I have no means to convey the tenure of my labor upon this quest. For how can time be measured in search for such a place? Sure the Sepulcher of the First Ones exists beyond any measure that one such as I could hope to comprehend, and I possess far more knowledge of these matters than most.
Forgive me. Their mockery has made me bitter. I must remind myself to ignore the petty envies of my lessers.
Where we finally discovered a tangible clue to the location of that sacred place after so many ages of speculation, I began my work with their full confidence. My gifts for deciphering the inscrutable had deservedly earned me an impeccable reputation.
How many ancient codes had I broken? How many lost tongues had I translated? No secret was beyond my grasp. They all knew this and had reaped the profits of my genius.
And here, so close to achieving, our goals, I faltered. Yes, I admit, for the first time I faced a challenge so daunting that I doubted my ability to overcome it. Al'firim the Fallible, they snickered in ill-concealed whispers.
But how among them faired better? None, I assure you. The complexity of the glyphs alone was... well, let me say it felt like an eternity passed before I grasped the first inkling of what they represented.
There others came and went. They brought in "helpers" and "apprentices" they claimed would aid me. None lasted. None proved worthy. They tried to tell me I should stop, that they had found another to take up the work. But I refused to leave. I knew who it was they planned to send, and I had vowed that she would never again usurp my position.
I was lost in the glyphs. The geometry. Every path seemed to curve in upon itself. Nothing made sense.
Until it did.
When at last the realization struck me. I swear to you that reality itself seemed to melt away. I saw visions of the unimaginable sights I could never hope to convey in mere words. When I became conscious of my surroundings again, I saw the others staring down, mocking my sprawled limbs.
It didn't matter. I had found the truth at last.
Understand: Despite this being the most wondrous revelation of my storied career, I stand upon the merest precipice of understanding. The language of the First Ones seems to shift and grow as I find greater depths within it.
I have no doubt that further meanings will reveal themselves as the glyphs and geometry of this fractal tongue become more known to me, so please consider the chapters ahead to be but works-in-progress. It is not that there is a chance they will change: there is certainty of it.
Enough preamble. Read now the greatest discovery of our time.
The Dawn of All Things.
It is no small irony that the first specimens of their language remain the most inscrutable. Perhaps that is what hindered my progress for so long. Regardless, the particulars are beyond my present ability to decipher. With time, I am certain I will succeed. But Not yet.
There are references to forces so primal that we have no frame of reference for them. Roiling and churning, or measured and deliberate? The words here have multiple meanings, I must set them aside for now.
What is clear is that great powers took shape. How many? There are numbers within numbers, my friends. At first I thought only two, until I perceived an infinite array -- O, the terror of it! -- but as of late I have settled on six. Possibly seven, but the last might be an artifact of the geometry. A fractal.
I will tell you what I know.
These six forces existed in strife. Well, not strife in the way one such as you or I would see it. Opposition surely, but whether malignant or benign is unclear. There was imbalance, until there was a need for something more.
They came together (or were brought together, depending on how one interprets the fractal) and gave form to their design. Forged? Scribed? Shaped? The exact word is elusive. Each architect gave a portion of themselves, and thus the pattern was drawn.
It is from here that the language becomes clearer.
With a framework in place, all that we now comprehend came to be. As if reality were nothing more than a fungus growing upon the frame. Six forces now in balance, and from their intersections arose others. A simple structure growing infinitely more complex.
Now do you understand why my translations took such time? Why they still elude me? It grows! It changes! Glyphs and geometry and fractals everywhere!
As each emptiness abated and grew fuller, the pattern alone was not enough. Shapes arose within shapes, begotten by the six to beget more.
Now it grows clearer. More certain. Each layer more fathomable to a meager mind such as yours.
Six realms. Many intersections. Countless fractals.
In balance? Possibly. But that might be wrong. If six equal one, then what is the other? The one outside the pattern.
(Note: I must return to this chapter later to afford greater clarity. It is possibly I possess a propensity to ramble.)
Before delving deeper into the great mysteries, it is worth framing their wonder within the context of our own existence. What we know of it, at least.
It fills me with sorrow that, of the many beings I encountered on my travels through the nimbus, so few possessed any interest beyond their sense of duty. I sought out scholars, philosophers, explorers; I found only simpletons and servitors.
This journey took ages, and many times along the way felt fruitless. If only I had known of the existence of the Sepulcher! But of course I would not learn of its wonders until much later, and so I plodded along the only way I could.
I came close to finding wisdom on occasion. Joining a trade expedition to the Bastion, I met an amenable aspirant who told me of a great archive of knowledge. Countless records of souls the Kyrians carried across from the mortal realm, as well as collections of their own long-shed memories.
The aspirant was even willing to bring me to this repository, until a nosy steward alerted one of the Ascended. My expedition was escorted back to the anima gate, warned never to return.
Some ages later, I secured an invitation to a tournament in the arena of Maldraxxus. While my companions reveled in the sport, I made my way to an ancient library nestled between the great houses. They called it "sepulcher," but I assure you it was not the one we seek!
The horrors I encountered on my journey there still haunt me to this day, but so fixed was I upon my goal that I braved nightmarish constructs and rivulets of toxic plague.
When I arrived, the liches agreed to tolerate my presence for a time, so I sought out their most ancient texts for any history I could glean.
Oh, I found histories -- of great battles fought against the outer planes, of the rise and fall of legendary combatants, of mighty weapons forged and lost.
When I asked if there were any older tomes, the implacable liches told me those were for the eyes of the Primus alone, and I was commanded to leave at once.
It was not until I arrived in Oribos that I at last found others who shared my curiosity. Among the Arbiter's attendants was a knowledgeable sort named Kah-Sher, who had seen many ages pass through the course of his duties.
Though he was as blindly obeisant to his mistress as the rest of his kind, I admit that, standing within the grandeur of the fabled Eternal City, I could understand his devotion. Kah-Sher enjoyed conversing with me, sharing all that he had seen and knowledge that had been passed down by his predecessors.
Yet within all his words, and in the rituals of service he allowed me to observe, I found little of true value. They city had stood forever, he said. The Arbiter was ever wise and just, he said. Ours was not to question those from beyond the veil, but to facilitate their journeys, he said.
It was when Kah-Sher let slip that he had shared similar conversations with an old rival of mine -- I vowed she would never thwart me again! -- that I knew this was a pointless course. I left Kah-Sher to his blathering.
The Hundred Eyes of Irik-tu
It was upon stormming out of the attendant's presence that I stumbled upon a true find! There, passing through Oribos on their way to another destination, I encountered a transcendant soul.
They held a form I did not recognize, for they resumed a shape resembling the one they held in the mortal plane. I begged them to speak with me, and they agreed.
They said their name was Irik-tu, and though I asked thrice where they had come from, the name of their home was one I could barely understand, let along repeat or inscribe (it appeared Irik-tu spoke with four tongues, and in concert with the clicking of many legs, I did at times have trouble catching every detail).
Irik-tu claimed the place beyond the veil was populated by countless worlds, many inhabited by all manner of beings very different from their own people.
When I asked if this world of theirs was rich with anima, Irik-tu assumed an expression I took to be puzzlement (though the hundred eyes of Irik-tu were admittedly difficult to read).
The living did not trade in anima, they said, I phrase I asked them to repeat several times to be certain I heard it correctly.
No anima! How? Could their existence truly be so different from our own?
It was indeed, Irik-tu assured me. They told me of this realm of mortals, where their animaless existence ceased with the terminus of their fragile forms.
Irik-tu met their end in a terrible war, they claimed, their home ravaged by the demons of the Twisting Nether.
I nodded in solemn camaraderie, for we all recall the tale of the Burning Legion's assault on Maldraxxus and the terrible cost of the necrolords' victory.
Irik-tu brightened when they recalled the Arbiter's kindness in sending them along to a hive where others of their kind shared a long and pleasant coexistence.
After many ages caring for their kin, Irik-tu was ready to venture on, returning to Oribos to marvel at its splendor.
Of course I asked Irik-tu what they knew of the origins of the realm of mortals, but what they told me made little sense. Does every mortal believe a different tale of fancy?
I nodded as they spoke of their thousand-legged god whose eggs brought forth all existence, but soon I grew tired of their quaint fables and bid Irik-tu good journeys.
So it seemed even the halls of Oribos could not grant me the truths I sought. Mortal souls believed in a myriad of myths that spoke of false gods, while we basked in the splendor of beings of true might. We were blessed in the presence of the Arbiter, the Archon, the Winter Queen, the Sire, and the Primus.
Until I found a deeper truth on my way to the Sepulcher, and my mind splintered at the fractals.