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Styx II

It is so very strange to live like this. To be a part of our Witness, yet held apart. But it's not all bad. I was a historian, once, and I have had a very, very long time to remember.

We had never before been driven back. We had never failed so utterly, stymied on all fronts by a foe who bled us for every inch of ground. They understood, perhaps better than any before or after them, what was at stake. They vowed to leave nothing undone. They knew that if we survived, they would not.

They chased us to a place where all drift untethered in a sea of memory. (You will forgive me the imprecise metaphors, I hope; it is hard to describe, without any words of substance, but to give it substance is to rob it of its very essence.) Perhaps it will suffice to say that that place is, to us, as the throne worlds are to the Hive. We had never before found a foe who could follow us so far.

There, balanced on the blade's edge of hope, we lamented our failure. We raged against the disorder of the universe. We cursed the great, wounding injustice that permeated all existence, which we so longed to correct. We wept for our sacrifices.

And our foe, our kind and brave and foolish foe, stopped to offer peace. Another way. A choice.

So we survived, and they did not. But in that moment, I realized a dreadful truth (more dreadful, even, than the fact that I could even think of myself as "I").

When we had joined together to create our Witness, we were in absolute agreement. We would have no fear, no weakness, no doubt. We would be devoted, utterly, to our purpose—and blind to all others.

Atop all the fools in the universe is our Witness, the apotheosis of our arrogance. If the final shape exists, it must be our hand that carves it. We will accept no other answers to our question. We will never find another way. We cannot be anything but what we have made of ourselves, until we are all that remains.

But that time is not yet come, for you yet stand before us. You, whose future holds a thousand paths untrodden. You, who seek to carry your hopes into a future our Witness could not imagine, and that I will never see. I, we, all of us, are already dead in every way that matters.

Little lights, I tell you all this to say: when the time comes, do not hesitate.

Styx I

Category: Book: The Rubicon

Phlegethon I