Wellspring of Creation — Chapter XI.

OmniLore Art Book Stories
13 min readMar 16


Easing his hand from the symbols on the wall, Isaac breathed deeply, taking in his surroundings. The fire behind him burned low beneath the crescent moon, the two light sources working in tandem to make the shadows dance in the courtyard. The cool night breeze whispering between the many passageways, gave them voice, brought them to life.

It would have been an intriguing sight had it not been for the sense Isaac now had. The sense of being atop some great Leviathan, cradled within its vast and reaching tendrils. The passageways called to him through the stone, beckoning him into the dark hallows of Val Echoes.

From the soles of his feet, a hollow shiver travelled upward as though he could no longer trust the ground beneath him. As though at any moment it may rise up like the parting sea across the back of a mighty whale. Did he trust the calls of such a creature? He hesitated, frozen at the thought of moving nearer to it. The feeling was not for any malice he had sensed therein, but for the difference in scale; as an ant may fear a mountain, if only it could comprehend its size. But despite his dread, something at Isaac’s core needed to know what summoned him, needed to understand this place.

He steeled himself against the sense of quashed insignificance that he now experienced, trying to take the reins from his fear. Knowing he was about to venture away from the light, towards the ambiguous center of what he felt. So with one last glance at the fire, into darkness he went, the dim light from the sliver of moon not quite enough to light his way into the passage.

Isaac moved beyond the explored corridors into the twisting maze of streets. Though he believed this place to be safe, darkness seeded doubt even in the surest of minds. But as he plodded slowly through the night, he recalled the gift given to him earlier by Kiem and from his garbs drew the dagger cast of sunlight. The light it gave off was just enough to reveal the area around him. At first, the streets looked like all the others. Stone and rubble, small defects and damage healed by whatever force lay beneath its surface. But major wounds remained. Why? Although Val Echoes appeared to be able to reconstitute itself from shifting pieces that moved over the millennia, clearly it could not return fallen stones to their rightful place. Perhaps that was the purpose of the many wanderers led here — to revive this dormant city, return it to what it once was. A place where humanity and omnimorphs could congregate.

Stepping closer to where a wall stood missing its middle, Isaac held up the glowing dagger and peered through the hole. Beneath its surface new growth wove its way through the structure, bursting forth from the long dead husks of roots or vines, emanating from the direction he now travelled. Astonished, he pondered the many buildings throughout the city wondering if each contained these dormant remains, newly revived.

Continuing on, the reclamation became more visible, the walls of Val Echoes slowly filling with beautiful and exotic foliage. Strange flowers blossomed on the walls, moving and following the light from his dagger and reflecting back their own unique glow. The sense he had in the courtyard was palpable now. Even without contact with the walls, he could feel that something lay ahead, the source of this rapidly expanding life. The halls he now walked through were an unrecognizable jungle, the air a thick perfume of novel scents; a scene more akin to the garden by the entrance.

He traveled for what felt like an hour, now sensing he was close to his destination. As if confirming his suspicions, a looming shadow rose up above the plant-covered edifices. A towering cliff, barely visible through night which functioned as the back wall of the city, its craggy surface stretching out beyond sight in either direction.

His brow furrowed, uncertain if perhaps the being he had sensed back in the courtyard lay beyond this massive obstacle. Pondering how he may traverse its towering face, he stopped dead. The presence of a light interrupting his thoughts. No more than fifty feet ahead of him in the opening between the passage’s end and the cliff, he could see the faint flickering of a torch reflecting off an ominous mural carved into the obsidian cliffside, its details obscured by thick vegetation. Isaac’s brow furrowed, surprised by the presence of someone else. He thought the rest of the group had turned in for the night, could it be the omnimorph? Doubtful. Somehow, he suspected they had no need for torches.

But then who?

Crouching low and concealing the light from his blade, Isaac crept to the edge of the last building, using it to conceal himself. From around the corner he could see a hooded figure clad in white robes kneeling down by the cliff’s base. His feet upon the dirt floor made not a sound as he slunk closer, his mind returning to Barlow’s lessons on stalking deer. Consciously placing each foot, keeping to the shadows, slowing his breath. He could see the fast-moving hands of the person as he approached, their calculated precision and focus touching on a memory he couldn’t quite place. There were metallic instruments laid out in front of an open bag. But what they were being used for, he couldn’t tell. Closer now, he tried to get a better angle, heart pounding as he felt their torchlight on his face.

He could see more now. They were disassembling a long rod used to bore into the cliff and stranger still were the results, a bright gold liquid seeped from the narrow cavity. It shone with a strange and shifting light, as though it cast a shadow upon itself, obscuring its own shape and texture. Mesmerized, he wondered at both its source and its nature. Had they tapped into some strange ore? Perhaps a golden mercury? That seemed…plausible. But the qualities it possessed were unnatural…or perhaps just of a nature other than our own.

The person now used a small vial to capture the viscous fluid, carefully capping it and turning to store it in their bag. But as they did, the hood fell back just enough to reveal a distinctive profile, bringing Isaac into the peripheries of their vision. Slowly, a single emerald eye turned to stare directly at him. Those eyes that caught everything. Dresda’s.

A sense of relief at the familiar face and a sinking panic overtook Isaac as she watched him, unknowable thoughts rising like a storm behind her stilled gaze. A quiet turbulence that struck him like it had during their first encounter. Was it still fear, as he believed she had expressed in their first encounter? Or defensiveness at being snuck up on in the night? It would be understandable, but it felt like something else…anger? No, something more visceral. But once again, before he could sift through the storm, whatever he glimpsed in her eyes whisked itself deep beneath the surface, leaving a placid reticence that seemed confused by his presence.

“You startled me.” She sighed, seeming to relax a bit, perhaps now that she recognized him.

“What are you doing out here?”

She seized the words before he could use them and he couldn’t help but wonder if they carried a certain coyness, a misdirection? But he had to concede. From her perspective, turning around to find him waiting in the darkness was unusual.

“Sorry” He replied. “I didn’t recognize you. I was trying to see what you were working on.”

“Right,” she said with a bit of brashness. “But why are you out here?”

Before his eyes, he found himself in the position she had just been, the target of suspicion; the tables entirely turned. Frustrated, he fumbled for an answer. Having not expected to find anyone out here, he now realized how difficult it was to explain his motivations.

“I…” He began, realizing that nothing he was about to say would make sense. “I felt something. It’s difficult to explain…like something was living out here.”

Half expecting her to scoff at his explanation, she instead paused and gave him an inquisitive look. Seeing the opening, he took the opportunity to pry into her own motives and returned the question.

Without hesitation, she responded. “I was following the plants. Trying to find the source of their growth.” Then turning her attention back to the cliff for a moment. “I think this is it.”

Feeling a little foolish for his misgivings, Isaac recalled her keen interest in the garden, how she had disappeared at the end of the night. Now following her gaze to the rockface, he tried to make sense of what she was saying. This? The source? Approaching the cliff, he examined it with more care. Through the thick greenery on its surface, he saw deep crevices in the rock, noticing it held a familiar pattern. What was it? His mind struggled to place it and it took him a moment to realize why. This looked like bark, made not of wood but of obsidian.

The closer he looked, the more he began to see. Within the deep ruts and crevices of its jagged and rippling surface, he saw a faint, barely visible glow, one of deep purples and indigos. Colours that pulsed rhythmically, like a slow deep breath. Was it…alive? Slowly, he reached toward it, against it, and without warning through it. Without hesitation he continued forward, oddity and intrigue shuttering any fear he may have felt. He realized his fear had withered a little more with each new experience.

Drifting into the black surface, he felt weightless. Inside it, the purples and indigos became richer, taking on hues he had never seen, creating the backdrop to a space filled with lights. All around him luminous flecks floated through the great expanse, like stars through the night sky. Many ran in long beaded strands, like vertical columns stretching into darkness.

Admiring the strange spectacle, he turned to look from where he had come and was surprised to see himself. Still standing at the cliff, eyes black as the runes upon his arms, hand pressed against the rock surface. Entranced.

Dresda stood beside him, watching with uncertain horror. He should panic, thrash and struggle to get back, writhe in existential dread. Anything. But he had no need. His mind was still and expansive here and for the moment the image gave him no more cause for concern than the memory of a dream. Although unable to articulate what, Isaac knew there were more important matters at hand.

Eyes searching the endless realm, he saw deep within this place the source of the lights, a glowing core that burned like the sun. Thin whisps of light reached for him, wrapping like tendrils through his fingers and up his arm, finding a home in the symbols. It lent its luminance to him, its vision, and he could see it clearly now. It was not a cliff, but the remnants of a truly colossal tree. One whose leaves would have scraped the clouds. Its vertical glory long since severed, either by some cumulative or otherwise unimaginable force, reducing it to the structure he now saw. Beneath its stump, adorned with carvings by those who once lived in the city, roots stretched out into the desert…perhaps beyond it. But this description was a simplification. In some ways it was less a tree than a place. A bridge. Its roots could be felt stretching, not merely down through the earth but breaching something else, something beyond perception. It was drawing energy from something.

Into the darkening depths he went, not wanting but needing to understand this force. Intuition told him this was where he needed to be, something below him resonated with an element of his own being. The omnimorph’s words echoed in his mind that here in Val Echoes he would reconnect with his deepest roots.

Down, down, down its tendrils stretched and as Isaac followed the environment began to change. Its transcendent roots moving beyond this physical plane, traversing incomprehensible dimensions, like layers of soil. Worlds on top of worlds sped by him, each one seeming more convoluted than the last, leaving his mind struggling to make sense of realities not his own.

As the light around him faded, so too did any semblance of structure in what surrounded him, leaving only the chaos of weaving energies, the foundation of what lay above. And beneath that — silence. Yet a single bright root descended still, the only light now visible in a vast ocean of infinity. What was left? What lay beyond infinity? Beyond reality? His mind grasped uselessly at concepts it was not designed to understand, trying to imagine the incomprehensible. But gradually he let his thoughts fall silent. They were of no benefit to him here.

Illustration by Dániel Taylor

Like taking measure of a dream, time here seemed fluid, so how long Isaac sank was impossible to say. But finally, beneath it all he could see an object. Isaac’s mind wrestled with a space both empty and full, simple and complex. A roiling storm of creation and a placid sea of stillness. In it, his reflection rose to meet him and he was no longer certain which he was. He felt a duality of self, as his mind expanded to fill both spaces. Was he himself or his reflection? Had he been sinking or rising? Had he found the bottom of reality or did he stand above everything contained within?

Perhaps it was both.

This, he knew, was the well spring of creation, the beating heart of our universe. And as he gazed into its surface, he saw an eternity of possibilities reflected back at him. Like a thousand experiences lived at once, he witnessed the many lives he was connected to. He could see the threads, frayed and torn where his parents’ lives had ended. His friend Yari, with a heart that longed for freedom, spared from demise. The many lives of those he had met in his travels at Barlow’s side, his connection to them growing fainter.

He could see Dresda, her dichotic nature clearer now, a soul torn between two fates, but what they may be was obscured. Glimpses of the future flashed before him, the intricate webs of destiny tying him to people he had yet to meet. A one-eyed king. A medicine woman. A painter. All unfamiliar. But from the depths, a scene rose up. He stood above a ruin in a distant land, beneath him a brutal battle was underway amidst a raging storm. A lone warrior, grizzled and bloody, fought a hoard of men with tainted hearts. He roared in defiance, a wild animal cornered, covered in filth and blood not his own.

From behind the band of would-be attackers, a monster strode. A man whose soul was black as sin. His twisted form hidden by cloak and hood, thick hands grasping a weapon like no other; a warhammer as strange and dark and its wielder. A terrible sound erupted from him, something inhuman…a sound not of our world. And for the first time the warrior stepped back, weapon raised but understanding what would come next. With a single blow, the monster lashed out, shattering the warrior’s axe like glass as the great hammer carried through to crush his chest. The world seemed to slow as the stricken man plunged backward into the rain-soaked earth and as he did, Isaac saw his face.

It was Barlow.

Unable to look away, terror drenched Isaac’s soul and the moment fractured into a thousand possibilities with only one certainty. If Barlow stood a chance, Isaac had to find him — now.

Tearing himself from the foundation of this world, Isaac was thrown back into his body. Stumbling backward, he landed hard on the ground, his disoriented mind reconnecting with the world around him. One thought rising above all the rest: find Barlow.

Dresda stood beside him, watching in astonishment as he regained consciousness. How long he had been gone for he didn’t know. Didn’t care. Everything else had to wait. Her eyes were ablaze. She was saying something, maybe shouting it. He couldn’t be sure.

Her mouth moved forming the words “What happened?!”

But he heard nothing. Had no time to answer.

Before he realized he was moving, he had torn off down the passageways, a second set of footsteps right behind him. He needed to find the omnimorph. Needed a way out of here.

Heels smashing against the stone steps, he refused to give into his pounding heart and burning muscles. But he couldn’t stop, wouldn’t stop. And he felt stronger, fuller, energy seemed to pour through him from an unseen source, his senses picking up every detail around him. Something within him had changed…or was changing.

Squeezing his way into the garden, Isaac gasped for air. Dresda was just moments behind him. He was relieved to find the omnimorph had once against taken its place among the greenery. It seemed to be waiting, sensing his arrival.

“My friend…he…needs…help.” Isaac said through gulps of air. “I have to leave…now!”

But if it heard his plea, it gave no indication.

“You feel it…” The omnimorph began. “You have begun to change.” Its voice like a warm breeze.

“Yes, but I don’t have time for this!” Isaac seethed, a single-minded concern drowning out all else.

But it continued anyway. “You have touched the foundation of this reality. The wellspring of creation. Your relationship to this world has started to change. The boundary between you and the energies of this world is breaking down. The more you use your abilities, the faster it will dissolve.”

Isaac recalled his first day here, remembering its words. Somehow it knew Isaac would find his way to the ancient tree. It understood what was changing in him, what it meant, what he would need to do. Desperately he wanted to ask it, to learn more, to stay here and understand. But he feared what might happen to Barlow if he did.

Sensing Isaac’s struggle, the omnimorph retrieved an object no larger than the palm of his hand from its cloak and extended it to Isaac. It was a roughly cut gemstone, nearly transparent, its many internal facets reflecting and focusing light at strange angles. At its very center was darkness.

As the omnimorph explained, Isaac and Dresda stared at the object that sat on its hand like a pitch-black pearl, seeming to bend the many refracted beams around it like a vortex.

Choices: Which path did Isaac take?

Voting has ended.



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