The Temple Of Mir
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Travel


Volume: 471
Issue: 19
Author: Elichrus Zome Staff Writer


The first obstacle one must overcome when travelling to the Temple of Mir is discovering its existence. Over the course of my three decades as a reporter, rumors came to me of a place hidden within the deep mountains of an uncharted world, the forms they arrived in almost as disparate as the information they contained. One night, as a 23 year old covering the recent post-modern revolutions in Sharath’s Fiefdom, I received a phone call from an unidentifiable person. The breathless voice informed me of a “secret to shake empires, buried in stone, born from the ice”. Before I had a chance to reply it hung up, and I turned attention to the more pressing matter of escaping the rebel hordes descending upon my camp.

It wasn’t until four years later, interviewing the King of Northern France, that I remembered the call. The King had departed suddenly to address a matter of foreign affairs, leaving me alone in his study. Knowing that the best way to understand a man is through his literature, I began perusing his shelves. My eye fell upon a yellow-bound volume barely bigger than a pamphlet. A titleless book of verse. I opened the first page and began to read.

Eyes upon the blackened rock
that binds it to the mortal’s sense.
Son and Daughter of the cold
Father of the endless night,
Mother of the loving death,
Child of the forgotten ways.
I will not speak of things
that this eternal beast has told to me,
or enemies and treacheries
that hunger for its mystery.
For pathways to the prison seep
in every piece of history,
And its vision guides the seekers
down the path that
where they will meet its wings.

The rest of the book followed similar lines, detailing in vague terms an apparently godlike bird, trapped in a stone prison outside of the known multiverse. Intrigued, I slipped book into my waistcoat. When I returned home, I set about finding information about its author and origin. I showed into my contacts in academia, searched through databases on half a dozen worlds, scoured the Library, yet found nothing. It was if the book had fallen from an entirely separate reality. So I begrudgingly set it aside and returned to my work.

And, as soon as I ceased looking, I began finding. A scant few months later, while writing a profile of a madhouse, I overheard a patient screaming of a “great bird of ice, watching the world’s decay”. I immediately leapt up to try to locate the source of the voice, but they had already gone, if they were ever there in the first place. Perhaps a year after that, I uncovered a journal, similarly bereft of information on its origin, containing a dreamlike narrative of the author’s journey to a temple at the top of a faraway mountain. At the top, they wrote of encounter with a “consciousness above consciousness, a winged beast whose eyes contained eternities”.

And so it continued, information coming to me over months and years from sources that could not seem to be more disparate. Snippets of a song in a village pub. Letters to the Planasthai team. At one point a drug-induced hallucination. Eventually I had filled the small file cabinet by my desk to a point near-bursting. Realizing it was time to take a more active role in the search, I did what any good journalist would do: I pitched the story to my editor. A week later I had approval, more funds in my pocket than I’d ever seen, and a stern order not to return without something damn impressive to show for it.

But where to start the search? All the clues I had indicated the creature existed outside the universal structure. Obviously attempting to reach such a place would be difficult, for if an area were accessible through traditional means, it by definition existed in the structure. I decided to turn my journalistic contacts for aid.

Mareen Strayke had, at various points over our so-called friendship, referred to herself as a dream-warden, the only true fortune-teller, a refugee from planetary destruction, and a reformed Archivist. I didn’t know how truthful these claims were, but I did know she possessed unparalleled knowledge when it came to bending the limits of reality. If anyone knew how to access a world outside the worlds, it would be her.

I found her in an opium den, explaining her theories of recursive consciousness to a bored rabbit. It took her a moment to realize I wasn’t a drug-induced hallucination, but after explaining my predicament her interest was immediately piqued. She hurried me back to her quarters and began drawing up a long explanation of possible solutions. Her train of logic jumped from the soul/mind dichotomy, stories of mysteriously lost expeditions, the incubation process of gods, theorized afterlives, and the precise definition of the word “location”. Eventually, she reached a conclusion.

“You have to die,” she said.

Naturally I did not find this an appealing thought.

She assured me it would be fine. At the precise moment before my soul, consciousness, and body separated, she would use a rite to seal my soul within my corpse, preserving my existence safely. My consciousness, untethered, would then be free to travel to axes of existence unavailable to the physically bound. It was, she said, a technique I asked how it would know which way to go from there. She looked at me as if I were a dimwitted child.

“Whatever this is, it’s spent 30 years reaching out to you. You think it won’t bring you to it as soon as it can?”

I had to agree with that logic. After she showed me the device with which she would bind my soul, and the poison that would kill my body, I reluctantly agreed. While she prepared the ritual, I took a moment to ensure my mortuary affairs were in order. Once we both were satisfied, we began.

I won’t bore you with the describing the process of death. I’m sure you’ve read as much of the writing on it on I have, and I doubt my descriptions will ever top those of Karlin Desyosyana’s in Messages from a Remnant. But the process of feeling your consciousness and body separating… that was a new experience. It began after the poison’s agony subsided, when I realized I was suspended in nothingness. The constant barrage of senses fell away, and for the first time in my memory nothing replaced them. I saw nothing, felt nothing, heard nothing. I drifted for an eternity in my thoughts, with no time to disturb me.

I became of the reality forming itself around me when I first heard the sound of ocean waves. I wasn’t really hearing them, naturally. I possessed no ears to interpret sound, and if I had, there was nothing to produce it. It was more that the thought came to me that I was hearing waves, and with it memories of the sound, more clear than any memory before. Memories and ideas began to flood me, interlocking like ethereal puzzle pieces. Soon I was surrounded by a rocky beach. Infinite black water extended before me.

I turned. A mountain loomed behind me, its peak shrouded behind a mass of distant clouds. There was no clear path upwards. The face of the only jagged boulders and shriveling shrubbery. And yet, I began to climb. After what seemed like only a few minutes, I Looked down and realized the beach was so distant the waves seemed still. I looked up. The clouds had grown no closer. I continued the climb.

As I ascended, thought became more difficult. The images of the mountain stretched, fizzled, faded. I found myself navigating through the same rocks and passages in loops. Sometimes, as I climbed, the path I traversed would transform completely. It was as if I lacked the focus to maintain the world around me as I approached the top.

By the time I clambered over the final boulder, the reality around me was little more than fragments. I lurched to my feet, barely able to balance on the ever-shifting rock. Stepping forward, I collided with the memory of my first divorce. As soon as I’d escaped that, I found myself wandering through the battlefield of Raymes, watching a sword disembowel my closest friend. The next movement brought me into the book that shaped my childhood nightmares

But I pushed through. Inch by inch. Foot by foot. These were distractions, I told myself. These were nothing. I could feel the secret that had taunted my entire life just ahead. Petty mind games would not end my journey.

My foot fell upon solid rock. The memories around me vanished. I stood alone on the mountaintop, facing the Temple. Its entrance was large enough for a house to pass inside, the sides decorated with carvings. As I looked closer, I realized they depicted the memories I’d just fought through.

Inside was complete darkness. As I walked further in, the sound of my footsteps faded away. The smell of the ocean vanished. Again, I floated in nothing. Except this time there was cold, deeper than any I’d felt before, that seemed to permeate just not my body but all of reality, as if it was all there was and could ever be, an endless freeze that pierced into my very existence. It lurked within every thought I had, every memory, within my entire life. My entire being belonged to the cold. There had never been anything else.

Do you know why you’ve come here?

It wasn’t a voice but a second set of thoughts appearing in my head. I tried to turn, look for the source, but of course movement is impossible in nothingness. I heard faint laughter.

How few make it here, do you think? How few recognize the signs for what they are? How few gather them further? How few step onto these shores? How few are able to complete the climb?

I had a sense of a vast meaning beneath the thoughts I was unable to comprehend. They were mere impressions, I suddenly understood, of a consciousness so vast that even understanding these small pieces was like reading Shakespeare to an insect. I tried to formulate a response, but the best I could manage was a scream. The laughter returned.

The being appeared in the void so quickly it was as if a lightswitch had been flicked on. More massive even than the mountain, at first all I could comprehend of it was feathers that appeared to be every color at once. As I stared at it, again screaming, a shape formed. I became aware of wings, talons, a beak, each as large as the whole but at the same time only a part of it. I looked up, and eyes the size of continents met my gaze.

Hundreds of people have made it here. Hundreds, over more millenia than there are stars in your sky. None have had the answer I seek. You don’t either, I can tell. But perhaps you can find the one who will.

As the words passed through my mind, I saw echoes of the memories beneath. Visions of others shifting through the messages to find the meaning beneath, making their way up the cliffs. I saw them casting their own lines into the world, hoping to snare someone like me.

Do you know what I want, Elichrus?

“Freedom,” I finally managed to choke out.

One could say that. Freedom would come with what I seek.

I could feel the sadness in its thoughts. A melancholy that had been built up over more time than I could comprehend, from a betrayal no one else in existence could experience.

There were seven, in the beginning. And one by one they tried their hands at creation. They spun worlds from dust, and placed stars in the night, molded life from the fire. They drew boundaries to separate the universes, and placed the pathways to connect them, and created the center-place where all would meet. They did all of this and more.

When they finished, they knew it was time to pass on their legacy. They were old Gods, entrenched in the old ways. They were meant for creation, not rule. So in their final act they blended energies, and created their successors. And then they realized their mistake. Where they should have been seven, there were eight.

What could they do of this? Seven was the number of balance, of purity. It was the guide upon which their entire work had been laid. To have eight rulers would be obscene. It would be corruption across all worlds. But to kill one of their own, to murder a child spawned from their own life… that too was unimaginable. So they did the only thing they could do. They locked me away.

I wish for freedom, yes. But more than that I wish for family. I wish for the throne that should be mine. I wish to look my siblings in the eye and hear their miserable excuses for my enslavement. I will continue scraping at the universe until these things are mine. Until I find the one who can bring them to me. Will you help me find this person?

I understood the truth in its words as it spoke. As it relayed the story, I felt its memories as if they were my own. I took shape along with the universe. I watched the struggles of its parents to find the perfect form of things. I felt its anguish as it was sealed into the rock. All of these things I knew. But I could not answer its question. Even as I descended the mountain, I vanished from the beach, and felt my mind becoming again one with my spirit, the question lingered. It wasn’t until I returned home and sat over my typewriter, wondering where to begin, that I came to a conclusion.

I am a reporter. For thirty-and-six years, my mission has been to bring truth to the people of the Library. Now I have stumbled perhaps the greatest truth in all of creation. The largest story, the one that permeates all of our lives and every life that has come before us. Were I to ignore it, were I to hide the truth from our readers and leave them in the dark, I may as well immediately resign from my post.

So I say this: Here is the story. Here is the truth as I have been given it. Do with it what you will. Most will dismiss this a fantasy, a bit of meaningless sensationalism. That is fine. Because a few, I’m sure, will see the path. They will follow the breadcrumbs that have been left across creation. Some, I’m sure, will make their way up the same rock and stand on the same mountaintop that I did. And maybe, just maybe, one will be able to go further than I was able.

I am curious to know what follows.

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