The Meantime of the Darklight: Part 3
As Thomas reels from the shock of being turned mortal, his small band of compatriots kill the elf who turned him, even over his protests. In the aftermath of the attack, he tells them that their mission of peace now has a much higher priority first step tacked on to the start of it. With the onset of his mortality, Thomas must first and foremost entrust them all to the guidance of the only other one of his kind, in case he should die and his unique knowledge be lost forever; the only other survivor of this world's initial state of being, who remembers the terrible truth of its origins that Thomas fears to tell; the one reckoned a "warlock" witch, who lives in the wilds beyond even the orc lands, who is the guiding power behind the orcish chieftan uniting the west, going these days by the name of Pseudo. They face a difficult journey through the orc lands of the west. They are attacked by local orcs if they should happen too close to any settlements, orcs only defending their lands but no less of a threat to unfamiliar people of many strange races in this time of war. After several such encounters they are eventually pursued by an orcish war party, who no doubt thinks they are a forward unit of the Chalman army advancing on something of strategic importance. Barely turning back that war party when it finally manages to catch them, thanks to the power of the handful of wizards among them, they are soon beset by a unit of powerful warlocks along with further orcish troops. Unable to escape from such powerful foes for long, not the least without being driven further away from their intended destination, they are eventually forced into a battle they are ill-equipped to win. They barely sieze victory anyway, but at a terrible cost: Thomas finally dies for good, far weaker in his human form than he is accustomed to, and now without access to the magic on which he has relied exhaustively for untold ages. With his dying breath, Thomas tries to tell John the terrible truth about their world, but barely manages a mere fragment of it: they are all dead, and their world is hell. Not, he clarifies over John's protests, that they are all doomed and the world is terrible: no, their world is the literal afterlife, and every single person in it is a long dead spirit, though all but Thomas and Pseudo have long forgotten as much, and now, as he dies in this corrupted form, he will forget as well in his next incarnation. (More details).
The band continue on to find Pseudo, whose guidance they now need more than ever. She tells them to call her "Sue", as "Pseudo" is a pseudonym given to her based on a very old misunderstanding. Weighing the prospect carefully, she decides to tell them the truth that Thomas feared to tell them, for in case something should happen to her in this war, someone must remember it. She elaborates on Thomas' assertion that their world is "hell", affirming that it is not the real world of the living, but a kind of manufactured afterlife. It is an elaborate illusion, a realm of pure spirit made for spirits to inhabit, facilitated by what they all perceive as magic, but which is in fact mundane artifice far beyond their comprehension. Actual humanity once lived in a world beyond this one, and created it as a haven for themselves in which to outlive their natural mortality, an afterlife, though one meant to be much better than this. That real world long ago fell to ruin, this one preserved only by the might of the Eldest, who was like a god even among the people of the real world. Then in time this world fell to ruin as well, in the ways they have already learned in the legends Thomas has told them. They ask her if there’s anything that can be done about that, and she tells them of a prophecy she only knows partially, that some kind of peace between Elves and Vampires is required to free the only being who might have the power to set things right, the rightful queen of the hell that is now their world, the Eldest’s lost love. In the process of seeking out Sue, they inadvertantly lead to her none other than a vampire queen by the name of Vis, who has also long searched for her and has been stalking their party as they crossed the orcish lands. Sue uses her significant magical ability to defend the party from Vis and the warlocks she soon brings to bear upon them, but in the end she is embraced by the vampire and reduced to an orc. Vis and her forces are soon driven off by the arrival of the Chalman army, but that army then turn on Sue, and then on the band of adventurers who turn to defend her, except John who tries to talk both sides into peace, and then surrenders to the overpowering forces of the Chalman army, abandoning his new friends rather than fight beside them, because someone must survive to remember what he has learned. (More details).
John is spared by his former compatriots, who are surprisingly understanding of his choice to accompany those who rescued him on the battlefield, because of his hesitance to attack them when the final confrontation came. He is reluctantly pressed back into service with them, and is there on the battlefield when the Chalman prince and the orc chieftan have their final confrontation, and destroy each other in a spectacular battle. As he guiltily slays the orcs that are trying to kill him, stomach knotted while reflecting on the true heritage of his kind and their kind that he alone now knows, he wonders what significance death even has if they are all dead already, besides that Thomas seemed to think that death here means loss of memory, at least for "human" beings like himself. With that in mind, he finds reason to fight, for the memory of the world as it was meant to be, and hope for how it may one day be restored. In the aftermath of their leaders' fatal duel, the prince's gem of Fire is lost in the debris, but the Chieftan's gem of Ice is claimed by the Elven King, who takes it to the Elvish lands to keep such power out of mortal hands forever. Without the gem of Fire, the Chalman hegemony of the human lands quickly whithers away and the east fractures again into rival kingdoms vying for power. Nevertheless, the human conquest of the world is completed, and the orcish people are now subjugated to their rule. John returns home to Esplanadia as the army is disbanded, determined to make sure that the truth he has learned is remembered. (More details).