In line with two thank-you stories on Patreon (Learning the Language & With a Cage), this is a thank you for an anonymous gift I received off my wish list – the Speedball printing kit, an awl, and linen binding thread!
There came a time when the Queen of the Gods, the Mother of All,was tired of the bickering of her children. So she came up with a plan.
The first stage of the plan was a contest. She declared to all these children that they should no longer simply wander around demanding tribute; they should no longer prey on the humans; they should no longer simply take what they wanted. Instead, each of them should come up with a gift to give the people below, something that would make the people better.
They should take each ten years, and make the best gift they could. And when they were done, she would reward the best gift mightily.
They went off, her children, and for a decade things were relatively quiet. She would spy on them from time to time, of course, and see them here and there, finding this and that among the humans or spying on each other or visiting other realms.
Her deific children, the Mother of All had to admit, were not the most creative.
Her human children were quite innovative, although they were often innovative in dangerous ways, or small ways, or ways that made no sense to her.
But her deific children were very creative in stealing ideas.
So when a decade had passed, she was amused to find that the first thing brought to her was farming.
She looked at the child who had brought her the idea of farming, and she pointed at the humans who had first discovered farming, and then she told that child “you are the deity of farming and all things agriculture.” She bound the child with golden chains so that they must listen to prayers of farmers everywhere, and she limited that child’s powers to things that could aid farmers – or, once per decade, punish farmers who did something particularly awful or insolent. They were, still after all, gods.
Next was marriage, and after that, travel, and after that, wealth, and in all those cases, she bound her children to the thing that they sought to put out as an innovation and scolded them, for thinking that their mother was an unwise as they.
After that, a child brought her carpentry. This was one of her favorite children, and she could see that the child was both nervous and thinking quickly. So as the child spoke, they added on to their pitch several joinery ideas and the idea of carving decorations into furniture
Now, some of these the Mother of All had seen before, but some she had not, and so she rewarded this child with a better stretch of powers and a broader span to be deity over – trees and forests, the forest animals and the carpentry, the burning of wood and the ashes of the fires.
There were three more children, offering first the gift of flight – which the Mother of All turned down, sending that child back to steal some other idea – and the gift of fire. That child, she barely managed not to laugh out of the room, and set them instead to electricity and things that made light.
The last child was her least favorite, a trickster and a brat, the sort that always had a joke when something serious would be more appropriate. She had not seen this child look anywhere for ideas; she had not seen this one do anything towards an idea.
But the child bowed low. “This idea came to me when I was watching the Deity Now of the Forests in carving,” the child admitted. “I picked up a carving, like thus,” and the young deity picked up a piece of wood carved with dark lines, “and I caught my finger thus, and it bled. And when I put the carving down…” The child dripped ink from a squid onto the wood, carefully, rolling it out, and the pressed a piece of paper to the wood. “There was the image of the carving, there on paper. And I have not seen this from other of my other fine siblings, mother, and so I present it to you.”
This was something that the Mother of All had not before seen. “Show me again,” she demanded.
And the child, the brat, smiled slowly, and pulled out another carving. This one was their own, the Queen of the Gods thought, for it had a different look to it than those done by the Deity Now of the Forests. And on it were letters, although they looked wrong, sideways. “The text…” The Queen of the Gods did not use writing, although she had seen when it developed and been proud of it. But she thought that it went slightly differently.
The brat-child godling smiled at her. “You will see.”
This time, the ink looked slightly different, and the rolling it on was done more carefully. But when the child was done, there was a print, the reverse of the image, all of the text perfectly in line.
“You see?” The child bowed deeply. “This is the thing that I present. Carving. So that an image, say,” and this one was a portrait done in very careful carving, a print already made, of the face the Mother of All most liked to wear. “So that all may appreciate you, Mother of all Gods and all Beings.”
The Queen of the Gods was, indeed, impressed by this, although she did her best to hide it. “This is a thing I have not seen before, and a thing that you may share with humans. You may be the Deity of all things Written and Printed, my child, and may it bring to you a sense of seriousness and solemnity that you are currently lacking.”
“But-” protested the Deity Now of the Forests, “that is a carving! Surely I should be the deity too of those things carved and printed!”
The Mother of All had, in truth, been expecting such protest long before. She smiled at the Deity Now of the Forests, although it was the smile that (although her children did not know she knew this) the elder of her children (Deities now of Agriculture and Marriage) called her Time to Smite face. “You are my favorite child, and you always have been. And for that-” She hesitated. It was a pause fraught with drama, for the Mother of All had a sense for that. “-for that I shall not punish you for questioning me, Child of My Heart. But wood-carvings are yours, and these that we will call wood-cut printings belong to the Deity of the Printing and Writing. Such is the Will of the Seat of Power.”
“Such is the Will of the Seat of Power,” all of her children, even those feeling very constrained indeed, murmured.
“It is my decision that this gift of printing is the best gift brought to me. And thus, I will reward it most mightily.” She looked around the gathered children and decided. “I give to this child the True Names of all of my children, and the Names of all things of Power. Know this, child. Should you misuse this gift, I shall put you in the smallest bottle in the bottom of the deepest trench of the ocean, and you will stay there in the cold and dark for a thousand thousand years.”
Her mischief-maker child, the Deity Now of Printing and Writing, bowed low again. “I thank you forever, Mother of All.” If the Mother sensed an emotion in this one, she thought it might be concern. She thought that was good. Perhaps her child was coming to adulthood, if only the one.
(She was, however, not surprised to learn, some decades later that her new Deity of Printing had invented limericks, nor that several of their most bawdy, rude limericks involved a name which could be easily substituted for that of one of the Deity of Printing’s deific siblings.)
And thus the gods were brought into line and into very narrow realms of power, and the Names of all the great things were bound such that only by writing or printing them could one truly know them. And for the first time in nearly a thousand years, the Mother of All, the Queen of the Gods, was able to take a nap without interruption from her children.