A Khajiit Minuet: Dunmer’s Cadenza

I.

This was the fall of the Imperial City.

At the controls of the Sunbird, Telvanni Kalas Sul Saren watched thousands of soldiers sacrifice their lives for a cause they couldn’t possibly understand. Candle towers were pouring bursts of fire and light at the Altmeri ships, and lines of Imperial soldiers were casting waves of them into the advancing Aldmer lines. Sky and land seemed aflame with the light of magic, tek and their fusion. He could not imagine the level of carnage below, or how the three Khajiit and lone Altmer would make their way through it, into the City, and below to the Heart chamber. It would take a miracle.

Or a reasonably good Sunbird pilot. It responded to his coaxing, and fire fell upon the Imperial lines.

“Insurgency One,” he signaled them, watching the soldiers scatter. “Approach has been rendered. You are clear.” Each of them acknowledged, and Kalas wheeled left to swing back along the battlefield, hoping the mimetic-logic core would pick out his team and funnel their positions directly into his brain. The Sunbird screeched of its own accord and he saw the danger: candle towers turning towards his position. Only a thought later and the pure magic manifested from the Sunbird littering the towers with magic-that-was-flame. He glanced below as the Bird swirled for another attack.

And suddenly his mind was alight with skin crystallized into char and both he and the Bird screamed in unison as killing light tore through them. Far below Ra’zhiin watched as they hung suspended as if by belief alone, then slowly turned, racing past a tower – the Sunbird’s fiery wing severing it mid-spine – before crashing into the heart of the Aldmer line, trailing carnage and Aldmer blood. Broken bones and severed limbs could not free him from his harness and he heard the Bird’s final screech as an inferno exploded out of it, sending white infinity in coruscating images that had been lives and lives-that-could-have-been.

*

But his eyes flickered open, and Kalas recognized the scent of gold kanet.

But that was impossible.

Pulling the covers from his body he sat his feet on the cold floor of his St Delyn apartment. He felt groggy, like he’d indulged in a little too much sujamma the night before. He looked down at his hands, arms, legs and the scars that should have been there. As he tried to focus his eyes on the room around him he saw a gossamer-white nightgown laying over on the window-sill. His heart went very, very cold.

He retrieved his clothing by memory alone. He did not need to look through the drawers, cupboards, or chests to find his robes and shoes; nor did he need to remind himself to grab his belt, keys, and dagger – these movements had been happening for decades. They were as much a part of him as…as…

He opened the door to the city of Vivec.

A light breeze was blowing through the canals, pulling gently at the flags lining the cantons. There were children…children…running along the walkways, daring each other to dive into the canals. A little red-haired girl grew weary of being tormented by an older boy and punched him right in the face; he fell backwards, toppled over the edge, and fell the fifty feet into the water. The language he yelled up at her was quite imaginative; her smile was priceless.

I’m dreaming, he thought, it has to be a dream. But he could feel the familiar grit of the stone, the way the walkways had been worn smooth by millennia of walkers. He rounded the corner of the canton and was nearly blinded by the brightness falling past the High Fane, streaming through banners, falling around…the Ministry of Truth.

“I’ve never met such a lazy mer,” said his heart’s voice behind him. “It’s almost noon. No more sujamma for you, Kalas.”

He turned to see her dark, luxuriant hair, the silver gleam of her eyes, the ashen pale of her skin. “Jassa,” he whispered rushing towards her. He saw her surprise – he had never been affectionate in public – his hands were almost to her shoulders…

…when the Ministry fell, and fire and water destroyed their world.

*

His yataghan severed the last of the Altmer at the throat, and the body fell before him. He was clear all the way to the vehkship.

Kalas ran like his life depended on it – his life did depend on it – but there was no way he was going to miss that ship. To his side he could see Ra’zhiin staggering out of the ruins of White-Gold, a tall figure striding proudly beside him. Was that…?

Dark light of disbelief fell all around him as the ground fell to pieces. He had an image of eyes filled with death-by-negation and heard words that sounded like “NEVER AGAIN.”

The shadow of a Dwemeri boot fell upon him, just before the boot itself – the size of an airship - fell. Numidium stepped away but Kalas did not see the severed head of Anumidium fall upon his broken corpse. He was already spinning through endless Time, falling through infinities of impossibilities; all to the screaming of a million Dwemer souls.



*

“Dur daar goltnu” rumbled a Voice that was everywhere, filling every part of his body. “Is it…tiid…Time, yet?”

“Votrul uzgrolein,” another growled. “It has always been, will be… promiin…Time.”

Kalas looked up from the ground to see himself surrounded by dragons.

II.

“Where,” he managed. “Where am I?”

A great shadow loomed over him. In the swirling un-light he saw sharp edges, pitted skin, and eyes that burned with hunger. “More important, daan kuyiz, is how.”

Kalas blinked into its dull red eyes. “How am I?”

The dragon grunted its approval and turned away.

He was…it was difficult to understand. He was on a great stone circle, inlaid with scratches, runes, Daedric sigils, and other markings he did not recognize – and as a Telvanni that was saying something. It extended around him hundreds of feet, only to fall away into a swirling vortex of blues, blacks, purples, and ephemerals whites. He felt certain that if he stared too long at that sky he would descend into madness. But the dragons quickly drew his attention.

There were three of them. In the center crouched the one who had spoken to him, massive, radiating a barely controlled violence. To his left was a smaller dragon, no less fearsome with its horns and the spikes jutting along its jawline; but the silver eyes seemed to have an infinite depth to them, and he could almost hear echoes of ancient wisdom looking down upon him. Finally, to the right of the center dragon was…Kalas blinked. A moment ago he had seen a terrible visage of white flesh, great horns, and dragonfly wings, but now…a monstrous, horned tiger with butterfly wings sat regarding him as if bored. The wings fluttered, and the tiger licked its paw.

“How, indeed,” growled the central dragon. “You, doom-driven, are a Prisoner of Time; you have always been a Prisoner of Time.”

“All mortals are prisoners of time,” Kalas heard himself say. “Bound to winding ephemerality until released through illumination.” He was not entirely certain why he said that, or that he had ever thought it before that moment.

A sound came from the tiger not unlike a laugh. “I told you he would not understand. Their minds are too small, too…linear.”

“You were not always dov, Tosh,” said the dragon with red eyes, his voice thick with disdain. “Once your mind was linear as well.”

Tosh’s body flickered, revealing an image of something almost human, but then the tiger returned.

“Brother,” the third dragon admonished. “He was not brought here by our Father to hear three dov argue about the…vokorasaal…fractal nature of Time.” It turned to look at Kalas. “Greetings, kogaan Akatosh, blessed of our Father. I am Paarthurnax; these are my brothers. And you, doom-driven…

“You stand in the Window of Akatosh.”

Alduin, the dragon in the center, threw his head back and roared into the vortex.

III.

They were in Mournhold.

Kalas looked up at the swirling spires and buttresses of the High Chapel. He had never been what one might call “religious” but even he appreciated the architectural beauty. The pride he felt was bittersweet; the High Chapel had been rent into fractal contradictions by Altmeri Mirror Logicians in The Last War.

“You have been here before,” Paarthurnax whispered to him. The dragon was not visible, more like a ghost at his side.

“Yes,” he replied.

He felt the dragon’s spirit gesture towards a lone Dunmer contemplating the Chapel. “Do you see that one?”

“An outlander,” Kalas said, noting the mer’s clothing, hairstyle, posture.

“And yet,” the dragon said. “The greatest of the Dunmer people.

“Nerevar…”

The world swirled into shades of blue, purple, and black.

*

It was dark; the only light was the ghostly glow of Dwemeri lamps.

They watched as a mer moved around his laboratory; contemplating braziers, taking notes with a bronze stylus, stroking his luxuriant beard. There was something not quite…present…in his eyes. Even as Kalas thought this the mer turned and looked directly at him, and despite himself, Kalas felt his blood go cold. The mer considered the emptiness where they were standing before returning to the skeletal construct on his workbench.

“Kagrenac,” said the dragon, and the world collapsed into the vortex.

*

A tall Dunmer, handsome of face, clean-shaven and hairless; his skin cloven down the center of his face testifying of his dual heritage. Laughing among his Armigers, trading philosophy like sword drills. Through their chitin armor Kalas could sense the pride of the Armigers that they stood with him, that he spoke to them, that he instructed them.

“I know him,” Kalas said.

“Not this one.”

*

A tower reaching far into a red sky, its skin smooth, flawless; in the fiery light it almost looked like a scroll case.

“What are they doing?” Kalas asked.

Nerevar, Vivec, Kagrenac…gathered at the base of the Tower. The Dwemer suited in golden armor, stood holding a glowing cube over his head – no, it hovered of its own accord. Vivec seemed to be speaking, reading from book, but Kalas could not make out the words…there was something about the book… Nerevar stood waiting, his twin blades burning with magickal fire.

They came; first in pairs, then in droves. Argonians, Altmer, Nords, Ra Gada…all the peoples of Tamriel rushing towards the Three. Nerevar’s blades whirled about him, trailing light in Daedric patterns and he was soon awash in gore, striding among corpses. Vivec’s voice grew louder, and a dark light poured from the cube. Kalas had seen that light before. “How…”

“Watch.”

The screams of the dying, the battle-cries of the living, the clang of blades, the charge of magicka…everything became silent as all light flew from the corners of Nirn into the cube and darkness fell. A moment, a heartbeat, a second…and a wave of dark light burst from the Tower throwing down all but the Three – for they were not there anymore.

In their place stood a giant, shod in the silver skein of un-light, eyes ablaze with death-by-denial. Its fists grasped the scroll case of Creation and as its voice boomed “WE ARE THAT WE MAY NOT BE”, broke the Tower.

The vortex claimed all.

IV.

Kalas’ eyes flickered open, the skin of his cheek cold against the stone circle. Every muscle and bone in his body protested as he forced himself to a kneeling position. At the corners of his sight he saw myriad lights. He did not need to look up to know the dragons were watching him.

“What,” he asked. “Did you just do to me?”

“More important than that,” Alduin corrected. “What did we just show you?”

Kalas tried to stem the desire to scream, or perhaps hurl an ice spear at the World-Eater. “What,” he managed, voice laden with anger. “Did you just show me?”

Tosh Raka answered, “One of the one million three-hundred forty-seven thousand three hundred forty-six timelines streaming out of Tamriel Prime.”

The Dunmer leveled his gaze at the dragon, who was now an alfiq with bat wings. “Am I meant to understand that?” he growled.

“Of course not,” Alduin said coldly. “Only to recognize your own inferior intellect.”

“Brother,” Paarthurnax began.

“What you just experienced,” Alduin said over him. “Is a fragment in the mind of our Father, and the reason why trillions are dying as we speak.”

Standing up Kalas brushed the dust from his robed armor. “Tell me more.”

Tosh Raka said, “Desire does not know what it desires; or only seeks to desire itself.”

“It crosses boundaries in its errance equipped with what is lacking but appears to give plenitude,” added Alduin.

“The power of this plenitude-that-is-errance lies in its fascination; thus plenitude is seduction,” Paarthurnax observed.

“It is seduction,” the others agreed.

“And when presented with any other desire,” Tosh Raka added. “Desire can ask only, ‘what more can you give me?’”

“In this way,” Paarthurnax told him. “All desire is a desire to be; a searching for harmony, and rest, and plenitude which is itself a chimaera of ignorance and errancy. And any desire that lures from apparent plenitude is deemed temptation; it is deemed Sharmat, Enemy, Destroyer.

“Desire is the veil that blinds sight, while breaking all worlds searching for it.”

Kalas nodded thoughtfully. “Our Philosopher said, 'Can one oust the model not because the model is set according to an ideal but because it is tied to an ever-changing unconscious mortal agenda?'”

“Just so,” agreed Tosh Raka.

“Then what I have just seen is Desire that is a simulacrum of Plenitude?”

“Yes,” Alduin told him.

“And no,” Paarthurnax corrected.

“What you have seen,” Tosh Raka said, flesh melting into a serpent with feathered wings. “Is the Father’s invitation to elaborate further.”

V.

“Then,” Kalas told them. “Let us elaborate further. But first…” he pointed at Tosh Raka. “Explain…him.”

“Our brother,” Alduin explained. “Exists in an eternal fractal schism of mythopoetic flux.”

Paarthurnax translated as Tosh Raka shifted into a gigantic Sload with wings made of human body parts. “Too many people believe too many things about him, and he is constrained by their belief…and unbelief.” Tosh Raka did not seem happy with his latest transformation, but all attempts at communication resulted in a viscous bile foaming from his mouth. “It’s an…unfortunate complication of our eternality.”

“It’s the fault of Lorkhan’s shoddy craftsmanship,” Alduin spat bitterly.

“We were talking about Desire,” Kalas reminded him.

“We were talking about mortals being Prisoners of Time,” Alduin growled.

Kalas considered this as he watched Tosh Raka slither forwards, flapping the arms, legs, and…he wasn’t quite sure what…that served as its wings. “Are you saying, then, that Time is a prison? A prison of desire?”

“No,” Alduin said with irritation.

“It is a prison only in that desire makes you its Prisoner,” offered Paarthurnax.

An incomprehensibly foul-smelling vomitus came from the Tosh-Sload’s mouth.

“Why?”

Paarthurnax considered him a moment before speaking. “Because mortals fracture time to fulfill desire.”

The Dunmer nodded, only partially understanding. “Then why…” he began, and screamed.

In the place of the Sload stood a dragon; twenty of the others could have fit in any of its seven maws. Its body was a mélange of horrors: Khajiit fur, claws the length of the Mundus; crowns sat upon each head but the seventh: a smaller, almost-human, speaking in a language he could not even understand sideways. Kalas recoiled as its tail whirled through the vortex, trailing a cacophony of light.

And then Tosh Raka was a tiger with butterfly wings, sighing. “I hate that form,” it muttered as Alduin regarded him scornfully.

“How many believe in that form?” Kalas asked.

“Too many,” Tosh Raka whispered quietly, and licked its paw.

*

“Imagine, then,” Tosh Raka repeated himself. “That Time is a diamond.”

Kalas was sitting before the three with his legs crossed, staring at them as they struggled to make him understand. “It is impossible for dov to think like a joor, even moreso to make a mortal understand,” Alduin had said. It sat now staring at the Dunmer silently as though planning a thousand horrible deaths. The others, at least, were trying.

“But a diamond of infinite facets,” Paarthurnax added. “Impossible to imagine, but you must strive towards understanding.”

“And each facet,” Kalas asked. “Is a chip brought about by mortals?”

“Nid!” roared Alduin, flapping its wings in frustration. “It is…vunek…futile to speak with these small-minded half-spirits. Why do we waste our time?”

“Because we exist beyond Time,” chided Tosh Raka.

“Because our Father wills it,” Paarthurnax reminded them both. Alduin sighed, beat his wings, and launched itself into the vortex.

“He will return,” Tosh Raka assured him. “Alduin was never a great…mindopah…teacher.”

Paarthurnax suddenly lurched up, as though it had seen something. “Dovahkiin, no!” A hearbeat, and it dissolved into fire and ash, leaving only a skeleton behind.

Kalas looked at Tosh Raka. “It happens,” it told him. “In four hundred ninety-three thousand one hundred and twenty-four timelines Paarthurnax is killed by the Dragonborn. He forgets, sometimes, that his is still alive in the rest.”

The Dunmer looked at the bones and wondered.

“So what you’ve been saying,” Kalas said at last. “Is that mortals are Prisoners of Time, not because Time is a prison but because our Desire makes it so.”

“You are bound by the threads of your own skein,” Tosh Raka agreed.

“And what I saw of Nerevar, Kagrenac, and Vivec…”

“Was the Desire of one being…”

“Who’s Desire fractured Time to find fulfillment?”

“Yes,” said Tosh Raka.

“Not exactly,” Paarthurnax corrected. Kalas saw it had resumed its form.

“Explain.”

The dragon seemed to consider a moment. “It is difficult. Perhaps if you consider the Gray Maybe, the playground of the et’Ada, and how definition did not come until Memory... But I see that that confuses you as well.”

“Let’s go back to the diamond,” Tosh Raka, who was now a sench-izard with moth wings, suggested.

Kalas held up his hands. “Nerevar, Kagrenac and Vivec…that was the Desire of one being?”

“Yes,” they both answered.

“Who?”

Tosh Raka and Paarthurnax looked at each other. “The answer is…”

“Just tell me.”

Tosh Raka fluttered its wings. “Well, Numidium, of course.”

VI.

He was not immediately aware of the change. Perhaps he had been too long on the stone circle, or had blocked out the swirling patterns that surrounded them, or perhaps he was in shock from their revelation. But over the moments his mind slowly drew back and began to understand what his eyes were seeing, and he knew he was no longer with the three.

He was in a ship, not a Sunbird, but a ship whose design he did not know. It was not as organic as a Sunbird, but the chair was comfortable. He was not alone. Turning his head he felt a great sense of relief.

“Ra’zhiin,” he heard himself say.

The Khajiit offered a krin. He was dressed in the robed armor popular among the Khaj of New Lleswer; Kalas realized there was no way he could have known this, and yet knew it to be true, none the less.

“We’re on a Vehkship,” Ra’zhiin told him.

“I’ve never been.”

“Their use was sporadic…until The Last War. The Alma’s Daughter was instrumental in saving the Diaspora.” By this Kalas knew Ra’zhiin meant his Lord.

“Where are we?” he asked, scanning the fields of Oblivion. They seemed to stretch forever.

“More important than that,” the Khajiit said. “Is why.”

“You know, serjo, I’m becoming very weary of people changing my questions.”

The look on Ra’zhiin’s face bespoke amusement.

“Fine,” Kalas ground out. “Why are we?”

“Because there is an overwhelming Question that still needs answering, but to answer it means to answer a great many more first.”

“Such has been my life since…since…”

“Exactly.”

Kalas regarded the Khajiit and shook his head. “I perceive that you are not my old friend.”

Ra’zhiin shrugged. “I am, but not in the way you are thinking.”

“Then answer me this,” the Dunmer demanded. “What is happening to me?”

Ra’zhiin looked out into the fields. “Forgive me if I neglect that question and ask my own. Why?”

Kalas gave him a withering stare.

A krin answered him. “You were brought here because there is a problem; to understand the problem is to answer the Question, but to do either you must understand something about Time.”

“Time is a diamond that is breaking,” Kalas spit out.

“No.”

“Why am I not surprised?”

The Khajiit leaned back in his chair. “The diamond; yes, let’s start there. The three spoke to you of desire, yes? They told you that desire does not know what it wants, or if nothing else only to desire itself. There is another word for this feeling but it is not one I can render, but its misunderstanding is something like yearning. This yearning is the cause of everything; it is the primal contingency of what one might call ‘love.’ It is why Lorkhan wandered the Void, why Anu birthed his Other, and why we are speaking right now.” Ra’zhiin leaned forward and looked him in the eyes. “It is this yearning that is the crucible of the diamond.”

“The three told me the diamond was Time.”

“It is, but not in the way you are thinking. Remember that the dov experience life, if one could use that word, in a fashion not like mortals. They live sideways; or in circles – spirals, more like – or in seventeen dimensional chiral art. But let us keep to the metaphor as I have explained it so far; it may be easier.”

“Why can’t you just tell me? I’m not a fool.”

“No, you are not. But there are no holding places in your mind for what I would tell you, and so I must build a frame within which you can view it. Only then will it be able to be misunderstood, properly.”

“I didn’t know you were so given to Dwemeri philosophy, Ra’zhiin. Alright – what is the frame, then?”

A krin touched the Khajiit’s face. “A diamond.”

VII

“But I was saying that yearning, that desire, is the crucible of the diamond. That is, the place in which the diamond is forged into more than just transparent coal.

“Desire, like love, is intrinsically selfish – which is to say that it is turned inward – at least at first. It is only later that it turns outward, and then only with the help of an outside agency. Desire leads into its self, it contemplates itself, and in its contemplation finds that it is nothing but smoke – ‘an atlas of smoke’, as the Philosopher said. Desire cannot be grasped, it cannot be dissected, it cannot be pierced by god-logic…but it can be felt. It is this feeling that is protected, hedged about, guarded by ten-thousand philosophies that scream ‘No.’ Reason is defeated against its walls, prudence is slaughtered at its gates. Everything fights to protect it and not even God Himself can defeat those walls.

“This feeling, then, is the impetus of mythopoeisis in its truest form. It is the womb of murder, deception, genocide, but also charity, compassion and understanding. Gazing into the mirror of its own self-reflection it learns its face before it learns any other thing and in this way learns to look for its image in any Other. As I said, selfish. If perchance it should find its mirror-self in any Other its joy is exquisite; but this is very rare and most often desire is defeated in the futile attempt at mythoepignosis. In this way, desire learns to hate.

“Because desire does not know what it desires but above all else desires itself. The only way it can transcend its inward focus is through the help of an outside agency – not one that seeks to impose its own mirror-logic – which will be seen as an act of aggression worthy of all the hate engendered by the reflected mirror-infinity of yearning – but by that which exacerbates maturity.

“Time.”

*

“The diamond, then, is an image of the progression of desire. Each desire is an interior inclusion, and is epigenetic in nature: a pinpoint cleavage moving deeper into the Heart of its own self, seeking the most perfect expression of self, which it believes to be the fulfillment of its yearning. But what is a diamond but a world of fractures, inclusions, and the splintering of its very nature; indeed, a world of inclusions? There are, of course, syngenetic lines as well, piercing the heart of the diamond world…perhaps the yearning of the world-diamond itself? Only Anu could say, and will not. And thus desire works against desire, denying that which does not mirror itself. And while the Many desires bring deeper webbing, they can also endanger the Whole. Mishandling or violence may fracture or splinter the diamond-world, and then what is lost can never be returned. No, a diamond is a thing in need of care.

“This eternal conflict of desire, this I/Not I, Is/Is Not can only be resolved by the revelation of the diamond, which is the revelation of all desire. And that is brought by holding the diamond into the light, wherein the multitudinous desires are refracted in all their beauty, revealing not only their own mythopoetic patterns, but the intersection of those patterns in the Whole. Indeed, it is their mimetic mythopoeisis, enacted separately, that creates the whole.

“And Time, Kalas…Time is the light.”

The Dunmer nodded. They were no longer on the ship but in a café in Ald Sotha Below. Behind Ra’zhiin an Imga was dancing, apparently enacting some ritual from the Mankar’s Commentaries. But the Dunmer had long since stopped noticing anything but the words. “I’m not sure, then, that I understand the problem, or the Question.”

“You don’t. You have only begun to understand the nature of Time. The problem is the very source of the diamond’s beauty, though not its agency. The problem is desire, and its inclusion fractals. Any system based on desire will inevitably fail because it is based on a feeling that believes itself threatened by all that Is Not Itself. And though the light/Time reveals the beauty of the diamond, it cannot release its fear. It is this fear that is the heart of the Question.

“The transcendence of this fear is the goal of all god-logic, philosophy, and mysticism. It is nearly impossible. To exist beyond duplexity, antithesis and trouble is, so the Philosopher tells us, to ‘feel with all of your senses the relentless alien terror that is God and your place in it, which is everywhere and therefore nowhere, and realizing that it means the total dissolution of your individuality into boundless being. Imagine that and then still being able to say ‘I’’. God, here, is understood as the ultimate Other, but for our purpose anything that desire perceives as Not Itself is rendered ‘Other’.” Ra’zhiin frowned and considered his mug of greef. “It is against this fear of dissolution that all theology is raised. And thus religion, especially the mythoepignostic religion of the Self, is an act of fear.

“To achieve the unitive symbiosis that allows the diamond’s beauty to be revealed as the testimony of a mythopoetic, and thereby what mortals might call universal, sub-consciousness is to release desire’s mirror-prison of fear. But this requires patience – and more dishearteningly – difficult work. In this way all mortals are Prisoners of Time and the progress of desire.”

“How then,” Kalas asked. “Can fear be released?”

Ra’zhiin gave a sad krin. “You will not like the answer.”

“Tell me.”

The Khajiit drained his mug. “By releasing the Prisoner.”

VIII.

They were now standing upon a high tower on the surface of Masser, staring out at endless fields of moon sugar. Below them Khajiit workers harvested the sugar, singing songs to themselves and one another. Kalas considered the expanse of Oblivion stretching out before them; it was not quite Landfall season (he did not know what this meant) and Secunda had not risen yet. The Tower bloomed above them.

“The Prisoner,” Ra’zhiin was saying. “Is, by definition, the Other. They are removed from society whether because of rebellion against norms or by other more esoteric rationale. Here we touch upon the theme of Rebel and King but that discussion is for another time. Know that society, itself a Prisoner of its own mirror-logic, perceives the Prisoner as Not Itself, and therefore scorns with all the hatred it can muster. Doubtless, the feeling is mutual.

“But it is this exclusion that frees the Prisoner from the bounds of one mirror-infinity and for one red moment the Prisoner can choose. Most frequently they fall into the same error of the progression of desire, creating a shadow-simulacrum of what expelled them, making themselves Prisoners of multiple infinities. As ever: Is/Is Not, I/Not I. For when the Prisoner is expelled they face the object of desire’s fear: the dissolution of self. It cannot be put into words eloquent enough to be properly misunderstood what terror confronts the Prisoner in this moment. But if by some immeasurable grace they may feel with all of their senses the relentless alien terror that is God and yet be able to say ‘I’…they will be released from the mirror-shadow-enantiomorph of fear – able to see truly for the first time.

“It is here, Kalas, that the glory of the Heavens is revealed. Here in this moment when the Prisoner exists beyond duplexity and antithesis they may experience the great gift of Creation: to behold not only their mirrored Self, but to behold the Other, and thus see Both. They see the inclusions of their desire within the diamond-world but also the inclusions of Others – and behold the magnificence of the Whole. Light pours into the fractal-mythoi of infinite Selves, refracting a brilliance un-comprehended by any single mind, but a sub-conscious mythopoetic symbiosis of All. In this vision all fear melts away and what remains is the revelation of Desire-as-mimetic-mythoepignosis, the sub-conscious hypnogogia of a Godhead of boundless love, eternally falling in love with Itself and It’s Other. And so the Prisoner, freed of its reflected Self, can now perceive that which is Not Itself and respond in Love, for to know the Other is to know Love.

“So liberated, the Prisoner – enraptured in reverence – can ask the Question That Must Be Answered.”

Kalas heard himself ask, “And what is the Question?”

They were no longer on the Tower. They were not in the café or in the vehkship, they were not even on the stone disk. Kalas hovered amidst the naked glory of all Oblivion, encased in the light of the thousand stars left by fleeing et’Ada. Before him emerged a shape, cloven from the Void, but itself wrapped in the blackness and light. And Kalas knew that he saw not the Void only, but that which birthed it. The Question that was the Feeling that was the Desire more precious than anything he had ever known, ever seen, ever dreamed, ever believed, ever hoped: he was looking at the innermost, intimate wish of Creation.

And Akatosh asked, “Why cannot these things be?”

IX.

It can truly be said, Kalas wrote, that love overcometh all things; not through conquest or domination, but through the liberation of desire. Love frees desire from its deepest fear – the dissolution (or denial) of identity – and gives desire the courage to look beyond the walls it has built to behold Another. So love engenders the possibility of love and it may be said that the self never enters its own fullest expression…until it experiences, and reciprocates, love.

His breath came out in a deep sigh as he laid down the quill. He felt as though a long-held burden had slipped from him. There was still a bit more to say, but the heart of the book was complete.

He heard footsteps come up behind him and hands began to knead the knots in his shoulders he had not known were there. “How is it coming?” asked Jassa.

“We are almost there,” he said.

She leaned down and kissed his cheek; she smelled of the flower-soap he’d bought her at the market. “Dinner is almost ready,” she told him.

He squeezed her hand and said, “I’ll be right in.”

Telvanni Kalas Sul Saren stepped from the dark interior of his home into the evening light of Whiterun. The city was bustling, even at this hour, and he imagined many were preparing for the Festival of Four Moons. Children were bustling in the street calling to each other, playing games, carrying the light wands so popular this time of year. A little girl with red hair was dancing along the street weaving circles with her’s even as a group of boys followed, taunting her and threatening to take it. When she promptly turned and punched the largest boy in the face, sending him to the ground, they quickly dispersed. Down the street she went, leaving a sparkling trail in the growing dark.

Kalas smiled as the first magickal displays launched into the air signaling the beginning of festivities. Maybe they would go down after dinner and watch the Khajiit acrobats. If he was lucky Ra’zhiin and Suthranna would be there; he wondered if she was showing yet. All bets were on a senche, of course, but Kalas was not sure. In any case, Dro’kor would be with them by year’s end. He looked up into the Void and saw The Lady was shining brightly.

Kalas stepped through the doorway to the smell of his wife’s cooking and the warmth of her love. It was the 10th Era of Tamriel, and the Jills were at rest.




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