Theia's Mammon: Skoni's Ikon (https://thefamoussandhogs.bandcamp.com/album/theias-mammon-skonis-ikon
Ch.1 – The Book of Skoni
When the first sorus opened and Skoni’s cells spread out to make all that there is or ever will be, her sora floated down on Theia and merged to form five children. Her soral shell fell into the Skonisphere and became Skoni’s Heart so that her children would be well-nourished and protected. As her children were forming, Skoni’s soral stalk fell and cleaved a child in two. These became twins; Swi’ Shang, the larger of the two, and Sun Sno, who was the smaller twin. The other four children became Sar Long, Si-Pu-Fe, Soko Yun, and Su Go.
Sun Sno was often jealous of his brother Swi’ Shang, who was larger, smarter, and more beautiful than he was, and so as they were growing up Sun Sno would often beat Swi’ Shang.
“If we are twins,” said Sun Sno, “then we must share each other’s pain as well!” And he would whip Swi’ Shang repeatedly.
As they grew older, Swi’ Shang knew that it was true; he was smarter and more beautiful than Sun Sno. Yet Swi’ Shang knew that he was also kinder than his brother too, and that for all his faults, Sun Sno must be forgiven, and so Swi’ Shang accepted his beatings. This angered Sun Sno, who said, “Why do you let me strike you like a child? For years I have beat and whipped you, yet you do nothing to me in return.”And Swi’ Shang replied, “My love for Skoni is too great, and she shaped you just as she did me, for we are the same.” And after several lashings Sun Sno told him, “Tomorrow we will see who is the better twin! I will be known for more than just your brother! I will beat you in a race across Skoni’s Heart!” And the two accepted that a race would occur the next day.
When Swi’ Shang told this to Si-Pu-Fe, she went into a dream state. Her dream was long and horrible and she saw that Sun Sno would die as he swam across Skoni’s Heart. “But,” she told Swi’ Shang, “this is the way it must be. I have seen that if he does not die during the race then he will kill Soko Yun for her music, and when Sar Long and Su Go combine in sorus, he will chop their stalk and kill them too! And then it will be me, Si-Pu-Fe, that will have to be with Sun Sno so that all Theian-kind survives. And it will not be a good life. I see a great fire coming that will consume us all! This is why you must win the race, Swi’ Shang! For if you do, then we will combine and all our children will see your glory and goodness!” Swi’ Shang was so upset by Si-Pu-Fe’s dream that he promised that would win the race and combine with Si-Pu-Fe.
Sun Sno, however, knew that he would lose. He knew that Swi’ Shang was a much better swimmer than he, so he found Sar Long and told him about the race across Skoni’s Heart.
“I cannot beat Swi’ Shang,” said Sun Sno, “but you can, Sar Long! If you were to take my form, you could swim for me! I know of your love for Su Go, and I know that after the race, Swi’ Shang plans to combine with her forever! If there is no Swi’ Shang then we will both win; I will win the race, and you will win Su Go!” Sar Long believed Sun Sno and thought that this would be his only chance to be with Su Go, and so he agreed to swim in Sun Sno’s place.
Delirious with excitement, Sar Long went to see Si-Pu-Fe to buy heavy hydrogen to help him from being swept away into Skoni’s Heart. His stammering was so bad, however, that Si-Pu-Fe gave Sar Long helium instead, thinking that he needed help with his nerves.
When the race began, Sar Long drank the helium and stretched and pulled his skin to look like Sun Sno. Swi’ Shang and Sar Long dove up into Skoni’s Heart and swam as hard as they could through its strong current. At first Sar Long was ahead and could hear Swi’ Shang far behind him, but then he felt himself drifting upwards and deeper into Skoni’s Heart. With all his strength he tried to pull himself down, but it was too late. When Swi’ Shang reached the bank on the other side, he turned and saw the form of Sun Sno disappear forever into the center of Skoni’s Heart.
The real Sun Sno remained hidden behind a rock near the race. And he saw the crowd gather and cheer around Swi’ Shang.
“Sun Sno is dead!” they cried, and raised Swi’ Shang into the air and told him there would be a great celebration in honour of his victory and Sun Sno’s death.
When Soko Yun congratulated Swi’ Shang she told him that she would have been very upset if he had lost.
“I have loved you for a long time, Swi’ Shang”, she said. “I would not have been able to live if you were not around.”Taken aback by her words, Swi’ Shang professed his love for her, for her beauty and for her music.
“But I have already promised Si-Pu-Fe,” he said, “and she has seen that this will be best for all Theian-kind.” Soko Yun then told Swi’ Swang of Sar Long’s love for Su Go.
“But,” she said, “if Sar Long were to fall for me instead, then Si-Pu-Fe would be happy to help. She is scared of losing you, and so would help another if it helps herself. You must pretend to be Sar Long at the celebration and fall in love with my music! You must go to Si-Pu-Fe as Sar Long and ask for something to help win my love! That will convince her of its truth! I have sent Sar Long a note that he must come to the celebration in your form. I have told him to tell Su Go that it is Swi’ Shang and not Sar Long who loves me, for she will believe him.”
And so Swi’ Shang disguised himself as Sar Long and asked Si-Pu-Fe for a drink to help win Soko Yun’s heart.
At the celebration, Sun Sno hid in the shadows and watched as they gathered around Soko Yun, who was preparing to play a song. He watched as he saw Sar Long walk into the light and thought this could only be Swi’ Shang in Sar Long’s form! Sar Long begged Soko Yun to play her thumb bow, but both Si-Pu-Fe and Su Go cautioned that they should wait for Swi’ Shang before the music starts because, after all, it was to celebrate his honour.
When Sun Sno heard this he got an idea, and stepped out of his hiding place disguised as Swi’ Shang, and said loudly, “Let the music begin then!” Si-Pu-Fe smiled at Sar Long, and Swi’ Shang and Soko Yun smiled at each other. And when Soko Yun put on her thumb bow, she started to play a very beautiful song about one of Si-Pu-Fe’s dreams.
Sun Sno saw that Su Go was crying and went up to her to ask, “Why do you cry, Su Go? The song is not a good one and it hurts my pores.”
“It is not for the song I cry,” she said, “but over who the song is for. You see how she loves him and how he cannot take his gaze off her? If only he would look at me like that! That is why I cry, Swi’ Shang.”
Sun Sno nodded and said, “But they are made for each other. Soko Yun loves him, and Sar Long loves her. Even Si-Pu-Fe is happy they are a pair. Look at how she laughs! Only you cry, Su Go. But all may not be lost, perhaps Sar Long will soon come to his senses.”
When evening came, everyone, full of drink and music, fell into a deep sleep. All except for Su Go, who was thinking about how she could win Sar Long’s love. Su Go thought that it was the music that so enchanted Sar Long, and so she crept toward the sleeping Soko Yun and picked up her thumb bow. But when she put it on and tried to play a song for Sar Long, all that came out was a terrible noise. In frustration, she threw the thumb bow to the ground and a song so mournful fell from its strings that Su Go realized her folly. She would never be with Sar Long and so Su Go dug a tomb for herself deep into the ground of Theia where she would wait for Skoni to take her again.
When Swi’ Shang and Soko Yun woke they saw Sun Sno sitting nearby playing Soko Yun’s thumb bow. He told them that Su Go had just dug her own grave, and that soon he would tell Si-Pu-Fe about Swi’ Shang and Soko Yun. Soko Yun rushed down the hole to try to save Su Go, and Swi’ Shang, who was still in Sar Long’s form, attacked Sun Sno violently, knocking him to the ground in a great noise. Sun Sno, once again, took on Swi’ Shang’s form, and the two fought very brutally.
The noise woke Si-Pu-Fe, who saw Sar Long strangling her love Swi’ Shang, who was close to death. In fear, she picked up the discarded thumb bow and bashed Sar Long until he no longer moved.
When Sar Long was dead, Si-Pu-Fe rushed to the fallen Swi’ Shang. Coughing and injured, Sun Sno said, “We must combine or else I will die forever.” And so Si-Pu-Fe, thinking it was Swi’ Shang, combined with Sun Sno, and grew into the largest sorus on Theia.
When Soko Yun returned alone from Su Go’s tomb, she watched as millions of sora rained down on Theia’s soil. The two soral shells floated down and landed near the bludgeoned body of Swi’ Shang. Heartbroken from the deaths of her siblings and lovers, Soko Yun picked up the bloody thumb bow and sang a song for the new sora about how they must resist the hardnesses and jealousies inside each of them.
“You must be good and kind,” she sang. And the song was so sad and so lonely that it separated Soko Yun cell by cell until all that remained was her thumb bow.
Ch.2 – The Twelve Sorakin of Sun Sno and Si-Pu-Fe
When the sora of Sun Sno and Si-Pu-Fe stopping merging, twelve children, or sorakin, formed: Oro, Olok, Brune Shang, Dir Go, S’sur, Na’i’m, Mala-Fe, Adar’n, Pan Sun, D’Hah, Sar Llosa, and El Becq. They rose off the ground as the last note on Soko Yun’s thumb bow danced mournfully in the air. The long, sad note held every misfortune, sorrow, and desire in its fading hum. And the sorakin listened silently until all that remained was a memory that there was once music and that it had urged them to be good.
Oro was the first to speak:
“We must not repeat our father’s failures, Sorakin. We must do our best to be kind to one another, and do what Soko Yun has asked of us. What evil is this that lurks within? What compels us to scorn, or shame, or subject other to the pain that we would not want thrust upon ourselves? We are kind when we are happy, and we are happy when we are fed. And we are fed when all is equal, be it bed or roof. I think we’ll soon be dead if we don’t heed what Soko said.”
“We must divide the land,” said El Becq. “Skoni made us see injustice so that we would fix it. Thus, the sky and ground and all between it should be split amoungst us fairly, else the jealousies within us marry violence and breed uncaring spite to make us fight for shelter, food, or sex.”
Said Brune Shang next:
“Then I will claim the sacred ground that lies around my namesake’s rest.”
And said S’sur:
“And I, beside my brother, take, if it not thwart another’s stake, the very place sad Soko Yun sat and thumped her lonely thumb upon her bow to show that goodness comes to those who know not to succumb to evil states.”
Spoke Pan Sun:
“Then I will travel west and through the bulging Iron Mountains, for the sorus of our Skoni surely seeded every crevice, every cranny, every crack so that there’s overflowing food, unless the present trail of thought is wrought by words more than the truth. So soothing is that mind that tries to wrestle fact from lies, but I find that I desire proof first before I cry that bitterness is dampened by a brimming belly brought about by satiated beings who otherwise would shout but for the food that fills their fleeting, flapping, ever-gaping mouths.”
And then Adar’n:
“So I should travel too, and form a city in the plain, where the mountains and the currents blend their ways. My brothers – O my Sorakin! – our soporific days in Skoni’s breast are left behind and now we’ve existential games. Let us live and freely love another life as broken Theians, who are angered, who are jealous, who are scared and frail beings, who are greedy, who are bitter, who are selfish and who lust for private gain at the expense of another Theian’s pain. But let that knowledge of our Natures form empathic good from hatred so that our hearts, when hurt, are healed and restored.”
And so Sar Llosa and El Becq founded I’Rus and fed on the hydrogen that floated down from Skoni. And Mala-Fe and Adar’n went to the plain and formed Sha”, where the iron flakes were soft and smooth. And Pan Sun and D’Hah went high into the Iron Mountains and found the ground bare of any food. And S’sur and Na’i’m stayed in Soko’s Thumb, where they sang and foraged on the hydrogen that lay about. And Brune Shang and Dir Go stayed in Swi’ Shang’s Rest and often visited their neighbours, where they’d eat and talk late into the night. And Oro and Olok went to Skoni’s Heart, where the current was strong and the hydrogen was rich and filling. And for a time they followed Soko’s song, and everyone was fed, and everyone was happy, and everyone was good and kind to one another.
But when the winds shifted and the currents lifted, the sorakin found that there was less that filled their bellies and they began to trade what little food they had. Oro and Olok traded their hydrogen to Mala-Fe and Adar’n, who had plenty of iron. And Sha” traded with Sar Llosa and El Becq, who often traded cheaply. And Pan Sun and D’Hah, perched high atop their mountain, had very little to eat and even less to trade, and so they stole what they could from I’Rus and Sha”. And all of them traded what they could to Soko’s Thumb and Swi’ Shang’s Rest, who sometimes had a lot, but very often didn’t, and so slowly their debts to the others grew greater and greater.
And when the burden was too great, Brune Shang told Dir Go:
“These days are dimmed by hunger, Dir, and under Skoni’s eyes, we pray that she make good but I fear her back is turned. And why? While Oro gluts, his Olok grunts about the hydrogen we owe. She comes, collects, and leaves us bereft, and says that she’ll be back for more. And even worse, her pretty purse is bulging with Sha” iron ore. How long has it been, Dir, since we’ve seen such greed in times of need as these? And those no good others, our begrudged brothers!, deaf to our insistent pleas! We must act soon or else we’ll see death grip us eternally.”
And Brune Shang and Dir Go went to Soko’s Thumb to visit S’sur and Na’i’m. And S’sur spoke:
“Our bellies, parched, produce a pain, gnawing through both night and day, and still they want something in trade. And if we don’t? They speak our names as if we were the family’s shame instead of fellow feeling Theians! Whose fault is it, this dearth of ours? These debts incurred increase each hour. The more they lend, the less our power! Brune Shang, we must respond in kind now or our fate is to be ever-poor.”
And Dir Go:
“The rumours are our cheap supply of foods aren’t from the mountains high but from Pan Sun’s deceptive lies. I hear he steals from I’Rus and Sha” and then sells us his loot, albeit very much reduced. As proof I offer that I heard from Sha” D’Hah had learned I’Rus had knowledge that Pan Sun was selling back the very wares they took without a thought or care. There’s tension there where once it lacked. And any plan that we enact must bear in mind this kind of fact.”
And so the sorakin from Soko’s Thumb and Swi’ Shang’s Rest sat and talked late into the night. And when the faint haze of light began to warm the Skonisphere, and morning came, they all agreed about what must be done. Only when she spoke privately to S’sur did the beautiful Na’i’m voice any dissent:
“S’sur, you do your brother’s bidding, it’s he this benefits the most. He gives his Rest to take the Heart, he’ll give to you until he won’t. What happens when Oro is gone? What happens to our Thumb? This plan of his, of yours!, is faulty, silly, and should not be done.”
“My dear Na’i’m, my pretty darling, what has caused this petty pause? Without us there is nothing Shang can do but suffer under common laws. Without us he can control nothing, but with us there’s unending food that flows from Skoni’s Heart towards us, freeing us from certain doom. So give Brune Shang old Oro’s kingdom, we’ll have not one but two. With Swi’ Shang’s Rest and Soko’s Thumb combined we’ll have much larger room to grow into a family huge.”
Unconvinced, Na’i’m went to Brune Shang to tell him that S’sur’s own plan was to live in the shadow of Skoni’s Heart until his descendents were strong enough to take control of what is rightfully Brune Shang’s.
“And I have often thought of Dir Go’s role and her friendliness with Mala-Fe. There may be other schemes afoot, so mind whatever else you say to others who may wish we stay betrodden, beat, and paying,” said Brune Shang.
And Na’i’m and Brune Shang traveled to Skoni’s Heart to speak with Oro and Olok:
“O my Sorakin, it’s true we do owe much to you, for Skoni’s Heart has fed us too, and through such kind acceptance of what surely is your due, we bring you news! No doubt you’ve heard the rumours of the thieves of far Pan Sun, and how they take from gentle Sha” and the city of I’Rus. My fear is that it spreads to those who simply cannot lose another drop, another sip of that refreshing hydrogen and which begins a quick decline of what is right and fine and good. So consider what I say and if you happen to agree then we will start a course that betters all of Theianity. Instead of pushing Pan Sun to the breaking point for want of food, give them necessities of life and it’ll stop their thefts outright. But do nothing and then watch it grow, they’ll sweep through Sha” and further south, and we can barely stand the dought, and then to you they’ll quickly go. Extend your kindness to them soon or else I see all of our ruin.”
And Oro and Olok, who saw themselves as protectors and arbitors of the law, sat silently and thought about Brune Shang’s words. And Oro Spoke:
“Perhaps there’s something we could do to lessen harm from rogue Pan Sun. Perhaps we should have done much more than we tried to do before. To let them go so far from home to roam the barren mountains high, we erred, Olok. I’ll not deny our part in causing all this crime. It’s time we send a message to show we’ve set it all beside.”
“And what better way to help than to travel to Pan Sun yourself!” said Na’i’m.
“But let us not be misconstrued, the debts you owe will be made good, and nor will Pan Sun have free food, but in desperate times like these, we should be kinder about costs accrued. We’ll travel to Pan Sun and offer what we can so no one suffers or is sent to such extremes that one can only be a thief and lessen trust of one another.”
And while Brune Shang and Na’i’m were leaving Skoni’s Heart, smiling to themselves, Dir Go and S’sur were speaking to Adar’n and Mala-Fe in Sha”:
“Our neighbours to the north, we’re here with news of coming war, for we’ve heard that Skoni’s Heart will march toward the Iron Mountains to remove the thief Pan Sun and free us all from both the scoundrels. How long have they plundered? have they stolen? have they lied? You know as well as anyone that all of their supplies are from the iron oxide plains of which you rightly occupy. Our Theia must run fairly and we all must unify when Soko’s Law is broken or is threatened, cast aside. And so Skoni’s Heart will travel to the mountains where they hide and prevent Pan Sun from spreading lies by taking both their lives.”
“This sounds less akin to justice than it does to fratricide,” said Adar’n abruptly. “But then Oro did supplement his gluttony with pride. We’ll no more help than interfere, Dir, and rather than chastise you, I’ll simply say there’s better ways of acting when conflicts arise.”
And when S’sur and Dir Go left to travel back to Swi’ Shang’s Rest, Mala-Fe then started west to the city of I’Rus with news that in a week they’ll see a seige upon Pan Sun. And as Mala-Fe was telling this to Sar Llosa and El Becq, a little thief was hiding near the three. He heard there was a plan to kill D’Hah and him and ran back to ask D’Hah of whether they should stand and fight or flee.
And said D’Hah:
“Then we will fight til they agree that we retain the right to be and live regardless of their stingy, thrifty, frugal, sparing spites.”
And when Oro and Olok, bearing gifts, neared the mountain pass, they were attacked on either side by Pan Sun and D’Hah. Pan Sun forced a long, iron spike into the head of Oro, and D’Hah slashed at the side of Olok, who turned violently, throwing D’Hah into a rock and lunging at Pan Sun, who was slashing Oro’s face. Olok grabbed the weapon and brought it down on Pan Sun at the same time that D’Hah sunk hers deep into Olok’s back.
And watching from a distance was El Becq, who, with great accuracy, threw a heavy iron spear through D’Hah’s throat. And, thinking that all four were dead, returned to Sar Llosa in I’Rus. But the injured Pan Sun awoke and, slowly, pushed off the lifeless bodies of Olok and D’Hah and retreated to the tops of the Iron Mountains.
Ch.3 – Harvest on the Mountains of Pan Sun
Pan Sun climbed the rusty slopes of the iron mountains. A thin, yellow trail of fluid dripped from the wound in his side, dotting the red soil behind him. It was not a deep cut, but it would not stop bleeding; and the higher Pan Sun climbed, the weaker he became.
When he returned to the small camp where he had lived with D’Hah, he fell near their supplies. Shaking, he found a half empty bota of hydrogen and greedily sucked its contents in. There was only one left now, which would not last him long. He scrambled toward a small pile of thin, flat iron flakes and painfully forced a piece to his wound. He breathed in what was left in the bota and spat gexum to smear across the flake. It would stop the bleeding for now and with luck it would heal over.
They will come for me, he thought. They will come to Pan Sun and kill me and take our supplies. My supplies, he corrected, and thought of D’Hah, who was lying dead by their attackers near the mountain’s base. I must leave or they will find me, he thought. And Pan Sun grabbed the last bota of hydrogen and, very slowly, climbed towards the peak.
As the top grew nearer, Pan Sun found shelter within a small, shallow cave. He drank from his bota and, even though exhausted and falling asleep, he thought of how he would have to survive with so little food. While he and D’Hah were living in Pan Sun, Skoni had provided them with nothing. D’Hah had searched the mountainside, but had barely found a thing. Pan Sun, turning over rocks and digging amongst the iron flakes, would only find small amounts, and he would quickly suck it up. But it was never enough. Skoni would give them nothing, and so to survive they stole from their wealthy neighbours. But if they could not find food near Pan Sun, where could he look now that he was at the top of a mountain?
When he woke in the morning, Pan Sun found that his bota was nearly empty. I must find something soon, he thought, and began to limp across the dimly lit rocks. He turned over anything he could lift but found only bare ground beneath. He searched deep within any cave he came across, because sometimes hydrogen collected at the bottoms, but found nothing. He looked in every crevice, cranny, and crack on the mountain, but each was the same.
I am dead above as I am dead below, he thought. Even if I go and beg forgiveness from Sha” or I’Rus, I would starve before I even leave the mountain! I should have stayed with D’Hah! I should have died with her! My D’Hah! Please let me die! And Pan Sun climbed to the mountain’s peak, drank what was left in his bota, and threw himself into the currents that swirled above.
He held his breath and floated higher and higher, and the mountain below became smaller and smaller. But as Pan Sun neared the current’s edge, he felt a familiar warmth surround him. He opened his mouth and inhaled, and found that it was the richest and smoothest hydrogen he had ever tasted. He was swimming in food! Vast volumes of food flowed around his body. He quickly took in as much as he could and fell back to Theia.
Once on the ground, he went as fast as he could to fill the bota he had discarded. And he could do it again! Everything that flowed above him was food! Unlimited amounts of food!
To keep himself from floating too far into the current, he secreted a sticky gexum and tethered himself to a large boulder. When he pushed toward the skonisphere, the gexum stretched into a long cord. He fed greedily before pulling himself back to the ground. Where could he put it all?, he wondered. He only had one bota and it was already full! Experimenting, he breathed into the tether’s end and ballooned it into a floating ball no larger than his head. And, pushing the short, thin end into the ground, Pan Sun stuck the first balloon of hydrogen to the side of the mountain, where it floated no more than a meter off the ground.
Again he tethered and pushed himself up into the current, sucking in the gas, and returning to Theia to fill another balloon. He continued until ten balloons were full of food. He stared incredulously at his harvest on the iron mountains, his mountains – the mountains of Pan Sun!
With a short, iron flake he pierced the side of one of the balloons and the strong scent of hydrogen wafted around him, and, even though he was full, he breathed it in deeply. He felt renewed and strong and good. This would last him for several weeks, he thought. Even if he were to do nothing – if he were just to sit here and do nothing – he would feast every day like he were Skoni herself!
And he thought of D’Hah, of how she would have laughed loudly at their foolishness – that just above them, just slightly out of reach, was a bounty vaster than they could ever have imagined! How happy she would have been, he thought. And when Pan Sun pictured her smiling and joyful, he burst into a fit of tears.
The next day Pan Sun picked up a thin iron flake and began to etch a groove down the middle. He found another and did the same, and when he finished he placed them together to make a tube and smeared it with gexum to seal it. After sharpening one of the ends, he pierced a balloon. The hydrogen flowed out easily and danced in his mouth and throughout his body.
When he finished his meal, he thought about whether the current could only be reached at the top of the mountains. It certainly didn’t seem as high as when he first left Soko’s Thumb, but then that had been so long ago. Could he reach it further down?
Pan Sun filled his bota and began to walk down the mountainside. When his bota was half full, he tethered and pushed himself up toward the currents. It was higher, he felt, but not by much, and he brought in just as much hydrogen as he did before.
Again, he filled his bota and continued to descend, stopping only when his bota was half full to test the height of the skonisphere. He found it varied little. It was just as high at the top of the mountain as it was near its base. And he continued in this way until he came the mountain’s pass and saw the remains of his attack on Oro and Olok.
The bodies had dissolved and a thin sheen had spread between the stones. A long spear lay near D’Hah. Would he have discovered the current’s food if he wasn’t forced to flee? If D’Hah had never died? If they had never attacked Oro and Olok? If they hadn’t stole from I’Rus and Sha”? If they never went into the mountains in the first place?
Pan Sun picked up the spear and began walking west. He tethered and found that the currents here were nearer, almost half as high as on the mountainside. He fed, traveled back to D’Hah, and continued east, where he found the same thing. He tried south and again the currents held a hydrogen that was moist and rich and filling.
In every direction he tried, no matter how far he strayed from the mountain, there was food floating in the currents above. I must travel to the others, he thought, and I must teach them how to feed so that no one will ever starve again, so that no one ever fights or argues or kills again. There is enough here for everyone to eat and dance and sing and live in harmony together and forever.
And Pan Sun, determined to right the wrongs he had committed, began walking towards the plains of Sha”.
Ch.4 – A Feast for New Life
When Pan Sun reached the iron walls of Sha”, he forced his spear into the ground and called out loudly, Good Theians of Sha”, it is Pan Sun come from death to give you new life. Will you open your gates and listen? He waited, but no answer came.
Pan Sun circled the city and found a small opening in the wall. He squeezed through and called out again, but still heard no answer. Entering a small home, he found Mala-Fe crouched beside Adar’n’s bed.
Have I died too? she asked, looking at Pan Sun. She was weak and sickly; her once youthful orange skin had turned a pale blue, and she could barely lift herself to greet Pan Sun.
Mala-Fe, my Sorakin, child of Skoni, said Pan Sun. Drink from my bota and you will be restored. And Mala-Fe drank until the bota was empty.
Pan Sun, I’m sorry, she said. What will you have now? I was thirsty and I have drank it all. And Pan Sun told her of the currents above and of the unending food that flowed within it. And Mala-Fe told him of how Adar’n died, of how he gave the last of their hydrogen to Mala-Fe, and of the famine that has consumed Theia.
We relied on Skoni’s Heart, she said. And when Brune Shang claimed it after Oro and Olok’s death, he longer gave as easily as those before him. I’Rus once loved the iron flakes we sold them, but lately even they hold their food closer. We have had very little, and after Adar’n died, we’ve had nothing.
We will tell the others, said Pan Sun. We will worry no longer. And when Mala-Fe was strong enough to travel, the two journeyed to I’Rus and called out loudly, Good Theians of I’Rus, it is Pan Sun and Mala-Fe come to give you new life!
Sar Llosa and El Becq, who were once coloured a vibrant brown but now were a pale blue, answered, Is that the dead Pan Sun come back to steal from the living?
I come to repay my awful debts, said Pan Sun. I have come from the mountains where I have found everlasting life! The sky above you swirls full of food both rich and smooth. I come to give back what I have stolen ten-, fifty-, one hundred-fold. As proof I have a gift for you. And he presented them with a balloon full hydrogen; and when Sar Llosa and El Becq drank from it, they fell to the ground and praised him.
Pan Sun, cried El Becq, you come to us with new life when I have given you nothing but death. I was there during the attack on Oro, I was there when Olok died. You even hold the spear I threw. Forgive the pain I’ve caused, Pan Sun!
Let there be no more desperation that forces one to harm another, said Pan Sun. With this I hope to right my wrongs; evil ripples like a wave, and all those caughts within its grasp cannot but help to misbehave. We all have done something that casts a shame upon ourselves. There is nothing else that can be done but minimize all future pains. Forgive, but not forget, El Becq. Let good come from such needless deaths.
And Sar Llosa and El Becq joined Pan Sun and Mala-Fe, and the four traveled to Soko’s Thumb, where they found S’Sur unconscious on the ground. Pan Sun held him and poured his bota into S’sur’s blue mouth; and slowly, very slowly, he turned from blue to purple to red. S’sur coughed and cried and thanked Pan Sun for saving him.
It has been so long since I have eaten, said S’sur, regaining his voice. Since Brune Shang and Na’i’m took Skoni’s Heart we have had even less than before. They’ve kept everything for themselves! Pan Sun, I’m sorry! They betrayed us, what were we to do? Where were we to go? Have you been to Swi’ Shang’s Rest? They left Dir Go just as they left me. What we did was wrong, I know, but, please, forgive us, forgive me!
And the four helped S’sur and fed him hydrogen from one of the balloons; and when he was strong enough, they all traveled to Swi’ Shang’s Rest to find Dir Go.
They saw her digging with a spade-shaped iron flake.
Su Go! Su Go! she cried. Su Go is alive, I must find her for she lives below! And the sorakin surrounded her and calmed her hysterics. They embraced her and gave her food and warmth and friendship.
Oh Pan Sun, she said afterwards. We’ve mistreated each other terribly. When Brune Shang and Na’i’m left, I went to them. When they kept everything for themselves, I begged them. Brune Shang spoke that S’sur would betray him and that I would undermine his work. I admit I’ve behaved poorly. We lied to the others, to you. Pan Sun, Skoni’s Heart did not leave for war, they sought peace so that your theiving stopped! We needed food just as badly as you did! Pan Sun, forgive our actions, but our hunger lead to evil deeds.
Pan Sun then saw how his thefts had affected the others, and how fairness is so precariously balanced, and how blame is so difficult to trace. And when everyone was fed, they went to Skoni’s Heart to see Brune Shang and Na’i’m.
If you’ve not come to plunder then throw away your spear, yelled Brune Shang to El Becq as they approached.
Good Theians of Skoni’s Heart, Pan Sun called back, we’ve come not for trouble, but to give you new life, one free of pain and worry and hunger. In our blindness we have looked upon the ground for fare like fools, when the sky above us swells with an abundance of good food. We came not for forgiveness, Brune, but come with gifts for you. The famine that surrounds us is no more. We can remake what has been broken. I will teach you everything I know.
Then show me! yelled Brune Shang. And Pan Sun found a rock to hold him, spat his sticky gexum, tethered and rose up into the currents while Brune Shang and the others watched. Pan Sun inhaled as much hydrogen as he could and dragged himself back to the ground, pulling on the cord. He breathed it into a balloon and held it up for Brune Shang.
This will last you for several days, said Pan Sun. It is yours to keep. And when Brune Shang tasted the hydrogen, tears welled in his eyes.
Na’i’m, he gasped. Come to Na’i’m! And Brune Shang ushered Pan Sun inside. He was pulled toward a bed and saw Na’i’m, naked and sick. Her skin was white, and her head was the palest of blues.
She’s long been ill, Pan Sun, he said. I’ve given her all I could, but there was so little food. I’ve starved myself to give to her! Please, let her drink from the balloon like I have. And Pan Sun held it near and the hydrogen washed around her head and body.
Drink, Na’i’m, whispered Brune Shang, scooping it near her mouth. But no matter how much she drank, her colour never changed; and the blue turned to grey, and the grey soon turned to white.
Pan Sun, her end is near, said Brune Shang. Forgive me for my folly. The pain I’ve caused for want of food, the suffering, the deaths. I’m sorry. What evil’s this that dwells within the hunger of our bodies? I regret what I have done to you; and I smear the name of Skoni. You bring new life to Theia, while I’ve taken it from others. Let me at least give back to one, in honour of our mothers.
Brune Shang held the white Na’i’m, and his cells became her cells, and their soral stalk grew into the ceiling of their home. And when the sorus was large and full, it burst; and the sora floated down and formed into eight healthy and beautiful children.
Pan Sun embraced the new life and told them of their parents, and of their parent’s parents, and of Skoni. He taught them how to tether and to fill and store balloons; and when he thought they knew how to survive, he left them to live in Skoni’s Heart in peace.
He taught Dir Go and S’sur in Swi’ Shang’s Rest, and taught Sar Llosa and El Becq in I’Rus, and then returned to Mala-Fe in Sha”.
And when they neared the end of their lives, they all rose in sorus, and each produced eight children. And when those children neared their end, they each had eight children. And when those children neared their end, they also had eight children. And it continued in this was for a long, long time. But each generation was fed, and each generation was happy, and each was kind and good to one another.