818 - The sphere the Gods made through my hands
Shefenkas/Performing the Ten Tens continued:::
Before Him lay a kneeling-cushion, and three clear glass cups full of three white wines, different ones; their pallor varied. I did His Ten across the wide aisle, and as I entered His precinct, demarcated by a square of golden tiles, the liquid glass flowed again, this time as streams rising up from the floor, some clear, some golden, some red, some russet, some brilliant cobalt blue, some leaf-green, some pure white, some silver like quicksilver. I felt the glow of their heat on my skin. I knelt on the cushion.
“Taste the three wines and tell Me which is poisoned,” the God said. I hoped only I heard, as before, so that Kaninjer and Krero didn’t. I raised the first glass and sipped. It was delicate and sweet, one of those from the wide valleys of Korsardiana. The second was more dry with a faint tartness, a wine that gave the joy of a slight challenge, probably from the eastern Empire. The third, I could not taste wine at all for a metallic bitterness. I spat it out as decorously as I could and said “This one!” without thought. My mind was suddenly full of the deaths of the ten thousand Lakans near Kantila, whom we executed when Astyardk, the late King of Laka, refused to negotiate for their lives. White arsenic, I thought, as that was what we killed them with, adding it to their stew.
“Could you drink this, and survive?” the God asked me.
I gave the only answer that made sense. “Anywhere else I would say no; here I’d say yes, if it were Your will.” Is there a lesson for me in this, about the ten thousand Lakans? I could not imagine what it would be, except don’t do such a thing, which I’d already been resolved not to for twelve years. Or was it what my blood-father, Seventh Tennunga, said to me: never forget what you are doing?
I set the glass aside, and the first two changed from white to red, as if vein-blood had been invisibly poured and stirred into them, but then became red wine, deep and ruby-like. “Which is the better?” Fessas, and the professions, were ever about discernment. It was clear, at least to my tongue; the sword-hand one had a complexity and silkenness that spoke of a century of aging. The Goddess holding the glass with my hand, She and I drank it all down, and I remembered the story, that Mikas had first induced Her to warm to Him by wine.
When I set down the glass, it and all the others melted into the flow of the glass fountain, their clarity joining the glowing coloured swirls that streamed down into cracks between the tiles. Two ghostly images came up before me, at either of the God’s hands, hanging in the air ragged and bitter: two pinched, poor children, pale, brown-haired, their brown eyes shining with the endless entreaty that a child in hunger and pain gives. I couldn’t tell with both whether they were boy or girl. I was reminded of the two motif-children, Ignorance and Want, in the ancient festive story. “Which child’s life is more valuable?” the God asked me.
“Neither,” I said. “They are equals.” Such an easy question, why? I told myself not to get cocky. Then one turned into a fish, and the other a snake, one of the venomous kinds, by its colour. “Which,” the God asked, “is more valuable to my Wife?”
I had no idea. She said nothing. I opened myself up more from within, to feel Her preference through Her presence in me. Venomous, was the sense. That made it come to me. Kaninjer had talked about such medicines enough. I had been both mortally-poisoned and saved by fijifas. “The snake,” I said. “While the fish is valuable for being edible, only one person may eat it. The serpent’s venom, if refined in the Haian way, can cure a million.” Risae may not seem it, but She is a healer.
“Good,” the God said, and the glass streams strengthened, rising over my head. Again, I must part them with my hands to pass. I was less afraid than last time; in some things, the second time is not the harder but the easier. Silver and gold, red, blue and green all flowed mixing over the skin of my hands and arms in patterns like Arkan lace, dotted with sparks of colour, burning off the hairs. I slowed my breathing to go deeper into the state, and waited for my hands to start moving to craft the glass, wondering what They would have me make this time.
The inclinations began urging my muscles, like caresses from within, and I relaxed my will to give myself. My fingers found strands of blue, teasing out hair-fine threads with skill I did not have, and spun them into an open-work sphere. I could never make such a thing in the perfect round it was. My hands added layers to it, green and brown and a lacework of swirling white, then encased it in clear so that the depths and infinite complexities within were magnified. It looked like something with magic in it.
What was it? I was waiting to know, as you do watching a master artist make something, but I still didn’t when it was complete. It was too beautiful to refer to the Fehinnan weapon. It was time to go through the glass again, so I laid it before Him. The drops of glass that bounced off my hair and shoulders and arms made tinklings on the floor, freezing to snowflakes in midair, not tear-drops like last time. How are these things possible? Might as well not ask, during the Ten Tens.
I stepped up the next step and Dimae’s image stood in Her woman-form, but still white and carrying the sense of the forest. I held out my hands in their crusts of glass, and She took my shield-hand and touched Her arrow-head to the palm, folding open the glass to peel it off, then reshaping it into the perfect clear facsimile of my hand and forearm, same as last time.
“Run with Me.” She turned and sprang away.
I did not know where, but you do not ask. I dashed after Her, and all changed; we were no longer in the Temple, but in a series of fast-changing vistas—mountains, snowy peaks, desert as I had never been to, underwater like near Niah-lur-ana—flashing one into the other as if punctuated by lightning.
It ceased when we were under a night sky so brightly crowded with untwinkling brilliant stars it seemed impossible, unearthly. They did not fade or the sky lighten on the horizon, as if the boundary between sky and earth had been severed in a single cut. We ran on a rocky white plain with white mountains in the distance, a world of stark white and black, every line between light and shadow as sword-edge sharp as the horizon. Somehow both She and I were lighter here, the ground’s pull seeming to have less force, so that we could make ten or twenty-pace-long bounds like a beginning flyer doing bunny-hops, but with no moyawa, only the strength in our legs.
As we leapt, the moon rose before us, but different: it was brilliant blue, the colour of the sea, with swirling laceworks of white wreathing it closely. It looked more living than what we were on, as if the Earthsphere and the moon were reversed—they are, I realized. The image was in the Imperial Book, a copy of one from before the Fire, when people had walked on the moon, and made images of what they saw. The Earthsphere hung huge in the sky, half in shadow, and I saw the sphere the Gods made through my hands was it.
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