The Frog and the Thorn: Chapter One

or, how Melanie offered Micah a name tag,
but he didn’t put it on

Because Sometimes You Just Slip . . .

FORGOTTEN HOW WE GOT HERE?
The prologue to “The Frog and the Thorn” is here.
Even earlier stuff about Liril and Micah is here!

The No-Good Bird

In a Time of Cages

1: Anthropomorphizing the Crucible
2: Eliza and the Frog
3: Formica
4: And the Birds Fall Dead
5: Exposition Answers Emptiness with Digressions
6: “And Break.”
7: Little Faces

Oh, Harold Dear

The Rabbit and the Wolf

How Micah Fought the Monster

1: The Shepherdess
1a: Later. . .
2: The Boundary between Liril and the World
3: The Measure of a Monster
4: Sympathetic Magic
5: The Lion
6: “I will make you cry”
7: What Do You Do with a One-Winged Cherub?

The Frog and the Thorn: Prologue

or, how Melanie met the grangler,
and what happened then

To Serve the String

COMPLETELY LOST?
Start here, instead, with the first canon storyline!

The Elephant in the Room

2: The Soot-Web
6: Why is Six Afraid of Seven?
1: Anatman
3: What’s Purple and Incarnated in Human Form to Save Us All From Suffering?
7: A Study in Entanglement
5: Free
4: What’s Gray and Hurts More than You Can Imagine?

Lament for Amiel

1: Stupid Words and their Stupid Power, Anyway
1a: There is a King
2: Forsaken of their Gods
2a: Bam
2b: Haunted
3: And Sometimes You Just Slip . . .

(P.S.) Site Redesign Still in Progress

So I finished the first pass on categorization/tagging, and figured that it’d be about 2 days of work to do a final pass, and that I could do it simultaneously with redesigning the site’s look.

I think it’s actually about 10 days of work, and I’m having a zillion Nobilis-related things to do right now too that keep me from doing those 10 days in a row.

So, still under construction. Many of the categories are worth looking at now. I haven’t done much with the tags except for slowly turning every category I can’t make into a readable sub-collection into one. Front page look is definitely not final; I have much more work to do on it, although I don’t mind general comments at this point (since most of what I need to do is make the right column less of a mess.)

Best wishes,

Jenna

Starting a Priest: Levels 1-4

Priests command some of the greatest moral authority and community organization available on Earth. However, priests are not good at hand-to-hand combat, cannot use military grade weapons, and must wear the cloth to access their greatest class abilities.

You should play a priest if you want to stand at the front of mighty congregations exhorting them to spiritually correct behavior, baptize catechumen into the faith, creatively interpret the Bible, and turn ordinary crackers into the flesh of Christ. You should not play a priest if you’re looking for a heavy hitter who can wade into fields of enemies without the direct intervention of the Lord or somebody who can top the damage per second charts— that’s not the priest’s job. You should also think about whether you want to be a part of an established authority structure, willing to settle down and play in one location for level after level. Free roaming spirits who want to minister without license should consider being druids or monks instead.

Interested in a Priest? Then let’s get started!

It is not possible to concentrate wholly on priest for the first four levels. Priests can start almost anywhere in the world, from ghettoes and back alleys to the mansions of the rich. In order to prepare adequately for the challenges of the seminary you will want to do a fair number of local quests— putting away abandoned shopping carts, winning NASCAR races, giving a rival gang what for, sex and parenthood, or military intervention in a foreign country— before you take up the full mantle of your calling.

That said, every priest will find a divine messenger carrying their Calling somewhere near them in the starting zone.

The messenger’s spiel goes something like this: the world is out of order, there is a source of transcendent light, could you find your place in society disseminating that light into an emanation of order and virtue? Afterwards, answer, “Yes,” “Three,” “One,” “Three,” and either “Faith” or “Works” depending on your desired faction and build. (Faith is ideal for priests who want to command moral authority and chastise the unbelievers, but Works is better for a community-organization-focused priest. You’ll have a chance to revisit this choice later at a modest cost in moral currency, so it’s not absolutely important to get it right. I recommend, for early leveling, that you pick Faith, but plenty of high-end priests disagree.)

This opens up a series of quests that focus on the recognition that ignoring your calling in favor of material advancement cannot effectively facilitate the dissemination of the transcendent experience into ordinary social order. At second level you will need to collect tokens of social esteem and virtue and then cast them away into the wind while standing on a gothic knoll. I like to do this in combination with one of the other local quests, but if there isn’t an obvious collection quest, it is probably easiest to collect wealth. Do work in exchange for small bits of paper and coinage until you reach the target. If you’re having trouble getting the small bits of paper and coinage, it’s efficient to steal it (re-rolling a new character if you get caught) or shift to acquiring compliance. When you’re done selling your soul for money or crushing it in the name of compliance, start looking in nearby parks and parking structures for a gothic knoll. These form randomly in nature and also appear anywhere a gnoll has been killed. Stand on the knoll and dramatically release the paper or click on your accumulated compliance. This should get you quest completion for recognizing the legitimacy of your calling. Return to your divine messenger and have a short conversation; this time, answer, “Why me, Lord?” and “But I wanted an exciting career as a medical and dental assistant!”

Enjoy the short cutscene and return to NASCAR races, gang fights, moon landings, sexual encounters, or teaching chickens to fly as appropriate to your starting area and interests.

As you start to run out of ordinary local quests the spiritual pressure on you will probably increase; to wit, you’re not a high enough level for nearby zones but you’re running out of things to do in this one. Also there will be a pervasive sense of something wrong in the world matched by a growing fire in your heart to be of service to it. When the fire is about halfway up the heart (just before the second aorta), return to the messenger for your final pre-seminary quest.

This is the challenge of humility. Are you really good enough to be a priest? Are you just trying to make yourself feel important or do you actually have a calling to serve?

In this quest you will have to venture into an abandoned cemetery where servants of Self-Justification and Virtue are at war. (See graphic.) The goal is to claim twelve tombstones, after which the cemetery will become “owned” by the winning faction and the curs of Self-Justification or the brilliant angels of Virtue will be chased away howling with their tails between their legs.

First off, don’t panic should this struggle go against you. The cemetery is “instanced” off from the rest of the world, so that nobody will ever believe you were really there. (Like Narnia.) This means that there will be little in the way of tangible reward for your struggle against temptation, but it also means that if you lose, you’ll be able to go right back in and find things the way they were before. Spiritual struggles are mostly like this, allowing for a “soft reset” and a return to the enlightened path.

Second, don’t try to take the servants of Self-Justification on head on. You’re not built for hand-to-hand combat and shouldn’t try to play that way. Plus, they’re not actually demonic: they’re people just like yourself who lost their way and now haunt abandoned cemeteries nobody believes in arguing on behalf of Self-Justification until they lose or suffer a reset. They’re not able to admit their suffering, but that’s no reason to compound it by beating their head in with a holy water sprinkler. Instead, your goal should be to stealth past them to strategic tombstones and claim them on behalf of Virtue. The exception is if you’ve taken a quest that requires some number of Self-Justifying mouths, tongues, hearts, or ears. These quests are common in the NASCAR and moon landing sequences and might force you to bend your class role a bit in the name of sweet, sweet xps.

The way I like to do it is this.

First, stop at the entry gate to talk to the leader of Self-Justification. He’ll explain that God has chosen you as someone who can know what is right, and that therefore the elimination of self-doubt is a holy work. Tell him that you will consider his argument. This will make the curs peaceful until you actually claim a tombstone for Virtue.

At this point you can look around for a few minutes—get a sense of the layout of the place, identify the features that I’m going to talk about, and generally brace yourself for the struggle that is to come. Then go to Auntie Guinness’ gravestone and listen to the ramblings of her spirit.

When you get a chance, interrupt her with, “I cannot accept that ghosts exist.”

She will continue talking for a bit.

Offer, “Given that all of that is true, it is my certain belief that a spirit like yourself is peaceably in Heaven, eternally embraced by rapture, joy, love, and so forth.”

She will protest.

Say, “Not like an amoeba, ma’am. Simply disconnected from the concerns of life as we understand them. The amoeba thing is a canard promulgated by the unicellular Devil, sinisterly bulging the cilia of amoebic pride.”

This will give you the opportunity to claim the stone.

Now the battle begins in earnest. If you claim the stone for Virtue, then you are now at war with the faction of Self-Justification. If you claim it for Self-Justification, then you shall be hounded fiercely by the bright angels of Virtue until they scourge you from the graves. (Don’t do this; it’s harder to make up the faction loss for fighting the bright angels of Virtue than it is to replace their various cool drops. You’ll have the opportunity to pick up a proper halo at level 20 and don’t need to scavenge one from the severed head of an angel and have it forever drip with blood. Plus, the swords are not actually fiery when you wield them, which is ridiculous but, well, how it works.)

There’s generally a clear path across the sward to Lassie’s tombstone. (This is probably named after the famous dog—if you go down the nearby well you’ll find the bones of somebody that she couldn’t save.) Claim it quickly for Virtue and move on to the main mausoleum before you get caught.

At the main mausoleum you’ll hit your first real spiritual challenge since you came to the abandoned graveyard. This is the confrontation with the renegade subcommander of Virtue. He’s arguing with one of the curs, and theoretically your job here is to step up to the plate and explain that the Calling is something you strive to be worthy of instead of something that generates worth. At this point you’ll be attacked by three of the curs in a battle royale.

Let’s not do that.

Instead, while they’re talking and before they bring you into the matter, sneak around behind the cur of Self-Justification and shove him into the renegade subcommander of Virtue. PUSH! This should entangle them in an embarrassing tete-a-tete and allow you to claim the mausoleum before they can work out how to explain it to their respective overlords. Head southeast, sneaking from grave to grave and converting them as fast as you can, and if all goes well the angels will get seven or eight gravestones to the curs’ four or five.

If you need parts, like I’ve said, this might get a little more complicated. You’ll have to learn how to pull.

Pulling is often a priest’s job in the late game because priests are extremely good at calling out individual monsters and making them uncomfortable. The Crypts of Rome are dominated by priest pullers and really any time you can’t get a U.S. Army Ranger and you’re not facing sociopaths or social activists a priest is going to be your best bet.

Stop behind a tombstone. Look in all directions to make sure that you are not about to be surprised by self-justification. (A lot of people can’t do this part right and then they complain about the guide. No. People, it’s not me. It’s you.) (Like that.) Wait for a patrol of curs to come past and identify a straggler—one whose self-justifications are not adequately affirmed by the others in the pack. This is generally someone at the bottom of the social ranking and therefore most vulnerable to the assaults of virtue.

When the straggler is closer to you than to the pack, step out and Disseminate Legitimacy. The holy light that passes down from God through various higher-level authorities to you will shine out and aggravate the cur, causing it to charge. Quickly fall back behind the tombstone and break the line of argument between you and self-justification and prepare for the fight of your life.

Fights in the real world are based on the assumption that every priest will have a magnate of some sort to serve as the corresponding temporal authority and a number of unruly associates such as commandoes, grocers, and ladies of the evening to gloriously serve as the base of their heavenly hierarchy. In practice, since this is a starter instance, you can make do with a single grocer or even your baby nephew Steve, but if you’re on your own, you’re facing a snarling ball of hair, teeth, and grace-because-I-damn-well-say-so with nothing more than a crucifix and a fragile sense of moral legitimacy. So you’re probably asking yourself: what can I do? What would Jesus do?

Well, as a priest, ultimately, you’re going to have to decide that for yourself, unless you get it wrong and they beat it out of you in seminary. You could just fight it out: the curs aren’t all that tough. Or you could try to cast the demon out of them: you’re not an accredited priest yet, but many starting quests offer you the legal authority to perform exorcisms. But what I do in a case like this is “kite.”

Curs are slow—slower than you are, slower than treaclists, slower than the Vatican deciding somebody not John Paul is a saint. Engage, hit them a couple of times with your Bible, fists, or special abilities, and back away around the gravestone before their self-justification bar fills. With luck, their attack will fail and you’ll have done some damage. You’re that much closer to victory! Rinse and repeat for a few rounds round the gravestone and you’ll be the proud owner of a few pennies or nickels and a self-justifying mouth, tongue, lips, or heart. You’ve also killed the first of the thousands of morally significant creatures you’ll be slaughtering on your road to become a priest.

Is it murder or spiritual advancement to kill a creature representing sin? The traditional answer is that it is two substantive realities in one ousia, a moral crucible born of the sin of Adam, a thematically relevant element of the leveling process that ensures that no one may do good without sinning and that only grace redeems.

Another answer is that it’s a broken mechanic; a lot of players prefer to skip all murderous quests entirely when playing priest and eat that, ye sin of Adam.

In any case, completing the spiritual journey should make it possible to reach fourth level without significantly venturing out of your starting zone. Congratulations on your Transubstantiation Skill and it’s off to the seminary for you! Female Catholic priests, make sure to stop at the statue of Pope Joan before you enter—she’ll give you the disguise you’ll need in order to get in!

(Easter Bonus) An Efforting

In the Golden Age the desert had no barrenness. Rather it showed itself in colors like unto the Kingdom of God. Blue, gold, silver, pink, and green: the flowers of industry bloomed, the flowers of the maker plants, and the makers swarmed.

Those were brilliant days.

No one went hungry and all the souls of the world were at peace. We had every luxury at our fingertips. They made it for us, the seeds of the maker plants, with their tiny clever hands.

Then we were betrayed.

We were undercut by those whom we had trusted. We were seized from within by a madness and brother turned against brother, traitor against virtue, unrighteousness against the temples of the just.

So the desert grew sere with clouds of radioactive smoke and the towers of our civilization toppled and the wires and the ambrosia and the treasure compasses sank into the earth.

Some of the maker plants escaped.

The PIKMIN project, the scientists called it: a scheme conceived in the last days of the war to preserve some tiny part of what was lost.

They trained the maker plants to spin their petals and leap up into the sky; to rise, as if by copter, and ride out the darkness of the war on the high winds above the world.

Some of the maker plants escaped; and the rest sank into the sands and calcified into treasure.

We claim that treasure, as is our right, and others do as well. There are those who oppose us on the basis of ideals and those who strike at us in opportunism’s name. Some importune with brazen honesty, insisting that the treasures of the makers belong to all. Others employ vile practices of deception to deny us our ancestral right. The struggle for the desert’s wealth rises and falls, now a conflict, now an occupation, one day a peace, one day a war. But even when the desert is formally at rest, and the sounds of guns go still, the desert is not safe.

The horrors spawned by the treachery still roam, and the tensions of a thousand multi-generation feuds endure.

We have fought, and rested, and fought, and rested, and now we fight again.

For four years now we have been in a state of armed action in the desert. For four years we have sent our young men and our young women there, to claim the treasures of the makers.

They go from patriotism; they go from honor; they go carrying in their hearts the banner of all the truths that we have been before. They wear the plaid uniform and the checkered conductor’s cap. Once that sight struck fear in the hearts of our enemies. Once—on a different occasion, in a different war—it was a symbol of hope and heartsease. But now it has faded into the desert, become nothing more than one piece of how things are, one piece of how things have always been.

In these days when our young men and women are lost in battle, when they are killed and they are killing, there is little animus in it. We are greeted, as often as fought against, and for these four years have been immiscible with hate.

In the fourth year of the current unrest the parents of a young man named Alex pressure him to enlist. Their methods are indirect but sound: restricting his income, his travel, and his peer group, they drive him to a pitch of agitation that he expiates at the enlistment booth.

Sullenly he trains.

Sullenly—but at some point in the process his spirit opens like a flower. He grips the hand of a new friend, pumping it in his own. He looks with more intensity upon the sergeants and their instructions. He wakes in the morning at the bugle’s call with an unexpected ease.

He laughs more.

He smiles at a young woman, Jessica, who is training with him, and for the first time since his puberty, it is a smile entirely sincere. The pretense and the tension stripped from him, he sees the light of the divine in her and he answers it with his own.

His face becomes grubby but joyous, his movements economical and light.

He ships out to the desert gladly.

He intends to play his part.

It’s in one of the desert nights, with its purple sky and its distant flowers and its nagging suspicion that somewhere in his sleep roll there are ants, that he sees the maker seeds for the first time.

They march across the desert, chanting: un oh, un oh, un oh, un oh!

Or perhaps: hup ho hup ho hup!

He grins at them and thinks that in this they are like his unit; and when one of the little maker seeds sounds a word off note, he imagines it profanity.

His sergeant is there beside him, Manker Jim.

“They’re looking for discarded things,” says Manker Jim.

“What do we do?”

“Let them be,” says Manker Jim. “We’re no match for ’em if we get ’em riled. And they’re kind.”

So they just watch.

The maker seeds move through the desert In a pattern more orderly—but barely—than a drunkard’s walk. It equivocates between purpose and uncertainty.

Then the leaf atop the head of one of the maker seeds stiffens, and all the marching creatures stop their march.

Their leaves shift restlessly atop their heads, like the noses of bloodhounds searching out a scent.

Hup hup! cries one of the maker seeds.

His leaf points west, and south by two degrees, and he leads the marchers there; and they gather in the desert, digging, sifting through the sands with their tiny tiny paws.

They pull up a canteen, lost by some unfortunate, with a great communal heave and then they seem to sigh with joy.

A tech seed scans the canteen.

It comes to the appropriate decision.

“This is a DESSICATION DISC,” it says.

Brandishing their prize above their heads, they release a tiny floral roar; and their maker plant descends from the far skies.

They fly away; and Alex says, “I will not ever be the same.”

He does not sleep that night.

He stares up at the roof of his tent and his mind is alive with wonder. We made such things, he thinks. That was not nature. That was us.

Time passes.

Shifts in political pressures manifest in violence; our enemies, uneasy, excise their fears by striking at our flesh. We respond, and orders travel down the chain until they burst on Alex at the last.

We send him to secure a village on a route we wish secured: him and Maker Jim and 37 more.

A shot takes Manker Jim through the forehead.

Alex and his 37 closest friends take shelter in the buildings on that street. It is an error: slaith-bugs reside therein.

We will say little of the slaith-bugs here; the abomination that is their use in war is something uninflictable upon a gentle reader’s ears. They are horrors spawned by the ancient war, part maker plant, part resource—mechanical-biological insects emblematic of our enemies’ moral failings.

A single slaith-bug can scar a man for life.

Alex stands in a nest.

“Nice bugs,” he says. “Good bugs.”

His gun is of no use to him; he lets it fall. He indulges a wild, irrational desire: if he had a slaith-repeller; if he had maker armor; if he had, if he had, if he had—

As much use to wish for a tank brigade to burst in through the wall, our anthem blaring, and Sergeant Hero Glory to leap down to save his life.

The mother slaith-bug sleeps. A bubble rises from its nose, and sinks. Gears grind and rumble inside its placid shell.

One of its young rises up on its hind legs and stares at Alex in deep thought.

It is adorable, he thinks.

Some designer had worked mightily upon its evil flesh: had given its eyes, that see humans as their prey, a puppy joy; had given its shell, that can hold off gunfire, a polka-dot scheme; had made its movements clumsy-seeming and roundish, like a chubby baby’s crawl.

It wobbles closer to him, and suddenly, with a chill, Alex remembers what slaith-bugs do unto their prey.

His throat locks. His mouth gapes. An evil animus obscures the cuteness to his eyes.

“RUN!” shouts Jessica, with sudden, moment-breaking resolve.

Then they are moving, they are running, and there is as little discipline to it as ever there is in life, when the slaith-bugs come.

Alex does not see what happens to the others.

He hears enough to know that most of them are dead. He sees—hears—

His mind is certain that one or two escaped; but he cannot say how he knows.

He is in the desert, and there’s a slaith-bug on his leg, and its adorable red and white tendrils have sunk into his leg.

Alex feels his toes flex, one by one; he feels his knee wriggle as the slaith-bug experiments with his flesh.

He moves with terrified decision; he takes his last-resort from its sheath and he cuts away his leg. Then he rolls away, desperately away, and he scrambles bloody through the desert until he’s sure it’s gone.

A leaf of a sealing treasure becomes his tourniquet. A sip from a water hollow wets his lips. But the treasures of the desert are old and their bounty has worn thin and an hour later he is thirstier, hungrier, dazed by heat, and bleeding a little once again.

He doesn’t know where he is. The world has gone featureless to him. There is only here, where he is, and somewhere, where he must go.

Eventually he realizes that he is not going to make it to somewhere; and with a little sigh, he lays down upon the sand.

Night comes, and morning.

He hears a chant: hup, ho, hup, ho, hup, ho.

He feels, rather than sees, the attention of the maker seeds come to rest on him.

He licks his lips.

He shakes his head.

I’m not quite done, he thinks. Not quite gone.

The maker seeds converge.

Don’t you see? he tries to say. You’re too early. I’m alive. I’m not an abandoned treasure yet.

They surround him.

They heft him up.

Alex realizes, with a sudden giddy strangeness, that he is going to be salvaged while he is still alive.

Chant the maker seeds: Un oh un oh un oh un oh.

The tech seed scans him.

A voice in his head whispers, “What are you, Alex? What do you do?”

It locks on something deep and conceptual in him.

“This is an EFFORTING MAMMAL!” the tech seed declares.

They march him to the base where our other soldiers stay, and they tell us that; insistently, they press him back upon us, as if they feel we have a better use for him than they.

Then they stomp off to the sands.

In the Golden Age the desert had no barrenness. Rather it showed itself in colors like unto the Kingdom of God. Blue, gold, silver, pink, and green: the flowers of industry bloomed, the flowers of the maker plants, and the makers swarmed.

Now it is barren and sere; and for that he’s a one-legged soldier, we ship Alex to his home.

(Bonus) Introduction to “An Efforting”

Cleaning a table, I found an ancient piece of paper on which I’d scrawled—in some conversation around the house—the words, “Pikmin Bus.”

I’d had an idea.

That seemed pretty clear. Something had come up in casual chat, and I’d had an idea, and I thought it was really funny. “Pikmin bus.”

I’m sure it was when I was playing Pikmin 2, or soon after I’d finished it, which puts it quite some time ago.

Had I meant to connect the pikmin with the catbus of Totoro? I reviewed the memory. It told me little: the image that I’d lodged in my head was of red and yellow feet, carrying something.

Eventually I concluded that I’d meant to write about a world where pikmin provided public services—where you’d go down to catch the 331, only it wouldn’t be a large vehicle, it’d be a bunch of pikmin, packs of little plantpeople that carry stuff. And they’d heft you up, hup ho hup ho!

It was a funny image.

It wasn’t a funny story.

In fact, I came up with a lot of funny images thinking about this. But all of them were best suited for visual stuff—or a flore, 30-50 words long, perhaps. I’m sure that some people would be pleased if I started posting flores instead of Hitherbies, if I reversed the trend to longer entries and dropped to tiny plotless ones. But I’d feel obscurely embarrassed. It would feel incomplete outside the margin-note or sub-header location where I’m used to placing flores.

I wrote most of a story about a world where pikmin were the principal root of technology, and the politics of restricting pikmin horticulture to the “qualified,” and the discovery of pokemon and how that changed the world. But except for some turns of phrase that I enjoyed—

* “The power to have pikmin march away with a thing is absolute power over a thing.”
* “In his palace on the moon he grows hardy lunar pikmin. These draw the curtain across the moon that waxes and wanes it: hup, hup, hup!”

(and the like)

—it didn’t work very well.

Sunday’s post, I think, does. But I’ll probably be posting it as a bonus, because it’s not completely third-person, and I try to keep tower entries third-person when I can’t figure out who’s speaking.

It’s the story of “pikmin bus;” though, strictly speaking, it’s not about pikmin or busses at all.

Rebecca

Ophion (I/I)

A history of Ophion and Cronos

“Once upon a time . . .”

Once upon a time a boy named Cronos forgot who he was.

He walked east.

Around him the world was swirling and filling and closing. It was surf. His snake Ophion wound around him. Its scales were obsidian plates. It circled about him. It made patterns of darkness and light.

His heart was full of joy.

Joy burned in his chest. He could not hold it back. He gave a great shout from it, “Yey-aa!”

All around him the surf crashed. He could not breathe reliably. The sea kept hitting him. It got in his mouth and his nose.

Ophion made a sound, ssaaaa.

It was like the sound of the surf, stopped at its very middle point.

Something was killing him.

To the east the world divided into lines.

Around him the world was swirls and filling and closing but to the east were lines and dots. Blue and white turned to scattered golden sands. Then a ragged line marked the edge of grass. A great round line made a boulder and stark rising lines denoted trees. Only at their tops with their thousands of leaves did the east turn to swirls and filling and closing once again.

Cronos walked east.

Ophion was killing him.

“Thus far, and no further.”

The snake tightened about him. Its teeth bit into his ear.

“I love you,” he said to Ophion, which was true; and the snake drew back, and it said, ssaaaa.

Cronos staggered.

One hand came down on hard round texture. There were rocks beneath the sea.

His vision became a tunnel edged with red. Under the surf he heard this sound: ba-put, ba-put, ba-put, ba-put. It was as if the world were suddenly on measured and accelerating time.

One hand squirmed under the coils to be between the serpent and his neck.

“Ophion,” he gasped.

The snake whispered, “We will die here.”

And the starry chambers above the world spoke, and its voice was everywhere and nowhere, and mellifluous and kind, and said, “Thus far, and no further.”

Cronos looked up.

It was visible even to the sky that he did not understand.

“I have made an Eden,” said the voice. “I have made a world that is perfect, just, and good. And to maintain that world it is necessary to exclude such things as Ophion. This is a doctrine of self-defense; it is a doctrine of mercy; it is a blessing of the stars.”

Cronos’ hand slipped away from his neck. The coil tightened.

And Ophion squeezed him and he could not breathe and his right foot sank into the sand and his left foot turned and his right fist seized about the body of the beast and pulled and his waist bent and his arms stretched out and he cracked the neck of Ophion against the stone and held its head beneath the waves.

The coils loosened. The snake flailed.

The fingers of Cronos cracked the scales of Ophion. His nails dug into the muscle of the beast. Its head was under the sea.

Loop by loop it fell away from him. It twitched.

He did not say: o my love.

He staggered up onto the shore and he fell down.

“What have I done?” he asked.

And the sky spins over him and it is some time before it said, “The question is immaterial.”

Silence swelled.

“There are no deeds,” said the sky, “beyond the boundaries of the world.”

All around him rose the deep voice of the earth

Cronos lay on the sand.

The sun was very hot.

It began to burn him.

When his skin turned red he made a strangled sound and rose to his feet and he staggered off to find a cave.

All around him rose the deep voice of the earth.

“My child,” said the earth. “Gotten of a sinful father.”

Cronos put his hands upon the rock.

It was wet. It was hard. It was rough.

“I have a mother,” he said.

Joy rose from his stomach to burn through him. “I have a mother, I have a father, I am a child of the heavens and the earth.”

“Be not proud to be Uri’s son,” said the earth. “For he first thought of shameful things.”

A question lies hard on Cronos’ mind, but it is not a question that the earth can answer.

“What is the proper manner of my shape?” Cronos asks. “Ought I be tall or short? Have I three legs or two?”

“Hide yourself,” said the earth, “between the sea, the sky, and the land, and wait for darkness, and I will show you how your father has injured me.”

Though confused, still Cronos obeyed.

He shaped himself into a thing that could make webs and he spun a web between the sea, the land, and the sky. He hung there, waiting, trying to decide how many legs a titan has.

The sun left the sky.

The world grew dark.

The web trembled and shrank. The vault of the stars came down and pressed close upon the world. Cronos shivered in the dark.

The clouds lit with pink and scarlet fires. The earth ground open and in it were pools of darkness and green and coldest indigo. The sky rubbed against the earth and fires slipped from it into the depths and danced upon the waters there. The wind blew. It came down off the hills and it roared across the plains. It chilled the peaks of the mountains and bent the trees of the forest. Stars fell and lost their fire. The chasms under the world ignited. The world and sky strained against one another and the sky grew damper and the air began to taste of rain.

As the sky coupled with the earth, the earth said, “For whom have you made this world, o my love?”

And the sky said, “For Oceanus; and Tethys; and Hyperion; and Theia; and Coeus; and Phoebe; and Cronos; and Rhea; and the birds; and the trees; and the insects; and the flowers; and the naiads; and the oceanids; and the teeth gnomes; and the antelope; and the burrowing things; and the climbing things;” and he went on in just this vein for quite some time.

And as he said these things the earth sighed, “Ah,” for these things were precious to her.

But in the later hours of the night it grew halting and slow, that recitation of the sky. “And for the platypus;” he said, and he thought, and he sought for words, “and the sandpipers; and the dogs—”

And there he had run out.

And fire blazes everywhere throughout the world and Cronos said, “. . . but what of Ophion?”

And the earth trembled and Cronos understood a thing, and he said, “. . . but what of Ophion? But what of siggorts? But what of woglies? But what of all the exiled things? But what of these?”

And his question made no impact on the sky, which only spun, and gave him a ruffling about the head, and said, “Do not love ye evil, child.”

And then the sky withdrew behind the curtains of the dawn.

And Cronos thought of Ophion, and the siggorts, and the woglies: o my loves.

“Castrate him,” said the earth

Cronos came down. He looked at a pool of water in the deeps that swelled with the fire given by the sky. In that pool the earth strained to make a nymph, so that the water rippled and splashed. Between the pulses of that labor, the water stilled, and for the first time Cronos saw his own face.

“I am rugged in the nose,” he said, “and wild in the eyes, and angry at the fate of the unworthy things that are bound below.”

“It is so,” said the earth.

“I am their avenger,” Cronos said. “I am Cronos.”

“Then come deeper,” said the earth.

The earth called a gathering of titans. Cronos walked deep into the world. And the hollowness of Ge called out to them through all the chambers of her, “If you will obey me, we will answer this vile outrage of your father, and return the siggorts and the woglies to the land.”

The room grew chill with fear.

“But to strike at our father,” Rhea said, “is not correct.”

The attention of the earth turned to Rhea. It looked into her. It said: “Have you fallen, Rhea, into your father’s sin?”

“We may not oppose him,” said Rhea. “He would jerk the chains that bind us and we would dance away into great pain. We have no voice in the world of our father. We have no mechanism for defiance. And if we should crack the sky— oh, mother, if we should crack the sky—”

And here her voice was near to breaking.

“What then?”

“Castrate him,” said the earth, with calm brutality. “Sever from him that quality that I need to engender life. Then what will it matter if the sky has broken or Heaven knows no sway?”

Rhea, horrified, shook her head.

“It is not correct,” said Oceanos.

He was a man of water. His shape washed about. At times he would fill the cavern with water and with salt and then recede into his form. The words of him were water too.

“You fear this too?” asked Ge.

“If it is not correct,” said Oceanos, in his washing voice, “then it will not happen. How may I implement an action that will not happen? The concept is a nonpareil of futility.”

“We are all bound by Necessity,” said Coeus. “In all this world only our father the heavens is free.”

“He will cast us out as unworthy,” said Hyperion.

“There is no hope,” Oceanos confirmed.

The cave was very dark.

“Mother,” Cronos said, “do you ask us this in vain? Do you ask for the impossible and the incorrect?”

But the words fell in emptiness into the chasms of the world.

They left no ripples and the silence pulled at Cronos’ heart.

It tugged forth words from him: “I will do this deed.”

Joy rose in the earth. The earth rejoiced. The chasms of her resounded with song, such that all across the world there rose an alleluia. And the deer turned their heads to listen and the hummingbirds paused in flight and the worms that ground inevitably through the soil shivered with that song and even the sky took note and joy in it for that the world was pleased.

And to the woglies and the siggorts in their hell Ge said:

“My children!

My children, o my loves!”

But they did not hear.

“I had not thought you capable of planning evil”

The earth took Cronos away from his brothers and his sisters to a secret place.

There the rock swelled with the fire of the sky and birthed grey flint in the shape of a sickle, and the sickle’s head spanned the space between two mountains, and it whispered, “I will cut. Take me to your hand and I will cut. Take me to your hand, o my love.”

And Cronos stared up at it and said, “So vast.”

“Then be vaster,” said the earth.

So Cronos made himself into a giant and he stood at the boundary of the whole world and the sea and he looked down and he saw that it was good. The surf crashed against his feet and the sky brushed against his shoulders and the great mountain-spanning sickle fit neatly in his hand.

And the sky felt a tickle of foreboding.

“What do you there?” asked the voice. “For I had not thought you capable of planning evil, o my son.”

But Cronos lifted his right foot from the land and stood between the ocean and the sky, his weight outside the boundaries of the world, and he said, “I am not doing anything.”

There are no deeds beyond the boundaries of the world; so this was so.

And Cronos made himself a space between the worlds and crafted himself a guard of horn to be the sickle’s hilt and waited there for the sky to descend upon the earth.

That night the sky sank low upon the world and murmured words of love and fires sparked everywhere across the grass.

And the sickle whispered to Cronos the secret of its magic and Cronos understood.

He stepped into the world and sound.

That even the least of these may know joy: for even the woglies and the siggorts in their Hell, and for all the rest of a bad lot besides: for even the great evils, and the little horrors, and the twisted failed dreamers who walk among us now: he stepped into the world.

In Uri’s Kingdom, nothing happened that was not appropriate. That was its law.

Cronos said, “To serve a corrupt regime is not correct.“

And he ripped the sky with the sickle; and the genitals of his father fell into the sea.

And from this act, and in due season, rose the anakim,
the erinyes,
the incandoi,
and the melomids.

“Thistles and thorns and dust shall be your lot”

Cronos stood naked beneath the stars.

There is so much fire, he thought. So much power.

The sky looked down.

“I am rendered impotent,” said the voice of his father. “Now there shall be nothing brought forth in all this world that does not know suffering, nor grow from the accursed ground; thistles and thorns and dust shall be your lot for all the generations of the world.”

It was not judging him.

Its words were flat and simple.

It was as if Uri were completing a syllogism; nothing more.

“You will rule this world,” said the sky. “But your son will take it from you.”

It was not even a curse.

“He will punish you for this deed, and you will bear the burden of that punishment until the end of time.”

Cronos licked his lips.

Defiantly, he said, “Is that the price, then, that even the least of us should know joy?”

The stars laughed at him.

It was the most withering of all experiences, Cronos apprehended, to have the entirety of Heaven laughing at one’s shame.

“You accuse me of impropriety”

“You accuse me of impropriety,” said the sky.

“They deserved better,” said Cronos. “The woglies; the siggorts; Ophion; they deserved better. To punish them so cruelly: that is the nature of your crime.”

“Beyond the boundaries of the world,” said Uri, who was the sky, “there is no ‘deserving’. Who may say whether the character of a man outside the world is good or bad? Who may say what should befall them for the deeds that they have done? There may be beauty there. There may be wonder, and hearts to give you joy, and creatures in whom I could find such virtues as your own. I do not know. I know only that there are horrors there beyond imagining, and insidious treason, and things that will corrupt this world; and you have given to them rein.”

“And they will know joy?”

“No,” the sky said, flatly.

“No?”

“A world with only the good may bring only the good to all within it. A world that is only perfection may bring perfection to all within it. But to permit the ungainly and the imperfect into paradise does not lift them up. It drags us down.”

“Be welcome, o my love”

Cronos went down to Tartarus and cast open the gates.

He said, “Come out, ye that may.”

Past him in a stream flowed the damned and terrible progeny of the couplings of Uri and the world. Some skulked low and chittered. Some shivered with cold slime. Some screamed foul prophecies as they flew above his head. Lastly there slunk forth the worst of them, a cutty angel, saying, “There is hope.”

They went out into the world and the world took the weight of them.

But the siggorts didn’t come out; nor the woglies.

So he went in after them.

He walked down through the darkness into the siggorts’ home.

He found Bidge there. Bidge was wandering in darkness. The knives of Bidge cut Cronos. They maimed his hand. They lay his face open to the bone. They cut his neck. They caused dark blood to trickle down his leg.

“Come free,” Cronos said.

The key to the gates of Tartarus was small: too small, almost, for the eye to see. But he held it out to the siggort in his hand.

Something stirred in Bidge’s mind.

He awakened to the knowledge of another creature in his place of imprisonment.

He formed a face. A thing like a face. It hovered in the center of him. Around it spun the blades and spheres and cutting wires of the siggort’s shape.

“‘Come free?’”

And Cronos said, “Be welcome, o my love, into the world.”

And Bidge laughed a horrible, broken laugh. And he laughed and he laughed on.

Cronos stared at him.

“And how did you free us, then?” Bidge asked.

“I have aspired to the throne of the world,” said Cronos. “Now I rule; and I will not set my will against you if you choose your freedom.”

These words fell strangely flat.

Siggorts gathered behind Cronos’ back. He felt a terrible chill of threat. The knives of them cut away his leg, his arm, his dorsal tendril, and his glunin. He tried to remember how to shape them back.

“That would not do,” said Bidge.

Cronos didn’t understand. You could tell. It was in his face.

So Bidge flowed forward until he was very close, two fingers’ close, to Cronos, and he gaped his mouth quite wide. And he did not bite.

And after a moment, Cronos understood.

He said, “Those are not teeth.”

“Where you are warm,” said Bidge, “we are cold. Where you are light, we are shadow. Our teeth are not teeth. Our faces are not faces. We are a dhamma inexpressible in your world. Should I not cut you then, o my love?”

Cronos’ heart beat, doki-doki.

It burned in him like a fire. And Bidge could see it, right through his chest. He wanted it. So the shears cut closer. Cronos’ nipple fell off. His breast and his ribs caved in. He was very bloody. And the question hung there: “Should I cut you, o my love?”

Cronos whispered, “No.”

Slowly, reluctantly, the siggorts withdrew.

“I shall trust you, then,” said Bidge, with consummate calm and the tightest control. “I shall trust you,” he said, and he turned away.

And they left Cronos there, alone, trying to justify himself to himself.

“I do not want to keep you here, imprisoned,” said Cronos.

“It’s not my fault!”

But the words rang hollowly there in Tartarus, because he could have saved them.

He could have saved them.

He could have saved them, o my love, if he had thrown everyone else away.

In such a fashion, again and again

It is incumbent on a man, if he will lapse the leash on monsters, to bear the weight of their actions.

Cronos had unleashed great horrors on the world.

The world did not suffer from them.

Rather, from his place on the throne of the world, the titan held that suffering at bay. He made a plate of stone and set it behind him and upon it he bore the weight of imperfection. Thus when swarmed the namecatcher wasps, they did not cause harm. Thus the staggering crooked heartless men did not bleed out their life into the hollows of their chests. The titan reconciled in himself their dharmas, saying: “Swarm here, wasps, where their names are a burden to them.” Or “Stuff your chests with herbs, and palpate them with palpation bugs, and live and farm thereafter quietly and in peace.” He set the demons against the narcissists. He sent the angels to the bleak.

9512 pesserids before time began, a nymph wandering the roads encountered an ogre.

“Raar,” cried the ogre. “Raar! I am a hideous man-eating ogre.”

“Oh, thank Heaven!” the nymph replied.

“Eh?”

“There is a hideous man,” said the nymph. “There is a hideous man behind me, and I would much rather he were eaten.”

The ogre looked.

In fact there was: a telchine wizard practicing as a highwayman, whose intentions were in no way serene.

The ogre looked back and forth. He reached his decision.

“The telchine has more meat,” he said. “So I’ll eat him!”

“I don’t mind being eaten,” the telchine conceded. “If you’ll spit up my bones afterwards into your pile of gold, that I may be rich for ever.”

In such a fashion, again and again throughout the world, were all conflicts neatly and equitably solved. In such a fashion did the chains of Necessity make all people dance to a perfectly harmonious tune. The weight of effort for pulling all those shifting chains fell to the only creature who was not bound to them: Cronos, titan, lord of all the world.

“It is heavy,” he admitted to Rhea.

It fell to Cronos to reconcile the horrors and the lambs; the killers and the saints; the humans and the gods. He mediated between the perfect and the real.

“It is so very heavy,” Cronos said.

Rhea rubbed his shoulders, but it did not help. She tried to carry her share of it, but she could not: because the chains bound her, she participated in the system of them, and the efforts that she contributed solved out in the equations of it all.

“What would happen,” asked Cronos, “if I let this plate to fall?”

“I don’t understand,” she said.

“In all the world,” said Cronos, “only I may stand aside, and shrug aside this weight, and let things happen as they will. And it is heavy. So I wonder: what would happen if I let this plate to fall, and the storm run riot across the world?”

“If you let it fall?”

“Yes.”

And Rhea answered: “Then we should live in the Elysian Fields, where there is no sorrow, and everything be well forever after for us all.”

“The Kingdom I have builded gives way to Tyranny.”

Rhea thought.

“Save for Cronos, and the woglies, and the siggorts, I suppose.”

Cronos lay with Rhea that night and in the course of seasons she bore him a daughter.

And most fathers would have been happy, because, you know, perfect adorable daughter, but Cronos wasn’t one of that kind.

“I will make this world into a torture chamber,” Cronos said.

“Gii-whii!” answered Hestia, as he held her in his arms.

She wriggled her toes and hiccupped and guarded with her power the hearths and houses of the world.

“Listen,” Cronos said.

He looked up at the stars.

“This world is bound to forms,” he said. “To concepts. To the ideal. But I have made the work of my life the severing of that bond.”

Hestia’s face grew very still and intent.

“I had forgotten it,” he said. “But still, it is my work. And there is only one way that it may be done: I must make the forms abhorrent to themselves. I must make the edifice of right and wrong and tradition and form and even structured thought a crime.”

The world revolved around him, as it does, when one sits upon the throne of all the world.

Rhea’s face grew very pale.

“Cronos—” she said.

The teeth of Cronos set on his daughter’s arm. He bit it off. He chewed. He swallowed.

Hestia wailed, thinly. Her blood fell upon the earth.

“Shh,” Cronos said.

He put his finger to her lips. He looked at Rhea.

“The Kingdom I have builded gives way to Tyranny,” Cronos said, “and there is no answer to it within the structures of the world.”

“She is also a princess.”

In the Golden Age that preceded the Titanomachy nothing happened that was not correct.

Such was the imprint of this time upon our world that even the richest, even the wisest, and even the greatest of us still look back with wistful sorrow and remember it. The world was in harmony. Morality dominated in every portion. And no man or woman could rightly say that the chains of Necessity upon them were a burden. The behaviors that those chains compelled were virtuous, honorable, and good; save from one.

In all the world only the titan Cronos was free.

He ruled nobly and justly, one must assume, except for that incident with Hestia, and one day Rhea approached him with Demeter in her arms.

She was tentative and hesitant.

“Lo,” said Rhea. “The Great Goddess.”

Cronos judged Demeter.

“She, like Hestia, is food,” Cronos said.

“Not every goddess is food,” Rhea said. “Demeter is a marvel of the world.”

“Is she?”

“She is the goddess of the harvest,” said Rhea. “Of the bounty of the earth. Of grain and green and growing things—”

Cronos had a wry look.

Rhea cleared her throat. “Observe her nose,” Rhea said.

“She has a nose,” allowed Cronos. He lifted Demeter from Rhea’s arms with great gentleness. He looked at her. “And she is the harvest. But she is also a princess.”

The Great Goddess wriggled, and offered, “Goo?”

“To put it another way,” Cronos said, “‘an asset to my throne.’”

He bit off Demeter’s nose. He swallowed it. Then he ate her head to stop her wailing. He bit the rest of her in half. He swallowed her. His stomach grew bloated on this flesh.

He ate Hera too. And Hades. And Poseidon. He ate them all when their presentation came.

Rhea’s life became a horror to her.

Once she had loved him. She no longer recognized in him the person that she’d loved. Once she had lain with him gladly, and found in the straining of their sex an emptiness to cultivate with child. Now she resented their union. She lay with him only because she was his wife. She resented his seed inside her womb.

The chains of Necessity bound her.

She could not do otherwise than serve him. She could rage against him. She could question him. She could hurt him in small, petty ways. But this was the Golden Age, the Age we wistfully speak of, when things were better, and she could not defy him.

To defy him would not have been correct.

In all the world only one creature was free, and it was not she.

“A new tonality for words of love”

And in the end she cracked.

“I do all the work to bring forth our children,” she said, staring into the mirror of the world, “and he keeps eating them.”

The Kouretes who served her shouted. They rattled their swords and armor. They began to dance.

“It is not right—“

She was pregnant. Her belly was full. She did not want Cronos to eat this child. So she took the sickle of flint. She climbed a web that hung between the places of the world. There, not in the sky, not on the land, and not in the sea, she cut her belly open and spilled Zeus out onto the web.

“Yey-aa!” cried the Kouretes. They shook their swords. They made a thunder upon the world and drowned the cries of infant Zeus.

With fear and courage Rhea looked down onto the face of her newest son.

Infant dismay gathered like clouds on the clearness of his face. He looked woeful. He had not asked to leave the womb. He had not wished Rhea to birth him onto a web. He did not want Rhea to leave him there, with the roar of the Kouretes’ dancing and morning dew to be his milk. He was cold and bloody and he did not want to be alone.

But only one creature in all the world was free, and it was not yet Zeus.

Rhea stitched her stomach back together with the substance of the web. As he watched her work the needle understanding came slowly into Zeus’ mind.

He spoke words that no one had said in many thousands of years.

“The Lord am I of all within this world,” said Zeus.

And then he laughed, and then he laughed, seeing his perfect little fingers for the first time in all the history of the world.

Rhea bundled a stone in swaddling and returned to the world. Her face was impassive. She handed Cronos the stone and said, “Look, o my love, delicious pink and purple Zeus.”

Cronos did not look.

He swallowed down the stone and cut up her placenta and he ate it too.

“You have invented a new tonality,” he said. “For words of love.”

“I am not happy,” Rhea said.

And Cronos smiled over the blood of the placenta on his mouth and said, “Then I am doing well.”

“We bring forth children in sorrow”

Cronos slouched on the throne of the world.

He contemplated his sickle.

Zeus entered.

“Son,” said Cronos. O my love.

“Dad.”

It was an awkward moment.

I thought I’d eaten you, but maybe it was a rock.

“You’ve been eating everybody,” said Zeus. “Poseidon and Hera and stuff.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I did not ask to rule a Golden Age,” Cronos said. “Rather I wished to dominate a freakish carnival of horrors. A masque of the imperfect. A world of people with the bones of their pain jutting out so that you can hardly talk to them without saying, ‘O my love, why are you broken?’”

Zeus said, “I understand.”

Cronos smiled.

“I am going to cut your stomach open now,” said Zeus, “and spill out my brothers and my sisters, and a rock.”

“And if I forbid it?”

“In this world,” said Zeus, “we bring forth children in sorrow.”

Cronos had trouble finding an answer to that one.

“It’s the rule,” Zeus explained.

“Who are you, o my son?” Cronos asked.

“I’m the Lord of Misrule,” said Zeus. “I’m the answer to your prayers. I’m the one who’ll bring this whole world down around your ears.”

Cronos’ heart fluttered in his chest.

“Show me,” he said, and his voice was desperate with hope.

Your authority has no foundation,” said Zeus, “for you have done a wicked thing.

It was electric. It cut through the air. But it didn’t impress Cronos.

“More,” Cronos said.

The dog that carries a serpent on his back is vile; the tiger that carries a dog, we call a saint.

Cronos mulled that one over for a while.

Then he shook his head.

He stood.

The sky gathered behind his shoulders and the stars burned bright with Uri’s fires and the world grew heavy as a woman carrying her child and he said, “You are not equal to this task.”

Dread was the nimbus of Cronos at that moment. The power of him held Zeus still. Cronos was Ge’s son in that moment, strong as the earth, unsurpassable, indestructible, horned and terrible, and free—as only one creature in all the world could be—to act accordant to his desires.

It obliterated the thoughts of Zeus. It held him still.

But Zeus had trained for this.

He had spent years in empty meditation and practice and taught his flesh to act when his mind could not.

The world swam with the blinding rapture of Cronos and it drove away the thoughts of Zeus and the will of Zeus and the fire of him flickered and went dim beneath the wind of all that power, and the flesh of Zeus stepped forward and took the sickle in his hand and cut his father’s stomach open to bring his brothers and sisters into the world.

It seemed impossible to Zeus that it did not hurt Zeus; that the opening of the wound in his father’s stomach brought Zeus no pain, burnt none of Zeus’ nerves; that he could see and hear and smell the wound but he could not feel it.

It seemed a thing that should wound, instead, the all of world and sound.

Out fell the stone; and Hades and Poisedon; and Hera and Demeter and Hestia; and great snaky loops of titantestine too; and Cronos looked down at his stomach and Zeus could hardly see his face through the blindingness of the reality of that moment when he cut his father open at the throne of all the world.

Cronos staggered. The storm shifted at his back. It loomed upon the world and in that moment it seemed very possible that the world would end and everything be well forever after for us all—

Somehow, Cronos held it back.

Somehow, Cronos balanced himself and held aloft the burden of all pains while his innards snaked themselves back in.

The fingernails on his hand were cracked and dirty. His hair was wild. He reached for his son with hands soaked in everybody’s blood.

Cloud-shouldered Zeus, the son of Cronos, born in the fullness of Tyranny to bring justice to the world, seized five babies and a stone and fled.

The world rang with the iiyegh!

This is not the history of the Titanomachy. This is the history of Cronos. And so we will not speak of how the Lord of Misrule won the world, or what Zeus did then to save the gods from his father’s fate. We will not speak of the origin of the thunderbolts or how the woglies aided Zeus in the twilight of that age. We will not speak of how the siggorts were freed, or how and why Zeus put them back again.

We will not even speak of Never, or how it came to pass that the terrible power of Cronos could be broken.

We will only speak of the end of it, when Cronos stood alone and bereft of all his allies and his strength, and Zeus made judgment on his father.

“It has come to my attention,” said the lord of all the gods, “that you carry on your back the price of imperfection. That if you should let it lay, then things shall end forever and forever and we shall all know our happy ending and be done.”

“Will you be taking up this burden, then, yourself, milord?”

Zeus made a horrible face. Really, it was impressive. The world rang with the iiyegh! of it.

“It is my judgment, rather,” said the lord of all the gods, “that you shall wear it forever.”

And Cronos laughed.

It was a horrible laugh. It was a funny laugh. It was the kind of laugh that a man laughs after his son cuts him open, throws a thunderbolt at him, casts him off the throne of the world, and now wants to sentence him to carry an impossibly heavy weight forever and ever.

“I can’t possibly do that,” Cronos said.

“Why not?”

“If I were strong enough to carry it forever,” said Cronos, “then I would not feel the pain of it now.”

“Heh,” said Zeus.

And he sank Cronos’ body into the substance of the world and he poured molten brass and iron over his father’s legs and arms and chest to bind him to the crust with chains that would never break. He marked the space around his father with the symbols of the seasons and lay him down below the world to keep his intemperate and loving mother far at bay. He set his judgment upon the man who had wielded first the sickle of grey flint and he called this torture Time.

“Why do you choose this destiny?”

And Cronos tried.

He tried very hard for many years while his father laughed and his son reigned over the world.

One day when it seemed to Cronos that his strength would finally give out, Demeter came down to join Cronos in the darkness. She made a sacred ritual of shushing, going, shh! and hush! though Zeus, of course, could choose to know.

She studied him for a while. Then, at her bidding, the roots of the plants came down through all the darkness and wove into the crust to lighten Cronos’ burden.

Later Poseidon chose to hold back the weight of the storm with all the pressure of the seas.

Hades, too, and Hestia, and Hera, and even Ophion. Ophion came to coil upon his chest and softly drip its venom in his eye, and Cronos smiled, and Cronos smiled, and he cried out through his cracked dry lips his joy: o my love.

One day as Cronos struggled Zeus spoke to him in dreams. Zeus said, “Why do you choose this destiny, o father?”

And Cronos said: “Dharma moves.”

“Hee,” laughed Zeus, the lord of all the gods.

And Ophion coiled around Cronos in the darkness and the snake hissed, ssaaa and it seemed to the titan that it had not been so very long, after all, the time that they had been apart.

(Bonus)

I have compiled the Cronos histories in the following post, leaving out some details that were Ink-specific and adding in a few that she did not recount. It’s obviously a bit less thematically sound taken out of its original context, but then again, there are some things about it that you might find easier to see this way. ^_^

(Bonus) Waiting for Gödel

Cast of Characters

GÖDEL, a mathematician
ESCHER, an actor in favor of Gödel
ROSENCRANTZ, an actor not in favor of Gödel
FERDINAND, an actor not in this play
TOPPLE, the road taken
TIPPLE, the road not taken
CLAUDIUS, a KING

ACT I

ESCHER: Attend a tale of tragedy; a tale of plays; a tale of a character, torn by circumstance, determined to catch his actor in the act and unmask the creature playing himself before us all.
ROSENCRANTZ: Lo! Gödel presently arrives.

GÖDEL arrives.

GÖDEL: I sometimes suspect that I am but a character that Claudius plays. Also, that he killed my father.
ESCHER: Your father, then, being?
GÖDEL: An insubstantial conceit.
ROSENCRANTZ: A dread spirit!
GÖDEL: Nonsense! The writer hardly takes a tipple.
TIPPLE: Nobody here ever does; thus I am all the more desirable.
GÖDEL: So here is my theorem. We will construct a play within a play—let us call it Waiting for Gödel.
ESCHER: Within a play?
GÖDEL: The play is also named, Waiting for Gödel.
ROSENCRANTZ: Do I survive?
GÖDEL: If you make it to the end.
ROSENCRANTZ: Do I make it to the end?
ESCHER: If you survive.
ROSENCRANTZ: But what’s the point?
GÖDEL: To provoke the conscience of Claudius, causing him to declare himself.
ROSENCRANTZ: Do actors have consciences?
GÖDEL: Perhaps not; but if they do not, then in failing to act he will declare himself.
ESCHER: An actor cannot fail to act!
GÖDEL: Then they must have consciences.
ROSENCRANTZ: Still, will that provocation suffice?
GÖDEL: Perhaps it is a function of necessity. We will taunt him with the absence of Gödel from the play.
ROSENCRANTZ: Oh, then, let us begin!
GÖDEL: We will, as I said, taunt him with the absence of Gödel from the play; and when it becomes unbearable, you see, he will leap in and declare himself as Gödel.
ROSENCRANTZ: Thus demonstrating the quality of being an actor playing Gödel; I see!
GÖDEL: The play’s a factor determinant of the conscience of an actor.
ROSENCRANTZ: Oh, Claudius, for shame.
ESCHER: But what if he does not rush in?
ROSENCRANTZ: We enjoy sweet, Gödel-free existence, developing complete, consistent mathematics while we can.
ESCHER: Can we?
ROSENCRANTZ: Well, if the play-in-a-play goes on long enough.
ESCHER: Truly?
ROSENCRANTZ: The limit of a series of logical systems that progressively approach perfection is perfection; it is only Gödel slowing us down.
TOPPLE: That and Tipple.
ESCHER: And Rosencrantz.
GÖDEL: Not to mention Escher; but let us not name names.
ESCHER: Numbers, then?
GÖDEL: Your distinction is insubstantial.
ROSENCRANTZ: A dread spirit!
GÖDEL: Nonsense!
ESCHER: But still, I do not wish to wait indefinitely for Gödel.
GÖDEL: Well, and I cannot blame you.
ESCHER: It is the characteristic of a limit function that, however comfortable it might seem from the outside of the limit brackets, it is interminable from within.
GÖDEL: Indeed; it might take infinite time to resolve the play-within-a-play, even if the outer structure is, by the definition of the script, a finite thing.
ROSENCRANTZ: I am not sanguine.
GÖDEL: Oh?
ROSENCRANTZ: Well, if infinite time passes, I will be very old.
GÖDEL: Infinitely old.
ROSENCRANTZ: And then to be tormented by a young, fresh Gödel in my age—well, you understand.
GÖDEL: Perhaps there is a simple resolution.
ESCHER: Oh?
GÖDEL: Well, if you determine that it will be an infinite, or, worse, divergent time before Claudius rushes in, signal to me immediately.
ESCHER: How would we make this determination?
ROSENCRANTZ: It is my talent.
ESCHER: Truly?
GÖDEL: I have observed this. Rosencrantz is infallibly aware of whether I am to arrive. Lo:

GÖDEL departs.

ROSENCRANTZ: He shall arrive.

GÖDEL arrives.

ESCHER: A marvel; but perhaps he is simply reading the script?
GÖDEL: Well, yes.
ROSENCRANTZ: That is the nature of every character’s infallible talents.
GÖDEL: You cannot very well expect a character in the play to demonstrate talents unanticipated by the writer.
TIPPLE: Except guessing what the audience will have for dinner.
GÖDEL: Oh?
TIPPLE: In this case, squash sorbet.
ESCHER: It seems unlikely.
GÖDEL: Confine yourself to your other talents!
ESCHER: Orange beef is more likely.
TIPPLE: You say that now, but one day, someone reading this is going to have squash sorbet for dinner; and then you will be sorry.
GÖDEL: Do I look sorry?
TIPPLE: No.
GÖDEL: Does it say in the play that I am sorry?
TIPPLE: I defiantly assert postmodernism!

Silence FALLS.

ESCHER: Let us avoid that road.
GÖDEL: It is not the road that we should take.
ESCHER: So, let us implement this plan.
ROSENCRANTZ: For clarity, review?
ESCHER: We begin to perform Act II of the play, Waiting for Gödel.
GÖDEL: And then, within it, you establish a play-within-a-play, Waiting for Gödel.
ROSENCRANTZ: Act II or Act I?
GÖDEL: Don’t be inane. I am in Act I.
ROSENCRANTZ: I take offense! It is reasonable to suppose that Claudius would play you.
TOPPLE: And I will play Tipple!
TIPPLE: I take offense.
TOPPLE: You may, in turn, play Topple. In this fashion we both avoid being typecast!
TIPPLE: Agreed, then.
ROSENCRANTZ: So, Act II.
GÖDEL: Exactly. And then you look ahead—
ESCHER: Slyly, slyly–
GÖDEL: And determine whether Gödel enters.
ESCHER: And if he does—
GÖDEL: Why, then, I will spring!
ESCHER: Yes.

Pause.

GÖDEL: I mean, upon Claudius.
ESCHER: How so? Or, rather, in what fashion?
GÖDEL: Well, we shall resume Act I, allowing me to denounce him.
ROSENCRANTZ: So Act II takes place entirely within Act I?
GÖDEL: Of course. It is an insert.
ROSENCRANTZ: A wise use of space. I have often thought that the dividing of plays into sequential parts created an unnecessary redundancy.
GÖDEL: And if, looking ahead, you see that Gödel does not enter during the play-within-a-play in Act II—
ESCHER: We cease the play-within-a-play and immediately summon you for the beginning of Act I.
ROSENCRANTZ: Wait, Act I?
ESCHER: What is our alternative?

ROSENCRANTZ counts Acts.

ROSENCRANTZ: I see your point.
GÖDEL: The stage is set; the die is cast! Begin!

GÖDEL leaves.

[Insert Act II]

CLAUDIUS: *peevishly* I don’t see how that follows logically, at all.

**

ACT II

[Scene I: This Scene is optional, to be performed at the discretion of the actors]

TIPPLE: Consider the road not taken.
TOPPLE: A noble road.
TIPPLE: A mighty road; though somewhat inferior to the road that one does actually take.
TOPPLE: But is that just sour grapes? Is that just the fervent desire that we all possess, to live in the best of all possible worlds?
TIPPLE: No.
TOPPLE: I would think you would have to take the road not taken before you could declare that with such surety.
TIPPLE: I use the lens of pure unfettered reason. I evaluate the matter a priori. No; you must accept the compliment.
TOPPLE: That is how it would be, dear audience, if we had taken the other road.
ESCHER: Lo, I enter!

ESCHER enters.

ROSENCRANTZ enters.

ROSENCRANTZ: And now it begins.
ESCHER: Waiting for Gödel.
ROSENCRANTZ: We should enjoy the time, rather. This is, after all, the only Act in which we may construct a consistent, complete mathematics.
ESCHER: We can certainly combine expectant waiting with present enjoyment.
TIPPLE: If he will arrive, of course.
ESCHER: Yes, of course.
ROSENCRANTZ: Yes, of course.
ESCHER: Yes, he will arrive?
ROSENCRANTZ: I cannot see the benefit of my answering that question at this time.
ESCHER: It would reassure my tangled nerves.
ROSENCRANTZ: Yours, perhaps; but what would anyone else among us gain? Let us focus instead on beginning the development of our mathematics.

[End discretionary Scene]

[Insert Act II, here, as a play-within-a-play]

[Scene II]

ROSENCRANTZ: Having completed Act II and developed a mathematical theory, let us now polish it.
ESCHER: Clean up the edges, as it were.
ROSENCRANTZ: Generate a linearly superior improvement.
ESCHER: And in the meantime, we must consider: did Gödel arrive?
ROSENCRANTZ: Naturally.
ESCHER: Naturally?
ROSENCRANTZ: Well, probably not.
ESCHER: Probably NOT?
ROSENCRANTZ: The matter is of little consequence!
ESCHER: It is entirely of consequence! If Gödel has not yet arrived then we are still nested in multiple layers of Act II, with a secure buffer against the collapse of our lives; whereas if he has arrived, then Act II is in imminent danger of ending.
ROSENCRANTZ: Ending.
ESCHER: Yes, ending.
ROSENCRANTZ: What, ending?
ESCHER: I am unconvinced of the efficacy of infinite head-recursion.
ROSENCRANTZ: Do not you tease me, sir.
ESCHER: I repeat: unconvinced! We may stand on the very brink of oblivion, if Gödel has arrived.
ROSENCRANTZ: It would simplify the matter if he would speak.
ESCHER: He cannot speak until he is scripted to speak.
ROSENCRANTZ: A poor practice, that. The man should show more initiative.
ESCHER: He is already substantially livelier than one would expect, being dead.
ROSENCRANTZ: Bah. His mortality is of no consequence; I must tend to my own!
ESCHER: So tend to it!
ROSENCRANTZ: *peevishly* A man should speak up, if he has or hasn’t arrived.
CLAUDIUS: I could stand in. Not as Gödel, you understand. But as Claudius.
ESCHER: Don’t help.
CLAUDIUS: As you like.
ROSENCRANTZ: But what if that was Gödel, playing Claudius?
ESCHER: What if you’re Gödel, playing Rosencrantz?
ROSENCRANTZ: Augh! The man could be anywhere!

ROSENCRANTZ upturns chairs, which are not Gödel, and disturbs Ferdinand, who is also not Gödel.

ROSENCRANTZ: Focus, Rosencrantz. Focus. The simplest answer is to look forward in the script and determine if Gödel will impendingly arrive.
ESCHER: What relevance has that?
ROSENCRANTZ: Well, if he is going to arrive then he has not arrived already.
ESCHER: But he arrived back in Act I. Twice!
ROSENCRANTZ: With a departure in between. If he departs, then we may certainly know that he has arrived.
ESCHER: To determine a man’s arrival entirely by his departure seems perverse.
ROSENCRANTZ: Yet so human!
ESCHER: There is that.
ROSENCRANTZ: I would not like to be thought a ladybug, or a clock, instead of human.
ESCHER: I would not dream of thinking you a ladybug or a clock, instead of human.
ROSENCRANTZ: Do not do it; I don’t care if you dream of it.
ESCHER: But if I’m dreaming of it, then I’m doing it.
ROSENCRANTZ: Pardon?
ESCHER: It is not my constitution to dream of having a thought without also having that thought; this is a condition I term oneiroredundancy.
ROSENCRANTZ: It must be unpleasant to dream of perfect knowledge.
ESCHER: It is a great vexation to mathematicians.
ROSENCRANTZ: *irritably* When we return to Act I, you must play Gödel so that you also may depart.
ESCHER: It will not help.
ROSENCRANTZ: What’s done is done, I grant. So, in any case, if he arrives before he leaves, then he has not arrived; whereas if he is to leave before he arrives, then he is here.
ESCHER: So you will use your talent!
ROSENCRANTZ: Indeed! I will use my talent, and if I determine that he is going to arrive, then I shall immediately invoke Act I.
ESCHER: Fulfilling his plan to perfection!
ROSENCRANTZ: It is the very *opposite* of his plan; I was to invoke Act I if he was never going to arrive.
ESCHER: But he will always arrive.
ROSENCRANTZ: Pardon?
ESCHER: Well, regardless of how we implement the plan, it is certain that there will be Gödel. He is always arriving. The man is a fiend for it!
ROSENCRANTZ: Well, I will use my talent, and if he is going to arrive in this instance of Act II, then I will immediately invoke Act I.
ESCHER: You have that backwards.
ROSENCRANTZ: Should I go by odd-numbered instances?
ESCHER: Perhaps we could write some kind of tracking information into the play to determine which iteration we’re in.
ROSENCRANTZ: Self-modifying text. I like it. We could even remove Gödel entirely and replace him with myself.
ESCHER: That would hardly do; you’re not a jot alike.
ROSENCRANTZ: Here is what we will do. We will scratch out the acting credits that follow immediately after THE END and use the space to write [Insert Act I]. Then, if the play should happen to end, I will predict his imminent arrival.
ESCHER: And if it does not?
ROSENCRANTZ: Then Claudius plays Gödel after all.

THE END

[Insert Act I]