(Removed from The Sleeper Sword)
Many nations put forth the belief that death is the final solution, a descent into eternal nothingness. Dust to dust. The End.
Others believe a soul simply ceasing to exist when the body surrenders is a great and unforgivable sacrilege. They base their mortal morality, their faith, on trust of life after death, believing in the bliss of Aaru or the eternal damnation of Hades, and preach that the final destination hinges on the individual. Good and evil, both with just rewards.
The truth of the matter is that some do simply cease to exist. A soul never awakened has never commenced a new journey and therefore floats out empty, in much the way most animals are born and die unaware of anything beyond instinct.
However, there is more, and those who fall into eternal nothingness are rare indeed. In fact, one life ended usually heralds another, and while there are the realms of bliss and netherness, from which none return, they are but two in a crucible of countless more.
These realms transcend all cultures, religions, creeds and races and make no distinction between worlds and galaxies. It is thought they are the links that serve to bind universes.
Now, while the vast universal majority know beyond doubt there are great numbers of worlds in the eternal spaces and while a fair number of those acknowledge the existence of other universes- the latter largely a factor based on intelligence and logic, as opposed to irrefutable evidence- only a scattering know of the reality of the realms beyond mortality.
A comatose individual may inadvertently tumble into an inexplicable place – the soul searching for a way out of physical prison – and not know what had in truth occurred. These tales are generally disbelieved. The fortunate few who are revisited by departed loved ones become aware of alternate realities for a brief time, but later convince themselves it was fervent wishing for a final glimpse of a loved one’s face. Hallucination, they say, and it is laughed off and set aside. The living move on. There are those who are resuscitated to tell of strange sights, but such tales are so varied and disparate that no clear truth has emerged to convince others. Of course, the truth is that each different sight signifies a different realm, but no parallels have emerged to prove the worth of tales.
Accident, chance, you say. Yes, and life moves on. Yet, the thread of truth exists and a scattering do realise there is reality beyond mortality.
Then there are those who’s faith, or desire for longevity, cause them to discover the process of a soul’s rebirth. This is known as reincarnation. They know of other realms, but generally the time between death and re-entry via a newborn is too short in span to permit protracted visitations and reconnaissance of a different realm. They know, but do not really understand. Naturally, there are exceptions, but the process of rebirth remains obscure and thus the details remain accessible only to those involved.
Let it be said there are those who find their way into and out of realms other than Aaru and Hell and they are not comatose, resuscitated or re-birthed. Some relate their fantastical experiences, others remain forever silent, and for each there is a sense of disbelief and confusion. This mars any attempt at sincere acceptance. Perhaps, in final analysis, it is a blessing in disguise, for any preacher of any persuasion would swiftly tell of the likely evils lurking in the psyche of a nation that believes it has a second chance to atone for sin, or a third, a fourth. Perhaps there’s a universal conspiracy to ridicule proof of other realms for that very reason.
Finally, there are the powerful ones. Those who draw their powers of magic from sources both in the physical reality and others. Those who possess the extraordinary ability to send mind and soul in temporary symbiosis out of body to discover new sources of inspiration and to garner new talents. These are sorcerers, necromancers and, yes, occasionally a drugged individual who finds that place where all holds fall away. The latter is generally scorned, unless the drugged state is deliberately induced for religious or prophetic ceremonies; the former choose not to reveal much. Power is personal … or cannot be shared.
The realms are open to all. Bright, stupid, good, evil, fanatics, atheists, moderates, ghouls and God-fearers, the clowns of every society, as well as those of serious mind. There is no distinction, no test that must be passed. However, conversely, there is a distinction of another kind. There are realms that admit featureless souls into an etheric type of reality, while there are those that admit the soul into a space where it is again physical, the body reformed. These are realms that allow return to a previous mortal reality, including reincarnates, and then there are those spaces that cannot be exited. It hinges on choice, although most often choice is unknowing and in the unconscious.
In this way those who trust in heavenly bliss after death will indeed achieve it, if deserving, while those who never truly thought about it would tumble into a place where much is familiar. An indecisive soul may find a realm where every moment of eternity presented a choice of some kind … and so on. A mean person would forever spin bombarded by taunts and mishaps. An evil soul believing in the concept Hell would descend into that netherworld. Choice determines all – as in life, so in death.
The Enchanter broke all those rules.
A reincarnate by choice, achieving rebirth without assistance, his visits to the invisible realms were too brief to learn anything, to even see anything, and yet he knew they were there. An Immortal true after his seventh birth, he could no longer die, and yet chose to do so in one reality to reach another. He deliberately chose his realm, knowing little about it. It did not choose him and the destination was not dependent on mortal bent; he chose with a clear mind … and enraged heart. He learned of its existence from a High Priestess of Rebirth on Cèlaver and she warned him that others had returned only due to her interference in the process of death. He would not have that interference – he could well discover he was lost or, worse yet, bound to the realm without a way to leave its confines.
It was exactly what he wanted. He deliberately hurled into a realm virtually sealed, while desiring despite that to return to his previous reality. More astounding, he dragged another in with him, something no one achieved before. He retained his body, leaving no mortal remains on his homeworld – therefore the awful destruction of Torrke – and accomplished the same feat for his companion. He retained his considerable power, the most profound manipulation of all and, finally, he opted for a time-warp reality, something extremely contrary to someone wishing to return home when the task was done.
Ignorant of the invisible realms, knowing only he dared not follow into the one the Darak Or sought to delve into, he chose a place difficult to escape from. If he could not easily leave, then Margus could not either, and that was the ultimate factor. As others found their way to other realms, so the Enchanter found his way into his new reality.
The time had come to finish it with the Darak Or.