The Nameless is vast. The Nameless is ancient. The Nameless has always been and always will be. She is an old, old idea; older than humans, older than gods, older than the universes which birthed them. She is the chaos before creation and the chaos into which all creation will once more degrade. Inevitable, unstoppable, and infinitely patient. She is without fear or apology, a thing of pure will who only ever does as she pleases. She drinks galaxies, she devours stars, she cracks open planets to swallow down their molten cores. Her sharp nails unravel the tapestries of space and time, rewriting realities, tangling fates, tearing apart entire civilizations on a whim and using their bones to weave strange new worlds. Nothing escapes the Nameless; she sees all, hears all, knows all. The universe dances at her whim and so do we.
The Nameless is The One Who Never Loses. Do not think her magnanimous because she lets you choose the game; she does so because she cannot be bested and it amuses her to offer you false hope. Dice, cards, duels, riddles, you may choose any form of contest you like for she excels at them all. She won her wings in a wager, though she had to take them by force from their owner, and her fingers drip with the jeweled spoils of her triumphs. Be careful what you wager, then, and be sure it is something with which you can afford to part. However, if you are very, very clever and no small part lucky you may succeed in giving the Nameless a good challenge, or at least an enjoyable way to pass the time, and you may still come away with a blessing. Of course, whether this blessing shall actually benefit you is something you can never know until it is too late to give it back.
It is only after my darkest hour has stretched into eternity, only after I have devoured my own heart in desperation and fallen to the farthest depths of blackest, bleakest despair, that the Nameless comes to me. She gathers my fragile, scattered bones up in her taloned hands and lifts me to her lips; there she whispers riddles and prophecies which rekindle the dead ember in my chest with a spark like the birth of the universe. Suddenly I breathe again! I see again! I move again! And most importantly I once more feel the words coursing through my veins, rioting in my heart, desperate to be spun out in tapestries of poetry and prose. I thought the title of Scribe had been bestowed upon me, a gift which could be rescinded at any moment, but now I see it has been carved into my very marrow since the beginning. Weeping with relief, I set my hands to the task for which I was shaped.
I point and the Oracle removes one card from the fanned arc on the table before us. With two fingers she pushes the card across the smooth surface, back and forth, tracing a pentagram again and again before turning the card over. She nods as if its identity is of no surprise to her but the card is blank to me, a plain white surface. The Oracle’s eyes see more than mine ever will; they show her a dark ship on a dark sea, storm clouds billowing behind its full black sails. In the forefront two hands clasp, one simple and bare, the other adorned with fine jewels and intricate tattoos. The Wager, she names it, and says when you draw this card it means you are playing a game in which you yourself are the wager. I stare down at the blank card, heart racing, and wonder, Do I want to be won?
She walks out of the waves and I see her clearly for the first time in all these years. Hers is the ferocity of the Morrigan. Hers is the hunger of Charybdis. Hers is the raw magic of Morgan le Fay. Hers is the proud independence of Lilith. She is nameless and yet of countless names from countless ages, most of them long lost to time. She is goddess and monster and witch; warrior and queen and oracle. Pale and sharp as the crescent moon, adorned by shadows sleek as wings, she is beautiful in the way of all deadly things.
Suddenly I am running across the wet sand and throwing myself against her, pressing my face into her breast as I cling to her. She smells of blood and brine. She wraps her arms around me, her hands sharp as a predator’s claws. Her smile shows gleaming fangs as she kisses the crown of my head. Beneath my damp cheek her ribs are a metal cage in which her heart beats a warsong.
I close my eyes and think, Drag me down into your dark, chill waters. Remake me; rebirth me. Teach me everything you know. Set me free. Her answer is to hold me tighter until it seems our hearts beat as one above the sound of crashing waves.
You had the chance to be better than the ones who cast me out. You had the chance and yet you threw it away. It wouldn’t have even been hard; they weren’t exactly tough competition. All you needed to do was accept me as I was, to let me show you more than just a polished surface without judgment or correction, but you couldn’t even do that. You who prided yourself on being so noble, on building a haven for the unwanted, you glimpsed the truth of me and found me… what, wanting somehow? Not quite as worth your time and effort? Or did you, like those who first rejected me, gaze into the depths I revealed and glimpse something beyond your control? Did you see a steel spine which would not bend to your demands, or perhaps all the sharp edges I’ve honed over the years? You’re just like my last sorry excuse for a family; cowardly, weak, grasping at every little scrap of control like the misers you are. How pathetic. How disappointing. How predictable.
“Sweet, the brownies are ready,” With her left hand Mage pulled open the oven door and with the other she grabbed the hot tin inside, not bothering with a cloth since she couldn’t feel the heat through the obsidian-like claws on her hand anyway. Alice, watching from the kitchen table, rolled her eyes at the reminder of Mage’s alien appendage. “Weren’t you going to get rid of that thing?” she asked as Mage set the tin down between them. “It’s so creepy.”
“Oh, this?” Mage flexed her hand, the strange black material glittering in the light as she moved. “Uh, so it turns out I don’t… precisely… know how to get it off.”
“You don’t know?!” Alice jabbed an accusatory finger at her. “This is what you get for messing with unknown magic! What if that awful thing’s attached to you for the rest of your life? What if it keeps crawling up your arm until you’re just a big black statue?”
“Uuugh,” Mage slumped back in her chair with a stubborn pout. “You sound just like my dad.” When Alice only blinked back at her with a look of perplexity she raised one eyebrow. “What?”
“Nothing,” Alice shrugged but her expression didn’t change. “It’s just weird to think of you having family. I guess I just sort of assumed you like… clawed your way out of the dark core of the earth to become my nemesis or something.” Mage snorted, using the offending hand to scoop a chunk of hot brownie into her mouth. “You wish. No,” she continued around the mouthful, “I had family once and it was the literal worst. Exile was a fucking godsend. But since we’re on the subject, let me guess…” She licked clean one shiny claw and pointed back at Alice. “Oldest sibling of like ten or something, always mothered everyone, probably made them do their homework before they got to watch TV.”
“Actually,” Alice gave a small shrug and helped herself to a piece of brownie with far better manners than Mage had. “I don’t really have a family. I was sort of birthed out of the ocean fully formed, more or less.” It was Mage’s turn to blink dryly. “OH.” She threw her hands up in mock disregard. “Okay. Yeah, sure, that makes perfect sense. Born out of the ocean. Right.” They ate in contemplative silence for a moment before Mage shook her head with a disappointed sigh. “So… you’re the intrepid orphan and I’m the runaway princess? How cliche.”
Alice began to nod in agreement, then did a double-take. “Wait, you’re a what?”