Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...
Part 2, In the Beginning...
When last we saw Tom and Braeta, she was beginning to tell her tale.
She nods, "Yes, from the beginning then...
"In the beginning the First Ones, the Great Powers walked upon the face of the earth, shaped it and brought it to life. They peopled it with creatures and finally with man. Much of what they did was according to a Great Plan, but some of it arose from their own urges and desires. It was their own desires, it is said, that brought forth the Dragon Kings, the Fair Ones, and the Old Gods."
Tom hadn't quite meant that beginning, but as the adage goes, one must be careful what one asks for. He sits back, savoring his tea and the alien sound of her voice. Its rich, sensual tones seem quite suited to the telling of this tale.
He starts to kick in his Total Recall, remembers the house is recording, then decides to do so anyway. He wants to remember his own thoughts and impressions, as well as her words. Thoughts like noting "Old Gods" added to the list of "Fair Ones" and "Dragons," which he recognizes.
"The Dragon Kings and the Fair Ones left the Earth, for this was a time before the Great Flattening, when other worlds were nearer to ours. Then as man and woman began their rise, the First Ones, too, withdrew, and only the Old Gods and Man were left of the Great Houses on earth, though there were many of the lesser Houses, and mixed blood.
"The Old Gods had mixed their blood with the Fair Ones, and children of this mixing, and many of the Low Houses of the Fair Ones stayed in the forest, moors and fens. Some of the Old Gods mixed their blood with She Who Was Once a Dragon, and their children lurked in the mountains, deserts, and the bowels of the earth. Some, even, of the Old Gods mixed their blood with the animals, and their children lived either with Man or with the Low Houses."
'"She Who Was Once..."' So there is a tale, at least, that the Dragons kicked out Lilith. Good. It makes Tom think better of the Dragon Kings. Of course, there are so many different tales of Lilith. While he's at it, Tom makes a mental note to ask Markel about the origins of dragons in his world, when/if he sees the dragonrider again.
Tom's eye is caught by a small silver-bound volume on the bookshelves. There seems to be a copy in all the family homes. He wonders idly what Braeta would think of it.
"But most often, when the Old Gods' eyes strayed from their own, it was to the sons and daughters of Man. And when the Young Gods, the children of the Old Gods, overthrew their parents and replaced them, they kept mostly to their own kind or tarried with the sons and daughters on Man."
Tom thinks, 'Now we have Young Gods, who are children of the Old and displaced them, as in Greek myth. In Mesopotamian, Norse, and Egyptian, too.'
"D'aeouaeoes, who was my father, was one of the Young Gods, and one particularly known for favoring the daughters of Man, which is why he was known as 'The Fatherer'."
Tom rolls the name over in his mind, 'Dyaus. Zeus. Father of gods and men. Zeus pater. Jupiter. Oh.'
He interrupts briefly, asking, "You are one of the Nephilim?" The little silver book on the shelf attributed only 500 to 1000 years of life to the Nephilim.
She nods. "So we have been called, and many other things besides. Among the gods, the Blood of the First Ones ran strong and deep, and their powers were great. We who are more mortal than celestial have two natures, the mortal and, buried within it, the heavenly Blood. If we are Unrecognized, the Blood does not express itself, and we are as the sons and daughters of man, though long of life and robust in health."
Tom thinks rapidly. It seems there are orders, or perhaps just generations, among the nephilim -- Old Gods, then New Gods, then Demigods (Recognized or Unrecognized).
"If, however, those of celestial Blood, the Young Gods or Old, recognize us and wake in us the Blood, then we come into our own powers, echoes of the Great Powers who were the First Ones.
'Like switching on a "half-Deryni" human. Heck, Deryni might BE a branch of the nephilim,' Tom muses. 'Or the mazzikim.' Then he remembers he used to be Deryni....
"I was still young, and only beginning to discover my own nature when the Word came. All of the Old Houses, all who were not of the Plan, must leave the Earth. The world would be flattened, and the ways to the Summerlands, the Mountains of Kâf, and the demi-worlds would be broken. Few there were who would leave the Earth willingly, for those had left already to the Summerlands, Patala, and the celestial Courts long before.
"And so it was that the Great Powers, the First ones, Princes of Heaven and Earth, came again into the world and drove off first the Great Houses and then the Lesser from the home of Man. But, those departed would return, by stealth or rebellion, and so the world was flattened, and when it was, the exiled could no longer easily return, but too, the feet of the Great Powers could not so easily tread the earth. So they called upon their other children, the Great Dragons to aid them. And when it was clear that the Plan would be followed, and the Word obeyed, some of the Monsters, the enemies of the Young Gods, agreed to help force their foes from the Earth. And there was a great War in Heaven and Earth and the other Houses were driven away from the House of Man."
'The Titanomachy. The Gigantomachy.' Tom's read a lot of mythology since disembarking the pantope. And the Eretsarin were on the side opposing the Young Gods, if he's translating this properly. Interesting.
"I had traveled north from my home, nearly to the Great Wastes, for I had heard that some of the remnant of my father's House were still in the Earth, and I wished to know more of my nature. There I met Thaeoundaeawar, a cousin of my father's and like him in powers if not in character. He was seeking respite from the War and the Great Storm in a cave that lead into one of the few remain Ways to the half-lands and demi-worlds."
'And, like her father, genetically deficient in consonants... "Great Storm"?'
"We talked and rested in that cave for nine days, and when they were done, he touched me and stirred my blood. Telling me to stay hidden, he went back out into the Great Storm and fought with Wolf and Dragon. They say he died in that battle, as did most of his kinfolk. I do not know, for I stayed long and long in the cave at the mouth of the half-lands. And when all the gods were driven from that part of the world, or killed, the earth was flattened further and I was cast out into the cold north.
Tom nods, 'Storm. Wolf. Dragon. Gods dying in battles, with names like "Thunder" or "Thor." So Ragnarok is in the past, not the future, and came some time shortly after the Flood. And Braeta has lived through both. No pushover she.' Tom is glad he didn't plan on pushing.
"Perhaps because my Blood was not yet fully woken, or because I was not entirely in the world, they did not find me or drive me out. Others, too," and here she pauses to look at Tom with careful appraisal, "though not many, of my kind managed to stay upon the earth, and for a time the lesser houses were still seen in the woods and wilds, though in the end they, too, were driven forth.
"I returned to the great sea and the island of my birth and lived in a holy cave for many years before going once more abroad. Ever since, I have striven to find others, like myself, others of the Blood, the remnant left behind. Some I have met and many I have watched.
"That is how I became aware of you, and your wanderings across the earth and ages. I thought the first time that I might meet with you, but your fiery deaths made that impossible, and when you returned in your power to slay Nguyen Cat... I was afraid. More recently I read of you and the place called the Jack, but by then I was on another track.
"You know the planet Destine, through the nebula called the Veil?"
Tom, who does not, shakes his head silently.
"It was settled in the Great Wave, when men first went out in trios of ships to colonize the stars. The three ships were Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, and so the folk named their planet Destine. The Veil is hard to navigated and the folk of Destine are a private sort, so in the great collapse that followed they were lost from contact with Earth.
"My studies suggested that a number of them were of the remnant of the Blood, so I recently chartered a ship and traveled to Destine, but when I got there..."
She goes slightly pale and looks down and away from Tom's gaze. When her composure is restored, she looks back.
"They were all gone. Vanished as if in a day. Through most of their city and country they had just vanished, as if they dropped all they were doing, and fled. At one end of the city, though, there was great destruction as if of a battle, and at the heart of that, everything was... twisted.
"I found a helmet there, and a dagger. Both bore the seal of the Great Dragons.
"I was so afraid. It was just as it had been during the Great War and the time of my awakening."
Her tea cup rattles in her hand and she sets it down.
"I have to know! Are They come for the remnant at last? Are we being hunted? You were the only others of the Blood I knew of--or so I supposed--all the rest disappeared years ago, or went to Destine.
"Will you help me?
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.