Leviathan. Elder Lunar and hero of the First Age. I had such a different picture of him in my mind. At least, that’s what I’d like to say. But I know better than that. Far better.
I recognized him, the moment we first met. I didn’t tell the others, and I may likely never. Not from this life; from times long past. I’m fairly sure the memory belonged to him, the one people actually have in mind when they call me “Orpheus” now.
We didn’t know each other, that I’m aware of. The one memory I have is of seeing Leviathan from a great distance off, perhaps from some sort of scrying device. He wasn’t an admiral back then, just a rising young officer with a far smaller command. But there was something to him, even then. A proud, noble bearing, well-suited to a young man with a bright future. And his crew respected him – you could see it in their eyes, in the way they trimmed sail and snapped to follow orders practically before they’d been given. What I saw of him, I liked: there was great potential in this one.
After hearing of the Lunar Elders not long after meeting Venomous Spur, I did no small degree of research myself. I had heard the stories of how Leviathan had sunk Luthe beneath the waves, ending countless lives and destroying one of the greatest treasures in the world. I actually got into my head images of a rampaging, rapacious beast, but I should have known better. Real pain, real tragedy, is almost never that cut-and-dry, that simple. So it was really no shock when he told us his story, or when we discovered that he still held a grudge against the Traitorspawn. I think back on the carnage I wreaked at the Library in the aftermath of finding Seelah dead. Or what I would do if Apple or Huntress died in my arms. It makes sense for Leviathan to hate the people who killed Queen Amyana. And it makes sense for him to still keenly feel that pain more than a thousand years later. Among the many things I’ve learned about us Exalted is that we don’t feel things quite like regular people anymore. Our emotions, our passions, are like our powers – enhanced, amplified. I used to be calm and serene inside; now, I can barely keep a rein on my feelings, whether they be positive or negative. I can only imagine what sort of tempest must rage inside the heart of one who has been ascendant for many, many times my own life.
For these reasons, my anger abated considerably right before Leviathan showed back up, but I was still furious; he sank the city in rage, and then, rather than just leave the city alone forever, came back and oversaw the creation of a nice little tyranny, all justified by the usual half-assed Thousand Streams River method of thinking. “That was just the society that developed naturally – it’s not our place to tell them how to live.” Except that his personal attendants were the progenitors of the ruling races and were meeting with them to pass down the “will of the whale god.” And then to claim that none of this was his responsibility….
That was the crux of the issue. And it was why I slapped Leviathan, a creature who could tear me limb-from-limb as easily as breathing, directly across the face. I doubt he even really felt it, but I could scarcely think of any more fitting reaction. Levithan’s pain is great, and his rage was extremely justified, but the fact remains that he destroyed and sank a city, and then held his ire over the heads of the descendants of those who had wronged him. To the point where he was perfectly fine letting them continue to be enslaved, tortured, and murdered many, many centuries after the crime, all with the convenient excuse of “it’s not my responsibility.” I have not had much direct experience with Lunar Elders yet, but I certainly have seen that they are, if nothing else, very creative when it comes to recognizing and acknowledging their own mistakes, and justifying immense atrocities in the name of their own selfish desires. For all of their constructed image of being leaders and mentors, they fail to grasp some of the most important aspects of being a teacher.
Back at the Library, “teacher,” “professor,” “mentor,” and the like were the titles of respect we recognized. This was because teaching is one of the most difficult roles a person can fulfill. It’s not as simple as giving someone information. It’s showing someone how to do a thing, opening a mind to how to think and how to learn, and guiding that person towards using their gifts for the good of all, while refraining from dictation or force. It’s not an easy line to walk. But that’s why we spent our lives honing the craft. To simply toss technology and information into a culture and say “Welp, have fun with that!” would have made most of our senior sages choke on their breath. Yes, it’s difficult negotiating the middle way between entirely hands-off and complete hand-holding. But you don’t half-ass a thing because it’s difficult. And if Leviathan insists on doing that very thing, while letting his hatred of people who died more than a millenium ago define how he acts even now, then he doesn’t deserve the title of “Elder.”
I don’t hate Leviathan. Far from it. The truth is, we are none of us ready for the responsibility that our Exaltations present us with. Even our forebears, the first Exalted, were not ready. They were humans – mortals – given the swords of the gods and sent out to destroy our creators. The human mind and heart weren’t created to handle that sort of burden. And to this day, not all of us want to be glorious heroes. All I ever wanted to do with my life was teach. In my wildest dreams, I Exalted as a Water or Air Aspect, but before meeting Nagi I never craved such a thing. Regardless, my Exaltation chose me. Perhaps I was simply a convenient host. Or perhaps I was always meant to carry the torch of Orpheus. I imagine the answer lies somewhere between the two. None of it really matters; Sol Invictus’s will recognized me, which means I have both the ability and the potential to do great things. I was chosen for a reason, and so was Leviathan. And that reason is not wallowing in my own pain, shirking my duty by running and hiding, or still expecting to be treated with respect and deference despite my conduct.
There I go sounding angry again. But I’m not, not anymore. Despite what he’s done, Leviathan was still a hero. Not just in the First Age: by seeking out Luthe when he found out there were survivors, and helping the people inside it who had fought and scraped to get the most meager functions up and running again, he saved a lot of lives that would otherwise have perished. The city wouldn’t have been there for us to save if he had not done so, and for that I will always be grateful to him. When I look at him, I don’t see the broken, eternally-mourning remnant he’s become. I see what lies deep beneath all of that, the resourceful, compassionate soul who found it somewhere in himself, despite the misery, to finally reach out to the people he had wronged, to not abandon those who were trying so desperately to survive just because their deaths would have been part of some “natural order.” We don’t have the luxury of being consumed by our regrets and suffering – we have to bury them, deep down, and carry on, even when it hurts just to live, because this world depends on us. I believe Leviathan feels the same way, if he could ever bring himself to look beyond the past, or else he would have just let Luthe continue to rot. And I want to see him recover himself, and to be the example that Ven claims he can be.
But in the meantime, he’s no good to us or anyone else. For all of their vaunted wisdom and power, the Lunar Elders have grown mad, selfish, and weak. Dark days await this world, but they’re so busy trying to protect their individual houses of cards that they can’t look to the big picture. We’re all doomed if we continue to let them lead, or to rely on them in any real fashion. It’s true that we’re going to have to work together to fix and save Creation, but for now it’s looking as if the Lunar Elders are more trouble than they’re worth. We don’t need them.
Even so, I’ll look forward to the day Leviathan wakes up and comes back. If I have any say in it, I’ll keep Smiley in the Library for that day.