Unknown and Undecided
“What’s your name.”
The Creator had asked that question and, because she was the Creator, his creator, she was able to compel him to answer.
They’d stood past the end of the world, a co-joined pair of goddesses holding the newly reborn planet in their hand, faced by an army of unkillable, nigh-unto godlike [Adventurers] and none of that scared the former Oblivion Remnant as much as the three words his Creator had spoken.
“I don’t know, I can’t decide on one. I don’t know what I want to be.”
“It’s okay,” Tessa had said, her eyes filled with a compassion that didn’t make any sense at all.
He’d tried to kill her. He’d tried to destroy everything she ever was and everything she’d ever existed in. She was supposed to want to destroy him. She was supposed to want to erase him completely. To give back what she’d taken and return him to the nothingness he’d once been.
Except, she’d seemed happy about what they’d done to each other.
And despite every chance at letting go of the world and accepting blissful peace, she’d clung tight to her lives and chosen to keep existing as she was, over and over again.
“You can be undecided on that for as long as you need to be,” Tessa said, “but you should let Byron go. He can’t help you with the rest of what you need to do. Are you ready to do that?”
“What do I need to do?”
“Become the person you choose to be,” Tessa said.
“Like this,” and she placed her hand on his chest and said a single word.
There wasn’t any pain, but there was a sense of loss. One moment he had a resilient shell wrapped around himself, layers of contempt and ego and self-assuredness which kept so much of reality safely at a distance. The next all that went away and he was alone.
“Steady there,” Unknown said, catching him before he could topple to the ground.
No one caught Byron but that was okay. It wasn’t a long fall and he was fairly disoriented so he barely noticed the impact.
“Why are you helping me?” It seemed like a valid question to ask his predecessor, especially given that he’d tried rather seriously to eliminate Unknown and was under no compulsion to not attempt that again.
Except he wouldn’t.
His Creator had been right. Something had grown in him. Something ugly and repugnant and terrible and disgusting. Something that was glad to exist. Something that answered the endless hunger inside him. Something that he wanted to protect, even from himself.
“Because you needed it,” Unknown said and stepped back, letting him stand on his own feet.
Because he had feet now. They weren’t stolen from Byron. They weren’t the fading memories of appendages which had been erased from existence. They were just feet. Normal, everyday feet.
Just like all the rest of him.
He wasn’t what he had been. Not anymore.
Without any aggression or animosity, Tessa and those with her had slain the last of the Oblivion Remnants and converted his remains into someone else.
His last transformation.
“It’s not,” Unknown said. “You’ll keep changing. This isn’t what you will be, it’s just what you are now.
“Every change brought misery though.”
“Some of them still will,” Tessa said. “We don’t always change for the better. But we always can. It’s up to you now. You get to pick who you are and if you don’t like it, you get to choose to be someone different. The question you need to work towards answering is just who do you want to be.”
He thought about, and say the goddesses gazing down on him with faint amusement.
“I just need to work on it? I don’t need to have an answer now?”
“Most of us spend our whole life finding that answer,” Tessa said.
“Then I think you’ve already given me my name. I’ll be Undecided for now, and I’ll try to figure out who that is as I go.”
Way and Jin
Sitting on the shore of a lake of fire shouldn’t have been the most relaxing of picnic spots but with her head cradled in her wife’s lap, Way couldn’t imagine a more restful spot in any world.
“That felt like a pretty close one,” she said, accepting a tiny [Sugared Delight] that Jin offered her.
“We had more safety nets than it seemed but I’m glad none of them came into play,” Jin said, nibbling on the next treat herself.
“I suppose Tessa could have woken up,” Way said. “That would have fixed things in a hurry. I’m impressed she resisted it so well.”
“She really likes this world, or these worlds I guess now,” Jin said. “She was one of the last resort options though. I was thinking of some more ‘out of context’ solutions. Like the other worlds in this constellation coming together to create a solution.”
“Isn’t that more-or-less what happened? We had spaceships flying over the Fallen Kingdoms helping prevent the apocalypses here,” Way said, lifting her head to get a better view of Jin.
“Yeah, but that was all their doing,” Jin said. “Or almost all. We did help a little by training up a few World Walkers, but they all figured out how to do it on their own first. We just accelerated things a bit.”
“Ah, you didn’t want us to be the ones to merge things together or they’d have gotten stuck like that,” Way said. “We’ve left worlds is much worse shape though and called it a win.”
“True, but I didn’t think you’d want to leave this particular place that bad off,” Jin said, offering Way another [Sugared Delight].
“You’re thinking about staying, aren’t you?” Way asked. Normally she and Jin conversed via a mode of speech that carried far more than words could convey. While they were inhabiting a reality, especially one which had a recent brush with Oblivion, they dialed their more impossible aspects down and enjoyed existing as only a little more than the women they appeared to be.
“You are thinking of staying, I’m thinking of joining you,” Jin said, daring Way to correct her.
Given all the multi-world calamities that had been unfolding, Way hadn’t considered the notion of hanging around afterwards. Was that what she really wanted to do, or had she become too immersed in the role she was playing? Was Oblivion’s Daughter a side of herself that she wanted to explore further or just a fun mask she’d worn in order to see the end of the world from a ground level point of view?
“Is that something you would really want to do?” Way asked.
“Stay with you? Uh, I’ve literally ripped worlds in half when the wrong sort of people tried to prevent that,” Jin said, looking ready to do so again if she needed to prove her love and devotion.
“I mean stay here. This world isn’t all that much like your own,” Way said.
“True. The Earth-analog here is lower tech and definitely blander with no super heroes running around. But there are other worlds in the constellation that are like my old stomping grounds,” Jin said. “And, it’s not like we’ll be stuck here. We can go home and see my family and yours whenever we want. We won’t even upset this world if we pop in and out.”
“I thought we set it up that the worlds would spin back to their original positions though?” Way said. “Eventually that’ll cut off cross world travel all together.”
“That’s what we had in mind,” Jin said. “Turns out the locals have some other ideas.”
“They brought the world’s back together?” Way asked. “Do they want another breakdown of reality?”
“No, they’re being more clever than that. Kari was going to step in to throw up a few walls at first but she decided an experiment was in order instead.”
“Let me guess, turns out she likes what they’re doing?”
“I think you will too,” Jin said. “The World Walkers are searching for the natural routes between the worlds.”
“The what now?” Way asked.
“A lot of the worlds in the constellation have magic and/or tech sufficient to allow for cross-world transits. Even better than that though, there are natural points of congruency and counter-congruency that they can use as transfer points. Basically the worlds in this constellation have always been linked together, even before the Remnants began gobbling into the Earth’s core reality. The World Walkers are expanding on those connections and making them more real in the places where they won’t be in danger of breaking the worlds they join together”
“Oh, that makes sense. Those connections are how the Nightmare Queen got here in the first place.”
“Her and a lot of others,” Jin said. “I looked into the afterlife situation in this constellation and it’s seriously complicated. The neat part of it is that lots of people who’ve ‘passed on’ wound up taking their next lives on other worlds in the constellation, either in new bodies or in replicas of their old ones, usually with a fair bit of their previous memories intact.”
“And that’s why you want to stay?” Way asked. “Or why you think I want to stay?”
“I think you want to stay because this world, this constellation, will be good for you,” Jin said. “We’ve lived a lot of lives but they’re usually in the service of some goal. Sure, sometimes we just hit up a nice resort world for a vacation, but we don’t put down roots while we’re on vacation. And, more importantly, we don’t form connections and really become part of the story itself.”
Way sat up and twisted around to face Jin.
“You will always be the only connection I truly need,” she said and watched Jin blush despite all their years together.
“But not the only connection that you deserve,” Jin said. “You have friends here, and it’s okay to love them as well. We’ve been on amazing and wild adventures, but I don’t think we’ve given ourselves a chance to be part of a community like you are here.”
“We do have friends though. Kari, and Beth, and Astra as three fairly obvious examples,” Way said.
“We do. But the community of Dream Lords and Dream Walkers is a fairly small one, and our interests wind up being somewhat esoteric,” Jin said. “I love the friends we have now, but I don’t think they’d want us to shutter ourselves in with just them. Kari’s got her whole menagerie for example, and Beth and Astra have their College of the Unseen crew that they normally socialize with when we’re not dragging them off on escapades like this.”
“So you’re saying I should get some friends too so I’m not left out?” Way asked.
“I’m saying you fit in here. This world works for you and so do the people you’ve met. Unless I’m all wrong. I can only say how things look from the outside. If you tell me that this world isn’t really your jam and you’re fine with heading out to bigger and better things, I’ll be just as close to your side there as I will be here,” Jin said.
Way paused to drink in Jin open expression.
Way had once been lost to emptiness, a vessel of destruction far more efficient and successful than the [Formless Hunger] had ever managed to be. Even then Jin had believed in her, had loved her for who she was and who she could be. Part of her had wondered if it was the excitement of her impossible nature that had drawn Jin to her, but on some level she’d always known better.
Here was Jin offering her something adjacent to the ‘normal life’ she lost when Oblivion had first claimed her. A life where they wouldn’t be exceptional. A life where they would have friends, and enemies, and hardship, and joy. A life they would only step away from together, so that despite the unfathomable power they could draw on, they wouldn’t. At least not until they both decided to.
Neither of them could ever be fully ‘real’, but this would be close. Or close enough.
“I think…I think I would like that,” Obby said. “But if I get to keep being me, who will you be?”
“I thought I’d try being someone new too,” Dreamlit Wayfarer said, “Though I think you might need to power level me just a little bit.” In her hands she brandished a Level 1 [Apprentice’s Wand], the same tool all 1st level casters began their journey with.