Three the Rivals

By Jay Lake

Three, three, the rivals.

Aching from the labor of Creation, Mother Ge rested in the garden that would be Britain. There her children petitioned her.

Sister Sun came first. Hers was mastery of everything above the ground. "Mother," she said, "I am your most brilliant child. Give to me dominion over the world."

Ge smiled.

Brother Earth approached, placing Sister Sun in his shadow. His were the powers of life and death, sowing and harvest. "Mother, my sister is vain. As all life springs from me, I am greatest. The world should be mine."

Ge smiled again.

Cousin Ocean, child of the countless stars, came forward. "Auntie, your children are wise, but I am wiser. I see all things reflected in the tides that lap the world. I should have dominion."

Ge laughed. "Each shall have their rightful place until Time turns his face from us all." She withdrew from slumber her first grandchildren -- Raven, Mouse, and Salmon.

She first breathed life into Raven, who awoke with bright, mad eyes. He flew three times widdershins round the garden before stealing the gift of speech from Sister Sun, then escaped, laughing.

"There are your powers of the air, my child," said Ge in mirth and sorrow. "Taken by the birds, who will flock beyond numbering as Raven awakens his cousins."

Brother Earth and Cousin Ocean held themselves tight, even as Sister Sun wept hot tears.

Then Mother Ge breathed life into Mouse, who stared past the curve of Ge's thumb before scuttling between Brother Earth's feet into the secret passages of the world.

"Earth will never have peace," Ge said. "Mouse will take a tithe of the harvest. When he awakens his furred cousins, you will be overrun with life's teemings."

Cousin Ocean fled on the tide as Ge raised Salmon to her lips for the third breath of life. But Ge merely kissed Salmon, for fish need neither air nor lungs, and set him to follow Cousin Ocean home.

"Salmon will carry part of you back to the land with each of his generations," Ge called in a voice that echoed past the horizons. "When he awakens his scaled cousins of cold blood and colder eyes, you will shelter them."

Then she drew the three rivals close again. "I have one more thing to show you." Ge summoned Oak, the summer tree, and Holly of the winter. Leaf in branch they came. Ge sliced off her own thumb, kissed it, and placed it between them. The trees coiled together like winter and summer, joined to make the year come round. Ge rested for a span of seasons, while the trees grew until they split open.

I came out, green as a gooseberry, naked as the sky, with teeth like a badger and fire in my eye. Raven flew to my hand and gave me speech. Short-lived Mouse brought the mysteries of birth and death. Salmon shared Ocean's deepest wisdom.

Ge took my hand, then turned to the others. "My children, none can have dominion over the free. So I have made another to hold your powers. I shall create grandchildren in his image to remind you evermore." Then she descended forever beneath the hollow hills.

This is how I came to be. I will remain in the garden that is Britain until Time turns his face from us all.

 

Copyright © 2003 Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

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Jay Lake lives in Portland, Oregon, with his family and their books. In 2003, his work is appearing in diverse markets such as Realms of Fantasy, Writers of the Future XIX, and The Thackeray T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases. For more about him and his work, see his website.

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