held hands with Number None and everything changed in the biqaj’s eyes.
He stood atop the mountain that overlooked the world. An immediate affinity washed over him, almost in recognition, as he recalled his initiation into magic. In those tempting moments in Emea where he rested far from the tribulations of the waking world, high on a mountaintop, he’d nearly stayed forever. If it hadn’t been for Alistair’s domineering influence, he might’ve chosen to remain in such peace and to never return to physical existence again. He breathed softly, in enjoyment of the warm sun and caress of wind on his hair and skin.
The young mage observed Number None, who laid motionless on the slab of a stone dolmen. Several numinous entities surrounded the air space above them. Emanation of pure natures made themselves known, concepts he understood yet couldn’t fully comprehend in their respective infinite oneness of pristine power:
Had he heard of them before? Zarik couldn’t recall, yet it didn’t matter because he knew who they were. Not in a scholarly sense, not through the books he read or fleeting dialogues with men like Alistair, but in a way that drilled beyond his very core and filled his consciousness with unquestionable perception.
The sky darkened above them. He forgot he was only in a memory. The Transmuter placed a gloved hand to the center of his chest, gripped the leather of his armor, and his eyes widened. His witchmark cascaded past his irises; the ringed bounds spilling out so an iridescent glow permeated the orbs of his eyes. Underneath the rainbow-like sheen, an amber shade colored the inner light with warm tones. He watched, profoundly fascinated, by the arrival of the great Induk, Idalos.
His Spark sang. He hummed in a trivial attempt to resonate his own mind with the instinctive notes. His grip on his armor tightened. Chaos swirled, reflected in his light-filled eyes, and he witnessed the channeled focus of the Verses propel the absolute power down toward Number None’s lifeless form.
The chaos connected with the guardian’s chest, and Zarik knew it had to be the moment that None first existed: the special memory he’d come to witness… and under his hand, he felt heat rise. He moved it aside just before energy tore through his chest. Whether he had any breath in his lungs at all, it was impossible to tell.
Zarik trembled. He focused, in the unexpected moment, on maintaining every particle of his being to remain together. It didn’t hurt like his initiation of Transmutation had. He could handle this – he could… He smiled through the primordial serenity. His eyes had taken on the bright white of his soul, the light rays tinted with the gentle purple of his spark. He curled his fingers into fists, an attempt to gather himself, then outstretched his arms as if in offer to hug another person. His fingers uncurled and pointed in the direction that the energy coursed from him and joined with Number None. Whether he merely followed along, or performed such action with his own will, it didn’t matter to the young mage.
No doubt or hesitation, no resistance or suspicion, Zarik innocently provided himself to the memory.
Reverberations boomed through the bent and broken and reformed world. Existence seemed to tear apart and then stitch itself together again. Zarik focused, however, on his own singular energy – on his soul as energy connected from him into Number None. He concentrated as he would with any other magical technique, or perhaps more so. The naive biqaj felt driven by his observation of the Verses and Idalos. Compared to their revered presence, he felt so lowly and weak in the strange memory where he existed regardless. Rather than cower in his unworthiness though, he aimed to raise himself beyond any limitations. Not spurred by arrogance, but for the beauty of such an act: an inspired exaltation. He did not need to understand it. He only yearned to experience such perfect elegance.
Experience, he did. He fixated on maintaining his shuddering body’s form, and on Number None’s white-hot brilliant radiance. For many long moments, nothing else but the intimate vision existed for him and he sought to remain as one instead of being shattered apart during the grand occasion.
Then the world calmed. The thunder faded, though echoes lingered in Zarik’s mind. Number None lifted a hand, smiled in his unseen way, and then sat up from the stone slab. The guardian faced the young mage, and thanked him.
Zarik lowered his hands. He returned the gratitude with a smile of his own…
…and returned to the chamber in the next blink of his eyes. His cheeks were warm with silvery-blue blush and wet with tears. His facemask gathered the moisture along the lining. He still felt None’s hand against his. The gilded humanoid faced him. They were no longer walking. Zarik stared, a flurry of confusion in his mind. He listened: Number None was whole now?
While the last remaining occupant was forcibly yanked through their portal, Zarik glanced at None’s feet. The two were alone in the circular corridor. He slyly smiled, the expression hidden by his leather mask, and then he laughed in a cheerful manner. The blond raised his gaze, eyes filled with iridescent shimmer, to look at the other’s inorganic eyes. He commented, “You’ve stopped walking.”
Number None looked around. “So I have.”
He glanced to the side, surveyed the empty corridor and one of the doors. He repeated the glance to the other side and asked, “Is that okay?”
Number None took another step off of his path, “Seems so.”
Zarik followed with a slight step, then passed by with another. He affectionately smiled, and it showed in his eyes, then he gestured for None to take a few more steps off the circular path. “How does it feel?”
“Strange, but I think..this is what it is to be... alive?”
“You weren’t alive before?”
“I... was.. I'm not.. I do not think I was... finished.”
“But now you are,” suggested Zarik. “Because... of our bridge? Or… None, what has happened?”
Number None looked at Zarik, truly seeing him, seeing into the depths of him. “I think... I think you were there. I think they were able to finish me... after seeing you.”
Zarik exhaled lowly, his breath caught behind his mask. He returned the look, then said, “Did… do we… you think, you think, you think… It is okay. If you feel alive, None, and if it is because of our bridge… if you were not complete, but now you are… and if the Verses required my soul to do so, if you…”
“If we’re… if you and I are connected because of it, or if I- initiated you into living? You don’t have to concern yourself with these answers, especially if you do not have them, None. To seek logic in something beyond reason, I don’t need to. Nothing, yet everything, revealed in one… one… and None...”
He struggled to string his sentences together, to channel his many thoughts into mere words. Zarik reached out and gently grasped None’s wrists. He lifted them so that he pressed None's hands against the leather armor over his chest and the biqaj stepped closer to the gilded man. Zarik said, “If you require me again, I will help you. But I have one last inquiry before I do so.”
“I don't know these answers... but I wish to find out.” Number None looked at Zarik, emanating his smile as he'd done before. “I will answer your inquiry if I am able. And yes, I do believe I require your assistance.”
Zarik smiled anew. The biqaj said in a soft voice, “I arrived here because of a human I love, a mage known as Alistair Venora, my mentor and husband. He was not here with me. I wish to know what has become of him and if I might see him again?”
Number None took a moment to stop and think. “That man is here, but has a task different from your own. I can take you to him.” Then it seemed Number None was frowning, “But not yet. That door cannot be opened unless my mission is seen to fruition, one way or another.”
Number None pressed his hands that were against Zarik's chest just a bit tighter, and a momentary vision passed into Zarik's mind. He could see the Seekers in their chambers, deliberating and debating. And there, in his seat, was Alistair, just as he was beginning to open his vote.
Zarik felt a slight thrill when he saw Alistair, his husband busy with the Seekers' conference. He breathily laughed at the vision. Whatever it was, the task seemed suitable for the nobleman. He blinked, then returned his attention to None and said, “Thank you. By mission, do you mean to save the… them. Or has it changed now?”
“I have changed. The mission has not.”
The young mage nodded. He settled his momentary emotions, conjured by the sight of Alistair alive and well, and he composed himself. He looked at Number None with a determined expression and said, “Then let’s see it through and fix this other you speak of.”
Number None "smiled" and gestured to the door that had called to Zarik. “I will protect this place as I have always done. So you may return.”
Zarik glanced at the portal, then back at None. “Oh, I see. Then I look forward to returning to you again.” He let go, stepped away, and headed toward the door that resonated with his spark. He paused, then turned and looked at None. “Before I go, what would you announce for me? Who supports me and what am I of?”
“Zarik, child of the First, supported by Number None.”
“Of course,” teased Zarik in a tone as if he should have known that already. He waved farewell, then lingered for a pause… in wait to see if None had anything more to say, before he took a short breath and finally gave in to his spark’s desire to enter the gateway meant for him.
Number None smiled and nodded, and continued his circuit, adding in new curves and struts to the path.