Ja’ek and the Beanstalk
(as told by the Yosh, wise nomads of the Jagged Wastes)
It began, as many stories do, with a sibling rivalry. For Gla’iv was a mighty warrior, indeed the mightiest to ever stride the glassy wastes of the Dessanedi, but the fires of jealousy burned hot within her heart, as hot as the innards of the ember scions born of the extradimensional demon Gmol. For while Gla’iv was the mightiest of warriors, her sister Ja’ek had found much favor in the eyes of the peoples, being a teller of tales and a singer of songs. Indeed, Ja’ek was the greatest tale-teller and song-singer to ever pluck the buzzing-harp or thump the bass-gourd.
And so it came to pass that Gla’iv, in a fit of burning rage, rose up and tied her sister to the trunk of the scraggling tree (whose cube-fruit is sweet to the tongue but which harbors a dangerous parasite when overripe), and left her there to die from exposure to the elements, for Gla’iv was angry indeed.
And so it came to pass that Ja’ek, being in sore distress bound to the scraggling tree, spied the stooped form of the mad wise-woman Na’ano and her pet rubar in the distance. Now, Na’ano was wise in the secrets of esoteries and the numinous technology, the relics of the prior worlds, but foolish in the ways of sensible peoples. And so it was that as Na’ano slowly shuffled near, Ja’ek cried out to her, “O unfortunate Na’ano! Why do you suffer the pains of a stooped and crooked back when you could be straightened and hale like me!”
Na’ano squinted her rheumy eyes at Ja’ek suspiciously. “Do you indeed know the secret of straightening a crooked back? Or is this a trick? For I know that you are a tricky tale-teller, O Ja’ek.”
Ja’ek answered, saying, “O discerning Na’ano, it is no trick! For you can see yourself that my back is indeed straight.”
Na’ano carefully examined Ja’ek’s back and saw that her back was straight indeed. “Hm! Then tell me, what is the secret of a straightened back, O Ja’ek?”
“O clever Na’ano, the secret of a straightened back is to be tied to this tree for 28 hours, for this tree is touched by the numenera! And you can see that my back is straight, for indeed my 28 hours are passed. I offer to let you take my place!”
And so it was that Na’ano, being foolish in the ways of sensible people, agreed to untie Ja’ek and be tied to the scraggling tree in her place.
Ja’ek picked up Na’ano’s rubar and went home to the yurt she shared with Gla’iv. (For in those days, neither Ja’ek nor Gla’iv were yet married, but lived together in a yurt among the Yosh, who are a people most wise and sensible.)
Gla’iv was wroth to see Ja’ek still alive, but her fierce anger was abated when she saw that Ja’ek had acquired a rubar, for a rubar (having the likeness of a whiskered fish that goes about on dry land on many tiny legs) is a rare and useful companion indeed, happy to eat all manner of decaying flesh and refuse, and leaving no trace of corruption in its wake.
And it came to pass in that same year that a great famine arose in the land, for an infestation of chance moths had ravaged the wild liverbeans of the plains.
And so it was that Gla’iv, knowing that her sister was the more skilled negotiator and much loved of the peoples besides, sent Ja’ek up to Yosh-ul to barter the rubar for a bushel of liverbeans. (For the blood of a rubar, when congealed and fermented, makes a savory red pudding, luxurious food for one day, but a bushel of liverbeans is food for many days, and a sensible person knows that food for many days is far better than food for one day.)
On the way to Yosh-ul, Ja’ek once again encountered the mad wise-woman Na’ano.
“O Ja’ek, we meet again. And as you can see, my back is straight, as you said.”
And Ja’ek looked and saw that indeed Na’ano’s back was no longer stooped and crooked, but straightened and hale.
“O Na’ano, that’s… great!” said she. “The tree must be… indeed is… touched by the numenera! Just as I said!”
“Indeed it was. I disintegrated the tree to find how it worked, and found this among the ashes.” Na’ano thrust before Ja’ek’s eyes a tiny metallic bean with glowing blues lines upon it. “I hope to trade this numinous bean now for some food, for the famine in the land is great indeed.”
“O wise Na’ano, I would not see you starve! I have this healthy rubar, whose congealed blood makes a savory pudding, if you have aught to trade for it.”
Na’ano squinted at the rubar. “Your rubar looks familiar… very familiar indeed. But I suppose one rubar looks much the same as any other. I offer you the numinous bean for it.”
“O generous Na’ano, do not think me presumptuous, but my sister Gla’iv will be wroth with me if I come home with but a single numinous bean in exchange for the rubar. Do you have aught else?”
“I have naught else but this handful of stone-beans, which I found near the scraggling tree.”
The stone-beans had the likeness of ordinary pebbles.
“Then I shall trade you the rubar for the numinous bean and five of the stone-beans!”
And so it was that Ja’ek traded the rubar to Na’ano for six beans. And when Ja’ek arrived home with them, the fury of Gla’iv was kindled white-hot against her, for the beans had the likeness of five ordinary pebbles and a tiny piece of broken machinery. Gla’iv snatched the beans from the hand of Ja’ek and hurled them clear across the horizon, from the door of their yurt in the shadow of the Great Slab, across the windswept plains of Kataru, nearly unto the forest Ba’adenu (where the idolatrous tree-climbing ambushers dwell), a distance of 171 leagues, for Gla’iv was a mighty warrior indeed, and wroth.
And it came to pass that there the beans sprouted.
Overnight, the numinous bean sprouted into a great numinous tower of metal and glass, crisscrossed with many glowing blue lines, and so impossibly tall it simply disappeared into the unfathomable distance of the sky, even on a clear day. And the five stone-beans became five boulders the size of mountains that floated many cubits above the ground, moving in slow circles around the base of the “bean-stalk”.
And it came to pass that a giant climbed down the Beanstalk.
The giant Sanedi, a hollow man made of glass, one hundred and eleven times the height of an ordinary man, and filled with countless millions of curious insects, came down and stole the Falgre’en, the Singing Pipes. (For in those days, the idolatrous peoples of the southern plains and the forest Ba’adenu worshipped the Falgre’en, offering them gifts and prostrating themselves before them, obsequiously beseeching them for the most banal of blessings.)
And when Ja’ek and Gla’iv had heard of these things, the sprouting of the beans and the outrage of the giant, they resolved at once to travel south to the Beanstalk, though it was a journey of many days, for they were of the Yosh, adventurous and brave, and ready to take responsibility for their actions. And they brought with them the mad crone Na’ano with the promise of numenera to be studied.
And as these three stood at the base of the Beanstalk looking up into the clear sky, yet unable to discern the tower’s peak in the unthinkable distance, Na’ano declared that it would be too dangerous to climb it, for the Beanstalk rose all the way up unto the stars, and the stars are dangerous indeed.
Said Ja’ek, “O erudite Na’ano, can we not climb the Beanstalk during the day, when the stars are not out?” (For while Ja’ek was indeed wise in the ways of tale-telling and song-singing, she was foolish in the mysteries of astrological lore.)
Na’ano laughed. “O foolish child, you are indeed not wise in the mysteries of astrological lore. For the stars are indeed there both day and night, but are not visible in the day, being hidden behind the bright blue sea of the daytime sky.”
And the countenance of Ja’ek fell, for great was her disappointment that she could not climb the Beanstalk.
Na’ano spoke again. “O Ja’ek, do not despair, letting your countenance fall, thinking that you will not climb the Beanstalk. For there is a way: a Star-Affector would allow the climb into the night sky to be undertaken safely.”
And Ja’ek answered, saying, “O brilliant Na’ano, where might we obtain this Star-Affector?”
And Na’ano answered, saying, “I could build one. It requires the hide and silken webs of a stellar weaver, whose flesh is formed of the very night sky itself and whose lairs are portals to other dimensions. It requires also the heart of a dark fathom, whose likeness is that of a metallic man but whose core is a voracious black hole, drawing in and crushing all forms of matter and energy. And lastly, it requires the organic brain of a dread destroyer, a feared war-machine of antiquity capable of flattening a great city from a distance of many leagues. With these things, I could build a Star-Affector.”
And Gla’iv, who had until this point listened to the exchange in silence, answered, saying, “I’m on it.”
And so it was that Gla’iv journeyed to the Black Riage mountains many leagues to the west, and there found the extradimensional lair of a stellar weaver, whose flesh is formed of the very night sky itself, and slew it, taking its hide and silken webs.
And so it was also that Gla’iv journeyed to the Malingering Valley within the Caecilian Jungle (where the calming tifo-fruit grows) many leagues to the north, and there found a dark fathom, whose likeness is that of a metallic man but whose core is a voracious black hole, and slew it, taking its black-hole heart from its dark iron ribcage.
And finally, so it was also that Gla’iv journeyed to the vast salt-flats of Errid Kaloum many leagues to the southeast, and there found, standing alone in the middle of the salt-plain, a lonely dread destroyer, programmed to defend at all costs an ancient structure that had fallen to dust uncountable eons ago. And Gla’iv slew it as well, taking its organic brain from its heavily armored hull.
And Gla’iv brought these things back to Na’ano, who worked through the night to build the Star-Affector. And Na’ano showed Ja’ek how to use the Star-Affector, twisting the knob to the left to attract the stars, and to the right to repel them.
And so it was that Ja’ek twisted the knob to the right, strapped the Star-Affector to her back, and started climbing.
And Ja’ek climbed and climbed, and climbed yet more. She climbed to the clouds and kept climbing, leaving the clouds far below. She climbed even to the height of the stars (which are dangerous indeed, being polished, razor-edged metal discs that reflect the sun’s rays as they fly in orderly formation across the sky at tremendous speeds, and even the smallest star is as big as three or four yurts.)
But the Star-Affector that Na’ano had built worked well, repelling the stars (for Na’ano, though mad, was most wise in the ways of the numenera), and so it was that Ja’ek was able to safely climb all the way to the very top of the Beanstalk.
For it had come to pass that an enormous star had collided with the Beanstalk and was firmly stuck in place at the very top.
Ja’ek turned off the Star-Affector and stood atop the star, which was as vast as the teeming city of Nebalich in the land of Seshar, where the red stone is quarried. She looked and beheld a colossal castle of glass, sprawling as wide as any human city and standing as tall as the Twisted Spire that grows disquietingly amid the faraway Amorphous Fields beyond the Twin Seas.
But Ja’ek, being of the Yosh and very brave, was undeterred. She entered the vast star-castle, seeking the stolen Falgre’en.
A booming voice shook the castle to its very foundations. “Fid, Fad, Fod, Fud! I’ve caught the scent of a human’s blood!” Booming footsteps followed.
And so Ja’ek ran and hid. (For the Yosh, though unquestionably brave and adventurous, are also most prudent and sensible). And Ja’ek was clever and quick, staying out of the sight of the giant, who shouted rhyming curses and threats continually as it searched the castle high and low for Ja’ek.
And so it was, that as Ja’ek fled the giant she came across the Falgre’en, the Singing Pipes, which the giant had stolen from their worshipers. And Ja’ek took up the Falgre’en (which had the likeness of a bundle of pipes of various sizes and materials, none longer than a man’s arm, bound together with a rawhide cord), intending to flee the star-castle with them.
But it came to pass that as Ja’ek lifted the Singing Pipes, they cried out in a chorus of many ethereal musical voices, “O Sanedi, noble giant! Come quickly, for this thief seeks to steal us from your mighty star-castle!”
And so it was that the giant caught Ja’ek, easily picking her up in one hand, for the giant was one hundred and eleven times the height of a human man.
Said the giant, “Fah, feh, fih, fuu! The thief shall make a tasty stew!”
Said Ja’ek, “O feckless Falgre’en, why have you thus betrayed your rescuer? Do you not wish to be returned to your faithful worshipers, to be doted on and beseeched for blessings every day?”
And the Falgre’en answered, saying, “O foolish thief, why should I wish to return to the obsequious fawning of those pitiable simpletons? Besides which, I am in love with the noble giant Sanedi.”
And Ja’ek answered, saying, “O enigmatic Falgre’en, how can it be that you are in love with the giant Sanedi, seeing that you are a bundle of pipes not longer than a man’s arm, and seeing that the giant Sanedi is a hollow glass construct one hundred and eleven times the height of a human man, filled with countless millions of curious insects, and lacking in visible reproductive anatomy besides?”
(For such was the giant.)
And the Falgre’en answered, saying, “O hateful thief, it is not for you to deny true love!”
Thus Ja’ek knew it would be fruitless to argue with the Falgre’en, for she could see they were indeed in love with the giant Sanedi. And so Ja’ek said to the giant, “O noble Sanedi! I beg your forgiveness, for I indeed did not know the true love that existed between you and the Falgre’en. If you will let me go to return to Earth, I will give, in exchange for my life, this artifact that allows one to control the stars themselves! For I was able to climb up here without danger from the stars with the help of this Star-Controller!”
And so with many words and blandishments, Ja’ek convinced the giant Sanedi to take the Star-Affector. But before she handed it over, she surreptitiously twisted its knob to the left and broke it off, for Ja’ek was a player of tricks. The giant took the Star-Affector into the inside of its hollow body where the curious insects that controlled it could examine it more closely.
And so it was that Ja’ek was released to climb back down the Beanstalk.
But it came to pass that the giant realized that the artifact was not as Ja’ek had represented, being able only to affect the stars, not control them directly. And the giant was wroth, and began to climb down the Beanstalk in pursuit, shouting, “Fie! Vie! Nie! Hie! Today a wretched thief shall die!” For the rage of the giant was greatly kindled against Ja’ek.
But the Star-Affector was still stuck in attraction mode. And so it was that the many stars, from the smallest to the greatest, swarmed the giant as he tried to climb down the Beanstalk and knocked him from it.
And great was the fall thereof.
The body of the giant Sanedi fell to the Earth and shattered into countless billions of fragments not far from Yosh-ul, creating the glass-covered Des-sanedi, the Jagged Wastes.
And the curious insects that survived created smaller versions of the giant, the Sons of Sanedi (known as “ettericks” in the ignorance-blighted lands of the so-called Steadfast west of the Black Riage mountains), and to this day, these go about on the Earth, seeking numenera to return them to their rightful star-castle, not speaking to humans so as to never be tricked again (though the Sons of Sanedi are indeed capable of communication).
And it came to pass that many years after the fall of the giant Sanedi, Ja’ek was exploring the Jagged Wastes and came upon the Falgre’en, the Singing Pipes, again. (For the giant had brought the Falgre’en when chasing Ja’ek, and they had fallen to the Earth as well.)
And the Pipes cried out with many ethereal musical voices, “O murderous thief, we meet again! Tell us your name that we might curse you with a thousand curses!”
And Ja’ek answered, saying, “O merciful Falgre’en, do not be wroth with me, for I, Gla’iv the Mighty, in my great wrath and anger to avenge your theft, did not know that you loved the giant Sanedi so!”
And the Falgre’en answered, saying, “O Gla’iv, I curse you to be ruled by your great anger, to seek to smash any obstacle instead of finding the way around, to seek to slay your foes instead of seeking compromise, to always do everything the hard way!”
(And thus are those who follow the path of Gla’iv under a curse.)
And Ja’ek laughed, for indeed her true name was not Gla’iv the Mighty.
And the Falgre’en again cried out with many ethereal voices, “O treacherous blackguard, you laugh because that is not your true name! We command you to tell us your true name that we might curse you with a thousand curses!”
And Ja’ek answered, saying, “O compassionate Falgre’en, do not be furious with me, for I, Na’ano the Mad, indeed sought only to explore the star-castle in my great curiosity for the numenera!”
And the Falgre’en answered, saying, “O Na’ano, I curse you to be ruled by your great curiosity, to seek to disturb that which is better left undisturbed, to seek out always the secrets of the numinous, no matter the danger, to always find trouble!”
(And thus are those who follow the path of Na’ano under a curse also.)
And Ja’ek laughed, for indeed her true name was not Na’ano the Mad either.
And the Falgre’en again cried out with many ethereal musical voices, “O pernicious dissembler, you again laugh because that also is not your true name! Tell us your true name, for our patience grows short!”
And Ja’ek answered, saying, “O magnanimous Falgre’en, do not be enraged with us, for we, Falgre’en the Pipes, indeed sought only to escape from the giant and not to kill him!”
But this the Pipes did not answer, remaining silent. For while the Falgre’en are indeed foolish in the ways of humans, there are limits to their foolishness.
And as the Falgre’en would no longer speak to Ja’ek, she carried them to Yosh-ul, meeting place of the wise and sensible Yosh, and there bartered them for a bowl of savory red rubar-blood pudding. For a sensible person knows that it is far better to satisfy one’s hunger than to satisfy one’s curiosity for the numinous, for the numenera is dangerous indeed.
And to this day the Beanstalk still stands where mighty Gla’iv planted it, visible for many leagues around, awaiting the day when some foolish champion will again climb it and attain the giant’s star-castle.
Many outlandish variations of the story of Ja’ek and the Beanstalk are told amongst the benighted non-Yosh peoples. The idolatrous tree-dwellers of the Ba’adenu (who despise the ground and still worship the Falgre’en to this day) have a version, in which the Falgre’en is a plant-creature having the likeness of a woman. The people of Salachia (who dwell hundreds of leagues below the surface of the salty sea Sere Marica) have a version, in which the giant’s fall created the Twin Seas. Even the useless philosophers of the Clock (who were once wisest of all in the ways of esoteries and the numenera) have a version, in which the stars are colossal spheres of continuously exploding superheated gas, an outlandish superstition indeed. But the story of Ja’ek and the Beanstalk as told by the Yosh is the correct one, full of much wisdom and literally true in every detail, for the Yosh are a people most wise and sensible.