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Of Spirits and of Men
During the Second Age of the Kingdom of Ekklia, many centuries after the sacrifice of the Great Knight, numerous Ekklians gathered around the broken tomb as they did every first day of the week to commemorate the gift of the Great Knight. They gathered also to remember the Ancient Magic that gives life even in death, and which enabled them to live happy lives despite the influence of the Necromancer.
One particular believer, by the name of Álif, came every week as was his duty as a member of the Kingdom of Ekklia, but felt as though the Ancient Magic no longer held any power. After the weekly ritual, he went home and thought to himself, “This Ancient Magic—it is not something you can feel. It is not something you can see or hear. Therefore it must not be something that we can worship with our bodies. We can only encounter the Ancient Magic with the depths of our spirits.
“And yet what has the Council done? They have established powerless rules and rituals that they claim will help us live by the laws of the Ancient Magic—make us more able to recognize it, and to better resist the temptation of the Necromancer. When we do wrong, we must tell a steward and make amends, so that the Necromancer’s subtle whisper do not root in our minds. We must do pointless ritual at the altars of the Great Knight, when he is no longer even among the Kingdom. We even must be consecrated with special water to prove our loyalty to the Kingdom, and allow the Ancient Magic to preserve us in death.”
It was then that Álif decided he would journey to the Spirit Realm, the Castle of the Great King and his Knight, and would there worship him in his own way. For if the Great King truly loved all his people, including Álif, then he would want what was best for him. And surely, what was best for Álif was to give allegiance and worship to the King in his own unique way.
The only problem was that Álif did not know how to reach the Great Castle. For he knew it was far to the east, but so long had it been since any living person had visited the Castle, that no common person with in the Kingdom knew how to reach it outside of death. Álif knew that the only people he could ask how to get there was the Council of the Church, lead by the Head Councilor who spoke as a representative of the Great Councilor, one of the three ancient rulers of the Ekklia and Malterrum with the Knight and the King. He didn’t think that the Council would really tell him how to get to the Castle, but it was the only thing Álif could think of to try.
And so, after so, after many weeks of travelling, Álif arrived at the city of Magnurbi, the capital city of the Ekklian believers. Traveling up the road “Way of the Straight” leading up to the Palace of the Council, he wondered in awe at how beautiful and shiny the city was. Everything was kept pristine.
He entered the palace and asked the clerk to speak with the council. Fortunately, the council was currently hearing anyone’s request, and he was escorted into the chamber. The room was big, with chairs rising up on each side and seating nearly two hundred councilors.
“What do you wish of us?” asked the head Councilor.
“I wish to visit the palace of the Great King, the Spirit Realm, but I know not how to get there.” A murmur rose up among the council members. They had never heard such a request.
“Why do you wish to go there?” asked the head Councilor
“I wish to worship the King my own way.”
“Ah, I see,” the Councilor smiled knowingly. “My child, do you know why few know where the Palace is? It is because where you seek to go, none can find on their own. Those who find the Palace do so only in death, and only because they are brought there by Great Knight. I see, however, that you are a persistent young man. Thus, I will tell you how to get to the palace. From this palace, head straight East, through the spirit marshes to the edge of the ocean. From there you must find a boat and travel south for a half day. Then you will find an island, and on it the Palace of the Great King. Now leave us, and may the Lord of Ekklia watch over you.”
And so for many weeks Álif days. Eventually he came to the place called the spirit marshes. The mist was thick and Álif had no idea how he would cross without a boat. Looking for options, he spotted a sign previously covered by the mist. It read, “The Ekklian who follows the Knight, will walk on faith alone with eyes set on him”. Álif knew little of the ancient magic of the Great King and his son, but seeing no other way across, he concentrated his gaze east towards the Great Palace and put one foot forward. He found that as long as he focused on where he was supposed to go, he could walk across the wispy water without sinking. At one point he began to feel tired and briefly closed his eyes. It was almost the end of him, but he remembered the ancient magic would save him and pressed on with his eyes forward.
Álif passed through the marshes and came to the edge of the ocean. There he found a small boat tied to sign that read, “For the seeker who quests to find his own way”. Álif thought that sounded like him so he untied the boat and rowed north.
When he reached the Palace he was surprised by what he saw. It did not look like any building he had seen before, but rather as though it was a building made of smoke. At the gates stood the leader of the men who headed the clans of Malterrum. He said nothing as Álif approached, so he went forward trying to pass the gates. As he stepped onto the smoky land, he fell through it, and would have continued to fall had the leader of the twelve not quickly caught him and pulled him back onto land.
“You cannot go through” said the gatekeeper.
“I came all this way,” said Álif, “isn’t there anyway I can through to see the King and the Knight?”
“You cannot go where you seek of your own accord. Only the Great Knight can bring you through. Look, he approaches.”
From the Palace the Great Knight floated to the gate. When he reached Álif he stretched out his hand and said, “Come Álif. I will deliver you to my father. He has been waiting to meet you.” And as Álif took his hand he was swept up as they both flew off across the open expanse towards the Palace. As Álif and the Great Knight entered the throne room, bigger than he ever could have imagined, the throne of the Great King was surrounded by the souls of the Ekklian dead and the servants and guards of the Palace. They were all singing the praises of the Great King, but fell silent as Álif entered, and all eyes became focused on him.
“My dear boy,” said the Great King, “My dear, silly boy. Tell me why it is you have sought me out in my own kingdom?”
Álif paused before responding, he thought the King should already know the answer to his question. Perhaps he wasn’t as powerful as everyone thought. “I came, my King, because I wanted to worship you face to face, for myself. If you are not aware, your majesty, your Kingdom of Ekklia has become overrun by rituals. We are made to participate in signs and ceremonies when our spirits are yearning to just worship you fully. My King, surely you don’t want us to get distracted by such things, surely we can just sing your praises like those surrounding you here?”
“Álif. Tell me how it is you have come to be here”
“I travelled many weeks, sought out council, and crossed the great sea.”
“And then, Álif?”
“And then…I reached the gates. And the Great Knight brought me up to you.”
“Could you have reached me without the help of my Magic or those who serve in my Kingdom?”
“Well, no my Lord. Your councilors guided me to your palace, and you yourself brought me into your palace.”
“That is right Álif. No one can reach me unless I call them, and bring them here through my power. Yes, they must want to reach me, they must want to serve me, and they must want to sing my praises. But ultimately, it is I who can bring both the spirit and the body to my Kingdom.
“When you stepped into my realm you could go no further, because you still have your body. But this is not a detriment for you Álif, for it is through your body that you can experience me in your senses. You can hear the song as you praise me, smell the beauty of my Kingdom, and feel the water rushing over you as you vow to serve me. I give you these signs not to distract you, but to encounter you more fully as you live with your body.
“So, Álif, I have brought you here so that you may realize that when you celebrate my magic, and the gift my son has given you, you must celebrate not only as a spirit, but as a man. A man who rejects his body will find that he will lose it to the necromancer, who values you only for your body and will disregard your spirit upon death. But a man who embraces his body and celebrates me with it, will lose his body for a while when entering my Kingdom, but I promise that when the Necromancer is finally destroyed, that all in my Kingdom will gain their bodies back. And there will be much to experience.”
As Álif journeyed back home he contemplated all that the Great King had told him. On the first day of the week, as Álif gathered again to remember the sacrifice of the Great Knight, he took in the smell of the smoke, felt the stone tombs of his ancestors, listened to the crowd sing the praises of the Great King, and looked at the pictures of all those who had died before him. And never had he felt closer to the Realm of the Great King.
© 2013 rdlang05