Ethan, Immortal Runebinder
A Speculative story of Infinity WarsPrevious Story: Horribly Awry
Ethan blinked his eyes. It was bright. Far too bright. Slowly, he came to his senses. He was lying on the ground in what was... a crater? Sitting up, he quickly glanced around, searching for her. A sigh. Aleta was right next to him, still unconscious from whatever had happened. His lucky magician's cloak was in tatters, nearly torn apart by the magic. What went wrong?
he wondered, thinking back to the ritual. I must have checked the runework some twenty times.
He chuckled softly. Should have checked a twenty-first time.
He looked down at his hands, clenched his fists.
"I don't feel all that different," he muttered. "How about you, Aleta?"
He looked over and she was still unconscious. She looked peaceful--happy, even. And now they could be together forever. He frowned. Forever is a very long time. What if she decides she doesn't want me around?
Shaking his head he dismissed the thought, then gently reached over and shook her awake.
"Aleta, wake up. I don't know what happened, but I think the ritual worked."
Her eyes fluttered open and she sat up, staring at him blankly.
"Aleta?" he said again, worried.
"Aleta?" she repeated, her voice curious and confused, her name seemingly without meaning.
Now, Ethan knew that mind-reading magic is horribly impolite. He knew that telepaths just turn into know-it-alls and are infuriating to deal with, and that known telepaths are social pariahs that no one trusts. If someone can know your inner-most thoughts in their presence, your options are to not have inner-most thoughts in their presence or to not be in their presence. Most people choose the latter. And using magic to read the mind of your lover is a surefire way to ruin any relationship. Knowing all of this, Ethan rarely used magic to read minds and had never, ever, done so with Aleta.
So it was with great trepidation that he sketched a rune in the air and concentrated on Aleta's thoughts. He gasped.
She had forgotten everything.
Shocked, Ethan stumbled backwards, his hand slashing through the air. He meant to cut through the rune allowing him to read the blankness of Aleta's mind, blankness only broken by confusion, but his hand cut through something else as well. The world seemed to lurch, something seemed to snap and go horribly wrong, and where his hand had passed through the air was a rent in the very fabric of reality.
And through that rift, Ethan saw another world and another Aleta, lying on the ground unconscious. His hand flew forward and grabbed the edges of the rift, slamming it closed desperately. Leaping to his feet, Ethan looked around, horrified at the destruction he had wrought. For he was indeed in the center of a crater, but also in the center of a multiverse--a multiverse he had created by accident with the ritual to make the two of them immortal.
Falling to his knees, he placed his head in his hands. "This isn't what I wanted."
Then there was a hand on his shoulder. He turned and saw Aleta smiling at him. She remembered nothing of their past life, but she still cared.
It was all too much. Remembering what had just been an accident, Ethan swiped his hand through the air and tore open another rift, plunging through and closing it behind himself. He was in another crater, another world, by another Aleta--but this one was unconscious and couldn't follow as he ran away.
"Why do you insist on using those stuffy runes when there's so much raw power you can command?" The Reish Aleta asked for the thousandth time, and for the thousandth time Ethan sighed.
"Raw power is useful and can be manipulated quickly," he conceded, "but runework ensures that the magic stays under control and does what you want it to." Mostly
. For a hundred years he had explored the infinite worlds he had created, keeping track of their progress--and of the Aletas. This one shared his interest in magic, but Ethan wasn't sure which part of his beloved was embedded in this Aleta's mind.
The Sorceress shrugged. "Using runes reduces the power of the spells. It's better just to have the speed and flexibility raw magic provides."
Ethan shook his head. "Nonsense. The control is far more important--surely worth losing a little aetheric output. I've been watching your experiments, Aleta, and your uncontrolled exploration of magic is polluting and twisting the world. You should put more effort into using runes. You'd be surprised how useful they are."
"I prefer to be able to cast my spells quickly, if it's all the same to you."
Ethan snapped his fingers and the ground surged to life, light erupting from a rune carved into the earth. Magical chains surged upwards and bound the Sorceress. Cursing, she tried to destroy them, but to no effect. "Activating preset runes is faster than casting spells." He let the magic fade, trying to ignore her glare. "Meticulous preparation and safeguards are key to using magic safely and properly," he lectured. "Otherwise, great power will wreak great destruction."
"Well maybe I need to destroy something," she countered bitterly. "A certain immortal comes to mind."
Ethan looked at her sharply. "Aleta!" He noticed a dark look behind her eyes, but it was quickly replaced by a disarming smile.
"Oh, just joking," she laughed, but Ethan didn't believe her. Not for one second.
"So how are the other dimensions?" the Talich Aleta asked as Ethan walked into her lab. He cringed. Even though he had been careful not to let any of them know, some of the Aletas had figured out the existence of the other dimensions. Fortunately they didn't know about each other. That would be difficult to explain.
"They progress. Time goes on, as it always does."
"I'm working on using the multiversal theory to create a teleportation device," she said, looking over her glasses at a computer console. "The programming is difficult, however."
Ethan shrugged. He had never been very good with technology. "I'm sure you'll figure something out. You always have."
She beamed and looked at him. "You've been a great help, Ethan. I can't stand
all of these mortals."
He gave her a guarded hug. "I wish I could do more."
"Being the guardian of infinite worlds is a difficult enough task, I'm sure," she said, turning back to the programming. "How many of us immortals are there?"
"Oh, a couple," Ethan lied. "Not counting Torment and Solace, of course."
"Of course. The Overseers still giving you trouble?"
He shook his head. "I avoid going to Solace and they avoid the mortal realms. It works out."
"I see." She turned to a workstation and began tinkering with some circuitry.
"If you're busy..." Ethan began, and she nodded.
Turning, he opened a rift and walked away.
"For the last time, stay away from me you creep!" Aleta yelled, drawing the attention of the many passerby in Kyrallic. "I don't care that we're the only immortals, I don't like
"Ma'am," a security officer said, walking up to them with his hand on a stun baton, "is this man bothering you?"
Aleta shot Ethan a withering glare and nodded. "It feels like I've had to suffer his company for an eternity."
The guard looked at him. "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to step away from the woman."
Ethan snarled. "Stay out of this. Aleta, you're being childish, you know that?"
The guard pulled his baton from his belt. "Sir--"
Ethan's fingers snapped and magical bindings erupted from a rune a short distance away, locking the guard in place. "I'll be going, but first I want to say my piece."
The crowd gasped. "Magic!" "Criminal!" "How dare
he!" "A sorceror!"
Ethan rubbed his temples, trying to avoid a mounting headache. "Listen, Aleta, I'm here to help. To make sure that everything is going well. That you're happy."
"Well, you aren't helping and I hate you. If you want to make me happy, stay away! And stop using magic! It was banned here for a reason, you know!"
He held up his hands and began to back off. As he did so, the bonds restraining the officer faded and he charged. But Ethan merely turned and slipped through a rift to a different world, closing it behind himself with centuries of practice so none could follow.
He always thought of this as the original world, as the true epicenter of the multiverse. All signs of the once flourishing civilization were gone, buried beneath the abundant wild growth. Ethan often came here to think, to contemplate what had gone so horribly awry.
He considered the Aleta here on the Untamed World to be the true Aleta as well, merely awaiting the return of all of the scattered fragments of her personality. Ethan couldn't bear to speak to her, not since that first day. His fingers strayed to the edge of his often patched magician's cloak.
"Not a single thread of the original is left by now," he joked softly. "Just patches over patches." He sighed. "Just like my life, my dreams. What am I supposed to do?" The plan had been perfect, foolproof even. Rewrite the universe to make the two of them immortal. But somehow, in the process he had split the universe and Aleta into countless pieces. Not infinite, mind you. He had walked all of the multiverse over the past several hundred years and knew every world, every remnant of Aleta's once perfect, beautiful mind. Now it was all pieces, shattered pieces of what had once been whole.
"If I could just put them back together," he whispered, staring at his hands. Wait...
"What if I could just put them back together!"
It took another hundred years of planning, of research, of crafting the right runes and placing them in the proper locations. Visits to the other Aletas became infrequent as Ethan concentrated on two worlds far from the Untamed World. He planned, he invented a whole new grammatical structure for runes, he prepared, he double-checked the safety measures he put in place. In fact, he went over them twenty-one times in a fit of superstition. And then, the chosen day.
It was a clear sky. Ethan stood at the world's crater, a remnant of the Calamity all of those years ago. This far from the center of the multiverse, the crater was much smaller than on other worlds. Still, it was large enough and foreboding enough that few people ever came here.
He spoke the words, pulled enough raw power from the aether to make the Sorceress of Reish drool, and threw it into the runes spread throughout the world, a network that began at his feet and spread out across the globe like a spiderweb. There was a mounting tension in the air, a sense of compression, and then the world seemed to shatter and explode. Trying to concentrate on the magic in spite of the strain, Ethan passed out.
When Ethan awoke, two worlds had become one.
He ran to where he knew Aleta would be, completely disregarding the destruction that surrounded him, barely even noticing that the overlaid worlds looked just like they had right after the Calamity. He found her, unconscious, and quickly scanned her thoughts.
Gone. She had forgotten everything once again. Ethan looked deeper into her mind, and there he found it. Two seeds of Aleta's original personality. Two worlds, two Aletas, combined into one. And if two worlds of the multiverse could be overlaid, all of them could.
Ethan left Aleta there, lying unconscious, peaceful. Envisioning a mental map of the multiverse, he chose two more worlds. There was more work to do.
And so my exploration of the mysterious second man from the Calamity continues. This story brought to you in part by Grinnin_Gin's Card Design Challenge, which motivated me to actually write the story. I've got more plans for Ethan, so stay tuned for the continuation of this extremely speculative series.