Imrama had seen the Herald unleash his attack, but he had been too late to stop it, and he felt the ground buckle under his feet, his vision blur, and his very Essence tear at itself... then there was darkness. (...)
That darkness lasted a long time, a very long time. (...)
When a spot of awareness first came back to Imrama, he knew not where, or when he was. But amidst what had previously been an infinite, impenetrable darkness, what should appear but a single, tiny dot of light.
Imrama With the slightest hint of sensation returning, Imrama begins to test his environment, trying to feel his extremities, to move his perspective relative to the light. With each attempted movement, he keeps it always in sight, daring not to blink.
Imrama feels something from his extremities, but it is vague and undefined, like limbs asleep after you've rested on them too long. But he finds that he can direct himself, somewhat -- to move towards the light, to drive himself towards the one thing he can see.
Imrama Clinging to his one point of reference and a vague sense of motion, Imrama walks (or is he falling? or flying? or sailing?) towards the light.
Imrama feels himself moving -- it's hard to tell any more exactly what form of motion it is -- and the light seems to grow bigger and bigger, until he feels it swallowing him up, growing brighter and brighter, replacing the darkness with pure light -- and then, suddenly, he is sitting, alone, in a great green field, under a blue sky, with a single tree not ten feet away from him.
Imrama thinks to himself. "This is not where I expected to spend my afternoon." He attempts to stand and, if possible, walk over to and inspect the tree.
He finds himself standing, on legs that are somewhat unfamiliar, perhaps a little too ideal, but nonetheless seem to fulfill their purpose for the moment. (...)
He walks over towards the tree, a bountiful piece of vegetation that provides plentiful shade. Carved crudely into its trunk is a great circle, and within it, the words: WHO ARE YOU?
Imrama traces the carved words thoughtfully with his right index finger. "I am Imrama Stormfound," he speaks aloud.
As Imrama speaks, the sky begins to cloud over, rapidly, as great grey banks roll in from somewhere in the far distance, and the sunlight grows thin from obscuration. As the sunlight fades, Imrama feels his own strength do so as well -- feels an ache in his limbs, a weariness in his eyes -- and he sees the same words scrawl themselves across the clouds: WHO ARE YOU?
Imrama stares up at the cloud-characters. "I am my fathers' son."
Thunder rolls in along with the rapidly-darkening clouds, and almost without warning, a bolt of lightning shoots down from the heavens with a deafening clap, splitting the tree in half and setting fire to what remains of it. A massive column of smoke rapidly begins to rise from the burning leaves, to join the clouds in the sky... (...)
A single breeze, coming from the north, is alone in being cool and clear of ash and dust.
Imrama turns northward and begins to walk, fighting against the fatigue in his limbs.
The smoke grows thicker and more noxious, all except for within the thin pathway of breeze that Imrama walks upon. As he walks, the smoke around him grows so thick that it seems to form an almost solid grey wall, extending forever upward, while beneath his feet, the very ground freezes from the chill of the northern air. (...)
Imrama walks and walks until suddenly the smoke opens up to either side of him, and he finds himself standing at a great icy cliff. In the distance, snowy islands dance midair in an elaborate ballet around a singular, central isle. Imrama sees something there, off in the distance, like a sun with little tiny wings; it sets tiny paper airplanes in the air, where they begin to glow and fly, and the paths they leave in the air spell
out the words: WHO ARE YOU?
Imrama "I am the captain of the Fable of the Reconstruction," he says, without hesitation.
The tiny golden ships zigzag across the skies with increased ferocity, until suddenly they are moving so quick that they tear the very sky itself -- and as they peel it back, the chill air is replaced with a hot breeze, the bluish sky replaced by the maroon and orange tones of a desert sunset. (...)
Imrama sees a great city, and within it, a great bull -- and at its side, another, who glows with the light of the sun: and all about them, warriors battle each other, though for what cause he cannot tell. And the golden bull smiles, as rivers of blood wash outwards from the city's streets and form the letters: WHO ARE YOU?
Imrama "I am Askaru's heir."
As the battle rages on, the sun continues to sink lower and lower, and the city grows dark -- though just over the hill, another structure is lit by the golden-red tones: a familiar ziggurat, water trickling gently down its sides. (...)
Imrama sees that it, too, is torn by battle, though of a different kind, as golden silhouettes walk up and down its hallways, shouting silently at one another, chipping slate, breaking vases -- while one sits silently on its own, slowly polishing a jagged grey knife. (...)
As the cascade itself is silhouetted on the setting sun, the sounds of the shouting from within finally seem to reach Imrama's ears: many voices, all screaming "WHO ARE YOU?"
Imrama "I am the Second Eclipse of the Circle of the Sunlands." Imrama says firmly.
As he speaks, the sun slips behind the horizon, and for a moment, there is total darkness once again. (...)
And then, once more, Imrama sees only a single dot of light, but now, he can see it for what it is: a single, tiny yellow star, hanging in the night sky above him. The outlines of the land around him are just slightly visible in its faint light, and all sounds -- and strange visible words -- have ceased for the moment.
Imrama watches the tiny star for a time and then reaches up towards it, as if to touch its glowing light.
His hand grasps the light, and it seems to spread, covering his body, spreading out to the earth, which blossoms with new growth -- with thick, sprouting vines -- as the light from the star he holds in his hand washes out to cover the landscape.
Imrama surveys the new and verdant landscape, moving the light in his hand to direct its radiance this way and that.
The light follows his commands, until the entirety of the landscape is covered in soft yellow light, and upon every surface, they spring up -- threefold symmetrical vines of deep emerald green, covering everything until nothing else can be seen but the starry sky above, and the thick-knit ivy below. (...)
And then, from somewhere, Imrama hears a baby's cry.
Imrama Moved and troubled by the sound, Imrama casts about with the light, searching for its source.
Looking about, after several long moments, Imrama finally locates the source of the crying: off to one side, nestled amongst the vines on the side of a hill, is an unhappy infant -- a baby boy, his skin and hair exactly those of Imrama's own, the tiniest hint of a golden symbol glittering upon his brow.
Imrama rushes to the child and swoops him up gently into his arms.
Imrama "Hello my little friend. Do not worry, you are safe. Where are your parents?"
As Imrama lifts up the baby, he realizes that something is connected to it... and when he looks, he sees one of the vines that cover the landscape, running directly into the infant's back, bright green lines spiderwebbing out from where plant joins to skin and glowing with a sickly resonance. (...)
As he considers this horrific image, he hears a woman's voice whisper something, directly into his ear: "WHO ARE YOU?"
Imrama kisses the child on the forehead, and cradles it in one arm, drawing Kilauea in the opposite hand. "I am the best man that I know how to be," he speaks softly, aims to sever the vine that ensnares the infant, and fires.
As the vine severs, the whole world seems to shatter at the same time, and pieces of earth and sky fall away like shattered glass. Imrama finds himself standing, once more, in emptiness, but now he is holding something, and in the distance he sees the black silhouette of a person, outlined by glittering yellow stars.
Imrama looks towards what he is holding, but only for an instant. "Ahoy there, sailor. Who is it that drifts now into my dream?"
The figure steps towards him, the starry outline glittering and making any details impossible to make out. "You are the seed," the voice says, on the wind.
Imrama "But what of?" Imrama studies the outline for the slightest hint about this person's shape. "If you are who I think you are, I may not like your answer."
"A new beginning." When he looks down into his arm, Imrama sees that what he carries now is not a baby, but a mess of red and yellow leaves, woven together on razor-thin vines to form a ravenous, ugly monster -- and as the star-outline draws near, he grows increasingly certain that the outline is that of a woman.
Imrama reaches out his other hand to the monster, not in anger or fear, but in love. "I know who you are, and I know who I am, whatever the secrets between us. I am a new beginning, but one of my own choosing; not of yours."
The figure steps yet closer to Imrama, and reaches out to touch the creature he holds in his arms. "Is it? We shall see," the voice says.
Imrama leans forward to whisper in the figure's unseen ear: "Yes, we will." He wraps his empty arm around the silhouette and kisses her deeply.
The kiss has the taste of cinnamon, and the very stars seem to spin around the two as Imrama locks lips with the mysterious figure. When it ends, the stars seem to break apart and scatter on a new, fresh breeze, this time from the east.
Imrama smiles a wistful smile, and follows the scent to the East.
Imrama walks and walks, for what seems like miles, until finally he comes upon a mountain range. (...)
As he looks upwards towards its vast peaks, he sees the beginning of the sun peeking over it, the first warm light spreading out over the world... but he cannot help but notice two things: the sizeable black crescent that overlays the sun, the suddenly heavy lead weight that he carries in his arms. (...)
The sun's rays illuminate a gigantic set of stone letters, that seem to call out, as the light outlines their vast granite forms: WHO ARE YOU?
Imrama stands in the light before the stones, his arms outstretched. "I cannot answer you with words. Let me show you."
The sun shines down on Imrama, and for a moment, he feels warmed and emboldened again by its light. But then he notices it: the gap, the tiny imperfection, somewhere in his field of vision, like an itch that one simply cannot scratch. (...)
As he looks back and forth for it, momentarily confused, he sees the Herald, the creature he and his companions were locked in battle with, rear up over the horizon... and in its hand, the tiny horn...