~ For my hero. In loving memory of LMD. ~
Iseyba, the first city
The Hall of Memories
Kronen walked through the cavernous room ahead of his students, his gaze moving along the rows of carefully placed crystals. There were millions lining the four walls, carefully stored in carved alcoves. Each shimmered with different colors, reflecting the light from the tall windows.
Two large, wooden tables dominated the center of the room. Supplies for recording the contents of the crystals were neatly placed at regular intervals. Others of his kind, garshik, were quietly studying and writing observations, or organizing to make room for more crystals in the alcoves.
Although he was drawn to this place again, as he often was lately, he had a purpose this day.
Um Gura aro Setsarana. The Hall of Memories.
It was not so much a ‘desire’ that had led him there before.
He had no desires. No sense of wanting to be somewhere.
He just wandered there every once in a while when he had nothing else to do. More frequently as the centuries passed, and new memories were added. But he always easily found the one he was looking for.
He often wondered, if his kind could feel, would this be a place he ‘loved?’ Would it be his ‘favorite’ in the Temple of Iseyba?
As a garshik, he didn’t know what such a thing would be like.
Tactile sensation, he knew. Things that caused pain, and things that did not. He understood those. There was logic there.
Fire burned. Blades cut. Bones could break. Flesh could be torn. Cause and effect. The pain that came with these was understandable.
But beyond that, what would it be like to ‘feel?’
Even knowing these thoughts served no purpose, he was still aware of them. And even though he understood that continuing to consider these things was unnecessary, he couldn’t turn his mind away from them for long. But as to whether these passing thoughts were good or bad, acceptable or not, he had yet to decide.
An unusual uncertainty for a garshik. His world consisted of black or white. There was no room for gray.
But this was not the time for such idle questions. A hindrance to his purpose in the Hall of Memories, he shut those thoughts away again. The answers were irrelevant in the end anyway.
Although he did not need to fully understand the emotions of the other aspects to fulfill his responsibilities, that was part of the purpose of this place. In the shadowy memories of others, his kind could experience a faint echo of emotion. Just enough to understand that those feelings had their own logic and importance.
And so that when the time came, as it eventually did for every garshik, the onset of their own emotions wouldn’t overwhelm them as much. Known as the biranij, it was a dangerous time for a garshik, as well as for anyone around them. In these memories, it was thought that the garshikna could prepare themselves somewhat.
As the oldest and most powerful garshik, he knew other aspects feared the day he had to go through that trial.
Stopping in front of an alcove between two windows, he automatically reached out. Calling it impulse would not be accurate. It was more of an unconscious action. Habit at this point. Without having to pause and search, he knew exactly where it was.
The crystal he gently picked up shone brightly, reflecting back the dark silver of his eyes as he stared down at it. Then rich blues that reminded him of the sky, and vibrant greens that resembled grass and leaves unique to the human realm.
“There is only one memory I will show you today,” Kronen said, glancing back at the students that had followed him. Five in all, just past their three hundredth year. “It is known as the Patriarch memory.”
This crystal was one of only around a thousand human memories out of several million stored in the Hall. It was considered an exceptional example, offering not only a hint of emotion, but also lending logic to the laws he enforced alongside the other garshikna.
This was a memory he chose most often to show young garshikna, those with an eternity ahead of them. And, sometimes more importantly, older garshikna who already had an eternity behind them.
“Should we record our observations?” one of his students asked.
“Yes,” he said. “But try not to focus too much on what you see.”
“I don’t understand,” another student said, and there were a few murmurs of agreement from the others.
“The purpose of stepping into these memories is not to tell me what the landscape looks like, or what the people are wearing,” Kronen said, holding the crystal out in front of them. “You must come to understand that there is a different kind of logic that is ruled by emotion.” He paused. Considered. “We fulfill our duties because it is what we were created to do. This is the way it is. But humans and other aspects can be motivated by the emotions we don’t have. Love. Hate. Kindness. Greed. Happiness. Sadness. Right and wrong are not so straightforward when emotions are involved.”
“Emotional responses complicate things,” another of his students said.
“Yes,” Kronen said, because it was true. “I used to see them as a failing.”
“And now I do not,” he answered, because this was also true.
His students were silent at that, and he knew they didn’t understand any more than he had in the beginning. This group had yet to be exposed to the memories and the dim emotions that went with them. He wondered if this first time would affect them as it had him so long ago.
Regardless of how the years blurred together in his mind, he remembered his own reaction to the memories clearly. It had left an impression that had followed him ever since, and most likely caused his current fixation with the memories.
“Concentrate,” he said, bowing his head. Long white braids slipped forward over his shoulders, and he closed his eyes.
From the perspective of a human girl who stood beside him in the memory, the first thing he saw was a small house. Away from the city. Grass, trees, and a garden. A large field where vegetables were grown. Images of a quiet haven. And long walks along a line of trees with a man who watched over her and protected her.
Here, in this place, Kronen could almost grasp the meaning behind his preoccupation with this particular memory. It was very slight, but there was an uncomfortable sensation in his chest.
It was what the girl had felt remembering this. And it resonated with something inside himself, at the edges of his awareness.
For a moment, he almost knew what it was like to have a favorite place. A place he longed to be.
This is what I’m looking for…
Whether the thought was his own, or just another echo of the girl’s memory, he didn’t know.
Kronen stood beside her in this hazy, dream-like memory, a gentle smile curving her lips as she showed him this place, and her grandfather. The man he knew as the Patriarch.
A veteran of one of the human wars, she looked up to him. Seeing him through her memories, Kronen sensed the Patriarch’s kindness.
Years blurred together, and he saw the girl as a young woman. Her grandfather was at her side again, standing where her own father couldn’t, giving her away to her soon-to-be husband. He took her hand, and walked with her once more. He placed her hand in the young man’s.
And she was… happy. The subtle warmth of it settled over Kronen. Such a comfortable sensation.
Whatever the girl took from keeping these memories so close to her heart, he sensed that the Patriarch inspired her. And that was a large part of what kept Kronen coming back. The Patriarch motivated the girl. He was a catalyst of change in her life.
And as Kronen was released from the memory, he noticed one final thing, just before it faded away. The young woman smiled to herself, hand curled around a locket the Patriarch gave her. And a spark of her final emotions washed through him.
That one vital element that set humans and the other aspects apart from himself.
The influence emotions had on the paths they chose to take. There was determination there. And hope.
He opened his eyes, and although the memory had faded away, there was still a vague echo of emotions. The shift between memories and the present could be difficult for the senses to process, but he was used to it. His students looked a little disoriented.
“Remember those feelings,” he said after allowing them time to get their bearings again. “Love and hate, and the motivations that arise from them, are flawed and illogical.” He studied the expressions of his students as he spoke, looking for signs that the memory had triggered any of their own dormant emotions. So far, they all seemed as serene as ever. “But they are a large part of what we are protecting by enforcing our laws and keeping the balance of energy between the realms. The world would fall into chaos without us. And it would stagnate into nothingness without the others, and the imperfect emotions that drive them on.”
“Have you ever felt them yourself?” one student asked.
A question he had answered the same way since the beginning of time. “No,” he said, gesturing towards the tables to indicate it was time to continue studying. He followed the students as they walked over to sit, but didn’t take a seat with them. “I have heard it is very different from what you just experienced, however. Much more intense. Someday you will all face the biranij, and feel it for yourselves.”
As the students began opening books, Kronen caught a movement just out of the corner of his eye, and turned his head. Outside the window, he saw birds dipping through a line of trees. Other than the color of the leaves being off, it was similar enough to the memory, and there was still enough of an emotional echo left in his system, that he wondered if what he was feeling was the urge to smile.
He stood there, watching the birds soaring and winding through and around the trees. He didn’t know why. It was such an unnecessary thing.
And those idle thoughts returned. For some reason he thought of the memory, and the light echo of the girl’s feelings. The longing to be somewhere. Some important, ‘favorite’ place that had no real meaning to him, but meant a lot to her.
His own thoughts, or just another echo?
It was too gray to tell.