"Then do not assist him. Allow another, who is prepared, to act as his guard." The voice issued as a burst of harsh wind, booming through the red-tainted luminescence surrounding them.
Scarlet's figure recoalesced into the position which she had originally been assuming. "I am as prepared as anyone could be," she whispered, her own voice issuing as a gentle breeze. "I simply do not wish for him to leave. Or at the least I wish to be allowed to accompany him, to not be judged as a worrisome burden." Sparks of bitterness detached from her form and hovered near her companion.
"It is the will of both himself and of the council that he shall depart, and that you shall remain as his guard. Would you defy them?"
"Never is an infinity of time."
Scarlet's form dipped in a nod. Perhaps in the realm of "never" expiring I might ultimately defy the council. Not him, though. Not Red. I wish only for him to possess more faith in me.
Her companion extended a blackened waft, a limb, and placed it reassuringly over her form.
"You wish to address us?" the central figure, of seven, inquired.
"As liaison to our extended aspects on Zetarra, it has been requested that I attend their world in order to assist in resolving a most dire problem developing there."
As Red spoke, flashing the true essence of the identifying colour which marked his status, Scarlet processed the mental images he was projecting. A resident of their counter-part world had deemed herself more powerful than the others and was presumably arranging a coup. She appeared to be working through a shifting meld of material substance and reality, creating a rift between dimensions.
Scarlet had perceived their worlds from the material planes before. From there they seemed insubstantial, though in fact they weren't -- they merely existed on different levels of being. From those planes, where the light glowed, her own world appeared as a haze; a black foundation of nothingness surrounded by a murky atmosphere with a red taint. Zetarra, however, being in a position for reflecting further light, had appeared as a darkly luminescent green world with a heavy purple atmosphere. These weren't the types of images which material minds perceived as positive, yet they were. Though she remained amongst the individuals whom had never experienced material life in a stretch of more than one at a time, she shuddered to recall how such lives seemed to creep at an agonizing pace and how every sensation felt within them would inevitably sour. It could be nothing but positive to be freed again into watching time as it shifts in lapsing; to peer into the material worlds as they flow by and decay, to touch none of it.
"Red shall not experience material existence for this task," the central councillor informed her, detecting her concerns. "Yet he shall be in danger, and your own involvement as his guard may lead to greater responsibility on the material planes."
Scarlet was shocked, she had not even expected to be noticed by the council. Her form wavered, as though she could phase out of their chambers and never again be remembered. I will have responsibility?
Both Red and the councillor nodded in affirmation of her thought.
She attempted to drift back within herself, within her own essence, into a place where her thoughts could no longer be seen, felt, or heard. Responsibility? She recalled the dangers of mortal life, dangers which were never regarded as serious within the bounds of actual reality. In this occasion, however, it was serious. Red would not be materializing, yet his form would be subjected to shifting between the dimensions and therein would lie the true danger. The insinuation here, as far as she could grasp it, was that she was to protect him -- to prevent him from being lost. And what would become of her if she failed?
I shall always remain with you.
The thought drifted in to her from elsewhere, from outside of the council chambers, and she knew there was truth to it. Sadly, though, such a truth could never negate her concerns for Red's wellbeing. Swallowing her fear, her selfishness, wishing to transcend them as Red required, she faced outward toward the councillors again.
"I will do as you wish."
Her feelings for Red extended far deeper than respect, though he had earned that from her as well as from most other equivalent forms. He was what would be considered, in select material realms, to be the ambassador to their closest sister world of Zetarra. This elevated him to a position which was truly only inferior to their world's council, yet that was respected even by them. If he had desired to assist his acquaintances on the other world, he would not have been prevented from it. The council hearing had been a formality, and apparently something more. Though she knew not what its true reasonings were, she suspected that it had far more to do with herself and the vaguely hinted at future plans for the material planes than it had to do with Red requiring permission for his rightful duties.
Regardless, she accepted the ambiguity and manipulation.
An incorporeal body, deeply shaded and tinted with red, rested slightly underneath of body of phosphorescent "liquid". The figure's darkness was brightened by the green luminescence overlaying it. It remained motionless, suspended, outwardly blind, as it adjusted to the remanifestation.
Another darkened form, with a slightly purplish tint to it, waded into the pool -- careful to flow around the sleeper rather than encompassing it. It drifted a waft of darkness, in the vague form of a hand, downward to rest near the top of the recovering figure.
The sleeper's eyes opened.
"We have arrived," its cognizant observer stated.
"And so we have." The once sleeping form wavered and elongated, erecting itself until it hovered over the phosphorescent pool.
She felt his thoughts brushing hers out of his mind and sighed in defeat. Hopefully he was correct, hopefully he would recover before making the next transference. She meekly folded herself into an unobtrusive corner of his perspective, and maintained a silent observation as the two forms drifted through the other world.
They passed through a substance, patterned and wavering in a form which reminded Scarlet of a thick "foliage" that she had witnessed during select material incarnations. At times it suited the beings of both her world and Zetarra to create facsimiles of physical forms which they had observed in other planes. It was rare for them to remember who they truly were, what forms they naturally coalesced into, while suffering through material existences. The aftermath, however, served as a reversal: they could remember the other lives, after phasing back into reality. The memories would remain as capsules within their consciousness, a bubble of time which stretched abnormally and contained alien perspectives, a pocket of themselves as anyone but themselves.
And, when time stretched endlessly, seemingly neither phasing nor growing, the beings would become restless and find additional means for occupying their eternities. One of these means was the simple recreation of objects and places found within their capsule memories. There, on Zetarra, Scarlet knew she was witnessing the mimickery of a jungle. The council's chambers on her own world appeared to be hued in stone. She also knew of another presence there, close to the council, a being whom referred to himself as Strethas rather than maintaining his aural reference, who had fashioned an elaborate pseudo-structure. Strethas, himself, was an anomaly in another way though -- molding his own form into an obtuse figure which he claimed mimicked the "demon gods" of a material world he had once served time on.
Eccentricities were common, her own was her habit of shadowing Red while her twin shadowed her. Many beings preferred to keep their own company, and widely remarked upon the strange triad. It was of no concern to any of them, though, unless it was Red sometimes resenting the incessant company.
Now Scarlet possessed a legitimate excuse for melding with his perspective and following him everywhere. And so she continued to watch what he watched, to hear and feel everything in synch with him, to catch his stray thoughts as they brushed across her psyche.
Scarlet slightly detached her perspective from Red and noted the worry emanating from Burgundy as he rested wafts of a limb across her form. She reached for him, to reassure him.
"There is no trouble. I was merely hoping Red would be further rested before attempting another transference. They are nearing Zarra's domain, though."
Burgundy's form nodded. "And you fear that he may not survive the next transference?"
She flashed before him in a distorted shrug. "I am afraid it will weaken him, exactly when he shall require his full strength."
"But he is not alone. I have felt one other companion, beyond Purple, through your psyche."
"Magenta, she arrived to guide them to Zarra." Scarlet regarded the remaining small black husk of Red. It was unchanged from when he had initially shifted to Zetarra. If he were to begin fading, she would know from the shifting in his essence. "I must refocus. It is time."
Burgundy watched, silent with concern, as she once again draped herself over Red's essence and completed the meld.
A change in scenery on Zetarra brought Scarlet's perspective back to Red's. Before them was what, on the surface, appeared to be a typical pseudo-structure. Amidst the green luminescence shimmered flat layers of white, rippling into near solidity. Straight ahead were the walls, slightly to the side was a door. Initially the explorers continued right up to the wall, expecting to be able to shift through it as they could with any other structures upon their worlds. The substance wouldn't give though. They became immersed in it, trapped within what felt like a viscous phosphorescence, and needed to struggle to release themselves.
"What is this?" Red queried.
Purple scrutinized it with the shimmering vestiges of hardness. "I had mentioned Zarra's progress in combining material manifestations into reality. This would appear to be her current results."
"In a pocket memory I see myself walking through these door devices while faced with walls," Magenta commented.
The triad glanced, as one, toward the door and then began moving. It was "hanging open", or at least the semi-substance of it was propped back behind what appeared to be an opening.
"What might happen as we pass through this door?" Scarlet felt a tinge of worry as Red voiced the question.
"I suspect we will make the next transference," Purple replied, traces of apprehension peeling off of him as well.
As a unit, draping wafts of limbs across each other out of fear of becoming separated and lost, the Zetarran triad moved cautiously into the opening. Around them everything was shifting, holes in reality portraying breaches in the Void and stolen aspects of material dimensions. Phosphorescence shifting into black nothingness into white light and form. As they drifted further within the shifting, they felt their own beings begin to change as well. Blocks of solidity converged amidst their ethereal presences, weighting them down, melding them into their surroundings.
And then Scarlet could only perceive blackness.
Burgundy watched as she shifted fully back into his presence, emanating a feel of terror. Without responding, she looked immediately toward Red's essence. A piercing high-pitched keel began surrounding her as she realized it seemed to be shrivelling, discolouring, losing its form.
"Guard him, please."
Burgundy tipped his form in a nod, and she was gone.
Scarlet drifted into the pseudo-structure that Strethas maintained as a home. Larger than even the domain of the councillors, he claimed it was modelled after the type of "building" which the most powerful of material lives either inhabited or dedicated to their gods. Strethas, himself, was the type of spirit who preferred simply meddling in material worlds for entertainment -- rather than actually existing within them, by their rules. He had begun with the lives, as had most other beings, but then had drifted toward solely reflecting the images of gods worshipped by mortals. His reasoning was simple: he enjoyed becoming the gods, as opposed to serving them.
As a result of this particular eccentricity, the "structure" he inhabited was attached to the Void separating reality from material existence. And, for this reason, Scarlet knew she would require his help. He was the only connection she had for understanding a merge between ethereal and material in their realm.
Strethas, however, didn't seem drained in the least as she struggled forth from her phosphorescent pool -- her aural streak appearing as more of a pale pink from the strain. Could he indeed be as powerful as the councillors in opening gateways? Scarlet attempted to obscure her thoughts, but felt as though they were leaking. She was simply too disconnected to restrain the proper portions of her psyche.
It is not power as you would believe, it is merely knowing secrets. This is entirely another form of power.
Scarlet remained blank as she slowly began phasing into the direction where Red and his companions had drifted. A nagging feeling steadily grew within her until she voiced it: "Is this a mistake? I felt we should seek him immediately, but I find I am now in the same position as he was. I had wished for him to rest, as he was drained from the transference. He moved onward anyway. And now I have probably become even more drained than he was, but I feel the need to move onward as well."
"And if you begin to fade, Burgundy will seek you. He will be exhausted by the transference, yet he will feel the need to move onward. And who, then, shall seek him?" Strethas possessed few mannerisms, despite his eccentric appearances. He registered nothing whatsoever as he spoke and, likewise, nothing from him could be felt.
Scarlet shrugged her steadily adjusting form and began moving it toward the double doors at the end of the hall. If Strethas felt they should walk into this apparent trap, then what other options remained? She could give up and leave, without Red. Such a choice was unacceptable though.
She remained weak, and uncertain of her currently projected image -- not to mention her surroundings. Nothing made sense anymore, and her path was becoming blind faith in the eccentric spirit accompanying her. Hopefully that wouldn t prove to be a mistake.
Strethas... If we are ethereal, why is it that we cannot phase through substance here?
Matter is shifting; between reality, materiality, and the Void. Each portion of this structure may be differently manifested, therefore passing from one point to another would require a gate. One thing you ultimately must learn, for reasons in your future, is that on any level of existence those who control it can install blocks as they choose. If you pass through these blocks, it might be extremely damaging. Most of the time you will merely feel them as an obstacle and fail to pass through them. Never force your way through these blocks.
A long, straight, and narrow, object was mounted in the centre of the raised area. And on that object was a... She knew it must be a head, one which was at least partially materialized, but it was extremely bizarre looking. Pale in colour, it was topped by a contrasting sheet of a dark strandy substance. Toward the center of the paleness were deviancies: two ovular blue things near the top, apparently the eyes, a hooked blob in the middle, and a red-rimmed opening (the mouth?) toward the bottom.
And, whatever it was, it seemed to be regarding them. And emanating feelings identical to those which she had previously experienced through Magenta.
I am Magenta.
As Burgundy observed the essences he felt a qualm of fear. Red's cusp had darkened slightly, which was a positive sign. At the same time, however, Scarlet's had lightened. The changes were so slight that he would never have noticed them if he hadn't been scrutinizing the cusps so carefully, but they were there.
Part of him resented the improvement in Red. If timing was any indication, then his slight recovery had likely resulted from attaining sustenance through Scarlet -- which, in turn, had drained her.
Had she not chosen to follow him, she would be safe. But now he himself drains her essence as the reward for her devotion. If she fades even slightly again I must seek my replacement as our guard. But who might be trusted?
He could think of no one. The councillors had already informed him, in their own subtle ways, that they would neither help nor condone his attempting to do so in a more direct way than acting as a guard for the abandoned essences.
They should be willing to protect their ambassador, at the least. With their refusal, who else remains?
He remained blank as he continued to focus on the essences.