In the beginning, it was the sea which swept away the knowledge that encrusted minds like barnacles.
Stricken by visions, our forebears who despised these involuntary insights sent an Ambassador to the Dreamlands, a delegation not of friendship but of polite or forceful declination. The ambassador could not be selected on the basis of strength or skill or merit, for the Dreamlands’ twisted dimensions lacked regard for the conventions of our material world. Physics there was unknown or inverted; creatures of impossible biology roamed bent and oddly broken planescapes that conformed to arcane laws of topography; and thoughts flowed thick like treacle, hardened, and were made manifest.
Nonetheless, deliberations were undertaken and resolved; wheels within wheels turned and in turn drove the spinning of yet smaller wheels. The anonymous council — its identity swallowed by folklore’s selective memory — nominated, through some obscure mechanism and over days, the ambassador who was to become Ambassador. This envoy set off alone and unaccompanied except for those brave companions who are immortalized in shrine and song, and of whom you have heard too much already and perhaps prefer not be mentioned, please, if it’s all the same. So I will not bore you with stories of Graf and the Vicious Moonby. I will not recount the Triumphant Eliza’s struggles beneath the ab-swamp, but instead speak only of the Ambassador and their travels through the Dreamlands, and the heroics which they wrought, though not effortlessly.
See, implore the tales, the Dreamlands are quite unlike the terrain of our past or present world — whereas our world is defined by gradual boundaries where sand morphs into soil which bleeds into water, the Dreamlands are blanketed with a mess of biomes that stutter-step one into the other, rich jungle dirt mixed with ash as nearby fish are nauseated by incessant fresh-salt-fresh aquatic transitions. Thus the Ambassador, forging a path through this senselessly interleaved landscape, became lost a single day into their journey. But they did not become lost. And this is not a paradox.
Yes, everyone knows of the Time of Wandering that the Ambassador endured, but that nursery-rhyme account your parents fed you as a child is wrong. The Ambassador never wandered, for to wander implies a lack of purpose and of will. Surely you do not have so low an opinion of the Ambassador that you believe they abandoned their goal just one day into the trackless Dreamlands? No. The candidate, however chosen, was not so feeble as that. Rather, the Ambassador knew — from the very sweat-soaked visions exuded by the Dreamlands — that to rid their tribe of that plague of foresight, they would need to navigate the ab-world as blindly as a dreamer themselves. Only then could they find the source of the visions and stopper them, confining them once more to the prescient vault from which they sprung.
The Time of Wandering was therefore not a time of lapse in the Ambassador but a carefully planned stratagem, crafted to bring them to the shores they sought. At last, after many weeks of traipsing through that vast chaotic patchwork, the Ambassador arrived at an uninterrupted ocean, an expanse of water that did not shift or blend or bleed, but stretched out far beyond their eyes to a distant horizon. And standing there, looking out, they realized that they had come to their half-held goal, never far from the front of their mind in all their traveling, but never too close, either. By means unknown, the Ambassador did as they were sent to do, and conferred with the great ocean in the heart — if it could be so called — of the Dreamlands, and came to an agreement.
How the Ambassador treated with that mysterious body is not known even to me, but treat they did and the ocean came and washed the troubling foreknowledge from our ancestors’ minds. In that beginning so long ago, it was the sea which swept away the dreams of futures that encrusted minds like barnacles, and left us only the memory of the act, like impressions in hard, hard sand.