Broken Horizons – Vol 13, Ch 15

Meeting the living spirit of the Earth hadn’t been on Tessa’s agenda for the day, largely because the Earth wasn’t supposed to have a Living Manifestation of All the Life It Cradled at all, much less one who took the form of a farm girl. Tessa wasn’t quite sure how to react to discovering that not only was {Gaia} real, she was shockingly ordinary and unimposing. After struggling out of disbelief, passing through awe and panicky fear, Tessa settled on nonplussed as the proper emotional state.

The stunned clarity she enjoyed as a result wasn’t something Pillowcase, or Glimmerglass, or any other persona provided her. She’d simply been through too much, her mind blown by too many new experiences. Her mental circuits, as far as she could tell had been fused open, allowing her to accept almost anything fate tossed at her.

She knew that wasn’t terribly healthy and likely wasn’t going to be easy, or maybe even possible, to come back from. The person she’d become could probably never fit back inside the life she’d had. Since more or less everything, everywhere was in the process of failing completely apart though, that seemed like a problem some future Tessa would have to deal with if there was a future and she was lucky enough to see it.

“How did you get here?” she asked. It wasn’t the best question, and it wasn’t the most important one, but it was the question Tessa was capable of forming and that put her ahead of everyone else present.

“Someone very kindly left a convenient door open for me,” Gaia said. Her voice could have boomed loud enough to shake the heavens to their core, but instead she sounded like nothing more than the 20-ish year old human woman she appeared to be. “It is a really nice mirror,” she added. “I love the carvings on the frame, I’ll have to see if the artist made any similar works.”

Tessa’s mind itched as her [Void Speaker] senses strained to catch a sense of Gaia’s presence. She knew exactly who, or what, Gaia was but where the gods of the [Fallen Kingdoms] wore their majesty openly even in the human guises, Tessa couldn’t see any shape or metaphor of divinity radiating from Gaia.

Gaia wasn’t suppressing it, or hiding who she was either. As far as Tessa could tell, Gaia was open and at ease with the people around her.

“Sorry Tessa, I know this is confusing,” Gaia said, because of course she knew Tessa’s name. That wasn’t at all abjectly terrifying. “I’d be happy to explain everything, but I do have a mild case of imminent total destruction to deal with.”

“You mentioned another option?” Penny said, recovering her composure next, possibly because she was only in [Paradise] as a projection and so partially outside the various [Divine Auras] that were overlapping each other.

“You talked about bringing people from the [Fallen Kingdoms] to help me,” Gaia said. “That’s a great idea. You should definitely do that. First though, I need you to do something else. I need you to take me to the [Fallen Kingdoms].”

“You’re not running from your duties,” Azma said, surprise dancing lightly in her voice. “You see this path as the only option towards pursuing them, but how are you here at all? Shouldn’t your native sphere be crumbling without you?”

“It is.” Gaia said. “It has been doing that for quite a while though and I’ve gotten a bit tired of watching it happen. As for how I got here, they brought me.” She gestured to Tessa, Lisa, and the rest of their team.

“We did?” Rose asked.

“You are a part of me as much as I am a part of you,” Gaia said. “Where you go, Earthly life exists, and so I am there.”

“If you were able to pass through the mirror, we should be able to move through it with our divine powers intact too, right?” the [Lord of Storms] asked.

“I don’t think so,” the [Empress Over All] said. She was examining Gaia and searching for the signs of {Gaia’s Divinity} that Tessa knew were present. Worryingly, she didn’t seem to be having any better luck with that than Tessa was.

“You’re correct,” Gaia said. “I can help you with that however. Or rather, they can.” This time indicating Yawlorna and Azma.

“What do we need to do?” Yawlorna asked.

“Neither of you are natives of the [Fallen Kingdoms] or the Earth, but you have walked in both. If you return to the Earth, you can call your loved ones there and they bring along the people they’ve forged attachments to. The portal that forms from that effort will let basically anything from the [Fallen Kingdoms] through.”

“There is a problem with that scheme,” Azma said.

“I don’t have any loved ones in the [Fallen Kingdoms],” Yawlorna said.

“Nor do I,” Azma agreed.

Gaia narrowed her eyes and frowned at them both before gesturing them to come towards her. Both Yawlorna and Azma complied, though neither seemed to be able to guess what Gaia intended.

When they got close enough, she beckoned them to lean down and then finger flicked them each in the forehead.

“Stop being stupid,” she said as they stumbled backward, blinking their eyes more than the simply flicks should have warranted.

“Oh,” Azma said and quietly held in any other reaction.

“Oh no, not those idiots,” Yawlorna said.

“Stress bonding, it’s not just for bunnies,” Gaia said and left the two processing the revelations she’d ‘gifted’ to them.

“So they can do what you need?” Lisa asked.

“They have the tools they need,” Gaia said. “Whether they can use those tools? Well, that’s up to them.”

“But we all die if they don’t manage it?” Lady Midnight said.

“Sure, yep. There’s lots of things that can kill us all at the moment though, so I wouldn’t worry about them too much.”

“What will you need to visit the [Fallen Kingdoms]?” Penny asked.

“Shouldn’t she be there already?” Jamal asked. “I mean there are plenty of Earthling’s there now. And, isn’t this spot in the [Fallen Kingdoms] too?”

“We’re in a space apart from the [Fallen Kingdoms],” the {Lady of All Tides] said. “This place is basically the dream we had while we were developing [Broken Horizons].”

“You’re right that I’m there in the [Fallen Kingdoms] already,” Gaia said. “I’ve been there from the beginning since you all are a part of it.” She gestured to the assembled developers/gods. “That part of me though? The bit that’s in the [Fallen Kingdoms] now? She’s as distant from this part of me as your other selves were from you.”

After living with Pillowcase for what seemed like a whole new lifetime, Tessa followed Gaia’s point easily enough. When she thought about what it meant however, she really wished she hadn’t.

“You need to get to [Fallen Kingdoms], and you can’t simply choose to step across the void like Hailey did, can you?” Tessa asked.

“Part of me had hoped that coming here might show me how she and Marcus did it,” Gaia said. “Unfortunately that turned out to be true.”

“Did I do something wrong?” Hailey asked.

Gaia laughed and Tessa heard the distant echo of pain in it. She was dying, murdered by a thousand deadly wounds, but she wasn’t afraid or even bothered all that much. 

Tessa felt a tidal current as strong as the cosmic flow into a blackhole pulling her into contemplation of Gaia’s nature. The secrets to literally everything in the world rested within her.

Nope, she told herself as she and Pillowcase dragged her attention away from the endlessly captivating secrets.

“You did everything right Hailey. And you saved a nice little bit of me Marcus, not to mention several tens of thousands of my people. You both were amazing and I owe you nothing but thanks,” Gaia said. “But you also did what I cannot.”

“Why?” Rip asked. “I mean, why can’t you do whatever they did?”

“You, all of you, are in many senses far strong than I am,” Gaia said. “I didn’t create the [Fallen Kingdoms], or any of the other worlds in our constellation of overlapping realms. I am what is. You all create what will be, and what might be, and what can’t be but still holds truths nonetheless.”

“So can we carry you with us then? Like, wish ourselves back to [Dragonshire] and hold you hand so we drag you along too,” Rip asked

It was a tempting vision. Even if the trip back to the [Fallen Kingdoms] was difficult, they had the backing of the developers here to help make it possible.

Of course a mistake was likely to kill them all, including Gaia since each world was surrounded by a near infinite void of emptiness and even a world-spirit like Gaia couldn’t fill that, or find sustenance in it.

Tessa knew she was letting herself get drawn in by her [Void Speaker] senses, following a chain of awareness and information that would lead her too far outside herself if she didn’t turn back. 

But she had to know.

So she turned to Pillowcase.

Go for it, Pillowcase said, but not too far. I’ll keep us grounded here.

And I’ll help, Asset said.

Tessa opened eyes she hadn’t known she was keeping closed. [Paradise] was replaced by a glimpse of the Earth, as seen from far away. It was a breathtaking perspective but Pillowcase and Asset were both there with hands on her shoulders. Despite the pull of Gaia’s presence, Tessa felt safe. She wasn’t going to lose herself, not when her better selves were literally holding her together.

Gaia’s death, Tessa saw, would be somewhat inconvenient for the organic life on Earth. As the Living Manifestation of Earthly Life, Gaia dying would be similar to stabbing the Earth in the heart. Definitely fatal, though parts of the body would last for varying amounts of time before the entire system crumbled into a necrotic mass.

Even being apart from the Earth’s spiritual sphere would have catastrophic effects, some of which had already begun to snowball out of control.

And yet Gaia had come to [Paradise] anyways. Not out of any sense of self-preservation. If the Earth died, she would too, regardless of where she was. But that was how bad things had gotten. The apocalypse’s Byron had summoned were the simplest of problems besetting her. It was the [Oblivion Remnants] that represented the true danger and their numbers had been increasing.

It was a daring plan, to seek out help from the one source that seemed to be able to offer it. But the price was going to be almost unthinkable.

“You don’t need us to carry this part of you over, do you?” Tessa asked, hoping beyond hope that the understanding she’d absorbed from her vision was terribly, desperately flawed, while knowing with a dreadful certainty that it wasn’t.

“No. I don’t,” Gaia agreed. “I need to do more than to send an avatar to the [Fallen Kingdoms]. I need to be in the [Fallen Kingdoms]. All of me. Like you were.”

“You want to join with the living spirit of my world so that you can learn how she is able to deal with the [Oblivion Remnants],” Penny said, to which Gaia nodded.

“There’s a pretty large catch there though,” Tessa said. “Think about how we made our transitions.”

“We died or disconnected,” Lisa said and added a small, “oh”, as the implication of that hit her.

“How do we disconnect Gaia?” Lady Midnight asked. “It’s not like she’s got an account on the Egress Entertainment servers. Or do you?”

“Unfortunately I do not,” Gaia said. “Though that does give me an idea for the future.”

“Are we going to have a future?” Lost Alice asked.

“That’s more up to you than me,” Gaia said.

“Why wouldn’t we have a future?” Rip asked. “I mean apart from the obvious apocalypses?”

“We can’t disconnect Gaia,” Tessa said. “So we’re going to have to kill her. Or rather, we’re going to have to kill the [Fallen Kingdoms].”

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