Shallice and Morband: Chapter 5

Mr. Why stood and directed Paltrus out through the door through which he had entered.  Paltrus followed into the polished wooden room, which now contained only two doors on opposite walls, with the window on Paltrus’ right as he walked through the room.  Mr. Why directed him through this room and into the room in which Paltrus awoke.

By now, the furniture in the room seemed to be perfectly normal.  The table and stools were standing on their legs, and the bed was on the floor rather than the ceiling.  Even the two empty teacups were sitting on the table undamaged, and sitting on the stools were two men.

“Ah, I believe you have met Wolvus and Pantheus,” said Mr. Why.

“Oh, yes, we have met,” said one of the two men.  He turned to Paltrus and grinned, showing brown-stained teeth and saying, “I don’t think I ever did introduce myself, though.  Please pardon my rudeness.  I am Wolvus, and this is Pantheus,” he said, turning towards the other man.

“And what have the two of you been doing today?” said Mr. Why.

“We’ve been telling each other jokes, Mr. Why!” said Pantheus.  “You might appreciate a divisibility joke that Wolvus told before.”

“Everyone knows that there is nothing I love more than a good divisibility joke, but let us save our vulgarities for a later time.  At the moment, I am bringing Paltrus here to see the One in the Celestial City.”

“Oh, good!” said Wolvus.  “The company of the One is always comforting in times like these.  I will meet with you again later, Paltrus!”

“Very well,” said Mr. Why.  “Let us continue, Paltrus.”

Paltrus followed Mr. Why through the door opposite the one in which they entered.  The door led outdoors, but it was dark as midnight.  Paltrus looked in the sky to see stars, but no constellations that he recognized.  Mr. Why led Paltrus across a bridge over still water, and Paltrus could see a large crystal dome ahead.  It seemed that not only were they approaching the dome, but the dome was approaching them, and soon the dome was enormous.  Paltrus never understood exactly how it happened, but the dome seemed to cover them, and they were soon inside of it.

Looking up, Paltrus could see the stars above through the crystal, and could see many reflections of the stars through the crystal itself.  Looking lower, Paltrus could see enormous circular crystal towers that were rounded at the top and connected by bridges every which way.  These towers dwarfed the White Chapel and any tower that Paltrus had seen in Arrburdak.  Stars could be seen through the crystal of the towers just as through the dome, as well as other white lights from an unknown source.  The images of the stars stood still if Paltrus stood still, but as Paltrus moved, so did the reflections.  The lights moved with Paltrus as well, but often in unpredictable patterns that differed from the stars.

The path on which they were walking was no longer a bridge, but a crystal street.  On either side of the street was crystal shaped as grass.  On the street could be seen a reflection of the stars above, and on the grass could be seen a distorted reflection of the stars, no less beautiful and in some manner far more beautiful to Paltrus.

The entire city was covered by statues of human beings, also crystal.  There were crystal statues of people walking through the crystal streets, youths sitting underneath crystal trees, and children playing in the crystal grass.  Paltrus also noticed a crowd of statues standing about one particular statue that seemed to be telling a story that fascinated the others.

Even inside these crystal people could be seen the stars, and the same white lights as in the towers.  In spite of the darkness, these lights found everything in the city and made everything visible, though not always entirely clearly.

Mr. Why led Paltrus through the crystal city and into one of the crystal buildings.  The two men scaled a stairway that circled the round tower, and in what appeared to be a short amount of time, they reached a door that was miles away from the ground on which they started.  The door was of a very strong wood with a triangular symbol carved into it, and on each side of the triangle and in the center were symbols that looked like characters in a foreign alphabet.  Mr. Why opened the door and entered the room.

Paltrus walked through the door into an enormous room, and the door behind him seemed to disappear.  The room did not appear to be a room at all.  The sky could now be seen nakedly, as it was before, with no dome, and the stars seemed to be closer to Paltrus, as if they were intent to watch something that was about to happen here in this place.  The ground beneath him was no longer crystal, but seemed to be a looking-glass of sorts.  It reflected the stars above just as the crystal did, but it rippled like water wherever he or Mr. Why stepped on it.  This rippling glass ground stretched perfectly flat as far as Paltrus could see in any direction.

Paltrus looked at the reflection of the stars in the rippling glass beneath him, and in the glass the stars began to move.  In the sky, the stars did not move, but soon a group of stars in front of him on the ground formed a three-sided figure.  Soon the stars were concentrated enough to form what looked to be three solid lines instead of a collection of points.

In an instant, out of one of the points in which two of the lines met, a beam was shot away from the triangle, and towards a vertex of another triangle some ways distant.  That triangle had shot a beam to yet another triangle, which had already shot a beam towards the first triangle.  The three beams had created a large triangle, with the three smaller triangles as the vertices.

Out of the center of this triangle, Paltrus saw that something began to rise up out of the glass.  It was a door, and it was large enough to be a city gate.  The glass flowed off of it like water as it rose, with sounds of small bells softly ringing in the wind.  As the large door came up out of the water, a bright light coming through it blinded Paltrus, and he covered his eyes with his hand.  As his eyes adjusted, Paltrus could see that through the door was another room just as the one he was in, but in daylight.  Mr. Why had already begun to walk through the door while Paltrus was blinded.   Paltrus ran through the door as quickly as he could, lest it should close and he lose this chance.

The sky was blue, streaked with white clouds moving through it as if they were running.  Paltrus heard the loud sound of a whale, and he saw that there was indeed a whale in the sky, swimming through the air as if it were sea.  It looked as though the whale was being rushed by the clouds or the clouds were running from the whale, but it was clear that the interaction between the whale and the clouds was the same as that of two young dogs playing.  Paltrus saw other whales and other sea creatures swimming through the air.  He saw giant squids and octopi, schools of fish of thousands of colors, and powerful turtles.  And though he saw so many creatures in the air, the brightness of the blue sky and white clouds distracted him so that the creatures were barely noticeable.

Beneath him, Paltrus saw a floor that appeared as rippling water, yet solid enough to stand, just as the previous room.  The floor still reflected the clouds and creatures of the sky, but Paltrus could still see birds flying through the water just as the sea creatures were swimming through the air.  He looked, and he saw blue jays, robins, owls, eagles, and ravens.  The water was very clear, but the sea had no visible floor.

Mr. Why was still walking ahead, and Paltrus ran to catch up with him.  Mr. Why stopped and waited, and Paltrus did the same.  In front of them, a descending stairway began to form out of the ground.  The water fell into the form of the stairs, seeming to drain away from them while creating them, and the same sound of small bells that came from the door was emanating from the falling water stairs.  Once the water flowed into the stairs, a door opened up at the end of those stairs and Mr. Why began to walk down the stairs and through the door.

Paltrus followed Mr. Why through the door, which led them to a golden bridge connecting the building they were in with another building.

Mr. Why turned on the golden bridge to the side and waited for Paltrus to follow.  When Paltrus came to his side, he said, “Behold!  I give you the Celestial City, the Capital of Shallice!”

Looking over the side of the bridge, Paltrus saw the crystal city, now with the sun in the sky, which made it alive to his eyes.  The towers were formed from shimmering blue diamonds.  These were not small jewel diamonds or even diamond bricks, but each tower was carved out of a single massive diamond.  People could be seen everywhere in the city.  There were people walking through the silver streets and along the golden bridges, there were youths sitting underneath leafy green trees, and children playing in lush green grass.  Paltrus could hear the sound of human voices softly singing songs in a language that he did not know, accompanied by stringed instruments.  He heard laughter coming from below, and he saw a crowd of people gathered around a single man telling stories.

The wide silver street between two rows of towers became a stream part of the way through the city, and then became a blue and silver waterfall, before collecting into another stream, then back into a silver street.  A child ran out from the grass and onto the silver street, and Paltrus saw him run up the waterfall, then turn around and jump off of it from a great height onto the silver street below.  But the street splashed like silver water, and Paltrus saw light glistening from the silver water as it splashed.  The child then rose up from the water and stood on the street, then ran to join his friends once again in the grass.  Paltrus could see this clearly, in spite of the long distance between them.

As Paltrus watched this, a breeze brought a fragrance from the trees below.  Paltrus took in the sweet smell, and closed his eyes.  He then breathed in through his mouth to taste honey in the air.  When he opened his eyes, he looked into the sky and saw the clouds swirling through it, this time playing amongst themselves without sea creatures.

He then looked again at the blue diamond towers.  He could see luscious fruit plants hanging out of the windows.  Rivers were flowing in and out of the towers, in some places on bridges, in others by waterfalls, and many of these streams emptied out of the towers as waterfalls to become streets below.

He could see people walking past windows in the towers, and he could see large theaters inside of the towers through enormous windows, and inside some of these theaters he could see the choirs that were singing the beautiful music in the city.  These choirs were not all in the same theater and never were any harpists found among the choirs, but somehow their otherworldly music was in perfect harmony.

Most of these towers seemed to have some sort of architecture that baffled Paltrus.  Windows were enormous, and indeed some levels had only columns instead of walls, but nevertheless, these towers seemed to be obviously vastly stronger than anything in Bel-Tharad, even to the most unmindful observer.  Paltrus also saw gymnasiums, classrooms, kitchens, dining halls, and lounging rooms through the windows.  Among these towers were the golden bridges, so that anyone could easily move from one tower to any other tower in the city.

To his left, Paltrus saw that the city gathered around a large cliff, and there was a great stairway carved into this cliff that reached the top.  Around this cliff at its base as well as upon its top were gardens with many different kinds of fruits for anyone to take as he pleases.  There were many kinds of animals in the garden that were friendly to anybody entering.  Paltrus watched as an infant fed an apple to a lion several times its size while the infant’s mother was petting the lion.

“We will be going to the top of the cliff,” said Mr. Why.  “That is where the One resides.”

Mr. Why led Paltrus across bridges and through towers, and in every tower they crossed through, Paltrus saw many people that were richly dressed and friendly, both to him and to each other.  He passed through many of the same kinds of rooms that he saw through the windows in other towers.  Inside of these towers, he saw many large windows, some covered in stained glass and some with nothing between the indoors and the elements outside.  The rooms with glassless windows were not furnished to endure outdoor weather, but they were entirely undamaged by possible storms.

The rooms through which Paltrus walked were thickly carpeted, and the walls were adorned with decorative papers and cloths.  Paltrus saw many colors, and at times unusual combinations of blue, gold, green, red, silver, and white.  The patterns of the colors were at times merely aesthetic, and at other times became pictures of what appeared to be historic moments of Shallice.  The pictures and the aesthetic designs flowed into one another so that Paltrus could not tell where the pictures stopped, and at times the walls, floors, arched ceilings, and hanging cloths seemed to be one enormous picture that he could not see all at once.

As he crossed a golden bridge, Paltrus noticed that nowhere in the city could there be found any shadows.  The towers did not cast shadows upon the grass, and neither were the youths sitting beneath the trees covered by shade.  A person walking on the street cast no shadow on either side of himself.  Yet there was no need for shade, as the perfect white light in the city allowed clear sight yet did not invade one’s eyes unwelcomed.  Anybody could plainly see miles away, but could close his eyes and sleep at any moment he wished.

Every time Paltrus crossed a golden bridge, he was most struck by the sweet fragrance coming from below.  There were times that he was certain he could actually see the smell, as it was so potent.  When he breathed, he was filled with a desire to collapse and merely breathe for as long as he possibly could.  This kept such a hold over him that he could barely keep up with Mr. Why or notice the shadowless city.

After following Mr. Why through rooms and over bridges, Paltrus noticed that they were atop the cliff in the higher garden.  He looked down to the lower garden to see the same child as before, though now riding on the lion’s back.  He continued to follow Mr. Why through the higher garden.  There were no towers on the top of the cliff, but several smaller buildings surrounding the garden with only a single story.  They walked through the grass in the garden, among trees and bushes that grew many different types of fruits, oftentimes more than one type on a single tree or bush.  Mr. Why led Paltrus to one of the smaller buildings, which had the same diamond walls as the towers, but were not circular as the towers were.  Instead, these buildings were built like homes of relatively wealthy commoners.

They entered the building through a door that resembled a garden gate more than it did a door.  It was metal and curved with floral designs, and anybody could see between the bars through the door.  Mr. Why opened the gate and entered the building.  The floor in this building was red carpet.  The blue walls did not meet in an arch and there was no ceiling to join them.  Instead, Paltrus looked up to see the clouds from between the walls.

Every door in the building that Paltrus came across was just as the front door; a gate that seemed to belong in a garden.  Whenever Paltrus crossed such a door, he could see through the bars into whatever room it led into, and met a friendly smile of anyone in that room.  Some of these people were sitting in lounging furniture, some were studying at desks, and some were standing and enjoying each others’ company.

Paltrus followed Mr. Why through these blue hallways to find a man sitting at a brown desk.

“Hello, Lyceus, how are you today?” said Mr. Why.

“I am doing quite well on this glorious day,” said Lyceus.

“We are here to see the One.  May we proceed?”

“Of course.  He will always accept any who will come, as you know.”

“Splendid!” said Mr. Why, and opened another gate-door.

Mr. Why started to walk through the door and across a stone path, and Paltrus followed.  He soon found himself on an earthen path in a forest.  Unlike the city, the forest had shadows, but these were shadows that gave great beauty to whatever they were cast upon.  Paltrus saw shadows from the trees cast upon Mr. Why as he moved through the forest, and at once saw a great physical strength that he did not notice before.  Paltrus stopped following Mr. Why for a moment because he was taken by the beauty of the trees.  The trees were as still as a painting, but grew into such a complex pattern that they almost seemed to be moving.

The forest was not silent.  Paltrus could hear the singing of birds, but could also hear a single flute playing a lighthearted song in a minor key.  The music was trying to communicate something to its audience.  It was as if this music was somehow a language that Paltrus did not realize he knew until someone began to speak it to him.  Soon, other flutes began to join, and created a harmony and a counter-melody.  The song that was originally a monologue became a discussion among diverse strangers quickly becoming close friends.  Harmonies were showing admiration for the story being told by the melody.  Counter-melodies were telling the same story from a different perspective but with the same ending in order to enrich the story.  Then, more friends joined the conversation as the strings of lyres were plucked in agreement with the flutes, filling in small parts of the story that the flutes left out.

Paltrus looked ahead and did not see Mr. Why anywhere, but did not feel as though he had lost his way.  There was a single path that curved through the forest but had no forks.  When he remembered where he was after listening to the music, he continued through the forest.  Time slowed, and as the beautiful music continued, Paltrus found that the tempo of the music, though not rushed, was faster than the speed of time.  As he walked forward on the path, he was able to look closer at the shadows cast by the motionless trees and the trees and the path upon which the shadows were cast.  After several turns, he found that he was close behind Mr. Why again, and they were exiting the forest.

Paltrus again started to follow Mr. Why, now towards an enormous building that appeared to be built of wood and stone.  Ancient as it appeared, it was in no more danger of decay than the diamond towers.  The path leading up to the door of the building was smooth stone with green grass on either side, and Paltrus studied the rounded pillars and ornate corners and windows of the building as he walked across this path.

The heavy doors opened before the two, and they entered into a foyer.  The greatness of the design of this building was every bit as glorious as the diamond city.  This place was built deliberately, and by a great architect, unlike the city which seemed to simply spring forth naturally.  The walls and ceiling were of polished wood and marble.  The ground was also of marble, but covered by elaborately designed rugs in the center of every room.  The furnishings were not unlike what Paltrus remembered of the Fort of Dorz, with red cushioned chairs and couches surrounding polished wooden tables.  There were marble pillars holding vases in corners and greenery lining the ceilings.  There were no fireplaces, which led Paltrus to wonder if the weather ever changed in Shallice.  There were clear glass windows, open, and allowing the breeze to dance with the curtains on either side.  There were rare cases for the walls to be given an opportunity for paintings, as most walls either contained a glass door leading into another room or a window leading to the outside, but on these rare occasions such a painting would depict a beautiful landscape or an image of the city.

Mr. Why did not enter these rooms, but walked straight through the foyer to the only door that was not already opened.  Mr. Why himself opened the door, but stepped aside to allow Paltrus to enter the room.

This room was a library.  It was very wide, and so long and tall that Paltrus could see neither the far wall nor the ceiling above.  There was no wall that was not covered by shelves.  Even directly above the door in which Paltrus entered was a bookshelf.  There were spiral staircases and many levels with railings so that any part of any shelf could be reached.  Many people were walking through this library, on the ground, up and down the stairs, and across the tiers.  There were, however, no books.  Paltrus looked throughout the room and saw that all of the shelves were completely bare, save for two books on the lowest shelf in the corner of the room.  These books, Paltrus saw, were titled Before and During.

“There is much wisdom to be found in this room,” said Mr. Why from behind Paltrus, “but we cannot always see it.”

“In just these two books?” said Paltrus.

“These shelves are filled with books.  We unfortunately cannot see all of them because of our self-inflicted blindness.  We are shown wisdom and we are given perfect light that casts no shadow, yet even then we still do not always allow ourselves to see wisdom as it is.  I may see more or fewer books than you do; it is difficult to be certain of such a thing.  We may only see different books.  While we are in Extension we will never see all of the books.  There are some who never see even one of the books; even when dead men rise to show them.”

Mr. Why looked past Paltrus and smiled.  Paltrus turned to see a hoary man walking towards them.

“This,” said Mr. Why, “is the One.  No amount of reverence that you can show Him is ever too much, but He accepts all that you desire to give.”

Paltrus was unsure of what to do, but remembered how he showed respect to his father.  He did not know how appropriate that reverence would be here.  He slowly and awkwardly kneeled and bowed his head.

“Rise, my son,” said the One.  Paltrus noticed in his Voice what seemed to be the sound of streams of water.

“I have many things to show you, few of which you will understand right now.”  The Voice of the One was deep, slow, and clear.

Paltrus was no longer in the library, but did not wonder how he came to be where he was.  It was a room that looked to be a study.  The scholar who owned this study, however, seemed to need no books.  Instead, he only wrote, using no resources aside from himself, for he knew perfectly well what was to be in the books he was writing.  As such, the study was adorned with paintings where most studies would have books.

In front of Paltrus were an uncountably infinite amount of spheres, and inside of these spheres Paltrus could see still images of the universe.  As large as the universe was, Paltrus was able to see in these spheres the minutest details of the lives of human beings, while seeing the awesome glory of stars many times the size of his own sun on the other side of the universe, frozen in time.  Every sphere was different, though the difference among some was difficult to see.

“These,” said the One, “are the infinitesimal moments.  At any instant, you are in an infinitesimal moment.  At any instant distinct from that instant, you are in a different infinitesimal moment.  You perceive time in this way, as infinitesimal moments converging at infinity.  This means that in any length of time, you travel through an infinite number of moments.”

“Does one infinitesimal moment cause the next?” asked Paltrus.

“No,” said the One, smiling.  “You do not travel through infinitesimal moments in such a way, though your imperfect nature leads you to believe so.  You see things in the past causing the future to be what it is and nothing more.  In reality, time is an equation, and the existence of what happens at an infinitesimal moment is determined by the equation as a whole.”

The spheres in front of Paltrus quickly rearranged themselves, and Paltrus witnessed, as best he could, an infinite amount of moments become what he soon realized was a timeline.  This timeline was arranged now not by images that could be seen by the eye, but by numbers that extended up as high as Paltrus could see.

“When you escape from the world of time and see the temporal realm from the outside, you will see that time itself is a balance.  If the past were to change, the future would change, certainly, as you can see naturally for yourself.  What you do not see, however, is that if the future were to change, the past would change as well.  We change the entire equation.  The further away from the Origin we are, the larger the differences become from one equation to the next.  A single infinitesimal moment not only affects its future, but its past as well.”

The One then reached out his hand and changed a single number in the timeline, and as He pressed His finger against the timeline, Paltrus could see ripples spreading into the rest of the timeline.  Along with the ripple came a change in the numbers whenever it crossed them.  These ripples, though, did not weaken the further away it went from the gentle press of the One, but instead grew.  Paltrus could see miles away from him that the ripple had become a torrent, and this torrent was spreading into the past as well as the future.

“The equation always balances itself,” said the One.

The One then began to rearrange some of the elements in the timeline.  An unfamiliar name written “Plato” He moved from 450 B.C. to 1500 A.D., and the equation swirled with names rearranging themselves.  Paltrus could not see the thousands of changes happening at once, but he did see the names “Euclid,” “Pythagoras,” “Archimedes,” and “Thales” move from their position before the Origin to reside near Plato, and the names “Newton” and “Gauss” moving from 1600 and 1700 A.D. to reside near 500 B.C.  The name “Euler” moved from 1700 A.D. to 1200 B.C., and the name “Fibonacci” moved from 1200 A.D. to 2100 A.D.

“This balance exists because of the Origin.  Without the Origin, time would come into chaos and destroy itself.  That is why I placed the Origin into the equation.  Time needed salvation, and only I, as the Origin, had the capability of creating order.”

“Why was the equation in chaos?” said Paltrus.

“I allowed another to change something in time.  Before then, time needed no balance.  It was perfect.  But I did not stop another from changing something in time, causing chaos.  He removed and destroyed one of the infinitesimal moments.  He used your ancestor and his sons to do this, and that is why you are here.  You are here to be forgiven for the sins of your fathers.”

The One turned away from the timeline and faced Paltrus, and He warmly said, “Just as the smallest weight contributes to the balance of a scale, so, too, does the smallest person contribute to the balance of time.  His existence is necessary.  You, however, have more to contribute to the balance, though not in the manner in which you previously thought.  Aside from your own forgiveness, you are also here to bring others like yourself to me, so that they too may be forgiven.  That will be your contribution to balance.”

“That is what Mr. Why does, is it not?”

“Yes, it is.  He was once like you.  In fact, in your homeland, he was your uncle before your father murdered him to gain the throne.”

Then the One turned back to the timeline and said, “This is not your world, as you have noticed.  It is similar, but other changes must be made before it would resemble your world.”

“He is my uncle?” said Paltrus.

Turning back to Paltrus, the One said, “He was your uncle, but there is no reason why that should carry any weight with you.  It carries none with him.  He did not tell you because it did not occur to him that you might think it to be important.  It is the furthest thing from his mind.  It does not seem to you to be so now, but your relation to him in that world is entirely unimportant.  He cares for you now in a very different and much more powerful way.  He is your brother.”

Chapter 6

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