What Am I?

Introduction

The following story gives some origin to the character known as the Nameless Man. It is set several years before the White War and occurs in some uncharted land.

What Am I?

There was an ephemeral chill which seemed to move with a purpose of its own. Deep into the wilderness it went. A strange wind which echoed with things long past and that which is yet to come. It whispered through trees and over rocks. It whispered of a nameless eternal thing. Behind the undergrowth there was a boulder which concealed a cave. The chill otherworldly air moved around the boulder like spidery fingers creeping on flesh. It entered the cave which ran back into the darkness and swept down into a tunnel. The tunnel led to a cavern, deep in the ground. There was no light. All that could be heard was the drip, drip of water running off stalactites. In the darkness lay a body. It was something neither one thing or the other, a cryptic mass. It was a form of formless concept, a contradiction of what it appeared to be. Energy, power, thought, and design. Flesh, life, existence, and bone. The chill wind covered it like a shroud in death, a cloak to conceal potential life. The wind was replaced by a faint blue-white light, glowing and growing in intensity like sight returning to the recently awoken. Still there was no sound beyond the drip, drip, water from the recesses of the damp earth. The world around the cavern was oblivious to the monumental, momentous, happenings right then and there. The sum of the cavern was unaware and unable to perceive the world which had such scope and magnitude. Nothing and everything was happening within the bottled confines of the cavern. Sensing that the task was complete the light departed, reverting to a simple wind which dissipated into the surrounding lands without so much as a second thought as to the potential chaos and order it might have unleashed on, and hidden from, the known world. The body lay still in the dark as it had its first thought. It would be the first of many but that first thought would haunt, condemn, confuse, infuriate, invigorate, and drive anyone and everyone who thought it. That thought was simple, so perfectly formed in functional complexity. That thought was simply, What am I?

Alone in the dark, the man sat upright from where he had lain. His back was straight, arms lying on his thighs, legs stretched out before him. More thoughts were forming in his head but the shockingly loud quiet thing which drowned out the water drip was his first word. It was his answer. The first rational, nonsense, and inadequate answer to his first thought. The word was said with a careless precision “Me.” The answer would suffice for now, but intrinsically the man knew he would have to search for a better answer. The time was not yet come to leave the solitude of the cavern, but soon that emptiness would be filled to serve purposes beyond the fledgling reckoning of the man who sat there thinking.

Days had gone by in the cavern, although the darkness was so bereft of change that the man could not be sure of anything. The man sat cross-legged in the pitch blackness waiting, for what he did not know and could not say. Twisting, vertigo-inducing, amazing, thoughts were forming in his mind. They were like sparkling, shining, points of understanding. Nothing made sense, yet everything was beginning to turn clear like crystal set amongst the dull twinkle of gemstones. Veins of precious material running through bare rock. Every second was like a perfectly aimed strike at the rock, revealing the seams of gold like the answers they were, and proving how far he was from them and displaying even further questions. He felt no mortal hunger for food or sustenance. Yet he was consumed with an overwhelming, barely noticed hunger. This hunger was for knowledge, understanding, meaning, purpose. They were his sustenance; they were the things he required. Suddenly with a slow speed which startled him into nothing more than opening his eyes the whispering creeping wind returned.

The wind whispered words to him. They were so close, they were distant and muffled like he was underwater. Drowning in the emptiness of the cavern, waiting for the streaming, screaming moment of true light. Freedom lay beyond yet the man was concerned that grasping freedom meant denying safety. It made sense of an illogical, incomplete kind. The man stood before the wind, shaking in anticipation, motionless with shock. As he watched the wind ceased its lazy, frantic movement. It metamorphosed into the blue-white light but did not stop. It took form and shape, revealing a pure blue-white solidity which contained a translucent, transparent body. Hovering before the man was a luminous, luminescent woman, with a beauty so benign and benevolent. Glowing white eyes looked at him with compassion, pity, and wonder. It was like she had found something new, familiar, unremarkable, and outstanding. The man wanted to look away from the dull blinding light but the glare drew his eyes in with a certainty like the dawn, or the dusk, or eternal waves of sound and thought. The woman had a radiant, radiance which illuminated the cavern, extending shadows from the stalactites and the curve and sweep of the cavern walls. She reached out a hand and all the man could do was hold his breath. The pale, cold hand like ice, glass, freezing flame and burning frost, touched his forehead gently. It was like an impact which might have launched him across the cavern yet seized him on the spot.

Withdrawing her hand the woman opened her mouth to speak but her lips moved no further. The man heard the words, not from her mouth but in his ear and directly into his mind. One word stuck like an insect in sap, a leaf suspended upon the water. That word was a beauty of its own like the woman, that word was “Change.” He could change. The man could change his outlook and understanding, increase his knowledge, fill his mind, he knew this already. But more than this he could change his appearance. This was an ability he possessed, whether given to him by the blue-white light woman or some others means he did not know and was too afraid to ask. When he had awoken his body had been that of man but lacking definition. He had no hair; his skin was of no colour except the reflecting colour of his surroundings, rock and water, luminous beauty and dark tunnel maw. His eyes were blank, no colour, only iris. Even the lines of his face, his jaw, his musculature, were basic like a statue chiselled out of marble, yet not complete. Reasoning this and finding solutions the man watched as the woman evaporated to a chilling mist, circled him once, then drifted away like the cool breeze once more. Once more he was alone, alone with his thoughts and crowded by such company.

The man spent a great deal of time testing his abilities in the cavern. Changing his appearance took practise but he was quickly mastering it. He modified his body, height changing, weight fluctuating, skin tone, eyes, and hair, all colours he could imagine. Still he could not decide on one appearance for he had no frame of reference. How should you decide what you look like when you have seen only one other being in the world? And how can that inform your decision when you cannot truly be sure such a vision of ethereal luminance was even really there or not? Eventually he felt that he should sleep. There in his dreams, the strange symphony of sound, the flash and snap of sight, so many wondrous, terrifying, and bewildering things he saw there. In his dreams he might find the answers, see the meaning derived from the meaningless.

The man reflected on his existence constantly. He could see his own potential, and contemplate the many things he could learn, the astonishing things which he could achieve through his power. His skills, much like his muscles were improving. For long periods of time he practised his movements, something instinctual which he recognised as combat. Using his powers he had formed basic clothing for himself, trousers and a shirt, of no discernable colour. Still the man could only guess at the length of time which had past since his awakening. That was something which seemed to gnaw at his thoughts, soothing his growing mind with trivialities. The woman of the blue-white light, the pale and delicate luminescent being, had not returned since she had spoken to him. This was concerning to the man, but somehow he felt the blue-white light was not entirely gone. What he could not know, was how the blue-white light was working out there, in the world, to bring to the man a startling, terrifying, outstanding paradigm. If the man felt he was an enigma, he was about to look into a mirror which reflected something the same and so completely different as well.

The tall man clad in black robes had come so very far. Deep into the wilderness he had travelled, that was the path set before him. Through glen, around loch, and into forests, the man had walked or ridden, depending on circumstance. He knew his purpose, even if it was a mystery to those he had met along the way. Torment was his only constant companion, occasionally giving him a hard edge to those he met, or a lonely aura, a vague impression of sadness, hope, anger, and contemplation. To some he had delivered a bright new day, and others, only pain unimaginable. The man had walked far into the wilderness. It had been several days since he had seen another person. As the daylight started to slowly fade he entered a clearing. Thinking that this might be a suitable campsite, the black-clad man stopped, planting his crude oaken staff into the leaf covered ground. Something caught the man’s attention, just out of the corner of his eye. Taking two cautious steps forward, the black-clad man saw it clearly. If clearly could be used, it was not correctly, for what he saw was not altogether clear. At the edge of the clearing was a shimmering, wavering, shape of no proper design. It was a blue-white light of radiant, etherealness. Something seemed to beckon him onward, to follow with a great deal of urgency. The man walked after the strange light, which seemed to be receding. As the ephemeral light picked up speed, the man in the black robes broke into a run. Twisting this way and that, the man dodged around obstacles, darting through the trees with the light only ever on the edges of his vision. After breathless minutes he slid to a stop as he found himself standing in front of a huge boulder which seemed to sit beside a rocky outcrop which sloped backwards into the ground behind the boulder. There were bushes and trees growing nearby, branches hanging low. There the light seemed to hover, as if with a purpose of its own. The man caught his breath, watching the light with curiosity in his green eyes. Gradually the light surrounded the boulder, and with a rumble and scraping sound, the boulder moved aside. The man was only slightly surprised by this, and that a cave mouth had now been revealed. Without hesitating the man walked forward as the blue-white light floated down into the cave. He stepped into the cave, and followed the tunnel down which led from the back of the small cave. His sword hung at his belt, but the man felt no need to use it. He did not even notice the faint red glow which flashed across the surface of the blade within the scabbard.

The man found himself in a large cavern but the light was nowhere to be seen. Some movement in the recesses of the cavern alerted him as he said “Who is there? Come out of the shadows. I followed a mysterious light down here.”

The man from the cavern took a cautious step forward and inquired “You saw the light?”

Nathaniel looked at the man, who did not seem like an ordinary man. He was not human, and was not elven. The man looked almost statuesque, carved from marble or crystal, and there was a coloured sheen to his skin which reminded the mage of the blue-white light. He replied “You could say that. Yes.”

The man trailed off when he spoke again, as if deep in contemplation “So it is real…”

The black-clad mage nodded “Real, intriguing, and elusive now it seems. Who are you?”

With a slightly concerned smile the strange man responded “I ask myself that question often. I suspect I will have to go out there to find the answers. Are there answers out there?”

Nathaniel could see this man had a powerful yet confused mind. He looked around the cavern before answering “Yes, there are answers, although the best ones are hard to find and all answers lead to more questions. Always more questions. What is your name?”

The question seemed to take the man by surprise. After a moment he said with honesty “I do not have one. Is a name important?”

“Not overly. Names are expected though, they are necessary, if only to describe yourself and the things around you.” The mage replied thoughtfully.

The nameless man sighed “I suppose I should find one. What is yours?”

The mage answered with a neutral tone, as if the question was one he did not fully appreciate. He was weary of it perhaps, or did not want to reveal too much about himself, that was how it seemed to the nameless man. Still the mage said “Nathaniel Drakkon.”

They talked for some time and Drakkon told him many things. The nameless man learned about some of the things Drakkon had seen on his travels, and of his home, Weissland. The nameless man thought a cave was a poor substitute for a country, but Drakkon said “Some people need a place to call home; others are at home wherever they go. Their heart, their mind, and all the things they do. That is their home. I think your home is wherever you go.”

The nameless man smiled “That is true knowledge. Home is a concept, as much as a physical place.” The conversation moved on and the nameless man told Drakkon of the blue-white light. Or at least what little he knew of it. “It is something so much vaster and yet more delicate than you or I. I do not know what the blue-white light truly is, but I know that it is familiar to me, on some level.”

Nathaniel said in a whisper “A mystery.”

The nameless man nodded “Quite. Perhaps the blue-white light is an infinite mystery, one which cannot be solved but must be attempted none the less.”

They continued their discussion until something strange happened. Drakkon seemed to get distracted. He looked at something which was not there. Words were mumbled, but they were not for the nameless man. Finally Drakkon spoke “I must move on. I must continue… with my mission.”

“What mission?” The nameless man inquired, his attention gained and his thoughts distracted.

Drakkon stood up and explained “I am seeking truth and answers, whatever they may be and to whatever end they will lead me. I hope they will help me to see a better world.” The black-clad mage turned and left without another word, leaving the nameless man to wonder and contemplate. Perhaps he did such too much, would it not be better to leave the cave like Drakkon? Find this better world, find the true knowledge. That was the nameless man’s mission, if indeed he had something which could be described in such terms and parameters. The nameless man would scour the world, and search his growing mind, for true knowledge. When he found it he would become enlightened, and he would pass that enlightenment on to others. Thus he would not just see the better world, he would help build it. Then he could choose his name.

Names were important and meaningless. Things required names. They were a means to an end. They were a form of knowledge, but not true knowledge. Names were just a way for people to communicate about things. They were a way of saying “You are… I am… That thing there… This place here…” A means to an end. Names held little meaning and only any value to the discussion of them. They held no value because they could be changed so easily, they were not immutable, they were not stationary or permanent. Only true names had any power, and such were beyond the mastery of mortals to discern, divine, or discover. The man would require a name, but when the time came he would build a true name for himself. His power would be his to control, unlike mortals tied to each other like burdens, tied to their masters and servants and equals. As far as he knew he had no equal, and if he did, they were so far beyond mortals that they were worthy of being equals. Still, the man clad in black robes had made sense; he had given the nameless man a measure of insight. That was worthy, that was meaningful if even in a small way.

Night came, and the nameless man slept, dreamed. He dreamed of the blue-white light, of his purpose, and leaving the cave. The world waited with held breath and silent shouts of exultation. Colours which at first seemed faded to his eyes burst with vibrancy the nameless man could almost not imagine. It might have blinded a mortal, but the nameless man was certain he was not mortal. Hearing a noise he woke up with a start. The quiet, whispering wind howled in his ears. Standing up the nameless man took hurried and cautious steps forward, towards the way out. Suddenly the blue-white light rushed into the cave, stopping abruptly before him. He said with exhilaration “You’re back, you’ve returned…”

The blue-white light hovered with grace. As it once more became the vision of the woman it spoke. This time the nameless man did not hear her voice inside his head “It is time, the waiting is over. You have grown beyond our expectations and now it is your chance to go your own way.”

“Will you come with me?” The nameless man asked fearfully and hopefully.

The beautiful light smiled sadly “No, this is your journey. I was just your watcher, I cannot participate, only watch. I am only given sufferance to deliver this message to you because we let you go the way you choose.”

The nameless man sighed and said “Then I won’t see you again.”

The blue-white light flared brightly, revealing a dimmed core, diminished in some way. Changing back to the pure light and beginning to fade away, she said “Nothing is certain, now go forth and set your first foot upon the path.” With that she was gone, the blue-white light was gone, and the nameless man knew grief and pain, and shining hope and trepidation about what was to come.

One step after another, the nameless man walked up from the cave and into the tunnel. It was steep, and he had to grip the walls as he went. Gradually the light increased, and he moved as if he craved it. Reaching the surface, he found himself in the wilderness, the forest surrounded him. The nameless man looked around him with a mixture of awe and confusion. With a sigh he asked himself a new question “Which way will I go first?” The nameless man instinctively picked a direction and began walking, it was clear he had a long way to go. As he walked, the blue sheen and statue-like appearance faded and he clad himself in black concealing robes. A slight smile lit up his face.

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