Author’s note: The following is an attempt to provide an explanation for a proclaimed absence on the part of my main character on World Of Warcraft. Like all of my stories that touch upon World Of Warcraft, it is simply Kronisk‘s mythology explained in a World Of Warcraft setting.
Let us begin…
King Varian Wrynn was a very large man, in more ways than one. Many had tried, and failed, to kill him. Every one of these failures, regardless of their source, was reflected in the way he moved and spoke, even in his palace. Having command of hundreds of thousands of soldiers, and the power to direct them against anyone he wished made the vast majority of heroes and mercenaries of the world cautious in addressing him.
That is, all but Kronisk. When he was on Azeroth, Kronisk assumed a fairly sizeable form, himself. He was smaller than King Wrynn, but next to Corrigwen, he still seemed incredibly tall. Watching the two Humans stare across the room at one another, Corrigwen struggled for a moment to find suitable words to break the silence. She and Kronisk had already witnessed a tense moment in King Wrynn‘s war room.
Prince Anduin Wrynn was missing. That was the salient point that Corrigwen overheard from the war room, and Kronisk read in the rapid-fire thoughts of Varian. Now, as the King sat in his throne with Chronormu at one side and soldiers all around, he looked down at Kronisk and Corrigwen.
“I do not like you,” Varian Wrynn said, more to Kronisk than Corrigwen. Nodding towards Chronormu, he continued, “But this Mage tells me that sending you to find my son will assure his safety.”
Standing at one side of the throne room was Chronormu, a representative of the Bronze Dragonflight. Her insight into the future of living folk was probably the main reason she was here. It also indicated how affected the King was by the disappearance of his son.
Kronisk shuffled uncomfortably on his feet for a moment. Corrigwen had noticed him do this before. In a second flat, he would shift his weight from one foot to the other and back several times. It was a reflex action, a nervous movement that Kronisk often performed when he was deliberating exactly what to say.
“I know not why Lady Chronormu has told you tales of me,” Kronisk said to the King. “I am just one Mage, little different from any other -“
“Do not bullshit me, Mister Kronisk,” King Wrynn said curtly. “You know why I have mobilised most of my army and sent it to an unknown land. You heard enough of my earlier discussions with my staff. My son is missing, and I want him back regardless of the cost.”
“I was not specific,” Chronormu piped up. “But I told the King you have great ways to find people.”
Kronisk sighed for a moment. Corrigwen knew not whether to wince when she saw King Wrynn react with uneasy surprise.
“I will tell you two things,” Kronisk said to Varian. “First of all, I know as surely as I stand before you that Prince Anduin will be found alive and well. Please do not ask me how I know this. Just accept my assurances that this is a fact in the same sense that night follows day.”
Baffled, Varian Wrynn stumbled back slightly, and quickly sat down in his throne. From the look on his face, Corrigwen knew that he had just experienced the same sensation that she had felt when setting foot on Kali-Yuga for the first time.
Nobody knew quite in rigid terms how far Outland was from Azeroth. Even Kronisk could not be completely sure. He did, however, know quite how far from Azeroth his normal world of residence was. Kali-Yuga, the peculiar planet on which Kronisk made his home and served as a police force of sorts, was quite a distance from Azeroth. Kronisk had told a number of people, including Corrigwen, about a unit of distance called the light year. The light year, he had explained, was a measurement corresponding to how far light would travel in a single year. This distance, a bit less than nine and a half million kilometres, multiplied by ten, was the distance between Azeroth and Kali-Yuga. Even if Azerothian engineers could find a way to sustainably travel at the speed of light, it would take ten years to reach Kali-Yuga.
Kronisk had also told Corrigwen that at times, living things radiate a sensation based on the distance between themselves and the place of their birth. It was a very early adaptation, one based on the ideal that people would help a stranger in need. Unfortunately, since it was never really possible for early Humanoids to be more than tens of thousands of kilometres from their home, this reflex did not develop well. Not only did the sender of the signal have to be impossibly far from their home to send a strong enough signal, the recipient also needed to be unusually intelligent to understand what the signal was.
King Varian Wrynn was not nearly as intelligent as Kronisk, but that was like saying a Gnome was not nearly as big as a Dwarf. It was an unfair comparison. Corrigwen knew that Kronisk had already lived many times the span of a normal Human life, and thus was at quite an advantage where knowledge was concerned.
Varian regarded the pair of heroes before him with great curiosity and puzzlement. The Dwarvish woman before him, Corrigwen, seemed to be simply another Dwarf woman from around Ironforge. Judging from her body language and her manner of addressing the tall, heavyset Human man at her side, the two were of great importance to one another. Varian saw adventurers, or mercenaries as many of his advisers referred to them, in his chambers all day. Less experienced ones had tidings of the annoying goings-on in Westfall to report. More experienced adventurers reported the slayings of exotic and, in some cases strategically important, enemies. These two were different. Whilst the impressively mean-sounding Human did the lion’s share of the speaking, both came with interesting tidings from magical creatures not only from Azeroth but from other worlds. Tidings that helped a great deal in developing new things.
Yet Varian could not help disliking this Human Mage at least somewhat. The dreadful sense of unease that Kronisk brought was not something a King should be feeling. It was as if this Human was funnelling upset into his mind.
Given the present circumstances, that sensation was something Varian Wrynn could do without.
“You tell me many portentious things about the world that not even the Kirin Tor would know,” Varian said to Kronisk. “You tell me things that only make sense to me after they happen. You tell me things that I hope I, or someone who follows me, will prevent. And you always tell me these things in future tense. My son is the most important thing in all of the known worlds to me. You tell me I will definitely find him, safe and sound, as if I should not bother to search for him.”
“Oh, you should bother to search for him,” Kronisk told Varian quickly. “A father with your resources who would not do so is not any kind of father at all.”
Again, both Corrigwen and Varian felt a sensation radiate from Kronisk that Varian did not understand, and Corrigwen wished she did not. Kronisk hated what he referred to as his male parental unit. Utterly hated him, with the force of ten thousand Arcane Blasts.
“But know this,” Kronisk said to Varian. “Your son is no longer a child. Where you will find him, he will have insights into its people and its nature that even your most powerful advisors will miss. Trust in these insights, and the future of your Kingdom will be a bright one.”
Varian sat in his throne, dumbfounded. It was as if Kronisk had, to use an expression from Kali-Yuga, told him the results of every football contest for the next fifty years.
“If ye want the search for Anduin to go quickly, then I suggest ye give us leave to go find him,” Corrigwen suggested after an awkward pause. “A few more sets of eyes looking can make all the difference.”
Varian signalled to Kronisk and Corrigwen that they were free to leave as they wished. As they made their way toward the palace’s front doors, Corrigwen took a mirror from her pocket and held it before her face. In the corner, she could see Chronormu move out in front of Varian Wrynn and begin speaking to him.
To hear what that impish Gnome lady was telling the King of Stormwind now, Corrigwen would gladly pay a hefty price.
The airship ride from Stormwind to Pandaria was largely uneventful. Kronisk spent most of the trip below deck, eating, gripping a table, and occasionally wincing when the ship suddenly moved in a more jerky fashion. He only went above the deck once, in order to look and see what could be seen from there. The answer was cloud formations, and varying amounts of them. Corrigwen took one look at them, shrugged her shoulders, and later told Kronisk that cloud formations were hardly new or interesting to the average resident of Kharanos. It was almost like buses and trains to the average resident of this place he told her he had been born in.
Pandaria, however, was unlike anything either of them had seen. The difference was not clear right away, however. The first few missions that they performed in this new continent were unremarkable, even routine. Kill a bunch of enemies, destroy a few machines of war, meet an ally in this location. It was nearly as automatic as breathing.
But what happened at the conclusion of the first lot of missions was another matter entirely. It started during the missions. After landing on Pandarian soil and engaging the Horde, Corrigwen became aware that rather than concentrating on attacking the Horde’s infantry and machinery, Kronisk was too busy concentrating on protecting her from the return fire.
This annoyed Corrigwen. In times past, she had felt reduced to a spectator in battle. This was especially the case during visits to Kali-Yuga. However, it was understandable there. Although the peoples of Kali-Yuga practised tolerance of the unusual, their reaction to the powers of a Warlock might break that rule. Not to mention that Fel magic did not travel well from Azeroth to Kali-Yuga.
But as Corrigwen watched the massive torrents of bullets go back and forth, she was also a little grateful that Kronisk had taken it upon himself to absorb them.
Kronisk had many powers that the people of Azeroth did not understand, and in combat situations, he had no scruples about using them. One such power was to suck up all of the excess emotional energy that people generated. In cases such as Varian Wrynn‘s reaction to the promise that Anduin would be found well and fine so long as Varian did not deviate one iota from his plans at the time, this energy manifested as a trail of confused, vague mist. In the case of the Alliance and Horde members flinging bullets at one another, it was a syrupy mass, as black as the business attire that Kronisk wore for casual occasions.
And bending, shaping this black, syrupy mass into curves around him and Corrigwen, Kronisk vacuumed up a seemingly endless stream of bullets. Corrigwen did not see exactly where they went. They simply disappeared from the spectrum she could see whilst Kronisk shimmered violently, as if exhibiting the aliasing effect he had once told her about.
The air hung heavy with streams both of angry, offended defensive energy and the gaseous emotion of Horde warriors. Finding one Horde Warlock at the end of a pier, Corrigwen was at first dismayed when Alliance riflemen gunned down the desperate survivors from the Horde who were trying to do their best to not drown. When Rell Nightwind began to take the form of a crystallised mutation of doubt, and one of the locals came to stop this process, then she noticed Kronisk‘s strange behaviour.
In context of Kronisk, strange behaviour had a myriad of meanings. But this was something worryingly different from the usual. For one thing, as Corrigwen and Kronisk made their way through the fields of bizarre shadow-like creatures toward the Pandaren village nearby, the creatures backed out of their path. Kronisk would simply turn his gaze at them, and they would scurry out of his path, as if frightened. The other members of the Alliance did not see it, but Corrigwen and the Pandaren did.
Kronisk displayed many physical signs when he was about to do something terrible with the powers he had that were not shared by Mages of Azeroth. Corrigwen had only seen this happen once before, but it was not easily forgotten or unnoticed. Probably the most obvious sign was that some of Kronisk‘s bones would glow with black light. Corrigwen often looked upward at Kronisk. In either of the forms he naturally assumed, Corrigwen frequently got to see his rather large and powerful jaw. And in that fleeting moment, Corrigwen could see part of the bone of Kronisk‘s jaw glow through the muscle and skin over it, with an eerie black light.
Corrigwen could not understand the native Pandaren speech at all, but when they spoke to each other urgently, she knew something was wrong. Kronisk, for his part, began to stagger about as if intoxicated after listening to the Pandaren for a moment.
“Your companion appears to have been more seriously affected by the Sha than we thought,” a dark-clothed Pandaren that Corrigwen had heard being addressed as Taran said. “We must get him inside, away from others.”
And so, with a Pandaren carrying him like a sack of feathers, Kronisk was brought into one of the buildings within the village. There, he was laid out on a table. By this time, the anti-light coming from within parts of Kronisk had become harsh, and much of his body had begun to shimmer.
“I am Taran Zhu,” Taran said to Corrigwen. “Your companion should not be here. I have not seen the like of his power before, but it clearly depends on the kind of emotions that the Sha manifest.”
“It behooves me to tell you that he is not from anywhere on this world,” Corrigwen said as she gently cradled Kronisk‘s head in her hands. “Nor is he, as he appears, simply a mortal Human of middle age. I cannot be more specific than that without asking him directly. But understand that his power depends on absorbing people’s emotions.”
“This is not good,” Taran Zhu remarked. “Not good at all.”
“I must bring him back to the Human city,” Corrigwen told the Pandaren. “People there will be able to help. And the city serves as a meeting point for personnel in his company.”
In their native speech, the Pandaren around Corrigwen debated allowing the man they called Kronisk to be brought back to the Human city. After much arguing back and forth, however, Taran loudly hushed the other Pandaren, then told them in Common for Corrigwen‘s benefit that it was probably pointless. Taran knew exactly what Corrigwen meant by personnel in Kronisk‘s company. The Kronisk corporation employed a number of Azerothian Humans, Dwarrow, Gnomes, Elves, and Draenei. A small handful of those served as agents in what Kronisk sometimes called his “special branch”.
Taran had only found this out because a few Pandaren had also found their way into the corporation. Those Pandaren had confirmed Taran‘s query that Kronisk would employ people of their race, but they were quick to stress that they only told him because Kronisk had told them he wanted Taran Zhu to know.
Although most of the employees of Kronisk’s self-named corporation were simple rank-and-file members, a handful were serious agents capable of murdering and destroying things in order to accomplish the corporation’s objectives. Highest among them was a Gnome-like woman who answered to the name of Linula. Taran Zhu had engaged in many interesting conversations with these elite agents, but Linula took the cake, so to speak.
Taran Zhu knew as soon as he met her that Linula was not really a Gnome, and was not really from anywhere on Azeroth. The same reaction of intense separation from one’s native land that Varian felt in the presence of Kronisk occurred in Taran Zhu when he stood face to face with Linula. Linula was standing on a table at the time, but the same extreme sense of the ground falling out from under one’s feet had taken place. Taran Zhu had walked away from the meeting believing that he had never met a person as lonely, wicked, and angry at heart as Linula.
Then he had met Kronisk. Briefly, and without much exchange of word, but it was still a meeting.
There was a portal to the city of Stormwind in the Binan Village. Between this Dwarf woman called Corrigwen and the Dwarvish soldier that she assured Taran was on his way, they could easily Kronisk back through the portal. The real question was what would be done once this Kronisk was back where Corrigwen thought it best he be. Taran Zhu himself could not go with them, in spite of how urgent the problem might be. There was simply too much for him to attend to in Pandaria. The emergence of the Sha in so many places required him to coordinate Shado-Pan efforts there.
When Corrigwen recalled that Kronisk had already had conversations with a Pandaren lady named Xi about Pandaren culture, Taran Zhu suggested contacting her. And with that, Corrigwen, and the newly-arrived Death Knight Nøroxide, picked Kronisk up on a stretcher and carried him through the portal.
Kronisk had one house near the city of Stormwind that he kept for meetings with agents of his company, and to provide a place to rest between tasks on Azeroth. When Corrigwen brought him there, she discovered that two other agents of the Kronisk corporation were waiting. The first was a Death Knight who answered to the name of Trór. Kronisk had explained to Corrigwen that the Trór who was a Death Knight on Azeroth and the Trór who was presently still the King of Arterclius were two different Dwarrow. Not that it made a great deal of difference. Both were still rather imposing and heavy-set, even by the standards of Dwarrow.
The other agent of the corporation that Corrigwen found at Kronisk‘s “safe house” was a Paladin called Mûrni. Mûrni was a relatively lower-level agent, only designated for missions within the calmer, more placid parts of Azeroth. But her ability to heal, though rarely used, was believed to have a chance to prove useful here.
Laying Kronisk out on a sofa-bed in one room, Corrigwen and Nøroxide adjusted the tall, oddly heavy body until there was no apparent strain upon the frame and joints. Minutes passed before a Pandaren in red and gold robes came to the door. The Pandaren lady known as Xi, or Xi, Friend To The Small, was a Monk who devoted much of her time to training Gnomes who wished to be Monks.
“I heard that a Monk was needed,” Xi said to Corrigwen.
Entering the house, Xi told Corrigwen to clear out the house. Nobody other than Corrigwen, Kronisk, and Xi were to remain inside. Reluctantly, Corrigwen asked the agents in the house to wait outside. Without a word of protest or well wishes, the Kronisk Corporation agents in the building left. Seconds later, Xi knelt at Kronisk‘s side and looked up and down along the prone, tall, heavyset body.
“How long have these bones been glowing like this for?” Xi asked Corrigwen, pointing in the directions of Kronisk‘s jaw and shoulders.
“A long time,” said Corrigwen. “They do that at times when he is storing an excess of what he calls Moeror energy. She decided to risk a small lie, and finished with, “I do not know what this word means.”
“Just to be totally sure,” Xi said, sounding urgent, “This was happening long before he came to Pandaria.”
“Yes,” Corrigwen confirmed. “For as long as I have known him, he has occasionally had this black light shine from under his skin. At first, I thought it was some sort of affliction. Then I thought it was some sort of power. Once I had learned the basics, I knew it was a symptom.”
Xi began to place incenses near Kronisk, and light them. The incenses were placed in a wide circle, starting a foot to one side of Kronisk’s head and ending a foot to one side of his feet. At Xi‘s urging, Corrigwen sat beside her within this circle. Closing her eyes and concentrating intently upon the mass of gray matter that sat inside Kronisk’s skull, as per Xi‘s instructions, Corrigwen found herself drifting to sleep with Xi‘s voice in her ears.
Xi told Corrigwen to imagine Kronisk‘s mind as an enormous castle. The constant and rapid cycles of his cognition were the structure of this castle, she told Corrigwen. The memories and sensations were the things that dwelled within. And as the last of Corrigwen‘s consciousness waned, she heard one phrase in what sounded like Xi‘s voice, drawing what could be a door.
(I am so deep. But so high.)
When Corrigwen opened her eyes again, she found herself standing before a towering pair of doors. And not towering in the sense that they towered over her. On several of her trips with Kronisk to Kali-Yuga, Corrigwen had met a number of amazingly large creatures. One that she remembered well was a River Troll who called himself Lensom. These doors would tower over Lensom, who was somewhere in the order of twelve feet tall and several metric tons in weight. These doors were designed for something larger. On each door, or rather holographed into each door in such a manner that one could only see it on certain angles, was a very real-looking photographic image of a circle of hanged individuals. Suspended by the throats from large, inverted L-shaped bars of metal, were numerous Humans within each image. From the disparities in height, size, and even race of the Humans visible in the images, Corrigwen knew that these Humans were from Terra, the world on which Kronisk was born.
Turning to one side, Corrigwen could see Xi slightly behind her. The look on Xi‘s face was of pure horror, and it was not merely the image that Corrigwen knew she could see on the doors. The gleaming, gnarled façades of the castle walls might be unusual on Kali-Yuga, but they were beyond the experience of most folk on Azeroth. Corrigwen wondered to herself for a moment if perhaps bringing Xi here was a mistake.
“Whatever happens here, remember one thing,” Corrigwen told Xi after some contemplation. “No matter what happens in here, remember that the key to dealing with Kronisk‘s fears and pains is by reasoning with them.”
As Xi nodded to indicate understanding, Corrigwen turned to face the doors. Xi was not trying to shield her thoughts. Very probably, Xi had no idea that with a certain amount of the right kind of training, Spirit-Wielders, as Kronisk referred to them, could hear the echoes of peoples’ thoughts. Xi understood what Corrigwen had just told her, for certain, but she did not grok it. There was an enormous difference.
In panic, Xi had tried to discern the identities of the hanging individuals in the images. Hastily, but as gently as possible, Corrigwen tried to project at Xi that the identities of the individuals hanged in what appeared to be a perfect circle within the image were not important. What this image meant to Kronisk, in literal and metaphorical terms, was what they should focus upon. And as Xi calmed down, the Humans in the images began to turn towards them.
(Where is the faded light?)
Corrigwen had trouble understanding what the circle of hanged ones meant until she remembered the limited amount of the Akhaseian language that she had been taught. It was a very interesting language, full of frightening, guttural, and occasionally vile sounds. The poetry of the musicians that Kronisk had shared an example of with Corrigwen was a powerful example. One phrase of it bore an interesting similarity to what was happening here and now.
Looking through her bags, Corrigwen found her hand locking around a glass jar. She had no memory of putting this jar in her bags, and thus she took it out. Looking at it carefully, she noted that it was filled with black liquid. Looking around, she noted that the doors were not illuminated from within, but rather by a trail of very dim light coming from a point behind Corrigwen and Xi.
(The faded light breaks in black wine…)
Holding the jar in the path of the light, Corrigwen could see its contents clearly. Indeed, the jar was filled not with the liquified shadow that Kronisk often drank out of a glass or otherwise used in conjunction with his more exotic powers. That liquid was syrupy, thick, like something one might pour onto a dessert. The liquid in this glass jar was exactly like the wines that were served in parts of Kali-Yuga and Azeroth, but so dark as to appear black.
As the faded light broke in the black wine, the imagery on the doors began to change. In the image’s background, shimmerings and stirrings of dust could be seen. Slowly, over several seconds, a horse emerged into the imagery. As the horse became larger within the imagery, Corrigwen understood what was happening. This horse was quite clearly dead.
The Akhaseian language was a powerful and occasionally frightening one. Kronisk had several recordings of a band whose vocalists, whomever they might be at the time of recording, vocalised in this language.
Meeting Corrigwen‘s expectation, the dead horse awkwardly sank to its knees amidst the circle of the hanged ones. Getting on its front knees first, then bending its rear knees into a sitting position that looked very uncomfortable for a horse, the dead horse let out a solitary braying sound.
With that, the doors slowly swung open, offering a view of the inside of the building. Inside was a winding network of halls and rooms that all connected to one another in a pattern. Corrigwen knew they connected in a pattern simply because they were constructs within the cerebral cortex of Kronisk. To be a part of Kronisk and not have some form of pattern or design, however obscure and indecipherable, was unthinkable. Gently patting a frightened Xi on the arm and assuring her that it was alright, Corrigwen led the Pandaren Monk through the halls, searching for doors.
And the first door they found, though singular in nature, was more or less like the doors on the outside of this place. Seemingly meant for something much taller and heavier than Kronisk, the image visible in its surface could only be some form of monstrous, unknown entity standing over its beholder, threatening it.
Pushing the door open and walking in, it was all that Corrigwen could do to refrain from shrieking. All through the room, which seemed to stretch on forever, were visages of a very young Kronisk, from an endless time ago when he was just another little boy rather than the feared and admired Mage-General of a world countless millions of kilometres from the places where he and Corrigwen were born. In the eyes of the little boy that Kronisk was once, there was a look of pure, unremitting terror. Quietly, unsure what the consequences would be, Corrigwen tried to exercise the skill the adult Kronisk had taught her to hear the echoes of others’ thoughts. Gently, calmly, she listened out for the child’s mind, to hear what it cried in what seemed like a very desperate moment.
That made it very clear what the seemingly gigantic, towering shadow leaning over the child and barking angry words of frustration was. This twisted shadow was not the mother of the boy who would be Kronisk one day. No, that would be far too simple. This twisted, angry, disappointed shadow was how the boy who would be Kronisk one day saw his mother. That was an important distinction.
(We do not want you. Nobody loves you.)
Quietly, gently, Corrigwen tried to project an instruction to Xi. It took a couple of tries, because Xi knew nothing about the ability that the grown Kronisk referred to as projection. And Xi‘s brain, through years of training both as a Monk and in Pandaren philosophy, was difficult to make a proper connection with.
Xi heard Corrigwen‘s instruction, but found it hard to understand. Bracing herself, she slowly walked toward the horrid scene in front of her. Within the towering shadow of Kronisk‘s perception, Xi could see an actual person. A Human woman, not exactly a small one, but not a very big one, either. And Xi could see from this woman’s shivering and shuddering that she was just as frightened, if not more so, than the child. And so young. That was the puzzling thing. This lady could not be too much more than twenty years her child’s senior. Whilst Humans were not exactly known for their lengthy lives, even that was pretty close a gap between mother and child amongst them.
Trying to speak as calmly as she could, Xi spoke to the mother within the shadow. Like many of Kronisk‘s people, she was known by more than one name. Corrigwen knew her mostly by the name of Latudsel. Earlier, the Dwarf had warned Xi that Latudsel, or Lah-choo-sell as the name was apparently enunciated, would be here in same shape or form. But such was not the same Xi could read in the thoughts of the Human within the mass. The name Khôrra, fresh enough in the Human’s mind for Xi to know it was adopted recently, echoed. The name Nathalie, buried deep within this Human woman’s mind, was the one Xi believed the subject had been given shortly after birth.
Milady, why are you so sad? Xi asked gently, keeping her voice as quiet as possible. She had little idea of whether the little boy could hear her, and she would prefer that he did not.
I never got to be young, the image of Nathalie said. It did not come out as a whine or a protest. Just a statement of fact, like the sky is blue or rain is wet.
Xi had to think fast. Corrigwen had briefed her on things she was likely to see within the halls of Kronisk‘s memories and thoughts, but Human cultural references were a slight mystery to her. Ursidae, even Pandaren, did not have especially long lives, much like Humans. So what this fragment of Khôrra was really saying, as Xi understood it, was that she did not get to enjoy being young.
Many people see themselves missing out on the flower of youth, milady, Xi told the sorrowful image. They miss seeing what they do have. You have a small child who will one day teach several worlds many things they need to learn. One thing he will teach his own sons is one of his favourite sayings. That it is easier to build a strong boy than to repair a broken man.
The apparition of Nathalie looked back and forth between the retreating form of her son and the puzzling form of Xi. To Nathalie, Xi appeared to be a hallucination. Pandas did not stand up and talk, much less philosophise about raising children.
Nearby, Corrigwen had taken the child that Kronisk once was and was talking to him. Xi could only hear a faint enough echo to understand the basics. He was too young to understand now, but his mother was only barely not a child herself, and needed help to understand him properly.
Still crying, the spectre of the child held his hand out to Corrigwen. The words coming from his mouth were in some form of Dwarvish that Xi had not heard before. Nodding, Corrigwen took the boy’s hand and walked with him towards another door. Behind Corrigwen, Xi quietly shuffled along, trying to catch up.
“What did you say to her?” Corrigwen asked Xi, worried that their words here might come back to haunt them.
“I told her that the way things are now, her son would never believe in her love for him,” Xi said flatly. “Where is the child taking us?”
Corrigwen was about to say that she honestly did not know when they emerged into a large room with numerous seats arranged in a specific pattern. A strong light shone from one wall onto another, and Corrigwen knew immediately that they were in a film theatre. The child that Kronisk once was continued to walk through the theatre, past patrons who variably looked puzzled, curious, or amazed. As Corrigwen and Xi stood in the aisle next to one row of seats, the child stopped, moved through the small gap in front of the seats, and stood before a man who had been watching the images on the screen with rapt interest.
On the screen, two men were kneeling over a woman and studying a projected image that was ostensibly of her genetic sequencing. Corrigwen knew this image well, and knew the filmed entertainment it was a part of. She also knew what the child was about to say to the man.
Taking the seat beside the heavyset man, the child gently placed a hand upon the man’s relatively enormous, but oddly twisted-looking, hand.
“It is okay,” the child said to the man. “I understand now why we are what we are.”
And with that, the child vanished, like smoke dissipating into the air. Together, Corrigwen and Xi sat in seats near the man that the child had spoken to. Xi did not recognise him. Corrigwen did. This was the form that Kronisk assumed when he was on Kali-Yuga, just a little younger. The thinner, more ghoulish right side of his face, a place that black light shone out of at times, was slightly more prominently scarred, and dented in a different fashion.
Corrigwen knew how the series of moving pictures would end. The Kronisk that she had known for some time had shown her this series, and she had watched with avid interest. On the first occasion she had seen this teleplay, she had not yet visited the place known as the Outlands. Thus, the idea of other worlds in which strangely Human-like entities lived and loved was a bit of a new one.
It was well into the ending credit sequence before the young Kronisk left his seat and ventured into the lobby outside. Corrigwen knew where the young Kronisk was going, and thus stopped Xi from following him when he turned a corner and went into the mens’ room. It only took a few minutes for young Kronisk to reemerge, and thus they continued to follow him out of this cinema lobby, into the shopping centre it connected to, and into the night outside.
Only when the shopping centre doors opened, they led out into something entirely different. The younger Kronisk faded into the slightly older Kronisk that Corrigwen saw on Kali-Yuga. This Kronisk, tired though he looked, smiled uneasily when he saw what was before him.
Standing in front of Kronisk were two men. They were more or less equal in height, and rather similar in build. Both also had a rather peculiar tan in their skin that Corrigwen had only previously seen in the Halflings on Kali-Yuga. For a Human whose parents had come from a specific part of Terra to have this tan was not even slightly unusual. For an Elf from Kali-Yuga to have it, on the other hand, was almost absurd.
The one real difference in appearance between the two men that Corrigwen and Xi could discern was that one had rather well-groomed facial hair, shaped in a peculiar style, whereas the other had a lower face that was nearly as smooth as it was the day he was born. And when both men spoke, it was with identical voices. Voices so alike that not even a machine could tell them apart. Corrigwen had always taken Kronisk‘s word for it that voices were as individual as fingerprints at the biological level. The science of acoustics was a fascinating one, and Kronisk had studied it rather extensively.
The two men standing in front of the young Kronisk not only sounded more or less exactly alike, their mode of speech was more or less exactly alike. Their sentences came out with a peculiar emphasis, with pauses and stresses in exactly the places that what Kronisk would call normies would not expect.
Xi had no idea who either of these men were. Being that they were within the realms of Kronisk‘s memories, ideas, or even dreams, she knew that they were an important influence on the way he saw the world. Corrigwen, however, smiled in recognition.
“My foot is smelling rather bad,” Corrigwen said to the two men standing before Kronisk. The way Corrigwen spoke, it sounded to Xi more like “me fut is smalling rather bed”. But the young Kronisk and the two men before him all laughed as if this were the funniest thing they had ever heard.
For a short time, music could be heard floating into the room from some unknown source. Corrigwen recognised the music immediately. The dramatic opening, complete with emphasised drum roll, found all three men singing the words “in the dark” in perfect unison, right down to the timings. Kronisk stopped after those words, listening to the other two. Xi had no idea who the Human man on the left was, but she had heard Kronisk speak during their earlier meetings of a number of Kings or Queens from the world he called Kali-Yuga. This Elf was once the King of Ljusalfheim, a great ruler by the name of Novannon. Novannon had been King of Ljusalfheim for long enough to see many Human, Halfling, and even Dwarvish rulers go by.
The song, with poetry that formed a narrative about an “imaginary” disease that made people’s feet smell bad, drew to a close. And when it did, the Kronisk that stood before the two peculiar-looking men stood, patted them both on a shoulder, and thanked them.
“Your music taught me that I was given a mind of my own for a good reason,” Kronisk said to the two men, speaking to them as if they were a singular entity. “It taught me that basing my joy on compliance with others was a waste of a good mind. For that, I have been waiting forever to thank you.”
In unison, both men chuckled and patted their hands against Kronisk‘s shoulders. Although he was a lot shorter in his normal form, the form he assumed on Kali-Yuga, he was still quite wide, and both hands fit on his shoulders with plenty of space to spare.
“Your mind is a whirl,” both men said in perfect unison. “What you absorb with it is your choice. Have the courage to find what is worth space within.”
And with that, the two men (halves? versions? aspects?) strode away from Kronisk, walking straight into a featureless black wall. Walking through it, as the case appeared to Corrigwen’s eyes. For what seemed like several minutes, the young Kronisk stood before the wall, staring at it. His mouth moved, but no sound that Xi or Corrigwen could discern came out. And then, a string of words emerged that made almost no sense to Corrigwen, and less than none to Xi.
“We thought it was a man,” said Kronisk. “But it only was a muffin.”
End part one.
Well, what happens now? A read of part two will hopefully clear everything up.