Amongst the strange and desperate people known as the Tevalkur there are many stories about the beginning of the world, what the Tevalkur call the Great Lie. In their continuous efforts to transcend the Great Lie by abandoning reason and the self, they delight in telling numerous, often contradictory and almost always bizarre versions of the same myth. They are all lies, but they are also true. This is one such lie.
Before the Great Lie, there was just the Absolute, the True. All that was existed as both ocean and sky, as both living and unliving things. Everything was anything, and it was all the Truth. This glorious time lasted for an instant and an eternity, for the lie that is continuity had not yet been spoken.
The toosha tav had no name. He had willed it from his memory years ago, just another discarded piece of the illusion that is the self. Another lie overcome. It had taken him ten years to forsake his name, years spent refusing to answer to it, and then when that failed to leave behind all who knew his name so that he may not hear it. Ten years of concentrating on the mantras every time the prison that was his mind and memory attempted to force identity upon him.
He sat in the dust of his homeland, Vassalor and stared up at the night sky repeating those same mantras.
“A fish is a wish, is a wash, is a squash, is a squall, is a wall…” Each word and concept flowed into the next, with no connection but language. The first test of the mantra was to believe every word that was said, to believe with one’s entire being that a fish and a wish and a wash and a squash were all the same thing, that any differences between them were but another part of the Great Lie. The second test of the mantra was to know the words were true. The third and final test, the mark of a great toosha tav, of a great holy man was to move beyond the chains of language. To speak nonsense that made perfect sense.
The toosha tav had mastered this exercise long ago, but he still enjoyed repeating it. Language was always one of the most insidious of the small lies that made up the Great Lie. The mantra allowed him to fight language’s influence, with the hope that one day he would be able to cast it aside as he had his own name.
Eventually, a piece of the Absolute spoke. The first word that was ever spoken, the first break in the silence of the Absolute.
It gave birth to the First Lie. I.
Then it spoke the Second Lie. I AM.
Then it spoke the Third Lie. I AM HERE.
Then it spoke the Fourth Lie. I AM HERE NOW.
As soon as the Four Lies were spoken, what had been a part of the Absolute became the first being. Terrified by the limits it had inflicted upon itself, the first being attempted to swallow the Four Lies to take them back into itself and destroy them. But the Four Lies were poison in the first being’s insides, and so it vomited them back up and in doing so made the Great Lie, reality. The first being fell onto its back amidst the prison it had made for itself, and spoke the Fifth Lie, its death rattle.
The toosha tav did not know how long he had been sitting in the dust and staring up at the sky. He had forced himself to ignore the passage of time, willing his eyes to not recognize the movement of the heavens. He was waiting for the Truth to come to him. All Tevalkur were dedicated to escaping the Great Lie, through the destruction of the self and the rational mind. In the beginning this quest for enlightenment had been simply a defense against the machinations of their enemies in the nation of Vassalor, and of the Changing Gods who ruled that nation. But eventually it had become a sacred quest, the only thing the Tevalkur held to be sacred. Reality was a prison and they would break free of it by any means necessary.
The toosha tav was what other nations would call a priest. He was a holy man, dedicated to the pursuit of Truth through the embrace of paradox and madness. In the estimations of his people, he may have been the greatest toosha tav of the current age. He did not know or care if this was true.
The toosha tav had travelled across the known world searching for wisdom, for Truth. He had spent half his life living amongst his people, practicing their philosophies.
He had clothed himself in the flesh of beasts and spent months living as they did, hunting or grazing and living without shelter or human contact. For a year he had worn the pelt of a lion, and lived as one, even been accepted into a pride. But it was not enough; while animals were free of the mind, they were as bound to the Great Lie as was any man. They feared death, and fought against it unceasingly. And so he had searched for another path.
Next, he had clothed himself as a woman, and let himself be fucked like one. He became the concubine and later wife of another toosha tav, all to free himself of his own masculinity. When that failed, he cut away his manhood and murdered his husband, and in that moment found part of what he had been seeking. But still it was not enough, and so he searched for another path. And another, and another after that until he had exhausted all he could find of value amongst his own people.
And so he had left to walk in other lands. Perhaps, he had thought, immersing myself in lies will allow me to see Truth.
An hour after the first being died, its body split apart, forming into the peoples of the world.
From the first being’s eyes and ears came the Larassans, who were bound to the Great Lie by their senses. They stepped out into reality and said,
“This is beautiful. It must be True.”
From the first being’s tears came the Heildish, who were bound to the Great Lie by their guilt. They stepped out into reality and said,
“This is terrible. It must be True.”
From the first being’s skin came the minotaurs, who were bound to the Great Lie by their pain. They stepped out into reality and said,
“This is agonizing. It must be True.”
This continued, with each piece of the first being splitting away to become a people, and each people became entrapped within the Great Lie. Five hours after the first being died, all that remained of it were its brain, its tongue, and its stomach.
From the brain came the Vassalorians, who were bound to the Great Lie most of all by their plotting minds. They stepped out into reality and said,
“This is ours. It must be True.”
From the tongue which had given birth to the Five Lies, and to the Great Lie came the Changing Gods. They were not bound by the Great Lie, but were instead it’s guardians. They stepped out into reality and said,
“This is a Lie. But it is ours.”
And finally, from the stomach which had tried and failed to undo the Five Lies came the Tevalkur, who were bound to the Great Lie, but knew it for what is was. They stepped out into reality and wept.
“This is a Lie. We must escape it.”
And so reality, the Great Lie was completed. And it has persisted ever since, ruled from the darkness by the Changing Gods and fought against by the Tevalkur.
The toosha tav had travelled through the lands of the other peoples. And he had learned much of lies, and of the Great Lie.
He walked amongst the Larassans, learned their dances and their colors. He watched as the nobles smothered themselves in pleasure and beauty to escape the truth that their nation was waning. He watched as the commoners starved and toiled, thinking that it was their lot in life.
He walked amongst the Heildish, learned their religion and their secret passions. He watched as the Weeping Knights punished the guilty and declared themselves to be the guiltiest of all. He watched as the common people worshipped the Knights, believing their self-hatred to be good.
And finally and most important of all, he walked amongst the Vassalorians, learned their games and intrigues. He watched as they plotted and schemed for money and power, and cried themselves to sleep every night for fear of the Changing Gods. He watched as they waged war upon his people, cursing the Tevalkur as heretics for rebelling against the Changing Gods influence. He watched as the children of the Changing Gods lived in luxury equal to that of the Trade Princes themselves, while being nothing more than their ancestors’ slaves.
And then one day, he watched and saw a Changing God.
The toosha tav had been sitting in the Vassalorian city of Vasselkeen, staring at passerby and ignoring the insults and garbage that were thrown at him. He repeated the mantra, and watched as the Vassalorians moved about in the Great Lie. The merchants haggling and shouting at one another and their customers, the children playing the games that would prepare them for a lifetime of scheming, the poor huddling the shadows and alleyways, unseen and unwanted by anyone, even themselves. Amongst those belittled masses the toosha tav saw one in particular who for the merest fraction of a moment looked back at him.
The toosha tav focused on that one, a man of indeterminate age swaddled in rags encrusted with mud and filth. The man ignored the toosha tav. Three hours passed in this way.
Finally, the beggar stood up and began walking away. That was when the toosha tav saw it, the Changing God hiding behind the false face of the man. For the merest fraction of a moment he saw the translucent skin, the large, lidless white eyes, the smooth expanse of skin where a mouth should have been. He saw it, and was overcome with joy and horror.
He had achieved what no toosha tav before him had, to see through the perfect disguises of the Changing Gods. He had born witness to the true face of his people’s ancient enemy, the masters and guardians of the Great Lie. In that moment, the toosha tav knew he was close to the Truth, closer than he had ever been. And so, he returned to his homeland, to wait for the Truth to seek him out as he had it.
In most tellings, the story of the beginning of the Great Lie ends with the birth of the Tevalkur. But in some versions, the ones that are rarely told even amongst the seemingly mad and fearless ranks of the toosha tav, there is a little more to be said.
For while the Great Lie was taking shape, the Absolute watched. It peered through the Veil that separated it from the Great Lie. It extended smooth, sinuous fingers through the Veil to make peepholes through which it could watch, creating the stars.
And the Absolute wept black tears at what it saw. It wept for the piece of itself that had gone astray, and for the pieces of itself that were trapped in the Great Lie. But for all that it desired to tear down the Veil and allow itself to flood into the world, erasing all lies, it could not. For to enter the Great Lie was to become trapped in it. The only hope of the peoples of the world lay within themselves. They would have to pierce the Veil themselves, and cast themselves back into the Absolute.
And so the Absolute began its long wait. And to this day, it watches the world through the stars and waits for us to return to it.
It waits for us to find Truth.
The toosha tav waited in the dirt for the Truth to find him. He stared up at the stars, not knowing exactly why he did so. That comforted him. If the impulse to look the night sky did not originate from his mind, from his self then surely it must be Truth. He knew without truly knowing that the stars would be the means by which the Truth would come to him.
Still, he did not anticipate how the Truth would make itself known. Nothing could prepare him for that.
The toosha tav knew something was happening when he saw one of the stars twitch. He focused his gaze on that star, with the same intensity and emptiness of thought as when he saw the Changing God.
It twitched again, and then it went out.
The toosha tav closed his eyes, and took the longest breath of his life. He opened his eyes and saw the stars for what they truly were.
Eyes. Thousands of eyes staring down at him. The eyes of things that could not be. Eyes so hideous and so beautiful that the toosha tav’s eyes bled to look upon them. Eyes illuminated in colors that had no names. And as the toosha tav stared up at them, blinking away red tears, he saw more than just eyes. He saw ears, and tongues, and fingers, and organs whose purpose he could not begin to fathom. And they all seemed to be trained upon him.
The toosha tav tried to speak, though he did not know what he would or could say. But he could not speak. He could only watch, as that first star, that first eye opened. And from the pupil of the glowing, glistening eye came a spiraling, serpentine tongue. It stretched down from the sky, and delicately pressed itself against the toosha tav’s right eye, tasting it.
The toosha tav screamed, as the tongue pressed through his eye, as if were just smoke. He felt it slither into his skull, caressing his brain. He screamed, and screamed, and then stopped.
The tongue retreated, extricating itself from his body and recoiling back into the sky.
The toosha tav smiled, and turned his head away from the stars to look at the world around him. It was so clear, more clear than he could have ever hoped. He could see through the Great Lie as if was nothing but the surface of a great ocean. He saw through it to the Absolute, to the things that were everything and anything.
He stood, springing to his feet with a vigor he had not been able to achieve in decades. He knew what he had to do next, for the Truth was in him.
The toosha tav turned in the direction of the port city of Vasselkeen, where he knew there would be a ship to take him to Larassa. There, in the swamps and streets of its capitol, great things would soon take place, and he would be a part of them.
The toosha tav smiled and wiped the blood from his eyes. He repeated the mantra again, but this time he spoke not with false language, but with the Truth. And as he spoke, the world around him bled into itself like wet paint on a canvas.
The toosha tav began walking.