Lucian's Paradox

Lucian's Paradox

image In all of existence, only a few unlucky souls have ever directly born witness to the End of Days. One such individual was Lucian Markaena Javedan Zenon, a young Risean who was born in the final years of the Age of Degeneration. A native of Javedan Forest on the beautiful ice planet, Lucian grew up with his younger brother, Traeban, their parents and a large extended family.

A hunter by trade, Lucian completed his primary studies at the local Taros Learning Center, with special recognition in the physical and strategic fields, later going on to become a top student at the Hunter's Institute on Acadia Minor. Upon returning home, he established himself as one of the most gifted trackers of his time, earning the title of main provider for the Javedan region by a young age.

Sporadic travelers, Lucian and his brother primarily stuck to their home on Risus, taking weekend trips here and there to different galaxies and orbit systems far beyond the Aeradisphere. While they were hardly seasoned explorers and generally had little interest in other civilizations beyond passive observation, the siblings did make a number of off-world friends over the years and frequently brought these aliens home to visit their native worlds.

image For those youths who made the Xilon System their primary residence rather than using their abilities to live abroad, there were thousands of ways to pass the time, and all sorts of games were commonly played amongst the locals of each community. A time-honored tradition was the ultimate Dare. Comparable to a time traveling version of chicken, the Dare was used to prove a Xilon's strength of character and level of courage. Those who received the challenge would jump to the last year of existence, getting as close to the Final Moments as they could. The closer they made it, the more impressed their peers would be. No one was ever pressured to participate; it was played strictly by hot-headed youths who were determined to prove to themselves what they were made of.

After completing his secondary studies, Lucian took his brother on a trip to the Gemini Ring, where they dropped in on one of their friends, an Ardesian named Braxten. Brax and his sister, who Lucian was also quite close to, returned to Risus with them for a short visit. After dinner that night, Lucian took the visitors into the woods with a pack of the neighborhood kids, where they passed the rest of the evening catching up on each other's lives. Somehow, the Dare entered into the conversation and Braxten asked his Risean friend whether or not he had ever tried it for himself. Lucian told him no, but if he did ever take the challenge, he would be able to stick it out to the end and watch the last of the universe fall. All talk, of course. Most his age were far too cautious to even let it cross their minds.

But being both aliens and of a less developed species, Brax and his sister were unaware of the serious nature of the challenge. They were also not aware that peer pressure was not an element of the Xilon culture, and began to push Lucian to give it a try and prove himself, asking if he wasn't just afraid to take the risk. Lucian declined, explaining to them that there were rules and standards, preparations to be was not something that was simply done in the moment. But the visitors continued to hassle him, insisting that they had to see what he was made of. Although Lucian was unsettled by the idea, having heard horror stories of the End of Days and knowing that such dares had a habit of going terribly wrong, he was a rather quiet, laid back individual and did not handle their needling well. Telling them off or sending them home was not in his nature, and by the following morning, he gave in and agreed to try.

image With the hype building, Lucian started to become genuinely excited by the thought of doing something wild and out of character. With a large universal looking glass set up and ready to go, Traeban strapped a bracelet to his brother's wrist which would work like a homing device to document exactly how far he'd gone. The younger sibling expressed concern and tried to talk him out of it, but Lucian told him not to worry; he was going to show them just how far he could go and would be home before they knew it.

With one deep breath, Lucian stepped forward and felt the universe flash by. He found himself floating in space and realized with an uncomfortable feeling that Risus should be right where he was. Turning around to look over his shoulder, a chill ran through his body as he saw Daxxus looking more ominous than ever, its enormous mouth gaping as planets, nebulae and debris went hurtling into the depths.

Lucian carefully touched down on a stray piece of rock that had broken off from an asteroid and held on tight. The cosmic currents were incredibly strong and just as unpredictable. Daxxus was no longer merely a colorful drain into which the universe slowly leaked - it was actively drawing existence into its depths like an intergalactic tornado. Until that very moment, Lucian could not remember truly understanding the concept of fear. Any anxiety that he'd ever felt while battling the most ferocious wild animals back home now suddenly seemed so petty. It wasn't just the visual nightmare that made his hearts skip; there seemed to be a force, like an unseen cloud of doom and terror smothering and overwhelming him. Everything felt wrong, and dark, and empty. Hopeless. He had come much too close to the end and could feel the danger pulsing through his body. It was time to get out.

As he stepped forward to attempt a warp, a large chunk of ice slammed into him. For a moment, everything went black. When he opened his eyes, Lucian realized that he was lying flat on his stomach, on the same piece of broken rock that he had been riding before. Only now, there didn't seem to be much else left. He could hear the abyss howling, the gases and debris colliding noisily as they slipped passed the threshold and disppeared inside. When the ice had slammed into him, it had conflicted with his attempted jump, throwing him forward in time instead of backwards. He had reached a moment that no one was ever meant to see. He knew that he should turn and run for his life but, like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming train, turning away seemed an impossible task.

image A deafening noise from above forced him to cover his ears. Looking up, Lucian saw the nuclear storm passing by only inches over his head and within it, the burning remnants of the once beautiful Kappa Crucis. Moments later, Zeta Five rocketed past, careening into Daxxus with a crash that shook time itself. The shockwave slammed into Lucian with unimaginable force and he felt himself being dragged down with the cosmic storm like a swimmer being pulled into the ocean's depths by a sinking ship. Unable to break away from the tidal force, he hurtled headlong towards the celestial whirlpool, knowing that there was nothing he could do to stop it. He was going to disappear forever.

Inches from doom, Lucian suddenly felt the force around him break away as it was shattered into a million pieces by the rift's massive gravitational pull. Too shocked to fully realize what was going on, he instinctively catapulted into a jump just as his outstretched arms touched the threshold of the abyss. He awoke to find himself rolling out of the sky and landed hard on the icy surface of his home world. More than an hour passed before he was able to sit up and take in his surroundings and to consider what had just transpired. He had managed to escape less than a second before being consumed, his subconscious flinging him home despite his state of total confusion. His head felt like it might explode, but he had made it back. That was all that mattered.

Still, Lucian couldn't shake the feeling that something was very wrong. Something deep inside of him felt out of place. Unsettled and still in a daze, he stumbled back to the village square which was now almost deserted. Who knew how many days had passed? He wasn't even sure that he had landed in his own era, and his senses were too distorted to tell. As he staggered along, there was a shout and Traeban came running over with their two Ardesian friends. He could make out looks of panic and concern on their faces as they neared, but was in too much of a haze to care. He felt as if he was being wrapped in warm light, enveloped by a thick mist...the world seemed foggy and surreal, becoming moreso by the second.

image As the trio reached him and his brother leaned forward to grab him, there was an explosion of burning white light and Lucian felt his body begin to dissolve. Traeban and the others had stumbled backwards, momentarily covering their eyes, and were now staring at him in shock. Looking down at his right arm, Lucian realized why. His body was breaking down into billions of tiny balls of light. Too surprised to even speak, he stared at his arm in horror, watching it disappear before his eyes. It wasn't possible; he was only a few thousand years old. His timeline wasn't supposed to run out for 50 lyren. Perhaps his gutwrenching experience had put too much of a physical strain on him? Before he could fully process the situation, Lucian felt his mind fade away as the rest of his body shattered into light and dissipated in the evening air.

As his brother disappeared before him, Traeban could do little more than watch in stunned silence. He wasn't sad or afraid...the overwhelming sense of shock had driven any other emotions clear out of his mind for the moment. Braxten grabbed his arm. "That was arlesk." The young Risean nodded. " old was he? Can that happen?" Traeban couldn't seem to find his voice, but his friends knew the answer already. Lucian was only a few thousand years old - far too young to have died. What had happened was physically impossible. Traeban slowly reached out to touch the empty space where the last specks of his brother were spiraling into the air.

Still in shock, the youth made his way home. He would have to tell the rest of the family - the whole community, even - what had happened and why. How would he even begin to explain it? His mind racing, Traeban entered the living room and collapsed into a large fur-covered chair as he searched for answers. Suddenly, all three of his hearts stopped short and he was yanked out of his own troubled thoughts. A shadow on the wall caused him to turn his head and he saw that Lucian was standing right behind him. Traeban jumped to his feet so fast that he tripped over the table and nearly fell.

"What's wrong with you?" his brother demanded. "Where are the Ardesians? You know you're not supposed to leave them alone here."

It took the younger sibling a few moments to find the words, but when he finally did get them out, he was more confused than ever. By Lucian's account, he had been to the End of Days, barely escaped, but eventually returned to Risus safe and sound. Feeling out of sorts, he had come straight home, assuming that the others would find him there later on. When Traeban related his side of the story, his brother laughed and assured him that he was perfectly fine.

image With no idea what to think, Traeban located the Ardesians. He told them what he had found and was at least convinced of his own sanity when they expressed as much shock as he felt. Feeling lost and needing time to himself, he transported them home to the Gemini Ring and then returned to the quiet Javedan Forest to think things over. After a few solid hours of pacing through the woods, he jumped 49 lyren into the future to find his brother returning from a hunt. So he was still alive then. No additional unexplained events. Curious, Traeban jumped farther into the future. Inquiries revealed that his brother was still around and in very good health. Either Lucian was living an exceptionally long life or...

With a strange feeling gnawing at him, Traeban jumped far enough into the future for multiple generations of their family to have come and gone. Peering at his old home from behind an ice tree, he saw his brother exit the house and walk off towards the forest. Unable to take it anymore, the boy found a group of children in the village square and asked them if they knew of Lucian. They pointed towards the social center and informed him that his brother was inside, working with some of the students from Taros.

Determined to get to the bottom of things, Traeban decided to confront Lucian directly. He waited until the group at the learning center had dispersed and then stalked in purposefully, going straight up to his older sibling, whose face registered shock when he saw him. But shock quickly turned to joy at seeing his little brother once again. In response to Traeban's accusatory barrage of questions, Lucian patiently explained that by getting so close to the core of Daxxus, he had somehow twisted up his own personal timeline. His body had, for a brief moment, crossed over with his future self, triggering a premature bioreversal. But it was literally his own future death that had occurred in that moment.

The timeline had straightened itself out shortly thereafter, but the result was unique. Due to his predestined death already having taken place, his future self simply didn't die. Even after wearing out his natural life span, his existence simply continued, on and on. Numerous Xilon scientists had run a variety of tests and determined that, due to his broken timeline, he would likely never die naturally. Lucian's only choices were to go on living for an indefinite length of time or to just stop his own hearts if and when he felt it was necessary.

image Over time, Lucian began to travel more and more. He had never been too interested in exploration before, but knowing that his lifespan wasn't going anywhere, staying at home as a hunter for years on end seemed both unfair to future generations and a huge waste to himself. Instead, he spend countless zaian bearing witness to every great sight and every important event that he could possibly find, going from one corner of the universe to another, one era to the next, experiencing the wildest and most incredible things firsthand. He then returned home and began to relate his fantastic tales to some of the Javedan locals. They in turn told their friends, who then sought out Lucian to hear all about his adventures for themselves. It seemed that during his travels, he had developed a way with words and spun his encounters into riveting stories of the outside universe. His real life experiences were fashioned into epic dramatic tales that would entertain youths and fellow veterans alike until the very end of time. He came to be known as the Eternal Young, the great storyteller, one of the most popular and beloved individuals of the AZH years, held dear until the very last Xilon drew breath.

Although there was, of course, never any solid proof, it was said that when Lucian had not only traveled to every single planet in every single time period from the beginning of creation to the very end, but had also relayed each and every story to his fellow Xilon throughout the years, he reached the conclusion that there was nothing left for him to do and returned to the End of Days where he sat in the Javedan Forest, alone and at peace, as Risus slowly began to burn and fell away into the final sanctuary of the abyss.

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