House of Saints: Standing in the Storm

Saul finds Vladimir crying on a bench.

The hunger for human flesh is there. It is tugging on Saul’s sleeve. It is asking for his attention. Saul considers it. But since Vladimir controls swarms of Lethal robot bees he is not the most edible man on campus.

Saul sits down.

“Hey,” he says. “What is it?”

Vladimir looks up. “You will kill me,” he says.

“No,” says Saul. He shakes his head. “I’m not going to kill you. I’m here to give you a shoulder to cry on.”

Vladimir laughs.

“No. Not now,” he says. “You will not kill me now. That is essentially impossible in the scenario as I understand it. But later. You will kill me later.”

“Oh,” says Saul. “That. Well—well, yeah.”

Saul grins a little.

“But we’ve got time,” Saul says. “There’s no hurry, now. No one’s joining the House of Hunger any more. I don’t know if the Hungry breed true, but if we don’t, and even if we do, really, we’re just a tiny handful of predators wandering an infinite world of prey.”

“It is my fault,” says Vladimir. “I have seen it. It is my ambition. It was too overweening. I weened, and then I weened more than I should have. In such a fashion did I doom us all.”

Saul pulls Vladimir over. And Vladimir rests his head on Saul’s shoulder and there he cries.

And Saul strokes Vladimir’s hair, and says, “Sh.”

“You will die too.”

“That’s all right,” says Saul.

“Hm?”

Saul gestures out at the horizon. “See,” says Saul, “I know the purpose of the world. It’s hunger. It’s the hunger that surges and falls inside me like a sea. I think we can make it grow in us. I think it can transform the world.”

Here Saul hesitates. He looks briefly confused. Then he shakes his head.

“The others are too confused to do it,” he says. “They’re pawns of the hunger. But I can teach them. I can lead them. I can make it grow. And if I succeed in this then it doesn’t matter if I die.”

“You do not know the purpose of the world,” says Vladimir.

“Pardon?” says Saul.

Vladimir withdraws. He gives Saul a corpse-grin.

“Here is what I know,” says Vladimir. “We see the purposes for others that are in our minds to see. But these are not their purposes. We are a lens that looks at one another and ourselves. But we are a flawed lens. I made a hat. It was my most brilliant creation, Saul. It was true genius. It found the potential in each person and sorted them into the House that would bring that potential out. But its world view was limited by the flaw in my personal lens, and the name of that flaw is Gotterdammerung.”

“Hats don’t lie about moral issues,” says Saul, uneasily.

Vladimir shrugs.

“I cannot say,” he says. “I am sorted. I am head boy of the House of Dreams. I am surrounded by the lightning and I cannot see the truth. I have trapped myself in the construct of my purposes. But I pray that it is wrong. I pray that someone will save us. Because I finally understand that that purpose is an evil purpose. It will crush me. It will crush you. It will take away our humanity.”

Something in this touches Saul. Perhaps it is the pitiability of meat regretting lost humanity. Perhaps it is the way that Vladimir in his edibleness nevertheless reminds Saul of his peers.

So Saul says, very gently, “We must take joy in the purposes given to us, Vladimir. They are all we have.”

The hunger is a rising storm; but Vladimir is a “sometimes” food.

Saul brushes his tears away.

Fun Fact! Some dieticians think that it’s okay to eat Vladimir all the time, but Vladimir doesn’t think it’s okay to eat him even once!

House of Saints is over. There will be one more related legend at some point in August or September. Beyond that, I make no promises, either to those who like it or those who don’t.

14 thoughts on “House of Saints: Standing in the Storm

  1. I weened, and then I weened more than I should have

    Weening is the great sin.

    Vladimir reminds me of both the monster and Martin.

  2. I don’t agree. The essential wrongness to the Monster has to do with consent (as we were reminded in the Saints’ conversation). Vladimir doesn’t force people into the Sorting Hat. And I think the morally ambiguous part of Martin’s worldview isn’t that he reduces your personality into a single archetype. On the contrary, Martin is all about giving you choices– including the choice to suffer. (The really ambiguous bit is that if you’re suffering involuntarily, Martin can help you to make your response to that into a choice. Which he thinks is more valuable than stopping the pain.)
    Vladimir reminds me of those who transform themselves into gods, like Erin becoming Forbidden A. They can’t take the pain as humans anymore, but in becoming powerful enough to cope, they also restrict themselves. (As previous posters have commented, I think one current restriction is becoming an isn’t.)

  3. I have to admit, I was expecting the Fenris Wolf to break free at some time during the story. Perhaps that will be the topic of the related legend to come.

    Quite a lot of legends seem to involve the end of the world in some way. I wonder if Jane and Martin are contemplating just tearing everything down and starting over? Of course, it may just be that Jane is thinking about changing the world, with change viewed metaphorically as death-and-rebirth.

  4. Are we sure Vladimir doesn’t force people into the hat? I’m not sure Stefan would have consented, given his horror of the hat pre-sorting. It’s sure that it isn’t an informed decision. Though I think it’s interesting that the saints regret their sorting and the beasts don’t seem to. The saints know what they must do as saints, but they aren’t sure it’s the right thing to do, whereas the beasts are sure what they do is the right thing to do. Odd. And Vladimir, he isn’t sure either. I guess it sort of goes back to Nabonidus’ definition of a monster as someone who thinks it’s okay to be a monster.

  5. We have never seen Vladimir force anyone into the hat. It’s possible that he forced Stefan, but we have no evidence to show that he forced anyone else, and he may just have cajoled and coaxed.

    Also, it seems clear that Vladimir started out with no doubts; it’s only toward the end that he began to doubt.

  6. Hmmm… It’s not what I expected, but on reflection, I think this is a fitting ending for this tale. There are no more students in the House of Saints. Peter, the protagonist by default, has fulfilled his destiny. Vidar’s Boot has fallen, though not on what we thought it would fall on at the beginning of the story.

    I think it’s important that the sorting done by the frankenhat isn’t related to the character of the one being sorted at all. It’s something that’s imposed by a greater power, an infusion of supernatural energy that changes the nature of the sorted person. Actually, since we’re talking about the five-element cycle, it seems to me like what it does is supercharge one of the colors of chi of the sorted person, instilling in them power and cumpulsion related to that color of chi.

    None of this explains what the Yellow Hats are supposed to be.

  7. As I look at this again, the effects of Saul having been sorted twice are fairly clear. He is the Saint of Hunger.

  8. None of this explains what the Yellow Hats are supposed to be.

    Creepy.

    I thought they were the house of torment? More specifically, the torment of human nature. Humans experience a since of helplessness and loss when confronted with horrible things – the house of Torment really *are* helpless.. the torment in the air calls to them, and like the sick slaves we are, they can’t help but gape and watch, though apparently without any seven-car-pileups so far.

  9. But Sid, who is from the House of Torment, wears a pale hat, not a yellow one. Further, he is surrounded by students in yellow hats.

    He is in the human graveyard. That’s where he went. He’s in a mausoleum. All around him, in the high levels, in the low levels, staring at him from each nook, are students with great owlish eyes and yellow hats. Emily. Morgan. Fred.

    He does not mind them. They are standing between young Sid and madness.

    It’s confusing, though, since Hogwarts only has four schools. I’m not sure why Rebecca added an extra school, but I assume it is significant somehow. [/quote”>

  10. Lessee…

    black hat == Dreams == metal ~= sorrow
    green hat == Hunger == wood ~= anger
    red hat == Saints == fire ~= joy
    yellow hat == ___ == earth ~= worry
    pale hat == Torment == water ~= fear

    In order of their probable creation, correlating from Google and the testimony of the Hopping Vampire.

    So mayhap we should be figuring the name of the House of Earth?

    And it appears that there’s also some question of the assignment of black/white to metal/water – the cycle would be in the correct order if black were water/fear and pale were metal/sorrow. The Net of a Thousand Lies disagrees as to whether black is metal or water, and white is water or metal; I’m no scholar of the Orient and so I must rely on secondary sources, which seem to conflict. Might somone clarify this? My first contact with the 5-element taxonomy was Mega Man, and so I don’t quite feel qualified to be an authority…

  11. Ooh, perhaps this is using the alternate version of yellow/earth, where it’s the color/element of change and transition? Which would explain why the yellow-hatted appear at moments of tension and conflict…

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