Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been
“You can’t prove I’m not you. You can’t even prove you are yourself.”
The taunting voice was like a physical presence deep inside Vis’s mind. The pressure was unbearable; he felt it like a lead weight pushing his head forward, down, looking into the vortex below.
“My name is Vis Deimos. Demosthenes. I am loyal servant of the true Xenophanes, the Ancient Sage. I am being tortured by his enemies and my own. I will not lose myself. I will not allow you to deceive me.” He wished he believed his words, but they came out half-hearted. Time had passed oddly in this realm, but he knew he had been here years. Decades, perhaps.
“No, you are just a physical vessel for us to play with, my friend. Like your Sage mentor before you, you are nothing more than…a vase. For our pretty flowers.”
Every day he had been here someone new had come. This recent creature was bent on taunting him into some kind of damnation or, perhaps he just enjoyed taunting.
The ones before…well, each had been different, yet the same. Each held the face of his master and Mentor, the Sage Xenophanes. The man who had imprisoned him here.
“It was for my own good. My soul was slipping into damnation and he saved me.” Vis said, desperate.
“Oh, you don’t really believe that do you? I mean, just look around. Look at this place! Look down, for Ioun’s sake!” The voice was full of mirth and it made Vis want to kill. He could not. He was bound in body as well as mind by strange tentacled shadow about his body.
They had first appeared when he felt himself pulled into this realm. One moment he had been upon the world of mortals a fey step away from killing his enemy. The next…here. In chains of shadows and mind. The Far Realm.
The taunting had begun mere seconds into his time. A creature wearing the face of Xenophanes, but in all the wrong clothing, had walked right up and spat in his face.
“You are pathetic!” it screamed, raging against him.
“You are worthless and you will spend eternity understanding just what low scum you truly have become!”
The voice, the person, the entity, it had gone on for days and days in new faces and guises, but always the same.
He was trapped here, forever, they said.
Xenophanes had betrayed him, they said.
Xenophanes was not real. He was never real. He was an incarnation of the Far Realm pushed forth into a borrowed body, just like Vis. Just like whoever would come next.
“You only think you are real, my friend. In fact, you are simply the dream of some borrowed fancy. You are the stuff of nightmares made whole.”
A bard carrying wicked knives and a songsword had sung him a tale of woe.
We take what we want when we can get
We get what we take and you forget
Forget your mind, your body and soul
So long, farewell, you’re no one you know
You’re no one you know, you’re know one you know
You’re no one I know
The creature, the manifestation of the Far Realm, it claimed that Xenophanes himself was not real, but a shadow of a more ancient sage upon the realm. The Manifestation said that Xenophanes was a dream of Simon, a dream of that powerful wizard, a dream of the way things might have been in a different light.
A dream of the man who broke the world made manifest with the stuff of nightmares. Feeding, feeding from bodies and souls and sacrificing it all for one goal: continuing destruction of the world.
But that couldn’t be true. Xenophanes was a real man. Vis remembered being tutored. He remembered the dark rituals that the Sage had begun to enact and he remembered the assassination attempt that led to Xenophanes being trapped in this Far Realm. He remembered.
“Or were those memories created, just like your image of your mentor? How long have you been here? Where did you come from? Where have you been!”
The voice laughed again, chaotic and wavering like an echo down a twisted well.
Time would tell, he knew. Xenophanes would save him. He would be rescued. He would be free.
“Oh, you will be free, my friend. But when you go we come with you. All the creatures dreamt up in this place by Simon, by your master, by others, we will inhabit the body and you get…nothing. Even now your mentor is on the road to personal destruction and when he leaves that body, when he gives it up for undeath, we will strike. The Thousand Faces of the Far Realm will echo across the world.”
The laughter made him sick.
He looked down, into the vortex, into the distorted imagery of the world he had left behind. Staring back where a thousand faces all the same, all different, each his own imposed upon Xenophanes, each with a different purpose.
Vis could no longer remember which one belonged to him.