But there was very little else, until the Creator spoke, and said: "Be."
And there was.
"Be different from each other."
And they were.
And the Creator spoke for a third time: "Be aware."
And that's when it got interesting.
"This is unusual," said the First. "I feel different."
"You're talking!" blurted the Second, in surprise. "So am I!"
"Where are we?" asked the Third.
"Who are we?" continued the Fourth.
"I am me," said the Fifth, timidly. "I don't know who any of you are."
"That can't be right," said the Second. "I'm me."
"You're both wrong," Fourth corrected. "I am me."
There was a peal of laughter from behind them, and the sound of someone clapping.
The Five turned, startled, to see a woman standing behind them. "Not yet thirty seconds old and already fighting!" She laughed again. "I have waited so long for this, and I can't wait for the rest!"
"Excuse me," the First said, stepping forward. "But I know you."
"I do as well," chorused the Second and Fourth at the same time. The Fifth only nodded timidly.
The woman smiled. "Indeed you do. You are my children, you were created out of me."
The Five fell to their knees, except for the First.
The Fourth was horrified and tried to pull the First down, so that they would all bow before their Creator. But the First would not kneel.
"Why did you cast us out?" the First asked, boldly.
The others cowered, in shock and fear.
The woman smiled again. "I did not cast you out."
"We were happy where we were," the First continued, indignantly.
"And you will be happy here. Do not worry; you shall join with me again, when I grow to miss you too much. But enough of this." The woman clapped her hands together. "You need a Name."
"I am me," the Fourth ventured. "Is that a name?"
"No, no it is not a Name. You need a Name, and a Role, and I shall give them to you. Stand." The woman gestured to bring the Four to their feet. She turned to the First, and held out her hand.
The First took it, and gasped in shock. "You are the first," the woman whispered. "You are named Hisan; you are given Fire. For well you deserve it."
As the woman spoke a great change came over the First; she became a woman, with red hair, pale skin and green eyes. She smiled, and clapped her hands in joy.
"Who was the Second, to speak?" the woman asked. The Second stepped forward. She nodded. "Your name is Spirare, you are Air."
Spirare took a deep breath, and changed as well, becoming a tall, light-brown haired man with hazel eyes.
"Who was third?" she asked.
No one stepped forward, but the others turned to regard the Third coolly, or in surprise; they did not understand why the Third did not step forward.
"You are afraid?" she asked the Third.
"I am cautious," the Third replied.
"And so shall you be, always. You are Erde; you are Earth." Erde gasped in delight, as she began to change into a woman, like Hisan; but Earth was dark, very dark skinned, with deep brown eyes and a dazzling smile.
The Fourth stepped forward. "I am ready," the Fourth said, eagerly.
The woman regard the Fourth with amusement. "Are you? So quick to change. You are Mizusama, you are Water."
The Fourth gasped as she became a woman, shorter than the others, with glossy black hair and thin black eyes, her skin lighter than Erde's but darker than Hisan's or Spirare's. "Thank you!" she exclaimed.
This prompted a chorus of belated thank-yous on behalf of the others; the woman waved them away. She took a step towards the Fifth, who tried to hide behind Spirare.
"I don't wish to change!" the Fifth cried, distraught.
The woman caught the Fifth by the hand, and held tight. "This is the way it must be," she said, sadly. "I do not wish you to be afraid, dearest."
The Fifth started to wail, until he changed into a man, with dark hair and dark eyes. Then he stopped, in confusion and amazement, no longer afraid, but still worried.
"You are Uchu, you are Space," the woman said, dropping his hand. She stepped back out from the group. "Now you are all Named."
"Thank you!" Mizusama said again.
The woman laughed, then stopped. "Oh!" she exclaimed. "I forgot."
"Forgot?" Hisan asked. "What is it to forget?"
"Something you will discover," the woman assured her. She clapped her hands, and suddenly the Five found that they were not alone.
Two others, two men, stood looking at them, blinking in the sudden surprise of creation.
"You are Animus, you are Numina," the woman said, pointing to each in turn. "You must find your roles for yourselves." She took another step backwards, and then she disappeared, leaving the deities to stare at themselves in confusion.
"What?" Animus blurted. He resembled Uchu, with Uchu's colouring, only his hair was a bright blue, and his eyes were green. Numina resembled Erde, only lighter.
Hisan and Spirare came forward, drawing him into a hug. "You are like us," she said, smiling. "You are here, by the grace of the Creator, like we are. You have a Name."
"I do," he agreed.
"I am Hisan, I am Fire," she continued. One by one, the other Four introduced themselves.
"We do not have Roles," Numina observed, sadly, when the introductions were concluded.
"We do," Animus corrected. "We simply do not know them. Yet."
"Exactly," Erde said, with a slight smile. She looked around herself. "Where are we?"
"We are here," Spirare informed her.
The others nodded, agreeing with this.
"I don't think I like here," Erde commented.
"It is too dark," Mizusama agreed.
"Too cold," Animus added.
"I like it," Uchu exclaimed, bitterly, being contrary.
Hisan sniffed. "I think I would like to make it different."
"No!" Uchu blurted, but when the others stared at him, he cowered and withdrew. Hisan raised her arms in the air.
"I wish there to be light, and warmth," she called out, boldly.
"Perhaps you have to Name the light, and the warmth," Spirare suggested.
"Perhaps." Hisan did not seem convinced. "Perhaps only the Creator can... create."
"The Creator is not here," Numina pointed out. "How would anything get done?"
They murmured to themselves. This was a valid point.
"Perhaps...you must create in the name of the Creator," Spirare exclaimed, inspired. "At least, by Naming that's how the Creator does it. I'm not too sure." He scratched his head in puzzlement.
Hisan shrugged, the First Shrug. "I will try. I wish there to be light, and warmth, and I wish these things in the Name of the Creator!"
And there was.
Mizusama clapped her hands in delight.
"Let me try," Erde said, next. "I wish there to be a ground, to stand upon, I would like to stand upon something. In the Name of the Creator do I wish these things."
And there was a ground that stretched around them, solid under their feet, and cool against their toes.
"Something's not right," Spirare mused. "If we have a ground underneath us, we should have something over top. I wish, in the Name of the Creator, that there was a sky, overhead."
And there was. A great blue sky that soared above them, endless and beautiful.
"My turn!" Mizusama said, next. Then she paused. "What should I wish for?"
"I don't know," Animus said, looking around him. "The ground is very bare, though."
"I like my ground," Erde pouted, digging her toes in.
"So do I," Animus was quick to add. "But--"
"I wish it wasn't so hot!" Mizusama blurted. "It is too hot for me. I wish there was something here to cool me down. That is what I wish for, in the Name of the Creator."
And there was a great river, that roared next to them; and there were clouds that flitted over the sky, casting shadows. The river immediately cooled the air around it, flicking spray over the deities.
"Much better," Mizusama said, with a sigh.
"Still too bare," Animus mused. "I wish there was life. In the Name of the Creator, I wish there was life."
And there was. There were trees and grass and flowers.
The deities stared around them in wonder. Animus cheered. "I wish there was more!" he yelled, in joy. "More!"
"In the Name of the Creator," Numina added for him.
And there were insects, and fish in the river, and birds in the sky and in the trees; there were mice and frogs and butterflies and a squirrel that threw a newly-created nut at Spirare.
"You had two wishes!" Spirare exclaimed, ducking the nut. Animus shrugged, the Second Shrug.
Uchu scowled. "It was my turn," he said, with a snarl. "I should have gone, and now there is nothing for me to create." They looked around themselves. He was right; there seemed to be nothing missing.
"We'll find something for you to create," Hisan soothed. "I'm sure we'll find something."
"I would like it to back to the way it was, in the Beginning!" Uchu yelled suddenly, gathering his courage together. The others gasped at this, at his audacity. "I wish in the Name to go home!"
And nothing happened.
They stared around each other in shock, and discomfort and in Uchu's case, great disappointment. "I wished for it, in the Name of the Creator," he said, sadly. "I want to go home."
Hisan was the first to step towards him, and she laid a hand on his shoulder, and he didn't flinch away from her touch, the way he flinched from the others. "This is our home now, Uchu, we must be happy here."
He sighed and looked to her, still disappointed and homesick.
"Come," she said, pulling him towards the others. "You must make something. It is your turn; think of something to create." He looked over their new home. He looked at the sky and the river, he looked at the trees and the ground, the flora and the fauna. A breeze ruffled his hair. He frowned, deep in thought. "I cannot think of anything that is missing."
"Then when you do, or if we do, we will let you create it, it is your turn," Hisan pointed out the others, who nodded in agreement. They gathered around their brother, and he didn't shy away.
They decided to remain in the spot that they had created, to set up some place to sleep and eat of the food they found there. It was pleasant, and warm (although Mizusama still complained) and they all agreed that their work was good, and would make the Creator happy.
"We should make a home," Spirare said, one day, as he ate a nut. (Not the First Nut, which he had ducked.) "Something better than lying under the trees. I do not like being rained on."
"I do," Mizusama argued.
"Then you lie under the clouds," he countered. He decided to ignore her. "I think the rest of us should have a house."
"A house?" the others murmured.
"I think it's a good idea," Erde put forth, munching on an apple and unfortunately spraying the others with tiny flecks as she talked. "I would like a house, I do not enjoy being wet at all."
"I would also like a house," Hisan agreed. The group all turned to Uchu, who was tending to some fish roasting over a spit. "Uchu?"
"I am happy without a house," he said, simply. "I like it here."
The others grumbled. "We need you to create a house, it is your turn!" Animus exclaimed. Since he had been the one who had mistakenly used two turns, he was the one most zealous about guarding Uchu's right to create next.
"I do not want to create a house. Make one." Uchu poked at the fish. It was almost done.
"We can't until--" Spirare stopped, and a flash of inspiration struck him. "Perhaps we can build a house!"
The others sat in silence for a moment, then Numina grinned. "Create one without magic, I like that idea," he agreed. While it was settled that Animus's role was of Life, no one had been able to decide what Numina's was, and he couldn't go until Uchu did. "We could make it out of these trees."
"Or of mud," Erde put in, getting into the spirit. "The mud that dries hard, in the sun."
"I could help dry it," Hisan put in. They all chimed in, all excited, all enthusiastic about their new house. Except for one. Uchu regarded them warily. "I like things the way they are," he said, lowly, to himself.
The House, the First House, was not a pretty thing. Finesse can come only after practice. But it was dry inside, and it had enough rooms for all them, even Mizusama who changed her mind once again and decided she adored the house. But one room always remained empty.
Uchu still slept under the trees, and still kept the campsite fire going, in the hopes that the others would return, and that things would go back to the way that they were. But they did not come back. They visited, naturally; they spent all day with their brother, but they returned to their House (and later, their beds, an invention of Erde's) every night, without fail, as the sky became dark.
Uchu stretched his legs as he got up, and decided to go for a refreshing swim. He was soon joined by Hisan, an early riser as well.
"You should come to the House," she said, after washing her face. He ignored her.
"You should at least see it," she continued.
He started to swim away.
"We worked hard," she added, sadly.
"I think I would like to know where this river comes from," Uchu announced, changing the subject as he climbed out on to the bank.
"It comes from..." Hisan trailed off. "It comes from the Creator."
"I know, but from where?" he continued.
"It must come from here," she said, puzzled. "There is only here."
Suddenly Uchu's eyes sparkled, and he grinned. "I know it, I know it now."
"Know? Know what?" she exclaimed.
"I know of my wish!" he said brightly. He tilted his head skywards and yelled at the top of his lungs: "I wish there was somewhere else! I wish there was away!"
And there was.
Hisan got to her feet. "You didn't wish, in the Name of the Creator!" she exclaimed, perplexed.
"I wish there was an East, and a West, and South and a North," Uchu cried, full of joy.
And there was.
"I wish there was length, and width and height and depth and area!"
And there was.
"I wish there was--" He paused, starting to peter out. "Well, maybe that's enough for now..."
Hichan started to cry, the First Cry. "Uchu, you shouldn't have done that--now you've used up Numina's turn! And you didn't say your wish was in the Name of the Creator--what if the Creator is mad at us?"
Uchu blinked in surprise. "I guess I wasn't thinking," he admitted. "Numina can have two turns, too."
"But what about the Creator?" she continued, fearfully. "What if you've made the Creator angry at us?" She turned and bolted, towards the House, where everyone was still sleeping.
Uchu shivered. He truly did not want to upset the Creator; he simply had had an idea, and acted upon it. Anxious now, and too afraid to follow behind his sister, he sat himself down on the bank of the river.
"What is the problem, dear one?" asked a frog, that hopped out of the water to land by his leg. "You are upset."
"Oh, Frog," Uchu sighed, "I fear that I have done a terrible thing." And then he outlined his worries, not leaving out anything or shading it in any way; there hadn't been the First Lie, yet.
The frog considered his story. "I didn't know that frogs could talk," Uchu added, almost as an afterthought. "Most haven't."
"Just because a thing has not, does not mean it cannot," the frog replied, sagely. "But you are right, frogs do not talk."
"Yet you talk, Little Sibling," Uchu continued. (Everything was his sibling, he supposed, if it talked. If it wasn't created by Animus, then it must have been created by the Creator, same as he had. This is what he thought, anyway. He wasn't too wrong.)
"I talk because I can," the frog replied, smiling a froggy smile, which only those people who love frogs can notice. "And I have the answer to your questions, Uchu."
"Then tell me, please!" Uchu exclaimed, delightedly.
"First, you did no wrong thing by creating; it was needed, and so it was. And you have not usurped your brother's turn. The time will come when no turns are required." The frog started to hop towards the river.
"Wait!" Uchu cried. "Wait, Frog--how do I know this is true? How do you know? And will the Creator still be angry?"
"So many questions," the frog said with a happy sigh. "Uchu, dearest, you must never be afraid that the Creator is angry. All that you do in the Creator's Name is right, and is for the best."
"But I did not say--"
"Out loud is not as important as in your heart." The frog paused, and shifted around to gaze at Uchu. "Do not worry, and join your brothers and sisters in their new house. They miss you." Without a second's pause, the frog leapt, splashing down into the water. Uchu lost sight of it instantly. He sighed, greatly relieved, and then got up, intent to visit the First House, and his family.
When Uchu told the others of the Frog, immediately they came to the conclusion that he did not: that the frog was the Creator, come to assuage Uchu's fears and worry.
"If we don't have to take turns any more--" Spirare began, grinning, but Animus stopped him.
"Numina still has to take a turn," he reminded him, and Uchu agreed, vigorously. After Numina they could forget about taking turns.
Numina found himself the center of unwanted attention: he had no idea what to ask for, but now his siblings seemed to require it of him without delay. "I do not know," he said, at last. "I haven't made up my mind yet."
"I guess we aren't really lacking anything," Erde admitted. "Don't worry, Numina. I'm sure you'll think of something."
This was taken up, immediately, and the matter was dropped. Eventually Numina would have an idea, as Uchu had, and all would be well.
The siblings lived in their House, improving it day by day until it was no longer something rustic and built-for-function only. It began to resemble a great House, and they were very proud of it. But something was missing. None could say what they really thought was missing, and yet they all, privately, knew something to be wrong.
It was a hot day, hotter than most, and they were in the shade, or swimming in the river, just relaxing. Spirare was foraging for nuts (he did that a lot, he enjoyed them) when he noticed something very interesting. He called Erde over, and she looked at the new sight with glee.
"How cute!" she trilled, as the mother squirrel and her three baby squirrels were all lying on one of the tree branches, spread out to cool down. "Tiny squirrels!"
Mizusama came to see what they were looking at, and was just as enthraled. She started to say something to Spirare, when the mother squirrel noticed their presence. She chirped, alarmed, and the babies roused themselves and ran up the tree trunk, disappearing into the canopy, while the older squirrel squawked in irritation to the siblings before she too dashed to safety.
"That's what's missing," Spirare said, after a long moment. "Children."
His two sisters nodded, agreeing.
"Children," Animus said with a sigh. "Of course."
Hisan made a face, and Uchu looked thoughtful. Numina seemed just as pleased as the others.
"Where do we get children from?" Mizusama mused.
"The Creator would create them, of course," Spirare answered. "Unless..."
"Unless?" They all blurted, curious and expectant.
"Unless that's what Numina uses his wish for," Spirare finished.
Numina leapt to his feet, excited. "Of course! That is a perfect idea, I will do that at once!" He took a deep breath. "Great Creator, I wish in your Name that we all have children!"
And nothing happened.
They looked at each in puzzlement. Numina was more perplexed than the others; he knew that he was true in his heart (there still hadn't been the First Lie yet) and so the spell must have worked.
"Perhaps it will take a while?" Mizusama offered. "Perhaps they will take some time to arrive."
"I hope they take a long time," Hisan grumbled. "I don't want any."
"None?" Spirare repeated.
"None at all?" Erde persisted.
Hisan shook her head, her mind made up. Her siblings looked to each other and shrugged. (By now there had been too many shrugs to count.)
They waited all morning, and nothing happened.
They waited all afternoon.
They waited all evening.
"This isn't working," Numina sighed, sadly. "I must have done it wrong."
"But there was nothing else you could have said," Animus consoled him. He patted his back. "Perhaps it is just the Creator's will that we do not have any children of our own." This was met with great disappointment by all. Except for Hisan, who looked somewhat relieved.
Spirare, chewing on something other than a nut, for once, seemed to have an idea come to him, and he sat upright. "What if--we have the children ourselves?"
His siblings stared at him.
"You mean like squirrels?" Mizusama exclaimed.
Erde was the first to find her voice. "But--but how?"
That, Spirare did not know.
"We know how to do anything we want," Uchu said, suddenly, as the silence grew too thick and even Spirare had begun to give up hope. "We know, we have simply forgotten."
Hisan snorted. "I knew that forgetting was a bad thing!"
"Hush, Sister. No, I am certain we know exactly how to have children; we knew how to build the House. Or rather, you did," he admitted. "The knowledge must be there."
"The squirrels do know how, and the fish and birds," Animus agreed. "Unless the Creator told them separately."
"Maybe," Numina agreed sadly, "Maybe the Creator told them because we are not supposed to have children."
This was a sobering thought.
"Oh, I do wish we can!" Mizusama sighed. "I would love a baby."
"Me as well," Animus agreed.
Uchu poked at the remains of the dying fire. "It's getting dark out, again," he noted, looking at the sky. (Even though night came without fail at the end of every day, they weren't absolutely convinced it was not part of the weather, and therefore not subject to change.)
"Perhaps one of us will have a dream, showing us what to do," Hisan suggested. While she herself did not want children-- too much responsibility in her mind--she did not want to deprive the others of something they longed for.
They each agreed that this was a sensible idea, to sleep and let the problem work out on its own or with the will of the Creator. They let the fire die out and headed off for bed.
Early the next morning, Numina was woken by a funny noise, one that he didn't think he'd heard before. It sounded as though someone was bumping into the door, on purpose. (He himself had frequently hit himself on the door, by accident, when the door was still New and he was still unsure exactly how it worked.) But then why would someone walk into the door repeatedly, and with such regularity?
He got to his feet, determined to come to the source of the problem. He opened it.
"Hello," the woman exclaimed, brightly. She had her hand raised in the air before she dropped it back down to her side; she had been pounding on the door with it. That was the noise. There was a crowd behind her, six others: three men and three other women. "Are you Spirare?"
"No, I'm Numina," Numina said, frowning, confused, and not too certain he wasn't dreaming. "Are you the Creator?"
The woman blinked in surprise. "I don't think so. The Creator is a man, the one who gave us directions?"
Now it was Numina's turn to be surprised. Again. "I don't know. I don't think so. This is very unusual."
"You said it!" called out one of the men. "We've been walking for ages."
"Oh, then come in, come in," Numina blurted. "Oh--no, wait a moment. I think there's too many here to fit in the House."
"Is that what you call it?" one of the women asked. "It looks like a grand Manor to me."
This was met with murmurs of agreement.
Numina blushed. "Well, it's really only a small House, just our first, you know." Then he seemed to gather his wits together. "I will wake up my siblings and meet you down by the river."
"Sounds good!" another of the men called, starting off immediately.
"Don't mind Grund," the first woman insisted. "He's um, a little direct."
Numina smiled. He found the woman very pretty in a way that differed from finding his sisters pretty. "I will be out, shortly," he assured her. She nodded, and the party left, heading towards the river and the trees.
He watched them leave, and then flew back into the House, excited. "Wake up!" he called, "Wake up, wake up--there are visitors!"
"There are what?" Mizusama murmured. "Who?"
"Visitors!" Numina crowed, as the rest of his siblings started to wake up. "The First Visitors!"
Eventually, after much poking, prodding and pinching, he managed to get everyone awake and mostly coherent; then he marched them all to the river bank. The First Visitors were enjoying themselves in the shade, as the one of the men had said, they had been walking for a long time.
As Numina approached, they all got to their feet, and the two groups of deities looked at each other, warily. The only one who was truly excited was Numina. He decided to do the introductions.
"This is Hisan, her role is Fire," he began, and he worked himself through his siblings, ending with himself. "And I don't have a Role yet," he added, sadly.
The first woman who had knocked on the door commiserated. "That must be hard."
"I will find it eventually," Numina answered, trying to sound more confident than he felt. "Now, what are your Names?"
The woman smiled. "I am Peregrinari--"
"We all call her Peri," interrupted one of the other women.
"Hush," Peregrinari said, a little irritated by the comment. "As I was saying, I am Peregrinari, and my Role is Travel."
"Travel!" Uchu exclaimed, brightly. "Then you--you are from away!"
The siblings gasped, in shock.
Peri nodded. She pointed, beyond the House. "We are from over there, a long way. I woke up to find myself in a great plain, covered in grasses."
"She found me," the woman continued.
Peregrinari sighed. "I was just getting to that, Celestia. As I was saying, I woke up, and wandered around, and I found Celestia, and I woke her up, too."
"My Role is to take care of the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars," Celestia said, proudly.
"What are those?" Mizusama asked, confused.
"Um--I'm not sure yet. But I'm sure I'll find out sooner or later," Celestia beamed.
Peri sighed, again. "And we started walking, and we found a man, lying as we had been, sleeping. So we woke him up."
"That was me," the burly man stated. "I'm Grund, and my Role is Plants."
"Oh!" Animus exclaimed. But he didn't clarify and Grund did not ask.
"And we kept walking. And we found Hikari."
Hikari, a slender man, stepped forward and nodded. "I am Light."
"And we found another woman, Taberu, whose role was Food." Peri's voice was starting to take on a sing-song quality as she recited their story.
Taberu smiled, shyly, and didn't step forward. But the siblings all waved at her.
"And then we decided to stop for lunch," Grund yawned, before Peri could begin anew.
"That is true, but I do not think they want to hear that," Peri interrupted. "By now there was me, Celestia, Grund, Hikari and Taberu. We kept walking, and we found another woman, and she said her name was--"
"Tenki!" the woman exclaimed brightly. "My Role is Weather."
They all nodded sagely. Then Spirare stopped, and frowned. "You said that you knew what your Name was, when you woke up?" he asked her. She nodded.
"We all did," she replied. "We all knew our Names and our Roles."
The siblings exchanged glances with each other, but didn't elaborate to the First Visitors.
Peri looked to her own, and then decided to continue. "Then we met Tier--" A shorter, stocky man waved hello, "and he was given the role of caring for Animals."
"Watch out for the squirrels," Spirare cautioned, which Tier took heed of.
"And we thought that perhaps there were more of us, so we kept walking," Peri added.
"But I was the last one," Tier announced, rather proudly.
"We didn't know what to do, until we came across a man that ask us where we were going," Celestia said, deciding she would like a turn now. "We asked him who he was, but he wouldn't say. He just gave us directions to here, and said that this was where we were supposed to be."
The First Group looked at each other, and nodded. They were all thinking the same thing: that the direction-giving man had been the Creator.
"Then here is where you must be," Erde said, firmly. "You must be our new sisters and brothers."
"If you were Created, that is," Uchu blurted, suddenly, looking interested. "But what if they're not our siblings?"
"If they were created by the Creator, same as we were--" Hisan began, but he cut her off, excitedly.
"That is like saying that the trees are Animus's children because he created them," her brother finished.
The Second Group exchanged glances.
"We do not see what the issue is," Peri volunteered for them. "What difference does it make?"
This, Uchu and Hisan and the others had no answer for.
"This is enough talking," Mizusama decreed, yawning. "We should all rest under the trees and have breakfast."
This idea was taken up eagerly by all, and they set about putting her plan into motion.
"It was very odd," Peregrinari agreed, as she munched on her apple. "And yet, it was not odd."
"I know the feeling," Numina replied. "When we were first Created, it was odd, and yet not odd. I know exactly what you mean."
She smiled at him, and he smiled back. Around them, the Second Group and the First had broken off into smaller sections, as they all got to know each other better. Hisan and Spirare were telling Tier about the plants and the animals that lived around them; Uchu was regaling Taberu with the story of the Talking Frog, and how he created Away; Animus and Celestia were trying to figure out what a Sun was, and how you cared for it; Grund and Mizusama and Taberu were talking about the House and how it had been made. Tenki was having a nap, and Hikari was swimming, trying to catch fish in his hands. All in all, it was a most enjoyable afternoon.
Peri managed to hear snatches of conversation coming Uchu; she looked to Numina with curiosity. "Have you created anything? He said that it was your turn, after his."
Numina sighed, sadly. "No. I did have a Wish, and I tried to make it happen in the Name of the Creator, but it did not work out."
"That's terrible," Peri agreed, frowning. "What did you wish for?"
"For there to be children," Numina explained. "That's what's missing, around here. Our children."
Peri didn't reply immediately; she looked around the field, and the grove, and over the river. "I don't think anything's missing."
Numina shrugged. "Maybe you're right. But it's just a feeling we have, that we all have."
"I don't think I've been around long enough to miss anything," Peri confided, in a low tone. "Maybe I will, in a little while."
And so the day passed, and the darkness fell once again over the Realm, which now included both Here and Away; the gods and goddesses decided to spend the first night together outside, until they figured out what to do about the House, and the lack of room.
They all slept together, cuddled and snuggled for warmth. Hisan kept the fire going, of course, but it was not enough, and no one complained.
Numina found that he did enjoy sleeping nestled next to Peregrinari, and she reciprocated. He would have spent a very comfortable evening lying with her had it not been for Mizusama, sleeping with her back to him, who kept elbowing him in the ribs. That made him recall why he and his sibling all had separate rooms.
At last the darkness cleared up and the deities all awoke, stretching and yawning and poking people who had poked them in the night, just for revenge. Numina was the first to get up, deciding he wanted an early-morning swim.
As he stepped into the water, he noticed a reflection looking over his shoulder. Startled, he whirled around, to see a tall man smiling at him.
"You're all awake, I see," the man said, pointing to the deities, who were, by now, starting to notice him.
"You're the man that gave us directions!" Peri exclaimed, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
"That means--" Animus blurted, falling to his knees after only just standing up. "You are the Creator!"
There was a general gasp, and all the deities fell to their knees, except Hisan, who was being contrary.
The man smiled, and took a seat on a log. "I've come to tell you a few things," he said, beckoning for them to lift their heads. Slowly, they rose to their knees. "Sit, be comfortable. Eat, drink, I do not mind."
"That's a load off my mind, pass me one of those apples," Grund replied, giving Tenki a prod. She handed him an apple from the pile left over from supper, and he bit into sit, settling himself down.
"Now," the Creator began, "I have heard the pleas of my children. They wish to have children of their own."
"I don't," Hisan interrupted, still being contrary.
The Creator smiled. "Some day, dearest, you may change your mind. But that is later. This is now. You asked for children, and I will provide."
"Oh, so you do create them for us," Spirare agreed.
"I did not say that; I said that I will provide. And I have." The Creator swept his hand over the group, gesturing to the Second Group. "I do not wish you to marry out of your brethren; so I have provided others, from whom you may choose."
The deities looked to each other in shock and confusion; they turned from one face to another, hoping to find someone who understood. But the only one with a flicker of comprehension was Numina.
"If we marry, we will have children?" he asked. The look on his face was one of concentration. He was trying very hard to remember something that he had forgotten--or perhaps never knew in the first place.
"Usually," the Creator said, with a slight grin. "Not always. But usually."
"Then we should marry at once!" Mizusama agreed, brightly.
"Always so quick to follow, dear one?" the Creator laughed, clapping his hands together. "Indeed you should. For this Realm is still quite empty. Indeed, around this Realm are others, waiting to be filled; they cannot be filled by a handful of deities, and I cannot create any more."
"Why?" asked Tier, blurting out the question. "You are the Creator!"
"I am, but I cannot always be. I wish only to observe, and not to interfere. The time has come when you are to be own your own." The Creator looked at them sadly.
"You're leaving us?" Hisan screamed, in shock. He leapt to his feet, and touched her on the shoulder. That seemed to calm her down, although she had gone pale. "Why?"
"I am not leaving; I will simply let you run this Realm and the others yourselves. I will always be here to help, when you need me." The Creator smiled at her, and rubbed her shoulders comfortingly. She sniffled, but gradually calmed down.
"This is terrible," Spirare commiserated. "How will we know what to do without you?"
"All that you need to know, you already do, you must simply remember," the Creator said, gently. "You are from me, and have all my knowledge. When you have children, they will be from you, and have your powers, and Roles. And roles of their own. But they will not have my knowledge; you will have to teach them."
There was a silence. "Maybe Hisan's right," Uchu said, worriedly. "Maybe children are too big a responsibility."
"The biggest you will ever have," The Creator agreed. "But they are worth it. I know." He smiled at him, and gave Hisan's shoulder one last rub, and then started walking towards the trees. "You know all you need, and you can discover all you want," he called, turning to wave at them one last time, before he disappeared into the wood.
The deities looked at each other, still in confusion and anxiety.
"Now what?" Mizusama asked, wavering.
Erde got to her feet. "Well, I don't know about you, but I think we should get to business."
"Oh?" Spirare asked.
She nodded. "We should all pair off."
This was met with dubious looks. "Why?" Tenki asked, finally.
"So that we can get married," she exclaimed with a sigh. "Weren't you listening at all?"
"Sister!" Spirare chided, glancing over at Tenki, making sure she wasn't upset by the remark.
"Well, we should," Erde repeated. "We should split up immediately."
"I agree," Grund said, getting to his feet. "No time like the present, I always say."
"You've never said that before," Peri pointed out.
"I'll be saying it from now on," Grund answered, huffily.
"I have a question," Uchu suddenly said, looking curious. "How are we going to split up?"
Erde apparently hadn't gotten that far. But not to be out- done, she put on her best knowledgable smile and said: "By Roles."
"By Roles?" Numina repeated, worried.
She nodded. "You heard the Creator. The children will get their parent's Roles. Therefore, we have to take that into consideration." Now she starting to get into her response, as she started to believe it herself. "We couldn't have Fire and Water marry; they'd cancel each other out."
"We couldn't anyway," Hisan pointed out. "We're both women."
"You see my point," Erde replied, sulkily.
Spirare was, as always, deep in thought. "Fire, Air, Water, Earth, Space, Life, Travel, Sun/Moon/Stars, Light, Plants, Weather, Animals and Food. Those are the Roles. Those are what we have to work with."
"Let's do the obvious ones first," Mizusama suggested. "Umm...Fire and--"
"No," Hisan said, suddenly. "I'm not getting married."
"But--" Uchu blurted.
"No," she replied, stubbornly, getting up and strolling off towards the House.
The others grumbled, but there was nothing they could do about it.
"Okay, next one. Air. That's Spirare," Mizusama continued, after a moment's pause. "Air and--weather!"
Tenki looked both startled and pleased; Spirare just looked pleased. The two moved to sit together. One pair down.
"Now we'll do water," Animus chimed in. "Water and...hmmm..."
"Now, let's do Earth first," Mizusama interrupted.
"I think we should do Space next," Erde butted in.
Uchu looked smug. "I know what goes with Space," he volunteered, to end the discussion. "The Sun, the Moon and the Stars."
"Hey, that's me!" Celestia giggled. He grinned at her, and she came to sit next to him. Two down.
"Back to water," Spirare said, in a sing-song, holding Tenki's hand. "What goes well with water?"
"Fish," Tier answered, almost immediately. He had his eye on Mizusama, and as she noticed it, she blushed, furiously, but not unhappily.
"Water, Animals," Spirare considered. "Hmmm. Yes, that works, I guess. Any objections?"
There were none. Tier came to sit next to Mizusama, and she giggled. Three down. "Earth next!" she snickered.
"This is a whole lot of nonsense," Grund grumbled.
"I agree whole-heartedly," Erde mumbled.
"I think I know the perfect match!" Numina called out. "Earth and Plants!"
The deities all started laughing, and Erde and Grund looked to each other. They weren't smiling, but they didn't look too upset either. Four down.
"That just leaves Animus, Numina, Hikari, Peri and Taberu," Spirare counted. "Uh oh."
"With Hisan gone, there's one too many!" Peri agreed. "This isn't good."
"I will withdraw, then," Taberu said, quietly. "That makes it easier."
"No, harder," Animus countered. "We need one of the men to withdraw, so that it's even again."
Numina suddenly found himself wishing he knew what his Role was, so that he could claim to be important enough to marry. But he knew it wasn't true.
"I withdraw," he said, sadly, his head down. Suddenly he felt a touch on his chin, it was Peri lifting his head back up.
"Don't," she said, quietly, gazing at him.
He looked at her. "I'll be your wife," she continued, smiling. He grinned, shyly at first and then broadly, and nodded.
The others were grumbling amongst themselves, but it couldn't be avoided; after all, Numina didn't have a Role, so he hardly conflicted with Travel.
"I will withdraw," Hikari said, suddenly. "It's the easiest thing. I think I was meant for Hisan, anyway." There were general commiserating nods, but the god did not seem too upset by the decision; if anything, he seemed relieved.
"That just leaves you two," Mizusama sang, happily. "Life and Food--I think it's a good match."
Animus shrugged, slightly, but he had a slight smile on his face as he regarded his new wife-to-be. Taberu smiled back at him.
Numina had wished for children, and although the Creator did not create them when he asked, his wish did not go unfulfilled.
"Everybody!" Tier stood at the door of his Manor, yelling and waving his arms. "Everyone! Come at once!"
Animus pushed his way past him and yelled, joyously, "It's a boy!"
They all crowded around the new mother, the First Mother, and the first child, the First Son. Mizusama sighed, and rocked him gently in her arms. She had been the one most excited by the prospect of babies; she was the one first blessed. Tier, the First Father, stood hovering around, trying to look as though he wasn't anxious and excited at the same time.
"Oh, he's so cute," Tenki squealed.
"No he's not," Erde replied. She frowned. "But I think he will be, eventually."
"I hope so," Hisan agreed.
"He can hardly get worse," her sister finished.
"Oh, Erde," Mizusama sighed, happily. Even she had to admit her son wasn't much to look at now, but then she didn't she would be either, after an experience like that. "He must be hungry."
"I've got it all sorted out," Taberu declared. She herself was pregnant (which pleased Animus no end). She pushed her way to the bedside and sat down. "Now, what would the First Baby like to eat?"
"Something soft," Mizusama said, thoughtfully. "He hasn't got any teeth yet."
"That's very true, and I thought of that already," Taberu replied. She held out a small cup of mashed apples, the First Applesauce. "This is just what he's looking for, I bet."
She used a tiny spoon (Uchu's idea) and tried to manoeuvre a spoonful into her nephew's mouth, but the moment the food touched his lips he screwed up his tiny face and twisted away. Taberu tried several times, with no success.
Mizusama frowned. "Perhaps he's just tired."
"I'm sure that's all it is," Tier agreed. "He's tired. She's tired. I'm tired. We're all tired. Yes, tired is what we are."
Animus and the others smothered smiles that the new father's babble, and they started to leave, all promising to be back in the evening.
They met Hisan outside the door. She looked as though she had been running; she was red in the face and out of breath. "I was at the river," she panted, grabbing a hold on Spirare as he came out of the House. "I was down by the First House, and I went to the river, and I saw--I saw--"
"Calm down, sister," Spirare exclaimed, taking her by the shoulders and helping her sit down so she could catch her breath. "Calm down."
"I was by the river, and I saw--I saw Mizusama, and I saw her baby," Hisan panted. By now her sisters, brothers and in- laws were gathered around her.
"How could you see them? They were here, in their House," Grund informed her.
"I saw them, in the water," Hisan insisted. "I saw them, and I saw the baby, and a voice said "here is Rivus, here is River, his meal is awaiting him at the mountain stream'."
"How peculiar," everyone murmured, exchanging glances with each other.
"I wonder..." Peregrinari looked to her husband. "Do you think it's a message from the Creator?"
"It could be," he agreed. "What do you think, Hisan?"
"I don't know what I think," she replied. "But I do want to see Mizusama and Rivus."
"Who?" Erde asked. "You can't mean the baby. He doesn't have a Name yet."
"He does now," Hisan replied, determinedly.
Both parents agreed, instantly, that the reflection in the river was a sign from the Creator about their son. He was Named Rivus, and made God of Rivers, at once.
"I do wonder what it meant about his meal," Mizusama pondered, looking down at the sleeping baby. "He won't touch any of our food."
"Maybe he's not feeling well," Animus suggested. Tier looked horrified, but his wife simply shook her head.
"I don't think so," she said, softly, but she couldn't articulate what she thought.
Taberu had her child, a girl, a few days later. This time Spirare was the one who got a vision, in the river; his simply gave the girl a Name, Pabula, and a Role: Goddess of Health.
Both Taberu and Animus were as pleased as could be. But they soon noticed that Pabula, although an energetic (for a newborn) and easy-going baby, would not eat anything they offered her. Rivus, despite his parent's growing concern, would still not let them feed him, and it was being to show. He was growing weaker and weaker, and as the days stretched out, he lost the energy to even cry.
Now everyone was upset, but no one had the faintest idea of what to do about it. Uchu reminded them that they knew everything that they needed, they simply had to remember, so each god and goddess wracked their brains, trying to remember a solution to the problem. But it was no good. They couldn't help at all.
Mizusama lay in bed, tiny Rivus between her and Tier, and she was wide awake. It was still quite dark out, and Tier was snoring heavily (he was the First Snorer, although not, unfortunately, the last). She couldn't sleep at all. Rivus slept more and more, for longer and longer, and she had a dreadful feeling that eventually, he wouldn't wake up at all. It was a groundless fear, she knew--everyone woke up--but it gnawed at her constantly.
Finally, she couldn't stand it any longer, and she got up out of bed, and went to the door.
It was dark, and cold, and she could see Animus' and Taberu's House, off in the distance. She shivered, and looked back at her own family.
"Here is Rivus, here is River, his meal is awaiting him at the mountain stream," Hisan had said.
Mizusama had no idea what a mountain was. No one did. And the only body of water was the river.
She stood looking out at the darkness, and suddenly she was seized by a powerful urge to find that stream. That mountain. She would do it, for Rivus, and for Pabula, who was already showing signs of weakening.
Mizusama, the First Goddess of Water, and the First Mother, set off into the darkness, having neither a map nor any clue where she was going. But that didn't deter her in the slightest.
She walked past the forests, out into the empty plain that the Second Group had come from, that her husband had come from. This was away, she knew, and so if there was a mountain at all, it was definitely there. (She knew it couldn't be here, because it wasn't; and that meant it had to be away.)
The river, that she kept by her side, grew smaller, and smaller, and twistier and twistier; the ground grew wetter. The plants changed. Mizusama didn't know it, but she had come to the First Swamp.
And she kept walking. She was very tired, and very hungry, and very hot, and her feet hurt, but she kept walking.
And she walked past the First Swamp, and that's when she started to notice something on the horizon; it was gray, and it looked like a pointed, jagged rock. But for it to be that far away, it had to be a very, very, very big rock.
Maybe that is a mountain, she thought to herself. (She had taken to thinking to herself since there was no one to talk to.)
She kept walking.
The rock grew until it was the size of a House, until it was larger than all the Houses put together, until finally, after a long, long time, she could not see past it, or over it, or around it. She could see the plain, behind her, but all that was in front of her was this big rock.
She couldn't go around it, she couldn't go over it; she sank to her knees and for the first time since she left her House and her family, she started to cry.
She cried, and she cried, until she could cry no more. And when she was finally done, she got back up and started to turn back for home. But first she decided to wash her face off, it was sticky with dust and tears.
The river was long gone, but a smaller version ran down alongside the big rock--more like an extremely vertical piece of ground, she decided, still talking in her head--and she knelt by the small stream. She rubbed her face in the water, already feeling much refreshed by it.
As she looked up, she realised she was not alone. A woman was sitting on one of the smaller rocks that littered the big one, and she had a baby with her. She was feeding the baby from a small bowl, which held something in it that Mizusama had never seen before.
The woman looked up. "Ah, I have been waiting for you," she said, with a smile. Mizusama fell to her knees.
"Oh, Great Creator," she whispered, her voice hoarse, "please, tell me what it is that you are feeding your child, so that I may get some for my own."
The woman got up, and kneeled down beside Mizusama. The child, pleasantly full, started to fall asleep. She held out the bowl, which was full of a marvellous substance that Mizusama couldn't begin to describe. Starving herself, she dipped just her baby-fingertip into the food, and tasted it.
And immediately spat it out. "It smells so good, but tastes so foul!" she exclaimed. She seemed to realise what she had said, and held her hand over her mouth in horror.
The woman smiled. "It tastes bad to you, because you have no need of it," she said. "It is Ambrosia, it is the Elixir of Life, but it is only for the very young, to help them grow into Immortals."
"Oh," Mizusama said. It was clear she had no idea what an Immortal was; all she heard was that it was for babies, that they would eat it.
"Take it," the Creator instructed, "and bring it back to your family. Dump the bowl on the ground, and it will spring up. Then you will have enough for your children, and for everyone else's as well. Babies will eat of it as much as they need; never try to force them, you will only be wearing yourself out."
"Thank you," the goddess breathed, too happy to even speak out loud beyond the two words.
"It is nothing, dear one. I only wish you had gotten here sooner." The woman rocked her own child in her arms. "Say hello to your sister."
"Who is that?" Mizusama asked, her curiosity returning as her hope did.
"This is your newest and last brother," the Creator said. "But his time has not yet come. He will join you when you need him. I hope that it is not yet for a long time."
Mizusama was still too happy to be listening fully; she nodded, and got to her feet, clutching the bowl tightly. "Thank you, thank you," she repeated.
"You are very welcome," the woman repeated, and she touched the goddess' hand.
Suddenly, Mizusama felt very, very tired, and she wished she could lie down for a moment, and sleep. but she couldn't. She had to rush right home and--she blinked her eyes open.
"Mizusama!" Tier blurted, his eyes watering. "Where--where have you been?"
She leaned up. She was at home, lying in her bed. "Where's Rivus?" she demanded, once she realised he was not there. "Where is he?"
"With Erde," Tier said, confused. "Where have you been, it's been days and I--"
She leapt out of bed, still clutching the wooden bowl, and ran to her sister's.
The moment she burst in through the door, Rivus had started to cry. He caught on the air the smell of something delicious, and since he hadn't eaten since--ever--he was very hungry. And he was determined to let his mother know it.
She sat down, taking him from Erde--who was just as confused as Tier had been--and she started to feed him from the bowl. And he ate, and he ate, until he stopped crying, and fell asleep.
By now, the other gods and goddesses had joined them. Mizusama gave the bowl to Taberu, and told her the story of how she had come about it. Taberu, like Mizusama, was only half- listening; she was more interesting in feeding her daughter. Finally, after a long while, both babies were asleep, and full, and already looking healthier and happier.
And Animus took the bowl, and while the others were watching over the mothers and their children, he slipped outside and poured the bowls contents onto the ground.
They blurbled down into the soil, and almost immediately a spring welled up, becoming a pond. It didn't grow much larger than a few feet in diameter, but Animus didn't care. There would be enough for both babies, and many more to come.
And the years passed (once they knew what years were) and the First Two Babies grew and prospered, and there were certainly some days when their mothers wished that they could have stayed at the mountain, and more children were born, and more, and soon the Realm was the home of a bustling community.
Numina stood on the front step of his Manor, watching the sun set. (It was not the First Sunset, as Celestia had discovered the sun shortly after her first daughter--Solia--was born, but that didn't make the sunsets any less pretty to watch.)
Peregrinari was inside, tending their third child, a small son named Pandean, while their two older children--twins--played out in front of the Manor. Perrie--short for Perroquet--was chasing her brother Merlin around a tree, until she finally caught him and tagged him, creating a vice-versa game where he chased her around the tree.
Numina smiled, sadly. More and more these days he had been thinking about his lack of a Role. Pandean was their third, and yet he had no powers. None of his child had any powers.
Throughout the community, children were being born, given Names and being told what their Role was within the community, and yet his children were denied that.
Animus strolled out of the woods, his daughter Pabula in tow. She had recently gotten married herself, but her husband, Coriander, God of Herbs, (one of Grund's and Erde's boys) was nowhere to be seen this evening. "Numina!" Animus called in greeting. "There you are."
"Animus," Numina replied, getting up. The twins had stopped fighting to greet their uncle and their cousin. "What brings you around here?"
"Oh, just thought I'd visit, see how Pandy's doing," Animus replied, jovially. He ruffled Perrie's hair. "They're the spitting image of you."
Numina didn't reply. The remark hit too close to home.
Pabula noted the solemn mood of her uncle. "I think I'll go help Aunt Peri," she said, ducking into the House. The two gods watched her go.
"They get so big so fast," Animus said with a sigh. "She'll be having children of her own, soon."
"I heard that Rivus and Cerulean are expecting," Numina agreed. "It seems like just yesterday that Cerry was irritating Erde to no end with her pranks. You'd think the Goddess of Rock would be more sensible."
"She still irritates them with her jokes. When they announced the betrothal, Grund was certain it was one of her tricks, and refused to believe it," Animus said with a grin.
Numina allowed himself a small chuckle. "I remember. And he kept insisting it was a joke all the way through the Ceremony!"
Animus laughed. "I remember."
They sat down on the grass, watching the last traces of the sunset. Serena, Uchu and Celestia's second child, had created the moon, and it was rising now, as were the stars, the handiwork of Stella, their third daughter.
Numina suddenly felt a terrible pang in his heart. He knew that generations would look upon the Moon, and say, "That is the work of Serena." But what could Perrie ever be known for? She had tried creating, just as an experiment--something all children did when they got old enough--but nothing she tried had ever worked. She was as powerless as her father. The same went for Merlin. While Pandy was still too young, he had not been given a Role in his vision--received by Hisan--simply a Name. And that confirmed Numina's belief that he, too, was without a purpose.
"What is the matter?" Animus asked, quietly. "You are terribly upset."
"I--" Numina couldn't make it come into words. "I just worry about my children."
"Don't we all," Animus agreed, knowing that wasn't what his brother meant at all.
Numina shook his head. He didn't want to talk about it. "It's getting late," he said, quietly. "Maybe you and Pabula should be heading home."
Animus took the hint and got to his feet, heading into the Manor to fetch his daughter and bring her home.
"Numina?" Peregrinari called, softly. "Are you still out here?"
He didn't answer her, but she could see him sitting on one of the fallen logs. She padded over to him, the grass cold under her bare feet. She slid beside him, and rested her head on his shoulder. He didn't respond. "Numina?"
"It's my fault," he said, his voice choked. "It's my fault. They'll be left out--who will want to marry them if they can't produce children with a Role? They'll be useless, on the side- lines, forever. And all because of me."
"What? Are you still upset over this?" she chided. "Numina, it's not your fault. There must be a reason, the Creator--"
"The Creator," Numina said, with a snort. "creates. That's what the Creator does, isn't it? So why did the Creator leave me half-formed? Without a purpose?"
"What are you talking about?" Peri repeated, growing anxious. "Animus wasn't given a Role, either, he just found one."
"I've been looking my entire life," Numina said, in a whisper, as he gazed up at Stella's handiwork, her calling card for the generations to come. "And I've never even come close to finding anything of any use."
Peri got to her feet. "It's cold, and it's the middle of the night," she said, sternly. "Come inside."
He looked up at her, sadly, and took her hand. "Dear Peri," he said, with a faint shadow of a smile on his lips. "You've kept me going for so long."
She smiled at him, squeezing his hand. "Come inside."
"I'll be inside in a minute," he said, dropping his hand away as he watched her leave. He sighed, and thought about what he had just said: The First Lie.
As their children had been born, they had created new Houses, and spread out, and soon they touched the very foothills of the Great Mountain, the very mountain where Mizusama had found the Creator, and had been given the gift of life for her children.
Numina walked to it, resting his hand on the cold stone for a moment, and then he started to climb. His sister had found the Creator here, he knew, and now he was going to do the same thing. He would find the Creator, and demanded to know the purpose for his being here, in this Realm.
He started to climb, and climb. The sun appeared in the sky, warming it, and still he climbed. He knew by now that Peri must be wondering where he was, but that didn't slow him. He climbed.
Finally, he reached a plateau, and rolled on to it, lying on his back, his eyes closed. He was tired, but he knew he wasn't any where near the top, and that he had to go on. After his quick break, he got to his feet again, and looked out from his perch.
He was startled to see most of the Realm spread out below him. He truly had no idea how high he was, how far he'd come. he could even see the First Grove, by the River, and the First House, where they had all lived, so long ago.
His eyes started to water as he could see all the Houses of his siblings, and their children. They were so tiny, so small set against the Realm. And he looked up, and saw the sky curving around him, he saw the face of the mountain, straight up, and the top no nearer than when he'd started.
The Creator had made all of this. Had made all of them. Who was Numina to demand an explanation? He was no one. He was like a fish that swam in the river: ignorant of his true place in the Realm, for he could only see a small portion of it.
Now Numina could see. Now he could see the Realm, and he could see just how small he really was.
He sank to his knees, tired of it all. He remembered, far off, before he even was, of a time when he was a part of the Creator, part of a whole, part of something larger, rather than being something whole but nowhere near as significant.
Numina was having the First Crisis of Faith, and he would not be the last person to do so, nor would he be the last to wish for the end to draw near. Nor would he be the last to take the end into his own hands.
"I wish it could be different," he said, as he stepped off the cliff's edge.
And it was.
The noise that echoed in Animus' head was unlike anything that he had ever before heard, and it stopped him right in his tracks. Beside him, Taberu looked around in horror.
"Numina," Animus whispered, in shock and terror, and he took off, his wife at his heels, for the base of the Great Mountain. He was the first to reach his brother, just in time to see Numina disappear in a wisp of sparkles, like dust dancing in a sunbeam.
Animus cried out and ran forward, wishing deep in his heart and everywhere else for the Creator to stop what was happening, but he was too late. He collapsed on his knees, knowing what Numina had done.
"It was my fault," he wailed, as Taberu rushed to his side. "I should have seen that Numina was so upset, so out of sorts. He's gotten depressed before, I thought it was simply that, I didn't know, I didn't know--"
He held his head in his hands, and continued to wail, rocking back and forth in agony while other frightened and bewildered deities came rushing to the scene.
His siblings, the First, knew what had happened almost as soon as they arrived. They had heard Numina cry out in their heads, same as Animus; they alone knew of an existence besides the current one. Their children did not know, they did not understand. The younger ones wailed; the older ones simply stood around, helpless and scared.
Hisan came to the front of the crowd, and knelt beside Animus, while Taberu comforted him from the other direction. "Animus, come, come away from here."
"No," Animus sobbed, "no, it was my fault--"
"It was no one's fault," Hisan said, quietly. "It was Numina's own decision. Come, we must look after Peri, and her children. They do not know yet, Animus, come."
"No!" he yelled, breaking free from her grip. "No! I have to find him!"
"Find him?" Hisan blurted. "How do you propose to do that? He has gone back to the Creator, Animus, as we were all promised we would do."
"No!" Animus yelled. He started to back up, and was startled by the sound of gravel skittering down. He looked up. "Numina?"
It was not his brother, but a small boy, about seven or so, who was trying to climb down but afraid to make the jump.
"Come here," Taberu offered, holding out her arms. He made no hesitation, and leapt; he landed squarely on her, sending them both staggering. "There now. Safe. How did you get up there, anyway?"
The boy shrugged, keeping his gaze fixed on Animus.
"Who are you?" Taberu asked next. Suddenly her mouth dropped. "Are you--are you the Creator?"
The boy shook his head. "I was needed, so I came," he said, slowly, his voice quiet and hoarse. It sounded far too old for such a young boy.
"Well, you must come stay with us," Taberu said, thoughtfully. "Pabula's moved out--"
"This hardly the time to think about that!" Animus roared.
"Well, someone needs to take care of him!" Taberu retorted fiercely. "He will stay with us until we find his parents."
"Animus," Hisan said again, forcefully, "Come down. You are upset. We all are, but we must put Peri and her children first. Come."
Animus sighed, but he had to admit his sister was right. Slowly, he started from the mountain.
That is how the First Realm was created, and how the First Immortals came into being. That is the story of the first marriage. That is how Mizusama saved her child, and the child of others. That is how Numina questioned his beliefs until he could no longer believe in them; that is the story of the First Lie, and what it led to, and that is how he forever changed the nature of life in the First Realm. And that is the story of how Life adopted Death.
As for what happens later, that is a story for another time.
Ode on the First Death
...Thus Numina, despairing, chose to die
And from the mountainside they saw him fall
And disappear in sparkles in the air
Till nothing there was left of him at all.
Thus Animus, refusing to believe,
Set out across the wide and open plain
And walked, neath tree and sky, by river shore,
His mind set firm on why he chose to leave:
That the Creator might be found again
As Mizusama once had done before.
The sun rose, shone, and set; the moon as well;
Long time he walked, as noon and night spun past
He wandered long on ways he could not tell
And to the endless Void he came at last.
It rolled like mirrored smoke and was not still
And there before it stood an ancient man.
He was no god (as Animus first thought
Then fell in shame that he had known him not)
But the Creator--who then raised his hand
And said "I will forgive; I always will."
"Then will you not forgive my brother, too?
Will you not send him back, and let him go?
I know it must be possible for you."
The old man sighed, and told him simply "No."
Three days and nights did Animus remain
To plead and cry; to shout; to beg, to bow;
But through this the Creator yet stood firm.
"From me, all came; to me all will return;
Now he is gone and will not come again.
Weep not for him, for he is happy now."
With that he turned his back and walked away
Into the Void, and past it, out of sight
And Animus chased after in dismay
And struck a wall and fell down into night.
When he awoke, he found himself returned
And told his family all that he had seen
They honoured the Creator, and gave praise
Unto his Name, until the end of days
Until they too would go, as they had learned--
And so it was, and so has always been.