Also published in parts in Rule One
“When you speak of me, tell of yourself first,” said the Goddess. She was instructing her followers how to teach others about Her. “How will we do that, Great One?” they asked.
“Tell who you are, of your first memory, your akindling, and your sevening,” she replied. Since then all persons who speak for her or about her have followed those instructions.
These four facts are the perspective from which Her teachings must be looked at and worked from. These things are stated in the Testimonial which every Lunar being declares whenever they speak of Her. These are the essential events which shape a Lunar. They are a person’s name, or external identity; first memory; a person’s first awakening to higher consciousness, called akindling; and a person’s sevening, or waking of the secret Lunar consciousness that leads to Enlightenment. This last is the most variable, for it changes throughout a person’s lifetime, while the others events generally do not. The document begins with the Testimonial of the Living Goddess, Teelo Estara.
In the Creation Age, She was a celestial being, immobile and unchanging, as was everything in the world. She was radiant white, pure in her Zayteneric dress of innocence. One day She saw a new god, and She moved from Her place to follow and watch it. She followed it about the Sky. When the new god dipped below the horizon, Zaytenera, now curious beyond thoughts of safety, followed. There She met Him Below, a powerful god to whom She was forcefully attracted, and who She took as Her first lover. She left Her white dress behind, and rose again a vital, bright red. She called Herself Verithurusa, which means either the Wondrous Wanderer or the Changing Truth, or both.
Scarlet Verithurusa kept wandering about the Sky, and there She took as lover the god Shargash, who hated Her afterwards; Asyrex, who was the father of Gem; Orbryix, who slew himself when She left him; Urnion, who was turned into a star; Zedada, later a great warrior; and Mur, whose daughter and son were healers. At last, weary of the world, She returned to Her own father’s palace. Instead of finding welcome and affection from Yelm, She was rebuked and scolded, then cast from the palace forever. Grieving, She left, but a shadow remained behind, fluttering about in the Palace of Light on dark wings. They were not Her wings, and Yelm did not claim them, but they flapped around like a bat caught in the daytime. Those wings dimmed the eternal light of Yelm, so he did not see so clearly anymore and allowed his foes to enter and come close. Much later, he was killed, and afterwards his wife and his courtiers said it was the wings of Verithurusa that had caused his death. So ended the Creation Age, and so began the Storm Age.
Verithurusa cast off Her joyous red dress and donned one of blue. She found solace in the arms of Asyrex, a kind and loving god who was Her husband and the father of the Mernitan peoples. Their children took wives and husbands from among gods, spirits, mortals, and essences. Their land was Dosvolos. The Mernitans raised a great city, and to protect them, their divine Mother stood overhead, a radiant topaz blue. She was called Lesilla, Protecting Mother. Her brightest and wisest daughter was the Great Queen, Cerrulia. When the Emperor of the Center organized the world of mortals, Dosvolos was among those lands under his sway. They sent to him the High Crown of Mernita. When the Great Flood drowned the world Lesilla used Her powers of attraction and drew all of Dosvolos upward above the crashing waves. Her people were saved. Yet, for that sacrifice, She used so much of Her power that She was weakened and sank lower in the center of Her Sky.
Lesilla always shard her power into the many bodies of with Her descendants. Whichever of them was strongest was Cerrulia, and many others had specific titles as well. One of them was Demiska, the Contrary, and whichever one she inhabited most weakly was called Demiska. Demiska was given the wonderful Bow of Lesilla to compensate for her weakness.
After the Flood, the Emperor of the World took Demiska into his palace, because he wanted her bow. Of course, she gave it to him, and she became his wife. Alas, he kept it, and the Mernitans were angry. They asked for the High Crown back, but instead the Emperor bent the magical bow and with it drove an immortal arrow through the heart of Lesilla, their Mother in the Sky. The Goddess, weak and old, stumbled and fell from the Sky. A part of Her is still visible as the Blue Moon Plateau, haunted and devastated, inhabited only by ghosts, demons, and trolls. The armies of the Emperor then conquered Mernita and put its people into slavery.
When the Emperor died, his wife mourned him, despite the mistreatment She had received and the evils he had done. She took the name Sorrow, or Gerra, and went into mourning. She put away her beautiful clothing and jewels, and donned the black dress of mourning. Over the generations, Her power waned, both from Her unending sadness and because She was further stripped of power. The world continued to grow dark, miserable, and terrifying. The Storm Age ended, and the Darkness began.
Manarlarvus was a weak, miserable, and frightened Emperor. He built a dome to hide in, with his favorite people, and left everyone else to be devoured and tortured by the growing populations of monsters. He blamed everyone else for the problems and faults of the world.
Gerra was first refused admittance to the dome. However, she made the door keeper acknowledge his absolute responsibilities, and with her superior mastery of matematics made him admit she deserved to be present. However, She was allowed in only as a menial and drudge. She was overworked and subjected to terrible and outrageous misdeeds. When food ran short, they ate Her fingers, then Her arms and feet, and much else of Her as well. The vileness of these deeds poved that the rot and evil of the world were inside the stronghold as well.
The Emperor made everyone seek the cause of his troubles in the secure dome, and the perpetuators of the evil blamed it instead upon Gerra, labelled as an interloper and invader. She was dragged out of the protection and impaled upon a stake set upright into the ground to suffer forever. Then the dome cracked. Some say it was because of Gerra’s curse, or Her agonized screaming. Others say the cause was the righteous wrath of the Emperor, who was actually innocent and vastly offended. Others say it was the unrighout lies and evil of his underlines. Maybe it was just the monsters outside who broke in. The results were the same. The stronghold collapsed, all safety was lost, the Sky fell down upon the world, and Hell swallowed the remnants of both. Gerra was torn from Her stake and left to wander with the other unholy remnants of being.
Demons ruled. Vengeance and hatred dominated. They destroyed everything, and would have destroyed Gerra as well, but they recognized in Her their own Mother. The shadows from the Realm of Light would not destroy Her. The miseries and tortures would not touch Her, who had been victimized to make them. And the things which were of otherworld origin, like Kazkurtum, ate Her and shat Her out whole. Miserable being! She wandered the world, and whatever She touched was awakened for a moment, aware of its own suffering and misery. Truly, She was Gerra, or Grief.
But one time She found the stake which had impaled Her. It spoke to Her, and it said, “Rashorana, to live is to suffer, but to suffer is not to live.” She lived, and She realized that She was more than suffering. With those words, She saw Herself, both Her miserable self and the radiant being that She had been. She was still all of that, and so She ignited a tiny spark. Some say that spark was hope; some say it was just fire. Whatever it was, She treasured and loved it, and whenever She met others, instead of igniting them to grief, She shared this brightness with them. Slowly at first, but faster as the world warmed, life began anew. Babies were born whole; laughter was heard; storms of ash congealed and gods rose from the ashes. Fires revealed their souls; stars rose; Bijiif separated the living from the dead, the immortals from mortals, the spirits and essences and gods from each other. Animals, plants, and minerals were differentiated, and Rashorana showed the inner life and purpose of each. The world was reborn.
She called herself Ulurda. She found Her husband again, who had been lost so long ago and had been seeking the source of joy which was Her. Rashorana wove a new dress, sapphire blue this time, and with Her latest husband She rose into the Sky. She found Her bow, and they hunted the pieces of the universe across Sky, Underworld, and earth until everything was found and put into place once again. She taught of fire, of hunting, of love, and of the secrets of being. The sun rose. Nations separated, each to their own destiny. She began to become reborn in the world of mortals, from which all inspiration and change arises now. She was called Sethir, Verener, Morga, Sendaranpola, Urstenus, Davu, Nysalor, and Kerestus. Each of these men and women planted a portion of the knowledge that would be needed to dress Her in Her full glory.
In 1220, as the world knows, the Seven Mothers gathered and raised Her in all Her portions. The child Teelo Estara, clothed in red and glowing from within, led a band, then a league, then an association, and at last, a nation. And she learned about Her world, Her self, the Otherworlds, and Her other selves. At last Her time came; She stopped Her wandering and entered the Otherworlds to become complete with Herself. She conquered life, death, and Chaos, and returned in time to rescue Her loyal people. When the Old Gods resisted Her integration into the Cosmos, She proved Her presence. And when the time came, She rose again into the Sky, red and brilliant and shining.
That is Natha, whom we know today, and love.
We could tell ten stories about each of these phases She was in, and ten more about each of Her lifetimes. But however many times it is told, and however many beings She seems to be, She is One who is Many.
The Path of Immortality
Those persons of ignorance who do not live under Her light mock and scorn the fact that we, mortals all, walk in the path of a goddess. Presumptuous, they call us, and foolish, and deluded. They think there is a difference between Her, Our Immortal Guide, and us. Fools!
Sedenya had been born immortal, beginning life in the aetheric realm and feeding upon the ambrosia of the gods. Yet She became mortal, a limited and finite being who had lost all memory of Her former divine existence. She worked and played, suffered and enjoyed, loved and hated just as all humans do. And She found her way back to godhead. Sedenya, The Great Being, did this because She wished to show human beings how to assist in the recovery of Godtime.
Her journey is just like everyone’s. We all know that in the Green Age everyone was equal, a blissful being without care or worry who had the universe at their fingertips. We were all supernatural beings who smelled of flowers and cast no shadow. Yet, sometimes one by one and sometimes en masse, we fell into the traps of desire, mortality, and the realms of limited consciousness. Unity shattered; love confronted hatred and failed; and peace gave way to war.
The world has always been a worse place since the Otherworld Beings destroyed it in the Gods War. Humans have been the primary victims, and are now the primary methods of recovery. Humans didn’t destroy the world, for they had no power in those days. Yet now they are the repositories of Free Will, and as such, wield the key to reconstruction. The endless cycles of being require that the world recover its former glory, and it is the job of She Who Cycles to lead the way. Hence Her life of suffering and love as a human being, to be the model for us all. Her ascent into the Heavens shows us the way for our own ascent, and Her promise is that the cosmos will follow.
Her blood runs in the veins of millions of people—perhaps in everyone, as some of Her teachers claim. We mortals are mixed, bearing portions of everything that existed before. In that mixture, we have all been carrying out Her struggle, inching the cosmos forward toward its objective. It is the responsibility of all conscious beings to assist in this momentous transformation. It is the destiny of our empire.
Her journey took many lifetimes. It was blocked by the old and established powers. The last incarnation as Teelo Estara was only the final step, not the whole journey. But She served us with Her life, and so we can serve the cosmos by following Her principles.
Enlightenment takes many lifetimes to acquire. She does not expect us to succeed at once. She expects us to struggle forward, under Her guidance and protection. She also expects us to fail, to be hurt, and to love and be loved. We must make mistakes in our earlier lives to acquire knowledge of everything, just as our last lives must be full of assisting, perseverance, and success at the Great Test. As we approach Enlightenment, we remember the keys to success, and these determine how we act, the powers we wield, and the success and happiness of our lives.
At some point, determined by each person, the individual must undertake the Path of Proof. This can be attempted only once each lifetime, at most—some say it is only once every seven or ten lifetimes.
Some say that many paths towards immortality and eternal bliss are possible, but success among the Lunar peoples has always been to follow Her Hero Path. She showed us, we are Her people, and it is foolish to innovate under such guidance. Let others seek new ways and continue to fall, as they do, into the abyss of failure. When it is your turn to attempt to find your immortal self, take Her Hero Path.
Let us discuss her early life as Teelo Estara.
A being woke up in the body of a young girl. She discovered Her true selves and Self, and became immortal.
First, at her growth. Teelo Norri had been a girl, young and breastless, with neither the hair nor the hips of a woman. Powerful people performed the Renativity. Then the innocent street girl with the black eyes and the dirty face was no more. Her identity disappeared, submerged by the flood of lives and memories that overwhelmed whatever she had been before. Her first words were “We are all Us.” Teelo Norri vanished, and we know that Teelo Estara felt the girl slip beneath the waters of existence with some regret, at first, which disappeared quickly in the face of a hundred new selves and the immensity of the daily life that was set before Her.
Hence Her new name, Teelo Estara. And Her new body—that girl grew preternaturally quickly, without the anxieties and discomfort of a human being. She had Her memories to call upon when She bled for the first time, or Her breasts ached with rapid growth, or Her blood heated from the looks that men gave to Her, or She to them. She did not have the trouble of innocence in deciding whether to take a first lover. She might instead have had the problem of too much experience, except that She remembered, and so made wise choices.
Oh, those lovers. Surentholm, Maskore, Burdendarus, Venwhiser, and Eserela are known and revered today. Surentholm, who was at first so anxious and reluctant, and afterward so well-taught that he became known as the “great lover of Jalthil,” until killed in battle outside his city. Maskore, ambitious and loyal and unselfish, who became the first Satrap of First Blessed. Burdendarus, so sympathetic and understanding, who stayed with Her the longest. Venwhiser, who had sung to Her and made poems for a decade. First he resisted Her invitation to Her bed; then, after he made ten more poems, he reluctantly accepted, and after that, he fiercely and jealously defended it. She might have stayed with him forever, except that Mahedres Redbeard thought he was Her weak point and tried to torture him to death. Let us remember how Venwhiser sang “Ten Ways to Love You” on the rack, and how his lack of suffering nearly brought Mahedres to an apoplectic death. Nor will we overlook Eserela, that sweet woman who was hard where Teelo Estara was soft, cruel where She was kind, and, most importantly, kind where She was cruel.
Teelo Estara was born to rule. We smile indulgently now at the story of “The Ten Rules of Rule,” when Deezola sat the girl down to start instruction, and was instead instructed. That good Queen was afterwards content to advise the goddess. She also learned, so that Deezola’s own city of Torang was always well ruled, and has been ever since. Teelo Estara coordinated the jealousy of warlords and dukes, balanced the ambitions of suspicious rivals, rewarded the just and trusting, and exploited the despoilers. It took the many lives of Teelo Estara to acquire the knowledge and experience to balance the likes of Deezola, who became so unquestionably good; against the unbridled corruption of Duke Pestenus and his archpriest, Aggavrimak; and yet to keep the loyalty of those famous lords and ladies like Entholm, Aggebeskora, Feneazura, Dardanog, and Aggatholm, who were neither so good nor so bad. Too, Her diplomacy brought the blue trolls of the plateau to friendship, and once even gained the commitment of the bat-winged ones, who won the Battle of Dorid.
And what of Her leadership in war? First, no one questions Her wisdom in leaving battle leadership to Yanafal Tarnils, save for the Second Battle of Memkorth when the great warlord was humbled (and no general dares to forget the subsequent admission of Her wisdom by the great man afterwards, which led to his reinstatement and later caution whenever he saw the flocks of eagles). And it was She who advised the promotions of Aggavaskaru and Paktalus, and She who named Manazura to defend Dorid, Pesdarau to be the quartermaster and Opada to command the river fleet, though the boatmen so resisted the idea of a woman to lead them.
But of all these actions, the most important to Her was to study. Irippi Ontor was rarely far from Her elbow, except when he was researching some history or divining some fact. She would always ask his advice and information about whomever petitioned Her, but She just as often seized odd moments to inquire of him about some landmark that piqued Her memory, to discuss some philosophy alluded to by a visitor, or to pump him for knowledge of a genealogy, a famous person, or one of Her own previous incarnations. No doubt the candor of that brown man was instrumental in educating Her of the faults of her past, as well as the virtues. She Herself credits Irippi Ontor with teaching Her to avoid the obscurity of Nysalor and the unbridled arrogance of Morga. And everyone knows it was She who discovered the secrets of the Mernitan Altar and of Taraltara’s Net, but it was Irippi Ontor who told Her about the cave where the altar was hidden, and of the impossibility of knowing Taraltara with Her mind. It was he, also, who revealed to Her so many secrets that he had learned from Buserian, such as the conjunctions of Ulurda with the stars Miningu, Plura, and Beto, and the knowledge of the invisible bodies of Aggatherada the hummingbird.
So with all those new facts and hidden insights, with the experience She had gained and remembered, She was prepared for when she departed from the everyday world.
The Other Side
Teelo Estara first entered the Otherworld at the Falling Place.
She did not know the method to become an independent deity. Others had become heroes, but no one had attempted to resurrect their entire body of past lives. She didn’t know what to do, and She knew that She had tried before and failed. But She tried, once again.
Her Mothers gathered with Her other followers at the sacred place, and they erected a large tent to protect everyone from the elements. Inside that tent they erected a sanctuary, and inside that sanctuary they conducted the rites to open a gateway to the Other Side. They used prayers and sacrifice, spells and veneration, spirits and visions, as Teelo Estara had instructed them. In the center of their circle, the gateway appeared, and in the gateway a strange being whom only Jakaleel knew, and Teelo Estara walked towards it and then into it.
The creature before Her was nothing She had seen, yet it was oddly familiar. It was something that had been rescued from oblivion by Jakaleel, the old crone who had been Her precious and protective godmother. It was a Lune, a creature unknown to the world. It was the first time that Teelo Estara saw one. She had, by that time, developed Her sorb well enough to discern what type of supernatural creature was before Her. She had been assaulted enough to know how to do this quickly. And with her sorb She peered closely at this thing, and it was clear that it was neither god, nor spirit, nor essence.
“I am Your future,” it said, upon inquiry. “In the end I shall either devour You and suck Your bones dry of marrow and grind the rest to a powder, or else I will be three shadows for You, each from a separate source of light. But for now, You must either follow me, or stay here, or go off on Your own.”
And She followed it. Since that first time, others have tried the alternatives. Some stayed, and their bones are a powder now that certain magicians use. Others have gone off on their own, and most have never been heard from again, though a few are known to exist in insufferable states of being.
“Have You ever fallen?” asked the unknown being, and of course Teelo Estara knew the answer was yes, and said so. “And have you wished for a chance to change that?” it asked, and again, Teelo Estara answered “Yes, but…” and before She was finished the ground from beneath Her disappeared, and She plummeted through open space, with the wind from Her fall whistling in Her ears like a gale.
Though She had grown strong and bold, She went white from fright at first. Yet She regained Her composure and had enough time to look around Her. She realized She was amidst other creatures, like and unlike Herself, as if there were a rain of people falling into the void below to water it with their frightened remains.
“I am not helpless,” She thought, and then She shouted, “You are not helpless!” to the others about Her. Most seemed to ignore Her cry, or found it to be just another frightening thing. She did not wait to see the result, but spread her arms like wings and swooped towards the nearest falling being. It was a small girl, much like the girl She had once been, and She scooped it into Her arms and zoomed away towards the distance, dodging the plummeting beings as She had dodged the rocks that were rained upon Her army by the birdmen of Danadix.
A mountain hove into view, and She descended upon it, to find She was again alone. Or it is possible that it was that little girl who landed, who upon being set upon the mountain found herself alone, much to her surprise.
She set off with diligence, having neither water nor food nor clothes, nor even an idea of where to go. Yet to go was better than to stay, and She went. Amidst rocks which watched Her, through grass and weeds which parted to let Her through, and under a burning brightness which had neither source nor mercy, She went on. She crossed a vast jagged plain of black obsidian that roiled in frozen waves and whose surface cut Her feet to ribbons, so that She left a trail of red footprints behind Her, wet and glistening and filling the tiny pockets in the stone.
The Big Man was visible first as a hill which offered shade. She, now burnt from head to toe by the sun upon Her naked skin, sought its shade and shelter. She was nearly upon it when it moved and turned to face Her. A head like a hillock tilted to peer down; blue eyes looked at Her, and a low rumble tumbled from its throat in a wordless sound of curiosity.
She remembered this. It was as though She had practiced it before, memorizing lines in a play whose climax and aftermath She knew. This meeting would be friendly at first, then curious, and climax at last in a fierce coupling which She remembered had been a terrifying and embarrassing spectacle.
Then She heard a bird cry, a small red thing with a pointed cap and wise black eyes. It was off to the side, and She knew that this was a sign of escape. This was the Safety Bird, and if She chose to follow it, She could escape, and attempt to make an entirely new start to Her life and Her lives. She could avoid this spectacle of inept behavior, this embarrassment of unknown experiences. And for a moment, She considered just that.
But instead, She stepped forward then into an old story, into a picture whose lines and creases and colors She already knew. It was, despite Her knowledge, a child’s drawing with scrawls instead of fine lines, of the wrong colors scribbled outside the lines of perfection. But because She knew it, and was willing to try, it was different. This time the meeting was joyful, comforting, and pleasant.
So it was that She went first to the oldest realm, in the era of the early Golden Age when She was but a child, and changed Her world. She stayed with the entity known as the Big Guy, and She lived with him in a cave. She had lived there before, eons earlier, and in Her original life and this one both She gave birth to Homura, Her sweet gem. In Her first life, She had eventually fled from this place, but this time, She cast out the Big Guy for his infidelities. This time, when he put a curse upon her, She ignored it. She thought that his curse was finished along with their love, but She did not understand its nature until it revisited Her later.
She remained there even after Homura, Her sweet gem, departed. Some of Her other children and their relatives built a small village. She taught them to make an altar, too, and upon it, they sacrificed red cocks and black pigs, and offered the placentas of their births.
Teelo Estara, who was called Teelo Verithurusa here, then arranged a great ceremony wherein She would be able to enter into the Otherworld. She had calculated that She needed to connect to another world of immortality at that very place. It was difficult, for She did not know all the prayers and gestures, nor the proper state of mind for assured success. She did get into the otherworld, but then the nature of Big Guy’s curse became apparent. Instead of establishing a connection, She was cast out again, not as Herself but as a newborn. She was her own descendant. When She was born, She did not cry, but opened her eyes and spoke to Her mother and Her grandmother.
They named Her Lesilla, or this time, Teelo Lesilla. She grew up, and She was mighty among them. Overhead sat Her former self, her Other Self; a divine body like a planet, which had turned blue when she was thrust into mortal form. She eventually learned to travel to it again, and to claim it as Her own self. She and her people went back and forth from that idyllic world. But She needed more.
Her tribe departed from that cave, as had many before them. They traveled about far and wide, noting the wonders of the world and learning what they could from it. They met, after some time, the Sons of Thunder, another tribe. At first there was conflict, but after a while they remained together and formed a new people. They built a town which became a city, and they were called the Mernitans.
Teelo Lesilla did all that She could to prepare for Her Otherworld journey. She set up schools and instructed wise and powerful people. She made an alliance with the Emperor, to obtain his help as well. Alas, that was Her downfall. When She undertook her great rite of transformation in the Otherworld, She was betrayed by the emperor, and when She found her way to the Otherworld, they did not seek to help Her return. She struggled, and She did return, but She also lost a great part of Herself. Instead of establishing a living connection with the Otherworld, She left a part of Herself there, dead. The planet overhead crashed to the ground.
Lesilla had been powerful. Her husband was an emperor, and so was Her son. But they did not love Her, being jealous in a world that was becoming overrun by such petty emotions. She was cast out among the ordinary people, and She despaired of ever finding Her way back to divinity.
For a while, She rebelled. She worked with the people of Hagu and taught them how to cast out their own failed gods. They did, but it did not help Her.
She tried surrendering. She went to the Emperor in the hill, called the Vast Dome, and She surrendered to him. She was put to work in the most demeaning and terrible ways, and She worked without complaint. Yet that gained Her nothing as well. When it came time to blame, She was cast as scapegoat and offered to the demons of evil. They impaled her upon a great pointed stake and the demons came and devoured her slowly.
She was devoured, but regenerated. She was suffering, but untouched. She was the cause of trouble, and its victim. She was all things and nothing. She realized that her souls had been peeled from Her and tossed away into the winds of change and time. She was down to her last scrap of dignity and self. She remembered the past, Her pasts, Her experiences and knowledge and everything which had ever been. It was all inadequate for this.
That was when She realized her plight, and She stopped. She sat still, did nothing, save for being where and what She was. That was when the greatest monster of all came to Her and threatened Her. It is called Blaskarth by the Empire now, and others called it Wakboth, Kajabor, Invendith, Sekeveragata, or simply just Cosmic Death. Utter annihilation. Loss of self. It stalked Her, slowly, to drag out Her agony and fear. She was afraid, and then so afraid that the fear could not exist within Her and burned itself out. So She was brave, but so brave that the courage too burned itself out. And so She cried until She could cry no more, and then She laughed in its face. She laughed until She could laugh no more, and so on through every possible feeling and thought until She was at last devoid of thought and emotion, entirely calm. Blaskarth hovered over her, the shadow of nonexistence, and neither with nor without knowledge She offered Her throat and womb to it. It struck, sinking hollow iron fangs deep within Her soul.
She died. All died. Everything. She failed to exist.
She was not Her. She was. Not Her. Not. Her.
She then saw what She had not. An empty cave. A ruined city. A desolate landscape. A meaningless life. These, and others, were the places she had tried to enter the Otherworld and establish Her presence. She then contemplated, without emotion, how She might return.
That was when Yanafal Tarnils found Her, a hollow husk, an empty shell, a meaningless being.
Now, we need to tell briefly of this brave fellow, the boldest in the land.
Yanafal Tarnils had been born well, with strength and intelligence. He was not afraid to kill, nor to offer himself to death for a good cause; nor was he afraid of life. He had also learned courage and, perhaps more importantly, discretion and the critical application of caution.
This great man of war never wavered in his loyalty to the goddess that he had helped to awaken. He was never disobedient, even when he was sent away from battle at Memkorth. But like all those Saints of Her Life he was subject to doubt, for that was always a part of Her teaching. So when She went upon her great Godquest and left him in charge of the army, he was at the front or the rear of the fight, as required, to defend the sanctuary.
He would never have left his post, except that the call of doubt nagged at him from across worlds. She had been gone for years, whereas everyone had expected it to be weeks at the most. Her followers in the Tent of Life had become discouraged; many had lost heart and abandoned the ceremony. Enemies had grown stronger and bolder, and they had begun to assemble and move upon the followers of She-who-would-be-goddess.
So he then left the command to Paktalus, and he entered into the quest across other worlds to follow that call. Disobedient to Her word, he was nonetheless loyal to his obligations. He wandered through known and unknown events of the Gods War, and everything which dared to oppose him was slain or imprisoned. He was finally confronted by the ghost of Death, an empty Death that could devour his soul as a bat eats a fly. It was the dead Death, which to him appeared as a gigantic wasp, the Carmanian incarnation of whatever lay beyond Death. It was the goddess Ak, which had birthed the first Sword, the first wielder of that Sword, and the first Death. Tarnils fought it, first without success. But he stopped fighting for just one moment, and that foul creature sank its fangs into his hip. Then, with cool detachment borne from limitless practice and experience, he lopped the head from it. Yanafal Tarnils continued to struggle forward with that head attached to him, dipping burning ichor as he walked. The Trail of Death is thus well marked and well known now, and it leads now to the place he found: the Fields of Waste, where he came upon Her ragged corpse, devoured by wasps and maggots and the empty ghosts of the bondage eagles which he had once, long ago, slain. She was staked upon a post, impaled like a puppet, and to his eyes She seemed to be suffering beyond all understanding.
“It is your fault,” said a voice, and when the fear of that truth entered his heart, that was the moment of his greatest doubt, yet of his greatest trust in himself as well. And so, caught in that dichotomy of assurance and fear, he saw Taraltara, the impossible being who could not be seen.
“You are the cause, Taraltara,” Yanafal Tarnils said to the Great One. He began to calculate how he might fight it. He felt the head of Ak gnawing at his hip.
“Not I, but She,” replied Taraltara. And that was when Teelo Estara saw that Her tormenter was not Blaskarth, but Taraltara, the Great Mystery which underlay the whole of both cosmos and Chaos.
And from the grisly post where She was impaled, Teelo Estara, or the ghost of Her spirit, spoke.
“Good fellow, loyal man,” said Teelo Estara, “I am glad to see you.” And those words encouraged him to ignore the Greatest One, the Impossible One, and instead to focus again upon his job at hand.
“Good man, I need your decision,” said Teelo Estara. “The world needs you and your skills. You have been gone from the world for months now. Back there, I see our people being slain, being captured, and their souls and spirits taken into cages like birds. You can go back. They need you.” Before he had set off to find Teelo Estara Yanafal Tarnils had heard Her one plaintive call for help from afar. Now he heard without doubt the innumerable moans of the wounded, the shrieks of the dead, and the cries of those in the sanctuary who were facing imminent demolition at the hands of their foes.
Teelo Estara then gave him a choice. She reminded him of the countless loyal followers on the other side who were awaiting his return. “Your men and women,” said the goddess, “you can save them!”
“Those are Your followers, as well,” he said. “They wait for You. And do I need to remind You that You have told me that the greatest sacrifice is of the Self?” he asked Her. And he stood. “My decision is made,” he said. And he took the sword from his scabbard and looked at Her. “You, I love,” he said, and with a quick move, he turned the blade upon himself and thrust it through his heart. He fell to the ground. It was only then that the grisly head of the wasp dropped from his hip, and it chuckled as it did.
“A life given for yours,” said the Great One. “You live.” And Teelo Estara fell from the stake, a small ember of life now independent of agony. Taraltara then gave the goddess a choice.
“You live. You are not alone. You are alive, and You can return to Your life with one other.” And She was given a choice of others to take back to life with Her. “See, here are two beings who have given their lives for Yours. They are the most deserving, who gave without knowing.” And before Her were two, Teelo Norri the young girl, and Danfive Xaron, the criminal.
“They have forfeited their lives for You, and as a reward for Your effort, You may bring one of them back.” When She looked upon them, She saw that Danfive Xaron, the arch-criminal, was full of fear, while Teelo Norri, the innocent girl, was full of acceptance.
“Well, certainly these are equal, for though one in life was horrible and a terror, while the other was innocent and kind, they are both living beings of equal value. In the world of men they differ, but across the many lives they have lived, are they so different? Here in the empty plains of nothingness, I see they are equal.” Then Teelo Estara pointed to the bloody corpse of Yanafal Tarnils,
“And him, too?” asked Teelo Estara. “May I go back with him?”
“Oh, yes, of course. He took his own life, but it was for You,” said Taraltara. “So, should You wish, it may be him as well. Yet, would You prefer him, the death-giver, to her, Your gem?” Here Taraltara indicated Homura, the first child of Teelo Estara, who had brought Her from selfishness to an awareness of the world. It had been Homura who had akindled the Goddess, and made Her the Mother of Kindness as well.
“Then I see I have many more choices,” said Teelo Estara. “I see that I may return with any being who has given his life for Me, or part of Myself which has given itself that I may be here now. Is that correct? I may take them instead?” asked Estara. She saw the faces of her lovers who had died, and even of those souls who were fighting desperately in the Tent of Life, leaderless without Yanafal Tarnils, who had been dead in the world for only an instant and were now joining the crowd.
At that moment, Danfive Xaron became uncomfortable, for he sensed that there were perhaps hundreds of thousands who might qualify for this honor. And Danfive Xaron, of course, wished first for his own life to be returned. He had not relished his time in a suffering Hell.
“Yes,” said the Great Goddess. “Choose any.”
“Then,” said Teelo Estara, “I choose You.” No further dialogue was necessary. The truth of that statement was evident. In that place, no more trickery or choice or option was possible.
Taraltara smiled then, and Her smile was that of Teelo Estara. Each looked upon Herself. Two were not there, nor was One. It was not Zero, either, but something else.
And there, around Teelo Estara, rose a tent of wondrous beauty. Its fabric was of celestial silk, which Homura had first woven.
“I live,” said six beings at once, in that moment. Three stood beside Teelo Estara, on the plains which were no longer those of nothingness. Teelo Norri, Danfive Xaron, and Yanafal Tarnils were with her. And in another world, where life and death were separate, the words were spoken by Deezola, a queen who had a moment before been pierced by a sword and two spears; and by a badly wounded scholar, armed with just a dagger and a shield; and by a great and powerful shaman who had been stripped of all her defenses by sorcery that ate spirits.
“We are all Us,” they said, all six and another one, who for that second knew they were a part of the Great Sedenya.
“Hell and damnation,” swore a great wizard at that same moment, though he was far across the field of battle, and then he faltered and fell, unconscious with blood running from his mouth, nose, ears and eyes. His lord, the son of a Shah, saw it and paled.
“Take him up,” commanded the shah’s son, “And follow me. Page, get our horses.” And around that commander, his lieutenants and messengers and staff were all suddenly afraid too, and they all dashed for their own horses.
Now, when the Goddess had departed she left a body of worshippers behind, all of them dedicated and loyal and sworn to pray, even in the midst of fear and terror. They had worked and prayed for two years, relentlessly continuing a task that they had thought would take two weeks. They had stayed there, sometimes taking time to sleep or stepping out to bathe, but generally sleeping and eating there. Winter had not deterred them, though the fires inside that tent were never warm enough. Nevertheless, they persevered, for they thought at first that a few more weeks would be the worst they would have to endure. Then they thought that the first winter cold would be the worst thing they’d have to bear. Then the endless days wore on, and the second winter seemed like the worst. But they discovered that truly the worst thing was the Carmanian army which came upon them, slicing great rents in the cloth and charging in to kill.
At the “We are all Us” moment, the Lions of Carmania were among them, hewing and slashing in that sacred tent where the devout prayed for the return of their goddess. Oh, always remember those poor gentle folk who were being slaughtered at that very moment, praying and undistracted even though they were beyond hope. They were kneeling, or lying dead and bleeding, around the central Holy Tent, from which they hoped to see the emergence of their Goddess. Instead, from it leapt a man, armed and armored, who was their commander. His sword flashed, and with each blow, a foe fell dead or wounded. Of course, that was Yanafal Tarnils.
Another emerged, naked and scowling and desperate, yet more fierce for those conditions. He fell with bare hands upon the wounded who would have risen despite their wounds, and of course that was Danfive Xaron, who strangled them, and snapped their necks, and gouged out eyes, and bit the throat of one who dared to rise from the dead to fight again.
A third came, who did not fight, who did not struggle, but who instead raised her own voice in a prayer of supplication and mercy to help her beloved fellows and helpmates who were watching. That was Teelo Norri.
That assault drove the Lion Guard from the sacred tent. But never doubt the courage and training of those enemy soldiers, for they rallied to the barked commands of their remaining leader, and would all have fallen upon Yanafal Tarnils and reversed their defeat.
It was the howling moan from above that distracted them. That howl caused everyone to look upward, from the lowliest shovel man who had been impressed into the army to the son of the shah, who was even then seated upon his great stallion and spurring it away from battle. Even Mahedres Redbeard, the sorcerer, unconscious and draped upon another steed, looked skyward with bleeding eyes.
There She was. The Goddess, Teelo Imara as She would thereafter be known, radiant and the size of a mountain, standing upon the back of a screeching crimson bat. That bat was death and more than death, the Death of Gods. It was the color of fresh blood, sticky and wet, and the blood dripped from it in living tendrils. Its thousand eyes looked everywhere, and those eyes each saw what they sought, and they sought to look into the eyes of whomever wished harm to its rider. The eyes of the shah’s son looked there, and the eyes of Mahedres Redbeard opened and stared, and the gaze of the Lion guards as well looked upward into a vision that was impossible for them to behold. And each of them—a thousand foes!—felt their sanity drain out their own eyes, sucked into the impossible vision, and half of them fell dead upon the spot. The rest howled as they eyes burst, and they ran, panicked and mad, unable to see where they were going. Minds were just husks, unknowing of themselves or of others, all of them empty of purpose. The bat’s eyes which had fed upon the souls of those now dead then turned and looked upon other foes, who in turn were driven mad or died. Every foe of the Goddess tried not to look, but they were compelled to see what they did not wish to see, and the madness and death entered them as well.
And what of those who loved Her? They had looked too, yet they saw only their radiant goddess, hovering there upon the back of a hummingbird, with Her extended hand bestowing blessing and healing. Those dead worshippers in the tent saw Her with their dead eyes, and they sat up, healed, and they joined in the song of praise and love that Teelo Norri was singing. Out of that canopy, beautiful music swelled, and men and women who had been struggling a moment before were filled with joy. They raised their weapons and sang as well, and watched as an army which had been trampling upon them a moment before all dropped their weapons and ran, if they did not fall dead.
So She returned. The Bat continued, screeching and howling and driving the foes deeper into madness. She stepped gracefully from its back and descended, floating, down among Her followers and alighted where the Sacred Tent stood. Under the radiance of Her presence, the wounds of the dead and hurt were healed. From the pockets of Mahedres and the cages of his minions, the hummingbird souls and the butterfly spirits were freed, and they alighted on corpses as if they were feeding on flowers. The nectar of life flowed, and the dead rose alive.
Sedenya looked upon the field, and all saw Her. Then Teelo Estara stood there for a moment, and everyone recognized Her. Then she was more, and so afterwards everyone called Her Teelo Imara.
Let us discuss Her life as Teelo Imara.
Her Quest was not done.
She had made her Tent, but it was not yet full. It stood like a field of light, surrounded by a garden of beauty. It shimmered, translucent from the outside, solid on the inside.
Yet She was not done.
That tent stood in an Otherworld. Yet, which one? It was not clear. It was not done. She was not finished.
Teelo Imara had Her task before Her. She was surrounded by her most loyal followers, the Seven Mothers and the others who would be called Saints of Her Life. And they, in turn, had with them their followers and devoted people. And they, in turn, had as followers those who would never be leaders, but who would benefit from being followers.
Teelo Imara was back in History, the world of the living, and many tasks lay before Her. But She placed most of those tasks into the hands of Her followers, who carried out those deeds in Her name and with Her power. They did the deeds of humans. When the deeds of a deity were required, She stepped forth.
Thus, Yanafal Tarnils led her army in Kostaddi and into Dara Happa. But when they stood before the walls of Raibanth, it was She who walked alone to the fore, and stood within the range of arrows. The archers shot, and their arrows had been blessed and enspelled and empowered and borne by spirits. Yet they fell upon her as flowers, and when the odor wafted upon the walls, all the archers stopped. The orders of their superiors, whether delivered with promise or with threat, were met by stares of incredulity. The archers could not believe that their officers did not see what they saw: a goddess of grace and wonder.
So it was left to the priests, who in their turn summoned the very god of their city. Ancient Raiba, who had been reawakened fourteen centuries before, sat up in his temple. The great statue creaked and groaned as only moving stone can do, and after it stepped from the confines of the building, it took on the suppleness of flesh and grew to proportions suitable for such a being. It walked down the grand Imperial Way, stepping carefully over the astonished soldiers assembled as reserves in the streets.
Raiba gazed over the walls of the city at Teelo Imara, whose own proportions grew to match his. They looked at each other, and after a short time without words heard by any but the most powerful humans, the god stepped over his own walls onto the plain before the city. There he knelt, and paid homage to a deity greater than he.
The priests, watching from the walls of his temple, wasted no time, but gave word to their leaders. And in no time at all, the leaders assembled and opened the gates to their city. They came out in procession, and they offered honey and pearls and the tokens of beasts and grains to Her.
And so it went with the other gods of Dara Happa, even monstrous Shargash, for all of them are wise and perceptive.
Meanwhile, in other lands Her legions fought on.
But this was not Her main work. She had other tasks, more important. She gathered to Her the awakened memories of her former selves. Velortina and Deveria and Davu and Ferandarus were recalled, relived, and rejoined.
But all that was only a prelude.
Her task, at that time, was to make Her place in the Otherworld. To take the tent which was nowhere and place it into the known universe. This was not easy, but She was not weak either.
She tried several times, but each time She was thwarted. She realized that Her opponents were the Old Powers, who had gathered from the Three Otherworlds to resist Her. They prepared an expedition to destroy Her immortal tent again, and set Her work back for another hundred lifetimes. An army of immortals assembled to venture forth from the Otherworlds and bring down Her ethereal temple. Though She had failed at this in the past, this time She assembled Her own army. So it was that She sent Her minions against Castle Blue.
She did not fight there. She remained in Torang, and then traveled to other places and consecrated them. She went to Hagu, to the Tent Cave, to the Stake, and to other places where she had, in previous lives, attempted to make Her temples. In each of those, Her worshippers gathered, praying and making sacrifices.
The fight was left to Her minions. She assembled the requirements for a leader there, and from the many men and women who struggled to meet them, She selected or constructed Rufus, the Red Emperor. It was a trick of Hers, with parts and powers joined together from an apparent defeat. At another time, a range of Otherworld mountains turned into giants, which were broken by gods into bits, which then changed into birds of fire that incinerated the defenders of Castle Blue. That was a fierce war, and not every victory went to the Lunars, but in the end, the forces of the goddess were successful.
Only then did She go to Castle Blue, and She accepted the homage of the forces of the universe who had thwarted her in the past.
Then She retired to the Dancing Ground. There, with a core of Her worshippers, including the victors of Castle Blue, She performed Her last terrestrial rite. She danced, and upon that ground She created the Otherworld which was to be Hers. Every place and every time where She had tried before to make Her Otherworld was joined in that moment to Her, and when She ascended into the Sky World once again, all of those places where She had struggled were brought with Her. In that way, She created Her Otherworld, which included some of everyplace. The world is made of everything, and so is Her World. She finished Her task of the Impossible, and She created Her Otherworld, which includes some of the Gods World, and the Sorcery World, and the Spirit World.
She rose, and She remade the world.
Yet To Come
She told us:
“We are All Us. We are born, love and hate, we create and destroy. We die, are transformed and return yet again in new form. We all come from The One, unimaginable Taraltara; and to That shall we all return once again. This world and this life is not the end. As illuminated beings it is our duty to protect the weak, to defy the strong, and to teach the Great Secret of Being to all who are yet to attain it. It is our duty and obligation to recall our common origin, our common life, and our common ultimate destiny. We must remember:
We Are All Us
We are all Us
The Victory shall be ours
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