disappeared and was replaced by a hard surface pressing on his back, almost as if he was laying down on the floor. Just then, he felt the same shock as before on his side. He jerked upwards and opened his eyes to see a faded figure of a man above him.

"Wake up" the figure said. Acasius rubbed his eyes and tried to speak, but he felt a swift kick in his side before anything. "Wake up I said!"

Acasius groaned. "I'm up, now what the hell do you mean by this? Where am I? Who are you?!"

"I suppose I can humor you," it laughed. It had a gravelly male's voice. "I am Sen," he introduced as he walked into the light before Acasius. He stood about six feet tall and had a athletic build to him. His long dark hair gleamed with his bizarre armor. It was strangely similar to Acasius' pseudo-leather armor. "And welcome to the Void!" Sen stretched out his arms and bowed. "It is a pleasure to finally have a conversation face to face with you, Acasius,"

"I'm back.. in the Void? How?"

"When you 'died' on Tetravier, you never truly perished. No, a powerful force tugged at your essence and sent back to your place of birth. For you, that is the Void,"

"Wait... I remember this place," he whispered. "No..." His voice grew into a deeper, more intense voice.

"You,"

Fury flared in Acasius' eyes, but they weren't his anymore. That was clear to Sen. "You did this us," He stood up and grabbed Sen by the throat, pinning him against the wall. "You did this to me,"

Sen chuckled. "Relax, archer of the North,"

Acasius stepped backwards, releasing Sen. "How do you know-"

"Are you that dense? Did you not just blame me for causing your 'problem?'"

"Well, I-"

"Vaylen Dreth!" Sen's voice boomed. "Enough! I do not wish to speak to such a weak-minded beast, leave us!" He pressed his thumb on Acasius' forehead. "There. We're alone,"

"Why-"

“Humans may truly be the strangest creatures I have ever come across." Sen interrupted. "They feel compelled just to know things, and feel dissatisfied when they don’t. They aren't happy with 'What does this do?' Instead, they look at 'How does this work?' or 'Why does this work?' They are never just content with the answer 'it just works.' Perhaps thinking like this may be their downfall." Acasius looked lost and confused at his words. "Don't tell me that
imbecile has gotten to you,"

"I would appreciate if you didn't speak like that about him. He is a part of me," Acasius growled.

"Ah, of course. You aren't there yet. Apologies, I forget my time and place," Sen paused for a moment as he watched Acasius turn it over in his mind. “There are many different versions of this, but pay attention. Imagine a box. Inside the box is a beast and a vial of poison set to release at any random time within an hour. The hour passes. Now, there is no way of telling if the poison was released or not, unless of course, you open the lid. In this case, the cat could very much be alive and the vial intact. Conversely, the cat could be very much dead and the box tainted with poison. Because of this situation, the cat is both alive and deceased at the same time: a superposition. Opening the box forces reality to make a decision, is the cat alive or dead? Surely when the observer looks upon the animal they will see the choice that the universe made. Humans are stubborn. They must know the answer. They feel compelled. Unsatisfied. One thing you must learn: Curiosity killed the cat.”

“But why tell me this? What importance is this to me?”

“He has gotten to you... For your sake then, let us say that the forced reality is the cat is dead. An alternate reality is then created where the cat is not dead, but alive. Both realities are completely the same in every single way, except now the timeline is split in two: one timeline where the cat lives and people rejoice or where the cat is dead and people mourn. Every single decision creates a different timeline, an alternate universe. The smallest choice affects the biggest things. The butterfly effect. Alternate realities. The Void. The Pregnant Ground of All Being. The Ultimate Knowledgeable. You don’t know ANYTHING. Can you even wrap your head around this simple concept?! How can you expect to understand the power of the Void?”

"How can you expect me to know anything when you are only lecturing me?" Acasius growled. "I don't know where I am, I don't know who I am. This is why I have come here," Sen began to speak, but Acasius cut him off before he uttered a word. "And don't you even dare tell me I won't understand. I'm smarter than you think,"

"And I know more than you think. I am well aware you are brilliant. I also know that you have a touch of magic and a commendable archery skill. And this..." Sen snatched the large egg from Acasius' pocket. "Is key to your survival," He ran his fingers over the pictures of a book, an arrow and matching bow, a staff, and a sword and shield etched into the metal egg. "As you've undoubtedly already figured this out, these represent each part of you: The noble heart of a warrior, the mind and skill set of a stealthy archer, the knowledge and apt learning of a true scholar, and the abilities of a wizard."

"What about the upside down tree insignia?" Acasius asked.

"That is our crest. The lords of the Void. With roots above, and branches below... This is our creed, but you will understand in time. Until then, do not lose this," He tossed the egg over to Acasius. "Open it,"

"But it's jammed..."

"Open it," Sen commanded. Acasius sighed and placed his fingers in the indents on the egg. Click.

"See, I told you. It's still jammed. It-" A low whirring noise came from the egg. Acasius looked down at his hand and saw that the egg was melting and dripping down his arm. It was almost like the metal itself was alive. It seemed to crawl up his shoulder and onto the bow strapped on his back. It slowly enveloped the entire bow and quiver, consuming the materials it was comprised of. "What is going on?!" He moved to stop it but Sen stopped him.

"Don't," Sen warned. Acasius could hear the severity in his tone. "I'm warning you, this will only help,"

"But my weapon!"

"You will learn soon enough that you need not use a weapon. Yes, you may like to, but it is unnecessary."

The metal dripped from his back onto the floor, the bow and quiver gone. It gathered itself together and reformed its oval shape from before. Acasius moved to grab it, placing his fingers in the indents on it. Almost instantaneously, the egg sprung open with a whipping sound and a dark bow decorated with strange designs, including the Void insignia and creed, was in its place.

"Keep it on your person, always. It is your ticket back here at any time you wish, and required to use the Void's essence as your own power. As much as I wish I could, I cannot teach you everything now. However, if there is one thing I can teach you, it is the ability of riftwalking, or as I call it, 'blinking.' One with this ability literally has the power to walk between worlds, planes of existence, dimensions, realities, at the blink of an eye,"

"I don't mean to sound unappreciative, but Sen, why me?"

Sen sighed and paced around for a moment. "Do you not remember this place?"

"No, I don't. I've never been here befo-" Acasius stopped short as he noticed a small stone basin on the floor. He paced quickly over to the closest wall and tapped on it until he heard a hollow sound. He pushed that spot and a panel swung open revealing a dangling cord behind it. "I... I was born here.."

"This place is called the Parturia. The purpose of it is a healing chamber, or 'rebirth.' Because of the damage dealt to your counterparts, the Parturia was activated and the regeneration process began. You may remember the liquid that filled the room? That was one of the physical representations of void essences, the very same that now runs through your veins. That is why I have chosen you. Now, grab hold," he said, extending his hand. Acasius reached out to grab it, only to feel not skin, but smooth metal. It almost had a silk-like quality. He didn't want to offend, so forced the thought out of his mind.
"Close your eyes," he said.

Acasius did as he was told. In the next instant, a cold feeling ran up his body. Pressure from all sides encased him, almost as if he couldn't breathe, choking him, killing him. He struggled to move but found he was frozen in place, unable to even bend his fingers.

"Open your eyes,"

When he did, Acasius saw that they were in a forest. Fully grown trees covered the view of the sky, insects scattered on the dirty ground below, and birdsong could be heard around them. "Impossible..." he whispered.

Sen smiled and rested a hand on Acasius' back. "Now it's your turn. What I want you to do is close your eyes and concentrate hard on the top of that tree," He pointed upwards to the nearest tree that towered over them. "Just concentrate and it will come naturally,"

Acasius thought it best not to ask any questions and just do as told. The feat of teleportation seemed impossible to him though. He shut his eyes tight and thought only of the great tree before him. He felt the same chill and pressure as before. This time, however, it was different. Faster. The next time he opened his eyes, he was back in the Parturia. Sen appeared next to him momentarily.

"Truly remarkable! I didn't think you would get it on your first try! Well, your destination and aiming needs a bit of work, but the fact that you were able to successfully go between the world barrier-"

"Ahem." A cough was heard behind them. Sen spun around to see two men, one carrying a large keyring and another that was muscularly built.

"Simeon!" Acasius exclaimed.

"Acasius!" he beamed.

“What the hell are you doing here?” he growled at Simeon.

“What do you mean what am I doing here? Who are you to be asking me that?” Simeon asked somewhat distraught.

“I just may be the most important man you will ever meet,” he scoffed. “How do you not know who I am?”

Simeon eyed him skeptically. “Oh, my apologies. Pleasure to meet you,”

Sen walked up to Simeon so they were face-to-face. “You had better learn your place,” he snarled.

Acasius put his hands between the men and separated them. “Relax you two,” His voice sounded old and raspy. “There are more important matters at hand. Now,” He looked at the man that came with Simeon. He looked timeless himself. All of them in the room did, save Acasius. “Who are you?”

“I am the keeper of the keys, the master of the Great Gaol, the walker of the maze. I am Alastor, the spirit of Vengeance,”

“Does everyone have this long impressive introduction here?” he muttered under his breath.

“I don’t,” Simeon said jokingly.

“Yet” Alastor grinned. Sen affixed his gaze on Alastor. His eyes flickered warningly. “Anyways, what is our purpose here, and why,” He returned Sen’s look. “Have you brought me here?”

“I didn’t, you were collateral,” he replied. “I have simply gathered Acasius here to be... educated,”

“Perhaps we should be educated as well?” Simeon asked.

Sen sneered, “What do you think is so important to be taught to you?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea,”

“Then Simeon, if you please, keep your pointless thoughts to yourself,”

“Perhaps a way out?” Alastor interjected. “There is much to be accomplished by the fire,”

Sen took a step back, almost startled. “You wish to leave?”

“I do not wish to leave, I wish for him,” gesturing at Simeon, “to leave,”

“Has your hospitality already degraded?” Simeon said, taken aback.

“It is not that,”

“I should be getting back as well. I have spent too much time here as it is,” Acasius chimed in,

Sen laughed. “You have much to learn. Very well, follow me then if you so wish to depart,”

Sen exits the chamber with Acasius and the others following closely behind. He leads them through twisting and turning passages, through dark rooms and past different cells. It almost had the appearance of a prison. Eventually, Sen led them into a large room with an enormous wall. It was black. Blacker then anything Acasius had ever seen. As they got closer to it, he noticed that the wall was made of a bizarre alloy, similar to his egg. It shimmered, almost as if it was fading in and out of existence, and it seemed to moan and whisper unintelligible words inside his head.

Alastor sighed heavily, “Are you kidding me?”

“I don’t want to hear it,” Sen said, shaking his head. “We’re just passing through,”

“I’m going back to the labyrinth, I will see you soon Simeon. Thanks for visit, Sen,”

“Always a pleasure,” he smiled sarcastically. Alastor nodded to Simeon and exited the way they came.

“So what is this?” Acasius asked.

“It is known as the Withering Wall,” Sen answered. “For the years I have been here, never have I discovered the reason of its existence. Some say that it is sculpted from antimatter, a material that is described to move backwards in time. In other words, the wall is getting younger,” Acasius put his hand on it. It was cold to the touch, but felt that it resonated with him. The idea of a kinship with an inanimate object was bizarre to him. “Some even say that it is a portal to a strange world, where an lone man sits upon a throne created from the remains of those who go there. Of course that is is utterly absurd, as I know all entrances and exits of the Void.”

“It’s freezing,” Acasius said.

“Yes, I’ve always found it to be that way,” Sen admitted. “Strange, isn’t it? It’s almost as if it is inside your head, eating away at your mind. Its uniqueness is the only reason I allow it to stay,”

Simeon reached out to the gleaming wall. “Are you two insane? If this thing was any hotter it would be set ablaze!” Both Acasius and Sen cocked their heads at the man’s remark.

“Of course...” Sen replied. “But to be honest, I’m not quite certain why Alastor disproves of this place. However, I digress. Let us continue,” He led them effortlessly to the heart of the maze where a pillar of light shone brightly before them, swirling with the most magnificent of colors. "This is the Pylí Pylóna, the gateway to any realm you desire. It is quite simple to use, honestly. First, you need the correct frequency..." Sen thrust his hand into the pillar and removed a strand of light with his left hand. It solidified, becoming a physical beam of light. He stretched it out and threw it to the ground, with a portal rising upwards out of it. "After you,"

"See you on the other side," Simeon said to Acasius. He nodded back to his close friend. Simeon walked through the veil and disappeared in a flash of bright white light.

"Now Acasius," Sen whispered. "You know you can stay. You can go through the portal later and appear next to him at the same time he would come out. Time travel is quite simple really. It's just the matter of differentiating between dimensions and their physics,"

Acasius shook his head. "I'm sorry. I'm afraid I cannot. My friends need me. They helped me out, and now it is my turn to repay the favor." Sen sighed and turned away. "But I promise that I can return soon. You see, time travel is quite simple."

Sen gave a devilish grin to the young man. "Of course, now go." Acasius turned towards the portal and took a deep breath. I'm coming, Simeon. He took a step forward and disappeared with a flash of deep blue light.