When I originally encountered Ezekiel, there was a fire in my heart. I knew that if I followed him, there would be adventure, just like the heroes of old, I read about all to often. In the last months, I've been through some truly incredible experiences. Some good, some bad, some have feelings associated that are far too complex for one word descriptors. Like any interesting tale, there was love, loss, hardship, triumph, blood, sweat, and tears. But tales are, in the end, just that. There is a difference between reading it in a book, and truly living it. So many scenarios where you think you understand. You're sure you know what it's like to be there in that character's shoes. The simple truth is that you don't. There are very few that can claim otherwise.
I've been writing these journals now, as a brief recapitulation of our times together. They lack focus, but get to the point, I think. What has occurred, how it made me feel. I'm not the best writer, so I'm not sure anyone else would ever want to read them. I'm not even sure I want to read some of them. The material contained within is hard to stomach, because it happened. I could have left out all the struggle and the sadness, and written only the pleasant. But then, what kind of recounting am I actually writing. Why am I even writing? Why am I still reflecting on what's happened, when it's been what feels like ages. I suppose it's because we've reached the end of what feels like a chapter. No, chapter isn't the right term, I guess it would be more of a volume.
We did what we set out to do, save the world, and protect our way of life. I realized over the course of our adventure that we really only did the latter. I spent all my life knowing, that I truly understood the difference between right and wrong. There was no way, I could mistake good and evil. My beliefs were those instilled to me by my makers, and it was up to me to interpret and instill those beliefs to others. Simply reading that now, it was a foolish sentiment. The world is far more complex than that. There are rarely shades of black an white, there is an infinite spectrum of gray in between. I have no lost my faith, no, far from it. I think now, I cling to it more than ever, but I wonder why?
Mantra's actions hurt many, and they could plainly be described as evil, there's no two ways about it. She hurt countless people, and the echoes of her destruction reached far beyond those that perished because of her wrong-doings. The thing that nags me at the end of the day is that she too, like me, was interpreting the will of her makers, and instilling it upon others. The only difference is that she instilled her beliefs by force. But I was so sure, that I was in the right, what stopped me from using force, was it compassion, or weakness? If I were in her position, and lived the circumstances she lived, would I have done the same as she?
I was in fact given the opportunity, but I was bound by duty to protect the ways of old. What if I was not? She was right in a way, there's war, poverty, sickness, and evil in this world. I had the chance to solve all of it. I chose not to. It would disturb the whole of reality. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? The whole of reality?! The only reality I know is my own. Apparently there are a countless number out there. That thing in the pool was just searching for his. The same way we fought to defend our own. If I had been able to solve all the problems in our world, would I have brought the ruin we witnessed to others. Would I have cared if I truly solved all the problems in the world. Could my actions in that pool really have solved all the problems if I tried? There are too many damned questions, and too few answers!
I thought that reflecting and writing might bring clarity, but to be honest it has done quite the opposite. I'm more unsure then ever. Perhaps I should stop reflecting, and simply go back to the faithful recounting I've done so far. In a way I don't want to. The things that I've seen in the last few days are not meant to be seen. I dabbled in the realm of gods, wielded power which rivaled that of Morrigan herself. That shouldn't be possible, yet it was.
After we fought Mantra in the throne room of the castle, she made her escape. Turned to a golden gas and slipped through the door. I have long since grown tired of this petty trick, but I suppose we are the fools for not preparing for it. Eze'kiel was still stricken by a temporary, but volatile arcane madness. Screaming, and swinging his sword at imaginary foes, bashing himself in the face with the butt of his hilt. We let foul magic take it's course, and calmly collected ourselves for more trickery. Fighting Mantra never truly felt fair, and I suppose that's part of her design. The important thing was that we had the arrow, she would not be creating anymore horrors anytime soon. She slipped under a door, and it was clear to us that the arrow was the key.
We opened the door, and descended into the chambers below. It was a large, dark cavern. There was an interesting crystal that clad the walls. The further we descended, the darker it grew. The crystals became more and more mesmerising, as the refracted the soft glow, emanating from Ezekiel's blade. Eventually, the light diminished entirely, swallowed up in the cavern. This was not by any physicality of the cavern. There is no way to describe it, we were ported elsewhere. A realm beyond Golarion. The very depths of space itself, in a scale so breath-taking, it simply can't be described. We saw here there, Mantra, holding a planet in her hands. The very spitting image of Morrigan herself.
I was incredulous. It simply was not possible, but we were in a realm where Mantra was the one, true god. This worries me more than anything, and it was in that moment, that my faith, for the first time, was challenged. What if the three are the same. Simply those, out of time, out of reality, manipulating forces they had no right to. Who could possibly give them the right? Is it that thing in the pool, is it another higher power we know nothing about? The thought was entirely too troubling, and for me deeply upsetting. A dirth of feelings and thoughts flooded in, but I forced myself to focus. The words in Mantra's bible resonated in my mind: "You must destroy to create." That was the law of this realm, destruction to bring forth creation. Ezekiel smashed the coin Valeros gave him, Appoline snapped her bow over her knee. I'm assuming Harold's years in prison left him with few worldly possessions. The only thing I had was Mantra's false bible, and it meant nothing to me.
It quickly became apparent, that if we were to defeat mantra, we must obey the rules of the realm. We destroyed everything we could. After destroying our own belongings, we began destroying things around us. Small debris, rocks, asteroids, stars, planets, galaxies. The destruction grew in scale, as did we. Strangely enough, these powers of creation that were gifted by destruction, they could be moved, the same as Heart-fire. This thought also brings many questions, but I dare not dwell on it too long, for I will never arrive at the answer. After completing our wanton destruction, we began creating. Images in our mind, molded into a twisted reality, the power of gods. No man or woman, should ever be able to wield that power, and yet, we did. Is the true same for the three? How many other gods exist, that were not born into their godhood, like Cayden Caelian. What of obelisks, like the star-stone. At what point does any being truly earn divine right? In our case, it was Appolline who collected all the power, and destroyed Mantra. She did more than just destroy her, she obliterated her from the realm, ending her existence in all realities. It's frightening to consider. Appolline may not be the purest of heart, but she's by no means evil. She was granted power unimaginable, but thankfully used it for good. A black hole opened up and sucked us through, spitting us out into a purgatory beyond reality and time. Yes, another one.
It was the strangest sensation. The physicality of it, was again, somewhat impossible. At first it was dark, and there was a pool of water at my feel. I could feel that much, but I could see nothing, hear nothing. I could only feel. Time passed, I can't tell you how much. It could have been second, minutes, hours, years, centuries, I have no way of knowing. After an unknown block of time, sound was restored, then sight. We were in a dark place. We could see each other, as if it were a well lit room, but something was different.
The floor below us was water, but we were standing in it, and it felt…normal. The water showed reflections, as one would expect. The reflections themselves however, were false. Instead of a mirror image of oneself, you could see a point in time in your past. I can't speak for the others, but there was always something wrong with these reflections. I would see myself with a book I've never read. Talking to a nurse, I'd never met. Maybe laughing at a joke I don't remember finding all that funny. I don't remember all these moments perfectly, but I'm sure enough that they didn't happen as portrayed. It was then I realized what was happening. Where we were, this reflection pool, no mortal was meant to enter. What we were seeing is not what was, or what could be, but what was happening, and what did happen. This does not pertain to our lives, but the only conclusion I can draw from this is that there are many versions of us, and many different planes of reality. The concept is so absurd yet, I hear tales of great magic that could change the world all too often. I cannot fathom whether this hall was constructed, or if it was part of a higher design.
The being that sat in the pools didn't offer much information. Before, I had only seein it painted on the walls of Mantra's room in the cave. Eze'kiel decided to open peaceful dialogue with the creature. It had no idea what it was, who it was, or how it got there. The only thing we knew for sure was that it, was the cause of all our problems. Its' mucking about in the pools was creating these rips in our own reality. We offered it help, figuring that removing it from this place would solve the problem. It struggled to it's feet and shuffled over to us. As it shuffled, it created ripples in the waters, it glanced down, and glimpsed our fight with Mantra. It became belligerent, demanding us to answer for what we did. There was not much to say, Mantra threatened our way of life, that made her a threat, and she was eliminated. The creature proclaimed that Mantra was helping it. I can't imagine how that was the case, but I can't even imagine what has already happened. The creature explained that it was trying to find the reality it belonged to. It seemed fairly unsuccessful, and it apparently Mantra was supposed to help shape a world it could live in. No one life is greater than that of the whole of reality. With that conviction, we declared our intent, and showed no regret for our actions. This is what set the stage for our final battle.
The creature vanished immediately and things began happening quickly. Three images rose up from the water, taking forms of different people in our lives. Harold began sinking down into the waters below. I recognized two of the images. One was of Eze'kiel's father, clad in his armor with a wicked smirk upon his face. The second image was that of my own brother, Porter. I did not recognize the third image immediately, but Appolline's disdain and vitrolic banter meant that it could only be her mother (or just a very controlling older sister.)
I know little of Mrs. Rivenon, but when it comes to Alduin and Porter, the one thing these two had in common, is that people were afraid of them, as was I. I'd heard stories in the past of Eze'kiel's father, I'd heard from my father that he was once a great man, with nothing but the utmost respect for his people. That all changed with the coming of the storm. I didn't really have to think much about Porter, I knew this one was not my brother I'd grown up with, but it was still a strange sensation. It looked like him, sounded like him, tormented me in the same jovial manner. I don't even think he hurt me any worse than he used to, that or I've just grown tougher. That being said, I knew if I did nothing, this one might kill me. He clearly had no qualms hurting my friends either. Ms. Rivenon seemed content in only harrassing Appolline, Alduinn was clearly fixated on Eze'kiel, but Porter had to go after everyone.
A short skirmish ensued, and the battle was quick and violent. Ms. Rivenon is apparently a gifted magic user of some type, but it seems she never quite used any of it to the greatest affect. Certainly the magic she wielded was strong, but none of it was inherently destructive. We all but ignored her, while Appolline was forced to deal with her. The only reason I think that the fight wasn't over immediately is because Appolline had just snapped her bow over her knee.