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Conduct of Non-Injury

 "Obsidian, or flint?" It's a question that used to preoccupy me, when I was a young lady. If I was called upon to perform the most delicate of operations, to open up the tiniest incisions, to dance along the line between healing and hurting- what would I use? You couldn't do it with bronze. Not for something that fine. The scalpel would bend too easily. Iron's more stiff. But even a scalpel of iron was not a tool for ordinary use. So it was quite simple. Stone. A well-knapped sliver of a knife, coming to a sharp little point, and with that you could cut away cataracts or lance a pus-filled blister. But I am older now. My hands have done this many times. It is no longer important for me to do this with a beautiful edge. 

"Chert," I tell the girl, and I take a prim drink. "Chert's the best for it. Hard and sharp and durable. Only had to get mine reknapped every four, five years." She's nodding, and the boy beside her is nodding along. They're children, my goddess, actual children. They must be. I was never this young, not even when I rose from my chthonic bower with my robe a pure and stainless white, my hair already bound back in pins, knowing that I would dedicate my life to you, Chalana Erissa. Was I? Sometimes, you know, I think I might hear the faintest suggestion of laughter when I ask you questions like that. I hope your bedside manner is better than this!


Once upon a time, it was impossible to know where anything was, because there was no relationship between any one thing and any other thing. The gods looked down from the Spike, and they saw the unseeable, and Glorantha said to the Celestial Court, "Fix it." And when she had departed, Uleria volunteered. She volunteered vociferously, and valiantly variegated some things, and joined others together, and by the means of her five hundred and twelve arms and one thousand and twenty-four legs, Uleria at last had connected everything. But it was still impossible to see what was connected to what. So then


Strummed, plucking herself into the abyss, forming chords of fours and eights, rising and falling, scaling back up the Spike and all the way down. And as she played herself, she organized the world into shapes and patterns, vibrations and standing waves, and the disorganization shrank and coiled in on itself until all that was left was a Ratslaff-shaped heap. 

 "Wait!" Ratslaff cried. "If everything is in harmony, how can anything move?" And he prayed to Larnste. And Harana Ilor did not pray to Acos, for she had no desire for stasis. And so one of Harana Ilor's strings went out of tune, and as she moved into the next song in her set, her sound changed slightly.


Nevertheless kept playing, and even though there was some disorder left behind wherever she played, there were still more harmonies than dissonances. And so she continued to sweep out the world, though sometimes her chords of four became ones of three or five, or of numbers in between. These no one understood yet, for Lhankor Knowing was not yet emerged. 

 She continued to play, following the sound of juggling that filled the newborn Glorantha, and at last she came to Tylenea, who was intent upon prestidigitation, or so Charana thought. Charana hummed in time with Tylenea's hands, and found herself caught in the rhythm and sound, so that when Tylenea grabbed her and turned her inside-out and reversed her chirality, she almost missed that it had happened. 


Was aware of this as she went along from Tylenea's circus, if only just. She found herself moving in the opposite direction, and so she covered over ground she had organized before. And now it took on different forms, for her music was different now. And as she walked upon the forming Earth cube, at the edge of the Sea, and sang, crabs scuttled away from her irreversible music, and that is how those improbable beings came into existence. 

She continued along her way, until at last Kargan Tor stood before her, near the very edge of what had been created. "There are those who say that your music has changed," he said, "and that the change is for the worse. And there are those that say it is for the better." Chalana Ilor shrugged. Kargan Tor coughed. "You must be present, for they are going to fight over it," he said. And he took Chalana Ilor by the hand, as gently as he could, but her fingerboard still warped under his grip. 


Continued to sing as she was led to Kargan Tor's court, where the arguments continued for so long that they eventually turned to battles, and the battles to wars, and the wars grew loud enough to disturb Glorantha's supper, and so she sent Larnste to go put mountains between the warring parties. This took him a very long time, for he spent a lot of time listening to Chalana Iloy's music as he worked, and he was injured in the course of it, but at last he was done. But it was too late for Chalana Iloy. 

She could not help but hear the opinions of those who strove and conflicted, and there were so many of them, so many thoughts expressed, and she sought to bring them all into harmony. And she could not. They were thoughts about harmony, and harmony could not reconcile them all. Some of them simply were incompatible. And Chalana Iloy twisted herself up as she sought to do the impossible. But she did not perish yet.


Was sad, perhaps, as she wandered the Spike, playing now mournful and somber tunes, slow and funereal, and eventually she realized that her sobriety had become a fugue, for another voice had joined her. And she looked up, and it was Glorantha herself, who was looking out over the world, and Chalana Iroy looked with her, and Glorantha pointed to the north, the south, the east, the west, the sky, and the hell, and to the seventh direction as well. And in all these directions, there was fire and storm and worse things, corrosions and vitrifications. 

 "The time has come," Glorantha said, and she took Chalana Iroy up in her hands. "I know now that we made a mistake- but it is time to rectify that, isn't it? Or at least in your case. Chalana Iroy strummed in alarm, but also relief. She understood what was about to happen might hurt, but she trusted Glorantha. 

 Glorantha took Chalana Iroy, held her above her head, and swung her down hard into the Spike, which cracked- and so did Chalana, who shattered into ten pieces, and then each of those into eight, and then those eight into seven, and those seven into six, and then four, and then three, and then two, and then there was One and Zero and Another. And in the middle of it all, in the crater, was


Who asked, "Where is the rest of me?" 

Glorantha said, "Where isn't the rest of you?" and breathed her last, not for the first time. Chalana frowned, and scratched her head, and finally went off to present herself before the Emperor. As a New Power, who could only say, "I am a daughter of Glorantha herself," she was of course proscribed and sent out into the wilderness, which was where she needed to be. 


"We'll need to intubate." The patient is choking, Orlanth trapped within their throat. Their face is purple and red, inflammation producing suffocation. The other White Lady is experienced. A consummate professional. 

"Tracheotomy," I tell her. "The swelling will crush a leather tube, and a glass one might break." She looks, sees how the flesh continues to pulse, the fury of a subtle-yet-gross poison playing out. She nods. 

"You make the incision," she says. My scalpel is already in my hand. 


O my apprentices, O my disciples, you must never share this:

There is nothing that is not a poison. All medicines kill if dosed incorrectly. It is not enough to know what heals, for some poisons will heal themselves is applied properly. It is only by the hands that one learns, by guidance and by experience. 

And so you shall take up residency for a time at a hospital, at one of my clinics, before ever you go into that practice which is kept private between yourself and me. And before this, in your education, you shall practice internally, anonymously, for your face will be kept as unstained as your scrubs accumulate them.


"Why chert?" she asks me again, years later. My hands are starting to shake now. I am beginning to rely on Dendara nurses and Voria candy-stripers to compound medicines. I could never do surgery these days. 

"Bloodstains show on it," I say. "Reminds you to keep the scalpel clean, and to cut no more than you have to." 

 I hear my goddess laughing. But she is nodding as she does so. 


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