Song of the Earth

Daniel is standing in the middle of a cornfield. The maize is golden all around him, like the burning orb of the sun in the sky. Has the sun always been this bright, and he’s just forgotten? His hand comes involuntarily to his eyes.

La Niña Bonita is standing hooded and armed in front of the sun, her silhouette hard to see against the bright blaze. He may have come to associate her with darkness, with water, but the light and heat have brought about just as much death as cold and darkness.

He feels dazed—is this real? How did he get here? When is this?

“Thank you, Juanita.” Gabrielle says softly. She is standing in the corn, young again, her blonde hair hanging unbound past her shoulders. “But what happens now is for Daniel alone.” And then, the Holy Death is gone, dismissed by the senior Archmage.

Gabrielle walks around Daniel, lifting his hands with her own. Behind her, seeds turn to sprouts in the shadow of her footsteps, hope and the possibility of new life. “We’ve come a long way to get here, you and I. I think you know what has to happen now.”

One second he’s being split open like and overripe peach, the next he is standing in sunny field. An involuntary shout escapes him as the world shifts. He feels warm…he shouldn’t feel warm, should he? He lifts his hand to shade his eyes from the sun as he takes in the warmth and the colours of the cornfield.

“Did you just…” He starts, startled as he looks to Juanita. “Is it time?” There is a spike of anxiety in his tone, he’s not ready for this.

His gaze shifts to Gabrielle as she arrives, and he swallows. Juanita is gone and he is left to face this alone. “Yes…I suppose we have.” Another swallow. His heart is racing. “I do…I wish I knew why, but you’ve been hiding it from me…” There is no accusation in his tone, just curiosity even in the face of his own death.

Gabrielle sighs. “To get you ready.” She leads him by the hand. There is a narrow dirt road outside of the cornstalks, though he cannot see where it leads.

“What is mightier than an Archmage?” She asks him. “Everyone. Everyone is mightier than an Archmage! But I can’t just channel the power of everyone. ”/characters/kal" class=“wiki-content-link”>Kal has me trapped. Soon, he will unravel me from the Tellurian utterly, as if I never existed." She steals a glance with him. “This isn’t telepathy. He would have felt that. I simply inserted myself into the future, knowing all roads in your knowing would eventually lead to me. And, if I’m right…” She says softly.

“But there is a way to channel the might of everyone, the wishes and dreams and hopes and desires. But to do that, I would need support. I would need another Archmage. Or an Oracle,” She says softly. The Archmage lets go of his hand, eyes downcast. “You can be that Oracle. But I can’t force it on you. Even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could hide the truth from you, once the process began.”

“The belief of the many outweighs his? We only cannot stop him because we don’t believe we can?” Daniel asks. He holds tightly to her hand, willingly following and believing that she knows best.

He glances further down the road when they come to a stop, his blue eyes resting on a point over the horizon. “This all feels very Jesus-y,” he comments offhand. There is a momentary smirk on his face before his eyes turn to Gabrielle. “I let my Avatar be branded, promising to do whatever I can to heal Time…” He pauses. “If you can’t hidw the process from me…can you tell me a bit of what I’m getting myself into?”

Gabrielle shakes her head, almost vigorously. “This is more than that. If you become an Oracle, you will outstrip even me, but just in Time. You will never ascend, ever, and you may live thousands of years. But you won’t be around to experience it, because everything human in you will be dead. This is not some kind of quick path to power—only through your own Avatar could you do that. If we succeed here, people will worship you in this world. Manhattan and Toronto will be holy sites of pilgrimage. But you’ll be just a figure to them. ”/characters/will-harrison" class=“wiki-content-link”>Will, Jianyu, Alex will remember you as you were, but even they will eventually…" She holds up her hand. “Forget.” She lets it drop.

Gabrielle is offering him more power than he could ever have imagined, and she sounds so sad. This was a line she never wanted to cross. “The ”/wikis/daughters-of-mnemosyne" class=“wiki-page-link”> Daughters… they all knew on some level. They all tried to help. Kite, Kouamé, and Juanita tried to prepare you for your impending annihilation. John tried to remove what humanity he could from you, something you felt but could never really be sure what was gone. And… at the Carnival, you embraced some piece of this nature, the piece that would allow your ego to deny its own self-destruction, the ability to block and counter time beyond anything an Initiate should ever be capable of. You already made this decision."

The earth rumbles. Cracks appear in the dirt around them. “And you must make it for first and last time. Either you choose to embrace this destiny, and I help you die. Or all of this was a metaphor, a defeated stanza in a line of poetry. We will forget it could ever have come to pass, and you will fight on in whatever way you can, without me.” The Archmage’s face is impassive. “You have to choose, Daniel.”

That’s a lot of information to take in all at once, especially considering the nature of it. To say that Daniel is speechless would be an understatement. His eyes stay focused on Gabrielle long enough to hear her out and even a few second after. Its not long, though, before his head tilts toward the sky to look at the clear, blue day and enjoy the warmth of the sun on his face.

It’s another few moments before he finally breaks the silence. “I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to fall since the New Year…” He says softly. “This is much bigger than I expected.” He’s trying hard not to make his voice crack as tears stream down his face. “Damnit, Marissa, why did you have to be right?”

He takes a deep breath as he looks back at Gabrielle. “If I don’t do this…” He swallows. “Fuck, I feel like I’ve been set up for this from the start. I’ve never had many close friends or real ties. I’ve never had a place I really settled in. My family is gone.” He swipes at his face. “I just want them to be okay. I want the Cabal to be okay. I want the others to wake up.” He sniffles. “You know know what my choice is, Gabrielle.”

As soon as he responds, the violins start playing in his head, soft and vigorous. They will get louder.

Gabrielle smiles sadly at him, tears running down her own face too. The Ecstatic takes his hands in her own. “For what it’s worth, I don’t think it will hurt. I don’t think it will be a sensation you can compare anything to except Awakening.” She kisses him once on the lips. It’s not a sexual kiss—it feels holy to him, like a funerary ritual. She pulls back.

“It’s started,” She tells him, but the racing of the violins in his mind already tells him that. Will they die too, or will they be the part of him that is transformed? She squeezes his hands. “I will stay with you, as long as I can. Do you want to sit down? Do you want to be somewhere else?” Kansas is probably not where he would have chosen to die. “We can see any place, any time.”

“It’s the small things,” Daniel says with a butter chuckle. “I liked my Awakening. It was…it was like this, but I was playing my violin, not listening to my Avatar playing in my head.” His fingers squeeze tight on hers. “They’ll remember me for a little while…that’ll be nice.” He speaks of his cabal, of those he was closest to. His eyes close at the kiss, and he has to choke back a sob. There is a momentarily laspe where his body tenses—did he make the right decision? There’s no going back now.

The violins, at least, have always been soothing. Even when they played him through his death the first time, they’ve been with him through the most stressful parts of his life. “I want to go home.” He says. “I want to go home.”

And then he is home. Toronto, in his home, the way it was before everything was awful. His family is all there. Gabrielle is there, holding his hand.

“They won’t forget you ever lived. But they will forget the way you smelled, the way you laugh. Eventually they’ll forget what you looked like. But they’ll always remember that you loved them enough to sacrifice your life for them. They will remember the best version of you.” It’s both a comfort and tragedy.

The tension the younger Ecstatic was holding in his shoulders begins to melt away as the scene shifts to his home. His fingers loosen from Gabrielle’s grip and he takes a deep breath to enjoy the familiar scent of his own home. He hasn’t been here in years, not since his father passed away. To see them all, now, hurts him as much as it comforts him. They don’t know yet of the heartache they’ll face.

“It was always meant to come to this.” He murmurs softly. He’s been quite accepting of his fate for some time, but finally living…or dying through it has his ocillating through denial and acceptance rather quickly. “The best version of myself…haha. It’s nice to get to be remembered in such a way.”

He swallows, finally daring enough to release Gabrielle’s hand and take a step forward in his childhood home. He admires the decor, and runs his fingers along the old furniture. He has a destination in mind, its just gathering the courage to make it to his mother so he can envelop her in a tight hug.

Gabrielle lets him go as he enters his home, following him in silence. Is his mother real? She’s in the kitchen when her son finds her. “Daniel! I didn’t know you were coming home for New Year’s.” The last night before all their lives were shattered.

Maybe Gabrielle is the apparition. His mother doesn’t seem to see this strange woman hanging back, as she moves in for a hug.

“Mom,” Daniel smiles sadly, moving toward the older woman. “Well…I figured after I missed Hanukkah that I should surprise you…” He takes a deep breath as he steps in close enough to wrap his arms around her. “I missed you.” He whispers.

He doesn’t realise it at first, that he’s not gripping onto his mother’s shoulders, but rather passing right through her. It’s happening. It’s happening faster than he wants it to. “Oh god…” he breaths. “Not yet.” The violins rage away and it’s all he can do not to cover his ears. “I’m sorry, mom.”

“Daniel?” His mother asks, her voice thick with confusion.

Gabrielle has moved behind her. “Tell her,” She says, her voice a warning for Daniel alone. “She deserves to know. She can take it.” That… might not be true. But if Will were to die, she’d want to know, not spend the rest of her days wondering, Asleep and unable to find him in a continent plunged into chaos.

The Archmage locks eyes with the Ecstatic, just for a moment. She could do so many things… but ultimately it would be wrong for her to take away his pain, to change how he or his mother feels. All she can do is lend her strength in the moment, allow Daniel to draw from it to do what needs to be done.

Daniel pulls back, wishing more than anything he could feel his mother’s warmth around him one more time. He chokes back a sob, eyes raising to lock onto Gabrielle’s. Of course she’s right. His mother deserves to know. She deserves to know she’s lost everything, rather than having to live out her life in wonder if one of her sons survived. He takes a deep breath, trying to center himself and work through the pain.

“I’m dying, mom,” He whispers, eyes focusing back on his mother. “I wanted to say goodbye. And that I’m sorry I ran off. And that I love you.” He swallows down another sob threatening him. “I wish I had the time to explain why…I hope someday you’ll understand why.”

“Oh, Daniel,” His mother tries, impossibly, to hug him again. It doesn’t work, but it seems to drive home the truth of what he’s saying. Tears fall from her eyes.

“I love you, Daniel. I love you so much.” She seems at a loss for what else to say, the weight of years in her mouth.

“She will survive,” Gabrielle says, looking into her future, Daniel’s past. “And I will take care of her.” The rushing sound of waves rises in Daniel’s ears, white sound breaking everything down. And underneath, the violins, playing to their inevitable conclusion.

“I love you too, mom,” Daniel replies, the fruitless effort of the hug returned in kind. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I had so much to tell you and I never got the chance.” He chokes back a final sob as the sounds around him start to wash out.

His eyes drift back to Gabrielle, his head bobbing in quiet understanding. He thinks he heard what she said, but he’s not one hundred percent. “Thank you.” He thinks that was out loud, but he can barely tell between the crashing of waves and the violins. “It’s almost done. What happens now?”

Daniel can’t really see Gabrielle. It takes him a moment to realize she’s not invisible, his eyes aren’t really working. No… his brain is no longer processing what he sees, the shapes are there but meaningless to him. He isn’t even sure if he can see in color. He catches a glimpse of her, thinking about it, against a background empty of meaning. His mother isn’t there, that’s the most important distinction.

He can’t see, but he can hear. The violins, the waves, the motion generated moving through time (he can hear Time now?). “Jianyu. ”/characters/aaron-spaulding" class=“wiki-content-link”>Aaron. Any of the Sleepers. You can talk to them. They will hear you, but won’t really understand you until they wake up. If you want to say your goodbyes, this is your chance." She doesn’t mention going to them—something as vulgar as location doesn’t even occur to him now. He’s not the Oracle yet, but he’s something in-between now.

Daniel closes his eyes, a strange sort of acceptance coming over him as his vision begins to go. Strange, he thought it would be more devastating to him…but he has always connected to the world through sound and feel rather than sight. He sucks in a breath, or he thinks he does, as his head bobs. Or does it?

Some small part of him, whatever humanity is left, finds it strange that he doesn’t have to move to them for this. It’s a fleeting feeling, one that is replaced with obvious acceptance and dismissal. He is more than he was before.

He takes another deep breath, trying to wrap his mind around what he wants to say to his sleeping friends. The human part of him left grasps onto how important this is. Last words are comforting, so many people never get that sort of closure. He needs to take this opportunity, even if it’s importance starts to seem fleeting.

He listens to the flow of time around him before finally speaking. “I’m sorry I can’t be here to watch you become a powerful mage in your own right, Jianyu.” He speaks, whispering into the mind of his young friend. “You will be one, I know it. I love you, little brother. Thank you for all you’ve done for me…you’ve taught me more than you know.”

“Aaron…I’m sorry I dragged you into this world, only to leave you to navigate it alone. Go to ”/characters/ava" class=“wiki-content-link”>Ava. Outside of Gabrielle, you two will be two of the most powerful Time mages left in our Tradition. Help them regain that lost knowledge and rebuild." He lays the feeling of a kiss on the Ecstatic’s mind, gentle and sensual. “Good bye, Aaron.”

His goodbyes for the rest are short and heartfelt, thank yous for the Daughters for doing their best to prepare him for this, and thank you to Dylan to accepting him into his house and his family’s life. By the end, he feels emotionally wrung out, but clear-headed and a little more ready for what’s next.

Gabrielle watches how naturally he skips from mind to mind without instruction or questioning the power of locomotion from memory to memory.

It would be hard for anyone to articulate what Daniel is perceiving, though poets and writers across time have tried. He is in one sense completely blind. For all her demigodlike perspective, Gabrielle can still interact with her world and family, to feel and experience things like a human would. Daniel can do none of that. He can perceive objects in the world around him, even unthinking ones, but always with the vastness of their past and future behind him. He can see Gabrielle’s future, with all its winding possibilities, leading to different ends—deaths, and in some cases Ascensions. He can perceive the fates of those he called his friends too—America, a singular anomaly, a precious seed with no roots but with futures blooming in all directions. Alex, corrupt in every world springing forward. La Niña Bonita, one of those who helped midwife him into this new state of being. And Xifeng

“We’ve come to the end of how far I can walk with you,” Gabrielle tells him in the present. A writer might use the metaphor of them being on a road, maybe a road of stars, and that is true in feeling. A road in one, two directions couldn’t possibly illustrate the possibilities Daniel can perceive now, in the futures or in the pasts. “Goodbye, Daniel.”

The loss of humanity is a small price to pay for god-like powers. Whatever inkling of his humanity he still clings to thinks otherwise, but there is nothing to be done for that now. He is awed as he becomes aware of the scope of his vision, overwhelmed at the hundreds upon thousands of paths laid out in everything around him. The infinite knowledge is too much for his human mind to handle, but he wants to experience it all while he still can.

The fates of his friends would have once brought him joy and sorrow. Maybe somewhere they still do. It’s hard to grasp onto emotions when there are too many paths to parse. His thoughts drift from each of them, the paths very much like a road of stars. Each is a singular path leading to a singular point, infinite in number. He wonders if he could affect them, or if he even should. Wasn’t that the point of this, to protect those who are left?

There is one he needs to effect. One he needs to find and guide down the right path. He is already passing over the objects and consciousnesses of the Tellurian in search of Kal when Gabrielle announces she must leave. He stops, mind focused back into one singular point, trying to push the futures and the pasts away. He needs to be aware of this. He needs to tell her…tell her something.

“Thank you,” He says to her, reaching out to touch her mind. “For coming this far. For helping me reach this point.” He pauses. “I’m sorry it had to come to this.” That might not be entirely true anymore. “Goodbye, Gabrielle.”

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