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Challenges 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Challenges 2
Something about the relationship (if you can call it that) between Phoebe/Selene and Endymion. for sonetka

The prison is of infinite size, and the bars are of silver and precious stones. The vistas are of a wild and changeable world, and anything I can imagine comes to me upon the act of imagining it. If I wish for company, I only have to think of who I want to see, and a window opens, through which I can watch and adore. I watched my child grow up, and his children, and theirs, until they were strangers to me.

But they were beyond my reach, and eventually, I stopped looking. I don't feel guilty about that. They'd long since forgotten about me, except as the legend of the shepherd in endless sleep, beloved of the moon. Half of them don't believe in me.

I don't know what, exactly, has been done with my breathing body. I'd guess she has it in a vault somewhere, open to the sky so she can see me, but hidden from mortal eyes. Knowing her -- and I do know her -- I assume she has it decorated like a bridal bower, probably draped with flowers and strewn with gems and precious metals. If I concentrate very hard on my body, I can sometimes feel a soft and luxurious fabric wrapped around me. I don't know if it's under the same endless youth spell I am, or if she re-wraps me every year, but I have never felt anything different. She must also control the temperature and the weather.

I don't know any more how long I've been here. It's a dream, and without the generations of my family to keep track of, time tends to be fluid.

There is one other mark of the passage of time: the daughters.

She comes back each time one of our daughters is born. She doesn't bring the child. I don't think she can. But she shows them to me, as though each one of them was my idea, as though I should be a proud papa, holding them up in the village square to be admired. There have been forty-nine of them. Every time she comes to me, I swear that there will not be another, but my loneliness and my traitor body (I assume this is my real body, wherever it is) conspire against me.

Every time.

I've known for a while that she's close to coming back. The dreams have taken on the soft-edged hues I associate with her thoughts more than my own. The dark forests and rough mountains I entertain myself with have disappeared in favor of the ivory palace, the soft summer night. The raging rivers have become gentle streams, and my shepherd's robes have become fine purple silk. The crown has reappeared on my head, and I can't remove it any more than I could escape the shackles of sleep.

Eventually, I find myself locked in the castle, where she can find me most easily. I am blown to the spot where I always am when she comes: The balcony outside the bedchamber, looking out over the gentle, moonlit land. There was a time that I loved views like this. I would lie out with my sheep, looking up at the heavens, dreaming of the moon and stars. That was before I was taken among them.

She appears beside me without warning, though in the dream, this seems natural enough. I don't look at her.

Her hand comes out and she opens the window into the outer world. "My love, will you see our daughter?"

I don't have much choice, as the window opens directly in front of me. The baby is beautiful, as they all have been. She has a kind of silver glow, like her mother.

"Are they goddesses?" I ask. My voice sounds weary to me, though beside me, Selene smiles widely, delighted that I've spoken first. "Nymphs? Spirits?"

"They are the spirits of the months of the Olympiad."

"I've been here more than fifty months. And there were months before you took me."

"Yes, but they had no souls. We have given them souls."

"There are only fifty months in each Olympiad. Will you let me wake up now that all of the months have souls?"

"Let you?" She comes around in front of me and pets my face. "Oh, my love, you are immortal here. There, you would have ten, twenty, maybe thirty years, and you would be gone, and the world would be a poorer place. Here, I can look on your dear face forever."

"But you already have all the daughters you needed from me."

"I could give you sons, if that's what you desire. Brave sons, who ride the night sky in chariots drawn by Aries and Ursa…"

"I had a son. His name was Aetolus."

"And he grew to be a fine man, with fine children. But he's passed on now. I could give you immortal sons, with infinite numbers of their own sons."

"And our daughters will have infinite daughters and sons of their own, I suppose."

"If they choose to."

"Choose. An interesting word for you to know."

She sighs. "What do you mean, my love? I have freely chosen to give you what all men desire. Surely, you don't think that you coerced me?" She slips her arms around me. "See? I freely choose you."

I consider arguing, but I know how it will end. All men desire it, and I clearly participated. She couldn't force me, after all. Therefore, I also chose.

I see the shooting star only a moment before it lands at my feet. A silver arrow.

"No!" Selene cries, letting go of me and raising her fist at the sky. "Not here! You have no right to be here!"

A second shooting star, moving more slowly, resolves itself into a silver chariot, drawn by a pair of harts. It descends softly to the balcony, and a fair maiden steps out. "I have a right to all of the night sky," she says. "And you have committed a grave crime, Selene."

"A crime… I… I have committed no crime, Artemis."

The girl looks at me as though I am utterly inconsequential. That's when I notice that she is wearing the sign of the moon. She looks back at Selene. "While you have conducted your… affairs… I have been given realm over the moon, and I have seen your debasement. I do not pretend to understand this desire for a man. But I have seen the abasement of maidens, and your crime here is no less than it would have been, had you been a god and he a maiden. He was a protector of animals, and is therefore within my realm of care." She looks at me finally, and there is no human fondness in her gaze. I am merely a creature under her protection, apparently. "I cannot undo the curse you labor under, but I can free you from Selene's grip, set you to the sky yourself. You may consider this."

"No!" Selene screams, stomping her feet. "You have no right! Your own father does as much, or worse!"

"And if I could stop him, I would do so. You, Selene, I can stop. Your duties are mine now, and you will stay here within this dream, fading until you are forgotten." Artemis looks to me. "And your choice, Endymion? Will you remain here, or shall I free you unto the stars?"

It is hardly even a choice. I open my arms to her, and then feel myself scattered into the sky, where I watch over the hills once again.

Orson Scott Card's Enderverse- Early days in Battleschool from the PoV of Petra/Dink/Carn/one of the older kids for maraudercat

"So your plan is to leave the situation alone?"
"The boys need to work these things out on their own. He's not in any danger."
"Rosen is not the weakest student in the launch. I worry about the long-term damage this will do."
"Rosen isn't our strongest student, either. But he's not stupid. He'll figure something out."
"You're betting one of our students on that?"
"Think about it. The other boys believe in all the superstitions about Jewish generals never losing wars. They already think we're grooming him because he's Jewish."
"Are we?"
"No. We're grooming him for the same reason we're grooming the rest of them: Because they might be useful someday. Rosen's got a native gift for figuring out what other people are good for -- not a bad trait in a commander. But he'll never get to use it if he doesn't figure out how to get along with the others."
"The others being the ones calling him anti-Semitic names and locking him in a maintenance closet? Yes, I can see why
he's the one who needs to adjust."

Isaac Rosen pounded on the closet door for twenty minutes, bloodying the sides of his hands, and, he thought, maybe breaking his toe with one of the last few kicks. Not that he could check. The light went out automatically when the door was shut, to save energy, and the room was pitch black. Rosen couldn't see the end of his own nose in here. (Well, it is quite a distance, the other boys sneered in his head.)

He finally gave up pounding when he realized that even the boys who locked him in were gone. There was no one to hear, so no point in making noise.

He wanted to be back home in Brooklyn. At home, his friends would already have him out of here. He'd never been without his pack before now. Little kids wandering around the schools without a gang could be in big trouble. Rosen wasn't the littlest kid in the building, but he was one of the only ones who still had his monitor in kindergarten -- there were six; it was a big school -- and of those, he was the only Jew. The big kids in the halls liked to shove him and say they just missed while they were practicing salutes. They called him words that rhymed with "Ike" so often that he'd stopped using his nickname by October.

Mom and Pops had called the school to "discuss" the situation, and that had made everything worse, because after that, he was a mama's boy, too.

But he'd sought out the other kids with monitors. They all got some of the grief, so they always wanted to talk about it, and Rosen always listened. He figured they wouldn't still have the things if they weren't smart, and in that, he figured right. Hector had a knack for finding his way around obstacles. Lucy was a good liar, and could always cover everyone's tracks if they'd done something… maybe not entirely nice… to the boys who bullied them. Uly could beat up kids twice his size, as long as they didn't get him trapped. Will built traps. Bub was a wiz with strategy. Miguel was champ at lock picking.

Rosen always knew who to call. They used to tease him about being useless, since there was nothing that he was especially good at by himself, but they lost their monitors one at a time, and his still stayed there, on the back of his neck, confounding their attempts to figure it out. Lucy made a few jokes about it being because he was Jewish, but they weren't mean jokes, not like the others made. And they stuck with him, even after their monitors were gone. And eventually, they'd started to work their skills without being called.

Rosen would have given just about anything to have them in his launch. They'd have noticed he was gone ten minutes ago. Heck would have figured out how to get down here. Will would have come up with something to keep the gang of goons off their back. And Miguel would have gotten the door open. Rosen would have patted their backs and told them that someday, they'd be as smart as he was, and they'd all laugh.

But they weren't in his launch.

Instead, he had a room full of mamzers, some of them actually as smart as he was. That was a first. He'd always figured that a room full of people as smart as he was wouldn’t be a room where people liked to rhyme nasty words with "Ike," but he should have known. At Earth school, he was singled out by the monitor before being singled out for being Jewish. At Battle School, there was only one thing to single him out for, and they'd zeroed in on it before boarding the shuttle, despite the fact that his sidecurls had been shorn off before he met any of them. They knew. Hey, does Rosen's nose need an extra seat? Looks like we're going kosher! Anyone cut the top off the rocket? Better clear the way for chosen Rosen!

He'd looked up at the pilot, whose name tag clearly read "Levine," but there had been no help there. Not even a sympathetic glance, though Levine's jaw was clearly set hard, and Rosen could almost see the words that wanted to come out.

In retrospect, it was probably better not to seem too tribal, and Levine probably knew it, but at the time, Rosen had felt utterly and completely betrayed.

And it had stayed the same. If he got good comments, there was grumbling that the teachers favored him. If he did badly on something, it was proof that the superstitions were wrong, just like everybody knew. The bigger kids had started slapping him around, and the habit of wandering around in skin made him stand out a little bit, too. The jokes about "finishing" the circumcision were constant in the showers. He'd started making the jokes before they could get to them. Some people thought it was funny, at least, and that might be useful later. Never underestimate the power of making someone laugh.

It wasn't all of the boys. Some of them, like Jackson and Tafoya, seemed to be fuming the same as Levine had, though presumably for different reasons. Meeker, the next launch down, was quiet about everything. Rosen was watching them and learning them, but he hadn't decided whether or not to make them a team yet. He'd sat with Meeker at lunch one day. Meeker hadn't said much beyond "Hello" and "Pass the salt," but Rosen noticed the way he quietly despised everyone around him. He'd kept an eye out in the game room after lunches. Meeker was the best bet. But Meeker was also a tough nut, and there was no guarantee that he'd be on Rosen's side. Or anyone else's.

And now this. Stuck in a janitor's closet, alone, with the smell of floor polish drilling into his head. There hadn't even been a reason, unless you counted doing best on a math test as a reason. The bigger kids had just grabbed him, dragged him into a staff corridor, and shoved him in, making jokes about Jews and numbers and getting rich, nothing that even made sense.

They'd left him. In the dark. He could feel them around him still somehow, whispering. At the same time, he'd never felt so alone. He hated being alone.

Minutes passed. Maybe hours. Maybe years. Maybe the whole Bugger War had been fought and they'd forgotten about Battle School, and Isaac Rosen would just sit here, starving in the dark, until the life support ran out of power.

He started pounding the door again, weakly, not wanting to sound desperate. He couldn't afford for it to get around that he would start begging.

The sound of the knocking echoed around the room, like he was surrounded by ghosts.

"Stop it," he hissed at himself, and a breathy sound came from the ceiling. He stood up and felt around for a box to stand on. If there was an air vent up there, maybe pounding the ceiling would make more sense. He found shelves, or maybe a ladder. It was hard to tell. But the surface was too deep for ladder rungs. He pulled himself up onto the first one.

The unit tipped with a sickening drop, throwing Rosen down to the floor in a pile of old rags. Some kind of chemical was seeping out, and he imagined himself melting, his skin bubbling up with acid…

A bright stab of light broke into the blackness, finally fading to what was actually the dim lighting of the hall outside. A boy's silouhette broke it. "Rosen?"

Rosen put his hand over his eyes. "Meeker?"

"You weren't in the game room. You're usually there." He looked Rosen over. "You should come out. I don't think that stuff is poison, but…"

"How did you find me?" Rosen asked, suddenly having visions of Meeker running all over the school saying that Chosen Rosen had been beaten up and had been stashed somewhere.

"I went into the bathroom and waited for someone to come in and start bragging. It took a few times to find the right closet."


"You'll miss your next class if you don't come out."

Rosen got to his feet and left the room. "Thanks."

"Yeah. You crying?"

Rosen put his hand to his face, and was mortified to find tears. Had he been sitting in the dark crying? He shoved Meeker against the wall. "No. Don't you go saying anything different, got it?"

"Got it. It's dumb, but I got it."

Rosen let him go. "Okay. Maybe you got some potential, little boy."

"Maybe I…" Meeker shook his head. "Go on. Get to class. You don't want to show up with anyone thinking I rescued you."

Rosen went up the corridor. Meeker didn't follow him.

Neither of them mentioned the incident later.
4 comments or Leave a comment
sonetka From: sonetka Date: January 11th, 2016 06:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
THANK YOU SO MUCH! And for heaven's sake, submit the Endymion story to some SFF/specfic place somewhere, it's so good and they're in the public domain! I was thinking of it because I had tried to write a modern-world version of the story a few years ago (not very successfully, though I may take another crack at it sometime) after reading the story in D'Aulaire's to my kids and thinking how much creepier it all sounded now than it did was I was 9 :).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 11th, 2016 11:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. I don't know if it's any shape to go into a pro market without significant tweaking (it's a little melodramatic), but it's worth a shot with some editing.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 12th, 2016 07:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Nice, Rose the Nose and a good explanation of how Dink knew he was scared of the dark. It's sad, but true that no matter how advanced we become and how intelligent the group of people, humans will always single out someone/group to downtread to make themselves feel better.


fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 12th, 2016 07:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Sad, but true.

I always thought it was strange that Ender and Dink both dismissed Rosen as a commander because Dink's strategies won battles. Ender is usually the first to point out that knowing what your soldiers are capable of and letting them do it is, in itself, a good command skill. Other stupid things Rose did were worthy of an eyeroll, but that? It seemed like a pretty smart thing.
4 comments or Leave a comment