“What prevents the villagers from entering this place?” asked One.
The monk indicated the passage through which they’d entered. The memory nodes above it held a series of glowing ideograms in the inscrutable written language of Dream. They formed an arch over the tunnel entrance, from which fell a curtain of light.
“It is sealed. The most beautiful memories are clustered there. The villagers are husks hollowed out by fears and neuroses; they cannot abide the seal’s light.”
For a moment, One thought he could make out letters in the archway glyphs. The name of the queen.
“I have not journeyed through physical space and time,” began the myrmidon, realization dawning slowly. Base tilted his head slightly, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. One tried again.
“I have not journeyed through time as I knew it in the country of my birth. From the moment Elan recreated me, my travels have been in her contextual space. The Verge of the Lattice, the Last City, the Windswept World, the long journeys before that...”
Base was nodding.
“Even the place to which I now return. All of them are interpretations and reinterpretations of the same phenomena. This place is not physically in a different location from the Lattice console. I have not moved.”
“You move,” amended the monk. “You travel the Shimmering Path. The movement is metaphor. The Path is how the mind makes sense of the transition between one perception of reality and another. Each step that you take is necessary.”
“Even if there is no step,” finished the myrmidon, and Base smiled faintly.
“One, your quest to defeat the Mad God is a quest to save Elan’s mind, in which we dwell. This much have I been able to discern from here, for it is my quest as well. Alone, I have been unable to succeed. Together, we may have a chance. But I have no idea what, if anything, might lie beyond this conflict. My usefulness to you is ending. Your challenge is now beginning.
“I have been a memory here for as long as I can remember. Perhaps that is all I have every truly been - a construct, an assembly of perceptions. As far as I know, my reach extends from the abandoned structures of the Fields of Study above, down through the Lake and Corridors of Blood, and finally to the black altar beyond.”