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Cause [1.3.5]

Yasen, Kushel, Zack and Serafina stood for a few moments, just staring at Zion in the glittering night.

“…It’s all gold and white…” whispered Zack. “This castle is fucking amazing.”

“It is a pretty opulent palace.” Serafina replied.

“Yes.” Kushel said. “There has been a change of plan, as we said. Follow us.”

Zack and Serafina hastened after Kushel and Yasen as they strode off into the darkness. Moments later, Vasa, Ephra and Cassil ran up to the ladder leading into the palace catacombs. Minutes after that, Raziel died.

Zack and the others were already at the Official Outpost by the time Raziel had breathed his last. Yasen ushered them in. “Quickly now!”

“Is this your house?” Zack asked.

“No.” Kushel said. “But there is a portal set up here that will take us to the Reaches, which is where we must go next.”

“The Reaches?” Zack questioned.

“I am so confused.” Serafina said. Zack nodded. “Me too.”

Yasen filled them in on Zion and Void briefly as they reached a back room in the Official Outpost. There were a number of Officials hanging around, finishing off the day’s paperwork, and one in particular that Yasen wanted to see was almost finished with his. “You go on ahead, K- Raziel.” Yasen said, gesturing to Kushel and the children. “I’ll catch you up in a moment.”

Harrut turned to see Yasen standing before him. “Ah, Yasen! Like the strong snowdrop, you bloom in my face when I least expect it. To what do I owe the pleasure, as one owes a charitable deed to a good person?”

“We found out that Raziel was still doing his plan, and I have… dealt with it. We have two of the people he summoned, and we’re taking them to the Reaches to find the Universe Seed for us.”

“Hm?” Harrut said.

“We thought, rather than sending out, say, fifty Officials, we’d just send me, Kushel, and these incredibly psychic kids to do the work for us. It lessens danger, and with any luck, we’ll be done much faster.” Yasen pressed.

“I agree, but your eyes tell me there is yet another door of questioning that you wish for me to open.” Harrut replied.

“…Yes. There may be another human person coming. I need you to get back down there and intercept Raziel’s friends.” Yasen said. “Kushel’s the Head of Punishment, sure, but I’m positive he’ll let you take his contingent.”

“All thirty of the contingent? Do you presume I will need so many?”

“I don’t want to take any chances. Not when it’s King Malak in danger.” Yasen said.

“I will complete this task, Yasen. I wish you the best for your travels. Is everything prepared?” Harrut responded.

“Pretty much.” Yasen said. “Since there’s only four of us going, and we prepared for fifty, there’s plenty of supplies for the journey. And I’ve got my Reaches guidebook too.”

“That’s good. Pay close attention to it, Yasen, as one may watch a pot to prevent it boiling. The Reaches are dangerous, but the log planks of the guidebook are what will give you a bridge of knowledge to cross this abyss of discord we call… the Reaches.” Harrut replied, waving his hands in a vaguely mystical, and yet completely ridiculous, way.

Yasen stared at Harrut. “You talk some shit sometimes, Harrut.”

And with that, she turned and left.

Kushel and the kids had already gone ahead when Yasen entered the dark back room where the portal to the Reaches was kept. Yasen recalled what the guidebook – merely an excerpt from another larger tome – had said about the Reaches.

The Reaches are a sub-dimension that blurs the line between the universe, Zion and Void and, in fact, it is possible to travel between Zion and Void by forging a path through the Reaches. That said, they are a strange and mysterious place and it is very difficult to navigate successfully without becoming ‘lost’.

She picked up a large pack, one of many in the room, and put it on her back. It was surprisingly heavy, and she groaned under the weight.

The Reaches are not quite a physical dimension, and not quite a different kind of dimension, so it is necessary to trace the ever-shifting paths of ‘physicality’ when moving through the Reaches, as if you stray from a path of physicality, you will most likely end up trapped in a time dimension, ‘lost’, or even split into countless atoms.

Staring into the portal’s dull light at the swirling colour beyond, she hesitantly took a step forward and felt her body wrenching forward-

Some parts of the Reaches are slightly more stable, and we refer to these segments of stability as islands. The other problem with the paths of reality that connect the islands is that they are constantly moving as the Reaches ebb and flow; ‘the paths that one tracked a few hours ago cannot be walked upon again’ goes the saying. For explorers of the Reaches, wandering is a dangerous task, and to properly navigate this strange sub-dimension, it is necessary to have a point of reference, as well as a knowledge of where the majority of the islands are located.

-and she arrived, somewhere, in the Reaches.

It was a mysterious place. There was little to no concept of space or place, and all around were shifting floors and ceilings of colour. The Reaches, true to their name, went on as far as the eye could see, ever-shifting rainbow strands interlinking and criss-crossing as they shimmied like strange fish in an ocean of colour. Some areas had noticeable auras, and where the colour crossed the border of this invisible barrier, it became dark and muted, and moved much less frequently. The auras themselves moved, however, and the islands of stability seemed to sail, almost, across the featureless landscape.

The ground below Yasen’s feet, too, was moving, and she felt her body being moved without having to move it herself, as if the colours playing around her feet were like streams of water, pushing her in a specific direction.

High above her, overlooking all of this, was the gigantic black spot, the hole of pure black, that hung ominously around the colour. It had grown again since Yasen had last observed it, and the way that the colours reacted violently upon touching it made her nervous – if the Reaches became more unstable, that instability would begin to affect Zion and Void, which would then affect the universe that Zion and Void were supposed to protect. Whatever Antumbra was, the black mark was a surefire way of causing the universe’s destruction.

Trying to ignore this, Yasen waded through the colours and looked up, wondering where to go. Kushel, Zack and Serafina, each with large backpacks like hers, were waiting for her.

“Yasen!” Zack said. “You’re here. But where the hell are we now?”

“I’ll explain.” Yasen replied. “But we have to keep moving. See that muted circle of colours? That’s an island, and it’s more stable there. Come on.”

The group hurried off, making their way through the chromatic mire, and stepped onto the relative firmness of the nearest island. It was slowly sailing through the colours, and the group took the time to sit down and relax, carried deeper into the Reaches by the island.

“Right, I suppose it’s time I exposited the hell out of you.” Yasen said.

“Raziel, is that alright with you?” Serafina asked. “I was under the impression you were leading this whole plan.”

“Uh…” Kushel replied, glancing briefly at a terrified Yasen. “There, was… a change of plan. Like I said. And, uh, I made… Yasen the leader. Of the plan. That we’re doing. The new one.”

“I see.” Zack replied. There was something suspicious about the way the two were acting, but he wasn’t sure what it was in aid of. What did they have to hide?

“Welcome to the Reaches. It’s what gets left over once all the dimensions are made, pretty much, and it’s a completely unstable sub-dimension. Because of this, though, it’s also quite handy since you can travel through it and access both Zion and Void. This dimension is what connects the two.”

“I’m with you so far.” Serafina replied, adjusting her sunglasses.

“So, it also accesses a number of other tiny little dimensions not worth bothering with. However, there is one that we care about: the incubator.”

“Raziel mentioned that, yes!” Zack announced. “But that’s the same plan as before, surely? Kill the Kings, open the incubator, and use whatever’s inside to kill the powerful being.”

“The powerful being in question is Antumbra.” Yasen said. “But no, this is not the plan. You see, we realised that there is no need to fight the Kings and demand that they open it. You see, there is an object hidden somewhere in the Reaches called the Universe Seed. Legend says that if it is put into the incubator and charged with the explosion of a dying universe, it will hatch and transform into a new universe. Do you see?”

“I think I do.” Serafina replied. “Antumbra, this universe-killing whatever-it-is, is going to kill the universe, and you’re… going to immediately replace it?”

“Precisely.” Yasen said.

“Hold on…” Zack replied, deep in thought. “You still need to defeat the Kings either way, right? So that the incubator opens? If I’m hearing this right, it doesn’t open without their defeat.”

Yasen and Kushel stared at Zack. They stared at one another. And then they stared at the ever-shifting ground for a few moments.

“…I’m going to speak to Denneb.” said Yasen in a dangerously low tone.

 

DENNEB!!

yeah z, what’s up? Told al to go apprehend the summons like you said.

YOU SAID WE WOULDN’T NEED TO FIGHT THE KINGS TO DO THE UNIVERSE SEED PLAN! BUT WE STILL NEED TO OPEN THE FUCK-MOTHERING INCUBATOR, DON’T WE?!

fuck

i miscalculated, you’re right. We’re gonna have to fight the kings either way i think.

We are Officials, Denneb!

We do not do battle with our leaders who have protected us for literal aeons. Find a way around this.

mother fuck. Ok, go find the universe seed, then take it to the incubator and pray that it opens first-time

by then i will have found a non-violent solution, i promise you

I hope so, Denneb. Otherwise I will not be amused. And neither will your superiors.

please, empty threats don’t work on me. Al’s the chillest Official superior there is.

I LITERALLY don’t give a shit. Just do as I ask.

Please.

alright, z. I’ll see what I can do. Best of luck to ya.

 

Yasen nodded at her wrist phone, satisfied.

“My scholarly friend is going to figure it out for us. Meanwhile, our first job is to locate the Universe Seed.” Yasen said.

“Do not worry.” Kushel replied.

“Oh, and that, too…” Yasen said, pointing at the black mark hanging ominously above them. “That’s not usually there. It showed up about three weeks ago, and it’s growing alarmingly in size.”

“Is that the cause of this Antumbra person?” Serafina asked. Yasen nodded.

“…the Reaches currently operates at what we’d call a ‘manageable’ level of instability. But this hole is causing disruptions, which make the Reaches even less stable. If that instability becomes too much, it’ll start to leak into the dimensions it connects to.”

“Zion and Void.” Zack guessed.

“Quite.” Kushel replied. “The dreams, of course, started as soon as the hole appeared. Every time someone dreams about Antumbra, they say they are told the same threat: the hole will open.”

“Presumably when this hole gets bigger, it will be ‘open’ enough for Antumbra to arrive. And that’s endgame for all of us. Including the entire universe.” Yasen said.

There were a few moments of silence, and Zack went to check his phone as he often did in awkward silences, but realised quickly that they would be barely functional when taken outside the universe. He was quite sure his Wi-Fi didn’t extend as far as the Reaches.

“Hey, uh… since our phones don’t work out here,” Zack said. “Do you have any of those wrist-tablet things?”

“They’re wrist phones.” Yasen said. “But check your packs; I believe there’s some kind of model in there that can send messages at the very least.”

Yasen’s prediction was correct, and soon Zack and Serafina were equipped with low-tech wrist phones, able to communicate across Zion, Void and the Reaches.

“Do me a favour.” Yasen said. “If you can contact your friends in Void, tell them to ignore the advice of Mizar. He is not to be trusted.”

Zack and Serafina nodded without question. They were still trying to comprehend everything they had been told thus far.

In silence, waiting to hear from their other friends, they sat; the island moved inexorably on through the Reaches.

Cause [1.3.4]
Cause [1.3.6]

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