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The Butcher of Farshadow Station
“‘Tiny Galactic Newcomer Shames Raelethi Terror!’ ‘Primarch Defeated in Single Combat by Unarmed Assailant!’ Ooh, no, no, Nat, this is the best one. It’s fucking gold: ‘Miniature Mammal Maims Massive Monstrosity!’ Christ, their media is actually worse than ours.” Corporal Anastasia Koltsov was sprawled on her bunk, the glow from her datapad bathing the angular features of her face in a soft light as she scrolled through the local newsfeed. She couldn’t restrain the smile brought on by her friend’s obvious discomfort. “I didn’t know you maimed the guy, Nat. You been keeping details from me?”
“I didn’t maim anybody, Ana. No one even got hurt.” Corporal Natalie Boucher sighed as she replied. She sat hunched over the small desk at the foot of their bunks, a small screwdriver in her left hand and her right arm clamped to the desktop amid a sea of spare parts. The armored shell of her bicep had been removed and was propped up against the small lamp on the corner of the desk, the typically pristine mirror finish marred by various oil smudges. Her dark hair was pulled back in it’s usually messy ponytail, and her empty shirt sleeve hung loosely at her side, rustling whenever she shifted a part on her makeshift workbench.
“Wait, I got another one: ‘The Butcher of Farshadow Station.’ Huh. You think that’s a coincidence, or do you think they actually did their homework and ran your name through a proper translator program? My money’s on coincidence. All of these articles are written by hacks anyway. I’d be surprised...”
Natalie cut her off. “Ana, I know you think this is a riot, but can you not right now? This is a delicate enough process without having to relive how I broke my arm over and over while I'm trying to fix it. I’m almost done, and I’d like to have two arms again before dinner.” Her tone was sharper than she meant it to be. It was bad enough that they were stuck here because of her little exhibition three days ago, and she had really mixed emotions about being turned into a folk hero over what was turning out to be a major diplomatic incident. And Ana’s enthusiasm, while well intentioned, wasn’t helping.
“Sorry. But come on, can you blame me? This is the first exciting thing that’s happened to our squad, and I wasn’t even there to see it thanks to Gunny’s ‘three marines on the ship at all times’ rule. I was cheated, damnit. And I’m never going to stop giving him shit for it, either.”
“Fine,” Nat replied, her words dripping sarcasm. “The next time I unknowingly start a battle to the death and get our ship locked down at a major space port, I’ll make sure you’re there for it.”
“Thank you. That’s all I’m asking for.” Ana grinned and let the conversation die there so that Natalie could finish her maintenance in peace. She returned her attention to her datapad, scrolling through the ridiculous stories about her friend on the local net.
Time wound on in relative silence, the only sounds being the scraping of metal on metal as Natalie worked. After an hour, there was an echoing clang as Nat snapped the armored case closed on her upper arm, shouting “Done!” in defiance as she did so.
“Took you long enough.” Ana teased.
“Hey, I had to replace three of the main actuators. That fucking Raelethi did way more damage than I thought it did. I’m honestly surprised my collar mount didn’t start warping.” Nat absentmindedly tapped her right collarbone, the metallic reply of the titanium implant weirdly muted by her skin. She then started rolling up her right shirtsleeve. “Now come over here and help me plug this thing back in.”
Ana slid off her bed, leaving her datapad, and strode over to Nat. Instead of moving to grab the mechanical arm on the desk, however, Ana reached around Nat and wrapped her in a hug from behind. Her voice was quiet and serious when she spoke.
“I know you think I’m bullshiting about all of this, just trying to get a laugh, but I really am proud of you, Nat. Most of the galaxy spends every day scared of those things. The more I read about them, the worse they are. They’re honest-to-God monsters. You should read some of the message boards. Xeno’s all over the Federation are going on about what a relief it is to know something can stand up to a Primarch. You embarrassing one of them publicly like that has legitimately made the galaxy a better place. Screw what this station has to say about it.”
Natalie could actually feel the tension melt out of her neck and shoulder. Ana was right, of course, and Nat had already known everything Ana had said. But it meant a lot to hear someone that Natalie trusted say it. To confirm it. “Thanks, Ana,” was Natalie’s only whispered reply for a few moments. She then started squirming in her seat and shrugged off Ana’s hug. “Now knock it off with the touchy-feely crap.”
“Why? Jealous?” she asked, playfully rapping her knuckles on the exposed titanium of Nat’s empty shoulder socket.
“Har fucking har. Just hold my damn arm.”
“Wow, you are a killjoy.”
“You know, the last time someone called me that, I ended up wagering a limb in an arm wrestling contest with an alien super-predator.”
“Ya see? Is that so hard? You just gotta put yourself out there and look for adventure sometimes,” said Ana as she picked up Natalie’s prosthesis.
Nat just shook her head at the absurd thought of being trapped at an alien space station, thousands of light years from Earth, with a third of the galaxy at war, and still having to LOOK for adventure. A violent wave of nausea suddenly washed over her as Ana slammed the arm home into its socket while Natalie was distracted, the control interfaces connecting directly to her central nervous system. It was always the same, but that didn’t make it any more pleasant.
Ana stepped back while Natalie recovered and grabbed her datapad again. “It’s almost chow time. You gonna head up with me?”
“Nah, I’m gonna go take a shower. I want to get all this grease off me. Plus the hot water will help the nausea.”
“Alright, but Gunny said he’s gonna break out some of the supplies he picked up on station. Said morale could use the boost. Not sure what it is, but he promised me it wasn’t green, so it’s gotta be an improvement.”
“Hey,” Natalie called out to Ana as her friend started to walk away. “Thanks.”
Ana flashed her a wide, toothy smile and turned to head towards the galley. “Anytime.”
Sub-Commander Jeralth of the 1st Imperial Grenval Marines coasted through the inky blackness outside of Farshadow Station. His squad’s aim had been impeccable, and none of his seven elite commandos had needed to correct their course since the initial burn from their thruster packs. They drifted ever closer to the Telarim freighter, masked from the myriad sensors in the area by the bulk of the station itself. Even if there hadn’t been massive blind spots to exploit, the heat shielding on their armor would have reduced their sensor signatures to nothing more than that of a small cloud of debris.
They reached the freighter right on schedule. It was large for a Telarim cargo ship, with a cavernous cargo bay taking up the forward 80% of the ship’s structure. The extendable gangway was still attached to the cargo hold, and the station’s massive docking clamps were still firmly in place fore and aft.
The commandos drifted past the bow of the ship, gliding along its length until they reached their mark, then fired their thrusters in unison. Moving as one, the squad banked towards a small airlock near the rear of the ship. It would normally serve as the main crew entrance when not loading or unloading cargo. Now, it sat unused and ripe for the Grenval to exploit.
All eight of the alien soldiers landed on the side of the ship simultaneously, and they immediately set to work. While Sub-Commander Jeralth went about gaining access to the airlock’s electronics, two of his soldiers began unfurling the bulky object they had been carrying between them. Quickly, a semi-rigid polymer tent large enough to contain all eight commandos had been erected around the airlock. Two of the other soldiers attached magnetic seals at the base of the polymer, making the swiftly erected structure airtight.
Once completed, the last three Grenval all removed the massive tanks of compressed gas that they had been packing and began to vent the tanks into the tent. It took mere moments for the now airtight structure to fill with nitrogen. A commando watched a pressure gauge with laser focus, shutting off the tank’s flow the instant the pressure in the tent reached one standard Telarim atmosphere. He signaled the others of their success just as Sub-Commander Jeralth completed his bypass of the alarms on the airlock and cycled it open.
Less than three minutes had passed from the time the first commando touched the ship to the airlock being opened. All eight commandos then oriented themselves for the artificial gravity and filed into the freighter.
Jeralth and his team immediately made for the bridge. He had to seize control of the ship before anyone noticed they were aboard. Once they had control, he could open the gangway doors. The Raelethi were waiting at the base of the gangway, and as soon as the doors opened from the inside, they could enter as ‘guests’ with no political ramifications from the station. The Primarch could slaughter the humans with its own claws, and the Dominion wouldn’t technically be violating Farshadow’s strict neutrality, since the slaughter would take place on sovereign Telarim property. Plus, there would be no one left alive to argue the Primarch’s story. It was a surprisingly cunning plan, especially considering it came from a Raelethi.
But Jeralth had to actually capture the bridge first. He was well on his way to doing just that when sounds from a corridor to his right froze him in place. Jeralth stopped his troops with a hand signal and started replaying his mission briefing in his head, trying to remember the schematics to the ship and what was in that direction. They had just passed engineering several corridors back, and life support was on the other side of the ship. It had to be… Jeralth flicked his tongue in excitement. It couldn’t be that easy, could it?
He signaled half his soldiers to continue on to the bridge and took the other three with him down the corridor towards the sounds. They stopped just outside an open doorway with light and noise flooding out of it. One of his commandos dropped a small, four legged recon drone to the deck, and it crept around the corner, cameras pointed into the room. Jeralth tapped into the camera feed, and stared dumbfounded at his good fortune.
The drone was staring into the freighter’s mess hall, and what looked like most of the Telarim crew were inside, eating and enjoying themselves. More importantly, all five humans were there. Jeralth was under strict orders that the humans were to be kept alive at all costs. The Primarch had… plans for them. He shivered, imagining exactly what that might entail. But the details were of no real concern to him. He just had to complete his mission.
Jeralth readied a concussion grenade and waited for the signal that the bridge was theirs.
The Tellarim had a much higher water requirement than humans did, both internally and for their semi-amphibious skin. Which meant that their ships had much more robust filtration systems than human vessels, as well as a significantly larger amount of water on hand in those systems.
Which meant Natalie got to take real goddamn showers.
It was one of the biggest perks to being stationed on a Tellarim ship. The two minutes of water allotted on USC ships was the worst part of being in the Corps. Especially being rated for mechanic work. Two minutes just wasn’t enough to get rid of the oils and exotic greases you would get covered in working in space. But on a Telarim ship? Nat could spend as much time under the hot water as she wanted.
Natalie probably would have spent the rest of the evening in the shower if her stomach hadn’t started reminding her that she needed food. She had only eaten a quick snack for breakfast and skipped lunch trying to finish the repairs on her arm, and now her body was becoming rather angry with her for it.
She sighed, grumbled something at her stomach about being patient, turned off the shower, and hurriedly toweled off and got dressed. Nat made a beeline for her quarters once she left the showers, wanting to take a minute to polish her arm back to its usual pristine mirror finish before joining the rest of her squad for dinner.
All of the human quarters and facilities on the freighter were on a sub-deck attached to the bottom of the ship. The Human Habitation Sub-Deck was a small, prebuilt structure that had been designed to be quickly attached to any ship that requested the protection of human marines. It was simply a matter of attaching the prefab to the ship and connecting power and life support functions. The artificial gravity was set to 1G and the air was mixed to a perfect earth standard mixture and kept at one atmosphere of pressure. Both of these marks were notably higher than the settings on the rest of the Telarim ship.
The extra gravity and atmosphere let the marines make full use of the small gym at the forward of the deck, allowing them to stay in fighting shape and stave off the ill effects of microgravity. Next to the gym was a small locker room where the showers were located. The gym emptied out into a respectably sized common room full of couches and tables and that was lined with screens. Along the port side of the common room, four doors led to the actual crew quarters, each of the four small rooms being shared by two members of the squad. At the very back of the sub-deck, there were two large VR simulation rooms, so that the squad could keep their skills sharp despite the boredom of deep space.
All of the machinery spaces and primary systems were neatly stashed out of sight behind the VR sim rooms.
Natalie walked through the common room and continued toweling off her hair. It was a nice setup, she thought. There was enough space and entertainment options to keep everyone from getting too bored and too irritated with each other. It would have been nice if everything wasn’t olive drab, though.
Nat reached her quarters and stepped inside, shutting the door behind her before diving into her footlocker looking for metal polish. She had barely started rummaging around when the sound of a blast from the deck above froze her in place. The dull thud of the explosion echoed in Natalie’s quarters for a second, and then the entire ship fell completely and eerily silent. Nat knew what she had heard, and there should have been alarms going off everywhere. But there was nothing.
She dashed out of her room, racing to the forward end of the sub-deck and the hatch leading up to the rest of the ship. Nat practically flew up the ladder, only to find the hatch quite firmly sealed shut. She strained against it for a few seconds before dropping to the deck. Something was very, very wrong.
Natalie decided to try to coms next, but had made it a just a few steps from the only way off of the sub-deck when she heard the upper of the two hatches open. She paused to listen and was rewarded with the sound of something heavy and metallic landing directly on the hatch. Something that was shifting its weight around. Something that sounded exactly like a soldier in full battle armor standing on the hatch.
“Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.” Natalie scrambled towards the rear of the deck and the machinery spaces. They weren’t much, but it would give her at least some cover. She had just reached her relative safety when the hatch was kicked in and a massive pile of black armor dropped unceremoniously to the deck. Nat watched as it picked itself up and raised a weapon, some kind of plasma rifle from the looks of it, and shakily moved away from the hatch.
Nat smiled. The gravity setting on the deck was about 40 percent higher than on the rest of the ship. And her visitor was clearly struggling with it. She was considering rushing him when a second armor clad alien dropped to the deck next to the first.
Nat pulled back into the depths of the machinery. She was confident that she could have held her own against one of the mysterious intruders. But not two. Not with so much open space between them and both of them being so heavily armed. Her eyes started darting around the heavy equipment, searching for some solution to her situation.
Jeralth stood proudly as the Primarchs approached, his prize firmly grasped in his armored gauntlet. The prisoners had been dragged to the cargo hold to be presented to the Primarchs. The handful of Telarim had been tossed roughly in a pile in the corner of a large open area Jeralth had found tucked away between all of the crates and shipping containers. They were all still unconscious from his grenade, and would be for several more hours. Six of the humans were lined up before him, all on their knees. He had taken the rather extraordinary measure of binding both the hands and feet of these bizarre creatures. They should have still been as unconscious as the Telarim, but they had recovered from the concussive blast in record time. Had Jeralth not been paying attention, the quick recovery of the human’s might well have allowed them to fight back.
It all made Jeralth so uneasy his scales were itching. No creature that wasn’t protected by an environment suit of some kind should have been awake after that blast, let alone moving, for at least an hour. And yet, all of these humans were alert and struggling against their bonds. What kind of monsters were these things?
It didn’t matter now, though. The Primarchs had arrived. Conscious or not, there was only one outcome left for the humans.
Jeralth stepped forward and addressed the largest of the Raelethi. “Primarch, the ship is ours. And as you requested, the crew is still alive to do with as you wish. I also believe you made a special request for the human female.” Jeralth stepped forward, dragging the seventh human behind him by the fur on her head, and tossed her at the Raelethi’s feet.
She wasn’t in the pristine shape as the other human captives. Bright red blood was matted in her yellow fur, and her face was heavily discolored where the subduing blows had been struck. She and the large dark-skinned one had been in the galley unseen by the drone, and had been partially shielded from the blast. Jeralth’s troops had needed to be… a little more forceful subduing them than the other five.
None of that mattered to Jeralth, though. His mission had been a resounding success. All objectives had been achieved in short order. His soldiers were completely undetected. There were no casualties. This was the kind of mission that made a career. It might even mean the end of grunt work for him. Everything would be classified, of course, but…
“YOU FOOL!” The Primarch’s roar was deafening, even through Jeralth’s helmet. “This is the wrong human!” The Raelethi swung it’s massive arm, flinging the female to the side and out of it’s way as it moved on Jeralth. The human flew through the air, crashed into a shipping container and fell in a pile, a puddle of red slowly pooling below her head. The Primarch grabbed Jeralth, lifting him from the deck, armor and all, and continued to rage. “You had one human that I said you must find. Where. Is. She?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You said there was one human female and four others. I brought you the female and even found two extras!” It was suicide to speak back to a Primarch, especially when one already had you in it’s claws. But Jeralth was extremely confused and not thinking straight, wracking his brain trying to figure out what had gone wrong.
“Primarch,’ One of Jeralth’s troopers spoke up. “Their were eight bunks on the high gravity deck. It’s most likely that the female you’re after is the only human unaccounted for.”
“Then it looks like you only missed the most important one. You may have a chance to save yourself yet, Sub-commander. Tear the ship apart until you find her. I’ll be waiting.” The massive Raelethi dropped Jeralth to the deck. “And be quick about it. I can’t start killing the others until she’s here to watch them suffer.”
Natalie slid away from the vent she had been watching from. She had to be careful not to let her right arm scrape against the metal of the ductwork lest the sound give away her position. Shimmying along, Nat made her way back in the direction she had come. She had to make it to the armory. Killing these sonsabitches was clearly the only way out of this. And the only hope for the rest of her squad.
After hiding in the ventilation ducts to escape the soldiers sweeping the sub-deck, she had used the same ductwork to follow them to the cargo bay. Natalie shouldn’t have been surprised to find the Raelethi behind all of this, but it still shook her to see them on her ship.
It took far longer than she would have liked to reach the armory. When she got there, though, she found that what luck she had up to that point had apparently run out. With the armory being as small as it was, really just a converted storage area, there had been no reason to run the main life support lines to it. Nat stared at the junction heading in the direction she needed to go, and thought it couldn’t be more than 25cm across. Natalie swore. Of all the places for the damn aliens to start being efficient in their systems layout, of course it was in the most inconvenient place possible.
What was worse, is that while Natalie pondered her options, she watched through a vent as one of the smaller Raelethi lumbered into view and placed himself firmly in front of the actual entrance to the armory. Well, thought Nat, they definitely weren’t stupid. There was no way she could fight through a Primarch unarmed, even if it did barely fit in the corridor.
She had to do something, though. There was no guarantee the head Primarch wouldn’t lose it’s patience and just murder everyone anyway. And Ana had looked like she was in pretty bad shape already. Nat looked disdainfully at the large wrench that she had grabbed from her machinery room, just in case. It would have to be enough.
Natalie slid along the ductwork, moving towards the center of the ship, looking for targets. It wasn’t long before she found one. A lone soldier was in the galley, overturning everything he could find, ripping through stores and every conceivable hiding place, and making quite a ruckus doing it. It was as good an opportunity as she would find.
Nat moved on to the main vent in the mess hall, kicked out the grating over the vent, and dropped to the deck. The alien clearly hadn’t heard her over the noise he was making, as the rhythm of the alien’s frantic search never stopped or even slowed. Nat steadied herself and smiled; it was time to get some payback. She snuck to the mess hall door leading out into the main corridor, swung it shut, and locked the seals from the inside.
Jeralth stared at the carnage before him, trying and failing to process what he was seeing. He stood in the mess hall with three of his soldiers who were all as confused as him. Two members of their squad lay dead on the floor at opposite ends of the room. The first was laying at the entrance to galley in a pool of his own bright blue gore, and what was left of his head had been reduced to a bloody pulp filling the shattered remains of his helmet. A massive, gore-splattered wrench lay next to him, along with the smashed remains of his squad's recon drones. His rifle, fortunately, was also on the deck next to him.
Jeralth had never been more thankful for the biometric locks on their rifles.
Unfortunately, the blade he carried was missing, as one of his other soldiers had discovered. He was lying, predominantly, right inside the entry to the mess hall, though he had been strewn about in four neatly sliced apart pieces. His head and both of his arms at the elbows had been cleanly removed. Jeralth had seen this before, of course, but it had never happened at the hands of a single, previously unarmed, opponent.
As Jeralth stood, pondering what his options were, the lights suddenly shut off. A moment later, the emergency lights flickered on, filling the room with a dull red glow. Instantly, he knew what to do.
“She’s on the bridge. Lieutenant, you’re with me. You two, swing through engineering and cut her off. Whatever you do, do not let her escape.”
With that, Jeralt raced off towards the bridge, his lieutenant only a few steps behind him. He ran as he had never run before. His life depended on catching this lone human. He had never seen a Primarch with a bruised ego before, but it would be the last thing he would ever see if he failed. And Jeralth had no intentions of dying on a Telarim freighter, of all places.
He rounded the last corner and burst onto the bridge, out of breath but with weapon drawn. It was completely empty. Nothing moved. Nothing made any noise. There was no trace that anything had been there since the bridge had been seized half an hour ago. It was just him and his frustrations. Jeralth swore. If he was lucky, they had flushed the human into the waiting arms of his other soldiers.
He turned to order his lieutenant to follow him towards engineering, but stopped cold. His lieutenant was nowhere in sight. Jeralth pinged him on his coms. Nothing. He tried again, and was again greeted with nothing. He raised his weapon and stepped back out into the corridor, only to find himself completely alone. Slowly, Jeralth started to make his way back towards the mess hall, retracing the steps of his mad dash, looking for any signs of his lieutenant or the human. He reached the gore filled mess hall having found nothing.
His scales started to itch again. What in the Suns was going on?
Natalie knew that boarding actions were a primary concern in her line of work. And in any shipboard actions, close quarters engagements were the standard, rather than the exception. She also knew it was rather common among the other species of the galaxy for those engagements to devolve into hand(or whatever analogue they had)-to hand combat.
But carrying swords? Fucking really? If it hadn’t been so effective, she would have been questioning it a little harder. As it was, she was just thankful that she had something that could effectively get through the armor those things were wearing. If she made it out of this alive, she’d have to make sure the tech guys back home got a look at it, figure out how it went through armor like butter. Maybe see if they could make some for the Corps.
For now though, Nat needed to focus. She had barely had time to get the body of her most recent victim out of sight before his partner came back looking for him. It was too close of a call for her liking. The odds were still stacked against her and she only had the barest hints of a plan about getting into the armory. But, it was better than nothing.
She quickly climbed back into the ductwork and shimmied off, looking for a new target.
Jeralth stalked down the corridors of the freighter, turning and firing randomly into every room he passed. Plasma bolts scorched machinery and bulkheads alike, but there was still no sign of the human female. Jeralth had never felt such fury. He had barely been on this ship for an hour, and six of his elite commandos were dead. His life was most likely forfeit at this point, regardless of the outcome of his search. He vowed that he was going to make sure the human paid for what it had done to his soldiers first.
Plasma continued to fly as Jeralth started on another circuit of the ship’s main areas. His one remaining commando was right behind him, covering every move he made. Jeralth new it was futile. None of his troops had found the human; they had all been found by her. But he couldn’t give up and simply let her win. Then, as he finished unloading another salvo of plasma into a random compartment and turned away from the room, he saw her. She was standing at the end of the corridor, blade in hand, staring at him. She said nothing, but her mere presence and the unblinking stare she shot him in the dim red light was an unmistakable challenge.
Jeralth leveled his rifle and fired. The plasma splashed against the bulkhead after hitting nothing but air as the human ducked down another corridor. He bellowed and charged after her, turning the corner just in time to see her disappear down a hatch to a lower deck. Jeralth surged forward, reaching the hatch in an instant, and, foregoing the ladder entirely, jumped down the hatchway.
Of the many mistakes he had made today, this would turn out to be his last.
As Jeralth fell towards the deck below him he felt the tug of the artificial gravity change, and suddenly he found himself falling much faster than he had expected. He didn’t have time to adjust, and crashed into the deck with a sickening crack. Struggling to his feet in the higher gravity and with an injured leg, he had just enough time to look around for his quarry before the human was on him in a flash of steel.
Jeralth had the curious and strangely mesmerizing experience of watching his right forearm separate from the rest of him. He would have continued to watch it fall towards the deck had a metal fist not smashed into his helmet’s vizor with enough force to shatter it and send him flying away.
It took several long moments for Jeralth to recover his senses and be able to turn to face his assailant. By the time he did, he found that his lone remaining commando lay dead at the base of the ladder, and that the human was slowly walking over to him. He propped himself up as best he could to face her. Though, with the extra gravity of the deck and the pain from his injuries fully setting in, facing her with any composure would be quite difficult.
As she reached him she squatted down to get a closer look at him, surveying her handiwork. Before she could say or do anything else to him, Jeralth choked out a question. “What.. What are you?”
The human frowned. “Did your bosses do any actual research on me before they sent you in here?”
Jeralth managed a quick “No” between gasping breaths.
“If they had, you might have known this was coming. The answer was right there in my name for anyone to find. See, they only programed a handful of my species’ languages into these nifty little translators. The four big ones. But French didn’t make it in, so when someone with a translator hears my name, they hear the equivalent of the bastardized English pronunciation. Do you know what Boucher means in French?”
Another gasping “No.”
The monster bared her teeth at him, and brought the tip of her stolen and bloodstained blade to his throat. “It means ‘Butcher.’ Now, you’re going to call your Primarchs, tell them you found me and that you’re herding me towards the cargo bay. And that all three of them should be there to catch me. If you want to get out of this alive, that is.”
The Primarch paced in front of the line of human captives, clearly anxious and with its last shreds of patience rapidly fading. It glared at the tiny aliens, flexing its massive arms, thick cords of muscle rippling beneath its blue-grey skin in anticipation of finally ripping them apart with its own claws. But uncertainty was once again starting to take hold in the back of the Raelethi’s mind.
Something was wrong. It had been nearly 15 minutes since the Sub-commander had made contact, promising that the human was finally to be delivered. And that the Primarch would have the pleasure of catching her itself. But she should have been here by now, along with the last of the Grenval commandos.
The Primarch had faced total humiliation at the hands of just one of these puny aliens. Now, that same, lone, unarmed, and weak alien had virtually annihilated an entire squad of one the Dominions best special forces units. None of this made sense.
The Raelethi finally ran out of patience. It turned to it’s two Lessers to instruct them to go into the ship after the human. It would be a tight fit for them, squeezing through the corridors of a prey-species ship. But the Sub-commander had clearly failed, and drastic measures were in order.
Then, with a deafening boom, the smallest Raelethi’s head exploded in a shower of grey gore and flashing needles.
Natalie pumped a fresh round into the chamber of her shotgun and ducked behind the shipping container she was using for cover. She immediately took off running deeper into the cargo bay, zigging and zagging around crates as she ran. Nat was fairly certain that the Raelethi didn’t have any projectile weapons, but there was no point in being careless now. She had taken the time to suit up in her own combat armor, but after seeing what the alien sword had been doing to the alien's protection, she didn’t feel like testing her own armor’s resilience unless she absolutely had to.
The sounds of the Raelethi tearing through the cargo bay in pursuit followed Natalie as she ran through the maze of shipping containers. All according to plan. Her primary goal had been to keep the Primarchs away from her squadmates. Once she had lost them in the cargo bay, she could double back and set them free. And finally have some damn backup.
Nat turned a corner in a dead sprint, making sure she was out of sight, and vaulted upwards towards the edge of one of the massive cargo containers. Her jump easily gained enough height for her to catch the edge of the four meter high container and pull herself atop it. Nat swore she would never get tired of reduced gravity. Fading back into the shadows away from the edge of the container, she readied her shotgun and waited.
The Primarch that had been following her hadn’t been as close as she thought it was, but it eventually tore into view, throwing crates aside as it ran and ripping deep gouges into everything around it with its claws. In it’s bloodlust, it had become a single-minded force of nature, focused solely on hunting and killing its insolent human quarry. But it never bothered to look up.
As the Raelethi ran under her, Nat fired. The shotgun leapt in her hands as the 8 gauge round hurled 100 needle thin, solid osmium flechettes at her target. All three of the Primarchs, out of arrogance and the expectation of an easy meal, had decided that their ceremonial honor guard armor would be more than enough for this grand show of superiority. And didn’t bother to wear their helmets. The cloud of silver needles dove into the Raelethi, plunging through it’s unprotected head and deep into its torso. The Primarch collapsed to the deck without another sound, dead in an instant.
Natalie wheeled and ran back the way she came, bounding across the top of the container maze. She wasn’t sure where the last Primarch had gone, but didn’t particularly feel like playing hide and seek all by herself. Her path led directly back to her squadmates; there wouldn’t be a better time than now to get them into the fight. She reached them in moments and jumped down to the deck where they had been presented to the Raelethi. They were still there, but their neat line had scattered as they crawled about the area, looking for some way to break their bonds.
Before Natalie could help any of them, a deafening, deck shaking roar reached out from the container maze, followed immediately by the charging Primarch it had emanated from. It was the largest of the Primarchs, the one that had instigated this entire incident. The one that personally wanted to rip Natalie apart. And it was already entirely too close to her for comfort.
Nat spun, leveled her shotgun, and fired in an instant. The shot connected, ripping through armor and spraying dark grey blood everywhere, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Primarch’s momentum. It bowled into her, sending both of them tumbling to the deck and rolling away as the shotgun flew from her hands.
Her tumble stopped when she collided with a steel container, and before she could fully right herself, the Primarch was on her, swinging one of its massive arms at Natalie’s head. She had just enough time to raise her right arm to block it. Nat was slammed back shoulder first into the container with enough force to dent the steel. The Primarch bellowed in protest and swung again. Natalie blocked as best she could, and again the strike fell directly on her right arm.
The mounting implants in her artificial shoulder blade and collarbone warped under the blow.
The Primarch reached its limit. It was done trying to subdue and torture. It was going to kill her, and it was going to kill her now. The massive Raelethi leaned in, mouth agape, and bit down. Its enormous jaws closed on her arm, tearing through armor and shredding actuators and servos. Natalie and the Primarch locked eyes in that moment, and Nat saw realization dawn there through the fury.
The Primarch tried to stand, jaws still clamped shut, and to tear the arm free, to be done with this farce. But it was too late; Nat saw her opening and took it. As the Primarch pulled back, it lifted her from where she was pinned. She reached across herself with her left hand, drew the stolen alien blade, and swung with everything she could muster while dangling from the Primarch’s mouth. The blade traced a line clean through the the Primarch’s abdomen, disemboweling it. The Raelethi stood for a moment, then pitched forward, spilling its guts onto the deck. For a long moment, the cargo deck was completely still.
Natalie squirmed out from under the massive corpse. She slowly rose to her feet, covered in grey gore, and looked at her mauled right arm. It was hanging from her shoulder, completely limp, with random parts and bits of metal sticking out at odd angles, and not responding to any input whatsoever. She let out a long, resigned sigh. “Goddamnit. I JUST fixed this.”
With as much grace as she could manage, she hobbled towards her squad, stopping next to Gunnery Sergeant Nuatu. She quickly cut through the metal restraints binding his hands, then handed him the gore-soaked blade. “Here you go, Gunny. This will get everybody loose. You handle things from here. I’m fucking done for the day.”
Nuatu immediately freed his legs and set to work on the rest of the squad’s restraints while Nat made her way over to Ana. She was still where the Primarch had thrown her, though now she was sitting and lucid. Natalie flopped down on the deck next to her, completely exhausted. “You all right?” Nat asked, as nonchalantly as she could.
“Yup. Did you get all of them?”
Ana flashed Nat a toothy smile. “Took you long enough.”
Two Journeys To Heaven: Yesod and the Whorl, part 2 (Spoilers for entire Solar Cycle!)
Defining the Whorl and the Ship Yesod
“The stone on which we stood sank under us. In an instant the floor of the Chamber of Examination closed above our heads. We dropped, or so it seemed, into a vast pit filled with harsh yellow light, a pit a thousand times wider than the square of stone. Its sides were mighty mechanisms of green and silver metals, before which men and women hovered and darted like so many flies, and across which titanic scarabs of blue and gold clambered like ants.” (Urth of the New Sun, Ch xxii, p 163)
I won’t mince words: I think the Whorl is Yesod. Both are spaceships; both hollow; both designed so the inhabitants live primarily inside rather than on the surface; both described as hellish on the interior (the Whorl’s tunnels are its hell, and are literally the favorite place of its underworld god, Tartaros. And even the inhabited parts of the interior of the Whorl are becoming hellish as the heating and cooling mechanisms begin to break down). Can I point to a place in the text where it’s stated the Whorl leaves Briah for the universe of Yesod? No. But recall Silk’s words after Auk leaves the Whorl in a lander: “We, too, have a long way to go,” Silk said, addressing neither Horn nor Nettle, “but at least we’ve begun.” (Exodus from the Long Sun, ch 16, p 610). After Silk’s ordeal in the Book of the Short Sun, he leaves New Viron bound for a lander, then the Whorl ship. Those on Blue see it diminish in the night sky and finally disappear—it is repaired and bound “for the stars”. I fervently believe the Whorl travelled outside of Briah some time after the end of Return to the Whorl and that the repaired Whorl, helmed by a unified Mainframe and the guiding influence of Silk, evolved into the planet Yesod and the Hierogrammates.
The term Yesod comes to us from Kabbalah, medieval Jewish mysticism . In Kabbalah Yesod is a Sephirah, a node in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. It is, specifically, the base of the Tree of Life, akin to the trunk, and the Hebrew word for Yesod means “foundation”. It is seen as a vehicle allowing movement from one thing or condition or another (the “power” of connection). According to Jewish Kabbalah, Yesod is the foundation upon which God has built the world. But the God of Kabbalah is Ein Sof, defined as “Unending, (there is) no end, Infinity, the nameless being”. Ein Sof is very much like the Outsider: ineffable, unknowable, impossible to approach. The Sephirah emanated from him, but are not him. They are basically his light, his energy, poured into vessels in this creation. In Wolfe’s books, Yesod’s name is apt because power flows from it and enters the lower universe of Briah via a white fountain in Urth’s sun. And despite the plethora of false gods in the Solar Cycle, the Outsider, the oly true god, cannot be seen, only felt.
Whorl is a pattern of spirals or concentric circles; with similar meanings in zoology and botony regarding the patterns of certain mollusk’s bodies and leaves, respectively; and a complete circle in a human fingerprint. In Long Sun the Whorl is a generation starship made from a hollowed asteroid. Likewise, the planet of Yesod is an artificial planet: Ocean and Isles on the surface, and tunnels and chambers inside the hollow interior where “most of the work is done.” Apheta, the Hierogrammate larvae who mates with Severian, lives in a whorl-shaped dwelling.
How The Interior of Planet Yesod Resembles the Interior of the Whorl Generation Starship
“ ‘In our world—our ship, if you are more comfortable calling it so, though it only circles our sun and requires no sails.’ “ (Urth of the New Sun, chap xxiii, p 164) Gunnie says she thinks a ship with water on the deck is strange, and says on Tzadkiel’s ship it is below deck, in tanks. Apheta responds that going to the surface of such a world must be terrible, whereas on Yesod Apheta and her kind toil mostly below the surface and are rewarded for their hard work with rare visits to the surface—the Eden-like isles with lush gardens, pure air and clean, clear waters. At first I thought Apheta was just humoring Gunnie is describing Yesod as a ship, but this doesn’t make any sense. Gunnie’s a sailor on Tzadkiel’s ship, true, but she was born on Urth. She knows the difference between a starship and a planet. So it would seem Yesod is a ship, a vehicle of some sort. A hollow ship, where most of the people and work is done on the interior. Interesting.
Gunnie and Severian descend with Apheta into the interior of the planet of Yesod. The descent into the hollow, mechanical world (Whorl) of Yesod takes us back to the quote I started this post with:
“The stone on which we stood sank under us. In an instant the floor of the Chamber of Examination closed above our heads. We dropped, or so it seemed, into a vast pit filled with harsh yellow light, a pit a thousand times wider than the square of stone. Its sides were mighty mechanisms of green and silver metals, before which men and women hovered and darted like so many flies, and across which titanic scarabs of blue and gold clambered like ants.” (Urth of the New Sun, Ch xxii, p 163)
Let’s break it down: the vast pit is the hollow interior of the Whorl, probably near the pole of Mainframe; the harsh yellow light is the Plasma tube/Long Sun; The men and woman hovering and darting about “like so many flies” of course recalls the Fliers of the Long Sun Whorl with their wings and Propulsion Modules; the green and silver metals of the pit’s walls recall Mainframe or at least point to a highly technological interior to the “heavenly” planet of Yesod; and the “titanic scarabs of blue and gold” which clamber about like ants must surely be evolved Taluses. These creatures built the Whorl and Mount Typhon on Urth, where they survived a chiliad of inactivity and woke to life to salute the coming of the New Sun, Severian. Here on Yesod, they evolve into giant scarabs.
Why Scarabs? Scarabs in ancient Eygpt were thought be symbolic of the Heavenly cycle of rebirth and regeneration as they lay their eggs in a ball of dung they push around. The astonished Egyptians, it is thought, didn’t observe the laying of the eggs and believed the Scarab’s young were simply reborn from the dung ball, which symbolized the earth. For them this echoed the god Khepri, “Ra as the rising sun”, who renewed the sun daily before rolling it (like a Scarab rolls its dung ball) above the horizon into the west then carrying it back east through the underworld to its origin by the start of the new day. So the Taluses, which were debased from construction robots on Urth and in the genesis of the Whorl to mechanized infantry and mercenaries in the Whorl’s nadir, are reborn on Yesod. They become uplifted scarabs, resurrected, construction robots once more, yet now they ascend heavenward. Recall also that the Talus’s of Mount Typhon are (I think) the first denizens of Urth to salute Severian as the New Sun in the Typhon chapters of Sword of the Lictor (as he moves from one “eye of the world” to the other).
Continuing underground on Yesod with Apheta, Severian and Gunnie reach doors of “tarnished argent” above which Gunnie sees writing. Severian’s not sure she can read it, but Gunnie recites, “ ‘No hope for those who enter here.’ “ (Urth, Chap xxiii, p 165). The words are an allusion to the words written above the gate to hell in Canto III of Dante’s Divine Comedy: Inferno. “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” To Gunnie the interior of Yesod is hell.
Let’s pause. The scenes above, to me, seem to evoke or echo scenes from The Book of the Long Sun. Silk descends into the bowels of the Whorl via a hidden ramp in the Shrine of Scylla on Lake Limna. This Temple of the Long Sun whorl is basically interchangeable with the Chamber of Examination in the “Temple” of Judgement on Yesod. Both are beautiful structures build beside waters that allow passage into the underworld. One contains a statue of a “false” god which reveals a passage into the underworld, the other the Throne of a “true” god which reveals a passage into the underworld. Severian has a Virgil-like guide through hell in Apheta, so he’s able to easily navigate hell. Silk is uninvited and must defeat the guard at hell’s gate, a Talus that, having been already once bested by Silk, hates and wants to destroy him. Once below he wanders in darkness and undergoes trials before regaining the surface (like Severian, he passed through a “portal”, being purged from the airlock of a submarine).
The Whorl’s tunnels are hellish, and Silk’s trials there are brutal. Before long, the surface of the Whorl will resemble the underworld. Remember the last glimpse of the Whorl ship we received in Return to the Whorl: the Long Sun was being extinguished regularly (to effect repairs, but to the ignorant cargo it seemed the Whorl was dying) which plunged the Whorl into prolonged darkness. Some of the cities of the Whorl were panicked--rioting. Horn learns that one can look into the skylands and see distant cities burning. The cargo feel Pas is punishing them for not fulfilling his Plan and leaving the Whorl. Food is scarce. The summers are broiling. Winters are almost non-existent. Marauding bands like Pig’s old knot loot and pillage. Godlings, giants who seem to shoot first and ask questions later, patrol the streets. The Whorl, we see in example after example, is becoming hell to those who choose to remain on it. Yet we readers know all the trials will bring a better future: The war in heaven is over and a restored Pas is enacting his Plan while simultaneously repairing the broken Whorl. The Godling at Blood’s mansion tells Horn that enough cargo have left, that the repairs will be affected and the Whorl will move on.
“ ‘Enough have gone. Tell the rest to stay. That is what I have come to tell you. Silk says it.’” (Return to the Whorl, Ch 6 Dark, Empty Rooms, P 140)
This oddly echoes an exchange between Severian and the Captain of the tender ship that returns him to Urth. After the Captain remarks that humanity could make Urth as good as Yesod if they wanted to, Severian remarks:
“ ‘We will,’ I told him. I had not known I believed that until I said it. ‘We will when enough of us have left it and come back.’ “ (Urth, ch xxvii, p 193)
The Whorl starship left Urth, returned to Ushas (Green), and now it must go on again, to Yesod.
Yesod, being an evolved Whorl ship, has an underworld that is strange but not hellish, even though Gunnie names it hell. In the bowels of the ship called Yesod, Severian and Gunnie are led by Apheta into a large chamber:
“’Come now,’ Apheta was saying. She led us forward. I had been wrong in thinking there was nothing in the chamber; there was a wide area of black upon the floor. Some of the flaking silver of the arched ceiling had fallen there, where it was most visible.
Only then did I realize that the sparkling darkness was. I drew out the necklace, wondering, I confess, whether each of its linked prisms functioned still, put it on, and went forward to look…I saw Gunnie’s hair tossed by a gale I could not feel, streaming before her until she had her own necklace in place…That blackness was the void; yet as I walked, it rose though it sensed my approach, and before I reached it, it had become a sphere.
I tried to stop.
The sphere was like a wall. At its center, just as I had seen it pictured on board, was the ship.
I have written that I sought to stop. It was difficult, and soon I could not resist.”
Severian and Gunnie are drawn inexorably into a miniature black hole, and returned to the universe of Briah, in space near enough the Starship Tzadkiel to be shot a line and pulled aboard the ship by the deckhands.
I think this chamber, or its cognate, exists on the Whorl ship. I believe it is found in the tunnels near Lake Limna, and visited by the brain damaged Auk after he falls off the back of the Talus, fractures his skull, and wanders away from Chenille, Incus and Dace.
“The tunnel wall was aglow now, but still dark, dark with a peculiar sense of light—a luminous blackness.” (Epiphany of the Long Sun-Lake of the Long Sun, Ch 6 The Blind God, P 173)
The luminous blackness is the presence of the blind god Tartaros. Auk ventures deeper into the chamber, where this happens:
“The thing he had kicked was a little higher than his knees, flat on top, large and solid feeling. He sat on it facing the luminous dark…” (Epiphany, Ch 6, P 173)
He’s bumped into an “altar” of the false Mainframe gods. One of its functions, we saw earlier, is to reintegrate the false gods back into Mainframe. Scylla, possessing Chenille, used one inside a cavern on the shore of Lake Limna for this purpose. In this luminous darkness, the god Tartaros manifests to the addled Auk:
“’I come here often, Auk. It is the oldest altar we have.’ (Epiphany, Ch 6, P 174)
That’s a curious detail. Why is the “oldest”? What is so important about this spot—in the tunnels below and between the Lake and Viron, that is so important? I’ll get back to that. Tartaros continues:
“’Wood was heaped upon it, and the carcasses of animals. You profane it no more than they. When the first people came, Auk they were shown how we desired to be worshipped. Soon, they were made to forget. They did, but because they had seen what they had seen, a part of them remembered, and when they found our altars on the inner surface, they sacrificed as we had taught them. first of all, here.’” (Epiphany, Ch 6, P 174)
Ok. Let’s unpack. Cargo was brought here first when they came to the Whorl—then glamoured or awed and shown how to sacrifice to the Mainframe gods. Its obvious this giant black circular structure is very important. It’s the first altar. It’s the first place the cargo came when they reached the Whorl from Urth. We know Pas has carefully provisioned landers nearby, behind his seals. They were to colonize the new worlds, not to ferry cargo to the Whorl. Could it be that the giant black “altar” Auk sits on is a miniature black hole like the one that transports Gunne and Severian from Yesod to Briah? I mean, why not? Inire has his Presence Chamber in the House Absolute, which Jonas uses in Claw to, he says, return him to his ship. Could this, like the chamber Severian and Gunnie visit on Yesod, do similar? Cargo is beamed from Urth to the Whorl, awed, and then taken elsewhere to have their minds’ wiped and tuned up so they can be possessed, see holy hues, etc.
At the close of RttW, the Whorl is repaired. Enough cargo have left it and “come back” to Blue and Green (Green being, as u/aramini revealed, Urth that was, Ushas that is. The Whorl’s journey was a giant loop through space and time). The Whorl can go on. Leave Briah and become Yesod. Complete the next loop. Where is it bound? “ ‘The Stars…’” Silk tells us. (Return to the Whorl, p 412) .
Here’s an even more outrageous speculation: are the words on the Lintel on Yesod which Gunnie “reads” the words of the “Seal of Pas” from the “Pardon of Pas”? Specifically: “’Do my will, live in peace, multiply, and do not disturb my seal. Thus you will escape my wrath.’” (Litany of the Long Sun—Lake of the Long Sun, Ch 9 In Dreams Like Death, P 404) Silk resites the Seal to Hammerstone, who then shows Silk an actual “seal” of Pas, which is a “broad duab of dark synthetic” with a ten strings of numbers in two rows, below which is printed: “SEALED FOR THE MONARCH”. This is Typhon/Pas’s physical seal beyond which are the seeds and frozen embryos and Landers with which to colonize new worlds and fulfill the Plan of Pas.
The Surface of Yesod as a Mirror of The Whorl’s Interior
I talked some about the strange interior of the World of Yesod, but it is certain strange characteristics of the surface that cement (to me, at least) the fact that Yesod is the Whorl. First among these features are the Isles of Yesod. Yesod’s surface is a water-covered. It has a world ocean dotted with tiny isles. Apheta tells Severian each Isle judges a different galaxy that humankind has spread to (or, perhaps, each Isle judges a different version of the same galaxy in the multiverse).
“Apheta turned again and pointed toward the sea. ‘Look,’ she said again. ‘Can you see the Isles?’
I did. They were scattered—endlessly as it seemed—across the water, just as I beheld them from the ship.
‘Do you know what a galaxy is, Autarch? A Whorl of stars, uncountable, remote from all others?’(emphasis mine)
‘This Isle on which we stand judges the worlds of your galaxy. Each Isle you see judges another. I hope knowing that will aid you, because it is all the aid I can give you. If you do not see me again, remember that I shall see you, nonetheless.’”
The outside of the Whorl is rock--its an asteriod. But Pas terraformed the inside of the asteriod, made it habitable, and spread out his cities, segregating them into ethnic groups from various geographies on Urth. Silk asks Horn on the Airship when they’re bound for Mainframe:
“’Why do you think Pas built barriers between our cities, Horn?’
The sudden question caught him off guard. ‘To keep them from fighting, Calde?’
‘Not at all. Not only do they fight, but he knew that they would; if he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have provided them with armies. No, he erected mountains and dug rivers and lakes so they could not combine against Mainframe, the home he was to set over them.’” (Epiphany of the Long Sun-Exodus from the Long Sun, Ch 15 To Mainframe!, P 598,99)
So we have another inversion: The Isles of Yesod, spread over the vast ocean of Yesod, judge mankind, one galaxy at a time. On the Whorl, city states are strewn across the interior landscape, widely spaced and with geographical boundaries between, so that the cargo can’t unite and overthrow their powerful but false high god, Pas. The false god Pas can’t be judged, can’t be found unworthy, though he is unworthy and should be judged.
A whorl is most simply defined as a pattern of spirals or concentric circles. Interestingly enough, the homes and rooms favored by the Hierogrammate larvae are spiral-shaped. Apheta takes Severian to hers:
“She thrust aside a curtain, and we entered a wide corridor that bent to the left. Scattered about were seats such as I had seen outside, and many other objects as mysterious to me as the appliances in Baldander’s castle, though they were lovely and not terrible.
‘This is mine. It is a spiral; many of our rooms are, because we like that shape.’” (Urth, Ch XX The Coiled Room, P 141)
So here we have another allusion to the Whorl ship, and mysterious technology like that of the Whorl gods. But on the heaven of Yesod, the terrible technology (screens through which the gods enslave the cargo) and terrible false gods have been replaced with technology that is artfully blended with the natural, and gods as lovely as the planet of Yesod. (Some taint of evil remains—the saving New Sun will mean the destruction of Urth.)
Trees of Yesod and Ushas
Lastly Id like to talk about trees. The most famous tree in the Whorl (to readers) in the Tamarind tree outside Quetzal’s window. Here’s how its described:
“For some while he remained before the window, motionless, cosmetics streaming from his face in rivulets of pink and buff, while he contemplated the tamarind he had caused to be planted there twenty years previously. It was taller already than many buildings called lofty; its glossy, rain washed leaves brushed the windowframe and now even, by the width of a child’s hand, sidled into his bedchamber like so many timid sibyls, confident of welcome yet habitually shy. Their parent tree, nourished by his own efforts, was of more than sufficient size now, and a fount of joy to him: a sheltering presence, a memorial of home, the highroad to freedom.
Quetzal crossed the room and barred the door, then threw off his sodden robe. Even in this downpour the tree was safer, though he could fly.” (Epiphany of the Long Sun-Calde of the Long Sun, Ch 1 The Slaves of Scylla, P 17,18)
Whoa. Typical Wolfe. He gives you the big reveal—Quetzal can fly! and thereby buries a rather mundane description of Quetzal’s tree. A tree he himself had planted. A tree he calls a “memorial of home.” His home is Green. The neighbors “seeded” the Whorl with Inhumi. Did they also seed it with trees from Green? Is Quetzel’s tree a cannibalistic tree that eats trees that eats trees?
The Tamarind tree of our earth has long tubelike seedpods which are large and greenish-brown. They look kind of like bent fingers. The tree native to Africa, but has been known so long on the Indian subcontinent that its been popularly adopted as being native to that land as well.
In some myths, the Tamarind tree is associated with the adopted daughter of the goddess Parvati, Ushas. Ushas is the Vedic goddess of dawn; her name literally means “dawn” in sanskrit. She is the most exalted goddess in the Rig Veda, and drives a chariot across the sky with the rising sun. Ushas is very familiar to fans of Wolfe’s Solar Cycle as the new name of reborn, post-deluge Urth. Urth dies, and when the New Sun rises for the first time, Ushas is born.
Another myth regarding the Tamarind tree worthy of mention:
“There is a belief that the spirit of the dead resides in the tamarind and the tamarind groves are avoided by night. For this reason and because they are considered to exude unhealthy vapors, there is a prejudice against sleeping in the shade of the tamarind tree. Some do not eat prepared on fire made from tamarind wood for the same reason.” (Our Trees, R.P.N. Sinha, 1968)
Ok. It’s a flimsy link to Ushas, but it’s a link, from myth, pertaining to the sun and dawn and the restless spirits of the dead. It’s enough for a piker like me. There’s something special about Quetzal’s tree on the Whorl, something that connects it to Ushas/Green. David Lebling posited on the Urth List in 1997 that’s Quetzal’s tree is a candidate for a “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” from Eden, with Quetzal being the “serpent” that seduces Eve.
Would it surprise you to learn Yesod has its share of strange and wonderful trees as well? Our friend Severian stools along the avenue of Yesod prior to his final judgement. He describes the trees he glimpses there thusly:
“Between the mansions were many fountains and many trees, trees that seemed to me tall, strange, and lovely even in the darkness.” (Urth, Ch XIX Silence, P 134)
Again, its not much, but it does follow my pattern. The Whorl is uplifted to become the world of Yesod. Uplifted Yesod transforms horror into beauty. The terrible cannibal trees of Green, transplanted on the Whorl as the Quetzal’s tamarind, are then transported to Yesod and become trees that are “tall, strange, and lovely even in the darkness.”
Thanks for coming this far on this strange journey with me. In part three, I’ll discuss the robots and Artificial Intelligences aboard Tzadkiel’s ship, and on Yesod and the Whorl. Any questions and/or feedback is most welcome.
Standard disclaimer: I hope all or most all of this is original (except Ushas=Green, which belongs to Marc Aramini) and that in both his Lexicon Urthus and his new Chapter Guide, Michael Andre-Driussi defines Yesod as a ship. If there's anything i unconsiously cribbed from Urth List, etc please let me know and ill add atribution. We're all standing on the shoulders of Urth List giants.
Link to part 1. https://www.reddit.com/genewolfe/comments/ezcmqz/two_journeys_to_heaven/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=ios_app&utm_name=iossmf