Friday, October 22, 2010

Ep 7. Honor Among Jerks

Plot Summary: Thoki has been kidnapped (after abandoning Lor) and taken to a gathering of trickster gods from other pantheons. Woo Kong (the Monkey of Buddist Legend) has just revealed the name of the ultimate chaos Thoki is Looking for, ISFAT. Thoki wants to use Isfat for his grand scheme of world conquest. Lor is stuck at the Youth Hostle and wondering which hand on the clock is the hour hand?

            “What is ISFAT?” asked Thoki hungrily.

            “‘In the beginning there was void’…” said a deep voice. Turning to find it, Thoki saw Anansi lean forward in his armchair and cast a penetrating stare in his direction.

            “…so says the Hebrew text, yes?” Anansi asked him. Thoki thought that the spider’s voice sounded very deep and rich, like an ad for male hygiene products.

            “I guess,” he said, shrugging. “I’m a little fuzzy on stuff that wasn't written by Snorri Sturluson… or Stan Lee,” he admitted.
            Woo Kong shook his head in exasperation. “You’re confusing the boy, Anansi.” He turned to Thoki. “The ancient Egyptians had different views on morality than most people. There was no struggle that was essentially good versus evil.”
            “What about Seth and Osiris?” interjected Eleggua, not even looking up from his game.
            “Even that was about brotherly rivalry and the symbolism of life after death. Even Seth had aspects in him that the Egyptians admired.”
            “Like the Greeks with Hades,” supplied Hermes.
            “Just so, but there was no Devil, no Hecate. There was only just punishment for the wicked. There was no good and bad. There was only order… and chaos.”

            Thoki had only been nodding absently through this spiel– he could care less about ancient morality–but now he sat bolt upright.
            “The goddess of order,” continued Woo Kong “… and the keeper of the laws of Man, was–”
            “Maat,” interjected Thoki. He had researched that much.
            “Correct. Maat embodied reciprocity, justice, truth, and moderation. Her counterpart was the antithesis of this – an all-consuming, annihilating hunger known as Isfet.”
            “Isfet is the god of chaos?” asked Thoki in a reverential whisper.
            “A god? No. Isfet is neither male, nor female. It cannot be defined by avatars or imagery. The Egyptians themselves hardly dared mention its name. Isfet is a force, an all-consuming, negating power. According to legend, Isfet was the black-starless waters of Nun before Atem gave birth to Shu and Tefnut, and they became the heavens and earth.”
            “In the beginning there was void,” said Anansi again with a cryptic smile.

            “That passage has another interpretation, ‘In the beginning, there was chaos’,” finished Woo Kong.
            Thoki stared, his mind blown by this revelation.
            “D’yah see now?” asked Puck, breaking the reverential silence with his jagged consonants.  “This t’ing you’re lookin’ for. It ain’t a trickster god. It ain’t even a god. It don’t take orders, and you can’t talk it into anything. It ain’t even a bloody metaphor for the transience of life, or nuffin’. Isfat isn’t a force of change like we are.”
            “It’s a force of oblivion,” finished Hermes. “It is void.”

            “So you see? It’s not some ultimate trickster rock of ages, Thoki. It won’t give you the power of a god, and it can’t be controlled, because by definition, it is uncontrolled,” finished Woo-Kong.

            “There was only one trickster who tapped that source of blasphemous chaos…” To Thoki’s surprise, Coyote had risen to his feet and was addressing him. His eyes were stern and his expression humourless. Musta been one hell of a fun guy as a trickster, thought Thoki.

            “Alright, who was it?” asked Thoki, who already knew the answer.
            “Your father, Loki.”
            “Thought so,” said Thoki glumly.
            Coyote rubbed his neck, regarded the slight Norseman before continuing. “Loki actively set about destroying the Aesir.”
            “He didn’t start out that way,” protested Thoki, wondering why he was defending Loki. “Things were just, sort of…exacerbated.”
            “Yes. From the moment he stole Sif’s hair. His subsequent humiliation, as his lips were sewn together with leather thongs, set into motion a chain of events that led to the destruction of your gods.”
            Raven now stood and joined his brother. “Yours is the only pantheon that was completely obliterated.”
            “What about the Babylonians, or the Celts? Hell, even the Greek Pantheon has fallen. Most of you are on the fringe now. Besides, people still pray to the Norse gods.”
            “The Norse gods are dead Thoki. Not in hiding, not dwindled, like many of us. Dead.”
            “Well, when you put it that way,” conceded Thoki. “Alright, so my dad was a bastard. So what?”
            “So we want your solemn oath that you will not attempt to unleash the powers of Isfat,” said Anansi’s deep voice. The old gentleman slowly unfolded himself from the armchair and strode to the others’ table. He extended a gloved hand towards Thoki and held it there, waiting for it to be shaken.

            “I still don’t get what’s the big deal,” said Thoki petulantly. He felt a knot press in his stomach as he eyed the gloved hand warily. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. He was in trouble now. If he shook Anansi’s hand it was over. No backsides, no crossed fingers. There was too much power, too much magic in this room. No, a handshake on a bargain in here would be as binding as a Hollywood contract.

            “If you unleash Isfat, the seen and the unseen will be cast into terrible peril,” said Reynard, still hunched over the table. He didn’t even look up as his raspy whisper made Thoki’s blood freeze. “More than likely the universe would be consumed by the primordial chaos it was spawned from.”

            “Damn,” said Thoki in a faint voice.
            “You must promise,” insisted Anansi’s tombstone voice again. His hand crept in microscopic increments toward Thoki.

            Thoki felt beads of sweat forming on his forehead, and he shivered feverishly in his damp clothing. To make matters worse, he felt two hands drop onto his shoulders. One was Puck’s and the other was Hermes’. They weren’t hurting him, but the weight of their hold left no room for doubt that hurting was an option should Thoki decide to be difficult.

            “Uh…er….uh!” stammered Thoki, squirming in his chair. Puck’s and Hermes’s grips became a little tighter. The air crackled and stung with energy as the hand advanced, and the fingers on his shoulder bit deeper. Thoki was, by now, well and truly terrified. His breath came in ragged gasps as he felt his heart thrum like a hummingbird’s. The other trickster’s stares bore into him as they leaned forward in anticipation, their collective breath held in suspense.

            “SHAKE IT ALREADY!” shouted Eleggua, jumping off of his stool and flinging his game console to the floor where it clattered and broke.

            As the plastic cracked and smashed into pieces, so did their hold on Thoki.
            “YOU FOOL!” Woo Kong snapped at the boy.
            Thoki wriggled out of Hermes’ and Puck’s hold and tried to jump up from his seat, but another set of hands held him down – Raven, had seized him by the arms and shoved him back into it. Hermes then hooked Thoki around the neck, while Puck wrapped his stout arm under his armpits.
            “Make him shake hands!” shouted Reynard.
            Raven nodded, and using all his strength, tried to man-handle Thoki’s arm into position. Thoki cursed and struggled, fighting them off with all his strength as Anansi’s hand grew dangerously close.
            “No! HE has to do it!” cried Puck, releasing Thoki and standing back. Thoki got his legs under him, and managed to pull back a bit.
            “He’s right!” shouted Woo Kong. “This violates all laws. Thoki has to do it of his own free will.”
            “He’s not going to! We can’t take that chance!” countered Reynard.
            “At the risk of the magic turning on us?”
            “Better cursed than erased for all time!” countered the Frenchman.
            “Help me!” grunted Raven. Coyote watched his brother in discomfort and seemed to be dithering on a decision. Eleggua had no such qualms and launched himself on the chair. It toppled over, smashing into Hermes’ nose and giving Thoki a second of unfettered freedom. It was all he needed. In a flash, he’d rolled to his feet and scampered out of the room. He ran with his heart pounding in his throat, certain that any second he’d feel a blow to his kidneys, or the tread of a foot on his heel.

            It never came. Turning around he realized, to his surprise, that they weren’t even chasing him. 
            “What gives?” he muttered uneasily.
            He heard a laugh by his ear that made him whip around. A short, sloe-haired and decidedly sexy woman was standing next to him. In her hand was a gold-plated iPod.
            “I thought you could use my help,” she said with a grin.