Understanding The Balance – From the Archives of Kris the Bard – Part One

For all too brief a time, the White Tower, also known as The Lost Tower, twin to Melasurej, the Wizards’ Keep, stood in Elannort alongside its damaged twin. Unbeknownst to anyone, I secretly crept up the tower several times to converse with The Guardian of Tomorrow. After each encounter, I rushed back to my room to capture on paper, as accurately as I could remember, the words that had been spoken. Now, in another time and a different dimension, I have the opportunity to reflect on those hurriedly scrawled notes and share them with you.

Before Our First Meeting

It was the Lost Tower that brought Simon home at the end of the Time Loop. Simon spoke for a long time with The Guardian. This is an extract from A View of the Past and sums up everything that we then knew about The Balance.

“We are the Guardian of Tomorrow.”

Simon searched the top of the tower for a person or a being. There was no one there. The voice had seemed to come from within the time portal itself. “What are you?” he asked in a voice much calmer than he felt.

“We simply are. We were here before the last Conjunction. We are here now. We will be here after the next Conjunction. When all else passes and withers, still will we be. We are Time.”

Simon struggled to his feet. The swirling mass of everything continued in the portal. He tried to avoid looking at it.“Whom do you serve?”

“Time serves no one, though Fate would have you believe otherwise.”

“But you fly the flag of the Balance?”

“The White Tower does, aye. Many call it the Lost Tower for we have spent many ages lost in Limbo, only occasionally materialising in one universe or another, seeking our permanent home.”

“Where is that?”

“At the centre of things. This universe is a poor one. There is little sentient life. Only sentient life understands the concept of time. Unless you are able to plan for tomorrow, time has no meaning. After the last Conjunction, we sat at the centre of the Cosmos and looked out and were disappointed. We see what was, what is, and what will be. We have seen many cycles. Almost all sentient life ultimately destroys itself. In the end, all gods die but we prevail. For a long time we sat on a planet in a galaxy far away in your universe. The sentient species that evolved there was magnificent. In their language, they called themselves Manken, but you know them as Great Old Ones. They didn’t destroy themselves but made the ultimate evolutionary step. They have gone from this universe and we miss them. They understood time and they knew not to try to meddle with it. Yet even they made a mistake. They became arrogant and thought they knew it all. They built Melasurej on your world to be the new centre of things. Their solar system died, as is inevitable, but they survived. They knew that they were going to leave this universe and they wanted to provide new sentient life. They built Melasurej for the White Tower but they also built the Black Tower. They tried to replicate us. We could not stand in Melasurej while the Black Tower’s abomination repelled us. They misunderstood us. They thought to have a tower to represent Law and another to represent Chaos. They did not understand that we are neither and both. We are the pivot upon which the Balance swings. They also had another motive, which they hid from us.”

Simon was enchanted by the story but felt that he had to butt in. “But you see everything, how can that be?” He had already become used to talking to an inanimate object.

“In all existence there has only ever been a single dimension to any universe. There are other universes but they are all undivided. Only your universe, since the Sundering, has multiple dimensions. Sentient species have tried to meddle with time but none has succeeded except in fiction. It is our own fault. We misread the Manken. We allowed ourselves to get too close to them. They abused our trust. We provided the blueprint for successful travel through time.”

Simon was starting to get an uneasy feeling. He wasn’t sure he liked where this conversation was going.

“They did understand that time travel is extremely dangerous and they built the time portal for a single use. Unfortunately, that action itself created a terrible paradox. They used genes from the future to seed the past generations.”

Simon didn’t know what they were talking about. He was already thinking about the Guardian in the plural. However, he thought that he understood the concept. It was the ontological paradox. A man wishes to build a time machine but cannot work out how to do it. He is visited by his future self who brings him the plans. He builds the time machine and then goes back in time to give himself the plans. A neat solution but where did the plans come from? If humankind was seeded with genes from the future and then evolved to produce those genes, where did they come from?

“Worse than that, Simon Redhead. Yes, we know you. Worse than that, you tried to meddle with time too. You and your many incarnations. The Manken gave you the gene. They looked into our eyes and saw the future. They wove it into the Tapestry and set the paradox in motion. They did not understand the consequences; we did not understand the consequences. Your actions created the multiverse. Now all things are possible. We can no longer see the future, only an infinite number of possible futures. Only when we observe the future does it become real. Only when observed do the probabilities collapse into a definite future. We now choose not to observe. The portal shows only the present in different dimensions of the universe we stand in. We cannot understand how it happened. We should have seen it coming but we only saw the Tapestry. How did they deceive us?”

Simon assumed the question was rhetorical. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to apologise for his part in it. “I am sorry. I thought that I was doing what Fate required of me. I only wanted what was best.”

“Indeed. However, you are not really at fault. You were not responsible for the grandfather paradox that caused the Sundering. In fact, your slaying of the perpetrator may even have ameliorated the effects. Your return to the past in order to save your father was misguided but understandable. The time loop was caused by the Manken, who destroyed the Melasurej time portal after they had used it for their purpose. Because your return pathway was blocked, you were forced to endure an endless time loop until you did something to cause Time to intervene. We brought you back here.”

Simon felt somewhat relieved, although the memory of killing child Simon would continue to haunt him and his cracked heart ached. “Where is here?”

“This is Limbo. It exists between universes. Imagine millions of ping-pong balls floating in a pool. Limbo is like the water that keeps them apart, though sometimes they float too close together and touch. Your ball is more like an onion. It has many layers, many dimensions. The Manken learned how to traverse Limbo. It is not all barren land like this. There are seas here too. We believe you have sailed them before.”

Simon remembered. “Tell me about Time. Why can I not change the past?” he asked, changing the subject.
“Oh, how we remember the days we spent talking to the Manken about such things. We are the Chronology Protection Agency. Imagine the bedlam if people could change the past willy-nilly. The Balance would tip entirely to Chaos in an instant. Only we have the power to change the past and only as a last resort. Unfortunately, the Manken stole our technology. Every individual’s time line is fixed. Your past is a memory. Everything that ever occurred in the past contributed to where you are today. You cannot unpick a single event without unravelling the entire Tapestry. Your future is imagination. Now it is an unknown probability. The only certainty is the present, which is as elusive as a shadow on a cloudy day. You will always have your past time line, as will everyone else. You cannot change it. Your experiences have demonstrated that it is possible to change time lines, but the consequences are the formation of multiple new time lines. Somewhere the original time line must be maintained. You cannot change the past. You can learn from the past and change the future by your actions in the present.”
Simon remembered Mandred discussing whether the multiverse was infinite or not and it seemed to have a great significance for their struggle. “After the Sundering, I saw the White Tower. Did the Sundering make the multiverse infinite?”

“Yes, we were there. Such a paradox required our urgent attention. We wanted to speak to you then, but the Black Tower took you. The multiverse created by the Sundering was very large, but not infinite. It was a very large grandfather paradox. There were so many generations between the cause and the effect. Imagine how the impact was multiplied as it passed down the generations. Each subsequent generation ceased to exist. All of the interactions that those missing people would have had never happened. Each impact, no matter how small, generated another dimension slightly different from the rest. The multiverse is very large; there are trillions of dimensions, but it is not infinite.”

“That is good for the Balance?”

“A single universe would be much better.”

Simon felt guilty again. “Can you tell me about Law and Chaos?”

“Chaos is the black void from which everything was formed and to which everything must eventually return. It is a sense of complete disorder. In Chaos, everything is random and anything is possible. All probabilities exist.”
It was as if he’d found a wise old philosopher who would answer all of his questions. Perhaps he would find the solution to his dilemma here.

“Law is the antithesis of Chaos. It is perfect order where nothing is left to chance. There is only certainty in absolute Law.”

“How should we live?”

“Every civilisation creates its own gods. The gods of Chaos urge their followers along the pathway of rapidly increasing entropy. The gods of Law seek to maintain a rigid order. Throughout eternity, the gods battle each other for supremacy. The gods believe that whichever side is victorious at the next Conjunction will rule the next universe. They are mistaken. For those enlightened ones, there is a middle way; a pathway that seeks equilibrium; the way of the Balance. That is the way to live.”

Simon was still confused about good and evil. He had debated with himself and others many times without resolution. “Is Chaos evil and Law good?”

“That is a fallacy that is widely held. What is good and what is evil very much depends on your point of view. There is good and evil in everyone, including the gods. As much evil has been done in the name of Law as has been done by Chaos. Pure evil is very rare, but so is absolute goodness. The Balance seeks to understand and control our evil urges and promote our good ones. It recognises that no individual is perfect. It understands that there are at least two sides to every conflict situation.”

Simon thought he understood, but his years of education, that had framed all conflicts into a battle between good and evil, remained hard to shake. He needed time to contemplate history from the point of view of Law versus Chaos with good and evil on both sides. And where did that leave Gadiel? “What about Gadiel? Is he evil? Does he represent Chaos?”

“The Manken understood the conflict between Law and Chaos. They had eliminated the gods from their world. They followed the Balance. They knew though that the primitive species on your planet would need gods in order to survive. When the Children arrived after so long without offspring, they had forgotten how to teach. They devised this great experiment on your world in order to demonstrate to Jeohab and Satania what had taken them millions of years to understand. Unfortunately, the experiment had to be curtailed long before the Children could learn their lessons. The Manken created the wizards to try to keep the experiment on track. They never communicated to us about Gadiel. He is a mystery to us and he makes us fearful. We have never known fear before. He seeks to control us. We assume he is Manken, but we are not sure. We think he is evil, but we do not know. We suspect he uses Chaos to further his own ends, but we cannot be certain.”

The words did not comfort Simon or tell him anything he didn’t already know, except that the Guardian feared Gadiel too, which was not good news. “Must I fight him?”

“It is the fate of the Hero to fight evil in whatever form it takes. Sometimes you are allied to Law, sometimes to Chaos and sometimes, like now, you serve the Balance. Once we could have answered your question because we could see the future as clearly as the past. You changed that, Simon Redhead, when you helped to cause the Sundering. All things are now possible, even the end of Time itself.”

The last words sounded sombre and ominous. “We are allies then?” Simon asked.

“It is not our way to take sides. We are here to protect Time and preserve the Balance. However, we understand that the final battle is likely to take place in Elannort, which is the centre of the Cosmos in this Conjunction. The fate of Melasurej and the legacy of the Manken are inexorably linked. Perhaps our fate and the fate of the entire Cosmos are joined. It might serve us well if you were successful. We will not change past events. We will not transport you in time. We will answer any further questions you have. We will transport you anywhere you wish to go in the multiverse.”

Simon was partially relieved. The Guardian was going to be an ally of sorts and could prove to be very useful. What questions were still puzzling him? He must make the most of his opportunity. “You have mentioned a Conjunction many times; what is it?”

“It is the end of everything and the beginning. For you, Conjunctions would seem an eternity apart. The Cosmos is remade; the gods are destroyed; only a very few things can pass through a Conjunction. We are one. At a Conjunction, all of the universes in the Cosmos come together. The laws of physics become strained and can be broken. The Conjunction will not just be the end of this multiverse but all universes within the Cosmos.”

“Are we near a Conjunction?”

“Oh dear we no; not in the natural scheme of things. The only time a Conjunction can be forced is if the Balance tips entirely to one side or the other, but the gods would not permit such a thing, at least not while they lived.”

“Do you have the power to force a Conjunction?”

The Guardian was silent for a long time. Simon thought they might have gone, or taken offence at his question. The swirling pictures of the multiverse continued relentlessly though. Eventually the Guardian spoke again. “We have considered your question long and hard. We believe that we do have such power but would only intervene in such a manner if there were a substantial need to protect the next Conjunction from a threat from the current one. We cannot envisage how such a scenario could arise.”

Neither could Simon. He imagined the Conjunction as being the Big Bang. Everything was reset and the universe started all over again. It was like rebooting a computer; no more than that, reformatting and installing a new operating system. Only the BIOS remained from the previous installation, ensuring that the new system would work. The Guardian of Tomorrow was like the BIOS of the Cosmos.

Almost like a father, Simon thought, bringing back to mind the fateful words that ‘fathers are important too.’ He had heard those words so many times. Destiny had used them, so had the One Tree. Why had they manipulated him to go back in time on a fruitless quest to save his own father? It could only be to get him here. Even Ceridwen had changed her tune after she had sung with the One Tree. She had been desperate for him to search for Cambyses but had changed her recommendation. ‘The fate of the elves is bound with your fate,’ she had said. Now he had the wherewithal to find Cambyses.

“Tell me about the elves and the dwarves. They are not indigenous to Earth, are they?”

The deep booming voice continued to answer his questions. “The Manken needed established civilisations in order to begin their experiment. Humans were far too primitive. There were few sentient civilisations in the universe, but they tracked down two which had evolved in the same solar system on twin planets. They were very different, both physically and culturally. Their star was about to go supernova. The dwarves had a fatalistic attitude and were prepared for their civilisation to die. The elves, who had never been a technologically advanced species, were unsuccessfully seeking a way off their planet. The Manken offered them both deals. Some of the younger dwarves agreed to be moved to Earth to participate in the experiment. Most of the dwarves declined and stayed to meet their doom. A group of elves agreed to participate in the experiment if the rest of the population were found new homes elsewhere in the universe. Those who were brought to Earth were brainwashed so that they forgot their real past. After the Sundering, there were elves and dwarves scattered throughout the multiverse. Elves discovered that they had the power to use dimension portals and began a quest to reunite all of elven kind on FirstWorld, because they suffered terrible oppression and discrimination in most other realms. Both species found it difficult to procreate in unnatural environments and they have been slowly dying for a long time.”

Simon knew what he must do. Despite the fact that he knew that he had been manipulated into this situation, he would attempt to rescues Cambyses, assuming he was still alive. He would do it for Taran, in honour of the friend he should have protected. He might be able to do something for Manfred too. “You said that the time portal on the Black Tower has gone? There’s no impediment to resting in Melasurej now, instead of Limbo? Will you take me there; I must pick up my Sword? Then, I would like to go to the dimension where Queen Ceridwen’s consort Cambyses is held captive. I would seek to rescue him if he still lives or recover his remains if he has perished. It is a personal quest.”

“We have enjoyed speaking with you Hero. It is long since we last conversed. Very well, we will return to Melasurej, for it is where we shall meet our fate one way or another. We will search the dimensions for Cambyses. If he lives, we will send you there. You may wish to close your eyes and sit down again while we make a jump.”

Simon did as he was requested, but before the nausea struck, he was able to ask one last question. “Are you the Guardian of just this universe or the entire Cosmos?” He thought he heard a guttural laugh before he was overcome by the rushing of air like a wild wind. When everything had settled, including his stomach, he pulled himself to his feet. The familiar skyline of Elannort was back. The White Tower stood in Future Square, just as the original design had planned. He looked across at the Black Tower, so close he felt he could almost reach out and touch it. It was now devoid of its time portal. The White Tower’s portal was now empty of its swirling images. The Guardian of Tomorrow was silent. Simon smiled. He was home again. It was time to see Julie and Alexander and try to explain his coming home late again. I hope she’s not waiting behind the door with a rolling pin.

KtB

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