The Song Of Sophia: An Alexylva Academy Tale
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Chaos, muse, is the song I wish to hear, the roiling dark
which birthed the Earth, which birthed the Sky, and the Titans
who brought forth Gods, who brought forth Man, who,
in arrogance, called the land his own. Conquering like ants
unaware the clouds mean rain, who glory their tunnels’ depth as
the plow churns the field, is it any wonder they hold blood
so cheap? We men, they say, are built for war. Built, yes!
Yet even a sturdy ship knows its fate is guided by the wind. Should
we pity boastful humanity, fools who dream that death brings glory,
like sailors who swear a rudder and knowledge of the stars
will guide them until the mocking thunder interrupts
their fun? No, for as the sea drags each body to its fate they
shall have pity enough for themselves. Lament instead the weak.
Pity the wife who calls out for her lord's return, circled
by vulturous, gold-loving men, and pity the child who will
never again be lifted in her father’s arms. The vanity of men is worth
no more than a girl who, every morn, waits alone on the cliffs,
until she has lived through enough winters to know –
those sails will never cross the horizon again.

In this way Sophia, bitter, learned the truths of life, and swore
her promise to the Fates, that when they took her it would
be after she made the world shake, and gave as price her
eye. From then on, after she plucked it with her own hand,
she saw with two sights. One looked upon the works of men,
and mocked all the games therein, while the empty orb gazed
into the realm deeper than Tartarus of which our muse now sings,
and though not a place for mortals wishing to rest easy after death
she never asked for less, or let its secrets leave her lips. Mercy,
she knew, was not for her, and she wore her face as if a mask
which only fell on lonesome nights, when the doubled darkness
felt too much to bear. Sending away her handmaidens, she wept
alone, scratching at the empty socket with vain hope that she could
rip away the darkness. At these times it seemed to mock her.
As if to prove she had no power, the Chaos showed her things to come,
images of coming failure, triumph snatched away, the coming end,
unavoidable. On these nights the blade seemed tempting. How
easy it would be rip the steel across her throat, and never have
to suffer it again, to take fate in her arms and prove it wrong.
In the end she had not the hand to take her life, so she wept
until morning, when time came again to hide her true face,
for tears do not suit one who shares blood with heroes.

Only one took pity on the child, that being wise Athena,
who from her perch had seen all that wracked the girl. Pallas,
moved by the sight of one to whom knowledge brought
only death, called upon another. In the mountains, far-off,
lived a man called Epiphanes who had once called Pylos home,
and there was known as learned. Kings and merchants had come
across the lands to hear him speak, for there were no subjects he
did not fancy, from rhetoric to war, and all who took his words to
heart were destined to rise. Yet he knew few understood the truth
he tried to impart on those he taught. For them only matters of
glory and riches were worthy of concern. When he spoke of Truth
or forms, the words passed by their ears like a breeze that brushes
against a sleeping soldier. Tired of wasted words, he retreated into
the wilds, and there lived until one day a vision of the Goddess
appeared within his fire.
“Lonely Epiphanes,” she said to him, radiating light so great
he had to turn his eyes away. “The time has come again to take
up the mantle of a man. Perhaps you think it wise to let your
body rot, and your mind empty of all it contained. The time for
this is no more, I have a task of you, and tempt not my fury
by denying this request.” Ever faithful, he could not deny a mission
given by the goddess, and made his way back to that great city
where he could seek a ship. A trader from the darkest east proved
willing to carry this man on his route, eager to question the one
whose knowledge was a legend. Every day he demanded answers
from the scholar. He was just as foolish as any of the others,
Epiphanes knew, not worth the sharing of secrets. Platitudes were
all he was willing to give the merchant, yet the dim-minded man
was more than happy with these. He found more comfort with
the crew, hardy men, who knew their place on earth and had no
desires to exceed it. With them he drank and laughed, until one
night beneath the silver moon, he decided they deserved a tale.

“As a youth,” he began, as the shipped rocked upon the waves,
“I did not understand the ways of my elders. I thought them all
foolish, followers of customs that no man could derive by reason.
Whenever they attempted to give me wisdom, I turned in the opposite
direction, desiring to know for myself where the truth lay. So I
grew to be a nuisance to my family, who could not abide what
they saw as pointless boyhood games. There had been a prophet
at the time of my birth, who said my destiny was to be sung about
as the heroes of old. Because of this my father thought I would, like him,
relish the art of war. Soon he found I could barely swing a sword, I
was a coward at heart, even the thought of a fight made me tremble.

He decided he would, with force, both beat the questions from
my lips and teach me the arts all men must know. To this end he
took me to the woods and left me there, before my first hairs had
graced my chin. ‘If you return,’ he said, ‘I will no longer be ashamed to
take you as my son.’ When he left I began to weep. I begged
the gods to show me the path that would guide me to safety.
No answer came. I prayed until the woods had grown dark,
and I could hear the howling of wolves. At this time I could barely build
a fire. When I managed to bring forth sparks, it was barely enough
to illuminate the tears still wetting my face. My father had left me
a sword, and for the first time I held it willingly. All through the
night I clutched it, sleepless. I admit it, I was a cowardly boy. In
many ways I am a cowardly man. Yet there must have been some spark
of life in me, a few drops of my father’s blood, for when the morning
came I took the blade and made my way north, where from I knew
my father had brought me. I will not bore you with empty words
about the things I met and killed there. Just know that my sword
for the first time tasted blood, and I received the scars you still
see today marring my bare chest. When I pulled my blade from
the body of the beast which bloodied me, whose true name I still know
not, I realized I no longer knew the direction I must take. I had lost
the path. I would be dead had I not heard, some ways in the distance,
the beating of a drum.

Carefully I moved through the brush until I saw, between the trees,
figures swaying, bathed in shadows cast by a great red flame. Some
were human. Some were not. I saw among them a man with the legs
of a goat, and horns upon his head. With him danced a woman whose
hair was made of thorns, and when she pressed her body to his she
drew blood. He laughed and smeared that crimson liquid across his
chest, then held up his hand, so that she could lick the droplets from
his palm. Such sights I saw, multiplied a hundred-fold around the fire.
What madness could have set them on this path, where all sense
and human love of good meant nil? It was as obvious to me as the sun’s
rise is to the youngest child: the beating of the fearsome drum. Its rhythm
pounded in my ears, so forceful that even my heart began to beat
with its time. As I watched the flame, and the laughing dancers around,
I felt urges boiling in me which would have brought a sane man shame.
Yet I was not sane , I must admit, I longed to join the dance. Before
I could, the rhythm grew in speed. The dancers, one by one, collapsed
to the ground, holding one another, to commit acts more foul than even
the previous displays. As I looked on I came to sense another being’s
gaze. It was coming from the fire, a shadow there, a patch of black
within the heat. Slowly it emerged. The creature had the form of a man
but twice as high, and strongly built. It wore no clothes, but on its head
was a mask made from the face of a jackal. Its left hand held a silver
cup, from which an endless liquid bubbled up and dripped upon the earth.
Flowers bloomed from where it touched. When it sloshed across the
rutting bodies they screamed with ecstasy. Dionysus stared across the
clearing to where I hid. His eyes, beneath the mask, were empty white.
I could bear it no more. I cast aside my blade, ripped the clothing from
my back, and with all thoughts banished from my head I dove into the
celebration.

How I drank from the pleasures of life then, as much as my stomach
would allow. You are not soft men, I know, you are ones well versed
in the side of the world the priests try to push aside. Even then to share
the wickedness I indulged would bring such shame as to force me
to run to the side of this ship and throw myself into the waves. Woe to
me that wine, which helps other men forget, only makes the memories
of the night form clearer in my head. There is only one part I feel
I must tell, for without it this story’s purpose will remain obscured.
I had just separated myself from a writhing body when I heard cries
of delight rising above the drums. Below them were screams, but not
of pleasure. They were screams like a dying animal. I saw, near the fire,
a man tied to a stake, blood running down his face, his body wounded with
cuts that could only come from a great fight. I could not see his face, swathed
in shadow as it was. Curious, I approached. The other revelers danced
and screamed around in him, and as I drew close I realize he was hurling
venomous words at them, defiant to the last. The voice struck a familiar
note within my hand. The god stood next to him, and with one hand, greater
than a man’s skull, he grasped the victim’s head and raised his face for all to
see. When I saw the man’s hate-filled eyes, I gave a cry of fear. For the face
was that of my father.

‘He came to us as a gift,’ cried Dionysus, his sonorous voice rising above
the din. ‘He refused the ones we offered him. He wanted no part in
the freedom we had to offer. Therefore we must grant him a death fit
for one such as he.’ At this the crowd rushed forward and with fearsome
blows, began to rip away at my father’s flesh. His defiant words turned to
unending screams as they tore the meat from his bones, and, blood still
wet, devoured it raw, and I, pitiful creature that I am, still felt some of
the festival’s thrill within me. The god looked at me, and I felt the pull
to join their vile feast. Thank whichever gods looked over me that I was
able to retain my humanity and fight away the urge! Yet I was not strong
enough to take the braver route. Instead of stepping forward to rescue the
man who birthed me and risk becoming the next victim of their wrath,
I turned to flee. Coward that I am! Yes, at night, when the world is quiet
I still hear the screams of my father as they faded into the distance, and I
Imagine that in his last moments, his most hateful curses were for me. Yet
that night I could feel nothing but fear that the Eleutherios would next come
for me, who had in a single night betrayed both my blood and my gods. I do not
know how far or long I ran, only that when I stopped my body was too tired
for another step, and the day had come. As I ran I had left the woods,
but I did not know where it was I now stood. There was a field around me, and
hills, but I did not recognize the land. Weeping, I collapsed. As I lay there I
contemplated taking my life, but I had lost my blade in the fugue. Therefore,
I knew, I had to find a cliff from which I could leap to the fate that I deserved.
When I had the strength again to walk, I started forward with this single purpose
In mind. Yet no matter far I went, I could not find the end of the island which I
called home. Instead I found a road which I did not recognize, even though I thought
that this entire place was known to me. I followed it until the sun was nearly
sunk beneath the horizon. It was only when I saw something that defied belief
that I stopped – a massive building carved of stone, perhaps taller than any palace,
and spread so far across the land that I could not see the end. An arched entrance
stood in front of me. Between it was a woman dressed in pure white robes. She
smiled as I approached. ‘Welcome, student,’ she said in a voice that was
the sweetest I had ever heard, like a flower freshly bloomed. ‘Your travels, long
as they were, have now ended. I know not from where you came, or why you
walked the road to us, but I know that all who reach these gates are destined for
a reason, for knowledge is what they seek. I cannot know what cause there is
for the pain your face betrays. Here we are not healers. We offer only
wisdom. Perhaps with that you can find some way to soothe your suffering.
If this you wish to earn, step forward. We will gladly accept whoever has
been chosen by the path to Alexylva.’
The woman’s words confounded me. This name was one knew to me,
yet it felt a comfort in my ear. My mind was still filled with thoughts of
cowardice and death. My desire to fall into the sea had not one bit
remitted. Yet as I gazed upon the stone I could not resist the curiosity
that filled me. Determined as I was to die, I found a stronger force
within – the need to understand. So, without a word, I stepped
forward, and let the woman guide me into that great place, which
would be my home for ten long years. What wonders to describe!
To describe all would take too long. The walls, I saw, were not lit
with torches or lamps. Instead round, shining objects hung from
the roof, so bright only sunlight could compare. Paintings hung
upon the wall unlike any I had seen. The colors were so vivid, and
the figures seemed to be real men trapped inside, such was the
detail that made up their faces. She took me down many long
corridors, each made with stranger things than this, until we came
to a door. ‘You will sleep in here,’ she said. ‘We will fetch you
tomorrow with your schedule.’ With that she left. When I stepped
inside the room, I saw it contained things stranger than the halls.
The bed was made from some material I had never seen, the
softest on which I have ever slept, and on a desk there sat
a contraption made of metal and glass. It appeared to me as if
the front were painted, like a vase, but as I watched the images
adorning it moved and changed. Later I would learn that this
was known as a computer.

There is more to tell my friends, of mysteries so great that
one could not comprehend them until witnessing with eyes.
Now, though, the night draws late, and I know you must have rest
if you wish to guide the ship without running afoul of Poseidon's
rage. Tomorrow, if you wish, I can continue. Let us disperse
until that time.”

Thus he went to the bowels of the ship, and slept until morning
arrived, and the next night plus many more continued his tale
until the crew reached the awaited land. He bid the shipmen safe
travels, and left them to argue amongst themselves with themselves
over whether the man was insane or worth their trust. As the sails
caught wind to continue their path, Epiphanes made his way
to the palace where he would find a student. He entered the halls
and found Lysistrate, mother of Sophia, sprawled across a chair.
Despite the early hour she clutched a glass of strong wine, and when
the seer entered her home she did not pay him any notice until
he knelt before her seat. “Lady of this house,” he said, “I have come
to seek the one known as Sophia. Is this the name you hold?”
Lysistrate drunk deep from wine before she spoke. “Sophia is the
one I grew in my belly, and nursed at my breast. I am not one
to deny strangers hospitality, but understand that I cannot allow
one I do not know so easy access to the one I treasure most.
Speak your business quick, and should I find it true, I will not
have your head hung above my throne.” Always shrewd, Epiphanes
realized that not all the goddess had revealed should be known by this
woman. With carefully chosen words, he told her of the mission the
goddess had elected him for, but did not let her daughter’s secrets
slip. “The Goddess knows that within your child is a great mind,” said
he, “Surely you have seen it for yourself. What I have to teach her cannot
be found with any other learned man. I will not take her from you –
I ask to live here. All I require is food and water and a roof under which
to sleep.” Amused, Lysistrate accepted the man’s words. She called forth
a handmaiden, and sent her to retrieve the daughter. Sophia arrived with
a smile as false as ever, and asked her mother what was required. After it
was told, she looked at the man before her. A hate without cause or
purpose flowed through her as she inspected the withered, tired man. He
had no right to teach her, and no aid was needed. It was only duty to
Lysistrate that made her bend her head in friendly greeting. Epiphanes,
no fool even if he had not had Athena’s word, recognized the malice contained
within. “Our lessons will begin at the next rising sun,” he said. With that
he left, stopping next to the girl to whisper in words meant for her
alone. “There is no shame in fear. What you have seen, though strong,
is not the truth you think it is. In due time you will learn how to truly find
what it is you seek.” He said no more. Sophia watched him go, and felt
her hate becoming something similar to fear.

Rosy-fingered Dawn arrived to greet the new student as she climbed
the hill to meet her waiting master. He sat beneath a tree, and beckoned
her to claim a seat. She remained on her feet, arms crossed. “You come
from a strange land on a mission from the wisest god,” she said. “You claim
to know the visions that my one-eyed sight reveals. If this be trick, your life
will not much longer last. If it is truth, I hope you are not seeking great
riches in return. Since my father’s death our house is poor, and we have nothing
for a viper who only thinks of wealth.” Epiphanes did not respond. With a
stick he was scratching shapes into the dry dirt. They were nothing she
had seen before, not art but disconnected lines. “First,” he said, “you will
learn to read and write. It is not yet something known to this land, but
it is essential for any of our tasks. If your mind is sharp as the goddess says,
it should not take you longer than the next moon to put all you wish to
word. If you fail by then, I will know you are not worth the time, and take
my leave.” Barely had she time to speak before he began naming every shape.
When he was finished he told her to recite them. It would be easy work, she
thought, to get his questions wrong and drive him from the land, so that
she would no longer feel the way his gaze made her tremble. He would take
the letters with him if he went. That seemed even more terrible than having
to endure his awful stare. She named each glyph with no mistakes. “Now,” he
said, “I will show you how to form words.” He made more marks, and told
her how they read. “’Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus,
that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it
send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs
and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on
which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out
with one another.’ You do not know these words, but you will soon. Wisdom
is not just reason and rhetoric. It is poetry, and knowledge of the earth. All
these things I will teach you. First there is a truth I must know. Why did you
remove your eye?” She still could not bear to meet his face as she gave him
her reply. “I had heard that the oracles lack sight, but I was too weak to remove
the second.” When he asked her why she felt the need to see the strings of fate
she replied, “I don’t see why that is for you to know. Teach me what you
have to teach. I may tell more if you earn my trust.” So they no longer spoke
of her past or motives. It took her no more than ten cycles of the sun to learn how
to read letters with ease, and how to form writings of her own. Within
four moons she had memorized the songs of Achilles and Odysseus, which
Epiphanes said were the great works of their civilization. “It is because this
Hellena is backwards, he said, “that you have not developed them yet. To name
yourself Greeks without Homer is as shameful as a warrior without a sword.
Perhaps you will be able to bring it to the people where I have failed. I sometimes
weep when I think that there are children raised without those great words.” When
she questioned him more he reminded her that she had secrets she too was
not ready to reveal, and that he would hold his close until the time was right.

The island that had been claimed by Sophia’s father was small compared to those
owned by clever Odysseus or lord of men Agammemnon, yet learned Epiphanes
needed little to teach Sophia of the entire world. After letters she studied
mathematics, thoughts that would not be put down by Euclid until long after her
bones had turned to dust, and after that she gave her time to studying the forms
of life, followed by rhetoric, tactics, chemistry and music. He taught her the ideas
of Socrates and Heraclitus and Aristotle, easy to accept, for she had understood
ever since she removed her eye that the appearance of the world was not the truth
of it. History was her great love. He taught her not just of the past but of what may
be to come, if the world willed it, though he would not say how he had come
to learn these things. She understood, at last, the desire for which she had longed.
Without understanding such a thing was possible she had wanted to be remembered,
not a useless wife or sailor who would with time become a whisper, but a woman
of whom Herodotus would speak once his time arrived. To be forgotten was to
die, she thought. Yes, that it is the thing for which she had paid her eye. She told
Epiphanes this one night as he was describing the Ethiopians. He stopped his story
and starred at her. She looked back, no longer fearful of his gaze. “Child,” he said,
“you possess perhaps a keener mind than me. Sadly that means nothing when you
have not felt the arrows of life pierce your heart. I understand already you have
been tested in some ways. This does not give you wisdom. Remember, all is vanity
and vexation of spirit. Even if you appear in histories of the great they will one
day be forgotten. They are not immune to becoming dust. If this is what you traded
for, your payment has been meager.”

Enraged, she stood. “You say that this is dust, yet teach me all the same. Would
you claim that our time has been a waste? Why bother teaching me about a
world that is vanity of spirit? Because the goddess said, and you obeyed?
You have not even achieved what you claimed you could. At night my visions
are as hideous as ever. Should I have had you thrown from the cliffs as soon
as you arrived?” He looked into the fire and waited long before he spoke. “Perhaps,”
he said, “I would not have been so angry if you had done that. Yet you did not, so I did
my duty given by Pallas. I promise, I have never lost sight of giving the aid you
seek. Yet there are things I cannot explain with mere words. To understand the
movements of Chaos in your sight there are many first steps to take. Until they
are prepared, any help I gave would fall to the earth like a flower that failed to
bloom.” At this she stormed away. He waited for the rest of the night, and the next
morning she did not appear. It took three days for her to make a decision about
how she would find what she sought. She met him restringing a lyre, and said
to him, “Tell me the secrets of the Academy.” For the first time ever, his
eyes were filled with shock. “If you do not,” she said, “I will leave this place, and
search alone for cures to my madness.” He finished tying strings to the bends
of the instrument as she talked, and strummed a single chord. “How did that
word come to pass your lips?” he said. It was from a sailor, she explained, who
had arrived with a trading ship. He had helped take Epiphanes to this island,
and asked after his health. “Does he still rave about the Academy of Alexylva?”
he had asked. She would have asked her teacher that night what the words
of the shipman meant, yet a vision made her hesitate. It was if the Chaos had
given a threat. If you ask, the roiling darkness told her, you will witness
things in me that you will never unsee after. She kept the word to herself
until now, when she no longer held fear for what the darkness could inflict.
Epiphanes nodded. “I see. You have given me no choice at all. For, when I
answer your question, you may depart this place all the same. I can only
help give preparation, and perhaps wise words you will eventually heed.
I will tell all, but first know this. You cannot find the Academy, though you
will undoubtedly make the attempt. It appears only before those it
selects for itself. I had hope to prepare you to the point where it would
bring you to its gates. Yet you have not the patience. Very well. Here
is the knowledge you seek.

You are well familiar with Chaos, from which your eye will never let you look
away. It is from its primordial, ever-changing depths that all things were made,
except for one. Even a child understands that a house is never built without
a plan, and there must be something to create it. Think! Could Chaos do
this thing? Could Chaos alone give shape to the world? Naturally not.
Alone it would merely twist and turn ceaselessly, and nothing would exist.
What took the Chaos, what gave form to the matter, was its twin, which
moved with purpose, a plan, and created structure from that which had
none. What to call this thing? Perhaps Order is the word. But all who have
encountered it have known it through a single form, the Academy of
Alexylva. Like its churning brother, it exists beyond this world, above all
worlds. They connect to it like spokes encircle the center of a wheel. Worlds,
indeed I said! You think this is the only one? There are ten thousand seas
and ten thousand wars of Troy, and ten thousand mountains that house
ten thousand of every god. All of it was shaped by the Academy. Greece,
this great land, is what Alexylva has created. It is a haven from the
nothingness that surrounds us. Tell me, do you know what would happen
if you sailed to far to the east, or the west, or the south? What you would
encounter? Why I have not yet taught you of those places? They simply
do not exist. Travel across the ocean for enough nights and it will
disappear, and you with it, back to become Chaos. It is constantly
trying to push deeper in, to take us all back within it, and the Academy
does all it can to give us life. That is the place I wanted you to reach,
where you would be safe from the darkness that attempts to invade
you.” He stopped when he saw the girl was growing pale. Her eye
rolled back deep into her head, and he barely managed to catch her
as she fell. Her body quaked, like the last spasms of a dying man. As
he held her in his arms, he saw a shadow was beginning to move
across her face, crawling out of her empty socket. It was as if
thousands of insects grew beneath her skin and burst out to
scatter across the earth. Tiny beads of black that covered all,
unceasing. Epiphanes struggled to keep his student in his arms, but
the darkness was too mighty of a force. It ripped her away, and tossed him
through the air, and he felt his old body crack as it met the Earth. His legs lay
limp before him. Helpless as a child, he watched chaos churn across
the earth, with Sophia at its center, dissolving all it touched back into the
nothingness of its past. It moved without purpose or reason. It merely
knew that it was free, that with this freedom it would spread without
limit.

Higher on the hill a handmaiden knelt beside a stream, collecting water in
a jug. Lost in reveries, she did not notice the water she gathered turning black
until the jar she held burst and the foul new liquid splattered across her
skin. In that instant she suddenly knew what it was like to not exist. For less
than a second she glimpsed inside herself absolute emptiness, saw that she
had come from nothing, was nothing still, only covered by a thin lie. How long
that moment must have lasted! How deep the abyss must have seemed! She
had time to speak only a single word, “liars!”, before the chaos enveloped
her completely. It followed the river, and spread through the grass, and climbed
the trees, and devoured every creature from insect to lamb. Husbands tried
to save their children but only perished with them. A pair of lovers, deep
in an embrace, did not even notice the wave until it overtook them. Lysistrate,
at the front of her palace, watched the shadows rush towards her and smiled.
In the center of all this lay Sophia, and her empty socket which had become
a gate. All of this she saw through the shadows, as if her own body had joined
with the chaos beneath. It was hers no longer. Nothingness cannot belong
to any man or woman. Amid the chaos, she did not exist. She never
existed. She never would exist. In pure absence existed no trace of mind,
or body, or earth, or time. All was not.

Then, again, she was real, and standing above her in the dark was the
most-wise goddess, and Sophia found herself filled with strength. She
rose to stand. The rough beauty of Athena weakened her legs, but
Sophia refused to fall. The pair stood in a place that should have made
the mortal collapse in the bitter cold, surrounded by snow and ice, a
mountain peak further than any man could travel. The warmth of Athena
protected her from this. The goddess clutched a spear that appeared more
like a beam of light, and around them snow fell not. Before Pallas
Sophia felt a wretchedness new to her. Not sorrow, not hate, but a simple,
clear knowledge of her mistakes. It was this that made her fall to her knees
before the goddess. “The blame is mine,” she said. “I have cursed all
unlucky enough to know me. I have let myself be used for ends of destruction.
If you wish to kill me, goddess, I deserve not even that. Better that I live
with knowledge of my shame, than be given the easy escape of death.” Athena’s
voice seemed to come from all around the air, and Sophia’s bones shook
with it. “If I killed you, regretful Sophia, you could not serve your
purpose. You seem to think you are a person, free to make choices and feel
shame. You are no more of a person than the spear I clutch. If you
feel regret, obey me and perhaps win back some honor. If you reject
this bargain, you will obey me still, but only as a slave. Whether this way
or the other, you will learn your place in the world.” She turned, and
the rock next to her opened into blinding light. “Step through here if you
wish to become mine. Down this path is the Academy. There you will study
what Epiphanes could not teach, and you will learn the true ways of Greece
against the void.”

In this way the broken child entered Alexylva, as the fates knew she
would at her birth, as the world had been prepared for since Nothing
was first formed into Man.

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