Rhodomantades speaks to his court, saying:

After the long years when all had been Llyr and the movement of Llyr, the years when the world was air and Llyr moving through it, defining place as Llyr and not-Llyr, direction as fore-Llyr and aft-Llyr, time as was-Llyr and will-be-Llyr with Llyr herself forever moving, forever unchanging at the center — after all this, when the world was sea and sky and and and the black velvet box of space beyond, Llyr forsook the sky and settled deep in the oceans, becoming heaving and smaller as she took the world’s weight on her back, trading the profound depths of the sky for the swaddling comfort of the sea. The world is a bowl with ever-moving Llyr at the bottom.

Rhodomantades is old without having grown old; older than his oldest courtiers, younger than all but the youngest. He who brought death and age into the world is untouched by either, still canny and fast-moving as ever, whose lightness of motion made him best beloved of Llyr, who others mistakenly call Briny Maw. Sailors have different names for different shapes, but in the sea all is change, all is continuity.

In all the world there was no one else but Llyr, no eyes to see, no breath to shape itself into words. Llyr was, but not alone: Llyr’s voice sang in the sea and the moon sang back, their twinned voices echoing in the resonant earth. Llyr’s voice was motion and Llyr’s body was motion, and the milk of the sea churned to foam above her swimming, grew rich and hungry under the hands of the moon. Thus life began. Llyr is motion and so life is motion. Llyr is atmosphere and ocean and so we are atmosphere and ocean. Listen!


While they sit by the fire in the middle of the Great Salt Desert, Hoopla tells this story:

In the beginning was Llyr and Llyr was movement. By moving, Llyr defined Llyr and not-Llyr; here and not-here; now and not-now. Ages passed and not-here, not-now, not-Llyr grew. Thus was the shape of a world born from the pathways of Llyr, in the eternal circle of her infinite roamings.

On a distant dune, a bloody-faced woman wails for her demon lover. The moonlight strips her of all color, all past, all names.

The past piled up and clung to Llyr the ever-moving, dragged at her peaceful memory, and she beat strange and unknowable wings against the touch of it. The past was strong, but Llyr was stronger. Strength was effort and effort was sweat and from the dew of Llyr’s flight was an atmosphere born, thick, fertile and miasmous. And still Llyr moved, flying now, through a world of air and light, up and not-up, flying in the eternal path of her traveling.

They are far from the Tangled Western Woods, and have farther yet to go before they come to Albion on the edge of the winedark sea. Skiff nods his great head, half-dreaming of the great rabbits who move like men through the shadowed trees.

Movement in air was wind, and so the air slowly turned with Llyr, paced to her pacing, moved with her moving, and the waters settled to the bottom and turned more slowly still, and so there was water and not-water, air and not-air, and all moving with restless Llyr, all stirred gently by the never-ceasing wind of her flight, Llyr, the first, the moving.


Over the cups, the mate speaks, and Palinurus pounds on the board until the table grows quiet:

In the beginning was Llyr, and the earth was quiet, and water.

Llyr, Sky-Maiden Llyr, in Her endless circling of the world, imparted movement to her path. You have seen, perhaps, if you have drunk deeply from the clear well with an eye at the bottom, the currents you can induce in a tub with your water. Just so the air that Llyr shaped with Her passage. She had no design, nor grand plans, but simply a joy in flight, and so came the wind, the high winds that trailed behind her, and gave direction to the unruffled surface of the water. Windward, anti-windward. Alee, aweather.

Winds moved the water, and the water gave birth to currents. Sun’s heat and Llyr above gave birth to the currents. Glorious birth; out of this came life, as geese from barnacles. And first, from the deepest mud, came Briny Maw.

Through the portholes noise of the sea comes into the mess; the creaking of timbers and the soft song of the watch are the only sounds from the ship.

Briny Maw. Thirty miles long Briny Maw. Deepest king, and mildest. First to thrash the mud of sea-bottom, first to break surface of the winedark sea. Deathless Briny Maw, who was king before Rhodomantades brought death and age into the world; who lives yet. First to live, last to die, Briny Maw.

The table stamps. “Briny Maw!”

Deathless, thirty miles long, Briny Maw.

“Briny Maw!”