Of Tirok, the Gate Warden, and the Spark of Life

Of Tirok, the Gate Warden, and the Spark of Life

Darkness. Hunger. Fear. Whispers. Whispers in the dark. Thought. Images. Whispers of images. Whispers of Ideas. Numbers. Four. There are four who whisper. They whisper to me. I am me. The whisperers feed me, feed my body, feed my mind. I can hear others at the edges. The whisperers whisper to them too. They are like me. Darkness. Comfort. Contentment. I am learning so much. The whisperers say I will be like them one day. Curiosity. They say I am a child of their kin. I will grow and learn. Darkness. The whisperers say it is time. Feeling. My body is grasped. Anxiety. The whisperers say be calm. They say he has given his life to me, so I must respect the lives of his kin. Sense. Hunger. Nourishment near. I chew. I crave it. I eat it. Darkness. Contentment. I sleep. I wake. Pain. Hunger. I eat. Pain. I grow. Pain. Where are the whisperers? They say only a few things to me now. I am growing. I feel more awake than ever. So much of what the whisperers said to me makes sense now. I am growing and forming thoughts at a rapid rate. Soon I will be like the whisperers. Not darkness. What is it? I remember the whisperers talking about this. I have grown eyes and they are open. I can see. I am on a stone bed. I have limbs. Maybe I can walk. Kind of. That will take getting used to. Oh, something moved in the doorway. It is like me. It says in my mind that its name is water dripping onto a rock over a long time wearing it away. He takes me to another room and begins to teach me many things. I learn of time, the world, and the beings that inhabit the world. He takes me outside our cave. Pain. Very not darkness. Light. Color. The world. We walk a ways and he tells me we are visiting a human settlement. Humans are like us but not. They live in the world and we speak with them. We all teach each other. The humans don’t understand his name, so he says they can call him Pevuc. We return to the cave and learn more.

I have been learning for ten years now. They say I spent ten years in the pool as well. We are enieto. My name is water pouring over a rock into its cracks freezing and splitting it. Among humans, I am called Tirok.

I have come to care deeply for Pevuc. A human would say he is a father to me, but I will always think of him as my beloved mentor. He raised me from when I first took form in the human that gave his life to the enieto. As is custom, I spent some time wandering the world, gaining knowledge and seeking my path. After not long, I found my path. I returned to the Void Temple and aided Pevuc in his works. He raised other enieto, who have since gone out into the world to find their own paths. I am content.

Darkness. Fear. Anguish. Pevuc has entered the unending sleep. He has perished, gone out. He is dead. I am lost.

I tried taking the place of Pevuc, raising the young enieto, but I cannot overcome my grief. I fear I am not doing a good job of teaching. I will leave the Void Temple and wander the world again. I need a new path.

I have had a frightening encounter with a stagnant water boiling with flies and filth. The humans involved called it a necromancer. He had bound spirits to the world and was terrorizing a town. I am glad we stopped him. I wonder, though, where did the spirits come from? Is there life after life? Could the spirit of my mentor be just out of reach of the world? I have found my new path. I will travel to Laushurno, the center of enieto knowledge, where many great scholars study. I will study death, spirits, and afterlife.

I have done it! After many years pouring over tomes, speaking to many scholars, and conducting many experiments, I have done it. I have devised a ritual that will let me pass into the place where the spirits dwell. I will still be tied to the world. I wish only to speak with my mentor, Pevuc. I do not wish to be like the necromancer. I will try the ritual tonight.

I see before me a vast… river. I have heard some mages describe the edge of the world like this. A river of energy. Did the ritual work? Wait, what is that on the far side of the river? It looks like an enieto. I shall cross the river. Pain. Hot. Cold. Thick. Thin. Light. Darkness.

I awake. How long was I out? I am on the other side of the river. I guess I made it through. The enieto I saw is nearby. I am not sure how, but I know that he is a spirit. He is wearing well crafted armor and a sword with a hilt fashioned like enieto frills. I approach and ask him how he got here. He says that he was a member of the Deepguard and that the last thing he remembers is the tunnel collapsing in on him. I decide to walk along the bank of the energy river for a while. I soon come across more spirits. Enieto, human, wolfos, even amhain and elf, as well as a few types of strange creatures I have never seen before. I ask a few of the spirits what year they died in and to my surprise they all give the current year as reply. They all seem to be waiting for something. I look out, away from the river. Everything in that direction is hazy. Sometimes in the corner of my eye, I think I can make out a landscape, but when I turn to it, it is indistinguishable. At length, I see something out there, moving toward the river. As it approaches, I realize that it is a robed woman. Awe. She gets closer and speaks to a spirit, saying that she will guide it through the haze. She turns to me and her gaze pierces my soul. She says I should not be here, that it is not yet my time and that I should go back across the river. With that she turns and leads the spirit away into the haze.

I linger at what I have come to call the Far Bank. I watch as a spirit approaches the haze. It looks to be curious about the haze, trying to peer through it. Suddenly, something grabs the spirit and pulls it into the haze. I jump to my feet and look around, fearing that the spirit needs help. I rush into the haze after it. My vision grows shadowy. Where did the river go? Something moves in the shadow. Something laughs in my mind. Terror. Evil lurks here. I run. How long have I been running? I feel Evil stalking my every move in these Hunted Lands. Where is the river of energy? There is something up ahead. I run towards it.

I look around and find myself suddenly in a cave. I look left and right and see several enieto. A voice whispers in my mind, telling me to move forward. The other enieto and I move forward through the cave. I hear a wail ahead in the darkness. A horde of shambling monstrosities comes out of the dark and battle ensues. We strike many down but many of us fall. Soon I realize I am the only one from the front line still left. One of the monsters rushes me, I try to block but it is too late. I feel it bite into me, my life bleeding out into the stones. Moments later, I think, I find myself in a well lit marketplace. It is festival day and I am very excited. I watch as the festival booths are set up. My friends join me soon, many enieto and a few humans. The festival begins and we watch juggling, fire-breathing, and all sorts of wonders. I head home later, anticipating next year’s festival. What is this place? I have never been to a festival. My son was accepted as the blacksmith’s apprentice today. He is so talented and my wife and I are so proud of him. What? I howl at the moon in joy. I win the tournament and hold my sword high, the armored plates of my body clacking as I move. I sing to the Master and the trees grow as I direct them to. I lay on my deathbed. I run. Slowly, my memories become my own again. The ritual, the river, my mentor. Looking behind me, I see shifting colors and shapes, indistinct in the haze. I fear to go back into those Cursed Lands, so turn towards the front and begin walking.

The haze eventually thins out and I soon gaze out across a bleak, gray, featureless landscape. Unsure of how to proceed, I walk along the edge of the haze for a while. After walking a while, I see out of the corner of my eye a flash of light on the horizon, away from the haze. There is something out there and I do not wish to re-enter the haze, so I head towards where I think the light was. I walk for a while. It sure is gray here. I walk for at least and hour I think. Where did the horizon go? I turn around and cannot see anything but gray. I hold my hand up and can barely see it. There is a haze here too, but it is as gray as the land. Which way was I going? This way I think. I walk for a while. It sure is gray here. I walk. It sure is gray here. It is gray here. It is gray. Gray. Gray. Gray. Gray. Gray.

Suddenly, before my eyes stands an enormous structure that seems to be made of stone. I must have made it out of the gray haze. I look back and see a wall of gray. How long did I wander in there? Minutes, hours, days, years, eons? I turn my attention back to the stone structure and see an entryway. I head inside.

The structure somehow seems even larger inside. I look around as I head down a corridor. There seem to be faces carved into the walls. Some carvings are flawless, while others seem to be still rough ideas. There are so many faces… enieto, human, wolfos, elf, amhain, and several different strange creatures scattered here and there. I wonder who carved all these? I come to an intersection of hallways and decide to turn from my current path. As I round the corner, I see the robed woman that came to the river. Awe. She has a hammer and chisel and has just finished carving a face it seems. The face looks like the spirit that she led away from the riverside.

“What is this place,” I ask her.

“It is my domain, the Hall of Memories. Didn’t I tell you to go back across the river?”

“I saw a spirit dragged into the haze and tried to help it. I got lost and ended up here. Who are you and what to you mean by ‘Hall of Memories’ and your domain?”

The robed woman turns towards me and her gaze pierces my soul. “I am the Gate Warden, Tirok, and this is my domain, the world of spirits. I guide the dead through the labyrinth of death to this place, the Hall of Memories. When a face is finished being carved, it is that being’s time. I bring them here and their spirits are poured into the stone.”

The Gate Warden goes on to say, “You are strong to have made it through the haze, but perhaps it is because you are not yet dead. When a dead being refuses my guidance for one reason or another, they often wander into the haze by themselves. Hungry things lurk in the haze near the river of energy and prey upon the dead. Further from the river, the dead’s memories begin seeping out of them and jumbling with the memories of others. Further still is the gray expanse, where all memory fades into nothing. This is the fate of those who do not accept my guidance. Their faces are not carved into my halls.”

I stand in awe, unsure of what to say. She gestures to another face on the wall. The carving is rough and undefined, but I know that it is my own face.

“It is not yet your time, Tirok,” the robed woman says, “so why are you here?”

“Please Gate Warden, I miss my beloved mentor. I wish only to speak with him one last time.”

“I can take you to where his face is carved.”

“Thank you, Gate Warden.”

We walk along many hallways, all filled with carved faces. I know not how many turns we took. I am excited to see Pevuc again. At last we come to a stop. I look around on the walls and see Pevuc’s face.

“Pevuc,” I cry with glee, “it is I, Tirok!”
Tirok, my student. He whispers in my mind.
“It is good to see you. I devised a ritual to visit the world of spirits.”
Tirok was one of my brightest students. I expected him to go far in life.
“Did you really think I was one of your brightest students, my mentor?”
“I am proud to hear that. What do you think of my ritual to visit you?”

“Pevuc? Did you hear me?”

“Pevuc? It’s me, Tirok, aren’t you glad I came to visit you?”
Tirok, my student.
“Yes your student, aren’t you glad to see me?”

The robed woman pulls me away from the wall and says, “Pevuc is no more, Tirok. I am sorry, but what I call spirit, many call memory. I said before that dead being’s spirits are poured into the stones here, but what you must understand is that the being is gone, only their memories of life remain. Your mentor, he no longer thinks or feels, so he cannot answer your questions about the present.”

“Please take me away from this place, Gate Warden. I am deeply saddened.”

“Come, there is one more task that I do here. You have come this far, I think you have earned the right to see this.”

The robed woman leads me through more hallways. My thoughts weigh heavily and I am sad to have learned that my mentor, Pevuc, really is gone. After a time, we enter a large chamber. It looks like many hallways lead here. Across the way, I see a huge stone door.

The Gate Warden reaches into her robes and pulls out a ball of pulsing energy, the like of which I have never seen. She says it is soul energy and that it is from the being she led away from the river. She reaches to open the door. Beyond the door is a massive whirling storm of this energy. She releases the soul energy in her hand into the whirling storm.

“Behold, Tirok, the Spark of Life!”

I am at a loss for words. She closes the door.

The Gate Warden says, “After a being’s memory, or spirit as I call it, is poured into the stones here, I take the soul energy that made up the being and return it to the Spark of Life so that it may be used in Daern again to bring new life into the world. I shall send you back to the living realms now, but I shall keep your memories of this realm of the dead until it is your time. Return now and forget this place. Live your life to the fullest, knowing that your mentor, Pevuc, loved you.” With that she places her hand upon my head.

The ritual failed. Perhaps the living were not meant to enter the realm of the dead. I feel lighter somehow, though. Why have I been spending my life looking to the past when Pevuc has given me all the tools to look to the future and shape my own life? I shall no longer squander my life in sadness.

I, Scrivener Seron, recorded this enieto Tirok’s memories on his deathbed in honest truth. I was gazing into his mind in the moment of his death and many memories of Tirok’s journey through the realm of the dead poured into his mind at the end. I know not if he truly went there, but I do know that he believed in these memories fully and so I have written them on his tablet. May he rest well.

Of Tirok, the Gate Warden, and the Spark of Life

Daern KalinoAltes