Maerlyn's Rainbow

Maerlyn's Rainbow

By Robin Furth

At the beginning of our era there were no worlds and no universes, only the seething, raw magic of the Prim. This phosphorescent soup of creation grew like a great, hungry, opalescent ameba. It ate the nothingness, and in the silence it murmured and whispered.

First to erupt from the depths of the Prim was Gan, spirit of the Dark Tower. Tall and grey-black, he pushed into the sky, the windows that spiraled round his barrel flashing with an electric-blue light. From the center of Gan’s forehead stared a great oriel window of twelve colors: crimson, orange, yellow, pink, dark blue, dark green, indigo, lime, azure, violet, brown and pearl grey. Though the window was beautiful, the circular pane at its center glowed black as the emptiness of todash space.

As Gan stretched himself higher and higher, the waters of the Prim poured out of his navel. From its raw magic he spun Mid-World. As the Tower lengthened, so Mid-World divided into the multiple, parallel worlds. Gan set those sequin-like worlds spinning around the axel of his body and their movement created time.

As time settled on its axis, the sun and moon arose from the Prim and built their own roads across the sky. Soon they were joined by Old Star and his wife, South Star. But while the gods took their places above the stage of the earth, other more terrible creatures bred in the deeper waters of the Prim.

The most awful of the Prim’s new children were the monstrous Great Ones. Some of these horrors had the bodies of squid, some of giant centipedes, still others of great, double-fanged spiders. All had clawed pincers and gaping mouths filled with shark teeth, and all of them were hungry. But as these Great Ones cozened, diddled, and increased, the Prim began to recede. Some of these monsters died, but others slithered into the void places between worlds and waited.

As the magical Prim withdrew, many lesser demons were stranded upon the shores of the multiple worlds. Some of these demons strangled, but others adapted and thrived. Among those that survived were beings that looked like men but were not human. One of these unpredictable and dangerous creatures called himself Maerlyn.

Though Maerlyn looked like a grey-bearded mage, he was an Agent of the Prim, a creature of raw magic. Like the chaotic force that bore him, he cared nothing for either stability or order. All he cared about was his own amusement, and what amused him most was havoc.

Presenting himself as a powerful wizard, Maerlyn taught the people of Mid-World the philosophy of magic and its many practical applications. He showed them how to build doorways between worlds and tunnels between time periods. Under his tutelage, they built Dogans – experimental stations where technology could be fused with magic – and in these Dogans the Old People created annihilating weapons.

A powerful empire emerged which called itself the Imperium. Bloated with their own importance, the leaders of the Imperium claimed lordship over the whole of the time-space continuum. However, in order to truly control time and dimension, they had to conquer the lynch-pin of existence. Hence, they decided to rebuild the Dark Tower.

When the architects, electricians, and builders arrived in End-World, they were amazed by what they saw. Not only was the Tower more imposing than they had realized, but what they had taken for stone was actually hardened flesh. Still, they wanted to earn their glory, so they set to work. But no sooner did the first wrecking ball hit that imposing edifice than the ground was rocked by an enormous tremor. This Beamquake increased in intensity until a gaping fissure opened up in the earth and a dense yellow fog arose out of it. But this was no ordinary fog. Oh no. It had leaked from the monster-filled void between worlds, the place where the Great Ones waited. All those who had traveled to the Tower seeking fame screamed and ran, but none of them made it very far. From the depths of the todash fog, a Great One burped.

All over Mid-World, monster-filled thinnies opened like sores on the skin of existence. The Imperium fragmented—each faction blaming the others for this terrible miscalculation—and soon there was war. Men and women fled in terror, but there was no where left to hide. Animals and plants caught in the poisonous crossfire mutated, and Mid-World was reduced to an irradiated wasteland. How Maerlyn laughed!

But despite the horror and havoc, the Tower survived. Listing to one side on his cracked foundations, Gan let one drop of blood fall from his flesh. The drop seeped into the earth at his base and on that spot grew a rose. The rose was pink on the outside, fierce red on the inside, and its center was yellow as the sun. Stretching up into the toxic air, the rose began to sing. As it sang, more roses sprang up, and more and more until the Tower, now surrounded by a field of harmonizing blossoms, righted itself. All over Mid-World, the clouds of poisoned gas parted and the monster-filled mists receded.

Like the land, human society began to heal and the fabric of culture was rewoven. Warring clans made treaties and united into baronies. Leaders from the many baronies met to palaver and in so doing, formed an Affiliation. Together, the men of the Affiliation destroyed the lawless harriers who pillaged and ransomed; they hunted down the man-eating mutants hidden deep within the earth; they even built heavy dams to hold back the waters of the Prim. During this time of struggle, one young warrior became known for his prowess in battle and for his ability to inspire confidence in his followers. His name was Arthur Eld. And though he still wore the sword of his fathers at his hip, he also carried a new, fearsome weapon which was able to defeat all enemies. Arthur called this new weapon a gun. By force of the gun, Arthur bridled Mid-World’s evil and reclaimed the land for men, not chaotic magic.

But not everyone was happy with this restoration of order. Deep in his cave on the lapping shores of the Prim, Maerlyn ground his teeth. In his scrying crystal, he watched as the glorious city of Gilead was rebuilt, stone by stone, so that Arthur, the new high king of All-World, could be crowned there.

Peace was boring. Men who did not savage each other were boring. Eternity stretched before the immortal wizard, both long and wide. Maerlyn tapped his teeth, and then he grinned. It was time for more trickery.

Over the undying fire that burned in his cave, Maerlyn spun the waters of the Prim into glass. Whispering secret words, he divided the white magic into twelve tainted magical strands. Finally he rolled the strands into spheres. When nothing was left in his hands but shadow, Maerlyn rolled a black ball. Whereas each of the colored spheres contained the secret of a different form of magic – one contained the skill of levitation, another held the secret of telepathy, yet another the power to move between worlds – the black contained only the evil of the void. His work done, Maerlyn passed his hands over the Bends o’ the Rainbow, and in the heart of each seductive sphere he placed a curse. Though magic was by nature neither good nor bad, these spheres would bring only sorrow to their users.

Maerlyn walked to the edge of the Prim and lifted his arms to the sky. He called out to his brothers and sisters, the Great Ones, and entreated them to journey with him to the coronation of the new human king. There, disguised as men and women, they could wreak their vengeance on those who sought to cage them. There they could feed.

The Great Ones came. Though they arose from the Prim in their terrible insect-like bodies, as air touched their skins they became a parade of knights and ladies. The women wore silver dresses that shone like the scales of fish; the men wore armor which, out of the corner of the eye, seemed to be made of mollusk shells. For weapons they carried poisoned tridents and huge pikes, and on their banners fluttered the Wheel of Chaos. Last to emerge from the magical waters was the eldest of all the Great Ones. As her red, hairy, eight-armed body scrambled out of the water, her form became as beautiful as it had previously been hideous. In her gown and wimple of crimson silk, she reached forth and clasped Maerlyn’s hand.

In the renovated city of Gilead, the festivities began in earnest. Dressed in white, Arthur rode through the streets on his white stallion Llamrei. Young girls showered him with flowers while men set off fireworks and vendors sold cakes decorated with the new crown of All-World, its thirteen colored gems – one for each striation in the Dark Tower’s central oriel window – replaced by colored candies.

As the trumpeters blew their trumpets, Arthur was led into the throne room. He seated himself on the throne and his chief advisor, Sir Kay Deschain, held the crown of All-World above his head. The new high king pledged his life and the lives of his descendants to protect the Tower, and the jeweled crown was placed upon his brow. A great cheer went up in the hall, followed by cheering and dancing in the streets. The bad old days were over and the good new days had begun. But no sooner did the king’s advisors begin congratulating themselves than they had to pause. The sound of street celebration had ceased and had been replaced by silence. And from the silence arose the otherworldly music of flutes and lutes.

The courtiers flocked to the windows, and what they saw outside shocked them. The awestruck citizens of Gilead had parted to make way for a delegation of the most richly dressed men and women that anyone had ever seen. Their leader, an aged wizard, approached the Great Hall and stood beneath the throne-room’s central window. Striking his staff on the ground he requested permission to ascend. The people of the Prim, mankind’s oldest enemies, had come bearing gifts of peace for the new king.

Never had either Arthur or his court seen anything more beautiful than those spheres. They seemed to glisten with the very magic from which they were made, and the desire to touch them, to hold them, to gaze into their depths, was overwhelming. One by one, the King of Eld held up the spheres which the sorcerer Maerlyn promised would bring peace, prosperity, and wisdom to his kingdom. Yet as Arthur passed each ball to his most trusted advisors, his face, and their faces, began to change.

Where once there had been generosity, now there was greed. Where once there had been trust, now there was suspicion. And as Arthur raised the crimson ball above his head to display it to his followers, he momentarily beheld his court through its colored distortion.

Suddenly, those whom he had known to be honest appeared deceitful, and those he’d thought loyal wore the smirks of traitors. Even Queen Rowena, his lovely young wife, seemed ugly as a hag.

The king who descended from the throne was not the same as the one who had ascended to it such a short time before. He was curt, he was suspicious, and he was impatient. The rest of the court did not seem to notice, but Sir Kay did. He suspected that the king’s uninvited guests had brought with them an evil enchantment.

The banquet began, and a riotous affair it was. Men got drunk and danced on the tables. Women kicked off their shoes, lifted their skirts, and twirled from one partner to another. Servants threw hunks of meat to the dogs that skulked around the revelers’ feet so that they could watch the animals savage each other. And through it all, Arthur ignored his courtiers, his advisors, and his wife. He only had eyes for the Prim’s Crimson Queen.

Without excusing himself from the party, Sir Kay retreated to his rooms. It was all terribly wrong, even if he was the only one who could see it. Late that evening, as the rest of the courtiers fell into a drunken slumber, he went out to spy on the court’s uninvited guests.

Yet what he found, not even he had expected. When the last of the courtiers were asleep, the Prim’s lords and ladies shed their human skins. They were not men and women at all but great man-eating insects! Holding his hand over his mouth to keep from gagging, Sir Kay moved from shadow to shadow, skirting the gorging monsters, searching for Arthur. When he found him, the king was unconscious. But worse yet, he was in the arms of a giant red spider.

Bellowing Arthur’s name, Sir Kay charged the spider and pierced it with his sword. The spider shrieked and bit Sir Kay, but it had been gravely wounded. As it scurried away, its black blood seared the grass.

When the court awoke, the creatures of the Prim were gone, but so were many of the courtiers. Howling with grief, servants covered the bodies of the half-eaten dead, and the panicked advisors went in search of their king. They found him, still unconscious, in the garden. Beside him, his wound oozing black venom, his melted sword in his hand, was the body of Sir Kay.

Though Arthur ordered the Wizard’s spheres to be broken, the glass forged over the undying fire of Maerlyn’s cave proved to be unbreakable. Instead they were buried in a secret cave, but not even that worked as planned. Drawn by their glammer, thieves soon discovered the hiding place, and Maerlyn’s Rainbow found its way into the world once more.

But the survival of Maerlyn’s demonic spheres was not Arthur’s only worry. Though the royal couple was visited by every physician and mid-wife in the realm, Queen Rowena remained barren. Instead it was the Crimson Queen who kindled. Within a year, she gave birth to a child that was both man and spider and she declared him Arthur’s heir. As his father had sworn, the Red Prince was bound to the Tower. But whereas a human child would have been bound to defend it, Arthur’s monstrous child was determined to destroy it. All-World’s peace was over before it had properly begun.

But ka is a wheel and as it turns, even the fortunes of the wicked must change. Crouched in his cave, staring into his scrying crystal, Maerlyn had a vision that disturbed him. Based on that vision, he made a prophecy to the Crimson Queen. Her offspring would thrive, spreading a new kind of chaos throughout the multiple worlds. Yet one day a human kinsman would arise to challenge him. Though mortal, this child of Eld would darkle and tinct like a creature of magic. He would pursue the servants of the Prim from century to century and from one level of reality to another. This human child would be named Roland, and he would be the Tower’s final champion. As a warrior of the White, he would destroy the Outer Dark. Unless he was destroyed, he would kill the Crimson Prince and reign in the power of the Prim forever.

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