Good and True and Noble (II/II)

The history continues;
and from the lens there suspires
a nimbus of great joy.

“We are here,” says Pentheus, for they are on the beach. He points out into the water. He says, “There: you can see the strut of mast and the jutting of broken timbers.”

“I do,” concurs Papakenos.

The melomid sets Pentheus down.

Papakenos walks out into the water. It hefts up the ship. It succeeds at lifting only half; the ship breaks as he pulls. Pentheus blanches, but the melomid seems undaunted. It carries first one half to shore and then the other.

“I am not sure,” it says, looking at the pieces. “I think my hands are too indelicate for the work of repairs.”

“It is a task I can perform,” Pentheus decides.

4.
Three days pass, and a hungry Pentheus seeks Papakenos out.

“If you have food,” he says, “I would be grateful.”

Papakenos looks around. Its gaze settles on Pentheus.

“Lo,” says the melomid. “My larder contains only Pentheus.”

“Oh,” says Pentheus.

He frets.

“Surely there are other people on the island,” he says.

“Surely,” agrees Papakenos. “They live underground, like the clams, each in a tunnel that they have built. When they hear me coming, or other matters give them some alarm, they pull themselves in and slam the metal lids; thus if I am to pull one free I must make a crack in those lids and flood them.”

“Remarkable,” says Pentheus, but as he is not an explorer he does not record this for posterity. “Do you think they would help a hungry traveler if I were to knock upon their lids?”

“They are recalcitrant when I request a meal,” says Papakenos. “Your experience may differ.”

“I see,” says Pentheus.

Pentheus walks away. He searches through the jungled regions and comes at last on the habitat of men and women. As he approaches there is the hooting warning cry of a villager; most of the people duck beneath their lids, but one sentry remains up, peering warily at Pentheus.

“This is a cowardly life,” says Pentheus.

“I am Iason,” says the sentry. “I concur with your assessment; yet we are alive and you are not.”

Pentheus frowns.

“I am still alive,” he says.

This confuses Iason.

“Come now,” he says. “The giant will have eaten you by now. Accept your fate! Repair to the afterlife and begin your desolation and sorrow.”

“I am uneaten,” says Pentheus.

Iason blinks at him.

“Well, then,” he says.

And a sudden fear turns Pentheus’ blood cold, and Pentheus turns and looks about; but he does not see the direction from which a human of the village flips back the lid, rises, and impales Pentheus’ kidney with a spear.

“Cowardice,” Pentheus mutters, as his cold blood flows out onto the ground; and he passes in and out of consciousness.

“I am sorry,” says Iason. “But it is our practice, when we are beset by other men, to leave them out for the giant to eat and thus minimize the losses to ourselves.”

5.
Papakenos encounters Pentheus on a hill. The man is staked out. He is bleeding and foul and nearly dead.

“This is what happens when you intend things,” lectures Papakenos.

Dread of this moment has haunted Pentheus’ dreams; so now as he hears the melomid’s voice he swims towards consciousness and cracks open his eyes.

“I will not finish repairs upon my ship,” he says.

“Nonsense,” says Papakenos. “You’re doing it again.”

Pentheus processes this. He fails.

“Huh?”

“Intending,” says Papakenos.

The melomid heaves Pentheus from the ground, snapping free the ropes that bind him. It carries Pentheus towards the shore. It deposits him near his ship.

“See?” says Papakenos. “Your theory is mistaken.”

Pentheus looks at him dismally.

“I am dying very slowly,” he says. “I wonder if the kidney is really such an important organ as all the doctors advise.”

“That’s the spirit,” says Papakenos.

The giant turns away.

“Wait,” says Pentheus.

“Wait?”

“If you tell them of me,” says Pentheus, “and how I met my end, then my family would welcome you as a guest.”

Papakenos looks angry.

“Stay alive,” it says.

“Why?”

And bitterly the giant says, “I do not know what a reason would look like.”

The breath goes from Pentheus.

Papakenos growls. It lifts Pentheus up again. It shakes him. Then it begins to stalk towards the door, and, setting Pentheus down, puts its hands upon the door.

“They can repair you there, in the land of all good practice,” says Papakenos.

It heaves.

“Surely this is intent,” the melomid says. “Surely it is not futile to say: I believe that this outcome is sad. My actions reflect a desire to avert that outcome. Surely this is intention: surely, this is will!”

The skin of the melomid cracks. Light shines out from within. His body shatters. There is everywhere incandescence.

6.
One razored shard of melomid sits in Gibbelins’ Tower, on a work table with Martin on one side and Jane on the other.

“And that is why Papakenos is so happy,” Martin says.

“Why?”

Martin shrugs. “Enh.”

Jane makes a face at him. Then she leans in. She studies the shard.

“It’s the intent,” she says.

“Yeah,” Martin admits.

“It is a thing of great joy to want something good and true and noble,” Jane says, “and then, explode.”

“That,” Martin agrees, “is the moral lesson for today.”

4 thoughts on “Good and True and Noble (II/II)

  1. Interesting. We know that a human can become an angel if they make a promise they can’t possibly keep. Is this what happens when a god does something similar?

  2. Not necessarily. We already know that a god can change into another type of god through an impossible promise. That’s how Cyane the Nymph became Magic Angel, after all.

    Judging by the Meredith Histories, (which begin immediatly after this one,) I would say that what happened to Papakenos is probably not death, but a change in state.

  3. An impossible promise can turn a god into another kind of god, or it can turn a human into a god. (See “It’s Only Wounds”.) But it has to be a promise from strength, not a promise from weakness….whatever that means!

  4. My theory is that the “from strength” and “from weakness” has to do with the motivation for the promise.

    -Eric

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