One morning, at the behest of my friends and as a writerly experiment to see if my whim could work, I went on a hypercaffeination bender and drafted the following. I now provide a portion of this madness to you, my readers, for… some twisted reason. Enjoy!
On the Celestial Concocting and the Creation of the Flavors
At the dawn of existence, They Who Measure first created the universe as a stew vast beyond comprehension. From this stew they drew the great spheres upon which they would work their Recipes, and shaped the spheres to bear the weight of their Concoction. For the first of these spheres they chose that which in our own age is called Earth, and made the first of their decrees: that it was not always the size of the plate, but its purpose that made it worthy.
Thence They Who Measure gave forth upon the new world life, and to this life they gave each being its portion of Flavors. Five were the Flavors they chose: Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty and Savory, and the nature of each being forevermore was driven by its Flavors. To the creatures of air gave They Who Measure Sweetness, but so too a measure of Bitter, and this is why birds sing so beautifully yet leave droppings upon the whole of existence. To the lonely viper they gave only Bitterness, where to the horse they gave entirely too much Sweet and so horses are the most panicky of creatures, and must be lured with sugar cubes and fruit. The plants too they gave Flavor, but in their wisdom They Who Measure saw that there must be some part of their Concoction which offered its Flavor and took none, else the Tasting of each being upon the next would prevent the Flavors of creation from developing properly.
Last of all They Who Measure formed humanity from the stew and drove it forth into Their Concoction. To this grandest of their creations They gave all Flavors in balance, and one thing further. They Who Measure blessed humanity with a small portion of Their own Measuring, and thus it was that humanity alone of all beings may choose the Flavors within themselves, and change those of the world around them. But humanity were unwise with this gift. In our childish innocence, we used the Flavors with abandon, here Sweet, here Bitter, some Sour for this one, some Savory for that. We destroyed the perfect balance of Their Concoction. It was humanity who created the Overwhelming, and from this vying of all Flavors against each other we, by our own ignorance, created the Tongue-Ruiner.
We also call it the Bland One, but in truth it is the very opposite. In the Tongue-Ruiner all flavors exist to such excess that they cannot be Measured, and Taste itself is destroyed by its touch. The Tongue-Ruiner sought to change the Recipes of Their Concoction to suit itself, and in so doing it created Spoilage, which in time destroys all things. They Who Measure perceived that it was beyond even Their Measuring to undo what had been wrought, for though Measuring may add some of this Flavor or that, it must remove wholesale that which it adds in in parts. Their Concoction was tainted forevermore, doomed to an imbalance of Flavors.
Still, They Who Measure had grown fond of Their Concoction, and were unwilling to throw it out entire. So it was that They bound the Tongue-Ruiner in the celestial Spice Rack, and saved what They could of their Recipes. At last They saw that there was no more They could do, and so it was that They left this, the first of their Concoctions, in order that They might start anew.
Now it is left to humanity alone to Measure the Flavors of the world, and though we have learned with time, we are even yet no more than children toying with the Kitchen of our makers. As much as we have learned, there is much we have forgotten. The ancients, closer to They Who Measure, were granted to see portions of the Recipes now lost to us, and it was in that mightier age that our ancestors wrote of the Age of the Final Measure. An Age when Flavors ran amok and humanity forgot the balance that was our lot of the Concoction, when new generations sought only Sweetness, forgetting Salt, Sour, Bitter, and Savor. An Age when the Underseasoner would seek to bring about a second Overwhelming, and the Salt Prophet would stand against him, for it is ever Salt which enhances the other Flavors, and holds them in balance.
On the Five Flavors, Their Virtues and Their Vices
I will speak next on the nature of the Five Flavors gifted us by They Who Measure, the essential components of each living being.
Sweet is the first of the Five. It is that which humans have learned to crave above all others, for it is the source of comfort and good cheer. From Sweet we gain love and peace, a sense of self-worth, and a Measure of the energy which drives us forth in life. But Sweet is insidious: its merits are so obvious that we overlook its pitfalls until we are plummeting.
We are tempted to hoard Sweet for ourselves. In time the peace it grants becomes indolence; we bask in the lassitude of it, and refuse to move forward for fear of leaving it. Self-worth becomes self-love, and then self-worship. We refuse to confront the things which are Bitter in ourselves, and so force our Bitterness upon others. Yet in time, this Bitterness we avoid seems to grow from Sweet, as too much sugar sooner or later comes to gnaw the mouth. So it is we come to laugh at the things Bitter in the world around us, trying to find Sweet for ourselves again.
Sour is second, and tolerated well-enough if not lusted for as Sweet is. It is Sour which provides sadness, yes, but it is also the source of our compassion, and in careful Measure it enhances Sweet by reminding us that we may lose it. Sour offers our nostalgia, our longing, the things which connect us to both the past and future, and yet it is also the means by which we accept what we cannot have. In its proper Measure, Sour has a strange way of becoming either Sweet or Bitter in time.
The great risk of Sour is that it offers a certain compulsion to remain in it, as Sweet does, but in this case it seems only to grow more Sour with time. It does not lend itself in most cases either to Sweet or Bitter; we merely stew in it, and the tears it brings. We can lose all sense of the present in Sour, and remain in it until we Spoil.
Salt, though listed fourth in the Recital of the Concocting, is more properly regarded as the third and middle of the Five. Salt is strange among the Flavors; it seems to have no direct effect, other than that past a certain point it will make any experience intolerable. Even a glass of water becomes too much to bear if there is enough Salt in it. Salt magnifies what it is already present. It is Salt which makes us keen to things we would not otherwise notice, which brings out more fully all the other Flavors of existence.
By its nature, excess Salt has only one effect; it makes existence too raw, too potent, to bear. This is enough in itself, and so while we must have a degree of Salt, we must be especially wary of having too much. It can destroy as easily as enervate.
Savor is the fourth Flavor, and strangely overlooked. Savor is the source of our sense of fulfillment, and that which adds depth to our lives. Savor is what gives us our awe and wonderment, our reverence and our sense of what is good in the world. It is through Savor that we learn to value the best things in the world around us, and to find beauty in both the magnificent and the simple, and to put others before ourselves for the greater good.
From too much Savor come zealotry and fanaticism, as well as bigotry. We begin to put too much value in things of little significance purely because they are closer to us, and become unable to see the value in that which is close to others. In the end, we may save these tiny idols ahead of our own souls.
Bitter is the fifth and last of the Flavors; last in more ways than one. Bitterness is the Flavor that humans avoid above all others, and yet is is the only Flavor they can never avoid entirely. Bitterness is what gives us pain and dislike, that which teaches us to see flaw. And because of this, there can be no virtue without some measure of it. Bitterness is the source of our perseverance. Bitterness makes humans strong. Without Bitterness we would not see what is wrong in the world.
It is not easy to see when just enough Bitterness becomes too much; it may be that it shifts from person to person, even moment to moment. The results are clear enough, however: determination to heal the world’s ills becomes resignation to them. Seeing flaws becomes inability to see virtue, and strength is taxed until instead of growing, it is broken. There can be no good without Bitterness, yet, with too much of it, there can be only evil.
Excerpts from the Llamascripts
(Note: The verse-numbers in the Llamascripts may or may not have any meaningful connection to their actual lengths. They’re mostly just there for… flavor.)
“And with Salt shall he anoint them, with Salt shall he make them one, with Salt he shall break them, to Measure them anew, with Salt he shall end the world that was, to save the world which may yet be.” -Verses 22-23 of Book 8 in the Llamascripts as translated from Spicetongue by Brother Fieri
“In the hours of the Underseasoner, when his matrimony with The Other One is yet unaccomplished,
it shall come to pass that the Salt Prophet, who once was closest to the enemy, shall stand forth
and issue unto the Underseasoner his Final Redress, and in his turn be issued his lot of Bitterness,
and then shall they strive for control of the Cohort, each to save it and so both to doom it.”
“And it shall come to pass in the last days after the sundering of the Cohort
that the Chatkin shall seek salt and find none, seek vengeance and find none,
that they shall hold to bitterness and find it turns semi-sweet in their mouths.”
Book 10 of the Llamascripts, Verses 31-36:
“When the shame of her hubris is laid fully upon her by the Sword of the Prophet,
then shall the Maiden undertake her penance at His direction, though it gall her soul,
and long shall she wander, and long shall she suffer, until by Bitterness she atones,
yet first will the nations of Earth stand against her, and their banners defy her glare,
until long years and long pains open her heart to Salt, and her sins be expunged.”
(It must be inferred that the Sword of the Prophet in this instance is the High Inquisitor)