It is faint.
The all-encompassing silence of the bottom of the ocean dulls all your senses, removes any sense of urgency. Smothers the faint embers of a life wasted away to stillness and another to quell the newborn hunger.
How or why you pick up this noise, the you not.
It is faint.
It is persistent.
It is not so distant that you cannot find it, yet distant enough that you would have to leave the depths of the once raging waters around Kholusia.
Out of the corners of too many, too inhumane, pristinely shining golden eyes, you see that faint phantasm that stays by your side stir. How baffling—not too long ago the phantasm had shouted unintelligible words across the sounds of tearing flesh and cloth and shattering crystal.
But you pay it no mind.
You rise, dull senses focusing on that single point.
Under the light-blighted skies of Kholusia, near Wright, the ocean shudders. Hundreds of wide eyes and thousands of held breaths behold as a creature of gilded chains and silvery feathers and too many teeth breaches the ocean surface and lazily passes over the still tide to where the frozen Flood waited ever since the first Oracle of Light had stopped it in its tracks.
“The Empty,” the phantasm whispers, and its voice remains aught more than a whisper in your ears that number countless yet finite. Endless, pristine land stretches below you. Perfection as all of this star should have it, perfection as it will earn soon enough. Light to sweep away the sins of their fathers and the sins of their sons.
Amidst the masterfully painted canvas lies that which emits this faint sound.
Rustling, pristinely untouched land disturbed. You land next to your brethren, all feathers and perfect stillness—yet the sound persists, louder now that you has arrived at its source. It takes a while before realisation returns to your senses that have not yet faded to raw instinct.
“A voice?” the phantasm asks, not leaving your side too much. So small, this pointless thing that barely has integrity, especially when next to the collapsed Eater. Yet somehow it understands, despite no one else doing so. “Far be it from me to doubt you, but given your current state… wait. This… this thing. I know this thing.”
Small, formless hands that gain no traction trace what little they can reach of the Sin Eater in front of them. Hundreds of feathers as soft as freshly fallen snow yet hard and sharp like hundreds of blades shuffle and rustle and clink against one another as you move to investigate your brethren. Faint, distant memories of a wasted life bubble up in your head. A woman, a child, an Eater, a blade. A transformation. A crooked, wretched voice begging another for forgiveness under different, light skies. A thousand yet none eyes blink as you turn your heads that duplicate too rapidly and yet count not a single one.
“No…! We… they… I…!”
The faint voice
Ardbert slammed his hands on his mouth.
begs you for something.
“Help me,” I whisper.
If the First could watch, it would find the first Sin Eater still and lifeless as ever, with the last Lightwarden leaning over it. If the First could watch closer, they would find its final Warrior of Light standing beside the Lightwarden with his hands slammed over his mouth and eyes wide in shock. If the First could see even closer, what they would see would be the Warrior of Darkness lost to the very light they had sworn to push back leaning over the broken, mangled, half-collapsed form of a Bringer of Chaos that writhed in agony howling out its rage to the heavens for a moment longer.
Have I been heard…? After all this time, has something,someone heard my cries?
The Prime stops calling. You, the Last, stop moving. You eye one another carefully, neither needing to breathe but not daring to in this flawless, silent perfection.
This pointless emptiness built as a monument to the Warrior of Light’s folly and upon the blood and bones of Loghrif.
Awareness jolts back into you, as if someone had taken a kindle to the faint spark that once was your mind. Your hunger is sated for the time being, but you do not remember how or why. You do not care.
He remained silent.
The Flood of Light, you recall dimly, had an unknown starting point. Something about Ardbert and Ascians. It is always Ascians.
Yet I am an Ascian, too.
Abandoned out here.
How ironic, all things considered. All those empty little promises, as empty as the wasteland I now call the centre of my existence.
Ardbert averted his gaze nervously.
You continue eyeing this Sin Eater. It still refuses to stir, heaps of feathers and steel and flesh refusing to move for some reason or another. An Ascian, it called itself, but yet you have to wonder. An Ascian like Emet-Selch?
“No,” Ardbert whispered, quietly enough that neither of the Sin Eaters heard.
“No,” I say out loud. I know the state this one is in.
The aftermath of agony so overwhelming that it might as well have killed them.
But death is not so merciful when it is light that grants it.
“Not,” you manage to croak, your voice as clear as bells and as wretched as rusty nails dragged across shattered ceramic, “like Emet-Selch? Are you one of the Sundered, then?”
You get no answer for the longest time. Pristine much like its surroundings, there is something within this Sin Eater that clearly has struggled long against the light that binds it. Not a Lightwarden—you are the Lightwarden, the only one now—but something more primitive. Primitive but too advanced, like the walls you had retreated to and screeched out in agony as the transformation took you. You did not have the dignity to transform with as much a smile as you could muster like Tesleen had.
I nearly sputter into my thoughtful silence. As if there is dignity to be found in so pathetic a death.
“One of the Ascended,” I confirm eventually, aware that this other creature is waiting for my answer.'
I will not let such a base creature call me ‘Sundered’, however. I am better than so disgusting a beast.
But not good enough for Emet-Selch to free me, or for Loghrif to even keep her promise.
He remembered that one, clear as crystal. A snarled voice, a grim determination as even their little pet failed.
A caricature of Cyella, let off its leash by those two Bringers of Chaos who then all but turned into the same being.
He had nailed them with a blade of light.
And not a moment later the Flood of Light had risen from the pierced, mangled Ascian.
You are not quite sure where to put your myriad hands, and are grateful that you have none. Quietly you settle your main head of infinitely-none next to what you presume is the place closest to the Sin Eater’s core. Its voice is faint, still, despite the earlier horrendous screech.
The two of you lie there immovably for either an instant or an eternity.
“The one Ardbert defeated?”
“Yes,” he whispered, aware that neither of them could hear him.
“Yes,” I state dryly. “One of two.”
“But why are you not?”
“I see,” you whisper.
“And what are you supposed to be?”
I pause. Strain against my restraints and am once again met with immovable light that smothers my own dark soul.
“Or rather, who are you supposed to be? How do you know Emet-Selch?”
Were I still in possession of a body, I would have bit my lips.
I do not possess a body.
Not a normal one at least.
Any and all movement sputters out and dies before it can ever happen.
“How did you hear me?”
You aren’t sure, you tell the mysterious Eater-Ascian. You may have forgotten. It cannot matter if it is gone already, and the grave silence that meets you is deafening in its own regard.
You know neither your name nor your purpose. Only that you awoke amidst stone walls that glimmered with aether that made you hungry. Beneath the waves. Somewhere with a name you say you knew once but no longer remember.
You also do not remember how you know Emet-Selch.
You aren’t exactly sure what an Emet-Selch is. An Ascian, clearly, but your own words had spilled out of you without you knowing their meaning.
But one thing you know,
The answers are underwhelming.
Not that I was expecting to be overwhelmed.
Perhaps I merely wish for any kind of whelm.
In a sense, I am merely relieved to hear someone else’s voice.
Perhaps that is the whelm I craved for so long.
and that is that you are fairly certain that this Ascian’s cry for help is all you ever heard.
No, he wanted to scream.
But perhaps it was best if no one but him remembered the agonised death rattles of
“How bizarre,” I almost laugh at this creature overflowing with light.
It pauses, but I can feel its curiosity on me.
“I was expecting… someone else.”
the Crystal Exarch as the Last Lightwarden tore him apart.
Nothing but an apology for failing the hero on his lips as he was reduced to bloody shreds and shattered crystal.
Your memory returns in bits and pieces, fractures and fine slices. There is a flash of blood you do not recall seeing anywhere else amongst the images.
“Are you Mitron or Loghrif?” you ask eventually.
Dimly, distantly, mockingly, a memory of Emet-Selch floats about the fading memories. Something or other about how useful they had been, but ultimately their failure as Sundered had been inevitable.
“Does it matter?”
No, it does not. But you are curious.
Yes, it did. It would give a name to the Ascian behind the Flood.
You shuffle ever so slightly. It barely makes a sound, but it sounds as if a hundred blades hit each other on a battlefield. It is both blessed silence spreading across the Empty and a cacophony rising to call all to war from lands too peaceful for their own good.
“Were you… calling for the other one? Mitron or Loghrif?”
“… She did not answer. No one ever did.”
I wish I could turn my head for once. Move anything.
A slight tremor goes through my broken, useless and mutated body.
You try and try to remember if Emet-Selch said anything that makes piecing this puzzle together. It devours your fading mind as slowly but steadily your hunger returns to you. Beyond the Flood of Light lies land untouched and shimmering with what will sate this hunger. It would be so easy to get up and to abandon this Ascian once more to his fate.
But you do not.
In the strangest sense of the word, you feel some sort of kinship with him.
He is as much monster as you are, and you know that no one will come for you as no one ever came for him.
You do wonder how hungry he must be. How long he has lain here abandoned to rot away in indignant silence as his cries fade unheard.
“Mitron,” I whisper, for all the good it does.
There may very well be another piece of my divided soul in my place amongst the Rift.
“I once held the seat of Mitron.”
Ardbert had to admit he was surprised.
While Mitron had been the more tenacious, there was no doubt that Loghrif had been the stronger one.
But Mitron was the one who had caused the Flood in the end?
You nearly miss his whisper as you wonder about the seething, growing desire to devour what is left of the First.
Amidst your shattering memories you wonder if you were forgetting something about why you are here in the first place. Not the Empty—Mitron called you here—but the First itself. There is supposed to be a duty, but it has been swept away by that hunger that starts to blind you and that dulls your senses again.
“Mitron, abandoned by all in a lifeless, timeless paradise.”
It is a wasteland, but I do not bother correcting this stranger.
The hunger is tearing at the unstable, light-blighted monster beside me.
Not long before it leaves me.
And then I will be as I was for the past decades.
Lord Zodiark forgive my weakness, I want to beg this stranger not to leave me alone.
“So I am. But let me ask again: Who are you?”
“… Not Innocence. Innocence I.. slew. Atop a mountain.”
I say nothing.
“Not Philia, not Eros. Not Tesleen….”
You shift, half rolling to your side, half sigh that moves your body more than you wanted it to. The name escapes you. The purpose escapes you.
You are so, so hungry.
“Not King Titania, either.”
The forgetting was the worst part.
The pang of guilt that came along with it, Ardbert had no name for.
You think about it long and hard. There is a purpose you forgot, you realise once more. Broken clockwork desperately tries to move on to the next thought, but you spiral, spiral, spiral around the same thoughts and the same yearning hunger that drives you near insane. Norvrandt, you belong to Norvrandt. You should see it burn, you should devour it whole—with or without Mitron, albeit without seems more likely. The Ascian has yet to move, his voice remains quiet and distant as if he has no power left.
Starving to death sounds so unpleasant.
I had not felt anything beyond that deep, light pit of despair for so long, this one’s hunger near overwhelms me.
Finally, a whelm.
This one is not Loghrif.
But it is someone to speak to.
“We know not much about one another, but I cannot say I am unhappy to have you here.”
For a brief, brief moment, you feel a sense of deja-vu. A room, your phantasm, dinner, and you. An animated conversation.
It is gone before you can grasp it, replaced with more hunger than you can bear at this point.
But you stay put. Turn your attention to the Ascian beside you.
Before I can stop, the words spill out of me.
No one has heard me since the very day the Oracle of Light named Minfilia stopped the Flood.
No, no one has heard me since the day Loghrif was torn from me.
Part of her remains with me, just as part of me remains with her.
I called out to her, to that missing piece of me.
I confess as much. Confess a deep-seated rage towards her silence.
Confess seething hatred for Emet-Selch whom I felt but who ignored my pleas.
When Mitron stops, even the hunger subsides for a moment.
You know not what to say.
You think about it so long, you lose track of time. Somehow, you feel that you and Mitron are in similar positions.
You do not know why.
It slips through your many hands like grains of sand, your handless arms grasp at naught, and your many yet none eyes cry bitter tears and rancid blood for reasons beyond you.
You pity him.
You pity yourself.
You pity your phantasm, still silently standing beside you and the Ascian with an unreadable expression.
for everyone involved
we are interrupted.
There can only be
who would find you and your companions
at the end of the world,
“Well, well. Imagine my surprise, hero, when I found my abode devoid of the last Lightwarden. I had hoped you would move on to greener pastures to turn them blindingly light, but where would I find the last Lightwarden but with the first Sin Eater?”
You say nothing.
The silence was tense.
I want to scream, but not a sound escapes me.
Ardbert had to admit he was surprised that Mitron stayed silent.
Heavens, I want to scream.
But I cannot.
I will not.
Not for he who ignored my pleas for help.
The tension was thicker than the light around them.
He was not quite sure what Emet-Selch was expecting.
But when one walked into the land of Sin Eaters, one would have to deal with Sin Eaters.
Doubly so when both of the residents of the place had been at the end of a world together, slowly but steadily forgetting all else but the fact that Emet-Selch had broken them.
Or abandoned them.
Ardbert could only squeeze his eyes shut when two Sin Eaters howled in unison at the Bringer of Chaos.
The First Eater and the Last Lightwarden rose as one to devour the dark.
And then they devoured the First.
And in the end, they and Ardbert themselves were devoured by the Rejoining.
You quietly watch your handiwork.
There was no way to save him, you tell the Ascended at your side. He nods, a child’s body rather than the man you knew once. Once he had been Unsundered, but those times are long gone.
You are Elidibus, and you have not only just found a Sundered, mangled, wretched shard of Lahabrea.
You have also just lost Emet-Selch to the Eighth Rejoining.
“Such carelessness had best not be repeated,” you say, devoid of any emotion.
“Naturally,” this Sundered Lahabrea replies.
You make careful note to not use the light in such ways again. Or at least tell the Sundered to avoid those corrupted by the light.