Hahahahahahahahahaha… You do love a good story, don't you, my
child? Very well. I'll tell you one more that you'll find most interesting.
Most interesting, indeed.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Such a brilliant boy. So much strength, so much potential. The
countless eons I spent waiting. Biding my time with others to do my
work. A few glimmering stars amongst them perhaps, but none of them
as bright as he. It's funny; millennia can go by in the blink of an eye
when you're not looking, but when you're waiting for something, every
second feels like a century.

Then it happened. I saw him. So small and helpless, freshly born in his
family's arms. They looked on him with pride. With hope. Oh, you
simply have to laugh, don't you? But I wasn't the only one watching
with interest. I could see others with their eyes on him; Pain in
particular was very keen on him. But they're all far too prim and proper
to come outright and make themselves known. Not me. I love making
an entrance.

I watched him grow, my sweet golden boy. His family, his teachers, they
never understood him. What was in his heart. Only one other did. A
thin dark-haired lad. So alike in so many ways. You could put them side
by side and I'd dare you to tell them apart. They grew inseparable.
Their bond made them strong, but their bond also gave me the
opportunity I needed.

I watched them play, as they had many times before, at the bank of the
river Lethe. I watched another boy, Tolvik, confront them. And I
watched as the dark-haired lad was threatened, face pressed in the
water, legs and arms flailing. He had so many choices open - calling
for help, pushing Tolvik, anything. But in the moment of decision, he
chose…. me.

The feel of the stone smashing the back of Tolvik's skull was like
rapture to me. Feeling his soul sink at that moment. In the middle of
fear and worry, he had no time for regret. Not when he helped his
friend from the water. Not when they destroyed Tolvik's body. Not
when they returned home. Not even later, in the dark, in bed. Oh, he
wasn't spending the evening wide-awake, agonizing over what had
happened. He had slept. My boy slept like he'd just had another day of
taking classes and playing with Perigosto sticks. He slept and dreamt.
But it was in his dreams where he cried. He cried and wailed all alone
in the dark, along the banks of a river of Tolvik's blood. That's when I
went to him. He would never be more vulnerable.

It was a simple offer. I would take away the guilt of what had
happened. I'd take away all the tears, the pain, and the anxieties. And
all he'd need to do was give me his friend. I told you that their bond
was stronger than any blood ties could ever be. It was strong enough to
speak on his behalf. And that golden boy, that boy with such promise
and wonder and joy looked up at me from the river of blood, and with a
small, tiny voice he said, "Take him."

I kept my part of the bargain; I always do. More or less. I shrouded his
mind from Tolvik's death, making him believe he'd been the one in
danger, and that his friend had killed the bully. Oh, there was still
anguish, but far far less than had been before. And then I went to the
other boy. Where my golden boy's mind was filled with wonder and
possibility, his mind shimmered instead with the sharp edges of logic
and certainty. But that would change. I'd make sure of that.

I watched them both grow. They never really recovered from the death
of Tolvik, and they never again spoke of it. I watched them grow more
and more competitive. And then one day my golden boy left his home,
and took flight to the stars. And the other boy, my dark-haired lad, he
surely had to follow. All the years of nurturing and cajoling, half-
whispered proddings in the middle of the night had shaped by dark-
haired lad. He'd become strong. He'd become powerful. He went from
world to world, spreading pain and death, in unknowing tribute to me. I
couldn't ask for a greater disciple. Well, I could. But my golden boy
was on another path. He'd become the Champion for one of my
cousins. And ultimately, the two friends clashed. Again and again. So
far removed from their humble beginnings that they didn't even
acknowledge each other by their own names anymore, choosing such
trivial titles as "Master" and "Doctor."

Every time he tilted against his old friend, the dark-haired lad failed.
And every failure showed me that he wasn't as strong as I had thought.
Every failure was a stabbing reminder of what glories I could have had
with my golden boy. But he, too, had lost some of his shine. He'd
unknowingly interfered with me time and again. And while I couldn't
help but have some small amount of pride at his strength, I also couldn't
deny having a growing resentment for him. It was time. Time to give
both of my boys a spanking.

I went to my golden boy, not in his dreams but in the flesh - well, as
'flesh-like' as I chose to be. We'd met face-to-face a number of times
before, and had even shared a lovely dance once. He looked at me with
cold, gray eyes. And I gave him my offer. I would remove his enemy,
my dark-haired lad, from the cosmos. For a span of ten years, no more
no less, I would put him elsewhere, and pull away his identity. He would
not kill. He would not murder. Ten years of peace. And in exchange, at
the end of those ten years, my golden boy would go to his old friend,
and kill him. Hahahahahahahaha, oh the look in my boy's eyes.
Indignation. Shock. Horror. He blustered and wailed at me, oh how he
had a way with words. But I knew. I knew that for all his righteousness
and honor that he would agree. And he did.

Oh what jolly fun! I watched my boys, living their lives without the
other even a shadow in the other's mind. I even slipped into the game
myself, taking on the role of my addled dark-haired lad's servant girl.
Oh, I do love irony, don't you? And in the midst of all of the happiness
and serenity, I brought my golden boy back.

I won't lie. I can't say I'm not disappointed with how things turned out in
the end. All that planning. All that manipulation. And in the end, they both
let me down. No, even worse than that. They disappointed me. And I do
so hate being disappointed.

But that disappointment did have its uses. In my anger and my rage, I
found myself thinking of things I rarely thought, and looking in places I
rarely looked. And that's when I saw you, my most special child.
Lurking on the edges of possibility, like a spider in a web. Oh, I hadn't
felt such potential since… well…. hahahahahahaha… since my
golden boy. No no, I'm sorry. It's irony again.

What? The ending? I'm sorry, my dear. I jumped ahead a bit, didn't I?
Where was I? Oh yes. I'd seen you. Hovering on the precipice of reality.
And that's when came up with my most intricate plan yet. Not only
could I have my cake, I could eat it too. And I do so love cake.

My dark-haired lad's use had finally come to an end, especially now that
I'd seen you. He wasn't quite the man he once was, and I told him of a
place, of a way, that he could be physically vital once again. He was
suspicious, of course. Given our last encounter in Perfugium, he
certainly had cause to be. But, his thirst for newfound life was far
greater than any skepticism. He accepted my offer. I know that
inside, he thought he was cleverer than I was. My poor deluded,
dark-haired lad.

Then, I went to my golden boy. He still wore the same face and had
the same demeanor from when I'd seen him last all those years ago. He
thought I was there for battle, but I convinced him I was simply there to
have him fulfil the favor that was owed to me. He was as cynical of my
motives as my other boy had been, until I told him what it was. My
dark-haired lad was dead. And he wanted his remains to be returned
home. I knew only that reason would be enough to make my boy
go. I could feel the guilt from Perfugium still in his hearts, and while
he'd never been able to "save" his friend, he couldn't possibly turn
down the chance to take him to his final rest.

Oh, what fools they were! What beautiful, glorious fools! I pulled
a string, and they jumped. Twitch, jump Master jump. Twitch, jump
Doctor jump. Twitch twitch. Make them dance. Twitch twitch twitch.
Make them die. My Master, gone. And my Doctor, well… a Doctor…
gone. But there was another. With bright-eyes and a wide spirit. Flitting
through the universe, posturing against me and railing against the Laws
of Time, all for the life of a silly girl.

I played them both. Both puppetmaster and chessmaster. For my dark-
haired lad, he learned what the cost of failure truly was. And for my
golden boy. Well, I punished him in the most horrible way imaginable.
And for me? I was able to choose my most elegant, and most wonderful
Champion.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


And that, my child, is the end.

Oh, I do love a story with an unhappy ending, don't you, my little
Zagreus? I can see by your face you do.

That's all, my dear. Go out into the universe, my child. And play.





BACK TO THE LIBRARY!!!