Sunday, September 3, 2023

Slag & Scale

It is known how the God at the Forge created the Sun: by complete accident.

When the Trickster wished to give the smith a gift to express its love for them, it did not know how, because it could not express anything. Deceit and concealment was so ingrained in its ways that it could not even tell a truth it wanted to share. So the Trickster fell back on old habits and presented to the God at the Forge a lump of the world's worst, most impure ore. The Trickster then dared the god to create anything of beauty out of it, teasing them and doubting their abilities as a child might the person they fancy.

The God at the Forge was insulted, for pride in the craft was their insurmountable nature. So they accepted the challenge, and set straight to work. They took the lump of ore to their forge and heated it a thousand-thousand times over, in a fire a thousand times brighter and hotter than the smith had ever stoked before. So bright and hot was the forge that all the other gods and creatures of the Rift shied away and fled to the twilit places- all but the Trickster, who watched the smith work in teary-eyed awe.

The Trickster beheld as the god at their bellows began to melt away the outer layers of the ore. Molten slag flowed like rivers and cooled into mountains, yet that vexing lump of ore remained undiminished; still impure. The smith's anger burned as hot as the forge, nearly melting it to the firmament. The god finally lashed out and sent the slag crashing to their feet, before stomping away and brooding over what next to do.

The Trickster also watched as some of that discarded slag began to move. Shattered crags picked themselves up and brushed off the smaller, crumbly bits of their fellows with stumpy, blunt limbs. They looked around with eyeless heads, and soon trundled or toddled away in fear at the sound of their creator's loud grumbling.

When the ore proved too stubborn, the smith pulled it out of the forge and laid it upon their anvil in the grip of their great and immovable tongs. If all the impurities would not melt out, then they would hammer them out. The smith deliberated at length, and finally took up one of their 6,842 hammers with which to begin the Great Folding.

For a length of time that would come to be called a year, the god hammered at the lump of ore. Every swing lit the Rift with showers of sparks, and shook the gulfs to their depths. The ore was beaten and shaped, tortured and purified, until the lesser metals were dragged screaming to the surface and smote.

The Trickster watched as those flakes of hammerscale rained upon the anvil like storms-yet-to-be, only to be swept away by the calloused hand of the God at the Forge. The flakes danced and shivered like black snowflakes as they fell, twisting in the heated air currents until they landed upon spindly little arms and legs. Jagged and pointy, these diminutive creatures did not flee in fear from their creator so quickly.

But just as the smith ignored the gawking Trickster, so too did they ignore the growing audience at their feet. They seized upon the progress they made, bringing the hammer down faster and harder until their arm was a blur, and their work reached a fever pitch.

When it did, they broke their hammer upon the lump of ore and ignited something deep within it. A spark unlike any other, that grew and grew to absorb the entire sphere with a brilliance that not even the smith could withstand. So they hurled it away into the darkness, where it caught in the empty void and erupted into its full glory.

At that, the little scales yipped and fled in fear. All the gods of the Rift came to look in awe at the newborn Sun. Without a doubt, it was the greatest thing of beauty the God at the Forge had ever made. Even the dust and the dregs of the Rift thought so, and began to dance around the Sun in ever greater crowds.

But the story of how the worlds were wedded together is for another time.

For now, the God at the Forge stood and basked in the warmth of their creation, and the accolades of their fellows. They waited, proud and imperious, for the Trickster to come before them and declare its challenge met. But the Trickster did not. The Trickster could not. All it could do was conceal the ache in its heart as it stole away to darker parts, where the smith's beauty did not burn so brightly, and the laughter of gods was not so loud.

There, in the dark and quiet, the Trickster found that it was not so alone. It found there, huddled and frightened, the little bits of slag and hammerscale that the smith had cast off and forgotten in their work. They were as children without a parent, in a Rift that was no longer what it once was. Yet they were sharp and rough to look upon, beautiful like lead, cruel to the touch and clumsy in all ways. The haughty gods of the Rift would never even notice them, let alone deign to welcome them in.

And so the Trickster reached out its long arms, and gathered the slag and scales up in spindly hands that could only steal the belongings of others. And then it closed its mouth so full of lies long enough to tenderly kiss them upon their jagged little heads. And then in a voice too quiet to hear it admitted that yes, the God at the Forge had made something beautiful indeed.

That, child, is why you should always treat with respect the things we might call waste: you never know when they might hold the guarded love of the Trickster.

Or perhaps that is just another lie, meant to put fidgeting children to bed. Now go to sleep.

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