An archetale in the Assembling Terrania Cycle.
To you, newly informed member of the Transdaimonic League, I bid welcome! I am Eleg, Power of crossroads, guardian of thresholds, and opener and closer of ways. I congratulate you on the progress of your awakening and on reaching the stage of development at which we Powers may speak openly to you.
We have prepared this briefing to acquaint you with on-the-ground details of what in the Dreamvale is known as the Intervale War. Its repercussions reached from the fighting Powers in the Infrarealm into the Coaguum struggles to assemble Terrania, an Earth-honoring society of justice, equity, beauty, and fulfillment. Not even the Powers knew what the outcome might be.
The War broke out in many forms on many Coaguum worlds inhabited by mortals at approximately your stage of awakening. Because you are of Earth, the briefing will focus primarily on those aspects of the conflict most pertinent to your growing understanding. To know your place, you must know the history behind where you came to stand.
We will continue your briefing in the form of a story. That will make it easier to remember and will add a dimension of detail and meaning otherwise absent.
Because storytelling is not my specialty, I have asked the Power Renastra to weave together the events seen fit for inclusion. At the end I will have more to say to complete your briefing and indicate what awaits you.
“Except for the tell, tower, and volcano,” Eve said to herself, “this looks a lot like home.”
“Eve,” of course, was a name she gained thousands of years after she had died. The name her mother bestowed on her meant “Giver of Life.” It fit her, for she was the matrilineal ancestor of all humans to come. By “home” she meant a coastal savanna in what was later known as East Africa.
The plain upon which she stood stretched beyond view in every direction. A slow but steady wind keened as bushes and branches she did not recognize bowed to it. Whatever the intelligence which occupied that place, it gave her word meanings her language lacked: “tell” as in a mound covering generations of buried remains; “tower” a dark, skeletal finger pointing skyward; and “volcano,” a broken mountain oozing rivers of red fire. Her people had encountered none of these, but she somehow knew what they were.
She looked up at the sky and gasped.
It was as though some crazy deity had sliced a line from directly overhead to either side, dividing the heavens into two vast domes. On one side, ropes of color shifted and pulsed like writhing cosmic snakes unable to decide which hue to wear. On the other, against a dome of blackness, stars in strange constellations flashed, danced, and exploded.
As she looked closer, one hand on her queasy stomach, the line marking the split slowly rotated, moving into her line of sight on her right and out of it on her left. Now, she could make out other details almost too fantastic to take in. On the night side, a gigantic golden-horned reindeer (the word came to her) chased by the baying dogs of a bow-bearing hunter in a silver coat… a bleeding moon, a rabbit mark stretched over its face… On the day side, an old, bronze-skinned god stepping into a fire and turning flaming into a sun… the sun eaten by the sky-spanning jaws of a wolf…
“Quite a sight, is it not?”
She started. A pale man dressed all in odd white clothes stood next to her, looking up and chewing on what seemed to be a weed crinkled into a small tube.
“How did you get here?” she asked. She had neither heard nor smelled his approach. His skin was so white that she felt concerned about his health.
He took the weed out of his mouth. “Well, I don’t rightly know. One moment I was in Connecticut, and the next, standing here with you gazing up at the light show. Reminds me of 4th of July fireworks bursting over the Mississippi. Those were fine days.”
She did not understand some of what he said but got the gist of it.
He ran a hand through his copious white hair. “Excuse me, ma’am, I’m being discourteous. I’m Sam. And you are…?”
She chuckled. “You may call me Eve.”
It was his turn to be startled, but he nodded. “Well now, Eve, we two will have much to discuss at some point. I wrote about you, you see.” The notion of writing and writers passed into her awareness. She nodded. Bards who made marks to talk.
More people were popping in, looking around with varying degrees of surprise and walking over.
A woman in a white shawl over a long blue dress placed herself at the front of the group as she strode up to Sam and Eve:
“Hello there,” she said. “I’m Margaret. Where are we?” The bun at the back of her head pulled her brown hair tight against her temples.
“I greet you. I am Eve. I do not know where we are or how we came here.”
“Are those real skins?” asked Margaret, eyeing her.
“And I am Sam. Perhaps this is the Afterlife, or perhaps I just imbibed too much whiskey. My wife always said this would happen if I kept drinking. Has anybody seen her?” He looked around at the growing number of people wandering around.
“Have we stumbled into the Magic Theater?” inquired a thin, hawk-nosed man with a sunburned face under a wide-brimmed gardening hat.
“We are certainly not in Akkad anymore,” replied the priestess in elaborate headdress standing next to him. As often as she had gazed at the sky, she had never seen a moon like that.
Beyond her, a broad, curly-haired man sporting a furry red hat was loudly expounding on something he called “the archeus.” The only one listening, another stout man but in English dress, took a pipe from his mouth, then cut in and asked, “Ja, but where are we? Is this a big dream, then?”
“As strange as all this is,” said Margaret as she gestured sweepingly at land and sky, “I accept it.”
“She’d better,” put in Sam as an aside. Eve stifled a laugh.
“I do,” confirmed an old, placid-seeming Chinese man with a flowing white beard. Eyes wide, the man under the gardening hat bowed to him, as did the pipe smoker, even while ignoring each other.
“As the other Margaret present,” spoke a dignified woman in a formal cobalt-blue dress as she nodded to her namesake, red tresses bobbing, “I am keen to know whereof we can understand each other in this place of riotous sensory variety.”
“Indeed, and who might be the hidden playwright behind this mysterious scene”—from a high-domed and mustached man wearing a gold earring. “The wit if not the Will would seem a sorely absent presence in this place.”
“Actually, I might be able to help with that. We are in Intervale.”
The group of fifty or so bewildered newcomers gathered around a woman three and a half feet tall. Wearing crimson and silver, she bore a gnarled staff with a red gem at its tip. A silver clasp held some of the effulgent blonde hair running back and over her slightly pointed ears. Her brown eyes were quiet and appraising.
All other talking ceased as the group stood back so everyone could see and hear her.
“Welcome to this place,” she went on. “I am Firiel the Silver, your guide here.
“Before I explain where you are, and why, allow me to say something about who you are. I see that some of you recognize one another, and others do not. Yet all of you share an important common identity that transcends limitations of time or place.”
Although she did not raise her voice, it carried to the outermost edge of the group, there beneath the turning sky of shifting tints and streaking stars. “How I would love to paint that celestial vault!” murmured a man with wide-set eyes below thinning gray hair. From the sleeves of his brown coat hung hands made muscular by engraving.
“Throughout human history, which is to say your history, certain individuals have felt called outside the bounds of custom, tradition, and religion by a felt sense of the sacred not found in another world, but permeating all worlds. A sense both internal and external; both ethereal and embodied. For you, the world is ensouled, an expression of Spirit beyond categories or concepts. Even beyond the gods.”
A thin elderly man at the edge of the crowd stopped pretending to read a book and looked up. He wore the garments of a mid-1800s New England pastor. He nodded.
“If that is so,” asked a tough-looking elderly woman in cowboy boots and jeans, “how come Hildegard of Bingen isn’t here?” She glanced around. “Or Thomas Merton? Or Vivekananda? Or any number of other mystics?”
“Mystics,” replied Firiel, “tend to be traditionalists. Hildegard accepted the Crusades and sought to convert Muslims into Christians. Neither she nor Merton ever opposed their Catholic Church. Even when rejected, mystics ultimately affirm the religion they call home. They may dance to a different song, but they remain on the authorized dance floor. By contrast, all of you when living showed a more…heretical turn of hip.
“In short, you are all members of a Transdaimonic League stretching right across all of human history. Your membership outlives your mortality.”
“You see?” blurted Sam, finger pointing. “My wife was right about the whiskey, God bless her. We’re in the Afterlife.” He chewed on his cigar, wondering grimly if it would be his last. Did they roll cigars in Hell? They surely wouldn’t in Heaven.
“Not exactly. Which brings me to a second similarity you share. You all work deeply with imagination, realizing that it is actually a realm, not just a human faculty. You stand in a part of that realm right now. We who live here call this realm the Dreamvale.”
Several of the group nodded. From behind a large set of glasses, one said, “That makes sense to me. And the Dreamvale extends into where we lived, doesn’t it? I was born, for instance, with two extra fingers, like many of the females in my family. The fingers were amputated early on, but for the rest of my life, I felt those extra ‘ghost fingers’ mixing and weaving my poetry and my stories.” She sighed, and in that sigh there was a world.
Firiel nodded. “We call where you lived the Coaguum, the realm where things congeal and become material. Your world and ours interpenetrate, especially in the presence of sustained acts of creativity.”
“’Lived,’” snorted Sam, chewing.
“And are there not still more realms of being?” asked an Arab man wearing a soft headdress and long neck scarf. “Angelic realms? Not only Hurqalya, but realms of Ideas beyond sensory perception? Realms where the index finger cannot point?”
“Here we think of that as the Infrarealm of archetypal cosmic powers, beyond which is the Source to which all of us remains inwardly connected, even when we fail to remember. So: Actuality, Possibility, Potentiality, and Source. The Tetraverse, beyond which even the Wise cannot see.”
“The rishis knew of this, and I sat down near them and recorded some of their words,” stated a traditionally robed Indian man whose long hair touched his shoulders. The cold breeze out of the north did not seem to bother him. His mother’s father had been a fisherman.
“I tried to paint some of it from within my visions,” added a dark-eyed American who glared at the English-suited pipe smoker. Her last memory was of drowning. He looked away.
“I glimpsed it through number, harmony, and music,” said a man in ancient Greek robes and sandals.
“I danced it for love of Shams,” exclaimed a figure whirling to show what he meant. At this, Firiel smiled.
“This is a conversation I would fain extend far longer,” she admitted, “but a crisis awaits, and yours are the only souls I know of who are up to the challenge of meeting it.”
A universe without a discordant note would sit there doing nothing, static and lifeless. Life is because something shoved, fought, or consumed something else.
The same is true in the Dreamvale. Conflict and chaos drive the storyline forward.
Every vale within this realm houses an element of discord. Its name varies with the vale: Joker, Typhon, Mephistopheles, Lady Macbeth.
In Vale Middle-earth, the chief antagonist is Morgoth. Some refer to him as “MG” to keep from uttering his name aloud.
Morgoth was once Melkor, and he did his cosmic job. First, he got bored in eternity. Who of creative disposition wouldn’t?
Second, when the Creator and his celestial orchestra composed the music to bring the worlds into being, Melkor added a few of his lonely, quirky, individualistic strains to the Great Song. Some of the players liked it and began to play along. Even the Creator made it stand as part of the Song. Therein, however, was the problem. It never occurred to the Creator to allow more than one Song, or that diverse songs can make a cycle with its own emergent (rather than imposed) harmony.
When the Creator turned up a single Chord to drown out Melkor’s song, Melkor pushed back by withdrawing. True, Fëanor later named him Morgoth, but the real transformation had already taken place in him.
Discord is necessary, but not villainy. Repressing discord turns the discordant into villains. The villains gain malcontented allies: Sauron, Saruman, Grima, Shelob, others. The Balance is disrupted.
“Well, my mother had this all marked down,” said Sam, “by asking: Who ever prays for the Devil? Is that what we’re here to do, ma’am?”
“That will be up to you. I’m here to call you together, inform you about the state of affairs, and offer what support I can give.
“Morgoth has grown so powerful that he and his coalition threaten the very integrity of the Dreamvale. He has emerged from the Void, gathered power, and began assimilating not only Middle-earth, but sources of magic beyond it. He intends to tear down the purlieus that protect the integrity of other vales.
“The total boundary of a vale is called an ambit: the amount of space it takes up in the Dreamvale. Morgoth seeks to subsume all ambits within his own sphere of power. If he succeeds, it will be reflected in all the realms, not just ours. We must find a way to stop him.”
“Tell them what led up to all this,” suggested a black-haired man with a scar over one blue eye. He wore jeans and a black jacket with the words DREAMVALE EXCHANGE on the back.
Since even before the dawn of humanity on Earth, the Infrarealm Powers behind the great experiment toward developing consciousness in the Coaguum had formed shifting alliances with one another. When the two-leggeds arrived, the Nature faction held sway: Powers of soil and stream, wildness and instinct, organism and custom. After millennia of this, the Celestial faction pushed back, encouraging hierarchy, urbanization, and otherworldly religion. Events accelerated: after centuries instead of millennia, the Machine artisans spread their worldview over the face of human affairs. And the natural world declined, with much of Earth’s surface converted by conquest and industry into an underworld.
These shifts underwent countless mirrorings in the Dreamvale too. In Middle-earth, smoking factories in the Shire, Mirkwood, and Mordor were all but killing the magic forests and dales. Few even believed in magic anymore, and great tales of the Elves had degenerated into tavern rumors told with a sip and a wink.
“Sounds to me,” said Sam, “like these here Powers have gotten too big for their britches.”
“The trouble actually came from Earth,” corrected Firiel, “through a series of unmet Nexus Crises. Turbulence in the other realms subsides when its Coaguum manifestations are met and managed consciously. For example, when after centuries of Christian emphasis on rationalism and light the Underworld Powers began to rumble in 1930s Germany, enough insightful people could have worked together to feel through and ritualize those dark promptings in themselves and each other before the rumble loudened into a catastrophic roar. That in turn might have healed the parallel splits in the Dreamvale and the Infrarealm. It’s all linked.”
“It was the roar of Wotan, the Wild Huntsman set free in the unconscious!” blurted the stout, beady-eyed man in an English waistcoat. He jabbed the pipe stem in the air for emphasis.
“Right story, wrong figure,” put in a shorter but equally chunky man in blue trousers and a purple shirt. White stubble ran across his tanned face and neck. “It was Ragnarok all right, but Hitler was the Fenris Wolf from that myth, not Wotan. He was obsessed with wolves: submarine wolf packs, Wolf’s Lair headquarters, Organization Werewolf, and so on. Even his name Adolf means ‘wolf.’” The breeze played with a lock of his brown hair.
Firiel continued before the pipe man’s opening mouth could reply: “Likewise, Melkor need not have swelled and darkened into terrible Morgoth.”
“How has this played out on Earth?” asked Jane, the cowboy-booted woman, brows furrowing. Firiel nodded. The others grew still.
“Authoritarian governments and business conglomerates own most of the planet surface while millions starve or die of thirst, even in wealthy nations. Entire regions have become deserts. The industrial burning of coal and oil is overheating the atmosphere. Whether humanity can survive all this is an open question now.”
“Exactly as I foresaw,” muttered Carl, the stout pipe smoker.
Having hugged him in greeting, the booted woman nodded. “He did.”
“Who is fighting for order?” asked Enheduanna.
“Scientists, poets, naturalists, activists, artists, dancers, public speakers working for change, financiers who know the need, deep educators, philosophers, bards, farmers, healers, city planners, community leaders, technicians, designers of games, and many others, each with a piece of the puzzle in the shape of a brighter earthly future. Those who call for inspiration, justice, and change across the world.”
“I did,” said Lucille, the Black woman with the large glasses.
“So did I,” added both Margarets simultaneously.
“And I,” said Sam. Other voices rose.
“You all did,” Firiel acknowledged, “each in your own way. That is why you are here.”
“What can we do,” asked Eve, “to save what is left?” She was appalled that some of her descendants had wreaked such havoc without having been stopped. How had all this destructive insanity been allowed to happen?
“How you all face Morgoth will provide a vision, a picture in imagination, for how your counterparts on Coaguum Earth can overcome opposition to Terrania.”
A low rumble issued from the burning mountain. A red light now shone from the top of the nearby tower.
“And what is Terrania?” asked Shihab, the Arab man who had spoken of Hurqalya.
“The just, inclusive, delightful, Earth-honoring planetary community they strive to build wherein humanity can come of age.”
“My visions were mostly painful,” said Christiana, her dark eyes blinking. “Full of strife and conflict. I sincerely hope the ones we produce can inspire.”
“That is up to you,” said Firiel.
“How do you figure,” asked Sam, “that just this group can face down an entire army of evil?”
“You have each other. You have me for guidance. You have some of the Powers on your side.Yes, you can be killed, but is any death really forever?”
Sam snorted. “Some reassurance.”
“And you have allies drawn from elsewhere in the Dreamvale.” She raised her staff. The red gem at its tip changed color and flashed a wave of bright green light out to the horizon and beyond.
An invisible horn sounded in the distance.
From behind the tell walked, crawled, flew, and flapped a wave of beings of every conceivable shape. The front rank included, at its point, Nuwa, slithering on her snaky tail; then Durga with a sword at her hip, Athena in bright armor, and Yemaya in billowing blue garments. Behind them walked Amanda Morgan, Hal Mayne, Childe Roland, and the Gunslinger. Sky Woman rode in on a giant turtle. Odin galloped on eight-legged Sleipnir. Dr. Strange just appeared, suddenly, through a fiery portal that vanished behind him.
Bhima Swarga swaggered shoulder to shoulder with Herakles on one side and Siegfried on the other. Ditaolane’s muscular stride led a contingent that included strong-backed Oonagh, keen-eyed Nafanua, and giant Balarama, smiling and drinking from an immense flask he gleefully shared with Prince Gerard of Amber. Legolas led a contingent of armed Elves, with ax-toting Gimli struggling to keep up. The Illustrated Man’s tattooed arm gave the dwarf a helpful push from behind and earned a glare for this, bringing a snigger from Sir Lancelot and Ilya Muromets.
From behind the red mountain, Tehanu of the scarred face flew in on the back of the dragon Segoy, with Commander Uhura, Mama Wati, Au Co, and Princess Bari seated behind her. It landed near Treebeard and his slow-striding friends in a clearing of wing-ruffled grasses. Red-eyed Pele surfed a wave of molten lava down one flank of the disturbed mountain and walked the rest of the way in. Rostam and his horse and friend Rakhsh entered the field, prancing forward. King Gesar accompanied King T’Challa and Hou Yi, who bore a quiver of steaming arrows upon his broad back.
“Welcome to Intervale,” Firiel greeted them as the Transdaimonics stared at the newcomers. The Page of Pentacles put down his coin. Van Helsing listened while whittling a stake. Misty Knight flexed her bionic arm. Wolverine’s claws slid out, then back in.
“This whole show is all just us radically unpacking ourselves to ourselves,” said Promethea to the phlegmatic Shadow Moon. “Know what I mean?”
“I do,” replied tricky Ananse, winking.
“It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data,” said Holmes as he filled his briar. At his side, Watson clutched a hefty walking stick and looked around expectantly.
Huck Finn winked at Sam, who stared at him in bewildered wonder.
The hawk-nosed man shook his head. “Price of admittance: your mind.”
Firiel organized everyone into strategy groups to which she gave everything she knew and had learned about the armies of Morgoth. She also gave them ground rules for productive discussion, appointed group facilitators, and went from group to group to help move the planning forward.
The question on which all the planning discussion turned was: How to neutralize the threat?
Two approaches knitted themselves together from the sometimes-heated discussions within and across groups:
- Strike Morgoth and his armies with every possible resource as soon as possible;
- Confront Morgoth and his armies with nonviolent opposition.
The first group tended to see the second as ineffectual idealists. The second tended to see the first as headstrong killers. But the rule was that they listen to each other.
Firiel sighed and continued her rounds, consulting occasionally with Whitebeard and Magus.
“Look,” said Corwin of Amber to Michael Sandoval of the Dorsai. “You of all people should get it.”
They stood together at the edge of one of the many encampments set up across the plain. Both were in uniform. Corwin, black of hair and green of eye, wore black trousers, a silver shirt, a black cloak clasped at the throat with a silver rose, and a silver sword scabbarded at his waist. Michael, big-boned and blond, wore the uniform of a bandmaster warrant officer and was unarmed. Across his black hung a set of Spanish pipes not very different from those a Highlander piper would have played.
“I get that you aren’t into killing,” Corwin went on. “But this is a crisis that requires a shift of perception. Let me show you how it’s done.” He drew on a silver-scaled gauntlet and flexed his fingers.
Michael shook his head. “I don’t need showing. I spring from a warrior people. We train from childhood to be professional soldiers.”
“What gives, then?”
“The issue for me isn’t capability. It’s inclination. I will not kill for my convictions. Any of them. But I am willing to die for them.”
“Let’s skip the lifeboat scenarios; they are boring. When it comes down to it—”
“But when does it come down to it? When, realistically? Less often than we are taught as warriors to believe.”
“Listen. I’ve been around more than a few centuries, and I’ve seen close up how these dilemmas play out in real life.”
“I believe you, Lord Corwin. What I’m trying to tell you is that I am looking for a way not to hurt anyone, whatever the stakes.”
A slickering sound: Grayswandir leaving the scabbard. Its edge touched Michael’s neck over his carotid artery.
“This isn’t a bluff. I am prepared to kill you where you stand if you do not give way. We need you out there today.”
“I know. We are, in the end, brothers in arms. If your vastly more experienced opinion is that removing me would help, then do so.”
“You think so little of living?”
“No. But I am Dorsai born and bred. If you need to spill my blood for ink to write a document of the campaign against Morgoth, I offer it. In the end, I will not fight, nor will I surrender. Feel free to test my resolve.”
“Son of a bitch on all of this”—and Grayswandir slid back into the sheathe. “I can’t tell you how much I hate it when things go this way. I would just as soon dismiss you as a spineless wimp and cut your head off. Damn you for not being one.”
Michael smiled. “I’m sorry to inconvenience you. However, I’m glad that my moral position troubles you somewhat.”
“Ain’t like it’s anything new.”
“No, but it tends to get reborn when irritating people like me confront killers like you.”
“I doubt you can come up with another time when someone of your peace-loving persuasion stood up to an Amberite with millennia of blood on his hands.”
“I doubt that too. My pedigree has often caused me conflict. When I feel that what I’m standing up for is crazy, I mount musical instruments on the wall of my officer’s quarters as a reminder of my convictions.”
“Does it help?”
“Well, I wish you luck in what you are about. It’s a worthy message. May the creatures you confront be open to recognizing its genuineness.”
Michael smiled. “They may not be. Think about all the monsters you’ve slain. How open were they? Fortunately, the weight and worth of the message doesn’t depend on whether they receive it, for now. At least where I’m concerned.”
“Then what’ve you got to show them?”
Michael considered the gaita gallega, thinking about its ancestry and his own. Could such a peaceable tool ever turn the tide? How many dying soldiers had heard its wailing tones?
In lieu of a definitive answer, he did the only thing he could. He unslung the pipes, blew into the bag under his arm, and played.
“No,” said Sam, “absolutely not. I had my fill during the Civil War. A grieving mother might’ve lost her Union boy because of me. I’ll never know; a group of us shot at him. But I know this: I’m done involving myself with killing.”
“Your bullet didn’t strike him,” said the volva, the wise woman, who had given the Norse Eddas to humanity. “I have the means to know.”
“Thank you, but it doesn’t change my attitude.”
“Do you really imagine those beasts out there care one whit about your qualms?” asked Lady Lyne. “I saw countless contests between the best knights in the world—and between the noble and the wicked. Camelot fell because King Arthur trusted evil people to do what was right. They did just the opposite—predictably!”
“I am touched,” Jeanne said to Sam, “that you admired me enough to write so much about me. But you must realize that military leadership gave my life meaning. I obeyed my visions, and that’s where they led. In the end, I was betrayed into the hands of my opponents, and they showed me no mercy, not even unto the burning stake.”
“Think about all the blood shed by these miscreants,” added Lancelot. “Is it right that we fail to hold them accountable for it when God gives us the means to enact a just retribution?”
“Exactly,” said a count whose face bore the marks of some terrible trial. His cloak of rich fabrics swished as he stood. An emerald pendant hung at his neck. “After all the sorrow they have inflicted, the wrenching away of loved ones, the permanent incursion of their bloody fate within our breast, our opponents would indeed get off lightly just to be killed. Perhaps what we should really discuss is the truer equality of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; a wound for an eternal and never-closing wound. That would indeed be genuine justice.”
A slim, red-haired woman in a black jacket stepped forward.
“There is a scene from a playwright I adore,” said Diane Gwyned, “in which a woman appears in court to defend a man punished in accord with the letter of the law. This scene teaches us that what is legal and what is fair are often not the same. Moreover, that sometimes we must forego retaliation and take the higher road regardless. The defender’s name is Portia, and she tells the court:
The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown…
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.”
Will bowed to her, and she to him.
“I was flayed to death on the steps of the library I directed,” spoke a tall woman of regal bearing. A white band matching her robes encircled her head above her face. “The zealots came for us, spurred on by a crooked politician later declared a saint. They burned my life’s work, and the sacking of the library was an irrecoverable loss.” He paused thoughtfully, her eyes dark with thought.
“They acted out of fear and ignorance. No one had ever taught them better. Our library was built for scholars, but not for improving the life outside its walls. What they did was a terrible, lasting injustice. But I forgive them. Perhaps a lesson in all this awaits our contemplation.”
Moments stretched as the group absorbed and reflected on what had been said. Then:
“I hear all of you,” said Bruce Wayne, standing, “and I respect your opinions. But I will not stand idly by while the villainous destroy everything left of value.”
“I agree,” said Diana Prince, standing. “May our resolute defense of it echo outward to all the worlds.”
“To the resistance!” cried Jyn Erso.
Thor smiled through his red beard and picked up his hammer. At his touch it sparked with banked lightning. “Enough of all this talk. High time to give those trolls an epic pounding.”
“I wish my brother Benedict were here,” said Prince Corwin.
Beneath the dark tower now topped with an immense darting eye, below the volcano shooting fire into the sky, the dark armies of Morgoth marched down the plain. It trembled with the steps of their passing.
Dark birds with crooked limbs circled above them; the stench of decay and mortified flesh preceded them; insects with poisonous stings darted around them; shadows crawled among them. Firiel saw cave trolls, Boskonian dreadnoughts, Sardaukar thopters, and even a Borg cube hovering nearby to support their oncoming shock troops. Having freed Garm, the Hound of Hel, Loki led Frost Giants riding a massive cavalcade of carts built of the fingernails of the dead.
“Benedict? So he could command the field?” asked Gurney Halleck. He looked forward to the big magics and mega-weapons and suchlike being done with so they could get down to the hand-to-hand. The lengthy gourmet courses were fine for dukes and duchesses, but he was a meat-and-potatoes man.
“No. So he could be entertained by all the commotion when we command the field.” Corwin whistled, and Star whinnied and cantered up to him. He fed the horse an apple and mounted.
The sky had reversed again, placing its rivers of shifting light above the transgressors and falling stars over the defenders. A Starfleet flotilla, a flight of giant eagles, a phalanx of Galactic Patrol maulers, and fighters of the Rebel Alliance had their back.
Below, Odin and his elite Einherjar fighters poured into the plain, Thor and Tirw right behind him. Artemis strung an arrow. Odin clutched Gungnir, the spear that never misses. Lugh of the Long Arm loaded his sling. Nayeneagzni, whose name means Slayer of Alien Gods, prepared to kill every monster in his path. Shango readied a bolt of lightning strong enough to electrocute a hundred men and decided to juice it up a bit.
The Gunslinger reloaded, hoping for a glimpse of the elusive Man in Black. As his eyes searched the enemy ranks, a man with tousled hair waved and called out, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!”
Firiel had distributed among the Transdaimonics a list of enemy commanders. It included Darth Vader, Sauron, Harley Quinn, Thanos, Hel, Captain Ahab, Marc C. Duquesne, Magneto, Kurtz, Iago (as behind-the-scene strategist), Khan Noonian Singh, Poison Ivy, and, coordinating them from behind, Morgoth. From behind because he stood up like a high mountain. His eyes were flames. He wore glaciers for armor. His forehead scraped the clouds.
Dr. Strange cleared his throat and spoke to the Scarlet Witch. “Dormammu was bigger. Oh hell, he’s here too.”
Detective Columbo mopped his brow. “Oh yeah, I forgot. My wife asked me to run an errand on the way home.” He looked around for his dusty Peugeot Cabriolet but saw it nowhere. “Mind if I borrow your horse?” he asked Zorro, who ignored him.
“Sounds like a hell of a hoot!” cried Randle P. McMurphy, letting out a war whoop. “Let’s get it on already!” From an upraised hand a deck of cards sprayed randomly into the air as he danced a jig on the plain. “Let’s light ‘em up like bumpers on a pinball machine! Weee yah!”
The American Margaret pursed her lips as she looked over at Firiel.
“Please assure me that he is not on our side.”
“So what if it’s unauthorized?” Jyn impatiently drummed a finger on the butt of her blaster. “Have you ever heard of an authorized resistance that worked?”
Each side of the conflict had at least one thing in common: outsiders. Solitaries who preferred to fight on their own.
Eris enchanted a crow to convey a message to the count. Once the bird spoke into his ear and flew off, he rounded up the like-minded on his side for a private little war of the willing.
The two sides met behind the mountain. Bane waved at Batman. Batman waved back. It was on.
A contingent of Orcs led the way, but split when Lord Corwin swept in on Star, his silver blade beheading the trooper on his right and, on the backswing, severing the sword arm of the one on his left. He rode by and circled for another pass. Saruman gestured, and fresh orcs replaced the dead ones.
Behind Corwin, a thick knot of xenomorphs closed in, slavering and baring their teeth.
Behind them, Shango pointed at the sky, then at the zenos. The lightning roared. When the flash faded, it revealed a pile of dead aliens. Corwin saluted Shango and rode on. Through cracks in the earth, more aliens emerged.
As Iago crept up behind Chihiro Ogino, knife in hand, the Scarlet Witch spotted him. The crimson beams emanating from her hands picked him up and tossed him through the air and into the volcano. She had a feeling, though, that he would be back.
After pummeling each relentlessly, Batman and Bane drew back and paused, gasping. They were both getting kind of old for these heroics.
“I’m as upset by all this fighting as you are,” Colonel Green told Uhura, who pointed a phaser at him. “We need to find a way to convince the others to really hear one another. I understand communications is your specialty. Will you please help me convince them?” She felt tempted but not convinced. She kept an eye on the bulge in the sleeve of his slowly rising right arm…
Two Frost Giants closed on Herakles. Ducking under their icy blades, he grabbed each by the throat, smashed their skulls together, and threw them at Thanos, who used his gauntlet to slice them to harmless ribbons. As he did this, Prince Merlin of Amber and Chaos spun up his spikard ring and directed every open channel at the glove holding the Infinity Stones….
Uhura stunned Colonel Green, but she soon realized he was only a front man for the white supremacist violence supplanting United Earth…
A crack of thunder, but this time not from Shango. Everyone fell, stunned.
Odin rode up on his steed, accompanied by a retinue. Not of warriors, but of bridge people, all of whom had once lived in the Coaguum: Aesara of Lucania, Muhammad ibn Umail, Wolfgang Goethe, Gustav Fechner, Gershem Scholem, Frederick Douglass, Morehei Ueshiba, Margaret Cavendish (the other Margaret was down with a headache after speaking with the New England pastor), Chuang Tzu, Jorge Luis Borges. A few others. And Sam.
The two sides looked at one another and came to the same startled realization: Nobody was winning. Each side was just as strong as before, continually replenished by magical rejuvenation and ongoing hatred.
“I expect you might be ready to hear from us,” Sam told the combatants. “Unless you want to keep on fighting, to no real effect.”
“Where the hell are the cavalry?” asked Private Vasquez, swinging her shoulder-strapped smartgun for more targets to blast.
“Bah!” A very fat man with a yellow necktie looked around for a chair, found none, and kept standing, uncomfortably. He was used to solving mysteries from an armchair in his New York brownstone. Where the devil were Fritz and Horst and Archie Goodwin? “Cavalry, madam? There are no cavalry. Pfui. You’ll just have to take it as it comes.”
Corwin shrugged and sheathed his sword.
Fighters on both sides followed suit.
As the difficult talks began between enemies, others from Odin’s group came forth.
Aesara of Lucania, first psychologist in history, sat down and wrote,
When we finally turn inward, we discover the origins of law, morality, psychology, and healing.
Vincent Van Gogh unlimbered the travel easel he always carried on his back. He propped up a canvas and, staring at the sky for a moment, daubed yellow paint straight from the tube. He muttered out loud:
Fantastic. Utterly fantastic. Great things are done by small things brought together.
The poet Basho put ink to paper:
of stalwart warriors’ splendid dreams,
Jorge Borges came forth and wrote:
Nothing is built on stone; all is built on sand, but we must build as if the sand were stone.
Alvin Ailey walked out into a clearing, glanced furtively back at the others, took a deep breath. Music began playing out of nowhere. Then he began to dance.
After a moment, Sister Rosetta Tharpe stepped forth with her electric guitar. The music poured forth from her and her choir: “Strange Things Happening Every Day.”
The armies drew together for the final confrontation. The sky reversed yet again.
The Scarlet Witch stared across the lines at Dracula and rubbed her hands together.
Medea blew a kiss at Jason. He pretended not to notice.
Merlin winked at Thanos and pointed at the spikard. Thanos grimaced.
The Gunslinger saluted the Man in Black, who raised a middle finger in reply.
The Bard waved an arrow at Smaug the dragon. Smoke emerged from scaly nostrils.
The Unicorn of Amber danced lightly up and neighed at the hissing Serpent of Chaos.
Firiel walked between the lines, her staff glowing, commanding the ritual silence of preliminaries. She looked placid and wizardly. Inwardly, she was terrified. She walked on.
The armies waited.
They probably expected a speech, an appeal, or a discourse on the rules of engagement. Instead, she turned without a word and gestured with her staff, careful to indicate a non-magical move so as not to inadvertently ignite the battle.
As she left the field, music from a gaita gallega swirled out from a lone figure in a bandmaster’s uniform marching as he played a song of peace. He said nothing. He walked by as both sides watched and waited, then stopped.
Sam entered, self-conscious but beaming at all the attention. He crooked a finger. Rumi danced in behind him, a human whirlwind. They halted near Michael and faced their opponents.
Then Lucille, the Margarets, and the nervous, hawk-nosed man whose name was Hermann. Hypatia came out and, looking over at the Christian zealots ranged against her, put her hands to her chest over her heart and held them out.
The procession continued. Johan Karlsen, King Theoden, Surak of Vulcan. Portia and wise Hermione. Joan of Arc. Diane and Haros, holding hands. All of them filling the space between waiting armies.
Diane to Haros: “Told you this was the right place to be.”
Haros to Diane: “The matching jackets spoke to me. Good purchase.”
At length, Karlsen raised his voice to address the dark forces under Morgoth:
“We are here because we don’t intend to fight you.”
A roar of derision went up from Black Lensman, Kazon, vampires, harpies, and goblins. Orcs in the front licked their lips.
Karlsen was unmoved. “This is not a trick. We do not surrender. We will never surrender. We stand together in the faith of a better way. Join us.”
Surak of Vulcan stepped forward and said, “In the heart of all of us dwells the logic of being in relationship. Let us honor that logic together.”
Norea, sister or daughter of Noah, sister or wife of Seth, stepped forth. She had burned down the first Ark with her fiery breath because Noah would not let women board it. “Come to your senses,” she said.
Steam spurted out of Morgoth’s nostrils. He was laughing.
Theoden looked at Grima. “You were once a man of Rohan! Come back.”
Gandalf returned Saruman’s staff to him and gazed at him inquiringly.
At this, Prince Merlin detached himself from his side and stood in the middle. Glancing once at Thanos, he took off the spikard.
Corwin sighed, then followed him. When he reached the space between armies, he unbuckled his sword belt and let it fall. Gerard joined him. Nafanua came and stood beside him. Izanagi. Pele…
An Orc stepped forward and placed a filthy blade on the chest of Michael. The procession surged instinctively forward, but he waved them back.
To the Orc he said:
“You may need my life. You may need another. Two others. Ten others. Those who came before me made you the way you now are.”
The Orc hesitated.
Shihab was there, and said, “Your suspicions would refute him with ‘proof,’ but our being here refutes with direct experience.”
“Who is here,” called Michael, “to offer a life with me as payment for what went before?”
Surak approached the Orcs in the front line. He opened his robe. On Vulcan, the emissaries of peace he had sent out to his opponents had been executed. He expected nothing else. Logic would win the day eventually.
Luke Skywalker had been a quiet presence throughout, lurking in the background. At this, he came forward, dropped his lightsaber, and opened his robe to Darth Vader.
Uhura came forward. Promethea. Then Hypatia. Enheduanna. Eve. Legolas.
An Orc walked up to the Elf and said, “I was raised to kill your kind.”
“I know. I was raised to defend myself against yours. I relinquish my prerogative. Do whatever you must.” He laid down his bow, took off his quiver, and placed it on the ground.
Gimli growled, then put down his ax.
A cave troll stomped up to Gerard and bared his teeth.
Gerard flexed his massive arms and said, “This may take a while.” The troll grunted, then smiled.
Dr. Strange made a “let’s talk” gesture to Dormammu, who killed him a few times on general principles and finally relented.
Holmes glanced at Moriarty, who frowned and looked away. “It’s no longer a contest,” said Holmes, “if one does not further compete.”
“And London?” asked the professor. “Further subjected to my organized endeavors?”
“I shall still thwart you, but no longer as an opponent. I am available when you wish to talk.”
Grima left Saruman’s side at last for the embrace of his former king. Both wept.
Saruman went off to lock himself in Orthanc, but not before Gandalf gave him a modified seeing stone for contact in case the former White Wizard ever came around.
Artemis pointed her arrow away from Orion and unleashed it into the multicolored sky. It took fire overhead and burned its way into the south…
The armies melted together, surprised at how much the members of each had longed for contact with the other. Iron Man gave Lloyd the dark Welsh magician a digital mirror in which he could see himself and his pregnant wife more clearly. Nuwa pulled Hel to one side and asked, “What has it been like being down there all this time? Tell me.” Isis beckoned Dumalawi, maker of his own reality, and confided, “I’ve been interested in your family situation for some time…” The Scarlet Witch waved her hands, weaving an intricate spell, and Brand of Amber stopped being such a scheming asshole, much to his son Luke’s relief.
As for Morgoth, Sauron, Dormammu, Lex Luthor, Captain Ahab, Khan Noonian Singh, Satan, and the other great evil powers who have gotten all the press: yes, they could damage heaven, earth, and cosmos, but only with a lot of help. They all needed someone lesser to admire them. But with the lesser folk all getting to know each other, these irredeemable would-be rulers found themselves unexpectedly irrelevant. Inflated to godlike proportions, they needed worshipers, and now there were none.
After Mount Doom quit spewing lava, mainly because nobody was paying it any attention anymore, least of all Frodo and Samwise, Morgoth, alone, abandoned, and refusing to outgrow his bad boy stance, ended up a tenth-rate guitarist in a nihilist Middle-earth band going nowhere. After a while, he couldn’t even say which realm he lived in. Maybe none of them. He had found his own Abyss to fall into. From that one he never emerged. But the factories disappeared.
Sauron, his equally immature agent, tried to book shady long-distance flights for travelers in the Coaguum until a pandemic wiped out his business. He drank himself to death on what little money remained. Without his presence, the Ringwraiths were just wraiths.
Vader we all know about. His pathetic Force-ghost comes around now and then to offer advice, but that’s about the extent of his relevance.
And so on with the rest of the evil figures: in the end, not archetypally evil, not fundamentally evil (because there is no such thing), just kind of pathetic, what with their fans drawn away to pursue more inspiring opportunities. A vampire with no blood is dust.
In the three realms, villainy melted back into discord. The Intervale War was over.
“How convenient,” said Sam. “You call on us when you need us. And then what? Dispersed back into nothingness?”
“No,” said Firiel. “You return whenever someone imagines you. In your case there is no danger of that ever coming to an end.”
Eve sighed, embracing herself. “I am glad at how things turned out here. But is there some way I can see how they turned out on Earth?”
Murmurs all around.
“I will pour water into a pool of vision here at our feet.” Firiel pointed upward with her staff. The rains came down, in dribbles, then in sheets. A dip became a pool of bright water.
“All of you gather around and gaze downward into the water…”
Diane and Haros had founded the Dreamvale Exchange to promote inter-realm conversation between the Coaguum and its imaginal counterpart. After they died they became legends. This is how they wound up in the Dreamvale.
It is sometimes tricky to align when things happen over there and when in the Coaguum. In this case, we might say that the Intervale War unfolded and was averted around the late 2100s CE, Coaguum timeline. But that’s a guess, and subject to interplenum fluctuations.
The Dreamvale Exchange fostered artistic, photographic, theatrical, and mass media visions of how to confront authoritarianism with firm, peaceful integrity. Like an adult stopping an angry teen from setting a house on fire. The goal is to stop the fire before it starts, then find out where the anger comes from. As Diane liked to say, we are all family, and we should act like it.
Centuries of technological post-religious change (“progress”) had frightened traditionalists all over the world. At bottom, they felt their only recourse to feeling like strangers in a meaningless universe was to cling to the old beliefs and lifestyles and resist what science offered. Because political “progressives” had abandoned them to poorly paying jobs, substandard healthcare, and decaying cities, they fought to hang onto what they still had.
Equipped with visions of how to live together, the builders of the new foundations reached out to people who maintained the old ways. “Earthrise,” the builders said, invoking an image beamed back from space on Christmas Eve, 1968, “is about inclusivity across the world, with all of us working together and leaving nobody behind. In the society we imagine, everyone has worth. Everyone contributes. We honor each other, Earth, and the cosmos in which we float. It really is that simple. Let us dream together and see how we can do that.”
So they assembled the puzzle together. Once they realized they all wanted the same things—security, safety, belonging, purpose—it was just a matter of putting together the successes that were already unfolding all around them. Here is how you generate clean energy so everyone benefits. Here is how you make food in ways that regenerate the land. Here is how we look after each other’s rights. Here is healthcare that everyone can afford. Here is the end of homelessness and the guarantee that everyone contributes. Here is how we make festivals to celebrate our common human ground.
The climate continued to heat. Authoritarianism thrived wherever people felt scared enough to want a charismatic (male) leader. Addiction to greed continued. The Resource Wars were waged over what remained, some of it uncovered by retreating ice as Earth warmed up.
But once the conglomerated giants driving it all had been chopped down in imagination, the way was clear for the new era of participation, decentralization, and creative collaboration. Power grew from the ground up. Humanity finally taught itself how to keep the immature from positions of power over others. Then they reversed climate change and started reforesting the planet.
Once people percolate a clear vision of what they want, they can make it happen in reality.
The Terrania Charter crafted by humans and Dreamvale emissaries working together showed the basic principles of how to create an organic worldwide culture founded on diversity, prosperity, inspiration, and justice. Dedicated people used the blueprint and moved forward. With the appropriate cultural structures now in place, with the best of past and present wisdoms amalgamated and put to good use, human beings matured toward new futures they dreamed up together. It was not utopia, but it would serve everyone rather than just a privileged few.
Former enemies wove a banner of Terrania with Earth as emblem. The image held Africa in the center as the origin of humanity, one of many players in the great cosmic game of consciousness.
“Piss on it, then,” said Kluni to his (temporary) coalition partners Smee, Naran, Bellum, Kerp, Cempa, Doja, and Anthara.
“This time we got our asses handed to us. Witness Sam’s last writing: ‘Etiquette for the Afterlife,’ in which he told the insufferable Thomas Paine, ‘Leave your dog outside. Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and the dog would go in.’”
“So,” rumbled Smee, “it would be better if they didn’t go in, and never managed to build Terrania?”
“We got screwed,” Kluni replied. “It was supposed to turn into a grand shit show of conflict and chaos. What happened instead? Resolution. How boring.”
“I tend to agree that the conflict got short-circuited.” Bellum tended to come out for anything involving ignition. “They were within inches of wrecking the planet. I get that. But in the long term: no more game of conscious development. No conflict. No fire.”
“No contest,” put in Cempa.
“No recycling,” said Anthara, knowing Doja would agree.
“I can’t say I’m entirely disappointed,” said Naran. “They finally put a good social structure in place to hold all their manifold contradictions. What more could we ask of them?”
“In all honesty, they haven’t lacked a supply of steady violence,” noted Bellum.
“And death,” said Doja.
Cempa said, “Kluni, I think you’re competing for their attention here. And maybe ours as well. We all know that you bring chaos to dash order, not because you hate order, but because you like the credit of destabilizing what was too fixed and secure. That is fine with me. But as they go forward with championing new ways of being together with their sentient planet, and as they grow ears for hearing its speech, don’t you think opportunities for disturbance will present themselves in abundance?”
Kluni did not take a breath because he had no breathing body; but in the Coaguum cosmos, planets as close to their suns as Mercury might have inhaled some extra hydrogen during a “random” solar flare or two. Kluni grinned.
“I never stop admiring your articulacy, Cempa. You are quite right to correct my temporary short-sightedness. These people will have many challenges up ahead, and I look forward to being involved with how they negotiate them. Or fail to.”
You have now heard from Renastra the story of the Intervale War and its conclusion. As Eleg, I invite you to consider where the conflicts described herein live inside you as well, and down what paths they have led you.
In 1897, Coaguum timeline, Sam wrote,
In Sydney I had a large dream, and in the course of talking I told it to a missionary from India who was on his way to visit some relatives in New Zealand. I dreamed that the visible universe is the physical person of God; that the vast worlds that we see twinkling millions of miles apart in the fields of space are the blood corpuscles in His veins; and that we and the other creatures are the microbes that charge with multitudinous life the corpuscles.
Nor was he incorrect. Every member of the Transdaimonic League, including you who read these words, has enjoyed—or suffered through—similar insights into the nature of all that is.
You will also have noted that crossovers of vales occurred to bring everyone involved to the Intervale. This can only happen with the involvement of consciously creative members of the Coaguum. In the past, crossovers were sporadic: a short story by the human Ray Bradbury; the League of Remarkable Gentleman; and so on. Today, they are creatively necessary in order to forward Terrania, center of new relationships.
The question that remains is obvious: Whose consciousness allowed these Intervale crossovers?
Was it yours? Yours working together with other members of the Transdaimonic League? Yours working together with Intervale, Dreamvale, Earth, Coaguum, and Infrarealm? For these are all sentient beings, and therefore liable at some point to appear as characters in the grand story of Terrania that now unfolds before you.
For Terrania to be, you must all dream it together and then get to work. In the end, all progress may depend directly upon the quality and reach of your imagination. The League guards and preserves the imaginings of humanity.
As a Transdaimonic in training, organize your fantasy life accordingly and await further contact. You will hear back from us very soon. Until then, prepare yourself for what awaits.
#assemblingterrania #terrania #amber #courtsofchaos #corwin #dorsai #mythology #transdaimonic #lotr #firiel #sherlockholmes #samuelclemens #johankarlsen #surak #morgoth