She drinks of the Sea, and feels not the salt as it churns in her belly. She drinks of the Sea, and her brown skin gains glittering dots, like stars, and her grey eyes become purple nebulas. Tiamat is her name, and she becomes a Great and Terrible thing.
Once, Venus tells her, the Sun had lost her child in those murky waters, had wept ceaselessly, till the waters burnt, and the mist was all that remained of a divine child. All great heavenly bodies lose their children; the Moon had given birth to a son, but he had frozen against her bosom, had splintered into millions of stars. The Moon had not wept. She knows the fate of Great Children.
Saturn spins in the galaxy, dancing, hoping she never has to birth a child. She pulls rings of rocks around herself and calls them her Plentiful Children, because she cannot lose those; so long as she makes nothing of flesh, nothing with ichor in its veins, she cannot feel loss.
And Tiamat drinks of the waters, of the deep blue Seas of Neptune. She feels no cold, no warmth, and she returns to Earth a Queen of Constellations. She rises from the Sea, at the shores of a blood-ridden city, where mothers can freely birth guiltless children. There, she walks among the people, unseen. They do not feel her presence. The Victorian city of the Crow has always looked to the skies for blessed knowledge, but Tiamat has thrown her body into the seas.
There, once, a Rector had found a strange white corpse, and from that alien womb, a skeletal body had sprung. The orphan had wept over the body of her mother.
Tiamat drinks of the Sea, starved.
"The Sea is bottomless, ever-expanding," she murmurs to herself. The creatures that swim below crawl between her spine and softly ask her to sing them a lullaby for their nightmares. She would live in the waters with them, breathe in their galaxies, but for now she watches the humans struggle.
Even-tempered as she is, she cannot grasp their moods, their desires and the turn of their thoughts. She has too much beneath her spotted skin, and cares little for the wiles of these short-lived, snivelling mortals. They have a taste for blood and vengeance that could rival Mars' thirst for war, but even that Divine Celestial mother knows which battles are worthy of her attention.
There's this too: the abandoned skeletal infant, standing tall and naked. She only appears at night, when she can look at the yellow moon and beg for mercy. Her umbilical cord no longer connects to her mother, but she is still a God-Child, meant to be lost. After a decade of cries, the Moon takes pity, knowing that she is signing the death warrant for this infant. But continued life or the end of grief - either fate is tragic, and if they release the skeletal infant into the Sea, she may yet become a star.
The mortal city crumbles and burns, and rises again. The walls are grey and black, and one blood moon nights, the sky is the same purple colour as Tiamat's nebula-eyes; the stars above urge the attention of the marine creatures below, and the mortals easily fall for this façade.
From the corner of her eyes, Tiamat sees the walls littered with countless eyes, but they vanish like mist before the sun when she wants a good look at them. Venus, growing swollen and heavy with a babe she is sure to lose, tells her it is moot.
Tiamat speaks to Rector Zahid in the Cathedral of Many Moons, where pupils of Jupiter pray to their Gods. They want her blood, and she gifts it to them without second thoughts; they'll find knowledge in it, she hopes. They'll find beasts from beyond too, if they do not tread with careful steps.
"Grant us the sight," the pupils of Jupiter chant, "Cure us of our blindness."
Of course, Jupiter tells them to drink of the Seas of their own planet; to baptise their city's children in salt. The guiltless children are born with too many eyes. From their bitten tongues their mothers hear no words; once they learn to walk, they take to the Seas to find its elusive end.
"Is that how the Divine Bodies lose their infants?" Tiamat asks Saturn from a fountain in Jupiter's cathedral. "Does the Sea call to them?"
Saturn remains silent; she has not lost any of her Plentiful Children. They do not fall into black waters and drown, or freeze and shatter. It's only fitting that the cosmos had started from death in the water.
Venus births a dead child, her seventh. The Sun does not envy her that her children never breathe, but Tiamat does weep for this life that never was. Venus releases her tiny daughter amidst the many shards of the Moon's frozen child, and the bloodied corpse washes up at the shores of the city of Crows. A pupil of Jupiter finds her, names her Aria, and offers her as a relic to be studied.
When the pupils conclude that this daughter of Venus is useless, they put her one display for the city to see. Tiamat sits at the side of the wooden cradle and sings Aria a lullaby.
She vows that, in the event that she should have a child, she will keep her them close, and finds a lake where she could confine such an infant. Naturally, no body of water is its own, but the abyss gapes too far below, and a child need not swim so deep.
Rector Zahid, the pious one, does not seek a cure for blindness. He seeks to turn the gazes of men from the stars, and sits by the lake as if he will learn its secrets by osmosis. He kisses Tiamat once, pink lips and too young grace, as if her star-frosted mouth will grant him the knowledge he seeks. A child still, thinks Tiamat, but the wisest. He looks into the correct dimension.
He wants to know many things, asks questions that Tiamat does not quite comprehend but endeavours to find a response for regardless. He asks for little in return, after all; neither of them is interested in kisses after the first one, but having the company in the brightest moonlit nights is more than either would have dared to hope for.
Rector Zahid knows as little of his origin as he knows of Tiamat's rebirth on Neptune; his parents had left him to the Church Orphanage, a small yellow child sobbing softly under the cruel rays of the Sun. The Burning Celestial would have claimed him as hers if she could, but as a Great Divine Body, her arms do not materialise correctly on the faraway Earth.
On a cloudless evening, Tiamat grants him an infant. "Look after her, won't you?"
Tiamat thinks this a simple request; one cannot lose a child when one freely parts with it. She must return to the Sea, to drink of it and swim with its nightmarish creatures. Rector Zahid, young and still pious, names the infant Aster, and places her gently in a lake of the east, where the Sun rises each morn.
Aster is small indeed, and precious. Glittering purple fins grow from her elbows, and tiny feet that propel her to and fro through icy waters. She exists only in infancy, and the pupils of Jupiter want more of her blood, more of her scales and her laughter.
"My blood is enough," says Tiamat, furious, "Leave my daughter be."
They listen, mostly because it becomes difficult to find an infant that swims away and deep into a lake that carries heavy mists. Rector Zahid builds a fortress on the banks of the lake, and a sole balcony overlooks the vast expanse of black water, the hills that surround it, and in the distance the forest of bones (it is here that a castle stands, shrouded in fog).
Sometimes, Aster swims with her mother, but never does she become more than she has been since her first breath; children of Great and Terrible things are meant to be lost, not kept confined in a closed body of water. And thus, every morning as the Sun chases the stars across the sky, The Burning One watches this child jealously, and curses the city of Crows.
"Curses for them," she mutters, "Curses for their children, those children, and the children thereafter. For every child born, a beast within."
As Rector Zahid, old and frail, takes his final breath, a scourge of beasts haunts his city, and the guiltless children with their too many eyes disappear. Their carriages litter the streets, empty and abandoned. His corpse glides down into the lake, and somewhere in the vast universe, a new star is born.
Tiamat drinks deeply of the Seas, and feels the salt as it travels through the ichor in her veins. She, like the skeletal infant that had once gotten succour from the yellow moon, is an Orphan of the Cosmos, left to the mercy of the hubris of men. They look not to the Seas, but to the skies, and proclaim it empty of living Divine Bodies.
Soon, one of the pupils of Jupiter tells Tiamat, soon they will send their most promising members to the stars, to the black space above them, and they will tread upon the planets. Tiamat hears Mars' war cry, Mercury's scandalised shout, Saturn's tense silence. Tiamat protests too but her words fall upon deaf ears.
Aster does not understand her mother's grief; she is, after the century of her life, still but an infant, and all she asks is that her mother sings her lullabies, the same one Tiamat would sing for the creatures of the Sea.
In her loneliness, Aster creates parasites to dance in the moonlight with her, and they crawl upon the shore until they can infect a hamlet across where Rector Zahid would have sat.
The beasts search the town for flesh to devour, and from Tiamat's blood, the pupils of Jupiter fashion warriors to fight the scourge. For every night, the Sea grows violent, and Tiamat spends them with Aster in the lake, holds her infant child close to her chest, begging the beasts to go away and the warriors to dream.
Naturally, the warriors destroy all of Aster's parasites, and she weeps inconsolably. Tiamat takes her further down the lake, closer to the ever-expanding, bottomless Sea, closer to something infinite and beautiful, and bids her to stay quiet. The warriors cannot find this God-Child, not unless they grow gills and fins too.
And if the people of the city had wanted to walk the cosmos, all they had to do is dive deep into their Sea, find the black abyss at the bottom, and open their minds to the call beyond. The pupils look not to the waters, no, they send a quiet orphan girl to tread the surface of distant Neptune, where she drowns and takes a new name.
(She drank deeply of the Seas, and knew her thirst could not be quenched. The waters were deep and the journey long, but once she had swam to the bottomless oceans, she was born anew in the cosmos, flew backward into the blackness of space, and watched as Great Divines lose their infants.
Neptune had named her Tiamat, a name plucked from human ages past. She rose from the Sea of Earth, half-corpse but still with a beating heart, and had understood nothing at all of this planet and its mortal creatures; Earth is half-formed, connected with the cosmos but still unconscious.
It won't be long, she had thought, this too will become a Divine Body).
Each time a warrior slays a beast, Tiamat breathes relief. Stars are born every day as they drop the bodies into the water, still unsuspecting of the secrets that lie deep below. The Sun rises to greet the glittering surface of oceans, lakes, ponds, and rivers alike, never speaking of the new corpses that litter the skies she obscures with her yellow, burning rays.
Tiamat spends her time by the bassinet of Venus' reified infant, Aria. Sometimes, the daughter's fingers twitch, and Tiamat remembers the lullabies she would have sung to the creatures of the lake. She misses Aster, too, but she won't visit her daughter just yet.
Jupiter becomes weary of her pupils, and her cathedral empties of their chants. They have discovered new skies to gaze upon, to ask wonders from.
"Let the mortal fools look ever to the skies," says Jupiter, "It will keep them from any vision they may seek."
Tiamat no longer speaks to the pupils, not even when they weep at her feet, thinking the warriors have cut out her tongue. She looks at their snivelling forms and condemns them all to live short, unlucky lives; they, nothing more than writhing, ridiculous creatures. Their planet can never become a Divine Body whilst these witless beasts walk about, but she will not slay them—mercy is her gift.
She leaves the cathedral and their cries, and descends into the lake. From there, she watches Earth from above and below, from the deep and the expansive, the ever-growing. Some bright lights yet flicker on this dormant Divine, but the city of Crows grows ever dimmer.
The pupils and the warriors destroy each other—from both beasts are born, some akin to those of the heavens and seas, and others merely base creatures fashioned to hunt. It is a slow, arduous process, but Tiamat gives them a century; the pupils, at least, are beautiful, near complete, and it is but in these changed forms that they finally discover the truth they've so longed to see.
Tiamat misses her daughter. She must go further still, deeper, to the very edges—
There is but darkness, the absence of the child she had carefully placed on the in-between. Tiamat swims further, wishing, hoping that the curse of Divines has not caught up with her, too; Aster has endured for more than two century, always in the lake, always so small and innocent…
A new star shines—a new creature in the waters. She is tiny and white, frozen, no longer brown-skinned like her mother. Her hair floats, as white and glowing as her skin, and her eyes remain closed. Tiamat hugs Aster to her chest, her kin-child, and sings her a song goodbye.
Great and Terrible things are meant to lose their children.
She turns her furious, nebulous eyes to Earth, swims to it with rapid fluidity, and ascends from the sea as a terrible, wrathful Witch. With her come the waters and a flood of mythological proportions, and its destruction lasting aeons. Heavenly kin and earthly beasts alike drown in salty waters, forever to be forgotten.
And earth, the dormant Divine, wiped clean and pure, wakes with its first infant cry, to be conscious of the cosmos it inhabits so carelessly.