In a quiet corner of Amaurot, the bustling metropolis at the heart of civilization, sat a vault known as Anamnesis Anyder. Within its expansive walls, not only were creation concepts cataloged, but every known natural law and phenomenon was documented in exhausting detail. In short, it held the sum of mankind's accumulated wisdom.
As vast as this collection was, it required the oversight of no few curators, whose responsibility it was to categorize─and subsequently organize─the ever-increasing number of papers, crystals, and other recordkeeping mediums. Such duties demanded an unrivaled breadth and depth of knowledge, and thus for those who valued scholarly achievement, an appointment to Anyder archivist was considered an honor.
A great honor indeed.
While others poured their passion into new concepts and creations, the man remained fascinated by the study of extant reality. He would ponder what made a stone a stone─the properties which defined its existence. He was of the firm belief that one could solve the mysteries of one's surrounds─indeed, of the star itself─by understanding the fundamental building blocks from which they were formed.
When time permitted, the man would step away from his meticulous archiving to peruse the works on the shelves, referencing their ideas to flesh out his own hypotheses. There was little he enjoyed more, likening the process to a tree gaining rings with age, or layers of sediment building up over the eons.
One fateful day, the man was summoned by the chief archivist to attend to the needs of a visiting academic. A rather distinguished one at that. Over the last few centuries, this influential figure had produced striking results in the field of organic research, and her assertion that organisms were simply another form of matter was one which intersected neatly with his personal theories. Thus it was that the bookish man, unable to deny his interest and finding no valid reason to refuse, agreed to assist the academic in her pursuit of reference materials.
At the appointed hour, he took himself to the anteroom which abutted the entrance hall. A woman's voice, vibrant and clear, answered his polite knock. Pushing open the heavy door, he beheld the scholar standing alone, garbed in the same black robes and white half-mask worn by the majority of the citizenry, himself included. As he entered the chamber, however, she swept back her hood and slipped off her mask with smooth, unhurried motions.
"I am Venat. A pleasure to make your acquaintance."
The archivist was stunned. With the exception of circumstances where identification was mandated, it was inappropriate to bare one's face to anyone save intimate friends. The custom was otherwise broken only when seeking earnest counsel, entreating a mentor for aid, or making a life-changing commitment. None of which should apply to me... Regardless, it signaled her intention to engage him with candor and respect.
With a deep breath, he reached for his own mask and returned the gesture.
And so began a friendship that would endure until the end of their days.
Venat was cheerful, well spoken, and undeniably brilliant. Her carefully crafted arguments drew sighs of admiration from her audience and concessions from her opponents. A rounded gemstone, without edge or flaw─the refracted light rendered a soft glow.
His perception would evolve years later.
Venat, having been writing furiously at one of Anyder's desks, at last put down her quill. Observing this, the archivist replaced the book he had taken from a shelf, and peered over her shoulder.
The argument was whole and free of contradiction. No longer theory, but indisputable truth. His heart swelled with elation and relief.
"It seems congratulations are in order."
Venat appeared not to have heard him.
Puzzled, the archivist shifted to the side of the desk and saw the scholar transfixed by her own work. For a time, she sat perfectly still. Then all of a sudden, she brought her hands to her mouth...and smiled. So broad and heartfelt that modesty could not conceal it. Unadulterated, unabashed joy─a jubilance that sparkled in her ocean-hued eyes. I recall not when you removed your mask, but I am grateful that you did.
"A miracle..." Venat muttered, as if in a trance. "Our existence is nothing short of a miracle."
"What an odd thing to say. Have you not just proven that life was the inevitable outcome of natural law?"
"Yes, but it is that inevitability which amazes me so. The sublime mechanism itself..."
The revelation yet commanded her full attention. As he watched Venat stare at the parchment, he felt his image of her fracture. Sharply cut facets now reflected the light with piercing intensity. All the more dazzling in her radiance.
He knew in his heart that this was the Venat she was meant to be.
Venat's perception of the world had changed, the archivist realized. As if for her the true shape of things had been brought into stark focus.
"I am leaving on a journey."
Her entrance was unexpected; her declaration abrupt. “Where will you go?"
"Nowhere," she replied. "Everywhere. This star has so much to share with us. Whispered wisdom to which I would hearken. Untold experiences I yearn to feel. Mysteries and wonders I must understand."
"Then you had best get started," he said, knowing full well that she needed no encouragement. "But do take care."
In lieu of a farewell, Venat graced him with another joyous smile. Her robe twirled about her feet as she turned and strode from the echoing vault. He watched, waiting until the distant door had swung closed behind her, then returned to his labors. Looking over the documents with a practiced eye, he quickly determined the first item's rightful place. He reached for another, and then another—carrying out his tasks with quiet efficiency.
Yet his mind wandered. What will she seek when next she returns? I must be ready. The time he had set aside for his own academic pursuits was gradually consumed by the study of subjects outside his field of expertise─a diversion he found strangely rewarding.
When Venat did interrupt her travels to return to Anyder, it was always without warning. Sometimes months would pass─and on occasion, years─before she appeared again, seeking to deepen her knowledge on this or that matter. As she enthusiastically regaled him with her adventures, he was struck by how different this Venat was from the brilliant yet rather more subdued scholar he had met once upon a time. A crystal bathed in sunlight. So blinding in her delight she outshone the very stars.
Her discoveries astonished him, as did her daring deeds that allowed her to make them. He, in turn, astonished her, producing the resources she required ere she had finished describing her query.
Venat's standing in society, too, began to change. In recognition of her work, she was elevated to a seat on the Convocation─to the office of Azem.
As well she should. The mantle of the Traveler suits her well.
Despite their history, her well-deserved new status demanded all the more respect—and distance. When next she appeared, however, the ceremony with which he presented her documents did not sit well with his esteemed visitor.
"Must I suffer this exhausting pomp from you as well?" she asked, her brow creasing in annoyance.
"Am I to speak to Azem as if she were my study partner?" he retorted. "You represent our highest authority now. You must accept the trappings with which it comes."
Venat went on to embrace her duties, accomplishing all manner of notable deeds in her time as Azem. When she caught word of a settlement beset by rampaging wildlife, she tracked the creatures to their lair and identified the cause of their hostility. When a citizen feared for a colleague yet to return from an expedition, she braved precipitous mountain peaks to find him. She toppled a towering creation born from a child's errant imagination, weeded out poisonous plants that had infested a farmer's crops, and when a matter required greater intervention, she brought it before the Convocation of Fourteen with a solution she herself provided. Astride her golden familiar, she journeyed without cease across land and sea and sky...
Thus when Venat announced her decision to relinquish her office, it was that much more unexpected. A jest, surely. Yet she spoke in glowing terms of her chosen successor, a "fascinating man" she had met on her travels.
"You would surrender the seat of Azem with so much left undone?" the archivist asked, still reeling at the implications.
"A true traveler has no need of a title," Venat said. "And my replacement would benefit greatly from the opportunities granted by the appointment."
“The journey is different for each who undertake it. Even following the same route, and visiting the same destinations, he will have different thoughts and experiences. He will make his own discoveries, and observe that which I failed to perceive."
Though she spoke of a successor, hers were not the words of one preparing to return to the star. Not yet, please. Not yet. Having attained the apex of their “personal truth," no small number of his Anyder colleagues had gone to their rest amidst a shower of praise and accolades.
But the archivist felt no pressing desire to join them—rather the opposite. For there was but one purpose he considered worthy of fulfillment: to keep watch as this incandescent jewel walked her path, and bear witness when she arrived at its terminus.
Venat stepped down from the seat of Azem to don the white robes of a neutral advisor. The man, meanwhile, stepped up to assume the role of chief archivist.
And so it was that when the Final Days were upon them, Anamnesis Anyder would serve as headquarters for Venat and her loyal followers.
The Final Days brought fire and ruin until Zodiark put an end to the calamity.
His devotees then resolved to sow new life─a bounty of souls to take the place of their sacrificed brethren. In time would they reap this crop, and by rendering it unto their god would the lost be returned, and the world restored to the paradise it was and ever should have been.
Venat, along with the archivist and their like-minded companions, objected to this undertaking. The future, they believed, must not bear the cost for saving the past. Only in accepting pain and loss─by learning from the mistakes of yesterday─could they greet the morrow. A power such as Zodiark possessed was anathema to the progress of man.
Venat's faction thus resolved to manifest an entity capable of shackling that power. To have any chance at defeating the nigh-omnipotent Zodiark, however, the sacrifice must be absolute. Not even their souls would remain.
In the evening after this consensus had been reached, the archivist approached his friend.
"Venat, please..." he wavered. "Why must it be you?"
Hydaelyn, as the entity would be known, required more than the collective's souls to manifest: She needed a heart. Venat was the obvious choice, though some believed that their leader should be spared─to carry on the cause in the event their efforts ended in failure. But as Venat explained her reasons, he knew that she would not be swayed.
"Rest assured, however: I shall not vanish from this world," she said. "The form I take shall ever remain my choice."
"...Then I will press you no more. Only know this...you will be sorely missed."
She stood before him in silence, and he knew he would never forget how the light caught the tears in her eyes she dared not let fall.
"It is I who shall miss you."
He had thought only of her sacrifice, and naught of the pain his own passing might cause. What is a candle to the sun?
Unable to find the words, the archivist retreated into ritual. He held out a crystal—as he had countless times before—upon which was stored the last chapter of cosmological wisdom Venat had sought. Though she had spoken of its importance, he suspected she withheld the entire truth. Of her glimpse into the future, she had offered precious little.
"What we anticipate and what comes to pass need not be the same," she had once said. "'Tis best we work towards the greatest good without foreknowledge which might cloud our judgment."
The rounded gemstone, before life and revelation shaped her into so much more.
"The change in you has been...miraculous," he began, choosing his words carefully. "The change in myself almost equally so. A small sample size, perhaps, but if all mankind can grow in similar fashion, then I fear not for our future. Prove my theory, Venat. Prove it was worth the sacrifice."
His challenge hung in the air between them for an age.
Venat sighed, a small smile playing about her lips as she accepted the crystal. The archivist grinned.
"I regret only that I cannot see it through at your side. If you are to be Her heart, then I would be Her eyes. I would watch, unblinking, until the very end."
If only. He would fade into oblivion, and that would be his end. But his challenge would endure.
May it bring you joy and solace on the long road ahead.
And at your journey's end, I pray you look upon our fellow man...and know they shall carry on in our stead.