The Common Room of the Gods is an excerpt from the long poem The Wasp's Ekphrastic. It comes toward the middle of the poem and details the creation of the Palace of Offa and the subsequent party of the gods in the sæl (mead hall or common room).
See The Song of Ceber’s explanatory notes for a full list of the gods.
Beyond Elsodonalay, the gate of heaven, stands Offa’s palace. Offa, stormgaunt, had in the early days sat alone on the highest mountain of the world and assumed many shapes. Sometimes he was the lightning, sometimes the storm, sometimes a crystalèd eye, sometimes a titanic dragon, sometimes a braided serpent. The cold frosted his features and gave him a great beard of frost that flowed down the mountain. Here was the leader of the gods, homeless. He viewed the wide world and everywhere his gaze fell wonders sprung out of the earth. Trees sprung from loam, rivers from rock, and birds from clouds.
This was where the Storm Giant found him, sitting among the peaks, straddling the world, and working miracles from afar.
Storm was a fly of enormous size. Some say he was an enormous filter fly, others a thread-horned gnat. The embodiment of the storms that buffeted the mountain, he came suddenly and loudly for on his wings was thunder. He spied Offa sitting, and went to speak.
“Lord Offa, cousin,” said the Storm, “is it fitting for one of your stature to sit outdoors where the cold can grow frost on your face? Paramount among the gods and turned homeless outside, sitting and freezing? Or is this just where you sit when you want to get away?”
“In truth,” Offa said, “it never occurred to me that I should be indoors. So many things desire my attention. If I kept my sight under a roof, who would drive the falls and the wind and how would the world turn? Oft I imagined a sabled hall of obsidian and marble, grand in design, wondrous in every way-- yet my duties keep me here.”
“Do you have children!” Storm exclaimed. “I think you do! Look, you great god, I think you work too hard. Can’t your children take the burden off your shoulders? Are Whylight and Tetrite so busy chasing mortals that they can’t direct a brook's babble? Is Taʔkara so enamored with her plots she can’t intercede with the mortals? Take a rest, old man. Build your palace and make it a sight to behold.”
Upon hearing the wisdom of the fly, Offa stood up on the mountain, and finding his head hit the sky, shrunk himself until the mountain towered above him and he was the size of a mortal. He then flitted across the earth faster than a light-beam until he reached the nest of the great silk worm Byx.
“Great spinner,” Offa said, looking much like a common wasp so that it was impossible to perceive his divine nature, “I have come to seek your wisdom out.”
“Ah, such I have in spades, no need do I have to hoard knowledge in deep hidden vaults,” said the worm, looking down on the tiny visitor.
“Then tell me, what would a great king need in his palace to impress even the gods?”
“Ah, that is simple,” the worm said. “There’s nothing a palace needs more than a gathering room where tired heroes can drink and talk and greet each other as old friends. Design the grounds and the throne room and the guardhouse however you like, but make the common room a place where your wealth shines. Decorate its ceiling with pearls. Make the pillars marble with infinite carvings, have the floor flecked with mica. Make the candle holders lapis. Apatite, nephrite, and azurite should make the tables. Have the chairs phenakite with leather and down cushions. Give out drinks freely, and remember the rules of Hospitality.
“The host must respect the guest and give him aid and substance while under their roof. In turn, the guest must defend the hall in crisis. Do not overly question the guest until they’ve supped. The guest in their turn must provide tales of the world, and not abuse the access they’re granted. They must give a gift to their protector, this may be a story, or their company, or if these be disagreeable, a token-- such as a ring may suffice.”
Offa listened well and said, “Thou art wise, worm. I shall direct my palace just so.”
This spoken the god waded out into the sea, down and down he went into the hidden depths. He sought the riches in the dragon cache deep in the interior of the ocean. Guarded by teeming lizards and evil fish, they kept their pearls to themselves along with rich veins of ore and golden nuggets.
At the sight of the god, the greatest Fish, Vyafoncniht, challenged him and said, “Who are you to come into our lair so bravely? I see but a wasp, and under water no wasp may beat a fish. Why look you so confident? Do you not know there is no air down here?”
Mighty Offa said, eyes flashing lightning out ot a hundred points, “Who am I that made the world? Who am I who awoke the sun’s fire? Who am I that begot the gods? Who am I that tamed the raging cosmos and pulled shape from the chaos dark? I am that one who wrestled the shadows between the worlds and shaped the ground! I am the one who gathered the clouds and squeezed the water out of them to make the ocean! I am the one who took mica and rock and made the first fish!”
Thus cowed, Vyafoncniht, bowed and said, “God, pardon me, our treasure is yours for you are the one who made it.”
Offa then pulled all the jewels to him, and all the bones in the sea, from sailors to deceased whales, and down there in the dark shaped a grand building, forging towers and walls and portcullises. For seven weeks he worked with his claws, shaping and destroying as needed, and over time the palace took shape like a giant tooth, bicuspidate with rising ivory towers laid out in intricate design.
When finished, the fish marveled at it, but they whispered: so few had confidence the god could transport it to his mountain home. Offa, he never doubting himself, threw the structure across his back as if it were no more than wood wrapped in twine, and walked out of the sea. Each step split the ground, and tremors road out from him, but sure progress he made, first to the beach, then to the plains, then to the mountain itself. Up the cragged hills, and grand escarpments, until he again stood above the world.
He fastened the palace to the mountain, anchored it securely, and entered. Here in the great common room, he gathered the hidden gems of the earth; fire stones crafted by cherufe. He pulled stars out of heaven to decorate his roof. In his marble columns he threaded obsidian to make the scenes. He crafted tables and chairs. For his own throne he bent a whale jaw and corded it with gold.
He then got to work in the kitchens, making pies and cakes, and especially brewing vast vats of beer from crystalline ambrosia. When all was ready and the table set, he went back to his throne.
Ensconced on his new seat, he gathered together the birds of the world to send out invitations to all the gods.
Offa finding his gaze was not much perturbed by the walls of the palace, cast his sight around, saying, “Where are my kin? Birds fly on the wings of the wind, yet not a god here yet?”
He nervously glanced from empty chair to empty chair and checked the sun. Still high, still time.
“And yet,” he said, “I find myself out of sorts. I have food and drink. When in the history of the world has anybody ever refused a free meal, especially a costly one? To think these fractious gods have forgotten their father. It’s unthinkable, but still it naggles. It worries on my mind.”
Still, there was nothing and the great common room stood empty. Hot pies cooled on tables, and the stars in the ceiling shone brightly for no one.
“Is this how the creator deity is remembered?” Offa asked the empty room. “Why, it’s enough to make one want to call this whole thing off. I can cancel Earth. If these ingrates don’t want a party, I can sweep this planet off the board and start anew with siblings and childer who respect their old father when he wants to carouse.”
The door to the hall then swung open with a bang. The twin dragons, Whylight and Tetrite, red and white, threw the doors apart with a mighty blast of fire. Almost as jeweled as Offa’s own palace, the dragon gods, declared their entrance to the empty hall with a speech:
“Assembled gods! Witness the dragons who fly heaven’s skies in most regal majesty! We are the fire and the light! The moon and the sun! Evil and Good! We are--”
Offa clapped at this speech and the dragons, looking around saw their declamation fell on an empty hall.
“Father!” Whylight said. “This is a new thing under the sun. What is this palace here on top of the world?”
“It is mine,” Offa said. “Made with these six limbs. Come, drink, the others will be by shortly.”
This the dragons needed no prompting. They fell on the table as they fell on their enemies. Voraciously and without mercy.
The doors opened again, and Essa, the goddess resplendent, entered with a train of fairy wasps carrying flowers to drop behind her feet.
“Husband, beloved,” she said, “what a lovely sight here up in the cold mountains. Remember when the world was new and we crystallized like dew out of the air and remade the dark chaos into our image? Never since that time have I seen a creation of such beauty. Like the world, this hall reflects nature. Look, the stars in the ceiling, look the chaos on the ground.”
She pointed to the dragons roiling over the table eating and drinking and breathing fire at each other.
“Here, sister,” Offa said conjuring a great throne out of ice-crystals. “Sit by me and observe our children fight over puddings.”
Next to enter was Taʔkara, the goddess of intricate machines and plots, jeweled and flashing blue, with her armored carapace.
“Honored father,” said she, “what a wondrous castle out here in the cold alpine heights. I come for good drink and to fight my brothers for it if I must. Give me permission to attack and I’ll give you a show wherein I show all their imagined posturing for what it is.”
“Eldest daughter,” Offa said, “it is not conducive for a host to allow conflict in his own hall. If outside you come across your brothers in fight or play, you have my full commission. But not now. Eat and be merry, but do not disturb the peace.”
“Father,” Taʔkara said. “Look at the gluttons there. When everyone else has arrived, there will be no food left. Let me strike their appetites so that they will not be able to ruin the ambiance of a good meal.”
Essa whispered in Offa’s ear and the great god said, “Very well, daughter, but remember to leave the other guests alone.”
Taʔkara went off with many plots clicking in her head.
As she left, Syn and Ausoʔra entered. Brother and sister, daughters of Whylight, emerald wasps sparkling with their own delight. Syn full of his own songs, and Ausoʔra-- mistress of many flowers-- in freshest garden bloom.
“We’re here, great Grandfather,” they said to the throne. “Give us sweet nectar to drink and never shall we cause harm, but deny us and we will wreck worlds. Sticks and stones may break bones, but words can tear down cities.”
“Have your fill,” Offa said. “The food is for you, the drink too, and after having eaten, I will require a performance, small entertainment for the food you eat.”
Many other gods and titans showed themselves. There was Elsalae, the goddess of passionate madness of the sort lovers feel before climax. There was Yuhslea, god of dance and perfume, pirouetting around the hall in drunken whorls. Clifdora was there, ghostly as if in vision. Akenzee and her cousin Arktoe arrived, creeping in like guilty things, but accepted at the table like long friends. Urja, Linlis, and Epinè stayed but a minute before leaving as a matter of prophecy. Sival, the ghost serpent, showed determined to make a statement with her coronet. Scope and Hatan, the divine craft spiders, amused the guests by spinning out endless tales. Even old HolHammas was there, the giant ant, asleep in his drink.
Presently, Taʔkara by means of a bell, was able to silence the table.
“I would like to make a speech,” she said, “praising my good friends here. First, my father for laying the foundations for this feast. His interest in managing all aspects is really what makes this the best feast. Like the world, he made every pie and cake, and each iota of every table is his doing. Him and mother, Essa, watch over us like great parents never not afraid to let their younglings out of the nest to fend for themselves.”
She bowed toward the throne.
“And next my siblings, Whylight and Tetrite. Twin dragons each! I remember, in bedtalk, how Tetrite spoke his brother’s praises saying, ‘I wish I could overcome him, but we are evenly matched in stubbornness and his pigheadedness is only matched by his hide for toughness. And how Whylight returns the favor saying to me once while we hunting, ‘Tetrite is almost as good as me at this, despite being the hunter personified, if mortals knew they’d pray to us both so evenly matched are we.’”
Whylight and Tetrite stopped their eating at this and Whylight said, “Is that so, brother? Did you say such to my sister?”
“Verily, he did,” Taʔkara said. “He’s full of the best praises for his brother.”
“And did you, brother, say as such, that you were as good at the hunt than me, the God of the Hunt?” Tetrite said.
“Do you doubt it?” Taʔkara said. “The love he shows you is almost as overfull as the love you show him.”
“Then we shall settle this now,” the dragons said as one.
They attacked each other with fire and went spinning end over end on the table spilling drinks and crushing pies. One of these pies was Akenzee’s and the poor spider gazed down sadly at the crushed fly custard as only a black widow can.
“Don’t be gloomy,” Taʔkara said to her. “At least you’re at a god’s party. I’m surprised you’re here. Father, in his infinite wisdom and kindness threw you out of heaven for your ambition, and consigned you to the depths of Jakara Zaud, but look, he lets you sit at his table as if you’re one of us, even though everybody gives a sideways glance and mutters into their cups!”
At this, the spider threw herself out of the chair and made toward the door.
Taʔkara, thus bemused, moved on to Elsalae-- the goddess of love looked over her son Syn as he sang with motherly pride.
“Greetings, sister!” Taʔkara said. “Your son is the spirit of the party.”
“Indeed he is,” Elsalae said. “Watch how he moves effortlessly around the floor. Everybody loves him.”
“And he loves everybody,” Taʔkara said. “It’s a pity we don’t know who the father is. Like his mother he gives his love freely to all takers so that the unanimous agreement is that love is cheap and slattern-like lays its head in any lap that will take it.”
“Unanimous agreement?” Elsalae said. “Who says this?”
“Why, most of the gods,” Taʔkara said, “but especially that perfumed dunce Yuhslea. His conceit is that dance and song ought to be under the same sphere and he looks upon your child as an impediment to that end.”
“Then I will see how well he dances once his hide is flayed,” Elsalae said, stalking off toward the dancer.
Laughing to herself, Taʔkara went next to Ausoʔra and said, “Yuhslea says you’re stupid.”
The garden goddess broke into tears and ran from the common room out into the cold.
Emboldened, Taʔkara went over to Syn, who was in the middle of a song, and interrupting said, “Those uncultured spiders there told a crude joke and now your sister cries out in the cold. You ought to have a word with them so that they know this won’t be tolerated.”
Like this she went around the room until the guests were pitted against each other. Syn fought the spiders, Elsalae chased the dancing god with a whip, Ausoʔra cried in the garden, and the dragons fought each other.
Taʔkara then went table to table drinking and eating by herself and most of all laughing.
“As is typical of our daughter,” Essa said, sighing.
“Yes,” Offa said. “I ought to say something with her defying me so, but I love her and she is as lovely as my entire palace. I fear no good will come of it, yet I cannot bring myself to discipline her.”
“Make a speech,” Essa said. “Maybe that will distract them from their squabbles.”
Effortlessly, Offa drew all eyes to him, and he said, “Honored Guests, thank you for coming to my party. In honor of you all, I have decided to call this hall, and the palace by extension Wyrm-Wunian, because this is the place that dragons dwell. Now, go off into the night, and be merry.”
Despite his words, many left unmerry, with the goddess of love pitted against the god of dance, the twin dragons against each other, and singer hateful of spiders. Many troubles are said to have resulted from this.