I would like to thank NIGORO and the twisted, complex, beautiful, brutal, human archaeological world it has created.\n\nI would also like to thank Deceased Crab for his Let's Plays, madamluna for her stories, and the Gaming Pixie for ever having introduced me to the mythos of La-Mulana. \n\nThis twine is my [[homage]].
"Dad, I'm here." \n\nYou're not sure if it's another dream, another wrong turn in the ruins of your life but the beeping of the machines come back. \n\nBut you aren't sitting with your wife. You are in the bed and the person holding your hand is a woman with golden blonde hair and the same eyes as Mulbruk's. \n\nYou try to speak, but you can't. Suddenly, a doctor comes up beside your daughter and they begin talking. She is getting worked up. Under her hat, your hat, her face is burning with denial and defiance over the way things are. \n\nAnd you hear the word, "Cancer."\n\nYou curse your [[father]].
Mulbruk blinks and yawns faintly, "She is healthy ..."\n\n"Yes," you tell her, "just a bit early."\n\n"From Mulbruk a bit late ..." Mulbruk sighs and strokes your hand, "Our child ... the Child ..."\n\nMulbruk breathes more slowly now. You ignore the machines around her, beeping like the tick of the imaginary clock that your Time Lamp once suspended, temporarily, with impunity. You wish you could use it to freeze this moment of fleeting [[happiness forever]]. \n\n
You sought it. You fought for it. You took it in the silvery Vessel in your hands ... until it was [[stolen from you]].
[[The Treasure of La-Mulana]]
She looks so strange without her braids and bangs. Her hair is a pool of darkness surrounding a pale, worn, delicate face. It's been so long since she wore that ancient headdress with the feathers. \n\nYou smile in memory of the times, afterward, when she would sometimes wear it for you and how she would blow on the Shell Horn, releasing that jingle, when [[she would ...]]\n\n
It hits you harder than any monster in those long-lost ruins. \n\n"Yes," you tell her, squeezing her hand, "I will save you, sweetheart. I promise." \n\nMulbruk smiles, and you realize how much this, whatever this is ... or was, took its toll on her as the years roll away and she closes her eyes. \n\n"Mulbruk," you nudge her gently.\n\nMulbruk doesn't move. She doesn't even breathe.\n\n"Mulbruk ..."\n\nYour wife is asleep, but this time she will never wake up again. \n\nYou bury your face into her still chest, trying to remember those times she consoled you in your regret. You remember she doesn't have her headdress of feathers and you remember the Feather that made you jump so high, so high before you began this endless, endless plunge. You think about how falling in love is all about falling ... And as you fall, the last coherent words leave your mouth.\n\n"You were [[my Treasure]]."\n
The Tablet of your mind comes to you and it is an almost indecipherable amalgam of pictures and dream-writing without the benefit of the Gylph Reader on your computer. \n\nAs you swing through the barely coherent darkness, you type into the search engine of your mind, "What is the Treasure of La-Mulana?"\n\nYou press [[enter]].
But the Flame that once powered your Lamp is long gone and all that's left is the infinity behind Mulbruk's dark, closing eyes. \n\n"Will ... rule the world ..." she laughs to herself, chuckling, seemingly half-asleep. \n\nYour lips quirk despite themselves. You sweep back her hair from the piercing of her forehead, "My little meglomaniac ..."\n\n"Lemeza," Mulbruk says, suddenly, "when the ... ruins fall apart, [[will you save me]]?"
It isn't so much that you don't remember such a Treasure [[existing]].
"The ruins, they were my body. My body created many Children, Lemeza," she tells you, "including the Philosophers and you."\n\nYour brow furrows, "But the Philosophers told me that they ... they couldn't save you," you thought you understood, but the knowledge is elusive now, "They told me to give you the Medicine of Life and the Grail and then ..."\n\n"Yes," she says, "And you did. You did what none of my other Children could do, Lemeza. You gave me a soul."\n\n"But then we fought ..."\n\nMulbruk--no she--shakes her head, "No. It is hard to explain. How does someone explain how immanence can become a single consciousness, nevermind understand it?"\n\n"You aren't ..." you try and grasp the concepts, "You aren't Mulbruk."\n\n"No. I am Mulbruk, the daughter of the Seventh Children," she tells you, "I am also [[all of you]]."\n\n
"We are the children of tomorrow. Each one is different and the same."\n --Philip Balsam and Dennis Lee\n\n"[[Mother]] is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.” \n -- William Makepeace Thackeray
Shawn was always a meddler. When he was alive, he always told your daughter stories about your exploits, about the monsters you faced and the traps you outsmarted. But he really talked about the battles ... as if somehow the old man had been there. \n\n"He was more God than man," he told her one day, and it was enough to make you throw him out of your house. You didn't talk with Shawn for a month after that and your daughter always wondered why. \n\nBut the truth is that it wasn't Shawn you were angry at anymore. You'd gotten past that ages ago. No, it was what those words reminded you of. \n\nAnd worse. Your daughter thought you were some kind of god. But now, divested of your treasures by time, museums, and old age you are just a man. And [[you are dying]].
There is a long drawn out beep as your heart finally stops beating. \n\nYour daughter holds your hand. She's crying. She has the brim of your hat over her eyes so that no one else can see. If you were still in the physical plane, you would be laughing tenderly at her silliness. \n\nInstead, she realizes that in your last moments that you weren't only clutching your chest in pain, but you did something. In your hand, in her hand, is a necklace.\n\nAnd attached to it is the key to your Treasure's [[next, greatest adventure]]. \n\n
And so now you jump through time, as you once had through space, trying to find what you lost. You sail through the cosmos [[between places]] ...\n\n
It takes you a few moments. You see it in her eyes. Mulbruk's eyes had always been dark and almost infinite, but the eyes staring out at you with Mulbruk's face are so deep you can see hints of another cosmos. \n\n"That's ..." you are about to say it's impossible, but then you think about it. You really think about it. \n\n"Oh."\n\nShe smiles down at you, "Yes, Chosen One. [[You did kill me]]."
The Treasure of La-Mulana
You watch your daughter play with your old MSX. She wanted to fiddle with your Mobile Super X, but you were firm. Along with her martial arts training, she has to master the MSX (which you have so painstakingly maintained and upgraded throughout the years) first before she's earned that right. \n\nShawn ... your Dad always said the games were a waste of time. You call him your Dad now. He visits whenever you don't want him to be around in order to spoil his granddaughter. And he is always very sneaky about it: giving her the very devices he always used to snub you for when you were her age. \n\nStill, you admit he is better with astronomy and biology than you, though even he has to admit that your computer engineering and modification skills are second to none. Perhaps you were both learning some humility in your old age. \n\n"Hey Daddy!" your daughter is no longer playing The Maze of Galious you've tasked her with, your favourite game, "I didn't know Mom had such a cool swimsuit."\n\nYou look up and see your daughter, wearing your hat and carrying the Forbidden Treasure of Hell Temple in her arms. \n\n"What ..." you immediately grab the swimsuit from her hands, "that's ... Yes, your mother's. But never you mind, how did you ..."\n\nBut you already know who told her. Suffice to say, there will be more death traps waiting for one Professor Shawn Kosugi the next time he tries to enter through [[another window]].
It's that you can't even remember [[what it is]].
The bindi on her forehead is a tear. And the tear reminds you of something multi-faceted and silvery grey, something your own father returned to you on his deathbed with shame in his eyes ... as if he had also understood somehow. \n\n"Mulbruk," you say, "you had it so that she would sleep. And find me. And ..."\n\nYou remember the bindi on Mulbruk's forehead.\n\n"Lemeza," she tells you, stroking your face, "Do you remember the objective of The Maze of Galious?"\n\nAnd you remember. It's a game where you are two characters, a man named Popolon and a woman named Aphrodite. In the original game Knightmare, you are Popolon attempting to rescue Aphrodite. But in Knightmare II, or The Maze of Galious, you both enter the maze of the evil Priest Galious in order to free the soul of your unborn child. \n\n"There were Eight Children, Chosen One."\n\nYou remember a Tablet.\n\n"[[Let us place the spirit of the 9th child into the body of child 0]]."
So you try. You try to remember. You search for memories like you did for those Tablets so many years ago, before the Grail shattered and left you to walk lamely, again, like [[an ordinary man]].
You are Lemeza Kosugi and [[you can't remember]] the Treasure of La-Mulana.
But you are ok with this. \n\nYour father, Elder Xelpud, and your beloved Mulbruk are all gone. Your friends and colleagues have been gone for some time as well. You have no regrets. Even your daughter, for all she will grieve, will move on with her life.\n\nYou have no regrets, save [[one]].
"Mulbruk so sleepy."\n\nHer dark eyes open and you can see the lines around them: lines of a age and strain that she never had before even when she waited for aeons in her Temple chamber.\n\n"I know, sweetheart," you tell her, clasping her hand in yours.\n\nShe smiles up at you wanly, a far cry from the voracious grin that bordered on silliness, or beneign meglomania, "Did we ..."\n\nYou don't have to try to smile, "It's a girl, Mulbruk," you kiss her forehead where her gold and jewel teardrop piercing--what those in India would call a bindi--still remains, "[[We have a girl]]."\n\n\n
You are clutching at your chest, at your heart, trying to get something to hold against the pain ... to find that non-existent talisman again. Your daughter sees you and mouths your name before the darkness takes you again. \n\nAnd you are back. You are back in the Temple: the chamber where you met her for the first time. \n\nBut you don't have the Eye of Truth anymore, or even the Book of the Dead. \n\nYet she is standing there. \n\n[[Mulbruk]].
And as you open the Treasure chest, you remember your mythology and recall Pandora's Box. And all the skeletons, and bats, and monsters rush out to meet, to devour you whole: each one of them in your way ... each one of them capable of knocking you back. \n\nYou don't have the Mulana Talisman anymore and, somehow in the roaring recesses of your mind you know there is no talisman in the world that can protect you against despair. \n\nYou don't understand. Even before the doctors come in, you still don't understand. She had existed and now it was her time to live. To truly live. She got you through the pain, through coping with that sense of meaninglessness after the Temples, after Mother ... \n\nYou were supposed to have so much time left. So much more time. It isn't fair. It isn't fair that someone slept millennia of existence away just to have a few years of waking before ... before this ...\n\nBut you are too angry now. It's as though your chain whip fused into your very being since La-Mulana and you smash your way through all of them. You break bones, you snap wings, you bite into fish from out of nowhere ... and step on the balls of cats. \n\nIt's not fair. It's not fair. It's not fair.\n\nYou are rage and pain and hurt. All of the monsters come at you. Skeletons are fist-fights, fish are bottles, bats are screaming. And it feels good to whip and utterly destroy them. You want to lose yourself in killing them all. \n\nBut there is something else. You [[remember ...]]
You remember your mother dying and Shawn ... your father leaving you with your grandfather. \n\nShawn. Always driving you forward. Always taking what is yours. And you understand now. You understand why he left. And you don't want to understand. You don't want to know this pain and what it does, even though you have explored it more deeply than any archaeological dig. \n\nYou remember that the monsters can only knock you back if you let them. \n\nAnd in that moment, you choose. \n\nYou remember your responsibility and you choose. \n\nYou do what you always do. You choose to be better than your father. \n\nYou choose to raise [[your daughter]].
It's as though the holy energies of the Spaulder on your shoulder are with you a thousand times fold as she and you, you and her, are enveloped in radiance. \n\nAs the years and the pain melt away into the greatest mystery, you hear her voice. \n\n"Tell me, Lemeza. When the ruins fall apart, will you save me?"\n\nAnd you smile and reply, "Yes. [[Because you are my Treasure]]."
And when you stare into her eyes over yours, your greatest regret comes pouring out.\n\nIt isn't so much that you had sought the origin of humankind for money, or profit, or petty fame. It isn't the ancient beings with their vast experiences of time that you killed. It isn't being angry at your father your whole life. It isn't Mulbruk dying before she could experience your world. It isn't even your daughter having grown up without her mother, or that you won't be there for her anymore. \n\nIt's because you understand. You understand her. You know what it is like to lose almost everything you ever cared about, to be sick and lonely while your Child moves on. All that time inside of her and you never understood it until that moment: until she was lying at your feet, dying, and reaching out to you.\n\nAnd you didn't take her hand. \n\nYou stood over the spirit of the creator of humankind, after killing her and you let her die alone. Yes, she tried to kill you. She killed all of her Children. But she had just been lonely and in pain. \n\nAnd you killed her for a useless trinket. \n\nYou feel [[a tear]].
You blink as you see a Great Tree's branches span throughout the sky and its roots going into the deepest, blackest parts of the Earth. \n\nAnd you see a woman with blonde hair and your hat. She is wearing a necklace. Yggdrasil? You were never an expert in Nordic mythology, but isn't it similar to the Sephirot of the Kabbalah, to the Tree of Life from which the Philosophers said we all came? But whatever else, you know that this will be important. \n\nAnd that it is her time. \n\n"Our child is ready, Chosen One."\n\n"Yeah," you say, "that kid is a hell-raiser all right. I think she gets it from her grandfather," you sigh, "I always wondered if we needed to do something with that hunk of crystal."\n\nShe rolls her eyes in a very Mulbruk way and she reaches out her hand, "Come on now, Lemeza Kosugi. It is time to become more God than man once again." \n\nYou smile as you reach up, and bridging the gap, [[you take her hand in yours]].
She sees your brow furrow again and she sighs, "As I said, it is a very difficult concept. I wasn't just the ruins, Lemeza. I was every single one of the Children that I made."\n\nThis information sinks into your head, "I don't ..."\n\n"I didn't either. I was different when I crashlanded on this world, when I melded with the protean matter of that early place. I was stuck. I was ... damaged.\n\n"My early Children were my first attempts. But I was, they were, thinking too literally. Even Tiamat and Nüwa could only create pale imitations of life. They could never repair me. The poor dears."\n\nShe sits down next to you, wearing your wife's face, affecting all of her mannerisms, being her, "I needed finer details. My Children ... they mostly died on their own," she looks sad, "and the others, the ones that fought, the angels and the demons, they threatened all of our lives, my life and this world. And I had to start again."\n\n"You killed them," you find your voice, "you were going to kill us if we didn't help you leave ... The Philosophers they made us in secret ... to leave."\n\nShe turns to look at you, "I made the Philosophers, Chosen One. You were made from my body. Did you really think that I wasn't [[aware of you]]?"
She is standing over you as you lie on the musty ground. \n\n"Mulbruk ..." you manage to say.\n\nShe kneels down in front of you, "Mulbruk is happy that Lemeza is here."\n\n"I've missed you," you say, tears-brimming in your eyes, "I ... didn't eat before sleeping this time. I ... can't even keep down my own curry anymore."\n\n"Oh Lemeza," she strokes your face, "It's all right. Mulbruk has been a good wife and mother to your child."\n\nYou lean into her embrace, and you feel a wry grin coming on, "You really are Mulbruk."\n\n"Yes, Lemeza," she tells you, softly, "I am Mulbruk. And she has [[served me well]]."
You are stunned silent as she continues, giving you all of the information towards the end of a journey you barely even understood.\n\n"I made myself sleep, Lemeza. I let future Children grow from my subconscious impulses. I let them develop. I allowed them to explore me. The greatest of the Seventh were the ones you call The Four Philosophers. And I let them use my body to make you, to one day make the inevitability of one Child. Just one."\n\nAnd you understand, "So you ... miniaturized your intent into ... into us ..."\n\nShe smiles at you, as patiently as a mother does her child, "In a manner of speaking."\n\n"But I ..." you start to say, "I killed you ... [[I killed you ...]]"
"Did I do something wrong?" she asks you.\n\n"No," you assure her, immediately wanting to placate her and drop this situation entirely, keeping the ... swimsuit as far away from her line of sight as possible considering the damage that might have been done, "But you did walk away from your assignment. You haven't passed Galious yet."\n\n"Aw, c'mon Dad."\n\nShe looks up at you with those pouting, large eyes. You don't know where she got the blonde hair from, probably through her mother's family long since dust (though not Mulbruk's father Dracuet ... that failed Philosopher was truly evil incarnate), but you do recognize those eyes and ... yes, even that stubborn expression on her face.\n\nYou put aside the abomination that strangely kept itself in your home, somehow, and take your daughter into your arms.\n\n"Daddy?" \n\nYou squeeze her to you, "Oh sweetie. You're still going to pass Galious, but you are my Treasure. You are always my [[Treasure]]."
She is at your side as you cry on your back. \n\n"I'm sorry," you tell her, "I'm sorry. I didn't want to be a hypocrite. You were going to kill us and I killed you and to hold your hand after ..." you squeeze your eyes shut against the pain, "I'm so sorry. You deserved so much better than us. You deserved so much better than me." \n\n"No," she tells you, "You saved me."\n\n"No," you refuse to believe it, "I..."\n\n"You Eighth Children. You developed your science far beyond many of the others: even to the point of space travel. But it was too late for that. My old body was ruined beyond repair and my soul needed to be free from its debris ... from its preconceptions. I couldn't separate myself from what I used to be. I was stuck in transition. But I knew. I knew an Eighth Child would free me. And you did. You destroyed the detritus of my existence and you did what none of the others could. You freed me. \n\n"But it isn't over."\n\nAnd that is when [[you see it]].
You are in Mulbruk's room. Not her room in the ruins, where she slept restlessly for thousands of years, nor the one you gave her when you finally reached tenure. \n\nIt is a white room. You look down at [[Mulbruk's face]].
Matthew Kirshenblatt
THE END\n....\n\nFor now.