More prose poetry, this time on Dark Souls. The below is a lot of things, but among them, I intend it to be an extremely succinct (and therefore not very careful) explication of my argument from the Dark Noon series. You can fill in the gaps with the actual essays, excepting those gaps in the essays which you can fill in with this. Git gud, I suppose.
“When the Ashes are two, a flame alighteth. Thou’rt Ash, and fire befits thee, of course.”
-Father Ariandel, Dark Souls 3
In the beginning, there was mist, and in that mist were shapes of trees, of branches, of great, stone dragons that remained forever still, of vermin that writhed and crawled in the fog’s deepest whorls. Nothing seemed to move. Nothing seemed to cease moving. No creature in that mist looked out and recognized any other, but even if one had, it would have troubled at a quandary: “This Everything I see–is it one, or is it many?”
Two. The first prime. A great, uncertain step forward, every bit as profound as the gulf between the mist and the void, even more important in its way. It answers a question, a question that truly must be asked: One or many? No one, after all, disputes that there is something. Even the most charred cynic claims not that there is nothing, merely that nothing matters. Nothing is different. It is all the same. A Son of God once claimed that where two gather in His name, He shall be among them. It makes sense. He claimed to be the Truth, and Truth is what separates the first from the second.
A moment came within the fog–timeless until this strange happenstance–when a fire, dim within the great stasis, flickered to life, deep within the earth that clung to the trees. Its heat drove back the mist, and the vermin, eyes at last open, could ignore it no longer.
For the Fire brought disparity: Heat and cold. Life and death. And, of course, light and dark. The vermin at last saw themselves amongst the trees. They saw the dragons looming above them. They saw difference, and, within the Fire, they found a means to address the inequity. From its burning depths, they drew forth the souls of Lords: Light, order, nobility; Chaos, change, flux; Death, decay, eternal rest. Together, the Lords rose up and overthrew the dragons, Lords in their own right of stone and Stasis. Upon what remained, they built a great kingdom for the Humanity they championed.
But were they truly champions? The Flame of Truth had made two of one, had separated humanity from the tree and the stone, but is Truth itself singular?
When the Lords departed for their war against the dragons, the pygmies of the vermin, the lowest of those that writhed, considered what remained within the Fire and found in its dregs one final soul, a Dark soul of ash and lies, a stain to be feared, buried, forgotten. Truth, after all prescribes what is true but also what is not. Is Humanity, then, above or below? Is it the second or the first?
A fire is not an object. It is a process. It devours the singular, separates its fuel into two: Goats and sheep, good and ill, heat and ash. To be fuel is to be exalted, momentarily brought forth from the mist, placed upon a hilltop to be, however briefly, a guiding light for those attempting to see. But the fate of cinder is grim. Heat dissipates. What once appeared lordly soon crumbles, charcoal to ember to ash. The Fire gave us God, but it is the fate of gods to die. To burn. To be separated into truth and lies, buried, leaving us to wonder whether there was ever truth in what we believed. But still deeper, quietly slithering beneath the denouement, a question remains. It is not the question–Fire presupposed to answer it. It is our question. Not: One or zero? But: One or two?
Ignition brought us new life, but the dying Fire offers a choice. Do we wish the Fire to survive? It needs fuel, that which we elevate, which guides us, which dies and is forgotten; but not just any fable from the mist might be a Lord of Cinder. The abyss within us is clever. It sees the dying light and asks:
“Don’t you see? Your Lord is dead. Why should the next be any different? Truth has shown its colors, revealed that Truth itself is a lie. Hew no more Lords, set no more lies ablaze. All are hollow, and I am their final Lord. Let us break the cycle, now and forever.”
The words of the abyss are like cold iron. They cut and slice the specters Humanity has brought forth, those unkindled that would be cinder. Some are defeated, others corrupted, persuaded. Some retreat to the cold land of stories, far from the Flame’s light, in search of a sweetly rotting bed where they might breathe their last. But some remain, steadfast, flickering like embers in the dark, stronger, more meaningful to us than the abyss’ creeping truth. More meaningful, for just a brief, shining moment, than Truth itself.
These few are fit for the pyre, fit to be fuel, to become two and be forgotten, but immolation cannot be their choice. They are mist, and mist cannot choose. No, the choice lies with us. Do we allow the flame to gutter and die, plunging us into a new era of dark and mist? Do we throw our Lords upon the Fire? Are we of lies or Truth? Dark or light? One or two?
And if we have abandoned our choice, retreated to our stories and our cold and our rot, do we yet pray to the shadows that remain of gods long dead? And what of the Fire that casts them? Perhaps it only flickers, but we are ash, and Fire befits us, of course.