Hi everyone! I'm totally procrastinating from working on my existing projects so I thought I'd share this really complex story idea I had that I doubt I'll ever have the skill to write the way I imagine it in my head and see if anyone has any insight on how it can be done.
It's basically a story that needs to chronicle parts of time a couple thousand years apart, during which time a character who died in the earlier period gets reincarnated. On top of that, it's supposed to be a poetically tragic love story that ends up having a sappy happy ending because I'm a total sucker for that kind of thing. Read on for the full summary if you're interested.
In the world I imagine, there are seven ways to become effectively immortal. They have different benefits and trade-offs:
- Shade: this occurs if a person dies with a strong wish to remain in order to resolve some unfinished business. Shades can be seen and heard by people but have no physical presence and no physical needs. They disappear when they resolve their business or give up on it.
- Undead: somewhat similar to vampirism, undead can create other undead, though they do not need to drink blood. The body is no longer effectively alive but fueled by undead magic. Undead gradually lose their emotions with time and can become what we classically consider 'evil'. It's not uncommon for a group of them to attempt to conquer the world every few centuries, at which time their numbers are drastically reduced and the cycle starts again.
- Healer: A person proficient in healing magic can use their powers on themselves to prevent aging. Depending on the degree of their powers, they may not have enough magic left to heal others. They can die if they sustain injuries greater than their powers' ability to heal.
- Reincarnate: Through meditative techniques, a person can imprint some of their memories into their soul and use other techniques to remember them upon being reborn. They can generally only remember the life immediately previous to the current one, and there is always the risk that they will fail to remember. People who attempt this don't generally succeed more than two or three times in a row.
- Automaton: A person can choose to bind their soul into a soul-stone and use it to power a golem-like creature. What they are able to do depends on the quality and design of the golem. If the soul-stone is separated from the golem, the soul is unable to do anything until someone finds the stone and either breaks it to release the soul or attaches it to another golem.
- Phoenix: A person can let their body be consumed by the Eternal Flame and be reborn as a younger version of themselves. There is an entire religion dedicated to this and temples containing torches of Eternal Flame can be found in all major cities. This is both the most widely available and least common form of immortality due to the fact that you have to experience the pain of being burned alive and still maintain the will to live. Once you are reborn as your younger self, you start to age normally again and will die of old age unless you repeat the process. People who complete one rebirth house the Eternal Flame within themselves and can summon it at will, for example to recover from an otherwise fatal injury.
- God-King: This is a legendary, almost mythical form of immortality that you have to be born with. The prophecy that describes the conditions under which they are born goes "conceived in love, born to right a great wrong". God-Kings are ridiculously magical creatures that are immune to any kind of harm and are invariably great, charismatic leaders who instinctively know how to rule an empire well. They are born every couple thousand years when society becomes too cruel and barbaric, usually as a slave, and end up overthrowing the current order and ruling a huge empire. The world experiences a golden age at this time. However, after a couple of centuries, the God-King gradually loses his will to live as all his loved ones die, and when he no longer experiences a pull from the world, he disappears. Time passes until people consider his existence to be a myth, society devolves again, and the cycle repeats.
The story revolves around two characters, one of which is the third incarnation of the God-King. He's about 200 years into the founding of his empire and extremely detached from life, absentmindedly ruling out of a sense of duty. All of his loved ones have died except for one friend who became a Shade to keep him company. Despite his lack of attention, his magical instincts still work to tell him exactly what needs to be done to keep everything prosperous, and he goes on a tour of one of his most distant jungle territories in the south.
The other character is an orphan. Her mother was travelling in the southern jungle and died during the birthing process, her father unknown. She has light coloring, which is unheard of this far south, and the superstitious locals consider her possessed by a demon. She is hated by everyone in her village other than the soft-hearted medicine woman, who raised her.
The story starts when the medicine woman dies and the orphan's life becomes endangered because the remaining villagers want to burn her to death to exorcize the demon they believe is inside her. It is at this point that the God-King arrives on his tour. Noticing that one of his subjects is in a place that would never accept her, he takes her back to the capital city and places her in one of his learning academies, then proceeds to forget about her.
The orphan girl flourishes in her new life. She is intelligent and loves learning. She makes a point to learn everything she can about the God-King, never forgetting her gratitude towards him. Despite the fact that she is more than qualified to focus on a scholarly career, she chooses to go into the military for a chance to get closer to the God-King, eventually qualifying as a governor for one of the empire's provinces. She serves with distinction and is content with her life, able to see and talk to the God-King on state occasions, until she realizes that she is growing old and will eventually have to retire. In her research, she has also realized that the God-King is withdrawn from the world because it hurts him when his loved ones die. She decides to seek immortality in order to keep him company for as long as he reigns. Out of all the paths to immortality, she considers the Phoenix route the most reliable of the ones she can attain (she has no magic) and begins training her pain tolerance. At the age of 50, she succeeds in reincarnating herself for the first time, reverting her body to early adolescence.
Eventually, the God-King notices the girl's impact on his empire. The province she rules is flourishing and she is semi-worshipped by those who follow the Phoenix religion. In speaking to her, he feels unworthy of the level of devotion he's inspired. This is the first real emotion he's felt in a long time and eventually, he falls in love with her.
The two of them enjoy a couple of happy decades together but by now, the God-King is pushing three centuries in the world, a lot longer than his previous incarnations. His apathy becomes stronger and stronger until the girl realizes he's only hanging on for her sake. She tells him to let go and that she will wait until he's born again. The God-King fades away.
Fast forward three thousand years, and the girl is now the Phoenix Queen. She considers herself the steward of the God-King's empire but is worshipped by her subjects as both a goddess and an empress. She doesn't have the God-King's magical instincts for ruling but meticulously researches the best ways to improve the well-being of the citizens. The empire continues to prosper. A couple of centuries into her rule, she realized that the God-King was more likely to reincarnate if she let society crumble and cruelty arise, but she can't bring herself to ruin the God-King's empire. Despite continuing to wait for him, she believes that she is stuck in a situation where she will either never see him again or have to commit acts that make her unworthy of him.
It is at this point in time that the God-King is reborn (the sappy 'wrong' he is to right is the Phoenix Queen's tragic suffering). He has no memory of his past life and has a different appearance to his previous body, but his soul is the same. In his previous incarnations, he was born as a slave and it was apparent fairly quickly what his powers were. However, this time, he's born into a normal, loving household and he's just considered an unusually talented youth. He eventually becomes the Phoenix Queen's personal guard because she has a program where promising leaders take on this role for a couple of years in order to learn governance. He falls in love with the queen and wants her to be happy but doesn't realize he's anything but one of the many men who constantly falls in love with her.
A strange echo of the past in their interactions makes the Phoenix Queen notice her guard and eventually fall in love with him. However, she feels extremely guilty for her emotions, feeling that she is betraying the God-King. It's not until an assassination attempt makes it clear that the guard is immune to harm that she realizes he's the God-King. At this point, there's a lot of emotional turmoil and the Phoenix Queen attempts to give him the empire and resume her subservient position to him while the new God-King refuses, but eventually they settle down in blissful harmony and the world prospers for another few centuries.
The story ends with the 4th God-King letting himself go into the ether and the Phoenix Queen following after. The world has reached an Atlantis-like pinnacle of technology and social progress, which will likely crumble in a few centuries, starting the cycle again.
So yeah. Ideas? I want it to feel poetic and cyclic while still telling a coherent story. The story could be told linearly, alternating between past and future, starting in the future and flashing back to the past as it becomes relevant, or some other way I haven't thought of.