History of Atlas- her first conversation with dead men- small epistolary- A minute sermon
Together they crossed the plains. He, shouldering her belongings without staunch effort and leading her by but two arms lengths, stayed to his oath and though she had none publicly made, she kept to her own and followed. Onward they walked, trudging through and against the pockets of sunken lands filled with snow up to their chests and which clung to their skins with small, hooks of ice and made of them a mosaic of the world's history- cold, cold, cold and the cold which brought upon the misery of pain unto those paroled into its borders came unto them and also other plagues- and against the hills and ridges which came out from the ground malformed and petulant like half-made giants of stone.
Amidst the horizoned pale fog, the mountains grew in stature and width and the blackness of their monads were salient enough to be distinguished and made separate.
And between them; save for the crunching of their footsteps and the crackling air and her labored breaths, there was silence and it was this that drove him to speak. For all these long years, he had kept his mouth shut to stave off the loneliness, speaking only for prayer or for those debates between himself.. The sickness unto death and the heaving shivers of their skin and the barbed arid throats and the And now, to be in this place without the words while she walked not far off behind was an agony of a sorts he was unacquainted with.
And he said-
Once, there were brothers born the same day of the same year. And when the older came into the world, he looked upon it and wailed at the sight and the caste members there were revolted and reached for their amphistaff to kill it. For when a child was born to the yuuzhan vong, it was judged in its fitness and capacity and if it found itself disgusted at the world- the begotten sacrifice of yun-yuzzhan, the creator who had poured out his own bowels to fill the void- it was cut down and cast aside and used as food for villips and koffees. And this was so even so for twins, whom by their nature were prized for their rarity and whose presence testified for the gods.
Now when the priests came upon the babe, the mother gave out a cry and his brother came to and was held aloft but no sound moved from his lips and when the older's gaze drifted to his twin he too fell silent. Those gathered there took this as a sign. That these two before them, though not brother and sister, were of relation to the twin gods and deserving of life.
And thusly, they were trained in the ways of the flesh and muscle, he said and spoke of the manners in which they were raised. The rituals of scarring throughout childhood. Along the forearms. Across and around the folds of the neck. Indentations along their spines. How each scar was carved into the skin with a special koffee blessed with the blood of all those proceeding the mark. Each and every forefather who had walked the path before them in glory and battle and death.
The trial of culling an amphistaff to bond with. Walking along the boundary between the grottos and groves through three days and three nights chanting without rest till two amphistaffs took heed and dug into their wrists full of venom and they lessened the beatings of their heart and abated it and did not succumb to the pain and the fevers.
This too he discussed in detail. For if there was but one, defining word of the yuuzhan vong, it was pain. The pain of birth, the pain of life, the pain of death, the pain beyond such. All things were under its jurisdiction and under the gnashings of its whip and most assuredly were the yuuzhan vong, ; the true heirs and children of yun-yuuzhan-; who had following their lord's dismembering sprung out from the congealed blood fully formed and armed and willing to break their hands upon the world and to mold it into its true and rightful image.
To be godlike was their essence. Their utmost desire. Their reason for being in its entirety and at the heart of this was pain.
The gods had bore this upon their shoulders. Each and every one of them in a differing manner. Yun Yuuzhan, creation, Yun-Yamka- conflict, war, Yun-Harla- the lies between all things, Yun Shuno- failure and shame.
And so to bear that burden was to be godlike. To go beyond the dim trappings of life and grasp at providence with one's own fingers and hands.
This was such for the yuuzhan vong and it was true for these brothers. That they too in their lives lived by such laws and conceptions of reality and truth. Each growing to their shared fate through the accumulation of scars and pain and battles between all calibers of foes and challenges. Inching, ever inching, towards a pinnacle which had come to them by way of their forefathers and by the stories they had spoken and inherited also.
This they followed samely. Trials and tribulations. Barriers placed on each child of God as a measure and a test of their capacities. Combat with other clans. Spectacles in front of convocations. Lessons in the embrace of pain upon the manner of salvation and of the unity brought to them through such devices. All the while investing themselves in each other; each placing within the other apportioned segments of themselves of which our very souls are comprised.
Fears. Hopes. Thoughts and actions. Dreams.
And what became apparent to the younger brother, who was in all things a template or idol by which each and every yuuzhan vong should aspire to- vetted by combat yet without arrogance, so skilled in speech he lectured all warriors present on the trueness of the way and the life- was the conflict within the older. An inner turmoil camouflaged by the appearances of piety- self-flagellation, prayers at all appointed times and places, bodily shapings done without utterance- but which was visible to the vigilant.
And so they discussed these things as the days tumbled down towards the ceremony of the twin gods which would anoint the coming invasion, most especially in the night before it. Gods and of their purpose and of the trueness of life and the way which men should follow. The manner by which one should conduct themselves within all things and the terror and hope that such profound isolation from faith was circumscribed of. The freedoms granted to each soul to carve out their own path among mountains and set ways.
So in that day, they both strode into the arena under the eyes of the overlord and twenty and one hundred thousand and did battle and in a single stroke the older took the younger's heart with his amphistaff and in sorrow forged himself into the memory of his brother and went to war chanting without hope while yet covered in that fratricidal blood.
Did she, that woman, listen to his words? He could not say nor would she. And as night fell, they dug a shelter and lowered themselves into the pit where the woman recoiled from his touch and slept apart from him throughout the night.
She conceived a world apart, of conflagrations above looming monuments of metal and concussions ringing through the ears of each and every living thing and driving into them the primal fear of death. Once neighbors ran about with possessions hung over their shoulders, mothers clutching babes to their chests and children weeping and dazed and gapemouthed at the coming onslaught. Cries and tears sparked by long bands of fire above them and by the flowering heat.
Her brother rested his hands upon her shoulders. Pale like snow and unblemished; trim fingernails concise atop the tips of his fingers. We need to get going. Pack only what you need, he said. His voice had a stoic quality. An almost perceptible hardness to it, hidden underneath his youth like granite. Were it not for his eyes, the veneer would have held- stiff lip, furrowed brow, clenched jaw- and given her a comfort.
They hurried into their home as the walls shook and the hanging relics began to fall down a clatter. Stark steel and polished copper wirings falling into scrap heaps. Their father's treasures and artifacts coming to their finality long postponed. In the light of dusk, cheap golden rays sprayed down from the window and enriched the dust and the air and what few things she gathered were rusted by it. Her life could be assembled from what things she gathered. Small trinkets. Little things of no consequence save to her. Notes and bracelets. Cards. A holo of them together snapshot across the table with none smiling save her. Earrings.
She bundled them with clothing and food and found him in the main room standing astride the pile, head braced against the wall, shoulders slouched as if in prayer like the spine of a sagging cathedral whose beams and buttresses were worn away by wind and rain. All old things in their entirety swept away and what childhood he possessed within that shell lifeless and cold and sloughed with the telltale signs of age; the broadness of his back and the stubble along his jaw and the worry in his skin. This was not always such nor should it be, yet it could not be disguised from her.
We're going to do fine. He spoke to the air or to nothing it all. I'll make sure of it. I will. Hand tight and pounding against the wall. Turning, he asked if she was ready and without prompting took their mother's locket from his pocket and held it glinting in the light. Scratched and marked as it was, the beauty of the forging still glinted, as even the indentations and the darkened etchings under the lettering shone in some manner. Years and more then memories were accounted for in this metal. Small meanings to greater truths. Smaller accounts for some greater ledger. Wholesale loss bought of chance and pain its representative.
She wore it around her neck with it pressed against her chest where the dwelling of her heart drummed against it. A deep and heady bass which ached now from this leaving. He swayed with the rumblings and the scattered cries outside their home. So little time and none of it had now.
It's yours now. Take care of it.
And there they paused and waited amidst the world being put to rest, counting the seconds, and in due time leaving, abject and sorrowful with the only words to distinguish such from an old miner's song.
On following stone walls by hand and reading the earth in its truth like palmists and blind men in their tombs.
When she woke, she could see naught but darkness and the unending tenebrosity of it drove into her the sudden seizure of helplessness. As though her arms and legs were dismembered and lost and she was left to face the world and its cold without dignity or hope like a babe or a dumb. Breathing quickly, breathing deep, she moved about. Returning the blood to her limbs and feeling about the confines with shaking digits.
Ice ground against their tip, jagged and malformed with end broken peaks. Bits of soft snow which dug their way under her nails and the air clutched with some vague presence and-
A hand touched her and the voice said, Be at peace girl. Peace. As though it were such an easy place to find and inhabit.
And though it was his hand- a thing composed of black blood, and dried skin and crisscrossed scars- it calmed her and she breathed and asked for the canteen. Somewhere in that mass of dark, what could only be the vong, shifted and placed it near her. It did not seem as if he had awoken or made any preparation for sleep. Nothing in his voice or movements said otherwise.
You were dreaming.
It was nothing.
A pause and then, That is a lie. I heard you speak of your brother.
She drank, rolling the water in her mouth, thinking of the cold and the coming day and the dream. I said it was nothing. Stop picking at i-
What did he tell you?
It wasn't anything. She went onto her side and laid out as to sleep.
You will learn in due time as I did then, he said, after a time, like a deep breath before a plunge. That when the dead do speak, so we must listen. That in all this world, there are no things so valuable as the words of those who have passed on this way before us.