“As we all know, there are seven elements. The first, the force we call Magic. A singularity, a whole. Magic has no counterpart, it is beholden to no other force in the natural world. Of the seven, it stands alone in this regard. The second and third, the forces we know as Light and Dark. In contrast, these forces are dependent on one another, reactive to one another. They are the first duality. A duality in opposition. Neither force can be defined without acknowledging the definition of the other, and in order for one to exert its will, the other must be diminished. Action and reaction, always. Light and Dark form the basis for many opposed dualities in our world – good and evil, order and chaos, hot and cold, rich and poor, the list goes on. They are a lesson, students, to those that will listen. Magic is alone in its independence. In all other things, there is always another side, and it should never be forgotten.”Magus Quirl, lecturing in the Spire’s Limus Suite
Sylmaer breathed deeply, opening her eyes to gaze for the first time at the new world she found herself in. The air was cool, fresh in a way she had never before experienced, almost unsettling in its pureness. Startled by her coming, a group of small raptors dashed into the undergrowth, rustling a bush at the base of a mighty ash. She took in her surroundings – rich soil teeming with the energies of life at her feet, towering trees to her sides, and ahead of her a stark white tower above which loomed the sphere of the Mortal Fold, hanging motionless in the night sky. Upon its blue surface, she could just make out the green smudge of the Viridian, and Imeldris within its heart. The master druid exhaled, fixed the tower in her sight for a moment, and began to stride toward the long bridge that led to the Citadel of the Moon.
With every step she felt the thrum of this place through the soles of her oaken feet, the immensity of life fit to burst, the power within this earth, the vitality of this ancient stronghold. And…something more. Darker. Something she felt play at the corners of her mind, a shadowy presence just outside her vision, a seductive whisper that came to her between the beats of her heart. As she walked along the long bridge to the citadel she felt it almost spoke, urged her to step over the edge into the chasm below, just to see what secrets the dark places of the earth hid just out of view, what lay where light could not touch. Idly, she turned her head to look below, and was transfixed.
It called to her. Suddenly, powerfully, it cried out from the deepest pits of the earth, from the starlit emptiness above, from the deepest parts of her soul, and from the topmost reaches of the citadel. It begged her to hear it, to listen, to think, to question what she understood and what she held dear, to reconsider the truths she thought she knew. Louder than any sound she had heard before and yet so quiet as to be unnoticeable to anyone but her, it called.
Life is death.
Sylmaer’s vision swam, and she steadied herself against the bridge’s wall.
Light is dark.
She felt an immense pressure inside her, building and building until she felt it might burst, her heart, her lungs, her eyes being crushed against her bark, the immensity of it overpowering.
Wax is wane.
And then, as suddenly as it began, it stopped. She vomited over the side of the bridge, the thin water fading into nothing as it fell into the chasm below, before she pulled herself back, slumped against the wall, and breathed deeply. She turned her head skywards to regard the citadel, looking mournfully at the upper levels and what she knew resided there.
Everything is nothing.
Shakily, she stood, and slowly resumed her journey.
Nothing is everything.