Risen From the Ashes

The tales were many, dating back thousands of years—for millennia, for as long as humanity had existed—in every culture across the globe, but the gist of them was always the same; there were but a double-handful of plots in the minds of men, and even fewer characters, but they played out in every story ever told... The Great Mother and Father, the Wise Old Man, the Child, the Shadow.

Far and away, yet so close, separated by a mere Gateway, another scholar in a different world would note this and attribute these similarities to something he called the "collective unconscious" and call these stock characters "archetypes" ... but Hohenheim was half a century and a dimension distant from knowing the work of Carl Jung, and thus did not put those terms to the traces and make them bear the burden of his troubled mind.

What he did have on hand was the florid and colorful cipher of the alchemists, the mad jumbling of symbols and images that comprised the basic lingo—the Green Lion and Pelican, the Bird of Hermes and Black that is Blacker than Black—and in his shock and horror, he had reverted to those hidden terms, trying to hide the truth from himself in streams of code and claiming a scientific detachment.

But the language of legend and that of alchemical secrecy were linguistic-sisters, dialects that were rooted deep in the dim connections shared in the minds of bards and scientists, troubadours and philosophers and scholars throughout the ages, handed down from one generation to the next like the key to intellectual culture. Hohenheim was a beloved child of this tradition, heir of Plato and Augustine, Virgil and Socrates, Homer and Hippocrates, and his mind spoke to him in the words of myth and mystery.

Unwillingly, he remembered the ancient story of the first-borne son, sacrificed on the mountain by his father and risen by the power of the divine three days later—the same concept echoed thousands of years afterwards by the cult of the Christians and their Messiah, but it was much older than that, spreading though most of the known world in one form or another. Isaac, Jesus, Osiris, Dionysus... the God-man with a thousand faces.

But Hohenheim wasn't divine; he was not a god, and he'd been punished for infringing on the rights reserved for heaven.

The thing that rolled back the stone from its tomb was not a Christ; it was not the resurrected way and the truth, the savior of humanity, the lord of the dead, the logos of the universe.

What rose from the ashes was no phoenix—the symbol of true alchemy: the transfiguration and rebirth of the soul and heart from the crucible of death, whether physical or spiritual—its plumage blazing like the fires of dawn, its song enough to stop the chariot of the sun upon the horizon every morning.

Once, it was claimed, the light of the world had been incarnated, and had walked upon the earth.

Equivalent exchange demanded that the darkness, too, have a chance to be resurrected and wear the flesh of a man to hide its true self.

The radiance of his son had been long extinguished; the bright flame of his soul snuffed out like a candle in a night wind, and there was no rekindling the fire that was lost.

What woke from the slumber of death was the shadow embodied.