The Last Labor of the Titans
(A creation legend of the Slakiv Empire, from Hloen’s Tales of Our Mothers)
Listen to what I say, you young and old, for I tell of how our world was made and what its fate may be. Attend, you strange and intimate; I speak of what we are and why. Follow closely to my words’ wanderings, for they follow all paths.
At the dawn of what we know as time, the archons of Twilight and Dream met and decreed that they would wage war at the end of time, the final and most terrible war ever. They signed a covenant with ink mixed from their blood and breath, which set out the terms of the war and of their relations until the end of time should be declared. After this they set together to create a battleground, so the worlds they knew and loved would not be scarred beyond eternity.
Their name for our world, Showahon, means “place apart,” and it is from this root that we draw Shankhar and Shoun, which is its name in Xyam that they speak to the east. And it truly is a place apart—outside of all other worlds, but connected to each, or to many. It is a reality different from all others, and its laws are not like those of any other world, so that its secrets are even now still being uncovered. The building of Showahon was given to the titans, the greatest artificers of all. It was they who drilled The Fountains of Creation, through which the elements flow.
First, the titans created a shell known as Cosmos to hold the world and define its limits. Outside of this there is something like, but not exactly, a place, the paths of which lead to other worlds. No mortal has walked these paths to tell of it, but this is what is said. Within the spheres of Cosmos were placed the sun, moon and stars, to light the world and mark its time with their slow turning. Then, working for a hundred years, they built a great pillar of adamant in the very center, around which spun a vast disk upon which the war could be fought. Its surface shone with fire, and water flowed through its veins. However, this was displeasing to the archons, and they rejected it. So the titans unbuilt it and labored for ten thousand years, building a maze of inestimable size. This labyrinth twisted in on itself and splayed out in all directions; walking for a lifetime could fail to bring you back to your beginning, or take you to the same place always and always. Its halls and stairs, tunnels and chutes, whistled with wind and grumbled with stone. A battle there would be sung about after all other songs had died, so great was the field. Still the archons were unsatisfied, so much that they destroyed it themselves.
The titans set about then on their final and most awesome labor. For a thousand thousand years they worked, drawing power from all worlds to weave something that belonged to all and yet to no other but itself. They mixed fire and earth to make a simple round mass, and around that built a sphere of stone and soil. The surface of this they judged too plain, and so gouged out pits and crevices, basins and nooks, and in other places they piled up mounds, hills, mountains. The outer surface of this sphere and the inner surface of the sky-shell they bathed in water, so that this inner world has oceans and rivers, while the sky above shimmers with the currents that run through it, and glows blue in the sun even as does a lake.
Still this did not seem enough to the titans, who wished to outdo all their previous works. They set the lights of the sky to move and change, the ball in the middle to spin, and threaded it all through with lines of power. Some of these sprang from itself, and others, from the myriad other worlds, so that it would continually grow and change by their influence. Nor yet were they satisfied, these master craftsmen. They seeded the oceans with living things, from plants no larger than a mote of dust to the great Kraken and other behemoths of the deep. Other living things they grew from the earth, lichens and molds, herbs and trees of all sorts. Then they made other things to move across the land, tending the plants, eating and fertilizing them, and they made things to fly through the air or burrow under the ground. We do not know by what blueprints they made so much life, or how much the living things have changed on their own since that first creation. But the host of titans walked the land and sea and were pleased and proud with their own craft. They delighted in the world, its ever-changing faces and seasons, and the uncountable spirits that had wandered from other worlds and found a home in this one. They settled here to live, those titans, and continued to shape it in the manner of an old gardener who is always shaping his little patch of earth, just so, long after his children’s children have grown to work the land themselves.
The archons came then, and looked over Showahon, and were satisfied. For here was a ground where a battle of infinite variety and surprise could be waged for an aeon and still hold mysteries for the warriors to delight in finding. It was not the first creation of a world, nor the last, nor perhaps the best, but it was very good. They asked the titans what payment would be accepted for such a masterwork.
The titans deliberated among themselves, and came to realize that they loved this world too much to leave it. Not one of them, from the elders and leaders of their tribe to the youngest child, could look at a hill without remembering a week spent sitting there to plan a forest or river; could not look into a valley without remembering how they had dug out its contours and buried there a stone in which lived a spirit that had not found a home within the memory of gods. They wanted nothing more but to love the world, and tend it, and be part of it forever, and they said this to the archons.
The archons granted their wish. The titans had given themselves wholly to this task, and could not be separated from it. Yet the world did not belong to the titans; it belonged to itself, and to the archons for its final use. So they told the titans that they could no longer wander the worlds, nor grow, but only fade away as their own creation absorbed them ever more completely.
And so it was that while others came to the titans for their services, they refused each request, until they were visited no more. Once they had made artifacts beyond what we can ever know simply for pleasure; now their energy was spent on placing a single vein of silver ore within a mountain, or delicately shifting an island to change the pattern of the winds, or changing the color of one star in the sky. As their mastery lessened and they invested more of their being into the world, they had fewer and fewer children, until they had none at all and their race began to die.
It is not known what happened to their bodies. Some say that the titans are buried, in the land’s skin or at its hot heart; others that they melted or changed to vapor; all agree that the titans were finally unified with the world by their love for it. It is said that they are all around us, their flesh having made the final touches of their work. And so it went until the very last titan, Kor, laid himself down and died.
It is said that the archons, before they departed for their long sleep to await the coming of the end, visited Kor as he lay in state and found to their surprise that creatures were already investigating the body. These were not carrion-beasts or birds; these were wondering what Kor was and why he was there. The creatures were intelligent, but unlike any other being of any world. They had their own rules, sprung from this earth and water, air and fire, moved in strange ways by dust of the cosmos above. Thus the archons discovered mankind, the only force that mixes the essence of Faerie and Dreaming and thus can rule and be ruled by either, or both, or none.
That is my telling. We do not know who we are; no being of any world can understand us fully. For we partake of everything, must choose nothing, and we alone of all that moves on the inner sphere of Showahon can say where we will go and when.