Alas, many of the first race were insulted by the presentation of such a grandiose gift to those whom they considered unworthy clay. The desire or even need to take form, whether plant, animal, or thing, was to be despised and ranked as lowly. To such minds, souls were simply well-shaped pets, brought to existence to amuse the higher forms. Adding insult to their argument, they declared them perpetual children, as they required guardians and teachers from their betters. Because of this, they could not be granted self-governance or the promise to become duta like those who naturally resonated thus. However, those who stood with the king's decision regarded all atman equally valuable. To them, these atman were the expression of Seraphim, either realized or in the process of becoming realized. Seraphim was the highest resonance any atman could attain before returning to Nirvana. It was because of this they deserved the respect and love of duta.

All beings struggled for balance, but opposing factions spurned peace, and used their differences to forge a great divergence. War raged between the citizens of Zion and much blood was shed throughout the three realms. The clash was called The Conflict of Hosts, and it saw the people of Zion split apart, families broken, and lines ended. Both duta and souls were held to account for this bloodletting. Thus the lands of Jahannam were filled with those convicted of crimes of murder and rape against the souls. These acts were an insistence of the souls' subordination and inadequacy. The worst among these criminals were the duta who used the souls under their charge, as they were given the task of watching over them in Samsara during the beginning days. These offending duta were sealed off from the others beneath a thick mantle of stone. In the dark, broken echo of Zion, cut off from the Perpetual Light and forced to exist in a realm that resonated far below that of Zion, the atman starved and became twisted cruel monsters, shadows of their former glory. They came to be known as danava.

The Conflict carried with it a further price. The beings who fought on the side of the king had been too willing to shed the blood of their kin despite the light of their atman, and were now deemed greatly flawed and incomplete. Duta and souls alike were required to undergo lengthy evolutions, each succession a rising, to ensure the purity of their atman before they could ever hope to return to Nirvana. The process was overseen by a court of councilors. These judges would weigh every action and determine the course of the atman they steered. Those bent toward the dark would fall into the abyss of Jahannam, some eventually to rise, others to self-destruct. For those whose atman found no restoration and proved too dangerous to others, the Jñanasattva created the final realm of eternal and utter destruction. This dark place was called Oblivion.

An increasingly complicated system built up around the new practice, cloistering the king and his advisors away from those they loved. They were protected by endless levels of councils all tasked with the guidance of each and every atman in existence, whom they now coldly termed assigns. There were the armies who protected the gates of each world, which were virtually closed off to any other beings than duta. To inspire the places and cultures of Zion, the muses cared for new atman and watched over those choosing to incarnate into the other realms. With any system came the troubles of bureaucracy and the defense of their way.

Eons passed. Wars were waged. History became lore. Some believed that The Conflict never ended and that it rages to this day. Regardless of history becoming fable, the danava had broken free of their prison, finding a way to open the seal and activate doorways to continue their struggle for control of Samsara and its people, a path to conquer and return to Zion. With control of the souls as soldiers and bartering chips, danava believed they were guaranteed their goal. The failure to realize that their defiance caused the decay of their atman and blinded them to the ultimate price: complete and utter destruction in Oblivion. Their pride brought them as far as the Avernus . . .

***

Gediel, a watcher, knelt behind a layer of thick brush just in view of a wide glade. A spring pool occupied the north end, deep and wide, sprung from nothing in particular and was out of place and, oddly, a perfect circle. Ages had worn the hard surfaces that appeared more fitting to a cliff face or seaside. The smooth lines of the rock consisted of a vertical projection and a broad, smooth stone floor, like an irregular clamshell. The forest framed the area with a natural canopy missing from the crumbling arch. The water at the edge of the pool would be pleasantly tepid in the late afternoon sun. The glade and its strange pool reminded him of places in Elysion, the furtherst continent circling the inner half of the southern hemisphere of Zion, and where he lived outside the tight confines of society. The glade was the most beautiful in all of Eden. His appraisal may have been biased, for the location was also the bower of an erela Gediel favored above all others. No Naiades or Oreiades female could compare in charm to her.

The Trailokya Trilogy, Book One: The Shadow SoulWhere stories live. Discover now