Many believe that we humans must undergo two deaths. One happens the moment our heart stops beating, the other comes when our name is spoken for the very last time. Such dreadful certainty served as inspiration for this entry. Now, let us wade through a few necessary lines of exposition so that, once proven unfounded the dangers posed by waters we are yet to know, we may properly dive into the story at hand.
In the realm of Fallondal, where mortals battle endlessly for dominion, every being that dies in combat is forever bound to its cause. As such, they shall renounce their place at the Havens of Strifeless Rest, choosing instead to return to Fallondal as Warden Souls- radiant holders of immense power who fight on as guardians of their still-breathing brethren.
Although formidable, Warden Souls are not immortal. As with any other soul, they can only exist for as long as they are remembered by the living. Additionally, a rival soul that matches their power is capable of striking them down. Either cause will lead to the same result. The Warden Soul, and all memory that ever existed of it, will vanish from existence.
This story follows such a dreadful scenario.
I beg you not to show despair when you see the many wounds upon my body, old friend. They are nothing compared to the damage we have inflicted upon Emperor Nomoethon's forces. If you want to offer any aid to me, then all I can ask of you is to sit down and listen to my words as we share the momentary peace that our victory has earned us.
Good. Now that we are settled, I would like to ask: Do you remember ever hearing about the concept of Preemptive Remembrance?
Not too sure? I do not blame you…
As I told you long ago, Preemptive Remembrance is something that we work towards, be it consciously or unconsciously, from the moment we become conscious of our existence until the day in which our body falls unconscious for the very last time.
This Remembrance I speak of is built on how we interact with others while alive. Family, friends, brothers in arms- those we hold closest to our hearts, those we strive to protect from our enemies, and those who are inspired by the tales of our prowess; we provide them all with memories of ourselves. It all works itself into a system where, upon rising from its vessel of flesh and bone, our soul has preemptively acquired enough remembrance to become a vessel for the memories built throughout its life cycle.
That brings us back to my wounds, unfortunately. What you are seeing me bleed is Remembrance in its purest form- as palpable sustenance for this celestial body. Every drop that drips from my chest contains a memory of me. This puddle at my feet may just be every vague thing that a dozen minds once knew of me. Touch it, and you might feel a comment from a younger me slither through your ears. Very soon, it will all be lost forever.
Oh no, my friend! Do keep on remembering that I was all but humble in life, but accuse me not of forgetting what a martyr’s death has taught me. My Remembrance and its significance have nothing to do with the ambition with which I once sought to establish an eternal legacy. The memories that we Warden Souls leave on the living before our deaths matter to all of us. In essence, they are what grant each of us our divine vitality- a vitality that is entwined so delicately with our Remembrance that if you are to remove one, then the other will promptly follow into oblivion.
Do not ask what I mean by such a statement and ask yourself this instead: What do you think will happen when there is no Remembrance left for me to bleed? When all memories of me vanish from the minds of every mortal being in Fallondal?
Well, my friend, the answer is that my soul must vanish as well. Where I will go, if there shall even be a destination, I cannot be certain. No one can, no one ever will, and that is how it must be. If we knew the answer to every "And then?", there would be no thrill in asking or waiting to find out, do you not agree?
If you were to agree, then you would not look so mournful right now. Lift your chin and cheer up for me a bit, will you? I would prefer my final moments to be entrenched in an attentive gaze rather than a soulful one. I promise you that any grief you now feel will not outlast the time it takes for a leaf to…
I… I feel tired now. So very tired… Could you please help a friend lie down? Oh, thank you. You are too kind, listening to what a soul like me has to muse about.
Your attention brings me back to a time when I was still alive. Our apprenticeship days at the Ulloriel citadel, where you and I were but thorns in that old blacksmith’s side. I enjoyed her tales of battles and journeys across the Umber Seas, but I could never find the patience required for her lessons and those never-ending, ever-so-bitter lectures of hers. You, my friend? You had your ears perked for every word she spat. It’s no wonder the sharpness of your swords eventually out-mastered that of her tongue.
You say that you cannot recall my presence at that time in your life… To lose such an early memory of us together can only mean that you are moments away from forgetting everything about me.
No, please. Your devotion touches me deeply, but these forces are outside our control. Try as hard as you may, you will still forget me. Only a soul is allowed to remember those who have been subject to these sorts of untimely vanishments, and as old as you may be, know that you are still many battles away from joining your ancestors.
I insist there is nothing to be done. But know that there is nothing for you to fear, either. Once I am gone, it will be as though I had never been here, to begin with. You will not mourn me. After all, one only mourns in memory of the dead. Not for a life that, by all accounts, never came to be.
Yes, it feels dreadful indeed. Why must we die twice? And why must our souls be snuffed out so thoroughly? You might think that way, but you would be sorely mistaken in calling this method unfair or cruel. I can only consider it merciful.
I said that, right? Erasing all memory of a dying soul is an act of mercy. If you do not believe me, think of how, with death's embrace, we are promised a reunion with everyone we have lost. How crushing would it then be to know that one of your kin will not be there to guide you as you oar into the Havens of Strifeless Rest? That the one you love will not be there to share an eternity of peace with you? Or, if you were to die in combat, that you and an old friend will never be granted the chance to battle side by side once more, now as eternal guardians of your people? Your eyes alone show the devastation brought on by the prospect of my departure, so I hope you understand my solace in knowing that your grief will not be prolonged until the end of your days… That your mortal psyche will be spared the weight of my complete and utter loss.
My time is near… It is not fair on my part to keep my rambling going and going, rarely pausing to let you converse in these last minutes we have left. If I am perhaps talking too much, it is only because I cannot help but fear the oppressing quiet that could be lurking past the threshold that my soul now stands at. Will there only be a void where silence is law and sleep is unending? Or perhaps, once there is no trace left of who I am, my spirit will be forged into a new being? Pushed into a new body and granted a new life to live?
I ponder those two options and find it hard to see any difference between them. We may be reborn, and still, we remember nothing from our past lives. Would that not be a sign that, after being forgotten, our old selves did indeed face that nothingness we all fear so much? What change does it make if, each time I am reincarnated, I have no recollection of what it was like to once take part in existence?
Oh, forget it... There is no point in thinking my way around the inevitable. What I am now will disappear, no matter if any future lives await me…
I can only thank you for being here to listen, my friend. You have lent me your ears so kindly that I wish I could deliver anything of value for them to hear without the memory of it being short-lived.
I… I suppose I should still try. Havens know you deserve my best efforts… Very well, if the whim of fate grants you only one thing to remember from our talks, let it be this.
The Remembrance that we build up throughout our lives can last a thousand years, and yet, on some unbidden day, it will nevertheless die and take our souls with it. But as dwindling as our stay in the memories of the living can be, its effect can never be erased. Even if the names of most of our fallen soldiers were lost in the fog of endless wars, the legends they have built would forever accompany us on the battlefield. It is in honour and memory of their sacrifice that our hearts beat with pride and our chants make riots out of enemy formations, for our ancestors’ presence is as mighty and undeniable as the myriad crags that guard our great Hallingher Kingdom. Similarly, no matter how little of me you will be allowed to remember, know that our bond, forged as we grew older and shared even after I joined the ranks of the Warden Souls, has shaped us both into who we are in this very moment.
In the vast course of existence, there is and will always be a point where you and I fought side by side, in body and spirit, and unlike with your memory, nothing can shape or alter that past to remove me from it.
By the Havens... I hadn’t even noticed. My hands have vanished… And this lack of visibility is crawling up my arms…
This is it, my friend. Once I disappear, you will wake up, and this will all feel like a strange and distant dream, one that you’ll promptly discard when your captain summons you for your duties.
I cannot feel my wings. Are they also gone by now? How-... How long do I have left? What more can I tell you? Oh, yes- yes! There’s one more thing I must ask of you, my friend...
I assume that, after you, I am meant to be the last soul to forget who I was. So, could you please focus your mind solely on my name so that you may whisper it before nothing is left of me? I want that to be the last thing I hear.
Of course, you remember it. You used to say that never in a million lives would you ever name a child after me until my death changed your mind.
Yes, that one! Please say it loud and clear before my ears fade away… I can barely hear your voice now… And I am awfully tired…
What comes next? Will I fall asleep or open my eyes to Fallondal once more? Will my awareness be gone forever, or will it follow into a new life?
So many questions… I’m glad to be with you as I ponder them, my deepest friend. I hope you wake up with the blissful promise of a new dawn… Of another day to be alive...
Did you say something? That was my name I heard, wasn’t it?
Oh, thank you… Thank you…
Yes… Yes- my name was Aliashtar!
I’d almost forgotten...