Merlin explores the primordial forests that seeded our reality.
|Chapter 1 Temporal Thicket|
Merlin awoke on a bed of soft moss. Sitting up he looked around at the enormous trees around him, thousands of years old and still healthy. He marvelled at their immortality and wondered how humans would ever be able to understand a being so old, or learn the wisdom they offer from their green canopy.
Looking directly overhead he expected to catch a glimpse of the sky but could see nothing through the branches. He squinted and saw a strange snake slithering from one tree to another with no apparent concern for gravity.
As he prepared to stand, a beautiful horse came around a nearby tree. Its hair was dark as night on the Black Moon, a long red horn emerging from its forehead and wrapping around itself before coming to an end pointing upward as if looking for the sky. Its antlers were like an elk but blue and much larger and more intricate in design, with some of its branches intertwined around each other as if its skull was embracing itself.
The horse seemed to smile at him, then walked up the trunk of the tree with the spikes that came out of its hooves like eagle talons. It walked slowly around to the other side of the trunk and disappeared.
Thinking very little of how unusual this would have seemed yesterday, Merlin stood up and quietly moved away around a patch of mushrooms that grew past his knees.
He came to a smooth stream that ran quietly through the woods. He found himself wondering where it came from, and where it was going, but was suddenly brought back when he realized how thirsty he was, his throat was parched but when he lifted his hands out of the water it slipped away instantly. He smiled and lowered his lips to drink. He couldn't feel any liquid go down his throat but his thirst went away anyway. Chuckling at the sly craftiness of this elusive stream, he dunked his head in and pulled it out completely dry but better hydrated and revitalized than he'd ever felt in his life.
He looked down at a tall, slender mushroom rising up from the stream bed and reaching up above his head. "What's the issue with the water?" No answer. "Oh well, I'll just be passing through." He walked right through the stream and came out completely dry but clean and fresh.
From the other side everything seemed to take on a deeper green hue. He felt himself being called, summoned from somewhere on the left and he allowed his feet to lead the way
As he walked the bushes got thicker, thorny vines wrapped around the trees. The branches above him got thicker too, the layer that already formed an impenetrable barrier was now concealed behind another layer of leaves. The trees also got wider as he went, they were now so thick that the smallest he could see would have taken 20 men at arms length to wrap around it. He wondered how tall they were but surrendered to the idea that he would never know the answer.
At length he reached a place where the thorns were so thick he couldn't move through them. Having nearly forgotten the feeling he was being called, he was about to head off in a different direction when he thought he heard a voice.
"What do you seek?" it asked from seemingly nowhere.
He didn't know what to say, he wasn't looking for anything in particular. "Nothing, I am merely wandering... Exploring." He was looking around, trying to to determine the source of the voice.
There was silence for a moment and he felt as if he was being searched from within. "Very well," whipsered the disembodied voice, "you may enter."
The thorns spread apart and opened a path into an open clearing. He stepped forward and it closed behind him. Before him stood an oak tree that dwarfed the others he'd seen, with a partially submerged root that was larger than most of the other tree trunks, too large to climb over.
As he walked toward the oak he noticed the black, antlered horse watching him intently. He gently called out a friendly greeting to it, expecting it to be the body the voice belonged to but it remained silent, simply watching him.
When he reached the oak he looked around, expecting the voice to speak again. To his surprise the trunk opened a doorway to a spiral staircase wrapping around the outer layers just within the bark.
Merlin stood still for a very long second, watching the elf sitting silently in the centre of the room before a small blue and violet flame that made no smoke.
"Greetings," said the elf, "I am Fjorðarviðr. Please, come sit by the fire Merlin."
Merlin moved forward, looking around at the herbs hanging from the walls, the vibrant luminous crystals and pots of fragrant mixtures around the edges of the room. As he sat down the elf handed him a round, bland stone and when he took it he found it hollow and light. "What is it?"
Fjorðarviðr waited to see a flash of terror in Merlin's face on recognizing a human skull. "It's you." He reached out his hand and took it back, watching the fear slowly recede into a subdued confusion. "Time as you know it has no hold here. Many cycles ago you returned here to pass away in peace, wishing to rest in sacred ground."
Merlin took a deep breath and allowed the shock to pass. "So my future is your past?"
The gaze of the deep red elven eyes pierces deep into Merlin's mind. "Past and future occur simultaneously. But this is not what you've come to discuss. You wish to understand why your reality confounds the soul and vexes the spirit." He lowered his gaze into the flames, holding a hand over them to absorb their light. "You world is a distortion. A place where the fabric of reality has bent so severely that the laws of existence cannot be experienced directly. The mind is left to fend for itself in a realm of chaos and turmoil, and the soul's reassurance that there is order underlying it does little to assuage the fear that nothing will ever make sense."
Merlin laughed confidently. "Chaos is an illusion. There is only order."
Fjorðarviðr did not share his revelry at the thought. "Chaos and order are shy lovers, nervously exploring each other as they discover themselves. In your world they are far too young to know what they are, or how to dance together in harmony." A silence followed as they both watched the flames play like children. Fjorðarviðr looked up again at last. "Over the aeons you will return here and learn more about your place in the grand design. There will be time for further discourse soon. For now you have a more meaningful task. There is a place where the planet's blood forms a stream so tightly packed it condenses. Ask Pachamama for a piece of her life, it will help you peer into reality beyond the veil of your world."
Merlin had far more questions now than when he arrived but he knew when he was being told to leave and he respected it. He stood quietly and began to walk toward the stairs.
Fjorðarviðr interrupted him. "Never leave the way you came." There was a kind smile on the elf's face, as if he was talking to a child just learning to walk. He pointed to a doorway on the other side of the room.
Merlin could clearly remember there being no door in that position when he entered but he was beyond surprise, everything in this place had such a placid dream-like quality it defied any attempt to expect the rationality his mind would have expected in his world.
Stepping outside, Merlin recognized only one sight: the antlered unicorn watching him curiously. The rest of the scenery had changed entirely, the thorn bushes were a different species, some trees were older while some were younger. For an instant he saw a single beam of pure moonlight shining through the branchy ceiling above him.
Chapter 2 Primordial Moss
Long before the world was as it is now, there was only moss. This was the Primordial Moss, a rich green luminescence spreading its fibres in every direction, further than the eye can see. As it expanded it began to change, other colors began to emerge; pink, orange, red, black, all of them. Fibres emerged radiating every color in the spectrum, and they too began to spread, weaving in and out of each other into a fine and vibrant tapestry of luminance reaching out across the aetherial oceans.
Deep in the heart of the Primordial Moss, a heart had been growing. With each new fiber, each new color, the heart grew stronger and more vibrant, its pulsing vibrations grew into a web of dazzling spectral fungi. After aeons of growth, the heart made itself a seed to encapsulate its thriving beauty. This seed began to grow as well, a long stream of energy rooting outward and when it reached the shores of the aetherial ocean it bloomed into an enormous mushroom, bigger than the Earth itself.
This mushroom began to spray its spores across the aether, reaching far and wide and each spore chose a home of its own to take root in. Some became stars and nebulas to share the beauty of their origin with those who would come afterwards, but who would be unable to see the wondrous spectacle of their creator. Other spores became worlds, for they wished to grow children within and upon their bodies. These worlds fashioned primal elements to perpetuate the cycle of life as the world saw fit.