A Green Sun Illuminates the Void
Chapter 17: Hail to the Queen
– O –
Starless velvet above, stretched shrouding all
(No! The night's sky! Nocturnal light-eyes fill it!).
Treachery is her end; treason tore her down,
broke her body, pierced her breastplate.
(Ay! And her aeons-worn armour? It is absent!)
Light burns around her, luminescence a blaze in darkness,
(How can this be! Her halo is greened-bronze?)
What is happening? Her memories are hazed.
So she fights. Foe-death has been hers forever.
Something lurks within, subtly insinuating secrets
she does not desire. Against dark-iron men,
the spear-storm is safe. She spits her defiance.
In a circle of scythes, her sword sways
grass-green and verdigris, growing against adversity,
for the harvester is harmed, and he lacks
the might he must; he is maimed and murdered
by the whirlwind. The woman
fights with all her skill, in skin unfamiliar.
What is her name? She knows not.
A haze hangs heavy, holding tight her
muffled memories. Some mortal mask
conceals past crusades, contains the clarity
which is her regal right. Wrapped in wrongness
she dredges deed-details from the deepness of days departed.
– O –
The maiden squats in the mud, her manacles heavy,
two suns above her. The sizzling heat
(Green radiance growing eastwards; gold at its greatest above)
matters not to her masters, for they are not men.
And slave-holders speak, saying "Glory to the sacred
mercies of our divine master. Maidens of the slave-race!
You shall fight, and those of you who fare well
shall live longer; those who lose
give their hearts happily to the highest of holies!"
(But she is human, and the heat nags at her,
burning her skin, beating her body.
If only the suns were soft-hearted, gentle and safe for men!)
They demand; she does. In temples she duels,
black-glass blades in hand. The blood of those
weaker than her paints skin, the woad of war.
She kills without count. Her own kind
are but a few of her freely-offered foes.
She is small, her knives serpent-quick.
If they chip and shatter, she chokes instead
constricting air, capturing life-sighs.
A skyclad warrior, she remains scarless.
It is a mark of mastery, as she murders.
Opening bone-guards, breaking bodies
soul-seats cut out, to sizzle upon heated altars.
It comes when she is covered in spilt life,
a great beast dead, glory from beautiful crowds.
And dawn's light shines. Day's-rise pink around her,
a kiss of captivating wonder caresses her.
Everything changes – even the girl knows it.
(And yet she shudders – some shape flits before
her mind's eye. A memory that is not hers.
Of lavender and the promise of love,
desperation over glory; despair over pride.
An intrusion on memory, insinuating itself
into her thoughts. Who holds the secret truth?
For it is not her. Forgetfulness fills her.)
– O –
The grand gate is before her. Gold it lacks
and this is wrong, for the Redixala passage
should be here. She was so sure of that.
Her blade sings – blood-coated from life,
gore-smeared by death – with growing glee speaks,
It is not her weapon; never has she held it.
She has not seen it before. Something is so terribly wrong.
An unheard voice, one of the vile vanquished
hollers in her head. Who could do this to her?
Has madness seized her? In mind's eye does she dream?
She fights for her life; flinches as foes fire
down upon her. Death she returns.
– O –
In war's warm embrace, wielding knives
of shining gold, she shows that
which once she worshipped why
dawn-light brings death. Deva are duly damned
by blows which in bleak blackness
and brilliant battles break the undying,
leaving no losers to lament. Lives ended lie
in death-forests days in width.
No less, her lordly gifts
change her, channelled into
violent acts. Vanquished are man's foes
through the hands of three five-score sun-kings.
Bright banners flap, bringing breeze-born
glory to gleaming legions of
ten thousand dragons, terrible and beautiful.
Silver strangers subsume slain foes,
dance in stolen faces, daubed in argent light.
Monsters, murderous in their malevolence
greet their friend-banes and she is grateful for it.
Star-seers; subtle, all-seeing,
weave and wind , warping the world's weft,
favouring fell deeds with fantastic fortune.
Needed are such necessities, else none could stand;
unified is the host, youth-fires sky-bright.
One act secures her age-worth. Anchored against
a horde filling horizon-span, horrors beyond human
measure massing. Their monstrous master
overshadows them. Oh! This origin of worlds
takes to the field. Terror fills titanomachs,
holds hale hearts in heavy hands.
She speaks from shadows, a shining star-bringer.
The charge is set! Champions cheer!
And are crushed as ants, armour rent,
foe-bane legions falling on the fouled field.
A sword-sacrifice suffices to scale the sides
of the mountain. Murder at her hands ends it.
The colossal corpse collapses – cold ice-winds blowing –
no succour sought in the slaughter-house reek.
The hell-fight continues, and while she healed
from weeping wounds, the waters of the West
became bile and bone, barbs of black iron
driven into dragons' defiled bodies.
She has love; a secret light which eases life,
but she must not become distracted – duty is all.
There is no peace; never any quiet.
She thrives on it, but thrice-cursed conflict
grows wearisome and she wishes to rest
before being thrown back into bitter war.
The blade-storm blows; blood breaks
on sea-walls soaked with sorrows.
Fire and frozen water and flesh-bane
rush in riotous revelry. Righteousness rebels.
A chosen champion chases the chariot
of the lithe life-flow. In lesser victory lies loss,
for silent cyclones are born from screams
and the quicksilver quiet in newborn's wake quenches
all knowledge, leaving nothing but noiselessness.
Such are the triumphs of this troubled time
that later lesser years would sing laments.
But they are victories and vanquished are their foes.
Even yet! Endless lives are ended,
discarded in the darkness, dust that cannot block
the brilliance of titans. The broken brutality
of their ends ensures that the endeavour
will be spoken of by splendour-draped survivors
once weeping waters wash away the waste of
A hundred-hundred heroes. Helplessly, she holds herself
to remember the rain-countless reaped,
knowing that namelessness waits in nepenthe
for all the foe-slayers, save a feeble few.
In immensity, glory is inglorious and ignominious.
Some things master even the memories of men.
– O –
Night descends. Now a nocturne note hides streets,
the cloak of light-loss clasping all within
and fog fills foetid alleys. The foulness of this city
is veiled by vapours. Yet viridian fire marks violence
as mayhem moves mercilessly, murdering where she passes.
Damp are the streets, dank and dark
save where she sheds blood and savages men.
Tight quarters are telling; terror seizes troops,
for the fearful killer leaves foes cast down,
sorceries defied by supernal skill
in shadowless sunlight, shining youth-bright.
Those days were past, she thought. They are not.
But numbers are telling. Battalions – man and beasts –
are sent after her, armed and alarmed,
to hunt the tooth-breaking terror
who smashes skulls. Small comfort to her
victims left piled high, but violence breeds vulnerability.
Shots shed red blood, shaking arms weaken, tire.
The unexplained world saps her. Under shadow
of tower tall, ten tens wait. Turning, and two men –
the deceased foreguard – are gone. One deed cannot delay her
but a bonfire-soul – broken, beaten – is a beacon
and might is not enough. Her mane extends,
clinging to clay-baked walls. Climbing up, she flees again.
– O –
Hark! Victory is seized, violence is ended
with ecstatic celebration and executions.
Who would not cheer? The world is won,
and cast-out titans are castrated and bound.
From new-won heaven's heights holiness,
itself rewards the righteous with regal reign.
And she is queen of all! Quicksilver, stars and sun all bow.
Some speak of favours bought. She silences such sedation.
Crowned with thunder, the dragon-blood crowds
march at her orders. The mutilated left mere servants
behind when bound. Their bodies make mountain-biers.
All hail the new peace! All hail humanity, slaves raised high!
But sun-princes are poor pall-bearers; prideful in their power,
her crown they contest. She crushes the first.
The second, too – the ceaseless rivers of sacred
Nuh-ah-Mai dammed, for nothing should oppose her.
Holding heroes wielding honed blades is hopeless,
even with thunder crowned. A throne of threatening blades
obtains nothing but pain. Ochre wobbles, unstable.
To shining-sons she speaks, "Shall we, together
bring about a new order? Break not the peace,
and three hundred may – thrice-blessed I pray –
in Heaven's eyes ascend, holding high its flame."
Pacts are forged. Peace now reigns golden.
– O –
The forbidden fighting art of fierce
Gorol Thrice-Damned calls out. Gifts of rage she knows,
presenting their price. Both pride and prudence
make her reject them. Madness would not make easier
her actions. Holding her hewing-knife,
blade seeks sorcerer's throat; it is blocked.
Rocky rubble-slave takes it, ripostes with
stony strength. She strains against the force
and screams in pain. Scabs open up,
and her body protests; bones grate, battered.
A leg is swung low. Golem lands heavily,
Wordy weapon ends it. Spell-weaver is next.
– O –
Without war, it is a time of wastefulness
and she loses herself to lust. Lesser men may lament lesser wars,
but throneless, the thrice-triumphed queen rests.
Flesh meets flesh. Flirting leads to passion.
Mindless muscles; mechanical indulgence;
the techniques of all creation, turned to teasing.
For a short while, she is sated.
If the battle-fires are gone, banked to wait,
"War has passed! Why not enjoy the world we won?"
she says lazily. Lounging on her seat,
her power is gone, now a peer among peers,
who sits among them, sipping wines divine.
In time passed soon, it turns tedious.
The feelings of flesh, the flings and flirting
are stale and staid; her stomach for such things
wanes and weakens. She welcomes it
no more, nothing she has indulged
has quenched her queenly thirst in centuries.
In place of pleasure, her pride is her passion.
Reigning not, but respected and revered
she leads by example, the lost lives
of past pact-brothers passed on to their new-comings.
Readiness should not ruin, righteousness not die
by the passing days of pleasured princes.
And yet! The youth are draped in rich yellow-gold,
fury-enriched yet callow, fearless in their ignorance
of true total war. Trouble comes in candleflames.
All-blazing battle is gone. Beaten out.
Some know not how to fight, sapped of all strength.
"Why are they weak? Where is their warrior spirit?"
she says, speaking secretly to other survivors.
"We are war-mongers; weapons are what we
should share among us. Shields are our shame-bane."
So she stirs strife. Starts feuds from the shadows.
Scandal would ensue if discovered. Scars have taught caution.
Light-hearted, she lets her hands remain clean.
– O –
A towered bridge rises, tall and triumphant.
Fire within her pulses, fiercely flaring into stone
and wrongness fills her. Righteous rage
at worlds worn thin, which wearies her thoughts,
cannot be enough. Contemplation is cancelled
by sky-beasts soaring, and burning soul-light
of foe's hue, fooling even her.
Anger empowers her; and the arrogance of an autarch.
Men in armour, meaning malevolence to her
throng the bridge around her; they are thrown,
dolls drowning as down it goes, doom-seeking.
She falls too; foetid black waters her newfound friend.
– O –
Wars, woe uncounted, world-breaking weapons;
she has seen it all, shrugged off and committed
atrocities beyond count. All things
have passed her age-honed gaze, she holds.
Once she was sure. Something, a secret, is spoken,
and nightmares banish nepenthe from nocturnal hours.
In colossal caves, the cold corpse-creators
whisper weft-shaking world-screams.
The truth emerges; trouble trembles within
her heart. Holding tales from hallowed halls
of remains ruined, revenge she righteously seeks;
five proud young princes are praised, not punished.
From lightlessness' love she learns
to scream, scraps of scar-memories
torn away to torment tortured
recollections of rivals and reaped friends.
"Who holds such hubris and horror
to his bosom; a babe bloodless
whose hands have never held
spears singing?" she shouts, snarling.
"Whose fires are feeble; whose fists are fleshy?"
The fools – she frets – fear not her fury.
She is old; of origins once-known
but washed away by when's white waters.
A relic of red fields, she relinquished the now.
Her battles are long gone, and bones of her once-banes
in days departed have decayed to dust.
Back to marvellous Meru, masterly wondrous place
she sets her stride. The city of cities
sits so beautiful, in the sun's sight,
and broken-hearted it is bile-bitter
to a warrior without weapons; woe to those
who live a life whose liege-goal is lost.
Her city grows surrounding her, a splendid shell which
shines to reflect the sun, shimmering where all see,
sealing out the world. She sadly sings, alone.
– O –
River currents carry her, ruin left in wake.
Bonfire still burns, but its brightness dies.
Lifeblood leaks out, lost to lacrimal night.
With shaking arms she swims, sword still held,
for sky-beasts chase her, flying in firey night,
and other alien hounds too. Another time – she thinks –
this challenge would have been cherished.
But weakness wraps her; weird happenings
have left their lines. Lights ahead!
A jetty, boat moored! Gently she eases
her broken body out of the water, bruises moaning.
The pain has returned, power of old foes passing.
She hides – her? Hiding? How can this be?
But battered flesh is bitten by blades
and viridian flame swirls around her, a violent mark
of the confusion which caresses her weary mind.
In a boathouse she waits, bandaging her wounds
with aged cloth. Agony spikes through her arm
as she digs out a dark-metal lump
and pinches shut the puncture. Pain is no stranger
and mad memory flickers. A hint of mortality.
Cries from outside, wood creaks under footsteps;
she is found! Flight is foolish
wounded like this. Weapon in hand, she steps out.
– O –
The centuries slip by in slow succession.
Amongst the remains of those she repudiated
she sits on her throne, silently shadowed by
the wasted world, which in her words
grew golden around her great sacrifices.
She complains ceaselessly, of the callow cruelties,
trite treacheries and troublesome studies
of the youth of these years – and all are young to her.
"Five Gales fought for this? The First were flayed!
What would Waanaho whisper, weeping openly,
if your iniquities were known in our long-ago war?"
she croons, ignored. They care not for her words.
The names of friends are forgotten, they know not who
she drags from the depths of drowned
history lost hereafter. Who are these heroes?
What deeds did they do; how did they die?
She can say who they were, and six or seven more.
Countless centuries have fallen; careless clocks grip her,
hold fast even the hallowed halls of heaven
and ruin their records of those who
seized the seats they now sit upon.
She sees now why old sword-brothers
have set sail, seeking the sight of the city-king,
for at least old foes – fables too – would fear her.
Those who wear the weapons which won the world
do not shake at her name, and never will.
She is kin to the statues, which stand faded by paths,
vigilant over travellers. The vanishing children of now,
mayflies who heard her name, a myth mentioned by mothers,
tell tales of her. Twisted by forgetfulness,
praise comes to her, not the princes who deserve it,
and even then eyes widen, events disbelieved but still
amusing babes who play, answering questions by rote.
The passage of years, perceived not in its passing
has unmade her. Though unconquered by blades,
years have brought her down, like hounds on a hind.
– O –
They bring her down, bow-thunder piercing body
in sordid swampland. She shakes and staggers,
holes in flesh dribbling heart's blood,
tainted power in truth all that
keeps her standing. Cold numbs her heart,
fires within dying. She fades, freezing,
and the riders – ready and waiting – have drawn red
from her once more. Freedom is far away
and her blade, bloodied and battered,
slips out from slick-ice claws
to fall down into foul foetid waters.
It voices, vocal, but vehemence is naught.
She understands little. Unanswered questions
pulse through her mind. Pain too, piercing
every thought. Escape escapes her.
She falls to kness, fingers scrabbling in swampmuck,
helplessly seizing upon the time-aged hilt
of her dropped blade. A dragon roars overhead.
And ceaseless animation surges from the sword
snatching control of her – this – skin. Snicker-slash!
The wyrm is now dead, wings severed from corpse,
and strength floods her limbs, strange and unfamiliar.
The sword sings in her hands, screaming to the world,
not in the words of foes, but in her native tongue.
– O –
She is old. Obsequious servants say
they cannot see it. Could they be less subtle?
Snowy locks and leathery skin
put lie to their pathetic platitudes.
She does not hide it; no death-denial for her.
Flame-haired ice flees from this reality;
she will not. The world was once hers
and her pride is that of a prince of the earth.
Upon her ancient throne, under ancient canopy
she rests, stone reduced to rubble
by sand-counted years, centuries too vast
for man to grasp. Mortality draws near.
She is ancient. Aeons have passed.
Her youth is buried under years.
Her tomb is ready; tall and proud
spires – city-sized – sprawl across landscapes.
And she is tired. The truth is that
melancholia has seized her. She mourns memories,
laments long-dead friends, and allies lost to her.
She is eccentric – an eclipsed sun overcast.
She speaks not against the sparse mercies
of a modern era maddened by power.
She wonders, woefully, what world
her second coming will see, and she is sorrowful.
No stars paint the sky. Stretching, she stares up.
Is it that time again? In truth the creeping
years sprint by. Yellow banners bright
parade glories she once knew, in past beloved.
Feasting and festivals; she was full long ago.
Those decadent days are gone, and her partners are dust.
She attends because she must; mostly she remains
within her palace city, a woman wrapped in bygones.
Old comrades call on her; she is cold, callous.
She grew away from them. The green-eyed man
beside her is her ballast to the world.
He announces, "All goes as was foreseen, my queen."
A brawl breaks out, squabbling kits. Plates are broken,
swords are drawn. Subtle whispers echo
about the hotheads. Their heated argument
is ended by evisceration. Every head turns.
The shouting starts. She cannot share her disdain.
How far have they fallen? They fight like great foes.
And lightning strikes, born of nostalgia. Lies are revealed.
The jade-armoured giants around the room are just as she would
place murderers and malice has manipulated them all.
The tactics are true. Terrible realisation burns
and she laughs. Long peals sound as celestials squabble.
And dragons nock arrows on drawn jade-bows.
She springs to her feet, spear called to ancient hands,
long-worn armour light on still-lithe body
while children – arrogant, sure – are chaff
To the ranks of reapermen reddened with gold's blood.
How the worm turns! How the world spins,
and conquerors are conquered, killed by those
who had been servants, harmless tools.
Roselight ravages their ranks, ripping through
men clad in jade, as once the mighty mountain had.
Death becomes her, doomed by
the cold, precise, elegant calculus
of those who remember war is not theatre.
She still fights, though her staid heart is stilled.
To be manipulated in this way, just as once they had manipulated,
so murder would come, as they had murdered.
She knows this. Nine heroes fall by her hand
and the door is near. She sees her doom past it.
White ranks arranged, armoured, armed, aimed,
and ready. The wrathful ranks close in.
Mauls mash, mutilate, mangle, maim, murder.
Quickly the cry goes out, "The Queen is dead!"
It is not true, but by inhumane fate
the last words she hears are that lie
made true by mere moments. Mortality takes her.
– O –
Once more she collapses. Wounds unclosed
she falls. Fatigue floods every vein.
She barely notes the lack of bannered-soul through bruise-pain.
Death has her. Denial is for naught.
How long has it been? How can it be
that all the world is strange and a woman wields
the titan-power of tormented once-foes?
The sword speaks, softly seeking answers.
Quietly she answers. For she is a queen,
but of what, when, and wherefore
she cannot say. Can she drag herself under cover?
Barely. Bodies lie around her, battle-stench coppery.
She is fading. That much is a fact.
Not only mortal flesh, but also in memories.
A ghost pale and wan in ghastly truth
that this tale is another's. A titan-slave
contains her keter-soul, captive to their whims.
In shared blood, she shakily scrawls
a message. A warning or threat of mutual
animosity and anger. Alien thoughts fill her,
sinking into sour sleep, seeking the waters of Lethe
which are beyond her grasp. She whispers softly
a final flashing thought, fading with her self.
One more mind-image, the memory of a name: Merela.
– O –