Source material: Aesma and the Three Masters (And the Lessons She Never Learned), a Kill Six Billion Demons Story
Blogged: October 13-19, 2019
Good evening! We are now living in a post-MLP:FiM world, but that’s not what we’re here for. Let’s read Aesma and the Three Masters!
I think a little recap is in order here. Two times, so far, I’ve gotten to pages of Kill Six Billion Demons that were covers for text-based side stories contained in the comic descriptions. Both times, they’ve been a strange gray area with respect to the Patreon setup, as well as additional content that didn’t really fit into the sessions I was wrapping up. I said a couple times that I should read them on my own time in-between sessions, but that never actually happened.
And so it has come to this point, where the K6BD patron has agreed to let one of the regular K6BD slots go to liveblogging the second of those stories instead.
Going in, here’s what I know:
- Aesma created humans, earning them the nickname “Aesma’s mistake”. I don’t know whether or not this story will address that in any capacity.
- I think Koss was involved too, but I forget the specifics.
- What little has been alluded to about Aesma in K6BD proper, as well as the title of this story, has made her sound like a potentially delightful character. Abbadon has proven their ability to make delightful characters several times over now, so I have high hopes for this.
And what I speculate:
- This story is very likely to be presented as a traditional myth to some extent, being about a goddess and having a title that… uh, next bullet point…
- …sounds like it will use the rule of three, perhaps in a sort of fairytalish way.
- K6BD’s general style also points to this. The story is likely considered a religious myth in-universe, though the line between myth and history is blurred in Throne.
- There will be three masters, three individuals Aesma has to interact with to achieve her goal, and each will have something important to teach Aesma. She will fail to learn any of their lessons.
- Given that the story takes place over three pages/parts, I’m guessing we’ll have one master per part.
Without further ado, let’s get our Aes in gear!
(Update will come tomorrow and this will move to the blog section, along with part 2!)
Will it? Will it really? 😛
– Aesma and the Three Masters –
(And The Lessons She Never Learned from Them)
There came a time when YISUN and their disciple, Aesma, came to be in YISUN’s speaking house, which was often host to the drunken brawls of the many gods as they engaged in heated, and often bloody debate.
Right off the bat we’ve got a classic myth opening. This is the kind of opening you’d expect to see in the Bible, for example. Though the behaviors on display sound more Norse.
It’s interesting that we’ve got both YISUN, Aesma and the many gods present. That’s not ordinarily compatible with the creation myth we heard from White Chain, unless we’re doing a “YISUN is still there because they are all YISUN and YISUN is everything” sort of thing. That would make Aesma the disciple of all the gods, including herself.
I find it more likely that this is illustrating that not everyone agrees on the finer points of Throne’s religious teachings, which is something I like very much.
The previous night had been no different, and the bronze walls still smoked and glowed with the fury and violence of their words. YISUN, as master of the house, reclined as the servants of that place set about undoing the devastation of the night with tired and practiced ease.
Got any regenerating pigs around?
I love the sense of the servants being really sick of this. “Uggh, they got blood on the highest window again, better get the ladder.”
I assume the servants are also Servants?
Aesma was small in stature, of raw black skin, many teeth, a large mouth, and a bright red tongue. She nurtured an evil and burning passion for dominion over all things, and thus an ugly hunger constantly ruled her otherwise pretty face. YISUN was extremely fond of her, as it was with all ugly children.
Huh. She sounds a lot eviler than I anticipated. That should be fun.
“Master of Masters, King of Kings, Empress of Empresses,” said Aesma greedily, “Who is the most powerful of your servants?”
And so YISUN spoke, “That would be the goose.”
“The goose?” said Aesma wonderingly.
“The goose,” confirmed YISUN in their infinite wisdom.
For this had been the topic of the night before, and none in attendance had been fit to answer it, for each of them loudly proclaimed themselves king over the other.
Snow White and the Seven Golden Apples of Ásgard, coming soon to a cinema near you.
YISUN had declined to make a judgment, as was the manner, so Aesma was surprised when YISUN shook from their reverie.
“Plainly, it is a difficult question,” said YISUN, pondering, “but I would have to say my three Masters of space-time, aesthetic, and ethics.”
“Why they!” said Aesma, fuming.
Space-time, aesthetic and ethics. Not your usual trio of fundamental elements, but I can dig it.
A Master of space-time being powerful is a given. A Master of ethics seems like they’d be more wise than powerful, but maybe they can adjust what’s perceived as ethical and manipulate the world that way. Aesthetics is certainly an odd one, but again, perception can make a huge difference.
“They have been my disciples for at least 30 kalpas, they have studied well my teachings, and each is the holder of an absolute and insurmountable truth, “spoke YISUN, gravely, “If you are so discontent you may find them on the road and challenge them if you wish.”
And so we have our quest.
Holders of absolute and insurmountable truths, huh. I take it the Lessons She Never Learned involve those truths, and they will be the reasons she can’t win each challenge.
Without a word Aesma rudely snatched up Pedam’s walking stick, which could hop thirty leagues at a time, and Akaroth’s feather cloak, which could ride winds both interstellar and terrestrial, and bashing aside servants in her mad scramble, she leapt to the edge of that house and rode the void to the road of the Ruling King.
I continue to get major Norse vibes from this myth.
The road of the Ruling King. Again, the timeline here is incompatible with the mythology White Chain taught us, which is fun.
Unless of course the in-universe writers meant where the King’s Road lies today. If this story has been handed down orally, that might be why it ended up like this, even if the original made no reference to the King’s Road.
Pedam’s walking stick’s power sounds familiar. Ah, yes: In an old fairy tale called Askeladden and the Good/Seven Helpers, one of the titular Helpers has the power of super speed, running to the end of the world in a matter of minutes. In some tellings, that’s attributed to his boots, having the power to travel seven miles (which kind of miles that is, I’m not sure) in a single step, resulting in “wearing seven-mile boots” being an idiom referring to running fast.
There are other mythological speed artifacts that could apply, like Hermes’ winged shoes, but the specificity of the distance makes me think of the seven-mile boots first and foremost.
Thirty leagues is about twice as far as seven modern European miles.
– Aesma and the Master of Space-time –
Almost immediately Aesma found the estate of the Master of space-time, a lunar domain of immense proportions. It was incredibly hard to miss the Master, as he was a man thirty stories tall, with skin speckled as a night sky, and in his tangled hair, among his shaggy brow, and scattered in his great knotted beard were a multitude of burning stars.
I mean I know giants are a thing in mythology, but are we sure this guy isn’t an Endbringer? He kind of sounds like an Endbringer.
Maybe he’s a little too humanoid for that, I suppose.
He had served for uncounted centuries as chief architect of the gods after attaining his mastery, and even now was building a mighty dark tower greater than any mountain, and the clangs of his immense silver chisel shivered Aesma’s bones as she approached. But she had little regard for his mighty stature as a furious mischief was in her.
The tower reminds me of the Tower of Babel, but he seems to be working on it alone. The entire point of the Tower of Babel story is that it’s only made possible by communication and cooperation, so it’s not really applicable in this description of a single entity being powerful enough to do this on his own. Beyond the superficial “they’re both big towers”, of course.
I like where “furious mischief” seems to be going.
“Ho there! A Godling! Young Aesma is it?” boomed the Master of space-time, and as he turned his sweat drops scattered the earth like mighty boulders.
“I have heard you are the strongest of YISUN’s disciples,” said Aesma viciously, “How can that be true?”
“From whom?” spoke the Master, furrowing his brow.
“From YISUN!” danced Aesma, frustrated.
I think I like this guy already.
“Ho!” rumbled the master, and stroked his mustaches. “I suppose it is true then. I have long studied the scope and stretch of YISUN’s work, and through immense effort I have attained knowledge of the shape of all things. Down to the exact nano-angstrom!”
…now that’s a word I’d never expect to see in a story of this genre.
Shape, beauty, morals?
Aesma was disbelieving, but the Master showed her each Planck length of each mountain on his estate.
Notably, a nano-angstrom is still many orders of magnitude larger than the Planck length. Specifically, a nano-angstrom is 0.1 attometers, or 6.187e15 Planck lengths.
And still she was disbelieving, and he showed her the exact number of grains of dust in the universe, and the number of carbon atoms in her body, and the potential shape and shadow of every animal that breathed, swam, flew, or flashed through quantum states.
I wonder how she perceives all of this.
I’m not questioning the possibility of it, especially when assuming this has been filtered through metaphors over centuries of oral tradition, but it’s fun to think about what this would physically be like for her.
Though she is a goddess, so that’s a thing too.
But still she was not content, so the Master set down his mighty chisel with a crack and gestured to the wide plain and bade Aesma look, and showed her the way to look. He bade her bring forth her illuminated consciousness, and she did, and the master was humorously surprised, for it was a small, evil thing, a nasty red coal, and he wondered why she was so favored as YISUN’s disciple.
Yeah, why was that? Is it because of her ambition?
But then he brought forth his own mind and it was as a great celestial blaze, and as he cast it on the landscape before him, Aesma saw it warp and shift, the hills like water that flowed from form to form. The sky cracked and ignited and was replaced by fire and light, and darkness swallowed and disgorged the land like a great bulbous blossom. Aesma realized then that the Master had perfect knowledge not only of the precise shape of things, but also all the shapes they would ever have and be.
Ah, and that’s how the time part of space-time comes into place. Nice.
This is a beautiful description.
“I have attained mastery of the ultimate and insurmountable truth of Form.
The truths of Form… Appearance and Idea? Are we getting into Plato here?
Thus, through my mighty studies I know the exact measure of YISUN’s work, the way it is, and the way it always will be. So my knowledge is all encompassing, and perfection is my breath,” said the Master. “Even small things such as yourself, young Aesma,” he said with a jovial wink.
I definitely like this guy.
“What are you building?” said Aesma, with dark intent, as a furious scheme was bubbling to the top of her evil mind.
Ooh boy, here we go…
“My Panopticon,” said the Master of Space-time proudly, and clapped the stone of his construction with a sound that shook the dust from the seven corners of the multiverse, “the ultimate observatory.
Panopticon. I like the name. From where you can see everything.
Though my knowledge is limitless, my sight is regretfully less so. With this I will contemplate all things at once, and I will truly be the highest in the land. I will have no need for mundane struggles once I can contemplate all of infinity!”
Be very careful with that. There’s a guy in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who can vouch for the fact that seeing all of the universe at once can be kind of… overwhelming.
But what do I know? I’m just a lowly mortal mistake of Aesma’s.
“That’s stupid!” said Aesma, and kicked the dark construction, stubbing her delicate toes. Her yelp of pain set the master to chuckling mightily as this poor vicious girl, but then Aesma shot him a ferocious glance and asked a stupid question.
I love the mixture of modern comedy into this genre. 😛
“If you know the shape of everything, what is the shape of the universe!” said she.
The Master scoffed humorously at this precocious question. “Well clearly, I know it from the inside!” he said.
A stupid question it may be, but this is genuinely a big one being studied in the real world by cosmologists.
I’m a little partial to the three-dimensional surface of a four-dimensional balloon.
“How can you know the shape of anything if you only look at it from the inside!” snapped Aesma, evilly, and the Master gave a great booming laugh that shook stars from his beard, and as they crashed to the dust in great fiery trails, Aesma had to scamper to dodge them.
I really wonder how much, if any, of this literally happened. This particular bit strikes me as a simile turned metaphor turned literal belief, followed by later retellings adding Aesma’s reaction to the literal falling of stars from the Master’s beard.
“Can a man bend his eyes to look at his own face? What an odd question!” said the Master, “It has no outside shape, little one, and thus it is and will always be so.”
“I’ll take a look and tell you, worm!” spat Aesma, and she tore off her clothes wildly.
“What are you doing?” rumbled the Master, bemusedly, but before he could finish, Aesma had planted her feet and took a great hot breath.
Is she about to try to go outside the universe?
Her skin puckered and her chest swelled and her small wicked form grew outwards suddenly to fifteen stories tall. The sudden change disoriented her, and she fell over, denting a mountain.
The master chuckled at her idiocy as she huffed and puffed and stumbled about, and went to turn back to his work, but then there was another great breath and Aesma swelled monstrously, to twice the Master’s height.
“Ho! Stop this foolishness!” said the Master, amazed at this idiot girl, but before he could say another word, she took another mighty breath and swelled to ten times the Master’s height. The mountains shuddered and the Master’s great unfinished tower shivered as though struck.
I really love the bits where the narration drops the pretense and just calls Aesma an idiot repeatedly. 😛
Now true worry gripped the Master, and he shouted for Aesma to stop, but her monstrous, straining face grew further away as she grew to a hundred times the Master’s height, and then a thousand, and on the fifth breath the land itself was rent up, and the mountains buckled and warped, and the great stones of the Panopticon were ripped from their foundations in the terrible gale of Aesma’s inhalations.
Who’s afraid of the big, black Aesma? She’ll huff and puff and suck your observatory down…
Hey, so, shouldn’t he have known this would happen? Knowing the form of all things, past, present and future, he’d know that the form of the Panopticon would be disturbed.
The Master was dumbstruck, for though his illuminated mind was much larger and fiercer than Aesma, he had not glimpsed this destruction. And still Aesma grew a million times, a hundred billion times larger than the Master, and the stars bent and space-time itself warped with her great weight. Finally, it gave way, and Aesma tumbled through and outside creation.
Did he not know this was going to happen simply because it was so unpredictable it fell outside the scope of his knowledge?
And then Aesma and the Master accidentally fused into one being and had to run off to avoid YISUN’s disapproval, making a life for themselves and collecting frogs and joining a rebellion and
The great clap as she ripped through woke the archons on their flensing tree, and the worms that shivered in Hansa’s corpse outside reality, and the plum garden of YISUN’s speaking house was so shaken it bore very little fruit that year.
What happened to Hansa??
Had Aesma looked then, she would have glimpsed the entirety of existence and non-existence in its totality, and in viewing it she would have discovered the secret name of God, and avoided her maiming by asking YISUN this question some time later.
Non-existence as a physical thing is such a fascinating concept, whichever story it pops up in.
But at that moment, her hubris and pride at her besting of the Master were the only things on her cramped and evil mind, so she gave it but a glance, and discovered that it was somewhat wheel-shaped.
Oh my cod Aesma
This is such a Hitchhiker’s moment, though. I could absolutely see the narration in that series talking about the grand discovery of the shape of the universe and concluding with a non-commital shrug of “eh, it’s kinda wheel-shaped”.
It was extremely cold outside of existence, and Aesma was quite naked, moreover holding so much air in a form so large was quite painful, so she abruptly and quite mindlessly let it go, and plummeted back through the crack in existence and back to the feet of the Master of Space-time, who was thrown around like a leaf in the great storm of her exhalation.
I find it interesting that non-existence itself is cold, because that means non-existence can absorb heat. In reality, the vacuum of space is actually more likely to make you overheat than freeze, because there’s nothing there for excess body heat to conduct out into.
But if we pull back from real physics and look at it in the mindset of the story, we know that everything living in this world is believed to be part of the eternal flame. Everything in existence is tied together by something hot, so the void outside it — not to be confused with the void inside it — is cold.
“Plainly you are not the strongest of YISUN’s disciples!” cackled Aesma, and danced naked and stuck her great red tongue out at the broken and defeated master. “Tell me, as you promised!” implored the Master of space-time, hot tears thundering to the earth like mighty comets, “What is the shape of the universe?”
“It is somewhat wheel-shaped,” said Aesma, which was a completely wrong answer.
It’s getting late and I have a headache and I just reached the end of part 1, so I think I’m going to take the natural stopping point I’ve been given and stop here for the night.
[End of session]
Since you’ve mentioned Goose Game a couple times, I feel obligated to subject you to this:
If you don’t recall, that’s Solomon David who you met briefly in book 1.
A phone booth is not a cage except for those who fear the Goose. A true ruler is the Wielder of Honks. By honks she cuts the world as she pleases, and she cuts herself into greater forms still. She is not shaped by the world, but instead becomes the shaper. There is work to be done. What shape will you choose, hm? Will you choose to be a Goose?
(This is beautiful.)
Let’s get back to the myth!
First, though, there’s an alt text for the first page:
Weeping Aesma, also known as Ashma, rules ambition, greed, and self-sufficiency
Basically Slytherin the goddess.
I find it interesting that this is the goddess credited with the creation of humanity. It ties in nicely with the portrayal of humans in Throne’s history as told by White Chain.
Incidentally, the filename calls her “Aeshma”.
I like the fancy staff.
Let’s see what the Master of Aesthetics has to offer, eh?
(Regular update coming a little slow – sorry! The story is not intended to be a substitute and I won’t make a habit of reverting to text posts. It was meant to be more spaced out with several comic updates. Hopefully I can get the last part up and a comic page for you tomorrow!)
Aesma and the Three Masters
-Part 2:Aesma and the Master of Aesthetic-
Aesma left the Master of space-time humiliated and battered and set upon the road again, but the heat of victory very quickly cooled into the smoldering jealousy that was her usual manner, and she struck on.
Humiliated and battered? Yeeah, about that, Aesma…
Though I suppose he might not actually know that she was wrong about the wheel shape.
The estate of the Master of aesthetics was not difficult to find either. It hung suspended like a brightly glowing jewel in the blackness of the void. Aesma was taken aback as she hurtled closer, for it grew quickly in in her vision into an expansive palace the size of a city, whose shining streets and ways were packed to the brim with admirers and followers of unbelievable shapes and sizes.
Yeah, this sounds like what you’d expect from someone with godly knowledge of aesthetics. A beautiful city-palace.
As Aesma stowed Pedam’s walking stick, she could hardly move without being assailed with a riot of color and sound and personage.
Oh right, the fancy staff would be the 30-league walking stick.
Sprays of brightly plumed dancers spun in the air and sang in speech, thought, and machine code.
Again with the inclusion of modern science into the mythology. And it’s kind of fitting to have machine code alongside thought as fundamental expressions of truth given beauty.
The cafes were thick with serious-faced philosophers and wild, frenetic writers from the seven corners of the multiverse burning a hundred thousand tongues into brightly fired glyphs. Thick-armed artists and poet-engineers packed the streets, perched over glowing canvases, crowds of admirers and assistants gathered around them, goggle-eyed and gaping.
“poet-engineers”? That sounds like a concept I’d love to hear more about. Is that someone who engineers poetry, someone who makes beautiful machinery, or something in-between?
Also, another description that doesn’t necessarily match the timeline as provided by White Chain and Ciocie: “the seven corners of the multiverse”. When the gods were around, the multiverse was divided into 777,777, not 7, so the idea of seven corners would be somewhat arbitrary compared to how it is in the present.
Granted, it’s only slightly more arbitrary than our idea of the four corners.
Any god or man could a spent an age swallowed in the glorious spectacle, but it merely frustrated Aesma, who rudely cleaved her way through the impossible crowds for three days, scavenging from luminous cafes, and using Pedam’s stave to viciously fend off uncounted party invitations.
Oh my cod
Someone: “Hey, wanna party with u–”
Aesma: *suddenly 30 leagues away*
I suppose maybe she used it a different way that wouldn’t put her far outside the city, but still.
So does “any god or man” mean Aesma has created humanity by this point, or is it simply a result of the story’s authors being familiar with humanity and not strictly adhering to her perspective?
But finally, she made her way to the center of that palace, where there was a hall the size of a cavern, filled with rich music, celebrants, and docile animals from a thousand stories.
Are those stories real, or are fictitious animals here simply because this master’s domain includes stories?
As she smacked and wrenched her way through man, beast, and admirer alike, she came upon a large, beautiful pool, and there seated upon the water was the Master of Aesthetic.
Aesma was somewhat taken aback, as the riotous chaos of the Master’s estate had led her to expect the Master’s art to be quite shallow. But the Master herself was an extremely plain looking woman, dressed almost completely naked in a simple wrapping cloth, her skin and eyes a dull white, her head and brow shaved, and Aesma immediately understood the power she was dealing with.
(She’s from Prospit.)
Hmm. Dull white eyes. Is she blind?
“YISUN tells me you are the strongest of their disciples,” spoke Aesma, striding across the pool like a great ugly, disheveled bird, and seating herself on the water.
“Young Aesma, who has trumped that gigantic clown, the Master of space-time,” said the Master of aesthetic in a perfectly unremarkable voice. “What an odd question. Did you not stay and observe my estate before coming here?” she added.
So she knows what happened over there. Hearsay seems unlikely considering no one appeared to witness it. Can she see all beauty in the universe remotely?
Also, Aesma didn’t actually ask a question yet. Unless she means the question Aesma posed to YISUN?
“I don’t have time for such frivolity when my reputation is on the line!” fumed Aesma,
The Master made a subtle motion and bread and liquor were brought for Aesma, who also loudly demanded flesh.
“It is so,” said the master as they sipped their liquor.
I D E M A N D F L E S H
“How so!” said Aesma quickly.
“Though I have sacrificed much, I have attained mastery of the ultimate and insurmountable truth of Art, “the Master said, “No movement of mind, muscle, or voice is unknown to me. I can measure sorrow, or joy, or pain, or love as plainly as the fingers of my hand. I have laid bare the great filaments of color and sound that connect all life in the multiverse, and I may pluck upon them as I please. Perfection is my breath.”
Art is such a wide topic that having mastery of it is very, very powerful. No wonder she’s among YISUN’s supposed most powerful.
Of course it’s always a possibility that YISUN only named the ones they thought Aesma needed to learn something from.
“Nonsense! Any fool can say what Art is!” protested Aesma, chewing.
Tell that to the fools you created who spent thousands of years trying to come to a consensus on that.
“My face is said to be beautiful to many!” she said, contorting her expression so her face resembled the shy, demure, maid that she never was. The crowd of onlookers gasped, so sudden was the transformation.
“But for me,” she said, relaxing her expression into her usual demonic countenance, “It is a hideous face of weakness.”
“Have you not seen my estate, my Palace of Resonance?” said the Master. “It is the ultimate cynosure, my final work. Until the end of days the greatest minds and artists will flock here in hope of drinking of my perfection, but never attain it.”
Aesma conceded that she had not seen the estate.
Is it called the Palace of Resonance because it resonates with the beauty of the universe itself?
“Show me your illuminated mind,” commanded the Master in her perfectly normal voice. Aesma did, and the Master was shocked at how writhing and wicked it was. She quickly resolved to give Aesma some tutelage. Motioning for Aesma to follow, she walked out into the city-palace.
So I guess this is a recurring thing. In another story, her illuminated mind might grow a bit less writhing and wicked in each appearance, but this is the story of the lessons she never learned.
Aesma quickly realized that in her hurry to find the Master, she had made a critical oversight. The Palace itself was more than an estate, it was a gallery of monumental proportions, whose architecture thrummed with a harmony that she felt in her bones.
“We will start,” said the Master, “with a work to your liking.”
Wait, is Aesma actually acknowledging a mistake of her own?
They stopped at a grand, worn looking theatre. Inside they lingered and ordered drinks while a comedian began a ballad of bawdy poetry. “Of my design,” said the Master, and as the poem progressed, Aesma, though reticent, quickly found herself unable to contain her mirth. By the end, most of the audience was in stitches on the floor, and Aesma’s sides were raked raw from laughing. “A fine work,” conceded Aesma, “but not perfect!”
Ooh, is the fundamental truth of art that there’s no such thing as true perfection in it? People will come to the Palace in hopes of attaining the Master’s perfection, but they can’t, because perfection is unattainable due to the subjective nature of art?
“An early work,” said the Master slyly, and they progressed to a grand golden dome, where they watched an opera of the Master’s design and ordered increasingly more expensive liquor. At first, Aesma was merely amused by the opera, a simple work about a heroine’s conquest of her fears.
And her rise to the position of queen of the multiverse, all springing from her search for her kidnapped boyfriend?
But as the work progressed, she found herself increasingly more involved in the plot, which dragged her from emotional high to emotional low, hooked into her throat so tightly that it was raw from screaming from joy and fear. And by the end, she realized that the opera had been written about her, Aesma. It truly was perfection.
So either a) Aesma is reading too much into how much she relates to this story, or b) she too is ruled by her fears, I’d say specifically fears of inadequacy, weakness and irrelevance. Earlier, she even admitted that she saw her own face as a “hideous face of weakness”, possibly speaking to some self-loathing.
“Very well!” conceded Aesma, hoarsely, as they proceeded onwards. By now they had gathered a tail three leagues long of admirers and followers. “But my earlier point still stands,” she continued, gathering her wits, “Aesma has enjoyed your work. But who’s to say she will enjoy the next.”
You just want to see more at this point, don’t you?
They went on to observe a humid subterranean dance, a rhythmic, pulsating affair. Aesma found very little pleasure in it, and was about to crown herself victorious, when the Master spoke.
“It is true what you said before,” said the master, “that Art is a matter of perspective. So is reality. The Master of space-time was a fool precisely because he failed to see this. No matter how deep he looked, he could only see with his own eyes, the consummate fool.”
Ooh. Was I onto something?
I like that the Master who focuses on the subjective doesn’t seem to like the guy who claims full knowledge of objective form.
“I have also mastered perspective, “she said, “so I will teach you the way to change your form and the shape of your earthly mind, and the color of my meaning will become known to you.”
So we’ve got the Masters of how things are, of how you see things, and of… how you interact with things?
They changed their form and bearing to two bearded youths, young men, and it wasn’t long before Aesma felt a stirring in her root and a quickening in her chest. The dance had a perfect effect on her male form.
Ah yes, her “root”.
So they transformed into a form that would make Aesma temporarily be into the dance / the gender of the dancers?
“Blast you!” she spat.
“You will see nothing is unknown to me,” said the Master, laughing heartily, “Meaning is the essence of existence, and it is a tapestry I weave at my pleasure.”
Because Meaning is a part of Perspective. It’s what you see in existence to make it worth living.
They spent the rest of the week like that, moving from dance, to art born in light and blood, to song, to music, to performance, to transcendental math, such staggering works as Aesma felt a lifetime pass with each one. Each time they shifted from form to form like the flickering of a candle. Sometimes they were beasts, drinking in the perfection of a fresh kill, sometimes they tuned their ears to trans-dimensional winds. They lived as masochists, as beggars, as kings, as gods, as men, as women, as hermaphrodites, as worms, as stars.
I like this. It’s weird in the good way that comes with myths sometimes, and it’s genuinely a very good way of illustrating the point that different types of art are all valuable, just to different people.
The time wicked away like quicksilver, and soon, having gathered a crowd that trailed behind them nearly the length of the palace, they retired to the pool at the center of it all. Aesma near collapsed from exhaustion, and quickly demanded copious liquor to cure her hangover.
Aesma seems to be drinking a lot in this one. Careful, Aesma, don’t drink so much you forget all of it.
The Master was wholly unaffected and reclined in the center of her pool in her perfectly plain flesh.
“So you see,” said the Master, “I have mastered Meaning in all its forms and perspectives. My insight is the deepest there is, and so all come to bask in my perfection. That is why I am the strongest of YISUN’s disciples.”
So that’s the closing statement. How will Aesma attempt to one-up her?
“Now I am sure YISUN keeps you close out of amusement or pity,” continued the Master, “but if you wish to improve your meager talent, I will allow you to present yourself as my student.”
“Die screaming,” croaked Aesma, and the hot fire of jealousy gathered itself within her, and she spat out another stupid question.
“If you understand so deeply, then what is the universal Art?” said Aesma wickedly.
“There is none,” said the Master, untroubled.
“There must be one!” said Aesma, fire rising in her heart, “What’s all this about meaning if there isn’t anything universal about it!”
That sounds like something the Master of space-time might have already argued.
“I had thought it to be love, or perhaps lovemaking,” said the Master, dismissive, “But of course, universal thinking is shallow, did I not tell you this? Meaning and existence are exercises of self. So it is, and always will be. You should know this, Aesma.”
Sorry, Master, did you not read the subtitle of the myth?
“Of course there’s one, you smug fop!” spat Aesma, and rage began to bubble up in her boiling mind. “I’ll find it, here!”
“I have little time for the unworthy,” said the Master, and made to call for her servants to cast out Aesma. But before the Master could even extend her littlest finger, Aesma let loose a wild howl and began to tantrum.
Ah yes, the universal art of toddler rage.
“I’ll show you!” she roared, and clothed herself in death. “I’ll find you a universal Art in the ruins of your palace!!” Her tongue lolled, and her eyes weeped blood, and she spat fire and tore out of the pool.
And heavy metal album covers.
She began to rip apart the docile animals there, and their cries of pain brought a hundred martial artists from the crowd, who made to stop her. But Aesma in her destroyer form was a fiendish creature with thirty five arms and three ancillary battle consciousnesses, whose skin was plated like iron and gave off acrid smoke that seared the weak.
Ancilliary battle consciousnesses? What?
Does that mean you have to knock her unconscious three times before she actually goes down?
Thirty-five is a fun number of arms.
We’ve got the goddess of ambition, greed and self-sufficiency destroying art. Analogy for capitalistic limitations on art, like executive meddling or lack of funding?
She beat them bloody and then ran amok in the crowd, breaking and slashing and hurling men and women from fifty thousand worlds to and fro, destroying priceless works of art millennia in the making, and generally making a mess of things.
“Generally making a mess of things” is Aesma’s default state of being.
Her rampage lasted three days and only ceased when the Master herself sallied forth from her pool with thirty five mendicant saints who impaled Aesma on puresilver lances. Her berserk rage finally draining from her body, Aesma conceded.
“Why do you tear up my house, you wretched thing!” said the Master.
“To find the universal Art!” howled Aesma.
Took you long enough, Master.
There’s 35 again. Is that a sacred number as a multiple of 7?
“There is no such thing, stupid girl,” said the Master, and Aesma dealt her a single blow across the face. And as the Master was struck, she realized terribly and immediately that Aesma was right.
The art… of violence? The one art which instills the same sensation on everyone, a sensation of pain?
Although Aesma in her blind rage did not realize it, she had spoken with a language understood by all the great men, artists, beasts, philosopher-kings, angels and poets from a million worlds gathered at the Master’s estate.
“The universal art is violence,” said the Master, shocked.
“Aha!” said Aesma in sudden realization.
The master could say nothing.
See, while the whole thing with the Master of space-time may have been less of a victory than Aesma thinks, this one is genuinely Aesma teaching the Master something she had not realized about her field.
Though not exactly through wisdom.
Reach heaven through the universal art.
“I told you!” Aesma cackled, as she was dragged away, and thrown off the shattered and burning Palace into the void.
“That’s awful,” said the Master.
Her body drooped and crumpled, and all the lights in her beautiful glowing palace slowly died as she dragged herself to her pool, which had grown an ugly shade, and wept.
Yeah, that… that sounds like a fair reaction.
(Capitalism draining joy from Art…)
It was said that Aesma never learned a lesson, which was true until she lost her sight from viewing the universe. Then she had learned one.
Lost her sight? I don’t recall her losing her sight from that.
Maybe it wasn’t immediate.
It’s time to wrap this up!
we gettin’ 20% mythier
I forgot this page actually has two parts. I suppose part 4 is likely an epilogue of sorts, describing the results of her journey.
Ooh, this one’s animated. Does the mask / face-change illustrate the outcome of the story? If anything it looks like she only manages to become even more evil.
Is that the fruit of life she’s holding?
Also worth noting: She has three arms now, whereas the previous arts of her had two. Artistic license or actual development? All I know is it looks great for dancing.
Is… is that blood on her feet?
Maybe she just stepped in ketchup. Or landed feet-first on a rock with some berries hanging over it.
So what can I expect from the Master of Ethics? Following the patterns, they’ll claim absolute understanding of the field and illustrate that knowledge to Aesma extensively, only for Aesma to ask a question that the Master believes is unanswerable and do something stupid to answer it.
Ethics, and philosophy in general, is almost as subjective as aesthetics, but the difference is stupid questions actually belong there. Judging by Aesma’s track record, her “stupid question” might be looking for an objective meaning of existence or a Kant-esque absolute imperative that applies to every situation. But the thing is, like the shape of the universe, those are things philosophers who were arguably worth their salt have taken seriously for centuries.
The Master of Ethics is likely to be even more horrified by Aesma’s wicked and small enlightened mind than the other two.
Let’s see how this goes!
-Aesma and the Three Masters-
(And the Lessons She Didn’t Learn from Them)
PART 3: The Master of ethics
Flush with victory and battle, Aesma took to the road again with extremely little regard for the beautiful community of light and sound she had so violently shattered, and with ignorant glee, she whistled as she rode the void in search of the Master of ethics.
I suppose I failed to explicitly mention it, but the city-palace of the Master of aesthetics kind of reminded me of Mottom’s palace right from the start. So this kind of ends up paralleling where Allison is by the point I’m at in the comic proper — ripping apart Mottom’s community and palace and escaping with little regard for the consequences.
I wonder if the other two Masters parallel anything that’s going to happen later in the comic. Maybe the Master of space-time might parallel Jagganoth.
The estate of the Master was easy to find, as it lay atop a shining mountain whose peak was so tall it could be seen from near all creation.
Well, that’s a handy landmark.
Aesma scoffed at such an obstacle and with a mighty stroke of Pedam’s thirty league stave, flung herself to the top. But as she spun up its sides, she saw up its slopes were crawling with grand streams of men, beasts, and demigods.
This sounds familiar. We’ve got a mountain monk situation, with people coming to seek their advice, then?
And when she reached the top she beheld a great cacophony, a heaving sea of pilgrims, and rising majestically out of the center was a great shining temple of unbelievable breadth and width, with a peculiar shape that Aesma couldn’t quite make out.
Almost immediately Aesma was smashed to and fro by a mass of bodies of every color, shape, and gender imaginable, and the discordant litany of a thousand tongues nearly deafened her. Irate, she swept the legs out from a broad swathe of pilgrims a kilometer wide with a single swipe of Pedam’s stave, and questioned them viciously as they crawled about in pain.
So the staff can, in addition to the travel capabilities, do the Jack Slash thing? Or maybe that’s just Aesma’s own power as a goddess, applied to the staff.
“Where is the Master of ethics!” she spat, lashing the prostrate pilgrims as they clutched their bleeding shins. Among them Aesma couldn’t see a single unified creed or dogma. There were bell-ringing pilgrims, and cat-burning pilgrims, and hands-and-feet beating pilgrims (who were crying in joy at the exquisite beating Aesma had dealt them), and many more besides.
Ah yes, devout followers of masochism.
Don’t try any of this at home, kids. Not even the bell-ringing.
“Ask the holy men!” cried the pilgrims, and Aesma saw that sprouting from the mighty temple’s base were an uncounted number of smaller temples, growing like ugly ornamented mushrooms as though to squash the life out of each other. So with the hook of Pedam’s stave, she lifted thirty of them clean off their foundations and shook them vigorously until a number of ruddy, sweating priests fell out.
Okay, yeah, that stave is really powerful. Where can I get one?
“Begone demon!” the priests wailed in unison, grasping for various holy symbols, so Aesma gave them a drubbing with her stave.
I’m pretty sure this is the first time we’ve heard anyone in Throne referred to as a “demon”, Allison’s other name and/or royal order notwithstanding.
“Where is the Master of ethics!” she said, picking her nose as she sat upon a holy man’s chest.
At least she’s not using the stave to pick her nose. That might not end well.
“He is the holiest of holies and has hidden himself from the sight of the wicked!” gasped the priest in great pain, for Aesma’s evil body was heavier than iron and hotter than a forge, “and ye shall never learn the secret way to pass unto his ultimate truth!”
Are we doing this by proxy or are these priests only obstacles before actually reaching the Master?
So Aesma rapped him in the stones, and resolved to ask a dog, as they were far more reliable than both pilgrims and holy men.
Rachel Lindt agrees.
“He is in the temple of 109 chambers,” said the dog, “each holier than the one before, and only the successively more pure of heart may pass through.”
One hundred and nine? I know 108 has some religious significance in Japan, but 109? Maybe it’s just because there are 108 chambers and then one more.
Aesma kicked the dog, and turned to go,
Of course she did.
but the dog said, “By the law of dogs, you must carry my burden for a single day. And so I grant you my fleas, so I may rest a single night,” and all the fleas of the dog jumped to Aesma and she howled and scratched and struck at the dog, but the law of dogs was exceptionally strong, and so she could do naught but mutter angrily at being tricked as she pressed on.
t h e l a w o f d o g s
w a s e x c e p t i o n a l l y s t r o n g
As Aesma closed in on the temple, she saw that it took the form of an immense lantern, with shining gates for its apertures, and through one of those gates she could gaze all the way through its 109 chambers to a tiny pinprick of light.
*waves to the Master*
Is he the source of all the light?
She sprang through the first gate, but was immediately set upon by a great flock of ten thousand multicolored priests, who slammed the second gate shut before her.
“You may progress no further,” shrieked the priests as they flapped about her, “until you have performed the sacred rituals and proven yourself worthy!”
I like how the priests are portrayed kinda like wild seagulls. It sounds like they’re kind of like harpies, but good.
“What are they?” grumbled Aesma, beating priests off her ankles.
Oh my cod they’re actually seagull-sized I love them
But the ten thousand priests gave ten thousand answers. Some of them claimed Aesma needed to cleanse the ghosts of her past lives, others claimed she must douse herself in virgin’s blood, others still required her to stick pins through every hand length of her body.
The challenges depend on who you ask because that’s how ethics works. Nice allegory, a good way of teaching hopeful visitors about the subjectivity of ethics and… how you have to figure out your ethics for yourself? Is that how she proceeds, by finding her own way to do good?
Soon the priests’ disagreement turned to rage and they set upon each other, and still would not let Aesma pass.
This might be the clearest statement on religion K6BD has had so far, despite being so thoroughly based on it.
But Aesma had little time for this foolishness, so she plucked ten-thousand feathers from Akaroth’s cloak, and breathed fire into them, and each became a perfect copy of her evil body, which performed the rituals requested with terrifying quickness, and dissolved into ash.
…sure, why not.
Bested, the battered priests unlocked the gate, and Aesma leapt through into the next chamber.
Immediately, Aesma was set upon by a great crowd of nine thousand shaven monks, all requesting she chant a different mantra to pass, each proclaiming the other charlatan. And as before, spitting curses, she plucked nine-thousand feathers from Akaroth’s cloak, and up sprung her simulacra, and she continued.
How many feathers does the cloak have?
So it progressed, from monks, to hierophants, to bearded sages, to ten-thousand year old yogis. And eventually Aesma ran out of feathers in that great cloak, and it was scattered to nothing, so she began to use the threads of her clothing.
Not enough, apparently.
And when her clothing was likewise spent, she turned to hairs on her body. And when she was plucked completely hairless, she turned to eyelashes.
This has “stripper plucks off all her clothes and then her flesh to become a sexy skeleton” vibes.
Finally, Aesma came to the 107th chamber. The walls were silver, and inside were ten beautiful, glowing youths, wearing only transcendental smiles and silence.
They sound a lot more pleasant than the untitled priests, but maybe the problem here will be that they’re too silent. Each chamber before this one had mentors of ethics arguing between them about what must be done, with Aesma using her simulacra to take the “all of the above” option without harm to herself. But now, two chambers before reaching the Master, she might be faced with a chamber where the mentors don’t tell her what they want her to do.
Yet still they could not agree, and they motioned to ten scrolls, where ten ancient koans were written, and each bade her read a different one. But Aesma, raw, naked, itching from the fleas that still clung to her skin, was quite irate, and instead dealt them a wicked lashing with Pedam’s stave and dove into the next room before they could recover.
Okay, so not yet if that is one of the challenges. Let’s see what the last room has to offer.
In the 108th chamber, the walls were gold, and there were five wise and august elders seated on five golden thrones, wielding scepters of command, with tongues of brass and curled beards of iron. Behind each elder was a different golden door to pass through to the final chamber.
Well, that fucks with her “all of the above” approach, even if she found another hair to pull out.
(Speaking of which, how are the fleas hanging on? Oh, right, they’re hanging on by the exceptional power of the law of dogs.)
“Out with ye, devil!” proclaimed the elders in solemn voice, “never shall thou learn the secret way into the final chamber, for thy soul is black as midnight!”
“I am Aesma the Destroyer, you old fools! Your reward for your impudence is my greatstaff,” snapped Aesma, thoroughly sick of this whole scenario, and swung Pedam’s walking stick and caved the whole wall in, though with a mighty flash the famous stave shattered into 50 smoldering pieces, which were later gathered by the pilgrims fleeing that place and still burn to this day.
Aww, I was starting to like the stave.
Pilgrims fleeing? Sounds like Aesma is about to do her thing.
When I started this part, I caught a flash of the alt text, and while I actively tried to avoid actually reading it, it looked like it might say “Reach heaven through violence”. The Master of ethics might not be heaven, but that is pretty much what Aesma is doing at this point.
And… it’s what the humans invading Throne did. Aesma’s mistakes.
So plucked raw, and clad only in fleas, Aesma leapt into the final chamber, which was full of light and sweet music.
Is the Master of ethics even humanoid? Maybe he’s so enlightened that he literally turned into light.
Aesma knew immediately that the Master of ethics was the most powerful of the three Masters, and truly the holiest of holies. They were a hermaphrodite of pure, blazing, gold-brown skin, with long, glossy black hair, a perfect smile, and crowned with flowers and fire.
Damn it, I kinda internally called that the Master might be a “they” since we’ve had one he and one she, but then everyone went and used “he”. Maybe that’s indicating that none of the priests actually knew the Master? Unless it’s a case of the Master being male-presenting intersex.
They sat hovering in the golden air ringed with nineteen virginal attendant demigods who swooned and sang choruses of praise.
Can Aesma tell they’re virginal on sight?
Aesma was struck with wonderment, for the great light of Truth emanated from the 109th chamber, and she was surprised she had not seen it before. The pulsing light scoured her blackened mind, and she felt strong and sudden trepidation.
Oh boy. Her wicked mind was not ready for this.
The Master of ethics did not befoul their perfect lips with air, but instead smiled in five ways as they spoke with a mind-voice that rung with eons.
“I have heard of your defeat of the the other Masters,” they said, intoning gloriously and knowingly. It is true that I am the strongest of YISUN’s disciples.”
Aesma scrabbled against the great light in that room, and sucked her itching hands.
“How so?” said she.
Straight to the point.
Though with a little stutter on “the the other Masters”. 😛
Re: parallels to the Demiurges, the Master of ethics so far reminds me most of Incubus, though conceptually Solomon is more likely to be relevant.
“The Master of space-time was mighty, but his gaze was singular. The Master of aesthetics had a broader gaze, but still she looked outwards. These were their fatal flaws. I have looked inward,” said the Master of ethics, making a small gesture of humility and song, and their virgin attendants gasped in wonderment.
Each Master speaks as though the previous were not just upstaged, but outright killed.
The form of all things, the beauty of all things, the heart of all things?
“It is only through mastery of the internal self that we may master the external self. Now all who gaze upon my temple may learn the righteous way.”
Aesma tremored at that, for the light of that great temple seemed very powerful indeed.
“I have studied YISUN’s teachings,” the Master continued, “and every holy text produced by man or mind besides. I have aligned my sight and every aspect of my being away from violence and towards gloriousness and the moral right of all consciousness. Therefore I have mastered the ultimate and insurmountable truth of Truth itself, and perfection is my breath.”
Did you hear of how Aesma defeated the Master of aesthetics, through the art of violence?
“Aesma, I pity you, for though you wallow in it, I have excised myself from struggle. I have never committed an act of violence in my life,” said the Master sadly, and all their attendants wept.
“Nonsense!” spat Aesma, incredulous.
Hmmm. Is Aesma going to prove to the Master that they have done it in some fashion? Perhaps the “violence” in imposing their morals on others or something.
“No, it’s true,” the Master said, casting their infinite eyes downwards, “I was born immaculately from the lotus that sprang from YISUN’s right eye, and so caused no mother pain.
Embracing the Buddha references, I see.
From birth I had the knowledge of a full grown man or woman, and so taught myself to regulate the flow of my consciousness to never require food or drink.”
Master of Ethics: “Not gonna lie, though, I could kill for a good hamburger sometimes.”
Aesma: “I know the feeling. I do that every week.”
Aesma was disbelieving, as the Master continued.
“I was raised by the three legendary beasts that hold up the throne of YISUN. From the Roc, I learned discipline of language, to never harm another by words. From the Behemoth, discipline of body, to perfect my spirit and flesh and never raise hand to man or beast. And from the Leviathan, I learned discipline of mind, to purge all evil thoughts before they are formed.”
…look, I can’t just not imagine the throne of YISUN being held up by the Endbringers.
These clearly just happen to be based on the same trio of mythical beasts the Endbringers are based on (although the roc is separate from the simurgh, but so is the ziz and the Simurgh in Worm still has that as an alternate name), but still.
Though cowed and squinting, Aesma was incredibly irritated by the singing and swooning of the Master’s virginal entourage, and her bites itched hotly, and so she asked yet another stupid question.
Stupid question time! 😀
“Then why are you still here, you self-righteous twit? If you’re so holy, isn’t it selfish of you to stick around?” she hissed, enraged at the purity of this luminous being.
“Truly, I wish to sublime,” said the deity, and their attendants bowed their heads in pity, “but the single selfishness I allow myself is to exist. I alone am the sustainer of this great light of Truth that shines here in this temple, by which men may learn enlightenment, the beacon that can be seen from all corners of the universe! Without my teaching, a great darkness would surely wash over creation.”
Except you hide yourself away such that only those who are already ridiculously enlightened, or resourceful like Aesma, can come to you. You’re not actually helping anyone, are you?
At this Aesma was confused, for the light had seemed quite small when she stood outside the temple, and she had barely perceived it until now. But still, she could find no fault with the Master’s words, and fumed and gnashed her teeth in defeat.
No, no, you’ve got it, Aesma. Their light shines brightly, but they hide it away for no good reason.
“Why do you hold so much pain in your heart, Aesma?” spoke the Master gently. “Open your illuminated mind to me, so I may help you align yourself with righteousness.”
Aesma obeyed, and the Master beheld the painful red embers of Aesma’s mind, and saw how twisted and writhing it was. Such was the intense pity in their perfect breast at this wretched sight that they wept tears of pure crystal, and they took a single golden step earthwards, reaching out towards Aesma.
The Master’s golden skin naturally reminded me of Scion already, but this in particular makes me think of Scion’s first appearance.
But at that precise moment, exactly a day had passed, and the fleas on Aesma’s body, as bound by the law of dogs, ended their tenancy in all directions at once.
by the law of dogs, EJECT
And as the Master’s perfect and supple foot touched the ground, in their great pity and distraction, they quite carelessly stepped upon a single flea and crushed the life out of it.
Good fucking job, Aesma. 😛 You brought them down to your level, physically, and it immediately fucked up their streak.
Immediately the nineteen attendants of the Master screamed and pointed and laughed at the Master’s momentary transgression Their faces became ugly with shock and horror, and they danced about, wailing.
I like the mixture of shock, horror and schadenfreude in this. Some of these attendants are clearly pleased to see the Master fucking up for a change.
The Master was stunned by their careless behavior and thoughtless actions at the Master’s minor breach of self, and cast their great, shining mind upon them, and was struck dumb, for though the attendants had spent their infinite lives at the Master’s side, the Master could see that not a fraction of the great light of Truth had penetrated their souls, and their minds still teemed with impurity.
The Master is not impressed.
And these are the people who have spent time in the inner sanctum. The Master can deal with accidentally breaking their streak of perfection, but that’s the part that’s going to break them. The fact that even those followers haven’t internalized their light of Truth, let alone those who can only see a faint glimmer of it from the outside.
With great consternation, the Master flew rapidly to the 108th chamber of the great temple, where the five august elders lay battered, and saw that not a single scrap of the great light of Truth had penetrated this room at all. So they strode with increasing concern to the 107th chamber, where the ten youths lay groaning, and saw that not one iota of the great light of Truth had even entered through even the door way.
Like I said. You boast of spreading the light through creation with your presence, but you’ve been hiding it away.
And so the Master strode, from chamber to chamber, hurtling through each shimmering gate in horror, and each time the already dim light of Truth grew increasingly dimmer. And finally the Master exited the temple, and saw the heaving discord outside, and cast out their mind with an awesome heat and glorious fire that nearly flattened the ground itself.
Ooh, is it the Master who does the destruction this time?
But as they stood, golden, with molten sweat dripping off their perfect form, they could not detect one speck the great light of Truth anywhere outside that temple in the entirety of creation.
“How could this be?” gasped the Master, but as they turned, they saw that, although already hardly visible, the light in the temple was sputtering and dying. Planting their golden feet, the Master hooked into their transcendent consciousnesses and swallowed the stars, and directed their immense and dread will towards the light.
Is this supposed to be the mythical explanation for why there appear to be no stars in the void’s sky?
But no matter how hard they burned with glorious incandescent power, the light grew dimmer, and dimmer, and as it flickered, a great murmur went up amongst those inside and outside the temple.
“The light in the temple is dying!” murmured the cat-burning pilgrims, squinting.
“Do you see a light, dying there?” said the bell ringing pilgrims, peering into the temple.
Maybe it’ll help if you put some burning cats in the inner sanctum?
“What light?” said the hand-and-foot-beating pilgrims, straining to see.
Eventually there was agreement that there hadn’t really been a light there in the first place, and with that, what little remained of it finally sputtered and vanished as the temple went completely dark.
And so, the Master has been broken.
A great ripple went out through the heaving sea of priests and pilgrims, and ever so slowly, they began to drain out of the temple and off the mountain in great tides, and then streams, and then rivulets.
Finally the nineteen virginal attendants ran shrieking past the straining Master, holding up their robes, and pattered their way down the rocks. A dog came close, and sat, and scratched its haunches.
I see the fleas have returned to their owner.
Minus one, of course.
Then, at the very last, Aesma stumbled out of the blackened temple, goggling in disbelief.
“You!” gaped the Master, “What have you done?”
Wait, did she actually attack the light while the Master was gone?
“Truly, nothing!” protested Aesma, and the Master realized then that they had never sustained the great light of Truth at all, but it had been a false light, fed not by the purity of a single great consciousness blazing outward, but by the gazes of a million small and ignorant minds gazing inward.
Ah, the light of popularity, mistaken for wisdom.
With this terrible realization, the Master sat down heavily in the dust, and for the very first time felt a black twinge of hatred.
“You!” sputtered the Master again.
Aesma didn’t learn this lesson at all, as she was far too hot, itchy, and confused to focus on such trivial things as her enlightenment. She kicked the dog once, and returned its fleas, for which the dog was grateful. Then, scratching her buttocks, she rode the void stark naked.
Of course she still kicks the dog. I love that the dog is grateful to get the fleas back, despite them being its “burden”.
-Aesma and the Three Masters-
(And the Lessons She Never Learned from Them)
PART 4: Aesma in the Speaking House
Let’s see what YISUN thinks of Aesma’s failure to learn a coddamn thing from this experience.
Though Aesma as she traveled was far too ignorant to realize it, a great note of discord had been struck and now rang with terrible fury across the universe. The estates of the three great Masters were shattered and wasted, and, disgraced, they gathered up what few followers they could and their instruments of debate and war, and rode at once to YISUN’s speaking house to vent their anger.
Ooh, or we can watch the Masters come together and complain about Aesma!
“Your oafish disciple Pree Aesma has wrecked my Panopticon,” bellowed the Master of space-time.
“That hideous worm burned my Palace,” sulked the Master of aesthetic, whose skin and clothing had turned the color of bruises, and knotted her lank hair.
“She has scattered my students, and darkened my temple,” wept the Master of ethics, “who now will teach the truth of your Word?”
To be fair, Aesthetic, you didn’t lift a hand to stop her for a week. Doesn’t make it right for her to destroy it, but you do have less right to complain when you just stood by and watched for so long.
At that moment, Aesma returned to the hall, quite oblivious, and a great wail went up amongst those assembled. YISUN motioned for silence and said, “I told Aesma you were my strongest disciples. This was a lie.”
Because they all believed themselves to have nothing left to learn about their fields? Did YISUN sent Aesma their way so that they would learn their lessons?
The three Masters were taken aback by this assertion, and loudly protested, but YISUN continued.
“You, the Master of space-time, are exceptionally strong indeed. But you limit yourself by the shape of what is, and not by the shape you want it to be.”
“You, the Master of aesthetic, are strong as well, but by seeing only beauty you blind yourself.”
“And you,” YISUN said, to the weeping Master of ethics, “are of purest mind and heart, but by looking only inwardly, can not perceive external illusion.”
None of them allowed themselves to see the dark side of their aspects… Space-Time sees Form but not Potential. Aesthetic sees Beauty but not Horror. Ethics sees Truth but not Falsehood. And so none of them see the whole, because the bad is just as important as the good.
“Who is the strongest, then?” clamored the Master of space-time, banging his great chisel with a crash that shook the speaking house, “Let me know them and I will take their measure!” The others echoed the same, and the hall was soon filled with imploring cries.
And then give that measure to Aesthetics, who’ll make clothes for them…
“Plainly, I will tell you,” said YISUN, “it is Pree Aesma.”
“What!” spat Aesma, furious, and the others echoed her sentiment.
“The three of you were content with your mastery, but Aesma is not,” said YISUN.
“But she is an idiot, and a loathsome schemer!” wailed the Master of aesthetic.
“This is true,” said YISUN fondly, “but she carries with her the most powerful mastery, which is the hunger of desire. She is the Master of want.”
The Master of want.
I really like that this is the character who created humans.
The three Masters considered this statement, as there was a lesson in it, and as they were each exceptionally wise, they realized its power, and one by one they slunk away to their ruined estates.
Somebody’s gotta learn a lesson or three, and Aesma’s been racking up a debt.
“What three lessons did you learn, Aesma?” asked YISUN after they had left.
“The universe is somewhat wheel-shaped!” said Aesma, proud.
“Surely, but only from one angle,” said YISUN, amused.
Perception is everything.
“The universal art is violence!” continued Aesma, hotly.
“Truly, but the second and far greater is lying,” said YISUN.
Basically, don’t trust a word YISUN says.
But are not all grand stories elaborate lies?
“The Truth is dependent on those who uphold it!” she finished, stamping her feet.
“There is no such thing as Truth,” said YISUN, “rely on lies instead. They are far more consistent.”
“Why, Lord?” sputtered Aesma.
Lies are more consistent than truth. That’s a really nice quote, especially coming from an “ultimate god”-type character.
“Because we constantly strive to uphold them.”
…the truth is dependent on those who uphold it, as are lies, but people work harder to uphold the lies. Nice.
“What is your meaning, oh lord of lords, oh queen of queens!” growled Aesma, gnashing her white teeth. “You sent me on this fool’s errand!”
Using a simple lie to teach four people their lessons.
It’s worth noting that the subtitle of the story is given in the text as “and the Lessons She Never Learned From Them“. She can still learn lessons from herself in the process of dealing with the Masters, and from YISUN.
“You are a liar, and you have a mind of boiling wicked schemes,” said YISUN, “and for this you are my favored daughter. You alone among my disciples struggle.”
And for struggling, she earns their respect.
“Struggle, Lord?” said Aesma, trying to catch some meaning.
“Struggle is all there is,” said YISUN, “want and struggle are the twin essences of existence, and to rest is death. You are a mercurial fighter, quick of finger, you hate stagnation and thirst terribly for power. You accept the world not as it is but seek greater shapes beyond, and strive fiercely to carve it to your will with the dread instruments of hunger. For this you are my strongest disciple.”
“I still don’t understand,” fumed Aesma, frustrated.
“Perfect,” said YISUN.
She’s certainly got what it takes to be a Wielder of Names.
End of Aesma and the Three Masters
Aesma is, as I thought, a delight. She was far more wicked than I expected, but she’s like a fusion of Ciocie and Allison with a ton of salt added to the mix, and how could that not end in fantastic things?
Myths aren’t one of my favorite genres, but I very much enjoyed the style this was written in. It took very clear inspiration from real myths, but struck a good balance between staying faithful to the genre and not taking itself too seriously, resulting in something that comes across more as a funny myth than as a parody of myths. In that way, it reminds me of my favorite Norse myth, Þrymskviða.
There are a number of interesting parallels between Aesma and Allison, as well as between Aesma and the humans who conquered Throne like Zoss. Those who reached heaven through violence. The idea of a character like Aesma, a deity of desire and determination to achieve what she desires at whatever cost it takes, being the creator of humanity ties in so well with the ways humans have been depicted in the comic proper and with the path Allison appears to be set on.
Speaking of the path, the Aesthetics part in particular seems to parallel Allison’s adventures at Mottom’s palace to some extent. Coming to a great and beautiful estate in the sky, being given the grand tour in forms that change one’s perspective, changing the denizen’s view on the world through acts of destruction, wrecking the whole place and fleeing with little concern for the consequences… I’ll be keeping an eye out for similar parallels with other Demiurges, especially with Jagganoth, Solomon and Incubus.
Next up, we return to Worm, where the Roc is taking a break from holding up YISUN’s throne to go fuck with some Travelers. See you soon!