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A short story with Mender Silos


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[Ouroboros, somewhere in the Cosmos]

     "One more thing, if you don't mind, before I take my leave," I said in a
casual tone, causing Mender Silos to raise ane eybrow.
     "By all means, Ghost Thief," he replied as he crossed his arms over his
chest and waited for me to continue.
     "Simply out of jaded curiosity... does the name Gerhardt Eisenstadt have
any meaning to you, by chance?" I asked, giving him as neutral a look as I
could manage under the circumstances.  Win, lose, or draw, both his reaction
and his answer to the question would be fairly telling, or at least they should
be if I was anywhere close to being on the right path with this.
     A silently raised eyebrow was my only response for a number of moments
before the faintest of smiles tugged at the corners of his lips.
     "Did I ever mention to you that I happen to enjoy a good paradox?" he
finally said, his tone suggesting that he was actually quite amused at the
implication of my question.  "I don't mean the old, tired ones like the one
about the man who travels back in time and accidentally offs his grandfather
and prevents his own birth, but the ones where you can put two instances of
the exact same thing side by side and have them become two utterly different
things simply by virtue of their mere existence?"
     I simply shrugged my shoulders.  "I was never one for truly mind-bending
philosophical conversations, but I can see why something like that would be of
amusement to a man of your stature," I said casually.
     "Names, Ghost Thief, are a prime example of that," Silos continued.  "I
find it incredibly interesting how a name can be so powerful that it can turn
the greatest of entities into someone else's bitch with a bit of arcana and a
few uttered syllables, and yet that very same name can have lost all meaning to
the cosmos and become utterly irrelevant.  Simultaneously," he added with a
twinkle in his eye and a subtle widening of his smile.
     "I suppose that after hanging around the cosmos for as long as you would
have us believe, that you would end up tripping over something like that sooner
or later," I mused.
     "Would you mind if I told you a story to explain it?" Silos inquired.
     "By all means," I replied as I folded my hands behind my back.  Something
told me that this one could take a bit, but knowing Mender Silos as well as I
unfortunately did, this just might prove to be worth my while at some point.
The real trick to dealing with him, however, was being able to suss out not if
that information would be pertinent, but rather when it would.
     "A powerful wizard creates an equally powerful demon," Silos began.  "As
the demon awakens, he gives it a name and speaks the name aloud, imprinting the
name in both the demon's mind and his own.  This becomes the demon's so-called
'true name'.  The name is only uttered once and is never spoken ever again, nor
is the name written down or otherwise recorded anywhere else.  The name only
exists in two minds, the wizard's and the demon's, as nobody else ever hears it
spoken.  Not then, and not ever at any point in the future.
    "The demon finds a flaw in its bindings and exploits it, turning on its
creator and slaying him before devouring his soul.  All of the knowledge the
wizard possessed is taken to the grave with him and lost beyond recovery, and
now only one entity in the cosmos knows the name.  The demon, fully aware of
the power of names, takes a different name to use as its own when dealing with
the rest of the cosmos.  As no record of its true-name exists, the rest of the
universe only knows the demon by its chosen name.
     "The demon then goes off to do demonic things, leaving an indelible mark
on the fabric of the universe as all entities do.  This goes on for thousands
of years, a fairly decent stretch of time by both demonic and cosmic standards,
all the while using its chosen name to identify itself.
     "At some point the demon is beset by a team of heroes who seek to end the
fiend and its demonic influences.  Its defenses are strong, and the battle is a
protracted one.  Eventually it makes a tiny mistake and one of its opponent's
magical spells slips past the wards.  The spell is a laughably simple one and
underpowered at that, as it is essentially a limited forget spell intended to
disrupt its concentration long enough to bring down the rest of the defenses.
     "The demon is a very powerful entity and the spell only results in what is
colloquially know as a 'brain fart'.  This makes it forget something that was
lurking in the back of its mind, but otherwise fails to disrupt its focus and
the wards hold, allowing it to ultimately defeat and destroy the heroes.  Are
you still with me?" he added lightly.
     "Demons do what demons do, and the heroes can't win them all," I replied.
     "Victorious once again, the demon moves on to its next demonic plan,"
Silos continued.  "It knows the spell affected it just slightly, and it knows
that it forgot something, but it just can't seem remember what it was or even
how important it might have been.  No matter, it thinks, if it was truly an
important piece of data it would have been written down somewhere by someone
at some point.
     "But what the demon forgot was its true-name, the name that was only ever
spoken once, that was never written down, and now was completely forgotten by
the only still-existing entity who had ever heard it.  From a cosmic point of
view, the name no longer existed.  And that, interestingly, became a problem.
     "You see, Ghost Thief, there are rules to the cosmos that no entity can
violate.  Most of these rules are known only in detail to a handful, as their
influences can only be encountered under very rare and exacting circumstances.
Some rules, however, are widely known.  Tell me, have you heard of the saying
that nature abhors a vacuum?"
     "Who hasn't?" I replied.
     "Mmm, you would be surprised," Silos countered with a knowing smile.  "In
this particular case, by forgetting its own true-name the demon created a hole
in the mark it left on the fabric of the universe, the same mark that all
entities leave by virtue of their very existence.  In very simple terms, with
the cosmic erasure of its original true-name the demon now 'needed' a new one.
Nature, as I just mentioned, indeed abhors a vacuum, and so the gap became
filled with the only name the cosmos now knew: its chosen name.
     "When the demon went forth to attempt its next demonic task, it simply had
no idea how its situation had changed.  Moments ago its true-name was obscure
and known only by it, but now its true-name was known by everyone.  A handful
of arcane influence and a brief utterance later... BAM!" he said with a snap
of his fingers.  "Bitch time."
     "Definitely not what I was expecting to hear," I admitted with a raised
     "When one lives as long as I have," Silos said calmly, "One both picks up
and, either accidentally or deliberately, drops a number of names.  Perhaps a
name is used for a week, perhaps it persists for a mortal lifetime, and perhaps
it manages to last for tens of thousands of years.  Amusingly, another widely-
known cosmic rule readily applies here: use it or lose it.  Do you see where I
am going with this?"
     "Why don't you explain it to me like I'm a senator from Pennsylvania," I
replied with a faint smirk.  The quip drew an almost identical smirk from the
Mender, letting me know he both understood my position and was amused by it.
     "Perhaps that name you mentioned earlier does, in fact, have a meaning to
you.  Perhaps it had a meaning to me in the past, or perhaps it will in the
future.  Even if it did... or does, or will... it doesn't have a meaning to me
in the actionable sense.  In other words, Ghost Thief..."
     I remained perfectly still as he leaned forward until we were almost nose
to nose.  "That name..." he whispered, "Has no power over me at all."
     I waited until he stood up straight and gave me my personal space back
before I replied to him.  "An interesting story," I admitted.  "Not exactly one
to tell the grandkids, but still.  And more disturbingly... I think I actually
learned something from that."
     The smile took its time in crossing Silos' face.  "Enjoy the rest of your
day, Ghost Thief," he finally said in a somewhat cordial tone.
     "See you around, Silos," I replied with a slight tilt of my head before I
turned around and made my way back to the portal that would take me home.  That
was hardly the answer I wanted, but as I myself had pointed out a few moments
earlier... you can't win them all.

Edited by sailormoonv
Stray typo fixes
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