By Garon Whited
Elven Creation Myth
Terrible First Draft (a.k.a. “Word Vomit”) Version
Rendu was one of the Heru, and widely accepted as the master of all craftsmen. There were others of the Heru who possessed greater strength, or speed, or skill at arms; but none could match the skill of Rendu the Artificer. What he chose to create, he created, saving only one thing.
The Heru were born—for “created” implies a guiding hand—in a convulsion of Chaos. In a stroke, they began, teeming thousands upon thousands, all in one cataclysmic instant from the Formless Void, chaos given form and flesh. Before the stroke was fully finished, each was at the throat of the others, for the Heru are jealous and powerful and know nothing of mercy, love, or any of the gentle emotions.
In mere moments, the thousands of thousands of Heru cut each other down, for the strong slew the weak and consumed their power. Their numbers dwindled even as their powers concentrated, down to hundreds of thousands, then tens of thousands. Soon, those who were left had only the other great ones of their own kind left to face; peers, of a sort, with whom they might do battle and perchance be slain. Then did they flee into the writhing void and scatter for time untold. Even so, when, by chance, one would come upon another other, they fought, for the each regarded the other as a rival.
Eventually, two Heru joined together in untrusting alliance to do away with another of their kind and so share the feast of power from their adversary. Thus did the Heru begin to unite as a race, albeit slowly. The alliance of two became three, then four, and so on until all those who remained were of a loose confederation against others of their own kind.
Yet, when there were no others to be found, there were still themselves. And they were still the Heru, jealous of their power and unwilling to acknowledge others as equals—yet among these remaining, more unwilling to risk oblivion.
Then spoke up the Heru Maddarrah, she of the eyes and hair of blood, and said, “Let us create a grand arena within which we may take pleasure and pain, and so pass our time in games of bloodshed, rather than in the shedding of one another’s blood.”
And many felt this to be a grand thing, a good thing, for all had come to savor the feelings of their flesh and the pleasures of life. Those few who disagreed kept silent, for well they knew the fate of those who would go against the collective will and massed might of the others.
Rendu, acknowledged as the greatest creator of them all—for he had designed the first sword, the first armor, the first shield, there in the beginning of things, and all others were but copies—was asked to design such a plaything as would please them all. For the Heru are proud and terrible, and knew, even for such a gathering of power as they were, to command such a thing would be to slight the one of whom they wished a service.
Rendu agreed, and was left alone for a space to reflect and to consider. One by one, each of the remaining Heru came to Rendu and spoke to him of the things that were most beloved, the ideas and concepts each held in the heart. And Rendu took these, fashioned them together, guided the massed might of the Heru, and the Chaos convulsed again to bring forth a great plane of green and blue and brown. It was a floor of such size that each Heru might stand upon it and build playthings. And each of them did so.
But Rendu left no such place for himself. For this, many mocked the greatest of artificers, despite his magnificent creation, saying the artist had been lost in the work. But Rendu spoke thus:
“Not so. I have made a place for all your dreams and whims and fancies. Not of mine! In payment for this, I shall place my own small worlds in the heavens about yours, ever circling your new home. There shall I dwell, while you have your way with this thing I have made at your behest.”
And this they accepted.
For time unmeasured, they lived and fought and did war with creatures of their own devising, like toy soldiers within a child’s sand-box. Kingdoms grew and spread, empires rose and fell to ruin. And on rare occasion, even a Heru would fall before the armies and the powers of another. In time, there remained only a hundred of the race of Heru.
These final hundred were the craftiest and most powerful of them all, the survivors of wars of such scope that would blast the minds of lesser beings. So perfectly matched were they that none could gain an upper hand over any other, and none would trust the others in an alliance—for by such methods had the Heru grown few in number; never were there more Heru, for it was not the way of their kind to spawn. Born of a convulsion in Chaos, such was the only way they might spring into being.
And that was Rendu’s only failure. He had crafted many things; the First Elves were his, made from gleaming crystal and adamantine steel. The silver phoenix was his crested bird, drawn from fires made from the burning bones of the vanquished of his own kind. And the mighty, scaled serpents were his creatures, the First of them formed perfect and entire from a diamond drop of his own perspiration and a ruby drop of his own blood.
But never did he make another of his own kind. This, he marked as his single failure, and never turned his hand to the task again. Without the capacity for renewal, the Heru were doomed to die, physically immortal though they be. Rendu knew this, perhaps alone of them all. And therefore his creations were greater and more wondrous than any of the others, perhaps in the hope they would outlast even their maker.
* * *
Rendu reclined on a low couch of bailwood and satin while a dozen of the elf-kind waited upon his whims. One polished tikka fruit with her lips, another massaged warm oils into his brow, and a third stroked the hard lines of his body with fingertips of great softness and skill.
And Rendu felt within his body the approach of another Heru. It was a distant thing, yet it drew no nearer. Someone violated the borders of his realm and remained there, on the edge, taunting him with a presence.
The elf-servants withdrew from their lord with grace and speed; he rose from the low couch and walked across the great mosaic of the floor. His bare feet trod upon the inlays of silversteel and diamond, redgold and trapped firelight. As he walked, memories of the old times, when Heru beset Heru, came to him, and his feet were no longer bare. Shod in boots of wondrous suppleness and strength, his armor returned from the depths of his memory, made stronger by time and thought. Upon his arm rode a shield of shifting darkness, chaos contained, which might turn to formlessness anything that touched upon it. Into his hand came a sword molded all of frozen fire, its edge sharper than last ray of light from a shattered mirror.
The great doors of his fire-serpent’s aerie slid aside at his approach, and the great wyrm lifted its head, eyes blazing with the color of a bloody sunrise.
“Perhaps,” Rendu replied in a voice as pure as silver bells, and walked up the length of the great serpent to sit astride the neck, just behind the head. Behind him, the vast expanse of wings unfolded and rose, flaring wide.
The roof rolled back, and the serpent writhed into the air. They flew rapidly through the space above the seventh and greatest of Rendu’s orbs as it arced above the war-ravaged realm below. At the very edge of Rendu’s personal domain, the line beyond which Chaos still held sway, they came upon the invader. They paused, two serpent-dragons in the upper air, while their riders matched gazes across the empty distance. The rider of the lesser dragon wore robes all the color of blood.
“Hail, Rendu, Artificer!” called Maddarrah, and her voice was the sound of frost crackling on a windowpane.
Rendu approached without reply until they were no more than a thousand yards apart.
I could kill this lesser dragon with ease, Lord.
Rendu tapped the serpent lightly on the head with the hilt of his sword, and it was silent.
“Why have you come, Maddarrah?” he asked, coldly.
Maddarrah flinched inwardly. “The Heru have thought of a new game, O Artificer, and would have thy help.”
“Our kin have thought? Or you?” he asked, his gaze never leaving the whirlpools of blood she held in place of eyes.
“Very well. As you say, I have thought of a game. We all wish to play it, and so would ask of you a boon.”
Rendu considered this.
“No. I have all I require.” He nudged the serpent, and it turned in the air like a ribbon to return.
“It is a contest to see whose creations are the greatest!” called Maddarrah.
Rendu slowed, stopped. He turned in his seat to consider this.
“Come,” he said, and urged his serpent onward.
Within the Hall of Rendu, both greater and lesser wyrm landed. Their riders dismounted and walked across the mosaic to rest upon finely-wrought chairs of silversteel. Rendu lifted a finger and his elf-servant poured refreshment in the form of fermented starlight from a crystal decanter into goblets all of cunningly worked gemstone.
“Tell me,” Rendu commanded.
Maddarrah paused for an instant at the insult of his command. She brushed it aside; she had disturbed him, come a-begging, and was in his place of power. He would make his own terms.
“We have long known that none of us may challenge another with any surety,” she began. “To brave such a conflict would result in death or success—no middle ground. So it was decided we should abdicate from the games of the world to watch, allowing our plans and stratagems to be executed by creatures less than perfect. We have done so, and with good results.”
“But we have also detected occasional…” she paused, rolling the ruby goblet between her palms for a moment, “…disturbances. Things which cannot be accounted for by our toys. We believe some of us may be cheating.”
Rendu nodded. It seemed only natural.
“Thus, we wish to have another home. A place where we can reside and watch, but we cannot interfere.”
Rendu arched a brow, surprised.
“You realize,” he said, “you are asking me to create a prison for the Heru?”
“In essence. Yes.”
Rendu looked thoughtful. “You wish for something to contain the likes of us. A creation that can contain the power of any Heru—no, all the Heru!—and in that sense is greater than ourselves.”
“Yes. This is why we have come to you. If it can be done at all…”
Rendu nodded. “I will think on it.”
Maddarrah sipped at her drink and waited. After a time she asked, “Well?”
“I have not finished thinking.”
“When shall I ask again?”
“Return in seven circlings of my home. Then shall I give you answer.”
Maddarrah nodded and departed.
* * *
“Well?” asked the one in armor of bronze and gold.
“Telu, he is far more dangerous than you think.”
The one called Telu shrugged massive shoulders. “He is proud of his gewgaws and trinkets and toys. Let him be. Can he do what we need?”
Maddarrah held her robes wrapped tightly about her. “You were not there, Telu.”
“Just answer me.”
“As I was leaving, I flew low over the latest of the orbs he makes for his homes. That one, the one upon which he dwells, is not yet full, as are the others. Even so, it is brimming with things that I call wondrous and beautiful and strange. While we have fought with each other and made war, he has made beauty and grace. All our efforts here are cold and bloody things, ugly and forceful and brutish by comparison. Even were he to give us one of his personal attendants, I much doubt that we, working with all our combined might and skill, could fashion something with half its grace.”
“So he’s had a lot of practice at making prettified meat toys. Can he do it?”
“You are not listening to me,” she snapped. “When I approached his home, he came out garbed for war. I do not know what he forged that sword from, nor what forces bound the primal chaos into his shield; I know I never wish to face them.”
“Tools are only as good as their wielder,” Telu replied, scornful. “Can he make the thrice-cursed house or no?”
Maddarrah laughed, a brittle, terrible sound of mirth and fear. “Yes, I believe he can. Oh, yes. I do believe he can.”
* * *
Seven times the orbs of Rendu circled the globe, and Maddarrah approached on the back of her dragon once more. This time, she was expected, and the phoenix-bird was sent to escort her. Once she landed, she held out her arm; the bird deigned to land on it and gaze at her. It accepted a gentle petting, then flew to its high perch.
Rendu received her in his grand hall.
“You have in mind to contain all the Heru,” he stated, without preamble. “I surmise my own presence will be required within this prison, for no Heru will trust another to be his jailer.”
“This is true,” Maddarrah replied, quailing inwardly. She had not intended to bring it up so soon. She cursed herself silently for not realizing that if anyone would realize this truth, it would be Rendu—the one to craft the thing!
“I agree to these terms on two conditions,” Rendu stated. “If I must be imprisoned with our kin, I will also be one of the keys. No Heru or combination of Heru may pass out of our prison until I do. When I depart the prison, all may depart. But even I will not be permitted to pass unless another Heru comes with me. Thus I am caged, as are we all. When any of the others frees me, so do they free us all. How say you?”
“This, the first of your conditions,” she replied, “I see as acceptable, for it must be all or none. The second condition?”
“These seven orbs will not be touched by any of those upon the great gaming board. I have laid powerful enchantments upon these seven small worlds that they will stand untouched for as long as might be needful, but none of the creatures below may sully these orbs with their presence. No one and no thing shall touch upon them while we are within. How say you?”
“They are yours, Rendu,” Maddarrah said. “I do not doubt there will be great relief that your creations will not take part in this game. I will put it to our fellows and see if they agree.”
Rendu nodded. “If they agree to my terms, then shall I build you our prison.”
* * *
Upon the plain of Gol-Taroth, there met for the first time in all the ages, the physical presence of all the Heru. They came armed and armored, wary, and with much distrust. But they came, for immortality demands a heavy toll of boredom; and what interest is there in a game without danger? There is no spice to flavor the meat and drink of endless days, save the risk of losing them all.
“We are here,” said Dor’amar, he of the golden hair. “Where is this castle you would build for us?”
Rendu drew forth a small orb of something like stone and placed it upon the ground. Its color was as impossible to fathom as the deeps of the uttermost Chaos, and its surface was ever-changing. Here he drew his dagger—slowly, obviously, for the Heru are a quick-tempered race—and pierced the tip of one finger with its point. He let fall a single drop of his own blood upon the orb, which drank it in, swallowed it up.
“There is our home,” said Rendu. “Each of you must do as I have done, so it can perform the function required of it.”
Many were unwilling to do this, for the blood of the Heru is not lightly shed; every drop has potency beyond that of words to tell, and whole continents and races had been birthed and blasted by less powerful forces. Yet those who were most avid for this new game clamored the louder, and presented almost unanimous assent. Those few who would have refused held their tongues.
Maddarrah came forth and drew her dagger also. She too let fall a drop of her own blood, and the orb drank it as greedily. One by one, the Heru all marched by, each imbuing the orb with the faintest touch of the power within themselves. Until, at last, Wedlek of the scaled hands completed the roll of the race.
Rendu then pricked his finger again, for a wound upon the person of a Heru heals almost instantly. Again, he let fall a drop of his blood, and the orb drank it; the first drop and the last drop, both shed from the hand of its creator, sealed within the almost-stone. With this, it began to grow, changing size and shape, swelling up and out. The assembled Heru backed away, watching it and each other, giving it room for its alterations. The skies above swirled with random strokes of Chaos, and a funnel of it descended like a whirlwind, screaming in all colors and smells, pouring into the now-changing structure like the laughter of children and the taste of bitter ashes.
A great silence fell. Within the ring of the Heru stood a spire, reaching up from the roots of the world to the vault of the sky, pierced with many windows and a single great door.
Rendu turned to Maddarrah and held out his hand. “If I enter alone,” said he, “then never may I emerge until another Heru enters and frees me. If you enter alone, you will never be free until I enter, and so free you. Two must enter or none shall return.”
“This is a game I have called for,” she answered, and took his hand. “I will dare this with you.”
The great door of the Spire swung inward, and the two stepped within. Behind them came the rest of their race.
What is to be said of the interior of the Worldspire? That it was the capstone of an immortal life given to wondrous craftsmanship? That it was a work of art beyond compare? That it held precious beauties that made the Heru themselves weep? That it was a home worthy of that ancient and terrible race? All these things it was, and far more. Spacious halls of eye-twisting geometry marked it as a home for those born of Chaos, and pleasing to them. Mosaics of the most intricate design marked the floors; some even fell to their hands and knees to better trace the infinite complexities of the designs. The walls held friezes of such beauty that the Heru paused in confusion, thinking themselves remade and ennobled in feature.
So they moved about their new home, their prison, and found rooms accommodating to each taste and fashion, for Rendu the Artificer had forgotten nothing of their old loves and deepest desires from when he made for them a world.
Time passed swiftly for the lords of all creation, for the Worldspire held as many windows as there were Heru, and each window could call forth a vision through itself to any place upon the greater orb. No matter how far the vista or how secluded the place, the windows brought sight and sound from anywhere in the world. And they watched, did the Heru, watched their creations avidly as they were set in motion on their own, to rise or fall without interference or intervention.
Many exulted as their races spread and became victorious over another’s, and an equal number gnashed their teeth or raged. The ooloné were the first to perish under the iron heel of the dakthars, followed by the shimsa and the prevnyt. The dakthars themselves were crushed by the orku, and so the raging in the Spire grew greater than the exaltation. It is always a harder blow to see one’s work rise high before being cast down, along with one’s hopes.
Finally, six races yet remained, vying for supremacy, yet well-matched. The orku, the giant, the dwarf, the tyga, the prevnyt, and the human. Their conflicts drew on for centuries, and the Heru grew restless. Of those whose creations no longer survived, a few desired release; more desired that the game continue, as agreed, until one race should prove supreme. But, weary of waiting, one by one they elected to assume a deep sleep, passing out of consciousness and thought until the day when one race would live, and no other.
Rendu watched. Seated upon a great throne at the heart of the Spire, he watched the creations of his fellows. Most he scorned as worthless, and was right; a few he noted as worthwhile. But one stood out in his mind as original and persistent. He called Maddarrah, and she came to him.
“What is this race of humans?” asked Rendu. “I have watched it long and it is as unlike anything I have ever seen. Kill one and they wail in grief even as they rise up like rabid calim. They are weaker than orku, less hardy than dwarf, softer than prevnyt, short-lived and short-sighted, yet they persist. What inspired them?”
Maddarrah licked her lips and was pleased no other was with them in the room.
“I do not know,” she replied.
“I hear your words, but I sense a deeper story.”
“That is true. I do not know what inspired them, nor what created them; I did not. I found them, clinging like flies to small places, adrift in Chaos.”
Rendu looked at her, and said, “So you entered them into the game as your own?”
“I found them. They are mine.”
“So you declare; you will be held to that.”
Troubled, Maddarrah left him to his observations.
One by one, the Heru eventually tired of the game. Even the six who held great races grew weary, for the conflict promised to be long, even by the standards of the Heru.
“Let us sleep for ten thousand years,” they said, “and awake for a day to see how things fare.”
To this they agreed, and so laid themselves down.
Ten thousand years showed little change, but the human and prevnyt were gaining ground; the orku and the tyga were losing it.
“It is good to see progress. Let us sleep again.” And they did, for ten millennia.
Upon awakening, the tyga were gone, not to be found. Toril, he of the translucent skin, their creator, gave a cry of anguish and returned to his chamber to sleep the ages away until the ending of the game. The giants were also vanished, leaving only bones. Gartun of the many arms wept, and also turned to slumber.
The four who still played the game returned to their couches for another ten thousand years.
But something happened.
Some say that Rendu, tired of his long watch over the rest of the Heru, slew them in their sleep, forgetting his own creation would keep him pent. Others say one of the Heru slew one of his slumbering fellows and was caught. Others say the Heru simply could not endure their long game and turned on one another, slaying everyone. It is even said, as the world winds down and unravels, that the Heru watch from their tower, waiting until the world ends before they emerge to start a new game.
Whatever the truth, it remains within the Worldspire. Mountains have risen, seas have turned in their beds, lands have sunk beneath the waves and risen again. Chaos has overtaken six of the seven celestial orbs of Rendu. New gods have arisen, warred, and fallen. The servants of Rendu—dragon, phoenix, and elf alike—that they might not be consumed by the encroaching Chaos, and so be present to serve their lord when he emerges.
Yet still the living toys of the Gods of Chaos wander upon the great game-board of the world, and nothing living may approach the Worldspire, the House of the Heru. Whatever secrets it holds, it keeps, until two Heru command it to give them up.