Episode 1 - Those Eyes

Nine-nine-three-seven-two started his morning with a tea-ritual, an hour before sunrise. Fully aware that he would die that day, his only regret, was that he could not remember his name. He knew he had one, he remembers his mother, father, four brothers and sister. He remembers their faces, conversations and even the scent of honey-soap emanating from his sister's hair, after her daily bath. Yet, the names escape him completely. Somehow, in the last eon of battle and combat, he managed to forget there ever was such a thing. Only now at the end, when victory was absolute and utterly assured, did he allow himself the luxury to reflect on a time before war, a time most did not know existed.

Nine-nine-three-seven-two understood that his god has been keeping him alive, far longer than any mortal should live. He accepted his time of death with the calm-logic and near lack of emotion, dictated by his order and prised by his god. If only he could remember the name, all would be done and complete, the equation would balance and nothing would be left to question. So he knelt down and contemplated the tea, considering this ritual to be his most likely mechanism for stirring that memory, and once more gaining access to the information he knew was buried deep in his own mind.

Slowly, with great attention, he poured tea into a cup, being careful to maintain the empty-calm state of mind required by the ritual. He did not fail to note the speed with which the mint and eucalyptus aroma spread through the room though. When the cup was full, he placed the teapot back in its appropriate place, making sure the pout pointed North. Real North, not the north shown by load-stones, but real North as his god explained to him; The top of an imaginary line around which the planet rotates, the very cause of night and day.

The memory of that lesson swam to the fore of his mind, allowing him to recall the realization that his god was the only real God, the only path from superstitious beliefs and half formed ideas, into a world of knowledge and understanding. A world where his people would learn to research and reason, rather than speculate and guess. A world where people still died and suffered, but at least the cause would be known, if not understood. A world were his brothers and sister might have had full lives, if the shaman knew about toxins in the drinking water, rather than depending on the rituals of a false god.

A familiar voice echoed in his mind as an urgent whisper: "Rin!"

Nine-nine-three-seven-two immediately recognised his sister's name. "Rin", he repeated quietly to himself. The floodgate in his mind broke, washing him in memories he has not confronted in centuries. Recognising the danger of the sudden release, he instinctively started reciting calming mantras to regain control of his now storming mind, altering his perspective so he could observe and analyze, rather than experience and feel. A single heartbeat was all he needed to wrestled back the calm state he sought, this time though, his mind was focused on the subject of his meditation; A name.

"Rin" he repeated aloud, while raising the cup to his lips. The scent mellowed and the tea slipped into his mouth with an elegant trickle, allowing him to note the master tea-maker who ensured the eucalyptus was present in scent only, restricting the taste to natural mint, perfect in flavour and meditative function. With the taste and the name fresh in his mind, he began to delve his memories. Observing, analyzing and calculating years of collected data, in a fraction of a second.

Again his mind relented a whisper: "Hiro'o Anoda!".

He recognised this memory, it was the day he enrolled. The day he received his designation, the day ... His chest contracted in a sudden intense pain resembling a sword sliding between his ribs around the area of his heart. This time, he did not react fast enough. The cup slipped from his hand as he clutched his chest, spilling its delicate content over the polished floor-boards. Taking a desperate breath, he battled to bring at least his body back under control. The scent of blood hit the back of his throat and a dusty taste settled on his tongue, his gut felt contorted somehow, as if twisted by an internal hand. His vision blurred and wetness streamed down his face, thinking it a result of the spilled tea he could not understand why it did not burn. His mind, reeling in its momentary disarray, made analysing this an immediate priority.

Quickly concluding the liquid was not tea, it diligently followed with attempts at identifying the offending substance. Blood, Water, Wine. It freely examined and presented potential answers, but none computed, until it finally settled on the only answer fitting all available data: Tears!

"Hiro'o" he managed to say through clenched teeth as he battled the agony in his chest. Exhaling the breath from earlier, he let his body double over, allowing him to bring his head into slow contact with the cool floor, while still clutching at his chest. This simple action seemed to alleviate the demands of his body, allowing him the fraction of a second needed to enact the training and practice of his order.

Relief was immediate.

Nine-nine-three-seven-two, or was it Hiro'o, slowly inhaled as he rose once more while opening his eyes. The agony of a moment ago faded rapidly as he repeated to himself: "Hiro'o".

There was no question, no more concern, just the quiet acceptance of an answer gained. But he felt an unease settle on his shoulders, as he said in hopeful self affirmation: "Now the equation must balance.". He tried saying it again, just to see if the unease would dissipate. To his dismay though, the repetition solidified the suspicion that a question answered, led to the demand for an answer to a new question. "Nine, Nine, Three, Seven, Two": He said, repeating it as he once did to his instructors, more for the sake of hearing it, than to truly conclude the session.

With the youth of a twenty year old, he jumped to his feet and hastily cleaned the mess of the failed ritual. With any amount of luck, he might still be able to do another, before he was due to relinquish this mortal link. "But this time, I'll use the cherry-tea." He thought to himself. While the mint allowed him to delve deep, the cherry always improved his reaction times.

Once clean, he looked around the room, making sure everything was in place and lined up. The walls were a perfect white paper, framed with dark oak. A new teapot on the hearth in the middle of the room and an assortment of tea on a table to his left. Without thought, he reached over to the vase with cherry tea. The moment he touched it, his face registered the disappointment he felt at finding it empty.

"Nine, Nine, Three, Seven, Two", He said aloud, paused then said:
"Without the tea then.", the determination in his voice surprised even himself.

Sitting cross-legged facing a bare wall, he quickly entered the state he knew would lead to direct contact with Zero, the one true God. Today of all days, he knew he would be granted the right to answers for any question he asked. Having served Zero this long, he knew his god. He also knew he was taking a risk, but one thing his god has never punished anyone for, was asking a question. Though he often chose not to answer, he never punished one for asking. Unlike the false gods, he did not employ riddles either. If you did not get an answer, you were virtually assured that you simply asked the wrong question. Which was exactly his immediate problem. He knew what he wanted to ask, he knew he needed an answer, but he did not know how to ask it. The subject was truly foreign to him, but he had little enough time left for it to concern him much.

The link was established with a familiar metallic click. Nine-nine-three-seven-two knew and understood the click to mean:

Welcome, please wait your turn.

He was prepared to wait, but surprised to find himself in the presence of Zero, almost immediately. Surrounded by darkness, he had the sensation of a torch being lit before the room filled with milk-white light. He knelt instinctively, realizing he was granted a rare audience, in direct presence of Zero himself.

"Nine-nine-three-seven-two, ask your question.", the voice was metallic, yet human somehow, he dared not look up into the face of the god, so he voiced his question to the floor:

"Zero, have you ever experienced love?"


Zero patiently waited for the question he knew would come, all mortals have a small collection of questions they would like answered, before their essence is either scattered, consumed or assimilated by a god. The latter hardly ever happened, as it meant that the mortal conciousness remained intact, even when it's individuality was destroyed. Gods who habitually assimilated mortals, frequently enjoyed insanity before being destroyed by other gods. The questions themselves were, for the most part, inconsequential and often received answers equally so.

But Zero understood the intent behind this question, even if the mortal did not. He instantly recognised the challenge issued by the subject of his studies. There was no doubt, all the signs were present: Nine-nine-three-seven-two was being used as a conduit for communication.

The Universe, choosing to make contact in this manner, confirmed Zero's hypothesis. It was indeed more than just a collection of planets, solar systems, galaxies and nebulae. It confirmed beyond doubt, that The Universe was a living entity, having will, intent and more importantly; Intelligence.

During the time a mortal would consider a second, Zero calmly evaluated his options. Ignoring the challenge would be foolishly-rude, as another opportunity to conduct this research might not present itself. Responding immediately though, was thoroughly impossible. Zero heard the words of the question, but knew the meaning to be:

Understanding remains impossible until all terms are properly defined.
Research emotion and gain proper definition in order to proceed with communication.

The message was brutally simple, the task was not. For the first time in his existence, Zero experienced not being the one dictating terms. He calmly analyzed, categorized and dealt with the sensation. Labeling the resulting conclusions as incomplete, requiring further study when more data became available.

Before bringing his attention back to the mortal and his question, Zero quickly went over his prior research regarding emotion. An action meant to check and verify his previous conclusion, that it was a force generated by mortals. Satisfied that his initial research was correctly conducted and concluded, he now turned to new avenues of investigation. The question itself alluded to the avenue he suspected he'd have to take: "Have you ever experienced love?" is, if nothing else, a direct question. The problem being, that experiencing any emotion, according to his research, would require one to be mortal. A state Zero wished to avoid at all possible cost. There simply was not enough time during a mortal life-span, to conduct any worthy amount of research. The complete lack of guaranteed return to an immortal state, was an obvious concern as well. So, he resorted to something he seldom did, he relaxed and allowed his mind to present potential answers.

With the speed that would instantly kill any mortal, his mind flooded with potential solutions. Each individually assessed, weighed, analyzed and considered, until presenting the only possible course of action, negating all risks and providing maximised potential for success.

Zero turned his gaze to Nine-nine-three-seven-two and delivered the only answer that would fit all possibilities, presented by the question:

"No I have not, but We will."


He heard the answer, it puzzled him for a moment, before he raised his head and looked upon his god in complete disbelief. Comprehension seeped into exposed recesses of his primitive mind, almost infantile compared to the mind so brazenly displayed by Zero.

Somewhere in a meditation tea-room, the body of a man once known as Hiro'o slumped to the floor. A final spasm of breath left it's lips before it became completely still, the last physical testament to the existence of a person. Having served its owner for near a thousand years, it now lay discarded like a cheap toy.

Nine-nine-three-seven-two was dimly aware of the event in that tea-room, he simply did not care, the body was useless to him. Elated beyond his wildest dreams, he recognised this was not death, it was not life as he understood it either, but it was most certainly not death. The link grew stronger, and he could feel his mind forming connections to the superior being he once called God. With every link, he knew more and lost more. Loosing his individuality did not concern him though. The sensation resembled falling asleep while your mind remains active, that state right before you surrender to dreams, while planning for tomorrow's battle.

"It does Balance!", he thought to himself, feeling utterly validated.

With that last thought, Nine-nine-three-seven-two ceased to exist. His mind and conciousness now part of Zero, he could no longer comprehend functioning alone. Zero was Nine-nine-three-seven-two was Hiro'o, the three identities eternally melded into one.


Zero completed the assimilation, without so much as a thought. He did not even note the exultant buzz emanating from the mind he now made part of his own. Not even the eon of memories flowing from it, managed to stir anything other than careful examination, analysis and storage of those new memories.

He instantly began his experimentation. Knowing the first step would be to connect to a mortal, in a manner enabling him to fully share sensory data, as experienced by the mortal. Carefully, he sent a sliver of power through the peoples of Tunap, the world he wrestled away from it's previous 5 gods.

His first attempt was a young woman, she was busy washing clothes at the side of a river. Probing for her mind he took utmost care not to damage the delicate threads that attached it to the person it belonged to. Even with such care, the moment he attempted the connection, she uttered a single high-pitched scream before slumping face down in the river, dead.

Puzzled by the failure, he made two more attempts on the inhabitants of Tunap, before concluding that his very proximity to the world, caused a problem. Realizing there was simply not enough distance between himself and an experimental subject on Tunap, to safeguard the subject against his raw power, Zero was forced to turn his attention to mortals on other worlds.

This presented Zero with a rather interesting conundrum. He had no wish to start a war for another world, simply to gain access to a single mortal, at sufficient distance for the experiment. So he started looking for a world where mortals existed, but had no gods present. He had to be careful, making sure to do his observations from far enough, so as not to alert any existing gods to his presence. This search consumed nearly all of his attention for the next century. Leading him to conclude, that worlds where mortals existed, either had the birth of their gods happen at the time of the world's creation, or the gods were responsible for the creation of the world. This observation was based on his complete failure to find even a single world, having mortals, but no gods.

For the first time in his existence, Zero experienced frustration. He did not know what it was, nor did he understand where it came from. But he diligently examined the sensation, analysed and catalogued it. Then shelved the result as inconclusive, needing more investigation when more data became available.

That little exercise, cost him the better part of two decades.

Convinced he had thoroughly exhausted any possibility of finding a world fitting his criteria, Zero started experimenting with ways to connect with a mortal, on a world with active gods, without alerting them to his actions.

His first attempt, involved the emanation of his own energies, at a world one galaxy over from Tunap's. Taking care to emit just enough power to attempt the connection, Zero approached the world with a sliver of singularly directed attention. It was this focused approach, that prevented him noting the gods of that world being aware of his attempt. Thus, long before he could single out a mortal to connect too, Zero was hit with a blast of power so intense, it sent him reeling back to Tunap, causing all manner of catastrophes on that unsuspecting world.

The mortals of Tunap were a secondary concern for Zero. Their importance to him, measured as a source of sustenance only. Their offerings to him doubled and tripled over the next century, keeping him well fed, but not doing much for the mortals of that sad world, effectively abandoned by it's one remaining god.

Zero on the other hand, suffered something he never experienced before; Pain. He knew it's cause, but not the sensation. He spent the next decade in the godly equivalent of delirium, repairing and recovering from it. The trauma of that event caused the surfacing of a memory, one where his face was wet. Examining the memory, he realized the wetness was tears, and proceeded to do something he had never done before, he cried.

Tunap suffered the consequences of ever one of Zero's sobs. Earthquakes, floods, drought, all the result of a wayward god, hurt in ways he never thought possible.

Eventually, Zero managed to gather enough sense to make another two attempts. These failed as catastrophically as the first, but the pain was not quite as severe as the first. Analyzing this, Zero concluded that the pain was being filtered somehow, he spent a year or so trying to discover the mechanism through which the filtering took place, but he never concluded that research. Noting a growing weakness in himself, he was forced to admit that he felt ... hungry.

At this point, Zero realized he was not receiving the regular offerings he became accustomed to from mortals of Tunap. After more than two centuries of neglect and suffering, those mortals believed their god dead. Zero was forced to spend the next few decades, paying attention to their needs and re-establishing himself as a living god on Tunap.

During this time, he had to communicate with these mortals much like he did with Nine-nine-three-seven-two. Zero noticed a change in himself, he was listening to these mortals, attempting to understand existence from their perspective. Tedious though it was, he learned the importance things like grain, cheese and mead held for them. He also noted, that emotions streaming from mortals, were very perceivable. The electro-magnetic emissions of a mortal emotion, could be detected at immense distances. With this new information, Zero started studying the mortals of Tunap with great interest. He analysed and catalog the entire spectrum of emotional emissions from these mortals. Within five years, he could tell the difference between emissions from a wronged lover and a hungry child. A decade later, he carried full knowledge of the emissions caused by every conceivable physical and emotional state, of every living mortal on Tunap.

Things changed dramatically for Tunap. The world began to pulse with a drive for knowledge. Schools and Universities appeared over night, as Zero instilled his own desire for knowledge on his people. Within a single generation, Tunap turned from an Iron age world, into a civilization making it's first tentative steps towards industrial revolution.

With Tunap back under control, Zero returned his attention to experiencing emotion through connection with a mortal. A singular stroke of genius occurred to him then: If he could detect emotional emissions from mortals, he should be able to use that same electro-magnetic conduit, to make a permanent, if indirect connection to a mortal. In laymen's terms, it meant that he would have to allow the connection to originate from the mortal, effectively allowing the mortal to establish an emotional connection to him. So, rather than forcing himself upon a mortal, he'd be opening himself to sensations from a mortal. Thus, without realising it, Zero made his first tentative steps towards a capacity for compassion. He also, unwittingly, solved the problem of being detected by the gods of another world. Seeing as he'd not be invading another realm with his own power, but simply allowing an existing channel to persist. He knew he'd have to wait for a mortal from another realm, to experience a particularly powerful emotion, before being able to establish such a link. But his experience and research on Tunap, led him to believe that such events were not infrequent.

As it turns out, he was absolutely correct.


Date: 23 Scarlaten, 303 years after the fall of the Seleucarian Empire.

Athelas was running, he did not care where his feet took him, he did not care that his lungs were on fire, he did not care that his right arm was bleeding. Tears were freely streaming down his face. The only thought left in his young mind, was the immediate need to get out of Ashtan and leave the pain behind.

He watched his mother die last night, in a coughing fit that had her spitting dark fluids into a cloth. He saw his father being beaten to death by an angry dept-collector this morning, and his brother was just hanged for stealing a loaf of bread. The feet of this five year old, driven by inhumane anguish, ran right passed city guards of the southern gate, allowing him to escape the attentions of Occultests, who would surely have been attracted by the news of a new orphan in the city.

Not a single person took note when his feet carried him past that busy intersection, south of Ashtan and north of Thera. Nor did any of the residents of Thera, show a thread of concern for a crying boy, running wild through their town.

Exhausted, Athelas continued to run, even when the roads gave way to footpaths into a forest. He ran until his body rebelled and forced him to stop amidst dense trees, where the only audible sound was the beating of his own heart. His body completed it's betrayal as his legs collapsed beneath him. Leaving him with no more than the ability to scream a sound of utter despair, collected from the darkest pits of his soul and disgorged at the night sky. With the last sob escaping that battered body, it fell unconscious to the forest floor.

Local wildlife watched curiously as this little human expelled every ounce of emotion his mind and body could no longer deal with. Even after it dropped to the ground, it would spasm and contract in angry fits every few minutes. As the night grew full and the constellations of Sapience rose to their full hight, the little body became still and finally rested.


Zero felt it, he realized the source to be at the very edge of his sensory abilities, which served to impress upon him just how powerful that emotional burst must have been. So he allowed it to wash over him and gently followed the emissions to it's origins. Where he embraced the pain and began sharing in the harsh realities of a lonely 5 year old.


Date: 15 Ero, 324 years after the fall of the Seleucarian Empire.

They were enjoying the warmth of an early summer in the Black Forest. Athelas, holding her hand, knew that he has never before been this content.

"Are you blind?", she asked innocently.

Athelas could not keep count of how many times people asked him that question.

"No.", he replied as succinctly as he could, without sounding dismissive.

He knew it was wrong of him to react this way, it was just irritating to have to answer the same question over and over again, especially once it came from her.

"But they are completely black.", she continued.

"Yes.", he answered, barely able to hide his irritation.

"But why?", she pressed him.

Unable to contain it, Athelas stood and walked away a few paces, then turned and locked eyes with her.

"Look, " he said with a hint of irritation: "I honestly have no idea why my eyes are black. I honestly have no idea why I don't have visible irises, and I really don't know why people insist they can see starts in my eyes."

He thought about stopping there but his irritation wouldn't let him: "I do know, that I can see perfectly well. I'm not troubled by identifying colour as some are, and no; I can't see in the dark like a Dwarf. Can we please change the subject now?", he finished with an almost pleading tone.

Druanya was taken aback by this sudden show of frustration from Athelas, he was normally such a level headed man, a bit taken to daydreaming from time to time, with an insatiable hunger for knowledge, he spent almost as much time with her as he did reading and writing. Not an unattractive human either, just those eyes ... Utterly black, they seemed deep, far away, as if leading to a completely different world.