"You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity,
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid...
The communication of the dead is tongued with fire
Beyond the language of the living."
-- T. S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"
This diary could never have been written, since it relates to the
death of the protagonist, nor is there any point in describing that death,
since Ahab has charged Laughter with being his Ishmael. But like any
King, Ahab hopes to have done something more lasting than space out a
record of breaths, and to record the last thoughts of his moderately if
elaborately deranged mind is the least I can do. And I should hate to
lose the points for his death curse for want of a final contribution.
If I quote at tiresome length, I hope I can be forgiven for a
final indulgence; and one might also remark that the difference between a
tawdry self-murder and a tragic finale is largely in the grandeur of the
presentation. Or, in other words, I hate to denigrate Ahab's death with
my own mediocre prose, and so I rather relate the words of my betters.
"I heard Ahab mutter, 'Here some one thrusts these cards into these old
hands, of mine; swears that I must play them, and no others.' And damn me,
Ahab, but thou actest right; live in the game, and die it!" -- Melville
"These are all she could muster?" -- The Serpent
"We thought about bringing a pinata." -- Ahab
When I became King, I felt certain that I was in a position to do
unique good for my realm. Oberon was ambitious, Random lazy, and our
other rulers merely temporary labor. Surely it would be to our benefit
for one man to hold the reigns and arrange matters such that our people
might prosper - indeed, with no goal in mind but that prosperity.
It may even be that I have done such good. I think I have given a
piece or two of good advice, warmed our relations with the proper rulers
of Chaos, and made some of the family aware of the obligations of our
I also lost sight of the need for a proper defense. My failure to
move quickly enough to stop Dara has caused many of my loved ones to
suffer, and has lost us the Jewel of Judgment. The effects of that loss
are all around us, and cannot be ignored. The Unicorn tells me that there
must be a sacrifice for all to be made whole. The attack on the Serpent
will cost Amber a life.
It isn't as though death is a stranger to me. Any man who has led
troops into battle has ordered men to die. You can do what you have to.
But this... how can one point to a particular fellow and explain the need
for his death? In battle, a soldier takes his chances, and if I decide
that a squadron must attack, even at horrid casualties, there is always
the thought that if they fought well enough, they might live. I no longer
have that excuse.
I cannot do it. It was cheap and easy to suggest that Corwin be
made to pay. It might certainly serve his needs. But what has he done to
deserve death at my hand?
No one will be sacrificed to atone for my failure but me. That is
a fact born of my will.
"Hey, so what if I use the Word of God on Caine? I won't have to live
with the guilt!" -- Ahab
Yet I hope that this can be made more than a death wish. One
observes in the world a certain flow of karma. Those that seek to deny
their fate, or to advance beyond what they have earned, are thrown down.
One sees this in Brand's history. May one then not hope that, by
accepting a punishment not fully merited, one might profit in the end? I
should die a happy man indeed if, out of my deeds and words, a nobler fate
for my nation might be obtained.
One feels a certain urge for closure, to make final communications
with all those with whom one's discourse has meaning. But closure is made
by the grave, not before it. How can I speak of my own death to those I
love, without engendering either their remonstrance, or my resentment of
its lack? Best to set down what must be said to enact my design, and be
On the other hand, I have a certain obligation to own peace of
mind. Is it fair to cast Nicholas as Tennyson's Telemachus? But who else
then, and who also do I ask die in my place, because I do not trust my
son? Trust is born out of action, and some actions cannot be done before
their time. The future shall bear him and I out, or not, and there is
nothing to be done.
For Lyss... what could be said? She was never my daughter, and
never anything but. For too long she has fought the specter of a father
who died without having the courtesy to depart the realm of the living.
Now she will, perhaps, properly grieve, and later, perhaps, properly move
For Nimue... she is meaner than I, and perhaps also more loving.
Her alone I may need words for. Too late now. And yet...
"Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the Earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue."
-- Wallace Stevens, "Sunday Morning"
Bear me grandchildren, and raise them well and true, so that
whatever good I have ever done may be compounded upon in generations to
For my wife... what can ever be said? Much triteness has been
written about honor and self-sacrifice, but it does not comfort when grief
appears. I can offer only that you have loved me, and the seeds of what I
do now have ever been there. Love me not less for being what I am at the
"Come gather round me, Parnellites,
And praise our chosen man,
Stand upright on your legs awhile,
Stand upright while you can,
For soon we lie where he is laid,
And he is underground;
Come fill up all those glasses,
And pass the bottle round...
For Parnell was a proud man,
No prouder trod the ground.
And a proud man's a lovely man
So pass the bottle round...
Stories that live longest
Are sung above the glass,
And Parnell loved his country,
And Parnell loved his lass."
-- William Butler Yeats, "Come Gather Round Me, Parnellites"
(Yes, the poem talks about Parnell's mistress, but hell with it.)
"Remember what's been given, not taken away." -- Ahab to Kimdyl
For Laughter, and Ariana, and Felix, and for all the others who
have given me trust, loyalty, and affection, I view this as the
continuation of that relationship, not the end. What I do is done well,
and for the right reasons. We are good men, all, and potent thereby.
Evil exists because good does not see it, or does not act, never because
it has right or sanction. It can be stamped out if we fight with all our
minds and all our might. This, with luck, is one perfect moment in that
stamping. May you make more of your own, and survive them.
For my part, now I answer a question that has long troubled me.
In the mysterious confines of our subjective reality, fury and rage are
all consuming, can light up the very skies. In conversation, the fury
effects others only as the words are strung with care and right order.
But in violence, in the flesh, is there power to make the fury real and
objective? If all my rage at the course of days can be manifested in
deeds of the sword, the Serpent lies dead at my feet ere this be noted in
the next life. And if not, if the feelings we have torment us, drive us,
hold off sleep, and yet can find no purchase in the immutable indifferent
grayness of the world, can there be a better reason to yield up one's
life? I shall find either a glorious death, or death that is a release
from the incessant absence of glory.
I hate the thought of anyone grieving for me, and so I put that
consideration out of my mind. I have always been ready to back up my
ideals with my life. Accordingly, this is not the end of my existence, it
is the capstone, the proof, the fulfillment. I am not some broken work to
be mourned over. I will be a completed work, which one may display for
admiration, or critique with some lament, but always with happiness that
one's days yielded up this fruit.
"Phoebus is dead, ephebe. But Phoebus was
A name for something that could never be named.
There was a project for the sun and is.
There is a project for the sun. The sun
Must bear no name, gold flourisher, but be
In the difficulty of what it is to be.
It is possible, possible, possible. It must
Be possible. It must be that in time
The real will from its crude compoundings come.
The soldier is poor without the poet's lines
His petty syllabi, the sounds that stick,
Inevitably modulating, in the blood.
And war for war, each has its gallant kind.
How simply the fictive hero becomes the real,
How gladly with proper words the soldier dies,
If he must, or lives on the bread of faithful speech."
-- Wallace Stevens, "Notes Toward A Supreme Fiction"
"Thus do I give up the spear... my son will set things right." -- Ahab
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