Ch. XI, p.3

“Tell me what you know.”

He conceded. “This male creature of my people was very close to me.” Hecen momentarily ceased the flow of information in hesitation, and Maria knew that he was opening up to her, maybe in a way that he had never had the chance to before. “His name was…”

“Ah-den-ay.” She could hear the name in her mind, but it didn’t make sense until her mouth had said it.

“Adenae. That city you saw… It is populated by a people of limited desires, wanting nothing more than to feel the life around them and share in the eternal dance of the present moment. Adenae shared my inquisitive nature, and in many ways pushed me to search for answers. But our people have a difference from yours… You have an emotion, this one…”

She felt her heart miss a beat, a weight bearing down upon her as the faces of people she had known or only imagined flashed through her mind, sodden with dark energy, creating distaste within her.

“Judgment…” she said.

“That is how you see people in your world… But to understand, you must see them as my people see each other…”

Again, her mind activated. The people and their visages stayed the same but she felt different about them—they were her. They all were... All the idiots. All the buffoons. All the lunatics. All the killers. They were all as she was, at their deepest essence; all equally human.

“You understand… We would do nothing to dissuade one of ours from being themselves...” He said it as if he had grown to doubt their ways. “Adenae found an artifact from a time before ours. It contained an energy that was unfamiliar to us; uninteresting to some and repulsive to others. He decided to explore it, sharing his experiences with me.

“We were aware of the danger—anything far enough removed from understanding contains a certain amount of… unpredictability. But no one would work to dissuade him, even though he was different—less able to manage his energy. Our people felt that it was his path to explore. The…”


“The Dashien was a stone, named only because it asked to be. He found it outside the city after a meteor shower, some of which fell nearby. When held, a series of incantations, to be said with the whole of a person’s body, mind, and spirit, would be intuitively picked up by them and recited. However, these were taught over a great span of time. Years passed before we found out anything more from it than that which lay within us…”

She got the feeling Hecen had been around for much longer than she had. Centuries, even, but it was hard to tell; this world’s sense of time was difficult to compare to her own, though the hours seemed to pass at the same rate.

“The Dashien revealed our curiosity about the universe and our desire to understand it on a different level than that of simple appreciation for its aesthetics and the energy that it shared with us. Adenae was effected most.” Remorse clouded his words. “He would spend days meditating on the energy of that stone, finding within himself a strange desire to open doors to other dimensions and to foreign thoughts that had been transmitted through the ethers.

“I watched him change, his sense of self corruptible and ever ready to receive from what lay beyond. I was more careful, consciously aware of the shifts occurring inside of myself and always feeling through them to the heart of who I really was.

“The Dashien’s unique perspective was like a drug to my curiosity. But as the years passed, I grew less interested in its knowledge, and more afraid, eventually abandoning it altogether. Soon after, Adenae came to me, excited. He said he had asked the stone to show him the other worlds of which it spoke, and it had replied that it would visit the contents of universes innumerable upon us, and that all he had to do was seek the heart of the forest and meditate on the stone, reciting the incantations that would come through him in the process.

“I knew the effect the Dashien was having on him. It had driven him beyond obsession. But I did nothing. I told him that if he wanted to listen, it was his business, but that I was done with the foul thing, and had gone as far as I was willing. I assumed that it could not deliver on its promises, and was merely some dark thing, trapped and powerless, toying with us for its own amusement.

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