The Song of Ceber

Final Argument: Ceber confronts the Goddess of Gears.

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Takara, Goddess of Gears

Takara       goddess of gears
Gained no pleasure       to see her guest.
Arising from her throne,
She approached       the center of her amphitheater
and said,

“Well, Ceber. You think you can fight me? Even
Terite my foolish husband could not best me. If
the mauled dragon lost, what chance do you have?
I won’t spare you or your children. Even if your
progeny spans a thousand years I will not leave a
single one untroubled. The arrogance of you
biological filth is astounding. To think that a lowly
mortal could even hope to challenge those begot of
divinity. Your place is beneath us. Say you rule the
Earth as much as you please. It will only highlight
your lack of control. Nothing but infantile screaming
at the walls of Nature. Curse your fate for being mortal
instead of not being born at all. In
miserable death I consign you.”

“Threats and insults       are time-wasters.
Rant all you want,       your rage reveals
Your simple prejudices.       Your small way of thinking,”
Ceber said       stepping to meet the goddess.
This close       their size was similar
Takara assuming the shape
Of a common yellow-jacket       wreathed in gold.

“Honor, forbearance, mercy.
All traits any good       god should have.
You have forsaken them       for faults
That you then claim as virtues       and vaulted ideals.
Is it not the right       of righteous rabbles
To pull down leaders       who don’t meet their lofty claims
And dispose of queens       who kill their subjects?
Bad rulers must       reap their rewards
And you've used me badly
For a petty       ill-explained purpose.”

“Judge me, you insect? As for purpose, I owe
you no explanation. A river does not owe its
fish a catalogue of its route nor does lightning
need to explain why it strikes. You dare judge
the lightning? You dare master thunder? You
should thank me for not smiting you every
moment of every second of every minute of
every hour of every day of your ever-miserable
life. Mortals owe the gods their own existence
for which we deserve unending praise for
fashioning you out of crude dirt and filthy air.
How we treat you is none of your concern.
Compared to life's existence what is misery?
Complain to me?
Very well.
We will see just how skilled a fighter you are.”

“Skilled enough.       Since my slaying days,
I have not met any       with martial merit
Enough to even       envision a win against me.
I have since my youth
Offered any who wished       to avoid wasteful loss of life
A chance to step aside.
But you are evil.
The first truly evil person I have ever met.
If I were to show mercy
You’d only turn on my offer
Think it weakness.
Strike me in the back.       Your type breaks truces,
Scorns agreements.
No. There is only one way       to keep you honest.
Prepare yourself.”

“I had hoped you would have
read the situation as hopeless and fled back to your
miserable village. A pity you’re illiterate.”

They assumed stances       and Ceber started to circle.
But clockworked Takara
Counter-circled throwing off the motion
And Ceber found herself       facing her foe
At bad angles.
Each step met by a counter-step
With the Clockwork Goddess       controlling the distance!

Terrible set up       bad footing.
Ceber saw the danger       and stepped back,
But Takara matched her.

“Unsure of your feet, wasp?”
Nimble Takara taunted.
“I've been told hawkwasps were the most graceful of
all wasps. What lies! You’re on the verge of tripping.
Bad stance, bad posture. Give me a challenge or I will
kill you where you stand!”

Ceber realized she was losing.
For what mortal       could meet a goddess fairly in open combat?
Rapid reflexes       endless rehearsal
Made for excellent       fantastic form.
Built year upon year for all eternity;
No mortal could match       the mistress of machines.

“I’m outclassed,” Ceber thought.
“Brought down       by the basics.
My enemy isn’t using       exotic moves
Only firm footwork.       She’s controlling the fight.”

Something different       needed to be done.
If only for initiative.
Ceber tottered,
The goddess laughed.
Careful not to tense       least she alert the goddess,
Ceber Starlight struck.

Ignoring claws and legs       she drove her sting deep
Into the goddess’s chest.
Takara roared,
Arching her       abdomen around
And catching Ceber on the waist       sting for sting.

Both threw themselves away. Ceber’s sting caught       she stumbled
Breaking the point off       between Takara’s carapace.

“Defeated!” Takara cried.       “Who dares challenge me?
I who am above       all order.”

Ceber laughed from       the floor.
“One strike is victory       O stupid goddess.
Or do you not feel Epenè's curse?
For my sting is envenomed with his blood.
The wise worms       have won, goddess.
They see all time.       Did you not think
That they wouldn't       win in the end?
Even gods are subject to fate.
Your mistake was to not take me seriously.”

Tempered Takara       knew it to be true
For already she was stiffening,
Her joints locking up.

“Damn you,” she said       staggering to her throne,
“But you’re no better off       black desolation comes for you.
Worse even,
For you are destroyed,       dead, dying.
I will rise again.”

“Plenty of time       to think on me,”
Ceber said       lifting herself up a little.
“How one hawkwasp       won honest victory from you.
A mortal victory.
I have nothing to shame me.”

The Goddess of Gears did not reply.
Frozen on her chair       her features still,
Voice silenced.

Honest Ceber tried to stand,
But she fell       as her insides failed.
Ceber Starlight       Carapace-breaker of the Kuroni
Was still in that place of machines.
The clicking of springs       her only company.
Above and below       they toiled on.
Until those cogs quit their ticking
Succumbing to the weary weight       of the world.
Leaving her alone
In that place of gears.
Silence her only memory
Until that too was only a thought.

Hércyme endeth þæs gieddes Ceber Starlightes.

Benediction

Ceber's story is at an end
She's retired with all our fictional friends
For all my faults and all my foibles
I wish my story to be able
To entertain or at least to please
And to be read with ease
With laughter in your heart
Thus accept my art
If not, I won’t apologize
Nor sermonize
With my scheme downed
And unwound
I shall say,

“I enjoyed writing it.
That is all I need.”


The Song of Ceber

Song of Ceber 0: Explanatory Notes ¦ 1 ¦ 2 ¦ 3 ¦ 4 ¦ 5 ¦ 6 ¦ 7 ¦ 8 ¦ 9 ¦ 10 ¦ 11 ¦ 12 ¦ 13 ¦ 14 ¦ 15 ¦ 16 ¦ 17 ¦ 18 ¦ 19 ¦ 20 ¦ 21 ¦ 22 ¦ 23 ¦ 24 ¦ 25 ¦ 26 ¦ 27 ¦ 28 ¦ 29 ¦ 30 ¦ 31 ¦ 32 ¦ 33 ¦ 34 ¦ 35 ¦ 36

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