Knowledge, I admit, was my first love and I have been warned by ones that I aspire to become similar to that if I am not careful it will be my downfall – even as the ascended Guardian of it. The double edged sword and all of that. I suppose it would not be so bad to die in the line of duty. I am rambling though, as I have a tendency to do in intimate communications and not in teacher mode. Tonight I would like to share with you one of my adventures. I have been told that doing so regularly will help me to stay the kirin I was before I Ascended. Make no mistake though that I still have a long way to go before I am as wise as the Eldest ones of our race.
There are those that always thought it odd that I was not appropriately frightened of the shelled ones. The fangs and chitinous carapaces would once have made me frightened if I had seen them before my first crossing out of my country over the mist shrouded Ibexian range and through the tenuous passes of space and time to the lands that I first set hoof in. At that time the border was not as stable as it is today. One wrong step and you could fall down in a rockfall or through time and even into other worlds. I am aware there was a more stable version of our land holding our place in this world we now share. Few knew the safe ways in though except for the traders and those that had somehow found imperial favor. I must admit that to this day I am still puzzling out the strands of the spell and how they tied the crystals that fueled the border sealing. If I were called on to seal our land again I would not be able to do it so neatly as whoever my predecessor was.
Please forgive this dropping of my normal mask. You must have figured out by now that the seemingly permanent peaceful smile is not always the case. These shudders I cannot help as I relive this memory – the crystals in the cavern I landed in when the ledge gave way beneath me blocked it for good reason. How that even is possible is another story and probably a long and tiring session for you.
I had not seen the creature at first due to how sharp the turn in the pass was. The path there was narrow and hugged the craggy grey wall. The howling of the wind covered any sound that it might have made, and the change in the color of the mist from white to red was too gradual for me to notice with my concentration so firmly on making sure of my footing. I will admit to distraction due to missing my daughter already as well, but this was a trip that would be to her benefit giving me the ammunition I needed in my personal calling to pull our Emperor out of his dangerous excesses and save my daughter from falling under the same suspicions I have been under all of my life, or such was my thought. When the fog revealed it I could not help the misstep as I lowered my horn and began to gather my magic for my defense.
What I saw was the thing that had always haunted my nightmares. Ignorance stood before me that day with death in his eyes. Everyone thinks of Ignorance as a bumbling oaf, and certainly not the equal of the Chaotic One. Ignorance though is that which whispers in the ears of the rulers of the various realms in our world, claiming the weak. War happens due, in part, to being weak and falling to this spirit, this being. This thing that is both, none, and more all at once. This creature had been sealed once, but over time the seal has become weak, in part because of the foolishness of all the races and species of this planet and the belief in the safety that the Royal Sun and Moon give to so much of it. I will not bore you with my rants against relying on them solely. Nor of my disgust with certain countries, areas, groups, and people for feeding him, my enemy.
Yes, I knew my enemy. My naiveté had delivered me straight to Ignorance. He spoke only a few words, at exactly the same moment I perceived him. “I shall have him, Crystalline Keeper. I shall win.” I should have expected the darkness, the despair, the power that pushed against me and the grinning fangs and ghastly eyes that stayed in my sight as I plunged off the cliff. The laughter followed me down and slipped into my mind, which was not as skilled at blocking external influences because of intentionally always being so open so that I could use the emotions and experiences to cure the Emperor’s increasing illness. That declaration of his, had caused some spark to leap from my horn though in my terror. I was not able to reproduce it until later, but I believe it to be some variant of the light burst that I use to blind adversaries for my escape when I am outmatched. I am still finding more important uses and practicing. Perhaps I shall be the downfall of Ignorance, if I am lucky.
My wings were useless as the air had been stolen at the same time as my control, all of my energy had gone into the instinctive blast and my crystal companions temporarily drained, my mind clouded, and my newness at defense of the order needed here left me in shock. I must admit that although broken wings are not pleasant, nor cuts in the split of the hoof simple to heal without infection, I was glad that I was alone and there were none to witness this dire mistake. I would have been forced to commit seppuku, so muddled was my thinking. The blow to the head that I received on the way down did not help. Even unconscious those infinitely accursed eyes stared into my soul, mocking me, challenging me.
When I awoke it was nearly at the bottom of a chasm. My hardening scales had protected me from some damage, the thickening crystal coating on some chipped. My scales where downright cracked in some places, my hide torn... I must admit that I do have a touch of vanity, some of these crystals I wear help me hide some of the scars that are still fading. I don’t mind scars, but I don’t want those scars. Nearby I was astounded to see that a 15 foot spire of quartz very narrowly missed impaling me. The granite leered down on me above, dark and cold. There was another outcropping of the quartz family, an amethyst cluster, that I had snagged in. How I sprawled would have been comfortable under other circumstances. I could still feel Ignorance pressing down on me with his presence, leering at me from some unseen vantage.
I would come to know his energy much more intimately in my travels. The horror of knowing that this presence, his influence – it’s everywhere! Later there were whole buildings that I discovered I could not be NEAR without becoming ill and weak, before I Ascended. A real pity as they were buildings that held a few individuals that I truly wanted to forge stronger ties to. Even so long after I escaped where he held me, I was never free.
I was not alone though. I vaguely remember a swirl of colors coming between myself and the horror. The colors I would recognize anywhere even though I did not expect to receive help from such an unlikely source. The crystals spoke as well. No, they don’t speak as you and I do, but they do in their own way. Their voices rang and joined with the rainbow. In my less lucid moments following I would think that they were saying “Run, sister,” a call that did not seem strange at the time that does now. The darkness was growing though, and I was weak. So I ran. In my dreams my hooves still pound that rocky ground, the darkness grasping at my tail, striving against the forces that had answered some unremembered peal of terror.
This, this is why I did not fear the chitinous ones that some in my travels whispered about draining the love from others. Love is not something that runs out. One may feel drained after, one might feel uncaring, or have their feelings for another change. But no one is truly unable to feel it or to channel it. It wells up in the heart as easily as the other emotions. Worse is the demon of ignorance, especially if he joins with his brothers. This is why I do not fear the chitinous ones of my own land, changed so by the magic of the crystals and allowing the land to evolve them into something else. They too thus far prove to be allies in my own war. I do not expect those of other lands to understand. They have not met him face to face as I have, not felt the breath, nor do they have those eyes in their dreams at night, nor have to live with the knowledge that should the living form fail they will have to wait in that place between, until there is another just right that they can inhabit and lose everything that made them who they were in the previous incarnation. Caught eternal in this dance. The binding, the unbinding...
He’s still out there. He waits. If I have a moment of weakness he will use it. For now I am the Emperor’s shield. For now. But his influence is not the only one that will cause the Empire to fall. My Emperor. Keh, what a strange way the events have turned when once his father sought for me to be locked away when just a foal. I was not born early enough, perhaps, for that one. Or perhaps one of the other major demons won that heart. I cannot protect everyone though. I can protect my family, my emperor, my land, the lands of our allies. Beyond our borders though... The Original Eternals help them all, the Elders beyond even the Sisters.
I would not blame you if you thought me crazy. I would be able to see your reasoning perfectly well. It would not be the first time I have been looked at thus. They wave their hooves and say “ah, but she is an artist, and an artist must be crazy in order to create,” and long have they said “she sings to the crystals, and thinks sometimes they tell her things... although it is interesting how she can use them to relay messages or to hold information with the right conditions.” I will assure you though, I am not crazy. He is real. Count yourself blessed by the Old Ones if you never see more than you have. Count yourself cursed if you ever see as much as I have.
The setting for this piece really doesn't matter. I imagine her pacing the Imperial Library or the public Ibexian Library, or perhaps muttering this to someone in the Trotsdale Square or Java's Coffee Hut that had gained her trust enough. She would not truly be still while telling this tale from her adventures unless she had a sake or coffee in hoof, and likely the Emperor's hoof on her shoulder. I really don't get many opportunities for her to give her backstory or for her adventures to come in to influence how she reacts in other adventures. Most of the time she has to wear a thick mask and present herself as inordinately placid and calm, an epitome of Zen.
It's really a shame that I don't get to use Raikou often for adventures. It is difficult to find people that have time for the kind of exploring that she has to do, so her adventures often end up solo and rather like temple runs. There are so many paths that exist for her character, and how she would have gone through all of the gathering of the Five Elements of the Ibexian Godai had she had reliable adventuring companions is different than if I'd just written the whole as a story (which I just may end up doing simply because) or if others were interested in finding the different amulets and bringing/selling them, stealing them from each other, and so forth. I had a reason for her to be shy and a reason for her to slowly regain memories.
Raikou intentionally does not mention specific buildings that made her very ill in her travels, the people she found she despised (there was a tavern she liked until some rich git came and acted snobbish to the whole bunch of people and town in general, very frowned on in her society and a good way to find a prison bed and perhaps a caning). She also refers to beings older than Celestia and Luna, and takes care not to mention their names in the same tale. In her mind to give names while speaking of Ignorance is a way to call those people to the entities attention.
This is intended to be a little Lovecraftian as well. I do not want the creature to be easily identifiable. It would look different from world to world and is something beyond mortal. Any binding would not be permanent, only a closing of whatever gate it came through. For Ignorance that is a tall order that likely will always be a losing battle.