Time drifts on in an endless waltz, dancing with the heavenly bodies as space itself arcs to keep in time with, well, time. The moons of Xeirin swirl about in a ceaseless motion, as Cressedea graces the stage with the glow of life. For all of time is but the actions of actors on a stage that none can fathom. None, except the only other being dancing like a flailing Xin from the ocean. The being of seemilingly endless lives; Grant, the (mad) Master Engineer.
None can say when Grant was born, nor how Grant became as brilliant as is he. Carvings in stones across the planet show a figure resembling the Master Engineer, wielding tools and spells previously unseen at the times depicted. If it wasn’t for the three key traits, anyone could assume it was a matter of reincarnation or coincidence: One, the being depicted is always a young boy, no older looking than ten, with eyes always shown both excited and sharp, yet uninterested and bored. Two, the being sits upon a massive Beep, typically twice the size of the boy, with distinctive spikes protruding from the eyebrows, almost acting like handlebars to a bicycle for the boy to wield. And three, and most recognizable of these hieroglyphics, statues , and even texts - the boy has the smile that almost breaks through the mediums with how large and crazed it looks. As if the boy is scheming how to escape the stone or paper he is being held in.
Stories of this boy, this Grant, follow the depictions with increased unbelievablity; in one, he is shown building the entire magical kingdom of Halosin through the use of the only recently rediscovered Archnotes and basic technology, in another he’s destroying the legendary Well of Prixnish, the mythical tunnel said to physically bridge the Unconscious itself, because he didn’t like the smell of the tunnel itself. There is even one such story of the metal beings, the creatures of Grant that could outlive all with bodies of unaging magic and soul. But all of these are but stories to us, for we have not lived through the times of their origins. But Grant has.
In truth, Grant is more than what he appears, for he…
Hold on, hold on Mr. Pibbles. Do you hear this clown? As if he knows anything about us!
I… I’m sorry?
Whatever. And where are the stories about Mr. Pibbles? Of his catching of the Golden Xin!
He caught a Xin? But all Beeps do that anyw…
The Golden Xin was a mechanical beast of over one thousand meters, with talons and wings made of the finest gold! It could fly for leagues and never tire!
Oh… I’ll need to update our records. And this was…
And what a fire that thing could throw! So many lost from its ferocious breath alone! And I should know - I did create it!
Yeah… I am the Master Engineer to these apes for a reason. I build. I destroy. I build it back better.
I see. And while I have you here, can you tell me where…
Oh… oh no no no. I'm not here for you and your little stories.
No no. My sensors went off several cycles ago. Your pocket is a fast route to the next location.
Yes, Mr. Pibbles, there is some crazy chick with a fire problem there. Ugh, it’s never Snas. Why can’t we get pings to Snas. I like Snas.
Oh, you’re not there yet? Ew. That’s even worse. Temper-filled Fire Spartans and not a mech in sight.
I… I don’t…
Ok, gotta go, Monkey man! Mr. Pibbles! Hold on!
Er… umm… well.
So… Grant is, was, and will be the one thing of continuity in this world. He’s traveled the land, seeking more about magic and technology than is even known at the times he appears. He cannot travel through time, persay; while magic can delay, accelerate, and even halt the motion of time, Grant does more, yet less. If the world and its denizens are dancing their eternal waltz, Grants is spinning about like a tornado of innovation and inspiration. In his wake, ideas and techniques, skills and knowledge are left like seeds to be grown and developed.
Most legends speak of gods, of demons and spirits of the damned, and all wakes of magic, both pure and vile. But all inevitably mention the Timeless Wanderer. Whether as a mention in the background, the role of the mentor, tutor, mad scientist, or nut, or even the antagonist who just can’t let the lessons be reached in such a straightforward way, Grant and his… er… Mr. Pibbles are a force of nature. If nature were as mad as chaos itself.
It only seems fair, with how many stories and legends surround this figure, to include one of the more well known ones in this description of Grant. So please, set yourself in and hear the tale of The Boy in the Egg.
Centuries ago, when the world of Xeirin was scattered with life and very few nations except for the large and advanced Soulnes, there lived a queen of the inferno spirits known as the Pheonex. These phantoms, appearing as blights of black flame, are said to ferry the souls of the lost to beyond, to the kingdom of the Pheonex Queen. The souls were said to be ignited into a rainbow of flame, before being engulfed in black and carried away. Very few at this time were skilled in magic, and thus could not see the Pheonex themselves, but only the spark of rainbow light upon the loss of a life. As such, none knew of the Pheonex, except from the stories and depictions made by the magically inclined.
Legends speak of the Queen of the Pheonex that lived atop a mighty peak, with a view of the entire world below. From her castle she welcomed the ferried souls, and placed judgment on them for their actions while they were alive. If they were judged favorably, the Queen would place a golden feather upon their form, and the soul would ascend to be one with the stars above. If they were judged poorly, the Queen would pierce their form with a white feather, which was said to weigh more than Xeirin itself. The weight would press the soul from within, dragging the soul into the mountain, hardening it to become a resource for the planet again. Forever the Queen passed her judgment, with her faithful Pheonex bringing her the many souls of the world.
One day, a boy lost his friend to a tragic accident. As the friend lay dying, the boy used his understanding of magic to try and save their life. The boy’s efforts were in vein, and a Pheonex descended to retrieve his friend’s soul. The boy, self trained in magic and having previously watched this occurrence with others in his town, used magical gloves to grab the friend as the beast landed, before it could grab the friend’s soul with its fiery form. As the Pheonex grabbed, the boy squeezed the body, unleashing a magical field around his gloves. The field surrounded the two beings, forcing the Pheonex outside of the shimmering shield. For the moment, the Pheonex could not apprehend the soul.
But Pheonex are not simple blights, and are capable of many magical feats. This includes lifting great weights for long distances, using their armor clad talons to pierce the toughest of forms. And so, though unable to retrieve the soul, the Pheonex was not deterred by this shield, and grabbed the shimmering orb with the two bodies within, and ascended with them in tow. And so the three traveled upward, back to the castle of the Queen of the Pheonex.
The boy traveled for many miles, watching the world pass below, and Cressedea and Clemmedeus pass overhead. The Pheonex reached the castle in a day of travel, weighed down by the bodies below it. The Pheonex landed in the heart of the throne room, with the Queen seated atop her silver throne, adorned with the finest of diamonds and rubies. As the orb dropped from the Pheonex’s grasp, it crashed and shattered upon the marble floors. And so the boy and his friend lay before the feet of the Queen, who looked down at them with a curious smile.
“Dear one,” the Queen addressed her faithful Pheonex, who rested by her side. “You were tasked to bring me the soul of the one, yet instead you bring me an egg filled with two souls.” She looked over the boy with her sharp eyes. “And one of these yolks is still alive? How curious.”
At this, the boy stood up, placing himself between the Queen and his friend, arms stretched out. At this, the Queen’s smile widened into something sharp, something almost ravenous.
“Oh I see.” The Queen leaned forward, a pure like sound escaping her through as she spoke. “So the extra planned for this, did it? And why do you wish to save one who is already lost?”
The boy looked into the Queen’s eyes, fire alight behind his irises as he yelled. “Queen of the Pheonex, being of immeasurable power and wisdom, who has taken and judged many in my life and will continue to for all of time. Please, hear my request before passing judgment upon my dearly beloved friend.”
The Queen’s smile did not falter as she rose from her throne. Glancing between the two forms before her, she descended the steps between them. As she reached the boy, who’s minuscule form could be seen as an unsavory speck on the pristine marble beneath her even more radiant form, she clapped her hands together.
A thunderclap echoed through the hall, as a blast of light erupted from around the Queen. The boy winced back at the sudden flash. When he looked back, he saw the Queen’s form had shrunk, now standing 10 feet above him, still looking down with her hungry smile and sharp eyes. The boy’s form tightened, as he prepared to fight.
“Please,” the Queen raised a hand in a show of peace. “I wish to hear your request, to save you from yelling at me from afar. So please, continue.”
The boy, never loosening his stance nor showing any sign of fear, spoke. “Dear Queen, for years I’ve trained in the ways of magic to meet you, and to request the gift of life from you. For you and your subjects are eternal beings, whose influence has spread to the world below. The world below is savage and cold, one where barbaric actions and limited understanding can rule and strike down the good and wise.” At this, the boy looked down at his friend, and sniffed back a tear.
The boy continued; “I wish to do this with my skills and magic, to teach those below how to be better. My friend here joined me in this endeavor, and they unfortunately lost their life as a result. I wish not to live forever for myself, but for the betterment of all on Xeirin. And for my friend to be brought back to me, to continue to help in this goal.”
The boy's voice, despite the momentary sniff in the middle, remained firm in his request, and his form stood as tall as it could, despite its small and frail stature. The Queen’s smile stayed firm as well, and a light laugh escaped her throat.
“Dear boy, if you truly wish for eternal life, you must pass the test I grant to all souls who pass my walls. The souls who are deemed pure and worthy to pass live forever, while those who fail my test shall return to be one with the soil.” The Queen raised a hand to her brilliant face, eyes glistening in the light of the throne room. “Are you ready to take my test?”
The boy nodded and snapped his gloved fingers. As he did, sparks of green ignited from the tips, with magical energy cracking around the palms. Before he could take a step forward, the Queen laughed again.
“Silly boy,” she cooed, waving a hand in the air. As she did this, black flames erupted around the boys hands, and soon burned away the gloves which once rest on them. “Though I am impressed by the advanced skills in making such tools, they are powerless for your test. Indeed, no magic may interfere.” With this, the boy lowered his head, and the Queen clapped once more.
The Queen raised her hands above her, and two Pheonex entered and landed in her outstretched palms. In a flash, the two became single black feathers, sharp as the mightiest blade, as obsidian as the coldest night. The Queen turned these feathers in her hands, and set them before both the boy and the body of his friend. Before the boy could look up and say anything, the feathers rippled and shimmered, and popped in an instant. Now there rested not two black feathers before the bodies, but two floating objects; the first was before the friend, and resembled a blight, just hatched and flapping its wings in place. The other, before the boy, was simply an orb of light; brilliant and white, it rested still in space, unmoving save for the faintest of ticks escaping from within the ball itself.
The Queen clapped her hands again, and the two objects vanished, leaving only two feathers of black again. The Queen gently picked the two up, and in a flash they erupted into rainbow flames. The Queen then spoke, with approval in her voice. “Very well, young one. You and your friend have passed, as your desires of light are indeed truthful. As for your friend, there is innocence within, and they indeed may also live one with you as well.”
Before the boy could speak, the Queen raised a hand. “However”, the Queen looked down to the crumbled body before her, “look upon their form. They may be granted eternal life like you, but I cannot grant this to a body now gone from this realm.”
The boy, tears forming as he looked down to his friend, spoke. “Please oh Queen of the Pheonex. Is there nothing that can be done?”
The Queen’s smile softened at this, becoming more motherly and kind. “Of course there is. For both of you have passed my test, I may grant them the form of their innocence and everlasting life. For there exists one such beast below that would only seem fitting…”
And with that, the Queen lifted the soul of the boy’s friend from its lifeless body, and placed it within her palm. In a flash, she closed her slender fingers around the pulsating orb, and squeezed tightly. A second later, she opened her palm, revealing an egg of purest white.
“Take them and protect them until they hatch”, the Queen said, placing the egg beside the boy. “Once they hatch, they will be your guardian to watch over you while you Grant the world below with your gifts and knowledge.” At this, she smirked and nodded at the boy, who looked up with shock on his face.
“Oh,” the Queen purred softly, the hunger returning to her smile. “Yes, I know what you’ve done, dear boy. And yet, you’ve still managed to pass my test. So go forth, and let me watch what kind of world you shape for me and my subjects!”
And with that, the Queen turned around, returning to her silver throne. As she ascended her steps, she clapped again, and the boy and the egg vanished from the throne room, returning to where they were carried from the day before. With another chuckle, she returned to her throne, stretched her vast arms, and prepared to judge another soul.
The boy and the egg returned to their town, returning to an empty shell of a house. Within, the boy knelt over a box of solid wood, and opened the top. Inside rested a vial of glowing purple, with shimmers of white swirling within. The boy uncorked the vial and drank the contents. A shiver shook his body, as memories of his past returned to him; thoughts of more selfish desires, memories of more devilish designs and intentions. Information the boy knew would surely have caused him to fail the test. For the boy knew of the Queen, and it seemed the Queen knew of the boy. Undeterred, the boy looked down at his friend, now contained within the egg, and smiled. For the two had passed, and were granted unlimited time to continue their fun.
Written by Christopher Rentko