Monday, September 8, 2008



Flavius looked at the crimson featherscale, then back at Parric. His mouth curled ruefully. “Why’d I ken ya were going to say that?”

“You’re not as dumb as you are appearing, mostly,” Parric said.

“Thanks for the kind word.” Flavius prodded the food before him dubiously, then pushed it away. A surreptitious glance confirmed that the Empress Malinche had seen, and was frowning. She gestured to one of the aerial waiters, giving it complex instructions once it reached her table. Another menu change, no doubt. Across the hall, Emperor Camargo watched, stony-faced. “Er, what do ya ken my chances are of getting something to eat here that’s nae the vital part of some beastie?”

Parric offered a sympathetic kack.

Flavius nodded. “Right. Cheer a doomed body up, then. Tell me all the ways this here featherscale is bad for us.”

“That featherscale is coming from a hai-dlo Crafter,” Parric answered simply.

Flavius raised his eyebrows, waiting for more. “And...?

Parric swallowed the last of the spiny purple eggs, but did so without enthusiasm. “Knowicent is referring to me as a Crafter of Onimik. That is as gooding a name for my kind as any. Onimik is not a placing, although we are all of the same cosm. Onimik is more of a sharing... destiny of sortings. It is being more than a philosophy. A discipline is more accurating.”

“Beastie, ya may be telling me something profound, but I dinnae ken head nor tail of it.”

“We are not sharing this with outsiders, Flavius. But I’m not considering you an outsider for a longing time now,” Parric said.

“Right. Yer secret’s safe with me.”

“Is not a secreting-- No matterings. Let me explaining this way...” Parric paused, his antennae agitated. “You’re having three stagings in life: Immature, mature and aged. They are blending together, so you are not knowing where one begins and the other ends.

“My kind are differenting. Crafters of Onimik have five stagings. When we are reaching the third staging, hai-ona, we are departing our home cosm.”

“And yer hai-ona.” Flavius nodded. “I ken yer under some kind of exile.”

“It is not exiling. It is hai-ona. That is what it is being, what I am being,” Parric explained, choosing his words with care. “Understanding this: When a Crafter is molting into hai-ona, the Crafter is departing from the cosm, into the infiniting of realities. The cosm, from that pointing on, is hiddening from the Crafter. A Crafter is not finding it again until the discipline of restraining is achieved. Returning to our cosm triggers the hai-dlo molt.”

“Wait, back up there a mite. This discipline of restraint, is that why yer always bellyaching about nae using yer magic?”

“Is not magicings.” Parric’s antennae twisted in annoyance. “Try to understanding. What you’re calling magicings use some forms of a cosm’s latent energies to manifesting an effect otherwise impossibling in that cosm’s reality. Craftings remake the cosm’s reality so that the desired manifestation is possible.”

“Yer arse,” Flavius said, chewing over Parric’s words. “If what yer saying’s true, that’d make ya a... a god, or somesuch.”

“Some are calling us gods, but we are always preferring Crafters.”

“Yer nae having me on, are ya?” Flavius scrunched his face up, eyes clinched tight. When he spoke, his voice was strained and low. “Ya mean to tell me that all of those tight scrapes we was in, all those times I staggered out of a row, knocked around something fierce, all of them wagers I lost-- ya mean to tell me ya could’ve fixed it in our favor with a flick of those bristle stick on yer head? It’s all just a damn game to ya. A damn game.”

“You’re not listening.”

“The hell I am. Twenty-seven times, Parric!” Flavius’ voice rose in the hall. “Twenty-seven goddamned times ya let them beasties shred me to pieces at Culloden, when ya coulda turned the lot of ‘em into smoke, or--here’s an idea--put them after wheover sent them in the first place. End the problem right then and there!”

“Flavius, pleasings,” Parric said, his voice soft. “These things I cannot be doing. I shouldn’t be doing even the small Craftings you’ve seen. These are my failings. Try to imagining a sequencing of cosms filled with Crafters altering reality with no restraint. Where every whiming is reweaving the fabric of being.”

Flavius snorted. “Dinnae give me that. There’s nae such cosms.”

Parric nodded. “No, there’s not. At leasting, not anymore.”

Flavius’ eyes narrowed. “Go on.”

“My cosm is unique.”

“Ya told me there were nae unique cosms.”

“All cosms have infinite varyings, yes. But the varyings of my cosm are gone. There are gapings in the Nexus surrounding it. The next closest cosms do not have any tracings of Crafters.”

“So what’re ya saying? They’ve all gone hiding?”

“I’m saying they’re destroying themselves. And their cosms.”

Flavius let out a low whistle.

“The only surviving Crafters are of Onimik. Are you seeing? The discipline of Onimik is the only thing restraining Crafters from self-destructing. Until I am learning this restraining, my cosm--”

“Stays hidden from ya, and ya cannae have yer hai-whatsit molt.” Flavius sighed, scratching thoughtfully at his beard. “Well. That kinda puts my being killed twenty-seven times in perspective, eh?” He frowned, then checked on the Emperor and Empress. They were both--along with half the dining room, apparently--watching Flavius and Parric with entirely too much interest. “So... tell me about this beastie what shed this featherscale, then. Ya said two of the three possibilities were bad. Start with the good.”

Parric eyed the featherscale warily. “If we are extremely luckying, the featherscale isn’t from a Crafter at all.”

“Oh,” Flavius said, nodding. “Right, there is that. I’m sure there’re lots of other beasties throughout the cosms with featherscales like this, aye?”

“No,” Parric answered, antennae drooping. “Not manying at all.”

“Lad, yer going to kill me one day with so much optimism...” Flavius sighed. “Is there a bad one that’s less bad than the other?”

Parric sagged. “For us? Maybeing. If we are very luckying, this other Crafter is just a survivor, a refugee from the destroying of my cosm.”

“Damn, Parric! Ya cannae be serious! Yer whole cosm? If we’re lucky?” Flavius picked up his glass and drained it. “And if we’re nae lucky?”

“Then this Crafter is Not-of-Onimik,” Parric answered. “It is a Crafter with no restrainings.”


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