Chapter 5

I have been conducting research among the local population, specifically regarding the "children's story" Nimbus told us, regarding the river of souls. I had a suspicion that there might have been other versions, or versions with better recorded provenance.

Willingness to participate in this research has been mixed, as have the results. It seems to be an endemic concept rather than a religious belief, and no one has been able to say where it comes from, save that a parent or teacher told it to them at some point. Some respondents have mentioned a river of stars—perhaps the Milky Way galaxy—and some have cited windstreams and weather formations, but the majority of respondents adhere to the "river of souls" construct.

All things come from the river, and all return to it. The river may split and meet again. Other things may fall into it and change its course, but nevertheless it continues. In time, even mountains are worn down before it.

Naturally, it is easiest to view this as an allegory for control of life. In the end, rivers are impossible to control. A person may swim or boat, but never take hold of the river to steer the course of the water itself. And it is impossible not to see the relationship to Strand, which slips away the moment a person tries to grasp too tightly.

I wonder about Strand. About its appearance. We can see the origins of the Stasis power on Europa, and the concept of a cosmic ice to oppose stellar fire fits very neatly in a certain sort of paradigm. Even that idea of stillness and control suits freezing, a slowness of atoms whether or not it is in truth a power of "ice." There is a certain weight to the perception of an "element."

If Strand had been shaped through the lens of Neomuna, surely it should have been some cosmic water instead, something that flows and gives way only to rise again. There are certainly combat styles to support this in old records.

But this power that has never before been used in this way came to one Guardian first, and I conjecture that they may have unconsciously given it form. I wish I had seen it! What would "connection" have appeared as? Now, of course, we know the shape of this power: it is green, it weaves itself in strings. As other Guardians begin to learn it, they too slot it into these positions in their minds. Whatever advances they come to are already framed verdant and tangling.

All the same, I cannot help but wonder about the nascent, formless thing it was before we reached out to it, and it reached back.