With illustration by Jenny Mure
The world as we know it, was once nothing more than a rather large ball of clay: a vast and endless lump, formless and soft, without colour or texture. Over the aeons this mound’s surface began to crack and recede from the exposure to the void that surrounded it, and as the clay dried, the fissures widened and connected, forming shapes and figures, tessellating beings, angels cut out of gingerbread. When two cracks met and a being was made whole, they would rise up and study the ground they came from as an infant studies its mother. Known as the Sculptors to the ancient races, World-Smiths to dwarves, but more commonly referred to as The Gods, these titans looked upon the world of which they were the first to witness and named it: Urph.
Some say the Gods appear like great feathered tyrants with many arms shaped like instruments of creation and making; others say they are invisible and intangible, roaming the world as behemoths of air and water, passing unnoticed as a breath in a storm; others say they look like men, just much bigger. Those who support the latter tend to be men themselves and the whole concept is agreed to a very egocentric theology to hold by witches, elves and other elder beings.
The Gods grew bored very quickly in the void with nothing much to talk about so their interests soon turned towards the material of Urph and what could be done with it. The pulled the Urph up into points, blew the heat away and named them mountains. They crushed the Urph into sand between their fingers and the land on which they fell they named deserts. They pressed the Urph down into the floor forming recesses and the water that streamed out of it and filled the gap they named oceans. They threw the Urph up into the sky and the burning light it created as it burst a hole through the void they named the sun. And, while most were tidy and made sure that no flake of Urph went unused, others were too focused on their method of their own creations to pay any heed to the shavings and dust that their designs made. Left without purpose or name, these off-cuts grew minds of their own just as the Gods did. And so life began on Urph.
‘Oh, great one! May we ask of the purpose of our existence?’
The Titan turned and acknowledged their accidental creation with confusion and surprise. When the Gods communed, they spoke as storms and quakes, so it was startling to hear a voice be made.
‘Um’ said the Titan. ‘Sorry?’
‘Why did you make us, oh great one?’ said the being. This one was brown and smooth stood on two legs, when others usually had at least four and were more likely to make grunts or hoots or howls rather than structured sentences. ‘What are we to do?’ she continued.
The Titan paused and assessed the cluster of beings seemingly made from the dug outs of the most recent creation of a river. These sorts normally had the initiative to eat and fight and sleep on their own accord without feeling the need to ask for instruction.
The Titan gestured to the other creatures that surrounded them. ‘Do as they do. Do whatever you want, I don’t care.’
The being followed the direction of their hand towards the crocodiles that waited upstream, to the wildebeests that loped treacherously close to the waters edge, to the flies that bounced and fed and mated around the creatures’ rear.
‘Um, okay’ said the being. And seeing them set off happily to their task, the Titan returned to their work.
A day later the new life forms returned with a dozen dead wildebeest held up on podiums they had constructed from the stone beside the river.
‘A number of us decided we must give an offering of thanks for your guidance oh great one. We present to you the bodies of twelve of the wildebeest we have slain in your name.’
‘Oh’ said the Titan, ‘you needn’t have. Eat them, they’re yours.’
‘We lost five of our number to heat exhaustion, working to make these podiums oh great one. Please we insist.’
‘Well okay then,’ said the Titan embarrassed. The Titan picked up the beasts in their hands and put them somewhere out of sight. ‘I’ve put them somewhere special. Now don’t you feel you need to give me anything else okay?’
‘Have we offended you, oh great one?’ said a male in the group, short, bald and thickly bearded, ‘is there a better gift we should have given?’
The Titan sighed. Returning to the mountain range they were working on, they clenched the mound in their fist until shards of the Urph deep down condensed into glimmering metals and bright sparkling stones of ruby, quartz and sapphire.
‘In here,’ they said, forming tunnels and caves with their fingers, ‘are lots of shiny rocks and stuff. Go ahead and retrieve them for me. It’s dark down their so you won’t have to worry about the sun anymore.’
The male and his followers thanked the Titan with deep bows, then headed into the mines of the mountain to become Dwarves. The female too, thanked the Titan and then left them to their work.
On the next day the beings returned once more, with instruments made of wood from the trees that traced the mountains.
‘A number of us wished to praise yourself and your designs through our own creation of art.’
‘Oh, um sure, go ahead’ said the Titan.
The beings, led by another female, thin, red haired and pale as snow, began playing a song. It was the first song ever made on Urph. It was not good.
‘Ah,’ said the Titan, wincing. ‘How thoughtful.’
‘Have we displeased you oh great one?’ said the pale one. ‘Only we are short lived and sickly. I doubt that we could ever live long enough to create an expression that would truly meet your grace and beauty, oh divine titan.’
The Titan shook their head. They returned to the forest they were forming and rolled the trees in their hand, forming nuts and fruits in the gaps between their fingers.
‘There’ they said, once finished. ‘There is fruit in there that will give you a life longer than any other animal and allow you get that extra practice you dearly want.’
The pale female thanked them and left with their band to the forest where they were to become Elves. The other, darker one thanked the Titan too, and left them to continue their work.
On the next day, the remaining beings returned once more, with weapons in their hand made of metals from the Dwarves and wood from the Elves.
‘Oh, great one! A number of us thought to slight you and decry your consultation and aid as uncaring and cold, so we have slaughtered them and present to you their heads.’
‘F**king hell guys!’ yelled the Titan, now seeing now how much blood they were all covered in. ‘Look, this needs to stop. I’ve got my own stuff to do right now, I don’t need to look after you guys as well, I’ve got a world to build. If the other Titans see this, I’ll hear no end of trouble. Look here, you, come forward.’ They ushered the dark woman towards them.
From their own palm, the Titan peeled a scrap of skin and folded it several times over, pressing it down into words and meaning. The skin became Urph’s first book and was handed down to the female's arms.
‘In there is the art of my technique’ said the Titan. ‘It will take a while to learn, but it will teach you how to do what I do, albeit on a smaller scale. You know, it’s probably not good if all of you have access to this, so limit it to a chosen few okay?’ They then addressed the entire population. ‘This one is my envoy now, you hear? Any questions or requests, you bring it to her, not me. Yes?’
They nodded and made vague grunts of agreement.
The female looked up to the Titan, the book pressed firmly against her chest. ‘But how am I to know what to say? How am I to know what’s right?’
‘You probably won’t have half an idea of what to do’ admitted the Titan, ‘but that’s still half more than I would know. You’re my divinely chosen delegate, I trust that you’ll do just fine. I’m going to wander off now, don’t follow me.’
The Titan left, turning only once over their shoulder to check that they had stayed put, and to their great relief, put they stayed.
Those that stayed put became the Men and Women of Urph. And that dark skinned one they looked to for protection and guidance: The world’s first Witch.