“Gramps, tell me that story again” said the, while clinging to his grandfather’s cloak.
“Very well, child. But I’ve told it so many times. Aren’t you tired of it?” the old man replied, very much feeling the weight of his years as they neared the end of their daily walk.
“It’s still my favorite” the boy chimed happily.
“Very well. But I think you’re old enough to hear the long version. Have a seat, as this will take a while.” The pair had already begun to seat themselves on a flat rock that lay conveniently outside their home.
”The world was once much different than it is now. Not only was it quite flat, but it was controlled by the most powerful nation this world has ever seen.” The old man had already begun to stare into space as he told the story, losing himself to the tale.
“But Gramps, a world can’t be flat, and besides, why do you say ‘this’ world?” Though this hadn’t been the first time he heard the story, he constantly challenged his grandfather’s outlandish tale. He was at the age where he wanted to question everything, and fairy tales gave way to hard facts and responsibility. And yet there was that part of him that wanted very badly to believe.
“Now Talmitch, what have I told you?” the old man said expectantly.
“‘Anything is possible when magic is involved.’, right Gramps?” the boy replied drolly.
“Yes. And as I’ve told you before, the rules of this world have been set forth by the side effects of that disastrous ritual. Your science and physics are all a mere afterthought compared to the mutable nature of magic. Why do you think Magic can bypass these so called ‘Laws of Physics’? ” The old man was getting quite roused by the conversation. It had indeed been a long time since he had a chance to discuss his favorite subject at such lengths. That the boy was beginning to grow a wit made it all the better.
“Ok, I’ll give you that Gramps, but you still have not told me about these other worlds”, the boy replied in exasperation.
“I never said anything about other worlds,” laughed the old man, a grin evident on his face.
“Ok, Ok, so the world was once different.” Already anxious to hear the tale, the boy was ready to concede.
“Well, the world was once flat, which was not extraordinary for the time. But what was impressive was the Advent Empire. Its power extended to every living breathing soul in this world.” The words ‘this world’ once again drew a ‘harrumph’ from Talmitch. The old man chuckled, but continued with his tale.
“The Advent Empire was this powerful because of their mastery of magic. Now, I like to think magic stands above all else, but only because of what the empire accomplished with it. According to legends, they were able to maintain cities in the sky, underground, and even beneath the gentle waves of the ocean.”
“But even that was not as impressive as their ultimate feats. Sure, they could move people to the skies, the beneath, and the seas. But they grew tired of feeling like intruders in these unusual places. So do you know what they did?”
Talmitch nodded vigorously, but remained silent for his grandfather to continue.
“They learned to command the seas to flee their presence. They learned to crush the mountains into pebbles to make way for level ground. And they learned make the skies obey their every command. They changed the world at their whim, and they made Mother Nature their wench.” At this Talmitch chuckled a bit, despite the old man’s serious face.
“But this high level of magic, the ability to move mountains and split the sea… it was too conceited. Used wisely, this would have made the Advent Empire prosperous for eternity. But more unpredictable than any weather pattern was the human element. The only thing as endless as magical power was the depth of human greed, and the Advent Empire had grown fat on its own power.” The old man sighed as he paused to wipe his brow, sitting down in front of the modest house where he and his grandson resided.
“Imagine if you will, for a moment, a land where the people were so bold that they put the world firmly under their heel. These people hadn’t a care in the world outside of their own gratification. Automation did all their work, and magic kept their bellies full and their houses warm. Without honest work to keep their hands busy, or a need to engage in scholarly pursuits, the people became decadent. Fun was the only thing they cared about, whether it came at the cost of another living thing, or their own well being.”
“Soon, the people of the Advent Empire began abusing their power, and holding it over all other nations. Being on top was no longer enough for them. They explored the human condition to a degree that no biologist or mortician could possibly stomach. As curiosity set in, they used other ‘lesser’ people as entertainment, and eventually, food.” This part of the story always made Talmitch shiver. He could not fathom the extent of this horrible society, but the thought would tug at the edges of his mind on many a sleepless night.
“And eventually, their hunger for the unknown grew greater and greater. Boredom drove their few remaining scientists to explore unknown sciences and black arts. Soon they shared living space with sadistic demons, and immoral monsters, simply to see what the chaotic beasts might do. They exploited the lands to create huge machines that threw out smoke until their skies were dark with rising soot. What did they care if it ruined the lands around them? Their own cities were clean and well maintained, and that was all that mattered.” The old man sputtered, angering himself up something fierce.
“But worst of all was their leaders… The people on top were so despicable that the common folk were saints by comparison.”
“Eventually, a power struggle began within the ranks of nobility in the empire. Though theirs was the greatest civilization to ever exist, to them it was not enough to simply enjoy it. They wanted to prove it, and show up their peers. It was this greed that destroyed them, fueled by the compulsive grinning demons that had integrated themselves into the empire.” He paused briefly to catch his breath.
“The endless squabbles, infighting, and tension were already ripping the world apart, quite literally. As the seat at the head of the world constantly changed, so did the landscape. Each ruler wished to have their reign remembered, and so each would be emperor tried to change the face of the world to suit his vision. With such a rapid transformation, the Earth was ready to burst at the seams, exhausted at the constant demand on its body.”
“It is said that at that time, each of the supposed lesser nations rose up to oppose the empire, and called themselves the Mortal Peoples. These nations were very tired of facing the brutal tyranny of the Adventists, and chose to die trying to depose them. And yet, even the combined nations were no match for the collapsing empire. To the Adventists, war was merely another mad game for them to play while they danced into oblivion. For the Mortal Peoples, the only hope was to gather from their ranks the best soldiers and specialists they could muster. Scavenging from discarded technology and digging through the secrets of their enemy, every last hope and resource available was placed in the hands of one small team.”
“What they did to succeed was never documented. It was not even known if they had even accomplished their task. All that was known is that they were able to invade the deepest depths of the decadent empire. We can only assume it was they who were responsible for what happened next.” The old man once again paused to take a few deep breaths; the seasonal heat was already getting to him. Regaining composure, he took out a handkerchief and held it flat in front of Talmitch.
“The world collapsed.” He said dramatically, balling the cloth up in his hand to show his grandson.
“But it did not crumble and disappear. It simply took a new shape. Many lands were lost in the Great Calamity, and every last soul on the continent of the Adventists vanished. Even those lands that saw survivors had been devastated by natural disasters that wrought more havoc than even the Adventists could ever dream possible. It had been the work of the demons. Demons had secretly wished to see everything unmade. They convinced the last Emperor to conduct the ceremony of unmaking under the pretense of rebuilding the world.” He used the prop to wipe the sweat from his forehead, then hastily placed it back in his pocket.
“The ritual could not be stopped, but it could be altered. Somehow, instead of sending the world into oblivion, it changed radically, just as the Adventists had wanted, but not in the way that they had envisioned. Instead, the world became a sphere. The world was tired of being molded like a lump of clay, and instead decided to take such a rigid and stable shape so that none may ever do so again. Some even say that attempting to do so again would break it, so brittle it has become. But during all of that change, the people of this world suffered, and even those backwater civilizations crumbled. The Adventist Empire of course was undone, down to the smallest building. A lot of people died that day, both good and bad…” Gramps sighed a bit as he hastened through his least favorite part of the story, something that would haunt even him on sleepless nights. Quickly, he moved on to conclude the story.
“…Among the handfuls of scattered survivors on other continents, one thing was decided. They had won the day. Had the Adventists gone unimpeded, the world would surely have split apart, destroying every trace of existence. However, enough people survived to consider the events that transpired on that day. And these people quietly began to rebuild civilization as we know it now. What followed is a story for another time.” Gramps got to his feet, thirsting for an afternoon nap.
“Wow, grandpa, you’ve never told me that much about it before”, the young Talmitch said, half in annoyance, and half in awe.
“It was time I stopped hiding the world from you. One day you will learn of its wonders and truths. And I’d rather you learn some of it from me, rather than first hand. You aren’t a boy anymore.” With these words, Talmitch swelled with pride. However, as they both headed into the small house, he could not help but wonder just what the world held in store. Ages ago, the world was on the brink of destruction.
Talmitch desperately wished to see the world now, to become as learned and experienced as his grandfather. And that night, as he rested in his bed, he dreamed of his future, navigating the world that was once flat.