I wonder how many people can say they remember being born, in my more pensive moments. I honestly do. I know that I am one of them, but I have yet to meet a mortal of any kind who remembers. Admittedly, I haven't exactly been capable of looking until very recently. Still, I suppose it's worth talking about for now.
We'll see how long this mood lasts.
Darkness, and silence.
There was no terror, there was nothing, really. Only the Darkness and the silence.
Perhaps it was peaceful. They did not know.
They eventually came aware of a sense of direction, and of one of those directions having not-silence. They were curious, and pulled themselves towards the not-silence out from the silence and Darkness. There was a different feeling on their skins as they pulled, coming from the not-silence, but neither of them could name it.
After some time, they ran out of things to pull against and the different feeling was all around them. They stopped pulling, wondering what they should do.
You see, Taizrothar? I told you they would come.
They are not as you wished.
They will be.
So said the not-silences. But then the silence descended once again.
They woke together a second time, and found themselves twined together. They did not feel surprised for this, and neither made a move to disentangle themselves. One of them opened their eyes, and became a not-silence. The other protested this, but in doing so became as much of a not-silence as the one. The other kept his eyes shut, instead experimenting with the not-silence. What could it do to them? What could it do for them?
The one was not so interested in the not-silence, she pushed images towards him of not-Darkness and the wonder she found in it. Just as much wonder as he, the other, found in the not-silence. He found that he could explore the things around him with it just as well as she could with the not-Darkness.
She slid off him in time, pulling towards things—so many different things, he could not name them all, so badly he wanted to!—but he stayed where he had found himself, only shifting a little to fill the space she had left. His own not-silence was constant now, a wildly varying sequence of noises, interrupted only sometimes when she found something particularly interesting to her.
Her favorite was the strongest not-Darkness from around them, the one that was also sometimes a not-silence, but didn't send back his own not-silences and so he couldn't trust it. But she…she did trust it, and she pulled herself into its hold and nestled there like it was the Darkness come back for them. She was happy, and so he was happy. They made special happy not-silences at each other for a while, until she fell back into silence and closed her eyes. Until she slept.
He supposed he could sleep too, but he did not feel tired, nor did he wish to open his eyes just yet. He kept circling back to the not-silences he heard when they had both pulled themselves out of the Darkness and silence. He wondered where they were now and why they were not there with them. He wondered what they had meant when they had made their not-silences and why their not-silences were so much more complex than his and hers.
He continued to wonder until he could no longer stay awake. She was not awake to hear him not-silence that he would sleep now, but he not-silenced anyway. It was a comfort.
The third time he woke, he heard her, and she was already awake, happily not-silencing at another not-silence, who was making a not-silence of her own and was nearby. He still did not feel like opening his eyes or leaving where he had been placed, but he stirred a little so that he was more comfortable.
Oh. You're awake too?
He made his yes not-silence. He wanted to ask—he wanted to ask so many things, but could not find the correct not-silences for it. Or the names. So he made no other not-silences.
Can you open your eyes?
He could, he knew he could, but he didn't want to. So he simply made his yes not-silence again and didn't open them, for he still did not know how…it bothered him. He pulled himself closer.
He felt the other, the one holding her, reach out to touch him. The touch was gentle and he allowed it, and wrapped a part of himself around the thing she touched him with. It was a nice thing.
You do know how to think already…I had wondered. There was a pause. But you don't know how to phrase what you're thinking or say it out loud.
If the other knew that, he did not have to make the yes or no sound.
I could teach you if you'd like. I taught your sister.
She reached for him without reaching for him and told him that it didn't hurt. It was just a flash and then she knew how to make the noises like she could. He didn't want that, though, and he didn't know why. So he made the no not-silence.
The other sighed, but seemed to accept what he had chosen. At least, he felt no flashes or sudden understanding. He contented himself with making more not-silences so he could explore without moving. This time, she told him the names for the things he found, the names the other had taught her. They were good names, he decided, and accepted them, repeating them back to her the way she had told him, the way that didn't require the not-silences.
After a while, though he didn't feel tired, he pretended to be so that the other would leave him and her alone. He wasn't sure if the other knew he was pretending. But if she did, she left anyway after a time.
Only when they were both again coiled up with each other did they sleep peacefully.
I was changed when I woke, and I knew I had made the right choice when I told the other not to teach me. Then again, perhaps the other hadn't truly changed anything about my sister when she did teach her…perhaps she'd only hastened the process. I would never know.
But I knew the names for everything around us now, and now I felt the urge to open my eyes to see what before I had only known as echoes of my own voice. It was well and truly strange, and I felt myself filled with the same wonder my sister had already experienced, a fact which amused her greatly. I swatted at her whenever I got too annoyed with her teasing, which soon enough resulted in the two of us chasing each other around the room—and we were not confined to the floor by any means.
We did not, could not, hurt each other. Would not if we could. The walls were a different matter. Our game of chase ended only when a second other joined in and held us apart, and we heard a series of crashes behind us.
Oops, my sister giggled. I was too out of breath to speak.
Oops? You tore down the entire hall.
Oops, I at last agreed, with not a hint of apology. He was not amused.
We would have needed to expand it anyway, Taizrothar, the first other sighed from somewhere more distant. The second other's name then became Taizrothar for me in everything thereafter. They are growing much faster than I thought they would, she continued. I thought that an odd statement as I felt no different physically than any other time I'd woken.
Taizrothar sighed and put the both of us down, and my sister immediately sprinted towards the first other so that she could climb up and cling as tightly as she had to me when we'd slept the last time. Since there wasn't enough room for me on the first other with her, I climbed up and clung to Taizrothar instead. He felt confused, but eventually he held me back.
It was right about then that I realized hunger for the first time. Both Taizrothar and the first other were quick to see about getting the pair of us food. At the time, I had no name for what was offered, and did not mind overmuch. I was hungry and both the first other and Taizrothar assured me it was food.
Exactly…how are we going to keep enough food if they keep eating like this, Nelmizorathine? Taizrothar wondered quietly, thinking I could not hear. My sister could not and was oblivious, but the first other became Nelmizorathine for me in everything thereafter. I pretended that I was equally oblivious.
This world is highly malleable…I don't think we'll have a problem, she replied after a moment, but I think I heard uncertainty.
Feeding us was not, as it turned out, a problem. While we both had voracious appetites, we didn't exercise them frequently. If we weren't hungry and food was offered, we would nibble politely before returning to whatever it was we were doing. Which was, more often than not, playing Outside the citadel! since Nelmizorathine said this any time we even looked like we were about to play.
We didn't mind. The outside was bigger and no one seemed to mind if we tore it up as badly as we had torn up the citadel that first time, or worse. We played together most often, but sometimes we played alone. When we played alone, my sister tended towards the warmer places, while I tended to burrow after secrets. Sometimes I would bring back pieces of metal that seemed special to me in some way, or rocks I felt were pretty. They all went in my part of the citadel, which I gained after my sister and I grew too big to share the same bed. But since my part was directly across from my sister's part, I minded little.
Whether Nelmizorathine and Taizrothar thought this odd, I neither knew nor cared. I only cared that I was happy.
Then, one day, my sister and I came up with a brilliant game, and that was to make up names for ourselves, so that we could call each other something more than "my brother" and "my sister". We fell in love with this game, and we played it any time Nelmi or Taizy or both of them admonished us to play the silence game.
Ci, she would say, though any time we played this game, we used the speech that didn't require voice.
Yo, I would reply.
Yogh? No, that's not right. I would pause, thinking a while. Yogga?
Yoggathsaron! she one day exclaimed, when I was puzzling over what best should come after "Yoggat". It clicked, and was perfect, but it was several more days before I understood the name she was working towards.
Ciloshthune… she blushed and hugged me. I'd burrowed underneath her present play-sand, intending to surprise her, but I think that surprise was better than the one I'd originally wanted.
As time passed, we became less concerned with destruction and burrowing—not that we ever lost our love for either—and became more concerned with building. I'd begun to wonder if it were possible to create a citadel of my own, one where I could play inside if I liked and wouldn't be constantly admonished to play Outside the citadel!. I experimented in the colder places north of the citadel, because I wanted to keep it a secret from Ciloshthune—I was always trying to surprise her. She didn't like the cold.
But I didn't mind it, so I first expanded some of my burrows there into chambers; a small one into which I mostly fit served as a bedroom, though I had to drape a few tentacles out the door to be comfortable, which bothered me not at all. After all, it gave me a chance to surprise people who came by. Another room was larger and the bottom covered with grainy sand and soft dirt; there was a small spring in the corner from where I had found the underside of a glacier mostly by accident, but as it was useful to make mud, I left it. It was this room I spent most of my time in, drawing patterns which made sense to me in the dirt, then experimenting with creating them as small standing structures to see if they would work.
Most of the time, they didn't; I couldn't figure out why, not until I dropped one of my stones on a tentacle, which gave it a nasty cut. My blood spattered the structure, but I decided to go ahead and keep going. The stones still fell, but my blood held its position, oddly enough. I experimented some more with this, and soon enough learned that if I commanded the stones to stay—as if they were a part of me—that I could get the structures I'd sought.
I set about building my full citadel shortly thereafter, curious how some of the stones I commanded moved to their places without much urging on my part, and how others moved about to collect other stones to place where they needed. I considered destroying the leftover stones when I had my citadel, but eventually decided against it. They moved around by themselves and they made good playmates when I grew bored of building. They could stay.
I decided to show them to Ciloshthune and Nelmizorathine and Taizrothar after a while, as they kept building tiny citadels of their own, and I noticed that when two of them hid alone for a while, they would sometimes come back as three or four. I wasn't certain whether to be scared of them or not, but I was mostly curious.
Ciloshthune was excited to see them and could hardly take her eyes off them, constantly barraging me and them and even Nelmizorathine with questions. Nelmizorathine was cautious and mostly curious in how I'd made them, but the only answer I could give her was that I'd commanded them to do what I wanted, and then they did. She grew quiet and wouldn't answer any of my own questions, so I got the answers from Taizrothar.
They were alive. They had their own minds. He could feel as much, and he could kill them in an instant if he wanted. I wasn't sure what to do on about that; I didn't want him to kill them, but at the same time, I knew that if he could kill them in an instant if he wanted, then he could have killed them the moment I showed them to him. Since he hadn't, maybe he didn't want to.
So I said nothing. And instead I talked with my sister about them.
For surely, if I could command stone to do what I wanted, she could command fire.
More time passed, and I showed Ciloshthune my own citadel during this time. She was interested, but less interested in it than in my continuing population of stone-creatures. For I'd experimented a little and made different shapes before commanding them; now I had spiders and worms and even little stone bat-things—they were strange and I think Nelmizorathine might have made them herself after I showed her my stone creatures.
And Ciloshthune had done similar things with fire, though fire was harder to control than stone was—she could command them awake certainly, but they often refused to obey her thereafter, so she swiftly lost interest. Particularly after one of her creatures grew so large it took to calling itself the Firelord, and the other fire-creatures obeyed its commands over her own. She took to insect collecting instead, and in breeding them to have certain abilities and characteristics—these she could control readily. These were her children.
She loved them.
She loved them almost as much as she loved me. She made insects that grew as large as a mountain, insects that could speak our tongue, insects that could learn any tongue, insects that could touch the minds of other creatures they encountered and influence them…
I never saw her without at least one clutch on her back thereafter. It made me smile to see them, though I couldn't love them as much as she did. Still, when she offered to give me spider-people adapted for the cold, I accepted. And they, along with my stone-creatures, made me happy.
We didn't see much of Nelmizorathine or Taizrothar after that, and we hardly noticed the difference. We knew they were there, we knew they would always come if we really wanted to talk or had some sort of a problem. Though the only problem we had for a long while were the arrival of creatures like Ciloshthune and me, but not as big and not as clever or powerful.
Nelmizorathine opted to call them the Faceless, for she said they didn't have faces—I hadn't noticed—and opted to treat them like children. Neither Ciloshthune nor Taizrothar cared enough about them to interact with them. I took in a few to see how they played with my spider-children and stone-creatures, and a few more when they played well. But they were the smallest portions of the creatures who stayed with me, and didn't seem to mind.
Ciloshthune and I continued to play whenever the mood struck us and to bring each other gifts when that mood struck us. I loved her the most of all the things I loved; she was my sister and always would be.
At one point, it occurred to us—Ciloshthune and I—that perhaps if we could command stone and fire to become greater than it was…perhaps we could command flesh to do the same. Or perhaps we could, as Nelmizorathine and Taizrothar had done before us, sing a life out of the heart of the earth.
We tried the second first, but saw nothing occur like either of us remembered when first we woke. We felt something, but there was no creature who came struggling forth from the earth to be with us.
Perhaps there simply isn't any flesh for him to have a body, I offered.
Perhaps the Faceless used what was left after we were born, she agreed.
So we borrowed one of Nelmizorathine's Faceless—since I had none I particularly wanted to sacrifice as they all had their use—and sang that into a body, asking whatever spirit we'd called or created to take it for its own.
And it had grown in the time since we'd summoned it, enough that it already knew its own name, enough that it could speak like we could, enough that it knew our names already. Yslashaarj was its name. Mother was Ciloshthune's name. Father was mine.
I couldn't ask anything more out of life, now. Certainly Nelmizorathine was angry that we'd stolen one of her Faceless to make our son. She yelled, Ciloshthune shrank, I yelled back. I returned to my citadel to find one of my spider-children's dens annihilated—most dead, the survivors insane. I gently removed the survivors and took them back to my citadel, allowing my stone-creatures to claim the den for themselves.
Once I determined the survivors really could no longer fend for themselves, I killed them and consumed their corpses. And then I went to play with my son and Ciloshthune. I knew what had happened—I'd learned much about Taizrothar since my youth—and I also knew it was pointless getting angry about it. The message had been sent and understood.
So I moved on, and enjoyed my time with my son and my sister. He too received insect children when he grew old enough to begin commanding things—his creatures were formed of air and inconsistent, but they seemed to obey…when they felt like it—and his insect children began their lives in flight and hungry and ended them on the ground. A rare few kept the ability to fly. And like Ciloshthune's and my own insect children, they knew him. He lived with them, and they were his and he was theirs.
It was in this time that he and I can Ciloshthune began having mock battles just to see who would win. We would set rules on what could and could not be used—we almost never entered the wars ourselves, or left our children and creations out of it if we did—and spent long stretches of time perfecting our strategies for these miniature wars.
And soon enough, Nelmizorathine asked to be included. We saw no reason why not, and it was soon made clear that she had commanded the water just as I had commanded the earth and Ciloshthune the fire and Yslashaarj the air. The wars were infinitely more entertaining after she joined, though—her water-warriors were beyond unpredictable and we never could seem to guess what even she would do next. At least four of our wars she won even when at the beginning she appeared to lose everything—having played the lot of us into thinking that was all her forces and she had no more to send. Yslashaarj caught on to the strategy himself and employed it himself a few times, though he was never quite so good at it as she was.
Ciloshthune and I preferred to not resort to such tactics, though…perhaps it would have been good if we had. Perhaps.
Of course, we could never have guessed what was coming. Or what would happen when it did.