CREATION AND THE LOKI MORDER
To understand Tarteist cosmogony and cosmology, as well as the interplay of such figures as the dyadic forms and Galriatolmar, we will look at the New Harmony for Adolescent Danites (loki morder tran danordanitans), a digest and popularization of the all-important Harmonious Tarte Lore (tarteprana lokiter), which latter was penned in the year 500 AD by a commission of worthies from four major sects. The Loki Morder, as the digest in question is commonly called, is the most popular of all the versions of the commission text, and has exerted a significant influence on the population of the Dani System. It is a good example of the present general consensus on the main points of Tarteist cosmogony and cosmology. (The commission glossed over or altogether skipped points of contention, allowing each sect to fill in the blanks for their own versions as they saw fit.) We will give a rough summary of the first hundred pages or so of the work, with our own annotations.
Tarte (following the shunerterel six-star iconography of Vatron Lajai in Notun)
The story that serves as the frame is easily explained: the Third Shadow of the legendary Aqua Hansaun, a maiden by the name of Pinjerein, is in a predicament. The Leader of her clan decided to open the nation’s doors to all species, high and low, cruel and refined, hoping to create a more enduring, more perfect world for all. Now, all creatures have rebelled, even including many Inculae, and, since the clan’s only hope is finding the Chronos Blade and wielding it to turn back time and undo the disaster, the heroes of Aqua Hansaun have all left to do just that. This leaves Pinjerein in command, the youngest and lowest ranked member of the clan authorized to lead.
The Hansaun clans will be described later on; suffice it to say that Aqua Hansaun was ruled by a Leader with three assistants, First, Second and Third Shadow, of which the third was always chosen at random from the entire population. As for the Chronos Blade, the time travel device is only a MacGuffin in this tale.
The situation is dire. The secret underground road from the Hansaun palace to the Temple of Krenvuth (lit. Crush-All), “where all beings suffer” (ti has vutins jarpam), has been betrayed and taken. Most of the clan guards have fled, and the ones left behind cannot be trusted with this mighty burden. It is not that their loyalty would waver so much that their hearts would fail from the effort in standing by it. Physical heart failure, not emotional. And the loyalty of a corpse is only useful for singing dirges and elegies. Pinjerein begins to put on a veil, signifying that she intends to show herself to the mob. Gasps all around. She states that she will not let them see her platinum blond hair (hembak lefen) before she dies.
A debate ensues in whispers, with someone going so far as to say that the first thing the desperate crowd will do is tear the veil off when they get their hands on her. An old servant, one who the Third Shadow has never heard speak even once before, disagrees loudly. “A veil is like an arrow,” she says (moljen jum u rubi nu navi), and explains that just as an arrow never loses sight of its target, even if the wind diverts it, or the target moves, so it is with a veil intended to cover oneself. It cannot, strictly speaking, be torn away in a manner that would count, that is, to actually reveal what lies beneath, because revelation is an active, not a passive, yielding. Pinjerein is impressed, grunting “Well said” (pavi’um jas). Next she stares at a great painting drawn by Leader Hansaun and remarks loudly on the frame. How beautiful it is, much prettier than the scene within: the unity and harmony of all creatures. A joke, and a cruel one at that. Her luck will be to pay for it with her life.
The heroine speaks a vulgar dialect of Horgothic born of the intermigration of two populations, Danite and Glowgem. Since this intermigration occurred in historical times, its presence here is utterly anachronistic. More importantly, however, her speech contrasts sharply with the old woman’s flawless standard. And the use of the dialect is anachronistic but not anatopistic, since the action is taking place in Dani, where Aqua Hansaun settled long ago according to some myths. The choice also accounts for at least part of the popularity of the Loki Morder in Dani. In addition, throughout the piece Pinjerein isn't sparing with her sarcasm, something for which Danites are (in)famous.
There is a commotion: soldiers enter, carrying the Second Shadow’s head. A gift from two elves who had long ago fallen from beyond the fiery vault and been recovered and nourished under the Aqua leader’s auspices. These very creatures now lead the anti-Aqua army. Pinjerein grits her teeth and prepares to go out.
Now the clever yet heretofore eternally silent servant speaks again: “If milady wills it, I do have more intelligent things to say.” Pinjerein laughs. “Your timing is awful, make it quick.” The servant continues: “Milady has nothing to fear, as long as she realizes that she is Tarte Herself.” Mutters from the others. Pinjerein thinks to herself that if she were the Goddess, she could save herself, but she cannot, therefore she is not, end of story. As if she knew what her mistress was thinking, the servant retorts: “I do not speak in metaphors” (vio doch rendam tior zontis). “There is an abyss between a god and a sapient being, old woman,” says someone in the crowd. “…And most sapient beings,” she replies. Then she fixes her eyes on Pinjerein and begins a story: “You have heard, I know, of what is called the beginning of the universe. But you have never heard, I am sure, of what set it in motion. What in the world could possess a Goddess full of perfection to surround herself with imperfect things? Fear it was, oh Pinjerein Aqua Hansaun. Fear like every other’s, like yours even.”
What we translate as “elves” here (las, lantis) are invariably evil in Tarteism, and indeed, in every Incudean faith. Elves, along with gryphons, are known by scholars as the universal mythical beings (shulins kiriaden tru suva), since many sapient species in Belklaun have some “recollection” of them in their myths and legends. Whether each of these folk were good or bad or something in between varies wildly from civilization to civilization. Incudean myths view gryphons as benevolent, though distant, beings, whereas elves are portrayed as purely evil sorcerers, despite being sometimes indistinguishable from Inculae by sight. There is a proverb, Molema me las, “Desire is an elf”, which encapsulates all that is evil and frightening about these creatures. Scholars tend to view gryphons as semi-historical, since there is some consistency to their appearance and character in the legends, whereas they treat elves as purely legendary, precisely because they tend to appear as distorted mirror images of each species that sings about (or laments over) them. The theory is that that the passions provoked by and directed toward elves fulfil some psychological need that is universal to all sapients.
The view of an abyss between deity and mortals is likely the oldest. The old woman’s modification is a transitional form to the present view (already old by the year 500 AD) that such an abyss exists nowhere between thinking entities, which does not preclude its existence elsewhere. To put in Indian terms: Atman approaches or equals Brahman but does not approach or equal Maya, not because Maya does not exist or is evil, but because it is simply an-Other.
Pinjerein kicks off the cosmogony section with expressions of doubts.
Pinjerein quotes a traditional saying: “In the beginning Tarte stepped out of the pit” (Ja flamm nyi Tarte krisam ino ravur). The servant can only nod once before Pinjerein begins questioning:
“In the beginning. But how can there be a beginning?”
“Ah. Well, if you suspect that something always existed, then you are not wrong. And that something is of course the Great Goddess Herself.”
“So there is no beginning! The universe is eternal!”
“Here you are doubly wrong. Scholars are correct as far as they can be, though they fail to really guess at what they know. I tell you that you are closer to eternity than the universe, closer to Tarte than the universe. The scholars say the universe is eternal. We say ‘I am you, but the universe is not us’ (Irin me dish, ha suva doch me uns). Eternity means nothing more than permanent togetherness with time. Whenever there is time, this entity is, and vice versa. Time was created along with the universe, therefore the universe is eternal. But She who created both is outside of Time, and thus to Her Mind, there was properly a beginning. As for us, we may call it a mystery. After all, who can believe in a time before there was Time?”
“Indeed,” retorts Pinjerein, obviously impressed by the woman’s learning. But she is not done.
Pinjerein is skeptical on behalf of the readers. Indeed, she represents them.
The old woman’s explanation is exact but contradicted by her supposition earlier that there is an abyss between at least some sapients and the goddess. Tarteism has long ceased to be elitist in this sense, and the Loki Morder drives this point over and over again, almost as if it was new, since it is bound to please Danites, especially adolescent ones. From very early on we find that the old woman knows a lot of theology but has a poor grasp of the meaning of what she knows.
“…Tarte stepped out of the pit. I suppose the Goddess had at least the one foot (kris) back then?”
“She had two feet (shai aparens).”
The heroine next asks about toenails, and then regurgitates a biologist’s description of the use of nails and claws. Before the servant can respond, she ties it in with the general Tarteist notion that every item has its use, a use fixed by the goddess for the good of her creatures. But what need does Tarte have for toenails? Either she needs them, or she doesn’t. If the latter, then the all important teleology falls to the ground. And if the former, then she isn’t that great anymore. Plenty of sapients lack nails and claws and do well enough, after all.
The servant wastes no time answering. She asks the Third Shadow if she herself has nails. Then, does she or does she not find them useful for this and that. Once Pinjerein assents to both questions, the servant reminds her that Inculae were made in Tarte’s image, and therefore they can only enjoy the use of their nails because Tarte has them preternaturally. The servant hints then that the Goddess condescends to employ a particular bodily form as a graceful concession to her favorite creatures.
Pinjerein’s line of debate borders on the sacrilegious but it pushes the old woman to be more explicit with her own argument: in some ways, Tarte is what she is because the Inculae are (or will be, from the perspective of the beginning of Time) what they are. It is taken for granted by all parties that any divine body would be Incudean in form; other creatures are simply not brought into the discussion. A testament to Incudean confidence in this period and to this day.
The speakers are interrupted by a very old chatty servant who makes another point: Tarte needs fingernails to create things, at the very least. She begs the mysterious woman to tell the audience what she knows of that. And now we know her name, as the chatterbox has uttered it. She is called Flambion.
The no longer nameless storyteller looks at Pinjerein, who nods in approval and loosens her veil. One might as well die informed about these matters.
Tarte, explains Flambion, exists, even if (“when” being senseless here) nothing else exists. As Pinjerein rightly quoted, Time began when Tarte stepped out of the pit. It’s hopeless to characterize the pit, though maybe it’s not even necessary. Flambion thrusts her index finger into her mouth, and then asks: “What is this?” The point is that a pit is nothing. Tarte steps out of nothing. And she is alone for eons, or rather, she is alone except for her thoughts, which come alone with Time. For eons she thinks, and as her thoughts emanate they create, by a sort of congealing, the environment around her: her more grounded thoughts sink beneath her, creating the earth. Some thoughts she keeps to herself, and these gather around her hair, crystallized into rattles or bells. Her more fleeting thoughts burn upward, creating fire. As the earth and the fire come into contact and repel each other, air is produced in between. Seeing the creation, she cries, and the tears produce all of the water around us. And this water, coming directly from Tarte, she sets as the matrix and keeper of the other elements for all time. This is the reason why water breaks up to create the other elements. But although water can be called the mother of all things (palun nu vuth ruins) it cannot compete with the Goddess, because it itself must split and die to fulfill its mission. When Tarte splits, She does it from inclination, not necessity, and without diminishment.
This passage tries to reconcile Tarteism with fundamental science and as such is not at all similar to Tarteist accounts from considerably older times. The generative matrix of all universal elements is water, so to the extent that any element can be said to rule over the others, the logical choice is water. But the old Incudean worldview tends to put the earth above the others, because it is below them: earth is best, then water, then air, then fire. It is the reason why Tarte withdraws into the pit and the elves are expelled to the fiery realm.
Pinjerein has two questions she would like answered before the story continues. The first question is: why did Tarte cry, out of joy or out of pain? Flambion pauses, then replies that neither suffices as an answer. She reminds everyone how she mentioned fear earlier, but begs her mistress to allow her to speak some more before the right answer comes to light. Pinjerein acquiesces, and asks the second question: how come water never runs out? Or is it that the Goddess cries still? To this, Flambion is happy to report that she has been told that there are elements in the vastness of space that can recreate water, but that is all she knows. There is no need for Tarte to cry continuously.
The reference is to aether, destroyer of the faith. The scandalous element has already been subdued in the service of theology.
The story continues. Tarte takes a pleasure walk on the new earth, and at one point kneels and begins to scratch it. From her fingernails spring the gryphons, after shaking off the dirt in her fingers into the air. Flambion's hearers are thrilled, as are all when they hear about these creatures. The mysterious servant smiles at the reaction, but Pinjerein can already tell from the smile that she will say very little about gryphons, and enjoy their resulting disappointment. And Pinjerein is right. Flambion says their number is unknowable, but that at creation they were more than 216 and less that 1,296. When young, they are white and practically indistinguishable from each other, but as they grow they change. Some remain wingless, others acquire two wings, others four, others six. They are all powerful and beautiful, and terrifyingly meek and humble. Tarte asks them to continue the creation. As happens with all winged creatures (dalionis), their nature impels them to soar upwards. So they go as far as they can and begin scratching at the fiery vault (or fire shell, tiarklanchi) and from their claws emerge the elves. When the gryphons meekly show their creatures to Tarte, Her brow darkens at seeing how beauty is mingled with evil in the elves. The Goddess Herself directs the gryphons to scratch the earth, and gradually as they dig further and further, more and more creatures are born. All of these creatures resemble Tarte and the gryphons in some ways, and “some are very great and mighty” (brianins jarlom miny jiasalbon).
“There are creatures who,” interjects Pinjerein, “from what I’ve been told, are able to live eternally, despite dying each time.” Flambion seems to know who the Third Shadow is referring to. “All seeing and all knowing, even knowing with full clarity that they are not the divinely chosen race. You speak of the orbed giants (ilkarins rimori), a race made for pain.” Pinjerein comments that they are practically gods if they can live forever. Not so, Flambion is quick to point out, since they must die and be reborn countless times, even though they preserve the knowledge of the past. These orbs aren’t the equals of the elves, let alone the gryphons. The latter are strictly speaking undead (or immortal, nanyar) whereas the former are alive (rintes), as only what is destined to die is mortal, therefore living. Gryphons may be killed, and elves have mostly been annihilated, but that is a whole other matter.”
The orbed giants are none other than the Dolens of Dolentis. Any hint of sympathy for them here must be blamed on lobbying by the Palunist sect during the composition of the Tarteprana Lokiter.
“Am I to assume that we are the divinely chosen race?”
“We are. Of course we are, Pinjerein Aqua Hansaun.”
Flambion goes on to say that, during the creation, the gryphons eventually hit upon a solid core their claws cannot handle. Tarte pulls it out; it is shaped like a sphere. She begins to tear it apart, and flashes of light emanate, blinding everyone. When She is done, only a tiny clot of life remains, which She swallows. She then extends her fingers, still giving out so many bolts of electricity, to be kissed by the gryphons. Only ten are brave enough to do so. The gryphonic saliva in contact with the core shreds and, most importantly, Tarte’s own fingerblood, produces the Incudean race.
Tarte steps out of this second pit, where the core was found by the gryphons, and goes back to the surface. She notices that in the crowded darkness creatures are procreating far too quickly. She decides to make the universe larger and bring more light to it for life’s sake. This she accomplishes by growing to such a great size that the borders of the universe are forcibly expanded. After finishing, She quickly shrinks back in size, but many of the bells in Her hair get stuck on the boundaries, and these become the celestial bodies. Galriatolmar fills with water and sets fire to some of them, thus turning them into stars and suns for lighting up the universe. The living beings are taken far and wide by the winged gryphons, and then Tarte, before bidding farewell, asks some of the gryphons to fall asleep within the moons and guard the passes against something or someone called Chaos, who She declares will soon emerge. After visiting and vivifying the great oracles, She descends all the way down a third pyramidal pit, near the one at whose tip was found that mystical core, and from that time on She resides at the peak of her holy mountain, which is Heaven bar none. The gryphons make a hole in the upper fiery vault, expel the elves and seal it, then teach the other creatures how to behave, and withdraw.
Flambion stops talking. Pinjerein goes and looks outside her window, and whatever she sees neither comforts nor scares her. She asks the storyteller about the goddess Galriatolmar, just mentioned, and she also wants to know about gendered beings. How did they arise? From Tarte’s hands, the gryphons’ claws? Flambion smiles and says that the goddess and gender are intimately related, and that the story begins even before the first gryphon came to be.
The servant starts with some praise for the goddess. She calls her Love’s Broadport (Galriatolmar nu nema), Good Goltol, and the Great Goddess’ lover (or slave, amluva), younger sister, mother, mirror-image and shadow. In short, she is Tarte’s eternal companion and the best champion of the purest love. She quotes the saying: “No Goltol without Tarte” (Sath Goltol raul Tarte). She reveals that the first communication, the first words expressed, though not spoken, as material speech would come later, were Goltol’s to the Great Goddess, when she declared simply: “Yes, Tarte” (Ash, Tarte).
There are several traditions as to what Galriatolmar said to Tarte first, and the tale that it was a genie by the name of Horgoth who spoke first has also enjoyed some popularity (and birthed the name of the language, Horgothic or Horgotrui). The Tarteprana Lokiter has Goltol be the one who communicates first, but only telepathically, thus allowing the Horgoth tale to be equally true. Many Tarteists have argued that speaking is not a divine activity essentially, and that the goddesses condescend to speak only for the sake of sapients. Therefore only after Horgoth spoke would the goddess have started speaking.
There is, however, an inconsistency here, one that detractors noticed early on. Tarte is said to possess a body, before any creatures ever did, for the sake of the creatures. Why then cannot Galriatolmar have spoken audibly, again, before any creatures ever did, to pave the way for them being able to do so? High Priestess Iakonro preached on this matter soon after her inauguration. Her solution was simply to say that “the body has no analogues.” In other words, Flambion’s response to Pinjerein’s “toenail attack” does not function with regard to speech because it does not have to. The body has no analogues, it is unique. Therefore if it is a good, it must belong to Tarte essentially. Speech, on the other hand, does have an analogue: thought. More precisely stated: speech is but a poor analogue of thought. Therefore speech does not belong to Tarte essentially, and whatever Horgoth (or any other creature) might have said to inaugurate speech was nothing but a debased mimicry of divine thought. It is said that when Iakonro Po was explaining this to reporters at one conference, one of them asked her what the point of having a mouth was, if not that it would serve as a preëxistent speech organ. Fellow High Priestess Iakonro Lo then retorted: “If you don’t know what else to do with your mouth than speak, I don’t know what to tell you.”
Pinjerein asks if it can be understood that Tarte without Goltol is possible, as presumably, at some point (in time or outside it) Galriatolmar was not while Tarte already was. Flambion claims ignorance beyond the fact that as long as Time has been, They have been companions, and that the goddess of love exists through Tarte (tior Tarte), but not the other way around. Uninformed and uncouth people have always suspected that the goddesses had some sort of romantic love affair, but this is simply not true. Love’s Broadport may exist through Tarte, but Tarte Herself experiences the passionate sort of love solely by way of Her dyadic forms (tior shainervinons nu segiltaulun). And everything Goltol knows about love she learned from these two.
“Sheba!” chants one of the listeners. “Horonrik, Horonrik!” begins another. Pinjerein grins, then asks: “Is the Great Goddess one or two or three?”
Flambion says She is one. The matter is difficult to understand, yet clear: the Goddess is all three, but at any single point she is only either Tarte, or Horonrik, or Sheba. She is at that single point fully one of Them, despite the fact that, and it is no blasphemy to say it, neither Sheba nor Horonrik enjoy the fullness that is Tarte. The dyadic forms are each missing something, though neither you nor I nor the greatest of gryphons would be capable of telling what it is or sensing its absence. She surpasses both space and time and we all have cause to be humble.
Since the goddess surpasses space and time, the single point in question is neither a point in time nor a point in space (or spacetime). Tarteists teach that what Sheba and Horonrik cannot dwell in jointly is not spatial or temporal and yet it is necessarily something, so that the main possibility that suggests itself is the great goddess herself, who is beyond space and time. Creatures should be humble because, if the dyad has a lack, how great must the lack of creatures be?
Although not stated as such, it is clear from the legendarium in toto that Horonrik abhors the lack and feels lonely and makes the universe suffer for it, while Sheba revels in it, as a situation that affords protection to her own uniqueness and majesty. Tarte is indifferent to it, as she lacks the lack. This psychological “breakdown” of the goddess is exploited by many heresies, most glaringly by the Hexadists.
Pinjerein knows the people she commands, and she can sense that they very much want to hear more about it, so she asks Flambion to describe the dyadic forms further. The storyteller obliges, calling Horonrik the Carver of the Gray Mists, the Goddess of Daggers, the Bony One, (horomir la rik prinis pai jush nu sonyekins pai kausichir) and Grath… When the Third Shadow asks about the meaning of that last, popular name, she is told that only Grath could tell, and it is best not to ask. The reason, for example, that it is a taboo to keep one’s hair short is that Grath does so, as the poets say: “the wind blows over Her shoulders” (fauta pelam main terzinins). Nobody in their right mind would dare ape Horonrik. But we do know that grief made Her cut it. “And if the gates hold,” Flambion adds, “there will be plenty to say about this Childless Womb of Avatars” (brilon kinakluchamand jushtaron).
- Carver of the Gray Mists = The word Horonrik means “carve the gray” (horom+rik). The name refers to the goddess as she cuts through the mists that enshroud Sheba in order to reach her. Only Horonrik, or Grath as she is commonly known, has ever seen Sheba.
- Goddess of Daggers = While enthusiasts of swordfighting have tried to generalize the phrase as Goddess of Blades, the tradition is clear that Horonrik prefers daggers specifically.
- The Bony One = She appears as a very thin Inculoid with tremendous strength.
- Childless Womb of Avatars = Her avatars (jushtarans) come, according to theologians, in two varieties: self-aware or greater and non-self-aware or lesser (jushtarans violprichar/albon; jushtarans doviolprichar/taron). Only her first avatar, Pasu, features prominently in the legends. Otherwise this title has mostly been useful to those historical Inculae who have claimed to be avatars for political ends, or worse.
Sheba is the Mother and Someone Else altogether. She is the Dark One and the Shapeless One (zishir he vinokluchamir), though truth be told this describes what surrounds Her and not Herself. Sheba is the Mother, but She births no avatars. Grath sends countless avataric forms into the faith-world (lachamancha), but the presence of a single Shebaic avatar (jushtara shebar) would destroy all of the worlds at once. Pinjerein asks why, and Flambion replies that Goddess Sheba is Infinity Herself, and that to embody Her in a mortal frame would be akin to cramming all of the celestial bodies into a message-pouch (efor) then crushing them in one’s fist.
- Mother = Motherhood marks Sheba, although surprisingly we are never specifically told of any of her children. Some would say the reason for this is that singling out one or more of her children would lead to the incorrect assumption that that all others are not her children.
- Someone Else = The title means essentially that she is unattainable, naturally to us mere creatures, but even to her partner Horonrik herself.
- Dark One = She is dark because she is surrounded by mists, though in the Notun sect they do paint her amulets dark (and Horonrik's light).
- Shapeless One = She does have a shape, but it cannot be fathomed.
- Infinity = Sheba is the reason why things are different from each other, the undefined definer.
For the faith-world, see below.
“It makes sense then that She is said to rule over death’s domain.”
“Milady, you are thinking, I know, of the irony involved in a mother presiding over the end of her children. I ask you if that would not be the best of deaths, to walk toward it with your eyes set on your Mother?”
“Hardly when it comes to my mother,” says Pinjerein, and poorly suppressed giggles echo through the chamber.
Flambion isn’t discouraged. She teaches that if there is one aspect of the sacred matter (shen bator nur randarrara) that people wilfully misinterpret is Sheba’s Domain. For one thing, it is not equivalent to Hell and it isn’t even located in Hell. It lies on the way out of Hell, as a refuge. “The people there wait” (Shulins nundum prokesh).
Sheba’s Domain is a dreary realm, but it is also the last hope for immoral and unintelligent believers. In a nutshell, it is for those who only a mother would see as having a chance of redemption. The last sentence here hints at the Tarteprana Lokiter’s ingenious new role for Sheba’s Domain: a sort of sinners’ Valhalla in preparation for the sequel to the War of Kuhe Amberins (more below).
“Wait for what?” asks the Third Shadow, and receives no response. Instead, Flambion goes on with her exposition. She explains that she is not denying that Sheba is intimately connected to death. This is the Great Goddess we are talking about, after all. Pinjerein thinks this makes sense, and helpfully comments that the Dark River, which all must swim, or attempt to swim, upon dying, is called Tarte’s Hair. Flambion nods vigorously, and notes that death is a sign from the Goddess, nothing less and nothing more. But how that can be shown, and about Heaven and Hell, should be left aside so they can go over the response to Pinjerein’s question.
The Tarteian dyad (Tarteshainer) dallied with each other before those thoughts that created the universe began to arise. It was a thoughtless love of pure abandon. Here Flambion turns to Pinjerein rather abruptly, and asks her if she knows what that kind of a love is like. The Third Shadow is taken aback, and only her brown skin, injured and cut, and through the mind’s power healed uncut, cut and recut, time and time again in many a training battle, saves her from the embarrassment of knowing others know she is blushing. Without thinking, she begins a chant:
Pinjerein is an innocent, thus an odd figure among Incudean leaders, real and mythical. The trait is, paradoxically, part of the reason the worldly Danites are so fascinated with her. Presumably she begins to sing to deflect attention from this peculiarity.
In the Domain of shadows ever quiet.
All were as utterly amazed as Grath.
Hollowness swiftly tormented Horonrik
Dus jum kui sospelins, lum aulath u fann.
Oin pranyai vas vutins jias'herdem beth Grath.
Ha bochen janarpam Horonrik oin troi
Iatar prechaum sul.
Such hunger may only be birthed by the soul
Blacker and younger than the Shebaland grays.
None can withstand it, not even the Domain.
Hell lies within it.
Bitashi bajokins likatum in lor
Me ruk prel rik nu Shebasachoi he mor.
Sath rukan zesmam uns, doch ele enn dus.
Findel jum justi.
Will the time ever come, welcome as a guest?
To make this world bleed in torrents down a stake?
If the gods do battle-
Pam kolu vlui zoruim, hurutunglari tons?
Tran gatam norva krevonvanjam vuk rogg?
Nas jushins sampulam-
Flambion interrupts her with the loudest of mutters: “Is this what you folk sing at Krenvuth?”
Flambion’s retort is further evidence, if it was at all needed, that she is a foreigner.
The question is rhetorical, and in any case it is not destined to be answered as a guard now interrupts Flambion. Another force is advancing, and this one seems, says she, especially dangerous. Pinjerein asks how many there are, and the guard is at a loss to say. The Third Shadow leaves with the guard and a few others, expecting the main assault to begin. Instead, she sees about twenty-odd figures advancing slowly. But as she focuses on the center of the formation she understands why she was called: the one leading the force on the other side is evidently an elfloric Incudean sorceress (kanviorsaisanir pranari nu las) of no small power. Her “aural skirt” (bavlaufuila nu hul) fans out so wide that her men-at-arms have to walk six feet (hotresangu) away from her. But four polypeds, of a species never before seen by her, fly right along above her aura, one in front, one behind, one to the left, and one to the right of her head, so that one cannot make out her face amid the thick wing-cloud (krith infi sheilde chendar).
Pinjerein grips her sword tightly for the real thing (suflim oin shuma tangota tran silima ashseter) only to notice that the mood around her has suddenly changed from fear at the coming enemy to something like disgust at their commander. She has no experience to speak of, which is why she was left behind when things turned desperate in the first place. It is right for the Third Shadow to be here, no one would dispute this, but it would have been better if she had not stepped out.
The soldiers seem to be having a telepathic debate on whether they should follow her in battle, and one of them turns to her and whispers, “Are you a world destroyer, milady? Are you a world destroyer, milady?” (Me fl’am’ nantumir n'ansel, wiolagg?). Or maybe it is pure telepathy, the sheer force of fear and despair being transmitted through extra-natural means. Pinjerein knows not, but she knows that going back inside is impossible. The only option is going forward and doing it alone. She blinks into a sideworld.
Very strong aural skirts are known to impart a vague malaise to those nearby; the effect is exaggerated here. It is Pinjerein’s first battle, which explains her nervousness. The soldier’s taunts have been borrowed and aped multiple times in Danite entertainment media.
The fight is a protracted affair, and eventually Aqua soldiers join the fray, heartened by their leader's performance. Pinjerein’s blinking (teleporting) skills unexpectedly win the day but too many die and an opportunity for seriously advancing their cause slips out her fingers, when, after battle, she tries to question the dying sorceress only to see her commit suicide. As the Third Shadow reënters her chamber, all she can say is “It wasn’t clear whether she was a Hansaun or not. At any rate she wasn’t Aqua.” Then she takes a few long strides toward a couch and plops down. Servants tend to the bites, which are poisonous, but thankfully not noisome enough to kill her.
Flambion approaches Pinjerein and reverently and offers her services. Then Pinjerein whispers in her ear, saying, “I left out the very first stanza, which goes:"
Good Sheba with mad Chaos now cavorted.
It alone was the source of divine pleasure.
Grath’s blade became useless to Her there.
Dull went the dagger.
Trend Sheba tevem suith bashKardel adun.
Enn viol vas danges nu vand shunjo tran jush.
Ha zinsa vas Grath glai doch tanum prokesh.
Sonye uth pigam.
Flambion’s eyes widen and her lips, soundlessly, move to mean: “Kuhe Amberins,” which in Horgothic means Quadrillion Gauntlets, in reference to the war of that name. Then she pulls back, walks as far as the wall, and turns around, poised to serve but not serving. She is the only one to remain idle, as everyone else is ministering to Pinjerein or hovering helplessly around her.
The poem speaks of Sheba’s relationship with Chaos and how it aroused Grath’s anger. Flambion then links this to the great struggle at the center of Tarteist myths, the War of Kuhe Amberins. The situation imagined in the temple poem is an affront to the faith as Flambion has been preaching it so far, though the Loki Morder, following the Tarteprana Lokiter, will use the “love triangle” between the three entities to make a point regarding Tarte’s ultimate superiority over all, even the most disorderly.
The Third Shadow smiles, then says “Keep going.”
The mysterious servant proceeds to say that although Sheba and Horonrik were together day and night, none of the stolons that would bring fruit their union were able to survive the last stage of the process: reëntry into the divinity.
Pinjerein, pained as she is, listens carefully and remarks: “Surely, if the Great Goddess wanted such progeny She would have produced them. This fruitlessness is only a parable.”
Flambion admits that maybe that is so, but she cautions against this word “surely.” There is no knowledge, even if it appears fully armored in certainty before mortals, which dares refuse to bare before the gods its fundamental variability. Speaking lightly of their powers is dangerous. Speaking lightly of their self-inflicted powerlessness more so. But this story has a happy ending, and here is where the younger of the goddesses comes in.
After the gryphons have done their work and the universe is still young, Galriatolmar wanders joyfully, in love with every bit of it. One thing makes her sad: seeing living things die. Goltol questions the purpose of death (nambi nu fel). She searches high and low but cannot come to grips with it. Finally, she decides to go to the center of the universe and ask her big sister, the Great Goddess Herself.
“What is the purpose of death? I cannot understand it and I cannot come to grips with it.”
“There is no purpose for such a thing..for a thing of such import as this. Such a thing just is.”
“Then I can never understand it nor come to grips with it.”
“You would, if you knew its cause (fash). Not everything has a purpose, but everything has a cause.”
“What is the cause of Death?”
“I do not know” (Tranirin doch gum.)
Galrialtolmar asks again and receives the same response. The third time Galriatolmar asks: “Tell me, then, what is the cause of Life? After all, they all call you the Lifegiver.”
Tarte pauses before responding: “I do know. My thoughts. My thoughts are the cause of Life.”
Love’s Broadport makes her salutations and leaves Deep Peak Well (dunsui ufes hironter). She begins to observe everything with keener eyes, and reflects. First of all, every living being is the product of the thoughts of his parent, nation and species. Every creature thus simulates Tarte’s creation. Thought, thought at all levels, gives birth to body. But while body is formed by thought, there is no doubt again that thought is shaped by body, as can be seen from the fact that creatures of different species think very differently. Among the mortal beings, this dependence is supreme, because they are incapable of producing thoughts without mediation, but only prompted by what their senses tell them. So that, unlike what is the case with gods or gryphons, thoughts are not only shaped by the body encasing them, but are birthed by the input from the senses.
Galriatolmar keeps walking, observing and thinking. The senses are senses of the body, and are directed toward bodies. But then this must mean that thought, among mortals, can only truly be thought of the body (and only by abstraction may it pretend to reach further). The goddess strains to understand this point, which feels like an abyss threatening her and filling her with dread. She is trying to understand Death and come to grips with it. Here she muses that the measure of strength for a thought is precisely this concentration. But where does the power of a thought come from? For Goltol, her own power is the possibility of saving others. Thoughts are helpless without this very possibility. It seems that the measure of power for a thought is possibility.
Love, the entire universe testifies, is thought strong and powerful. Its mighty fleets dock at the divine broad port (tolmar jushte galriar) and sail again and again and again. In the mortal sphere, this love, a thought, can only be of the body. In the mortal sphere, Galriatolmar exclaims, death alone is certain for the body. The greatest tragedy for these beings must be, not that they die, but that what mortals love itself is doomed to die. Yet that makes of their love the greatest thought they could enjoy, full of power because of the certainty of its end, full of strength because of its concentration, among the lucky ones, on a single point for the span of a life. A ship that docks, happily, and never leaves, crumbling and dissipating, true, to the point of ceasing to be a ship, true, but happily.
Deep Peak Well is the third pyramidal pit mentioned earlier. Tarte arose from a first pit and then descended into a second (formed by the gryphons) only to reëmerge and finally descend into a third one. Although the first two are strictly speaking unique, and theologians have debated their location ad nauseam, the third exists infinitely. In fact, every planet is supposed to have in its core the peak of the inverted holy mountain, and in this palace of the mundane world lives Tarte (this old notion has held strong despite several phases of world conceptions).
Galriatolmar’s musings given above closely follow the best Notunian theology. The Notun sect combines crass ceremonial practices with sophisticated speculation, albeit of unusual matters like love, hate and happiness.
The purpose of Death must be to enable mortals to grasp Love. With that in her divine mind, Galriatolmar heads back to Deep Peak. Grath and Sheba are there. One of them must be the cause to such a purpose. So Goltol speaks:
“I’ve learned it. I understand it and can come to grip with it. Love is the answer.”
“Answer to what?” asks Grath.
Then Goltol explains how the purpose of Death is Love for the mortal beings, and that herein must be the cause, to wit, that the Great Goddess Herself caused this, a blessing out of Love for mortals freely given.”
“Love?” repeats Mother Sheba.
Goltol salutes and turns around but Horonrik’s voice stops her in her tracks.
“What do mortals know?”
Sheba chimes in: “Mortals see a spring, and immediately sing of the melody of the running water over the rocks. I (tranirin) hear the water too, but the rock sings louder, an unerodable plaint under the weight of the currents.”
Galriatolmar does not speak. She looks at both and makes a vow to become a stolon herself. She salutes both and leaves. Grath and Sheba look at each other as she walks out.
Goltol intends to facilitate the procreative process for Grath and Sheba. This plotline would have landed writers in prison or worse back in the Golden Age of Tarteism.
Flambion stops, and Pinjerein laughs. Then she asks, “How come you know they looked at each other just then? Were you there? Not even Galriatolmar could have told the scribes about that part!”
Everyone stares in amazement at both speakers. Gradually their disdain for the talker Flambion, so silent before, has pushed them to side with their leader, despite her own penchant for blatant blasphemy. The servant looks slightly irked, but she tells the Third Shadow to wait until her elders come back –“if any of them ever do,” spits out Pinjerein – and then ask them about the other Hansaun clans, most specifically about Blue and Green. Pinjerein might not be aware of it, but Blue and Green are the best witnesses to the matters she has been discussing.
“Green Hansaun are the wardens of Elomara, an island sacred to Tarte. Their priestesses are infused with the sense of the Goddess, thus everything is revealed to their young eyes. And the greatest of oracles (jushasau elbo albon) sits in an austere planet orbiting the First Star. Blue Hansaun keeps both eyes on it, there where the Goddess Herself appears in Her oracular form (u jushholon) and teaches us in marvelous echoes the history of the universe (tegrin suvar).”
Flambion adds that even if there were no oracles, the truth is out there, everywhere, and Pinjerein finds herself reflecting that indeed, Grath and Sheba likely looked at each other back then, simply judging from the situation.
The commission that penned the Tarteprana Lokiter had six members of the insular sect of Elomara, six from the echoic sect of Lodonye (in the austere Silver Planet), three from the maternal sect of Ishdodeth and one from the Notunian sect. Here, naturally enough, Elomara and Lodonye are held to be the principal gatekeepers of knowledge.
Galriatolmar, the old woman carries on, dies after the Dyad consummates Their love, as is natural. Being a goddess, she of course is immediately reborn. Pinjerein asks if this second Goltol is the fruit of the Dyad. Flambion’s only response is: “One presumes.” In any case, having transformed into a stolon and discarded the rest of herself, she can only be reborn as an imperfect goddess without a stolon. Here we have the first female in the universe. She suffers greatly because of her hollowness, so much so that Tarte has pity on her and Grath, with gratitude, comes as a self-aware avatar to fill Goltol. This avatar is then the first male. They are together for eons but eventually this avatar must return, and in order to assuage her sadness, Galriatolmar asks Tarte if she can change a portion of the living things (which by this time were already flourishing) so that they would be gendered and recreate this union over and over. Tarte agrees, but only on condition that she change all but the Incudean species into gendered races, thus clarifying Her unique status.
Avoiding lurid details (tailekins banuilambeter) of Incudean physiology, we can summarize the problem and its solution as follows: Inculae reproduce by parthenogenesis which involves the splitting of off an organ and its subsequent reattachment. Sheba would undergo the same process, but the problem is that as soon as said organ is detached, it is no longer part of Sheba, therefore no longer divine. In this debased form it is unable to form again a unity with the goddess. Horonrik is of no use here, since again, anything that would split off from her to join Sheba would be losing its divine status. The only one that can help is Galriatolmar, who as a divinity herself, can take on the role of the organ without fear of being rejected (it would be beneath Horonrik’s status to sacrifice herself in this manner). Once Galriatolmar is reborn, however, she misses, by reasons only understandable to the crude logic of ancient belief, the one thing she became before dying, which means she is no longer parthenogenetic and has effectively become female. The first avatar is known as Lord Pasu. (While we have been using female pronouns and names to refer to parthenogenetic entities so far, it must be understood that these are not actually female, or male for that matter.)
Theologians explain that the clarification Flambion speaks of is unneeded by the wise, and that it was only brought forth for the sake of the unwise; in other words, the Inculae function as breathing testimony of the great goddess’ beauty to those incapable of apprehending it by way of its innate splendor.
The transformation operated by Galriatolmar is meant by Tarte’s command to extend to all mortals. The orbed giants willfully escape it, so the Great Goddess curses them with stolonlessness and takes away their children.
“So only Inculae are like the Goddess? There are no others?”
“None, milady. Anything lurking that would fain prove otherwise is Incudean, or perhaps in some cases, a degenerate remnant thereof.”
The so-called degenerate remnant refers to the Revons. The passage provides an explanation for the existence of two other parthenogenetic sapient species in the universe: the Dolens and the Revons.
One of Pinjerein’s most trusted servants asks about the First Galriatolmar’s grave, vowing to visit it if they ever get out of the mess they are in. Flambion replies that the grave no longer exists.
“…and Tarte swallowed the remains, as you yourself explained.”
Flambion nods but it isn’t clear how many in the audience realize that the clot of life in the sphere is being referred to. Pinjerein asks about the other Hansaun colors, and the old servant begins to explain the origin of the Incudean species.
The first thing the ten Incudean mothers do when they are born is to ask Tarte for names. The Goddess commands them to name themselves. Eight of them agree to use the same name, to express their solidarity and common origin (the argument being: we were formed in the image of the Goddess, and She is one, therefore we should be one as well). They choose the name Hansaun, and distinguish each other by nicknames based on their respective hair colors: the Incula of the right thumb = red (meik), right pinkie = orange (morauk), left middle finger = yellow (poltak), right middle finger = green (klosuk), left thumb = blue (pik), right ring finger = plum (julmik), left pinkie = violet (purgik), left ring finger = aqua/cyan (jehok). The index-finger-born Inculae refuse to follow suit and call themselves Virkaun (right index finger) and Dansaun (left index finger). The two rebel sisters’ argument is simply: if the Goddess wanted us to be one, She’d have made us one; therefore we should each have separate names to uphold this divinely ordained distinction.
Flambion returns to the point in the creation when ten gryphons kissed Tarte’s fingers, ushering forth the first Inculae. The tale explains not only the plurigenetic origin of the Incudean race (something that many scientists refuse to consider, although the prehistorical evidence, as well as all historical traditions throughout the Near Systems, support it). We also receive an explanation of the distinction between Highborn (from two mothers, Virkaun and Dansaun) and Lowborn (from eight Hansaun mothers with unity of purpose), and, further on in the Loki Morder, of the historical enmity among the various Highborn houses.
There is a very old tradition to the effect that the Revons are actually Aqua Hansaun, and that their weird differences from the Inculae are due to the fact that the gryphon that kissed Tarte’s left ring finger was mad. The Tarteprana Lokiter does not mention what happens to Aqua, and in fact it mentions very little about the various Incudean mothers, in order to allow each sect and each planet to fill in the holes as they wish. The Tarteists in Dani trace their descent from Aqua so the Loki Morder is more than eager to tell their story.
Pinjerein asks about the location of the debate. Flambion responds that this all happened in the First Star, which is at the very center of the universe. They do not stay put very long, though. The Hansauns first travel in two groups, one group (the left-hand descendants, excluding Dansaun) establishes a base of operations on a sacred moon orbiting the third planet of the First Star (Flambion notes that technically this is now the second planet, as the old second planet was destroyed through war), the other group (the right-hand descendants, excluding Virkaun) exit the system and seize a beautiful planet, even holier if that is possible. Later expeditions from these two centers expand to take both systems entirely as well as three others. Blue Hansaun is tasked with holding the First Star System against all enemies; Green keeps the beautiful planet and Red takes her mighty neighbor. Yellow, Orange and Violet set their seats on the other three systems, each nearer to the First Star than the next. Plum and Aqua have more adventurous, restless natures, and are thus sent out on expeditions, beyond the space where the gryphons first gathered. Here Flambion stops.
Anticipating sections of the text we will not be looking at, let us note that the members of Aqua Hansaun are sent exploring beyond the Gryphon’s Edge, but a group is left behind for safekeeping in the Near Systems, specifically speaking in the planet of Revo. When the survivors of the Danite Aquas (led by Pinjerein) finally return to Revo they find that their compatriots have turned for some mysterious reason into utterly odd beings, the so-called Revons. The cause for Revon strangeness here is thus not a gryphon, but something in the planet of Revo itself.
The Loki Morder follows its original by treading very carefully over the Gorgon-Silver rivalry, known to Tarteism as the dance of the island and the echo (konsui krith paidu he lodony. The moon of Morgan around the Silver Planet is sacred to the Silver Sisters. The beautiful planet, Aurena Green, is holy to the Gorgons. The Hansaun assignments plainly stated are as follows: the Home (Silver) System to Blue; Gorgo to Red and Green to Aurena Green (thus two Hansaun are assigned to that system, an honor counterbalanced by the fact that the so-called First Star is Silver’s sun); the Akash System goes to Yellow; Meidin to Violet; and Hiuron to Orange. Plum and Aqua are sent beyond.
The Salbakion System is ignored by the Tarteprana Lokiter. Some Tarteist scholars claim these Inculae descend from Plum, others say Aqua, and yet others claim a group of Yellow members were expelled from Akash and ended in Salbakion, thus explaining Fire worship in both locales. There is also a very vague but pervasive current of thought in Incudea that Inculae gifted with sorcery have Plum blood.
Glowgem was of course colonized by Incudean forces after the Unity War, but this has not stopped some Tarteists, orthodox and heretics, from claiming an Aqua heritage based on secret settlements predating the conquest. The choice of Aqua makes sense when we remember the massive intermigration between Glowgem and Dani, another planet which claims Aqua heritage on what are, even through the prism of myth and legend, rather dubious grounds. The claim pales in comparison with a myriad other purported sources for prehistoric Glowgem populations derived by heretics, including derivations by way of gryphon kisses to Sheba’s or Horonrik’s, rather than Tarte’s, body parts. (Historically, the migration to Glowgem after its discovery was very mixed, but probably the largest components were Silver and Hiuronite, and the most prominent local Hansaun association early on was with the Orange mother.)
Everyone eyes the knowledgeable speaker nervously, all as one taking the silence to mean bad things occur at this point in the story. Most of them have never even heard of Plum Hansaun before, but they know their own history well. Aqua travels far and discovers a land of great promise. The travails involved in securing it make many question whether it is all worth it. For a while, it seems that it is. But now things are the way they are.
Flambion need not be asked, the silence that meets her own prods her into breaking both. Rather than directly addressing the expeditions, she talks of Virkaun and Dansaun. These two venerable Inculae, so similar to each other in philosophy, are constantly at each other’s throats, and their descendants are no different. Both clans cannot seem to just separate and go their merry ways. The most infamous instance of this obsession is the magical planet of Glor, which Virkaun finds only to lose in a conflagration when Dansaun forces attempt to steal it from them. The planet itself is annihilated. The clans will be forever blessed and cursed by contact with this celestial object. Flambion indulges in a convoluted discourse on the virtues and vices of the non-Hansaun Inculae, concluding that in the end, their existence is and will always be of benefit to the Incudean species as a whole.
It is generally taboo in Tarteism to speculate on the location of Glor. The word itself refers to any and all Incudean noble houses.
“And Plum?” Pinjerein asks.
“I am afraid Plum Hansaun fell to a rare and deadly combined assault of Virkaun and Dansaun forces. The clan has expired.”
The crowd is aghast. “All of them?” people ask themselves in whispers. Even scarier than being overwhelmed by fiends and elves (findelans pai lantis) is the thought of being torn to pieces by your own kind.
Pinjerein chuckles, and then looks at Flambion, saying:
“It’s not the first I heard of madness among us. Truth be told, one of the reasons the dear Leader focused on creating this cursed alliance was that she wasn’t sure whether our kin back within the edge had our backs anymore.”
Flambion protests. “Surely that is taking it too far. Hansaun always support Hansaun, that at least is certain.”
“Nothing is, I don’t think. For years now relations, between us and the sisters we left behind have been strained. We don’t speak the same language anymore. They grow in magic, it seems, and it just makes them turn inward more and more. Forget Hansaun and Hansaun getting along, even Aqua and Aqua can grow distant given enough time!”
Pinjerein's words allude to the notion that the Aqua Inculae on Revo transformed into aliens.
Gartery Sechangleil, head of the SRTW conglomerate and the most powerful Revon in Sinduin's day
“Forgive me, milady, but you are far too young to know how time operates, and—”
“Space. Not time but space. I grant you time is so complicated even sages puzzle over it, but space, we all know what space is. And that’s what we’re talking about here. But enough of that. Tell us about the queen. When will she come marching in and save us?”
By now Flambion wears a mask over her face, with one of those smiles penciled in, carefully and permanently, that those weary of service must muster every day. At the mention of a queen, a true smile breaks through. She says that it is indeed an appropriate topic at this juncture, though she can make no promises to meet the Third Shadow’s hopes.
The conversation turns to the institution of the White Queen, and from there to the War of Kuhe Amberins. These are important matters to Tarteists, but quite removed from the more centrally religious cosmologies and theologies so we will halt our view of the Loki Morder here.