Digital Priests

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The Childlike Empress picked up AURYN

Little by little the darkness cleared from Atreyu's face. After a while he asked: "How can you know all that? The cry by the Deep Chasm and the image in the magic mirror? Did you arrange it all in advance?" The Childlike Empress picked up AURYN, and said, while putting the chain around her neck: "Didn't you wear the Gem the whole time? Didn't you know that through it I was always with you?" "Not always," said Atreyu. "I lost it." "Yes. Then you were really alone. Tell me what happened to you then." Atreyu told her the story. "Now I know why you turned gray," said the Childlike Empress. "You were too close to the Nothing." "Gmork, the werewolf, told me," said Atreyu, "that when a Fantastican is swallowed up by the Nothing, he becomes a lie. Is that true?" "Yes, it is true," said the Childlike Empress, and her golden eyes darkened. "All lies were once creatures of Fantastica. They are made of the same stuff -- but they have lost their true nature and become unrecognizable. But, as you might expect from a half-and-half creature like Gmork, he told you only half the truth. There are two ways of crossing the dividing line between Fantastica and the human world, a right one and a wrong one. When Fantasticans are cruelly dragged across it, that's the wrong way. When humans, children of man, come to our world of their own free will, that's the right way. Every human who has been here has learned something that could be learned only here, and returned to his own world a changed person. Because he had seen you creatures in your true form, he was able to see his own world and his fellow humans with new eyes. Where he had seen only dull, everyday reality, he now discovered wonders and mysteries. That is why humans were glad to come to Fantastica. And the more these visits enriched our world, the fewer lies there were in theirs, the better it became. Just as our two worlds can injure each other, they can also make each other whole again." For a time both were silent. Then she went on: "Humans are our hope. One of them must come and give me a new name. And he will come." Atreyu made no answer.  


Again they sat silent

"May I ask you another question?" said Atreyu. "Of course," she answered with a smile. "Why do you need a new name to get well?" "Only the right name gives beings and things their reality," she said. "A wrong name makes everything unreal. That's what lies do." "Maybe the savior doesn't yet know the right name to give you." "Oh yes he does," she assured him. Again they sat silent. "I know it all right," said Bastian. "I knew it the moment I laid eyes on her. But I don't know what I have to do."  Atreyu looked up. "Maybe he wants to come and just doesn't know how to go about it." "All he has to do," said the Childlike Empress, "is to call me by my new name, which he alone knows. Nothing more." Bastian's heart pounded. Should he try? What if he didn't succeed? What if he was wrong? What if they weren't talking about him but about some entirely different savior? How could he be sure they really meant him?  "Could it be," said Atreyu after a while, "that he doesn't know it's him and not somebody else we're talking about?"


For a time both were silent

That is why humans were glad to come to Fantastica. And the more these visits enriched our world, the fewer lies there were in theirs, the better it became. Just as our two worlds can injure each other, they can also make each other whole again." For a time both were silent. Then she went on: "Humans are our hope. One of them must come and give me a new name. And he will come." Atreyu made no answer. "Do you understand now, Atreyu," she asked, "why I had to ask so much of you? Only a long story full of adventures, marvels, and dangers could bring our savior to me. And that was your story." Atreyu sat deep in thought. At length he nodded. "Yes, Golden-eyed Commander of Wishes, now I understand. I thank you for choosing me. Forgive my anger." "You had no way of knowing these things," she answered. "And that too was necessary." Again Atreyu nodded. After a short silence he said: "But I'm very tired." "You have done enough, Atreyu. Would you like to rest?" "Not yet. First I would like to see the happy outcome of my story. If, as you say, I've carried out my mission, why isn't the savior here yet? What's he waiting for?" "Yes," said the Childlike Empress softly. "What is he waiting for?" Bastian felt his hands growing moist with excitement. "I can't do it," he said. "I don't even know what I'm supposed to do. Maybe the name I've thought of isn't the right one." 


Not even the most intrepid mountain climbers ventured into these fields of everlasting ice

Not even the most intrepid mountain climbers ventured into these fields of everlasting ice. It had been so very, very long since anyone had succeeded in climbing this mountain that the feat had been forgotten. For one of Fantastica's many strange laws decreed that no one could climb the Mountain of Destiny until the last successful climber had been utterly forgotten. Thus anyone who managed to climb it would always be the first. No living creature could survive in that icy waste -- except for a handful of gigantic ice-glumps -- who could barely be called living creatures, for they moved so slowly that they needed years for a single step and whole centuries for a short walk. Which meant, of course, that they could only associate with their own kind and knew nothing at all about the rest of Fantastica. They thought of themselves as the only living creatures in the universe. Consequently, they were puzzled to the point of consternation when they saw a tiny speck twining its way upward over perilous crags and razor-sharp ridges, then vanishing into deep chasms and crevasses, only to reappear higher up. That speck was the Childlike Empress's glass litter, still carried by four of her invisible Powers. It was barely visible, for the glass it was made of looked very much like ice, and the Childlike Empress's white gown and white hair could hardly be distinguished from the snow roundabout.


But the Ivory Tower at the center still shimmered pure, immaculately white

Enfeebled and trembling, the innermost heart of Fantastica was still resisting the inexorable encroachment of the Nothing. But the Ivory Tower at the center still shimmered pure, immaculately white. Ordinarily flying messengers landed on one of the lower terraces. But Falkor reasoned that since neither he nor Atreyu had the strength to climb the long spiraling street leading to the top of the Tower, and since time was of the essence, the regulations and rules of etiquette could reasonably be ignored. He therefore decided on an emergency landing. Swooping down over the ivory buttresses, bridges, and balustrades, he located, just in time, the uppermost end of the spiraling High Street, which lay just outside the palace grounds. Plummeting to the roadway, he went into a skid, made several complete turns, and finally came to a stop tail-first. Atreyu, who had been clinging with both arms to Falkor's neck, sat up and looked around. He had expected some sort of reception, or at least a detachment of palace guards to challenge them -- but far and wide there was no one to be seen.


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