pretentious cosmic picture


"Her son continued breathing. He was bleeding profusely, but he did not die. Indeed he could not die. For Death was trapped.

"Remarkably, Tethonea was barely hit by more than spray. She came up and motioned to the smiths. They took long lengths of chain and wrapped it around the tower, and around Zaer, who glared at them as the chains bound him even tighter to the immovable Tower.

"But in the rest of the world, nothing could die. Tiny animals, who fed off crops and reproduced quite often, sound found their numbers growing. They started feeding on the farmer's crops in inordinate numbers.Angusin saw this from high Chialta, gleaming whitely like a star atop the greatest of all Tu's mountains, where the immortal Kaanho order the affair of Tu, the World Watterrimmed. The blue-armored Kaan-King knew that the world would starve if Zaer stayed pinned...or worse, would remain forever starving, but unable to die. Sea creatures would reproduce, and there would be no death of the old ones, and crowd the seas. The hungry would make Tu a desert. And if plants could not die, would they keep growing within one, making one's life an agony?

"Angusin is said to have said to black-bearded Tjisir Stormking, the Kaan of the storm and thunder and winter,'They hope to make Tu a paradise by imprisoning Zaer--by imprisoning Death. Instead, they will make it a place of torment and despair.'

"Tjisir said, 'My own descendents...have descended indeed.' Tjisir walked on the wind, and was at Wal Moortz quickly. He descended to the isle, and threw the lightningaxe at the Dark Tower, but it merely rebounded off.

"Sagin laughed from within the Tower. 'Ah, son, there is a duitiful son, trying to free his father...'

"Tjisir strode up to where Zaer lay imprisoned, His lightningaxe struck once...twice...thrice---and the chains shattered. .'Never, Father!' Then he turned to Zaer. 'Strongest of the Kaanho we are, save perhaps he who lies within this foul tower. Let us combine our strength.'

"Together the two Kaans used all their strength, and very slowly,the Tower...though not harmed...was lifted, inch by inch. Soon it was off Zaer, and now that he had some leverege, he helped Tjisir upright it.

"Meanwhile, Tethonea and her giants were piling into their ships and trying to sail away. Tethonea's ship had already made it part of the way from the shore, when suddenly Zaer appeared on the prow of the ship. His black cloak fluttered in the wind, and his silver-haired and bearded visage was emotionless and yet held a quiet rage, all the more terrible for him speaking in whispers.

"'Where will you go, Tethonea, to escape Death? You have been fleeing me all your life. You would have had decades left. But you were so afraid of death that it consumed your life. You never enjoyed your life because you were so afraid of losing it, and wasted what little time you had.' He reached out. 'Come to me.'

"'No! My guards will protect me...'

"'None can protect you from me, Tethonea. None can guard you from me. You made the fatal error of calling my attention to you. A fatal error--indeed.' He reached out. Tethonea was screaming and screaming, yet her feet started moving. She could not resist walking forward. He touched her....and she collapsed, lifeless.

"'As for the rest of you who accompanied her on this will wish you were dead.'"

He gestured, and the giants' hides became thicker, and they become more hideous. A fog descended on their minds, so they became a mere shadow of the intellect they had before. 'I name you ogre. Your intellect will be twice as slow as a giant's, and your visage twice as hideous. You will be slightly stronger, but you shall ever be prey to the swifter-witted.'

"Then he turned to the smiths who had chained him to the Tower.

"'However, for you, I have a special fate. For using your skills to chain Death, I will not take away your minds...instead I will make you even more hideous than the ogres. You should have seen more clearly than letting someone order you to chain death. So I claim one of your eyes...but to be fair, I will move the remaining one to the center of your head, rather than to one side.' He gestured, and there were screams, as the newborn cyclops looked at each other.

Then Tjisir's storm drove them against the east coast of the mainland. All were turned into ogres, save the smiths, who became cyclopses.

Then Zaer appeared on the steps to the great palace in Titiys. He spoke low. But everyone within sight heard him.

"'I claim this land,' he said.

"'This land was a gift from the Kaanho, and in return, the leaders of this land tried to trap me, to nullify me. You can't trifle with Death.

"'Your Empress is dead. I have punished those who were with her. Now I judge this entire land.

"'I give this land, one week. In one week's time, every living thing in Tesut will be dead.

"'Take to the sea. For in one week, Zaer will take you, if you are still here.'

"Next Zaer came to Chialta, the city of the Kaanho, ruled by kingly Angusin. 'I claim that land, Angusin. I have a greivance with Sashang, also. Sagin is already punished, but Sashang's wave brought down the Tower to trap me. She is free, and unpunished, but it could not have been done without her.'

"Angusin answered. 'There is justice in your claim. Her actions endangered all of Tu. Animals multiplying without death would have soon reduced Tu to a desert of the starving, yet unable to die.' Justice and judgement within Tu's limits were given to Angusin, as well as victory for just causes.

"Tjisir then showed up, and cried, 'Mercy, Angusin! Yes, my parents behaved badly. But I ask for mercy for my mother, Sashang, who was led astray by love.'

"'Yet there must be justice,' Zaer said.

"'Come with me,' Angusin said. Soon the three were at the seashore.

"'Sashang!' cried Angusin. 'We must talk to you!'

"Then the waves formed into the shape of a beautiful mermaid, but one whose eyes flashed with pride. Her long hair was tossing wildly, and in the moonlight shone silver, as did the scales of her lower torso, the fishtail.

"'I am mighty too, you three. I will resist any attempt to cage or punish me!'

"'Mighty you are, Sashang. But it is in my power to turn your waters into the touch of death, so that every sea-creature in it becomes a corpse. Your waves will be poison. Is that what you want?' Zaer said.

"'No,' she answered. 'But I cannot be imprisoned either.'

"'I suggest a punishment that will not harm you, but will mean giving up something you prize,' Angusin said. 'Tesut was a gift to your descendents, the giants. It was not part of the original lands of Tu. Zaer has promised death to any who remain on the land in a week.

"'Let Sashang deliver that death, Zaer. Let her reclaim the land she raised from the ocean floor. In one week, Tesut will return to the ocean that birthed it.'

"'But...what of my children's children, the giants?' asked Tjisir.

"'Many will flee in time, to the Great Lands. It will bring them into conflict with men. Yet it will be a fitting punishment that they will be exiles, with no land to return to.'

"Meanwhile, in Tesut, thousands crowded into ships, and crossed to the shores of the Great Lands. But many boats had been lost in the fleet that sailed to Wal Moortz. The great ships sailed to the coast, deposited their cargo of giants, and then sailed back to get more. Those who had smaller ships, even rafts, sailed by themselves. Tjisir sent winds to speed the sailing ships. Yet there were too many on Tesut.

"At the end of the week, all Tesut waited expectantly. They knew death was coming, but they had no idea how. Children cried and whimpered. Boats were being built furiously, but there was not enough time. A great storm gathered, as Tjisir raged against the coming fate against his descendents...but he realized that if Zaer was not appeased, he could kill every giant in all of Tu. The giants heard a great roar, and looked up...and saw to their horror, a wave as high as a mountain rising from the sea. It hung over the great land, higher than its mountains, like Doom suspended. There were thousands left, and they beheld their fate in the sky, and cried and screamed. The wave came crashing down....and with it, the land was pulled down by Sashang, and drifted down to the ocean floor. Corpses littered the sea for weeks, as the returning ships found to their horror. The heads of the great families, by the way, remained behind, for they feared to walk the streets, lest they be rended by the crowds. So practically all of Tesut's nobility died in the drowning of Tesut.

"Save one. The wounded prince was taken by Zaer back to Chialta.

"'This one I will not take. He was a pawn in a trap to catch me. Of all Tesut's nobility, he is least guilty. He will instead live to a ripe old age. I refuse to take him.'

"So instead Tjirir took the prince--who took the name Athpo, 'Notdead,' in honor of what he went the where his people were huddled on the shores of the mainland, and he led them to Northern lands where mountains were high and the weather was brisk. But he was sad at how few he ruled at first. The later Emperors of the Titan's Empire were all derived from this prince.

"'Thus Three-fourths of the giant population died in the sinking. The remaining fourth made it to the Great Lands, Cathrarho,and there they tried to create a new civilization. They enslaved many of the human tribes they found there, and spread their civilization. Centuries later, they encountered the ogres and cyclopses who had landed on the other side of the Great Lands, their distant cousins.

"Centuries later, humans revolted from giant rule, led by the first of the family of Cathurias. They retreated to the North of the Great Lands, where the mountains grow high and free."

Falnee finished, and there was only the sound of sea-birds. Everybody scanned the horizon instinctively, looking for a wave larger than a mountain, like the one that swallowed Tesut, also known as Strong's Isle...Atlates.

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Copyright © 1997 Al Schroeder