“I walk’d along a stream, for pureness rare, brighter than sun-shine; for it did acquaint the dullest sight with all the glorious prey that in the pebble-paved channel lay.
No molten crystal, but a richer mine, even nature’s rarest alchymy ran there,—diamonds resolv’d, and substance more divine, through whose bright-gliding current might appear a thousand naked nymphs, whose ivory shine, enameling the banks, made them more dear than ever was that glorious palace’ gate where the day-shining sun in triumph sate.”-Fragment of a Poem from Christopher Marlowe
Dazed and weary, Corvin felt as though he were falling for an eternity. The wrenching clatter of metal seemed to reverberate in the distant ground above, but the immediate surroundings were a black and sightless chasm.
Still fastened to the metallic lattice of branches, Corvin now felt as if he were dangling. The sensation of falling crept to a halt as whispers bounced into the void.
Buddha, Mother, Dagda, Shadow, Mantra, Nouma, Bloodlife, Eliš,
Buddha, Mother, Dagda, Shadow, Mantra, Nouma, Bloodlife, Eliš,
“Is this the afterlife shadow?” Corvin whispered. “Am I…?”
This last thought remained unfinished, as he now felt the shadow which had brought him here flowing all around him. It pulsed and writhed, as if it were… a thing. As if it were alive.
As if it had a heartbeat that was drumming with excitement.
Something between the sounds of a million trumpets and the infinite grating of metal poured into his ears and incredible wells of brightness beckoned like the arms of Zeus. The points of light seemed frenetic in their motion, bundling until Corvin’s vision was absolutely flooded with an overwhelming blankness — where the boundary between the light and the void which came before it seemed to blur into enigma.
And then there was silence once more, manifesting only with the gentlest transience before Corvin found himself transported.
At first, it was the gentle call of the seagulls which beckoned him. The air and its motions contested warmth with a soft and tender playfulness, brushing the vulnerable skin of Corvin’s chest, which was still very badly tarnished from the iron grasp of the tree.
The ocean’s scent came to him as it rolled onto the shore, wresting his thoughts moment by moment with the bracing sublimity of its salt-sea brininess; and the sky was alight with a galaxy of stars that stained the iridescent heavens, reflecting a cornucopia of light and color on the water below—adorning the crest of its every wave and lapping.
Nearer to the water was a barefoot man wearing garments the likes of which Corvin had never seen. They were somehow… sleeker. More fitting than the clothes of… even the likes of kings. “And yet how understated they were!” he thought: as if some nobleman was trying to pass as an ordinary merchant.
“Corvin Elrick Ratzinger,” the man called, still facing the ocean, “I had begun to wonder whether you would ever find your way down here. Welcome to the sacred shores of Elysia.”
Corvin, who had started to walk towards the man with skin much darker than his own and a stout posture, paused.
“And who might you be, that you are so familiar with me and my journey?” he replied.
The strange man turned towards him.
“I am a hundred thousand names, some of which you doubtlessly encountered on your way down… Yet I was oft known as ‘El’. I traveled beside you unknown, veiled in the mystery of darkness, while I waited for you to find your way to me.”
Corvin kneeled. “Yes lord. Sorry, my lord. I did not recognize your voice. Thank you for your guidance in bringing me here.”
El waved his hand dismissively. “It is of no matter. We are beyond such caring now. Shall we begin?”
Corvin’s brow furled briefly, “begin what?” When El declined to reply with his silence, Corvin, his breath settling, gazed out to the ocean as El approached him. Placing his thumb on Corvin’s forehead as if to confer a sacrament, a spark of light burst forth and the self-same brightness began to pour out of the eyes of El’s disciple.
“Presently and henceforth,” said El, “you may see as I see.”
A vision captivated Corvin the moment El’s fingers touched him. He felt as though he had been stitched into the fabric of world history: the enormity of his conscious gaze was seemingly without end.
This state perplexed the very center of his being until his selfhood dissolved entirely, so that the ground of being was He, and he was the Ground of Being.
And in the midst of this transcendence, the voice of El shot out into the cosmic awareness, and in the stitching of the weave of Life, they sojourned with bold anticipation of the mystical.
“Once there was a being called Man. They were peculiar among the living in that every single one among them saw a whole world within itself. Consciousness, I believe they called it.”
“And so, when they came down from the trees and discovered the mysteries of fire, they believed that the power to name — the signification of all nature and value — was wholly in their care.”
“Through the rise of agriculture, the domestication of animals, and the mastery of tool-making, their languages claimed all that the light of their minds graced.”
“But all this was just a shadow of the real, and when these clever beings had to die, it was all as dust.”
“Longing for eternity, they reached out desperately towards all which remained before them. Twisting these languagings from their ordinary use, they contrived of ever more tortured and panicked ways in which to preserve their tragic hope for life everlasting.”
“The pillars of civilization, religion, even science… all of it made from the labor of this yearning. And over time, each form of language became more rigid until they became sharp enough to cut against the soft creatureliness of Man. Words became enshrined as dogma. Enshrined as Eternal.”
“But the Power of the Name was never theirs to wield. It was always Ours. We are the Eternal, they are our kin; younglings who have forgotten the one who gave their name—they, a world within each, are still but dust motes in the annals of the Cosmos.
Corvin, be our Harbinger, the bearer of the Light Eternal, and claim for yourself the power of us righteous few.”
Corvin pulled himself away from El like a hand caught in a burning hearth. He inhaled with sharp desperation, as if expecting his lungs to be consumed with smoke and ash. But the air remained clean.
“It is like this for everyone when they are first graced with the Light Eternal,” said El.
“That’s alright,” replied Corvin, standing and brushing the sand off himself as he rose, “maybe just buy the next guy a stiff drink first.”
Regaining his breath, he continued, “I am not sure yet what it is you would have me accomplish though, my lord.”
“When you awaken, you will find the world a very changed place. The society you know is one of kings, parliaments, and rule. Of politics and men. But, in the 24th century, humanity has struck down these institutions, and replaced them with one on which the majority consents,” he began.
“24th… century?” whispered Corvin, astounded.
He stood quietly in contemplation for a moment. “But what you are describing, that just sounds like democracy. This process was already unfolding in my time, lord.”
El raised his hand. “Just El. Please.”
Corvin nodded. “Yes my lord,” he replied stiffly.
El stared at Corvin blankly before resuming his oration, “Not the democracy you know… but yes.” he replied. “It is a far more sophisticated thing, almost Utopic, and radically conceived anew from the form of which you speak—the Ethocratic Republic, they call it. Yet at its heart still germinates its own demise in dark and twisted wanderings. With or without us, it will perish. At least let its death be a catalyst for Our return, a recollection to the right order of things.”
Corvin nodded. “I understand…” he began, pausing for an uncomfortable silence. “El.”
El bowed his head with a potent solemnity. “Then carry out your task, Corvin Elrick Ratzinger, and lay waste to the illusions which frustrate the happiness of all.”
Corvin’s head sank, bringing his shoulders inwards as if to contain a surge of energy bursting forth from his chest. He looked up to the sky and raised one arm.
Black smoke poured out of him and became solid, forming the hammer he had sought in the freezing highlands.
A sound like a cosmic gong resounded, and the shores of Elysia swiftly blurred out of existence.
Corvin found himself emerging from the fissure from which he had once fallen all those years ago. Still wrapped in the grip of the iron roots, he found that they could no longer resist his strength. With a bull-rush of determination, he broke free of their tether, hammer tight in-hand.
The roots retracted back into the earth, falling into the chasm beneath.
The frosty wind felt like a frozen flame against his arms and face—but nonetheless did the sojourner smile.
“Shall we begin then?” the voice of El called out from the shadow beside him.
“Naturally,” he answered, balancing the weight of his new boon between a pair of loose fingers. The weapon now played light as driftwood in his hands.
Corvin approached the rim of the caldera, paused, then slammed a mighty chasm into its facing with a swing of his hammer, beckoning the winter to join in his wake as he descended down the mountainside.
Corvin Elrick Ratzinger
In the not-too-distant future, veteran Vanguard Oni Anagonye meets with an old aquaintance.