A Season of Metal

In the last chapter of Hitherby Dragons we learned about Central.

It’s a company or place.

It takes the place of the thrones the monster used to have. The modern monster isn’t some King on the throne of Babylon or Assyria. Not in the twentieth century. Not in the twenty-first. The modern monster runs Central. But what he does there is the same.

He empties people out.

He makes them believe him; entangles them with him; and he empties them out. He is the monster. He educes gods, pulling them from his victims’ souls.

He isn’t supposed to exist any more. Not since the time of Belshazzar. He’s not supposed to be able to exist.

But he does.

He does, and he does the work that monsters have always done; only now, he isn’t alone.

There’s Tina. She tortured Micah, a while back, her and her pet demon Thysiazo. There’s Melanie, and Vincent, Harold, and Stefan. There’s a whole organization that acts as the monster. One can say, “They’re not really part of the monster. They’re not monsters. They’re just ordinary people who do monstrous things.”

Or not.

Gibbelins’ Tower is in this sense a locus of resistance. One of its purposes, one of the points behind the shows that the players put on in the tower in the chaos beyond the boundaries of the world, is to make an answer to Central. Let there be no more power in the monsters to devour children. Let that which is so acceptable—hurting others for power—become shocking and unreal.

In the last chapter of Hitherby Dragons the hero,

whose name is Sebastien,

fought the monster in that tower. He said, “I am the hero. Heroes can kill monsters.”

And the monster said, “You’re wrong.”

Was he wrong?

And the monster told him: “You belong to me.”

Heroes can kill monsters, but that doesn’t mean they do. Sometimes they listen to the monsters instead, decide that the monsters are reasonable, get their heads all twisted around until they’re just puppets, just the monster’s slaves. Sometimes they try to kill the monster but screw up. This time they had to stop their fight because something more important was going on.

In Babylon the gods were very real.

In modern America they were not.

They were isn’ts.

And the monster wanted more than anything to make them so; and the hero hurt too much because they weren’t.

The wind changed.

Something changed.

And Martin said, “Go forth together from this place, and I shall give you what you need, and more than you deserve.”

It always hurts the heart to fight the monster. If it were easy and clean and clear then he wouldn’t be the monster, he’d just be some random minion horror to stomp beneath your feet. And if you’re a monster, then fighting the hero is just as bad. It’s terrifying. It’s stressful. At any moment the hero could kill you. Just like that! That’s what heroes are. You take away their weapons, you chain them up in your basement, you brainwash them into loving you, and next thing you know you’re getting killed by them—

If you’re a monster, anyway.

So as hard as it was for the hero, it wasn’t easy on the monster, either; and maybe that’s why they went along with it. Maybe they were tired and heart-sore and took any path they could find so they didn’t have to fight on any more. Or maybe it’s just because he was Martin.

He was Martin. He’s the test, he’s the smith, he’s the maker—

That’s what he says.

It is April, 2004. Liril is running. Micah is running. Jane is playing in her room.

A young man and a monster go down to edge of the island. They look across the sea of chaos to the beaches of Santa Ynez.

Together, they cross the bridge.

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