Friday, July 17, 2015

Beyond the Rim Installment 10

Thurgod punctured the mountain side with heavy strokes. In each hand he held a one-sided pick, tools of his own making. No mortal had the strength to plunge those spikes directly into the face of a mountain, into sheer rock. A dozen feet further in and he would be, doubtless, into some passage within Cyllgod's castle, carved from the mountain centuries ago. Instead, Thurgod ascended the outside of her towers, looking for some little shelf thereon to rest.
His pupil followed behind him, connected to Thurgod by a chain. Twice already the chain had saved the child's life, as following in the footholds that Thurgod carved was nearly impossible for so small a body. Thurgod did not appear as large as the other deities, giants among the humans. Indeed his stature was rather shorter than grown men, though he was much thicker. In every dimension other than his height Thurgod out did all but the true giants - men whose people had lived in the mountains for centuries, and from the pinnacles of stone learned to be large. There was no tree in Cyllgod's kingdom with a trunk like his arms, though, in fairness, the tree's of Cyllgod's kingdoms tended to be slender and tall.
"Child, where is the shelf you spotted?"
"You are nearly there, Master. It is just over your head, and you will feel the ledge."
Thurgod had taken Oorgo out to the edge of the capital that nestled adjacent to the mountain, and there had begun an ascent which he had not dared in some time. Oorgo had spotted the shelf from far below with the sight of a young human, and Thurgod managed the ascent.
A few strokes more and Thurgod did feel the edge of the shelf. He tucked the pick which his right hand had held into his belt, then drew little round bits of metal, like coins but without inscription, from a pouch that hung beside the pick. Of these he gathered a fistful, then asked, "Does it grow wider to the left or to the right?"
"To the right, Master."
Thurgod threw the coins against the mountainside, and most of them bounced off of it, cascading or falling straight down the many fathoms of air between them and the ground. One fell near Oorgo's hand, and letting go of his handhold on the stone he caught it, and the chain saved his life for a third time.
A few of the coins remained on the shelf which Oorgo had seen from below. It was in fact the mouth of a cave, from whence water, pouring and trickling for millenia, had carved a smooth surface. It was precisely at that altitude that the rock of the mountain changed, with a softer stone above, and thus the uneven erosion had produced not a tube or a sluice, but a delta of slick stone.
Thurgod pointed his head towards the shelf, his smith-mind sensing where each bit of metal had gone, and guessing, from the pattern of the coins, where he could safely walk. He lumbered over to the center of the space, the chain dragging along the edge as Oorgo remained below.
"If you want to get up, child, you must try to climb the chain."
Oorgo did not hesitate a moment, but began tugging on the chain with all his might, only to lift himself a hand breath, which he immediately lost as his arms went limp.
"Master, I can't climb the chain."
"Why are you unable?"
"I can't do it. I'm too heavy."
Thurgod sat down, looking in the direction he remembered the sun would set, his back against the mountain face that rimmed the kingdom of Cyllgod. "Are you a fat child, more suited to roll than to walk?"
Oorgo continued to strain at the task of climbing, now kicking his feet in vain against the rock. "No."
"Then it is not that you are too heavy. Then you are the right weight for a boy."
"I have never climbed a mountain before."
"Was there not a first time that you went down the hill with your father's bread, and came back up again? There was a first time you breathed as well. We do many things for a first time."
Oorgo stopped his efforts and hung there in the harness, his face held tight against the rock by the pressure of the chain. "Please, Master, let me up."
"I will not do that unless you tell me why I must do it, and not yourself."
"I am not strong enough."
Thurgod nodded, though Oorgo could not see him. Then he began to reel in the chain effortlessly. As Oorgo's form emerged over the ledge, the smith-god said, "You are not strong enough. I am strong enough. You will learn from me to be strong. Until then, it is my strength that will have to do."
Oorgo clambered over beside Thurgod. "You could have just pulled me over. Now I'm hurt." and he showed Thurgod the bruises already forming on his knees from having kicked at the stone. "I bruised my legs on the rock."
"Why did you do that, Oorgo, kick at the stone?"
"I was was trying to climb, Master."
"Have you ever climbed by kicking, except in water?"
Oorgo looked at the deity, puzzled, but Thurgod did not detect it.
"How can one climb in water?"
Thurgod answered, "Have you ever climbed by kicking?"
"No, Master."
"Then why did you kick now?"
Oorgo sat still, unable to keep up with the questioning. Then Thurgod smiled, "You have learned enough. When you are not strong enough, it is best to ask for help from one who is strong enough, then later to work on becoming strong."
Oorgo answered, "Yes, Master."
"It is the time to be quiet, now, child. Sit back against the rock, and look out."
"What am I looking for, Master?"
"You are not looking for anything. Look only, and see. What do you see?"
"I see the whole valley."
"Do you see anything else?"
"I see also the sky."
"What does the sky look like?" Thurgod pointed his blind face away from the mountain face.
"The sun is just above the Rim, Master."
"Then we must wait."
Thurgod settled his back against the mountain face, his face pointing straight up the cliff above him.
"May I explore the cave, Master?"
"Yes, for a short while."
Oorgo bounded away, into the narrow cave. Thurgod neither moved nor spoke for half of an hour, listening to the intermittent cries and inarticulate chatter which the boy poured forth on his own little adventure.
"Oorgo, it is the best time for you to come back now," called Thurgod from the place of his repose.
Oorgo worked his way back through the cave.
"It is time for you too look out over the valley. What do you see?"
"The sun is just behind the Rim, Master."
"What do you see?"
"The sky is filled with colors."
"Can you tell me all of their names? Can you tell me where every streak and cloud is struck?"
"There is a purple stripe, and an orange stripe, and a yellow patch, and a red streak, and... Master there are too many colors to tell you."
"How would you describe it, Oorgo?"
Oorgo studdered. He hated to remember that Thurgod was blind, and that he could not see this sunset, a clearer sunset than Oorgo had ever seen from the valley floor, or even from the foothills in which his family lived.
"It is beautiful, Master."
"Yes, Oorgo. Beauty is a thing doing just as..." then Thurgod winced so hard he nearly banged his head into the rock face."
"Master, what is wrong?"
Thurgod pointed his face back out towards the open sky. "This is beauty, Oorgo. You would do well to remember it." Then Thurgod stood up and grabbed his picks, preparing to descend.
"Master, why are you blind? Where did you get that band?"
Thurgod paused, freezing his motion halfway through a step. He answered, "It was given me by Cyllgod, child."
"Is Cyllgod a kind god, child?"
"No, she is not."
"And how do you come to say that, little one?"
"Because she would not make my sister beautiful, and because she keeps you from seeing sunsets."
Thurgod nodded and swallowed. "Today's lesson is over. We must climb down and then you must sleep. The bellows are for you tomorrow."