House of Saints: Vidar’s Boot

People deal with horror in many ways.

Edmund’s father has known for all his life that the wolf would break free in his child’s time. It is the wolf’s stated intention to eat the world.

So he built the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth.

Vladimir dreamt misty visions of the categorization of men. He dreamt of the remaking of the world, where people did not choose their nature but had it assigned to them—visionaries to the House of Dreams, beasts to the House of Hunger, saviors to the House of Saints. He did not retch bitterly into the sink, whenupon he woke, but rather built a tool to realize this ambition.

“The horror of it is its finiteness,” said his roommate, Stefan. “There are finite colors and finite Houses, Vladimir. That is how I know that the judgment of the sorting hat comes from outside. It does not reflect the varied splendors of the soul.”

Then Vladimir sorted Stefan, and now Stefan does not speak.

Edmund faced the horror of his life with flight. He ran from the truth of the wolf, and now he is a beast.

And Peter?

Peter has just helped in the resorting of Saul, who was at that time a saint and now might have joined the Hungry.

Peter is a saint, but he is flawed. He does not look before he leaps.

House of Saints


Vidar’s Boot

Saul’s eyes are pure white and some numinous essence in them fills the room with the spiritual effluvium of hunger.

He is smiling.

“Can you fight it, Saul?” Bethany asks. “Can you tell us what . . . can you tell us if you’re still in there?”

Saul says, calmly, “I am unchanged. It is you who are different.”

“Pardon?”

“I have stepped sideways,” says Saul, “into a world where only the hungry have value. It is transparent to me that this is the nature of the change in question. The consideration of their rights still defines my morality, while your boundaries are newly irrelevant.”

“I cry foul,” says Peter. “This is the same universe as before the sorting. My memories are continuous, even if yours are not.”

“Such allegations are meaningless when made by meat,” dismisses Saul.

He takes off the sorting hat. He hands it to Vladimir. “I shall need green,” he says.

“Of course,” says Vladimir, who uses many dead green hats in his research. Then he hesitates. “Please understand that if you attempt to eat me a nuclear device will detonate and destroy the House of Hunger, as well as the rest of the school.”

Saul grins a corpse-grin at Vladimir.

“You are too useful to eat,” says Saul. “We will wait until you are old and your neural structures have decayed. Then we will ring your doorbell. ‘Who are you?’ you will say, and ‘I don’t want any!’ Then we’ll laugh at the senile old fool you have become and bite off your limbs.”

“You paint an unsettling picture,” says Vladimir. “Still, if I have no indoors machine gun nest to retreat to, it is nobody’s fault but my own.”

“Wisely said,” says Saul.

He turns. He looks full into Peter’s face.

“Do you understand what you must do?” the Saul-beast asks.

“No,” Peter says. He shakes his head.

The Saul-beast draws back its lips. It hisses at him.

“Save. The. World,” it says. It pokes his chest. “You are still a saint; and I have lost my mandate.”

Then it turns. Its nostrils flare. It shuffles out the door.

“Now was that statement his evil?” asks Vladimir, in distant scientific curiosity. “Or his virtue?”

Vladimir’s assistant is silent; and Peter and Bethany depart, shaking their heads in horror.

“It is evident,” says Bethany, as they walk away, and after they regain a bit of mental balance, “that they retain their humanity, however warped.”

“An unfortunate outcome,” Peter says.

“Agreed. It would be better if they were evil to the point of inanimacy, or human to the point of reason. How can we save the world from things we cannot reason with or harm?”

Peter has been thinking about this ever since Saul charged him with the task.

“Proposition,” says Peter. “We must destroy the graveyard of hats, whose fell necromantic power poisons the earth and feeds poor Vladimir’s inspiration.”

Bethany hesitates.

“That charnel millinery possesses a certain unholy sentience,” Bethany points out.

“It is what it is,” says Peter. “Dead hats have certain rights, but these are not the same as a human’s rights.”

Bethany hesitates.

The clock in the hall slowly ticks.

“Agreed,” Bethany says.

“The natural enemy of the hat is the boot,” Peter says.

“We can’t build a big enough boot on Earth,” Bethany says. “That’s the cobbler’s old enemy, gravity, at work.”

“Space,” Peter says.

It has a strange sense of inevitability for such a unexpected conclusion; and Bethany nods.

“Space,” she says.

It is three days before they make further progress on their plans. Then they find Cheryl, between classes, in the company of her peers.

“We have a request,” says Peter. His voice is humble. His hands are folded together.

Cheryl’s eyes light up. Since Peter has not actually explained his request yet, her response is somewhat uncanny:

“Space?” Cheryl carols.

Peter can see the students in the yellow hats draw nigh. He can feel it, just barely, in the atmosphere—that thing that calls them.

It is an electricity charging up in the the students of the House of Dreams, burning like a flame within their eyes.

“Space?” says Amber, of the House of Dreams.

“Space!” confirms Harold.

“Space!” choruses Cheryl. Then she takes Peter’s hands. She folds them in her own.

“Anything we can do, of course,” says Cheryl. There is an unholy zealotry in her voice. “You are sniveling and pathetic, but to serve such ignorant worms with our inspiration and labor is the joyous burden of the House of Dreams.”

Cheryl has been planning it for days now, though she had not known. There are scraps of diagram and theory scattered through her notes. They made no sense to her then. They make sense now.

“We will call it,” she says, “Vidar’s Boot.

Fun Fact! If you have unholy zealotry in your voice, you can gargle with salt water to get it out!

House of Saints will continue on Saturday or Monday with “A Practically Unsolvable Problem”

11 thoughts on “House of Saints: Vidar’s Boot

  1. Holy crap!

    Stefan is the thing in the sombrero?

    Holy crap!

    *too freaked out to comment further at this time, back later*

  2. Okay, I’m back.

    (…holy crap…)

    Yes. Wow. Eek.

    Saul’s eyes are pure white and some numinous essence in them fills the room with the spiritual effluvium of hunger.

    Eek.

    “I have stepped sideways,” says Saul, “into a world where only the hungry have value.”

    Double eek.

    Er… are the beasts really defined as those who hunger? Does that mean the saints (other than the new hungry saint Saul) don’t hunger? That’s… kind of creepy, because I think of hunger as a defining human trait. Not necessarily hunger for the flesh of your fellow students, but hunger for something. If you’d asked me before this entry, I would have said: The saints hunger to do what’s right. The black hats have dreams– which don’t seem that different from hunger. And the yellow hats hunger for something– that something in the air that summons them.

    Maybe Saul is using hunger in a narrower, physical sense. Or maybe hunger of various kinds really does protect from the beasts. Maybe that’s why they won’t eat Vladimir until he’s become senile. Maybe that’s why the dispassionate theological debates of the saints brought the Linus-, Sally- and Lucy- beasts down on them. They had forgotten hunger.

    I don’t know. I’m just trying not to think about Stefan.

    There should be blue hats. Are there blue hats? Are there white hats? The blue hats would be linked to water, of course; the white hats could be linked to– um– luminiferous ether. I miss Iffy.

  3. It appears that none of those who have been sorted are fully human anymore. They’ve been clamped into narrow, externally-defined roles, which give them power but deny them freedom of choice. In short, they’ve become isn’ts–more specifically, gods.

    Interestingly, we have never yet seen anything to suggest that Vladimir has forced the sorting hat onto anyone’s head. This correlates with the general theory of Hitherby cosmology that people who become isn’ts do so as a result (planned or otherwise) of their own choices.

  4. Oh!

    But…

    *thinks*

    Forgive me, I’m new to Hitherby cosmology and still working my way through the full archives.

    But does that– being an isn’t– mean that they don’t have choices? Or that their choices are limited?

    The only other reference to being an isn’t that I specifically remember is when Martin was escaping the firewood world and travelling into the underworld.

    Before He Was Cool

    His soul knows its truths. You are nothing, it tells him. A firewood boy. An isn’t.

    It’s his destiny. It’s the law of his nature. It’s his dharma. It’s the truth of his soul that he can’t escape.

    I didn’t get from that that being an isn’t means that you’re constricted in your choices and bound by your nature. That’s what having a dharma means. Being an isn’t was just Martin’s particular dharma.

    Do you see what I mean?

    Can anyone tell me where there are other references to being an isn’t?

    Forgive the blatant n00bitude. *gets tamogun all over the forums*

  5. being an isn’t pretty much just means you’re a god. And god’s are essentially your invisible friends. In Hitherby, sometimes your invisible friends can talk to other people’s invisible friends, and you can see each other’s invisible friends. However, “adults” are entirely immune to the invisible friends, so they’re called “isn’ts” since they don’t really matter to the world, unless they or their actions are made real somehow.

    just because you’re invisible friend, isn’t actually real, doesn’t mean they can’t make choices, however. you can think of it as an expression of your subconscious, or whatever. their Dharma is just a purpose, an ability to do something. Martin’s ability to do something was enforced by his Dharma, which wasn’t what he wanted to do.. so he set it aside and tried to make his own way.. which is tough, without a dharma, but still possible in our westernized world of today.

  6. Now I’m more confused than ever. I have to go finish rereading the archives before I make myself look any stupider. :oops:

  7. that’s my own personal interpretation. if you don’t think like me, you might get confused. it happens. :D

  8. Forgive me, I’m new to Hitherby cosmology and still working my way through the full archives.

    It’s okay!

    Everyone is a bit of a n00b until the whole story is written. ^_^

    But does that– being an isn’t– mean that they don’t have choices? Or that their choices are limited?

    Hm!

    First, it should be noted that House of Saints is a legend, not a history. It has a strong thematic connection to the histories and stories because it’s a legend from that world—it’s like how cyberpunk would not have arisen as a literary movement in a world without strong corporate influence and inhumane governments.

    “That’s all very well, Bilbo,” as the elves would have said. “But I think this whole idea of ‘dying by culture shock’ is fancifully irrelevant to the real issues facing Middle-Earth today.”

    So when people talk about the connection to gods and isn’ts, what they’re referring to is the general philosophy emerging from Hitherby about dharma, purpose, and the supernatural. They’re poking at the resemblances between the fates of the sorted and the fates of a lot of characters in the canon world.

    In this sense, I think the focus on isn’ts might be leading the discussion a little bit astray.

    Sadly I can’t quote any legends to explain “isn’t” because it’s principally a term from the histories and stories. It’s explained a bit in Mei Ming (I/I) and Tre Ore (I/I), neither of which you should skip ahead and read if you haven’t gotten there yet. But I’ll give a simplified example from The Fable of the Lamb.

    Harold is invulnerable because of one of his gods—an aegis. This isn’t a fanciful tale. He gets stabbed through the chest and laughs it off. If he were in a train wreck, it would probably kickstart the plot of Unbreakable, which I haven’t seen so please don’t spoil it or even its “twist.”

    However, in the end, being invulnerable doesn’t help Harold at all. It doesn’t save him from the doom that was coming for him. One of the major reasons for this is that the aegis is an isn’t.

    As Martin says, “isn’t” is a victim’s word. It’s a measure of powerlessness. It’s the benign gods putting words to their helplessness in the face of evil. It’s Central’s explanation for why exploiting gods makes them $40 million profit a year instead of making them unquestionable god-kings on the throne of a blood-drenched world empire.

    Gods are isn’ts for two very specific reasons. One is that not everyone can have everything that they want. You’re always going to have some limits to your power. The other is a set of events that happened around 539 BCE, which are only now beginning to face resolution.

  9. Oh, Rebecca! There’s something about those events of 539 B.C. that I wanted to ask you about.

    Those events are clearly what made the world of Hitherby the place it is today. I don’t understand what exactly Siddihartha did to the world. His promise is “Suffering is unnecessary.” I don’t understand how this seperated the world of humankind from the world of gods. I don’t understand how this broke the Treasure Wheel.

    It’s pretty clear that the difference between the ancient world and the modern world is that gods no longer walk the earth. This is because Belshazzar ate all the gods of the old world, (including himself,) and Siddihartha somehow changed the nature of the world so that humanity and gods were divided. Gods no longer had power in the temporal world. I just don’t understand why “Suffering is unnecessary” caused that to happen.

  10. Those events are clearly what made the world of Hitherby the place it is today. I don’t understand what exactly Siddihartha did to the world. His promise is “Suffering is unnecessary.” I don’t understand how this seperated the world of humankind from the world of gods. I don’t understand how this broke the Treasure Wheel.

    The severing has not been explained in those terms as yet.

    Siddhartha observed:

    To deny suffering
    Is to find contradictions—
    Not everyone can have what they want.

    Then he denied suffering, and found a contradiction.

    It is possible to work out the reason why this separated the gods from the world, but I don’t actually expect people to do so; I’ll get back to canon, including the characters who’ll explain that more directly, as soon as I can. ^_^

    Rebecca

  11. No hurry. This (the “House of Saints” mini-series) is turning into one of my favorite legends so far.

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