The fifth and sixtieth year of the Reign of the House of Wroan,
when the time of Man and Fey differed only by ten times.
The year of man 1837
If the Sphinx lived, if such an evil had remained beyond the closing of the gates, and it could cross the veils… and return, how could mankind survive? Or Fey?
Madness again. This time Masveh reached within her own mind and grasped that unthinking reaction, that seed of panic in midflight and crushed it within her fist. And even as she quenched it, she realized the panic, the terror had been all her own. It no longer reigned within her mother’s heart. Why? What did she know? ‘Speak’, she bade her mother.
Shahavaw held her daughter close and turned her eyes back to what had once been a point impenetrable, the beginning of all her memories… but no longer was. The closing of the gates was now the absolute center, the end of all that was and the beginning of all that would ever come. And Masveh could see it too; for, somehow, now, like her mother, she could see the memories of her race.
“It must have been the touch of the healer.” Shahavaw had begun to understand. “I think we have been changed, by him, to something, something like what we once were. Look.” She motioned at the unimaginable vista.
“We can’t.” Masveh turned away.
“We can. We should. We must. It is ours. After all, we are one light. The memory of our race must live within every spark of the whole. We just didn’t know.”
Masveh yielded to her mother’s firm hand, and together they looked beyond the closing of the gates to a history that was suddenly telescoping backwards in time, beyond all that fey could know, to the beginning of beginnings.
“But we didn’t exist.”
“Light did,” Shahavaw replied.
And the light at the crux was indescribable. Instinctively, Masveh moved to cover her mother’s eyes.
“You see it too, child?”
“Mother, we must turn away.”
“No. I’ve never seen it like this. I thought it was part of the madness.” She turned her daughter’s face toward that light again, so that they could see together. “I knew. I knew; but I could not understand. Alone I could not. But together we can. Together, here, we are more than one… because you are more than one.”
At that revelation Shahavaw turned from the face of her daughter to the guardians of Europa: Ynaskein the Selk, Rider Majestic, eldest of the House of Cyrilshasik; Anora the lioness, princess of the canopied forest of Frir; and Masveh, flesh of her flesh, prime heir to the Gentry throne. They were together here, again; alive. She shed a tear, a tear unclouded by delusion, because she knew, she clearly understood, that she would never see them like this again. They returned her gaze and assured their Queen all was as it should be.
A thousand emotions crowded suddenly into Shahavaw’s heart as she also understood that, in this place, the madness was completely gone. And as she felt again what it was to be whole, she knew just as suddenly that it could not last long, for the strain on the flesh of her flesh would be too much.
“Beginning of beginnings,” she said as she pointed her daughter’s eyes to the incomparable brightness. “There is nothing to fear in its light.”
“But fey cannot behold the Origin of all,” Masveh still tried to close her eyes.
“Yes, it is true. We cannot see Him, but that light is a mirror; and our light is a mirror of hers.”
“Who is she, who is that mirror?”
“Her name is—” Shahavaw hesitated at the wonder, for what she had not known an instant before, became, in that light, all evident. “Her name is Khakmoth, Wisdom, she who stood by the Maker at the beginning of beginnings.” For a moment Shahavaw lost herself in the flood of understanding that emanated from that crux; but she had little time. “Look there, walk your sight from the mirror toward us. What do you see?”
“There is an end, turmoil, chaos, pain.” Masveh’s eyes avoided the unbearable darkness at the center of that wound in the history of the universe, even as she hated it with all her being; “but then I see a beginning again. What is it?”
Shahavaw stared at the center of the darkness, for the first time unshaken. “The Rebellion.”
Masveh felt and saw; struggling to understand. “You have seen into that darkness!” And she despised it even more. “It is the source of the madness.” She tried to turn her mother away.
But it was Shahavaw who held her daughter’s face.
“Madness, because I could not see the light,” tears piled up at her eyes, “only the darkness. He lied. He lied! But now I see.”
And as Masveh looked back at the corridor of history, and her eyes grew accustomed to the indescribable light, she started to see the structure of that hideous pit. Its chasm reached to the deepest parts of the universe, almost to its shattering. But it didn’t destroy it. Yet, it had changed it forever.
“The choice,” Shahvaw explained. “They,” and she abhorred even the use of the pronoun, “made their choice.”
“And we did too.” Masveh suddenly understood that that scar in time and space was the reason fey had no soul. She turned her face away horrified.
“All Creation chose, my child. The war raged across the worlds.”
When she glanced back, Masveh saw sights she had never imagined, of a universe infinitely vast yet connected together by a network of gates, planets to planets, the cores of the galaxies knit together in a tapestry of light. It was a universe filled with beings of every order:
Beings of force and thought, of energy and light, like the living plenum and the fey, made out of the fabric of space itself;
Beings of unbreakable crystalline beauty, born within the hearts of the stars, with the power to walk everywhere upon that space;
Noble beastkind ruling the worlds of life, to watch and preserve jungle, sea, and the peaks of the unreachable sky.
And then there was to be the last race, the pattern, the crown of the universe, hinted at but uncreated yet.
And before that final act of creation could take place, there came the rebellion. To Masveh’s shock, it came from the heart of the stars. “Why?”
The answer reverberated through the corridor of time in echoes of envy, pride, lust, and power. Shahavaw gave it voice: “They, the Rebels, understood that the last was meant to be the first. And they would not bow.
“As order had risen from creation, chaos was wrought from its mockery. They did not have the power to create, but they had the power to mutilate. Those they seduced they transformed, using the remains of those that rejected them. Out of their depraved forges came forth misshapen monsters—”
The glimpse of that horror was mercifully brief: a reptile race made of beastkind and fey; tentacled wraiths prowling formless through the seas of space; savage creatures rendered sentient by the crystalline heart of slain stars. And though Masveh did not see her, she understood that the insatiable Sphinx had been born of that blasphemy.
“All these, willing to worship the Rebels for the reward of knowledge and power, and a seat on high. With them as their army they set out to steal, rape, and torture all that had been made. And the war began. The first to oppose them were the other stars. Their choice was made then, never to be undone. That is how they became the Elleghen, the incorruptible. Across the worlds, many beings joined the Rebels but more stood with the army of Light.”
Masveh caught but a fraction of the destruction that raged across the universe: the ripping of space, the collapsing of stars, planets shattered, worlds reduced to cinders. “But where did we stand?”
When Shahavaw finally answered, her voice was subdued. “The most noble of the fey, the root of Fae, they joined the incorruptible and fought side by side. But we, the children of this world – we stepped away; we claimed to take no side. We could not conceive that this Garden Primeval, the axis of the universe, could be destroyed. We had been made just like it: of land and water, wind and fire and sky. We thought it had been made for us. We had souls back then, and we chose not to choose.
“But we were wrong; the war reached even this Garden. Dragon armies came to claim and despoil. We despaired of oblivion when the rain of fire came. And suddenly it was over. The war ended and order reigned again.
“Back then we could see that order in the skies, and hear the words of our kin from afar. Worlds of fire, worlds of water, worlds of storm: strongholds throughout the vastness were given to them, from there to guard. Yes, guard. For the rebels, defeated and crushed, were reserved for oblivion but not destroyed. They couldn’t be yet, not before Creation had been completed. But sentence was passed. They had sought worship for themselves, so it was granted to them and their servants to worship, to hear, to see, and to feel nothing but themselves. They became…”
“That that only sees itself.”
“Thus condemned, they were buried in utter darkness, weight of mountains upon them, endless storms above, with clouds that bear no water, and only lead to drink forever.”
“Blind, deaf, useless refuse.” Masveh repeated those words, but no longer in instinctive revulsion. She now understood.
“All, save one.” Shahavaw said ominously.
The image of the rebirth of the Garden overwhelmed Masveh. In the beat of a cosmic heart, in the blink of the universe’s eye, life flooded upon that Garden again. And they for whom it had been made, the fourth race, finally walked upon its beauty. “The world of man.”
“The world for man.” Shahavaw spoke that verdict upon the foolish pride of fey. “It was not for us. It was for them. We were for them. For they were made to be the nexus of will, of life, of love. And to be such they had to have more than soul, they were given spirit, and also the power of choice.”
“Choice? Again?” That word struck Masveh to the core, for she realized that the glorious beginning she had just beheld, that had left that hideous wound behind in that corridor of time, was headed again for another wound. “Why?”
“I do not understand, child. All I know is that they, mankind, wrapped in utterly fragile vessels, were given the right, the power, to know the full depths of justice and love; because of that spirit they were made to be the life that begets unending life.”
“And the one that remained, king of rebels, while stripped of all his power was allowed to behold.”
Masveh turned her eyes away from the hideous serpent.
“He had no power, all he could do was speak.” Shahavaw said no more. She let the corridor of history be its own witness.
And Masveh stared horrified at the choice that man made. They chose to listen to his voice; and the wound after wound that that choice wrought upon thier world paraded before her eyes: rebellion after rebellion, even to the raising of a kingdom that dared to strike out against heaven and earth, Rakhab. She saw mankind nearly destroyed. And even after that, the children of man regathered… only to rebel again, to call out in worship to the banished, and offer them life.
“We had to be changed, Masveh. There is a way out of the tombs of torment for the banished, even if it is only for moments, even if all they do in their raging madness is destroy the vessel.”
Masveh understood. “The life unending within man. They can use it.”
“And through it they can touch this world and corrupt everything they touch.”
“Masveh, fey were made to be all that soul could be, without spirit. But without spirit we have no shield, no safeguard. That is why we were changed to have only one soul, one soul for each race. Only together, as a race, can we resist. Thus were born the Gammadim. You are our shield, you are the witnesses of Justice and Law, born to oppose corruption and protect our future, until the end of all things comes.”
“But the Ikal, they defy that Law; their greed is never sated.”
“They made their choice too. They shall meet their end.” Shahavaw asserted with finality, and allowed her daughter to return her eyes to the history of man: etched in war, cruelty, and death. Masveh saw mankind cast out once more from the garden, and dispersed across a thousand worlds through gates of metal and stone. And she saw that a portion of their spirit was taken from them and given to noble beastkind, that they too might bear life and guard those gates unto the age.
Thus mankind went on, grasping for light, stumbling through darkness. Masveh would have expected them to perish. But to her surprise, through it all, no matter how far they had wandered from the garden, they could still hear its song, calling out in hope, calling out to them to wait, to wait…
“For the closing of the gates.” Shahavaw forced the flesh of her flesh to turn her eyes away from the history of despair back to the pivot of the universe: the point in time where judgment was passed once and for all; when a choice, greater than any man could have ever made, was brought into the world, and placed within the reach of man and all creation, ages past and ages to come.”
Shahavaw embraced her daughter. She could remain no longer within this thrall without endangering the flesh of her flesh. “Let me go.”
Masveh almost protested.
But Shahavaw, anchoring herself on the fire within, pushed herself out.