Omphalos - The Grand Campaign
The Birth of the City
Why flowers, you ask? For that, you must understand the birth of the city. And like all tales of birth, this one involves pain and blood and new life.
These days we call the city Omphalos, the hub of all things, but Omphalos came before the city. When all the songs of creation had been sung, when all the gods of all the pantheons had hung the stars in the skies and breathed life into all the mortals who would worship them, when all the creation stories had been told, there was chaos. A thousand thousands of conflicting and contradictory versions of what is clashed like swords. And like swords, all were doomed to eventually shatter in those clashes.
But there was a place that was not a place. Outside all the myriad versions of creation. A rock upon which to stand and observe the planes and places that were, that might have been and that could never be. And that place was Omphalos. And it was to that place that gods came, some more willing than others, harried and chivied and nagged into it by those who were wise and those who were sacred fools among them.
And it was there that the gods, after many years of debate, decided upon an order for all things. They would stay out of each other’s worlds and planes, sharing when needed, but mostly leaving each other to their own devices and diversions. What conflicts there were would be settled in the meeting place, the place in the center of all the ‘ifs’ and ‘ises’.
These talks, as I said, dragged on many years. And in that time, the pantheons, warily, grew to know one another. And so it was that Xochipilli, the flower prince, grew to know Oya, she who uses the wind as a sword. Now the flower prince and the lady of tornados both had mates. And neither of their interests overlapped greatly. He was a soft, lovely creature, born of blossoms and the dreams brought on by herbs and mushrooms and she was a fiery thing, with fierce eyes and a laugh that could shake the stones.
But Oya grew to love that gentleness and the way that life sprung up in Xochipilli’s footsteps. And Xochipilli grew to love Oya’s spirit and love of life. And so it was that Oya found the flower prince, creating an oasis in the red rock canyons of Omphalos, seeking him out after a battle with many other war gods to throw back those things which are not and must not be. Now Oya was often a woman, because her husband prefered that form, but she was also known as ‘She who grows a beard to go to war’ and it was in that form that she met Xochipilli that day. As a tall and lean man, hardened by war and made beautiful by his scars and passion.
The flower prince knew his heart was lost when he saw Oya’s fierce eyes looking back at him from the dark, scarred face of a warrior fresh from battle. They came together there and their coupling covered the red soil in green, lush grass and young trees, spreading out from them like ripples in a pond, bringing life to a dead place.
And so it was that Coyotl, the coyote, Xochipilli’s cousin and the most foolish of sacred fools put his nose to the wind and thought to himself, ‘This smells of the flower prince! What could he be doing to make this place live so?’ And on four legs, letting sharp ears and nose guide him, Coyotl found the lovers trysting. ‘So nice of cousin to give me this grass to hide in!’, he thought. And then, with a coyote’s wicked grin, ‘And such mischief this will cause!’
There was no thought of not stirring up that trouble. That is what tricksters do, after all.
And so Coyotl tracked down Shango, god of fire and thunder, husband of Oya, and asked, “Pardon me, oh mighty father of fire and lightning, but do you have a wife?”
Shango peered down at the coyote, knowing a troublemaker when he saw one. His voice was cautious as he replied, “I do. Many. But little coyotes are not to my tastes.”
Coyotl laughed, his tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth and asked, “And one of your wives, does she go to war as a bold and bare warrior man, with fierce eyes and a beard all hung with beads and shells?”
Shango’s brows lowered and thunder rumbled. “Oya? She does.” Fire played in his eyes as he asked, “Why?”
Coyotl’s expression was as innocent as a coyote’s can be. Which isn’t very innocent at all, but one can hardly blame them for that. He replied, “Have you not seen the way this place has become fertile and alive today?” He turned his nose towards the east and the canyon where the lovers still loved. “Can’t you smell the flowers borne on the storm?”
Shango stretched out his senses and looked afar for his wife. And then he roared, lightning lashing down to blast the spot where Coyotl had been. But of course, the trickster, having made his mischief, was long gone, laughing and playing in the grass, deciding to bring in mice and birds and other things to play with and hunt and entirely forgetting his terrible betrayal.
And so it was that Shango, wrapped in a mighty storm, found Oya and Xochipilli together. His wrath was terrible and fierce, turning the sunless sky dark and bolts of lightning shaking the earth. Oya, knowing that wrath well, rose to meet Shango, changing from a man of war to a woman made of wind and power. And so they clashed, bringing open battle of the gods to Omphalos for the first and last time.
For hours the storm raged, so fierce that it threatened to destroy the place that was not a place. But Shango was winning, slowly but surely. Now the flower prince was not a warrior but he was also not a coward. And when he saw Shango’s steel spear, wreathed with lightning and fire, about to strike Oya down, he threw himself into the sky, riding the wind to interpose himself between his love and death. The spear pierced his body, through his belly and out his back to nick Oya, opening a wound below her breasts.
Shango was horrified. All the treaties, all the hard-won order, all the work of all the gods was likely to have been destroyed with that one thrust. harming a member of one’s own pantheon was one thing. Killing a god of another pantheon was an act of war. His wrath vanished and even as Oya cradled Xochipilli to her, he drew close to them, reaching out to lay his hand on the flower prince’s forehead.
“Foolish boy. I could not have killed her. She is air and life and war. She is eternal.” But the selflessness of the act spoke of true love and it was there and then that Shango learned the control and cool-headedness that is his hallmark to this day. To kill someone for loving another was a great evil and he vowed to never let his wrath rule him again.
Xochipilli knew he was dying. He could feel the life ebbing. And he knew his death might well doom all the planes, if the gods went to war. So he rested a long-fingered, soft hand on Oya’s face and whispered, “Forgive him. I do. One day with you is worth any price.” And then, looking up at Shango, he asked, “Lift me up, both of you, to the skies.”
And so, raised up by the storm winds of Oya and Shango, their tears and blood, power and grief riding the storm with him, the flower prince was lifted high above Omphalos. Pouring all his powers of creation and love into his wound, Xochipilli let the blood flow, flinging it out into the winds, so the tiny red drops were carried to the far corners of Omphalos. And where they fell … came life. Blossoms of every description and color. Flowers the color of blood and flame and rubies, flowers the color of perfect blue skies, of deep lakes and sapphires, flowers of every hue and kind blanketed Omphalos, until Xochipilli himself was gone, all his substance and self poured into those flowers.
The other gods of all the pantheons watched in wonder as a place that had been lifeless the day before became a place of beauty and rebirth. And they watched as El Adrin rose from the mounds of blossoms, with skin and hair and eyes as in all the colors of all the flowers that were born there that day. To this day, they are the only species native to Omphalos.
But the greatest change came where the blood of all three gods mixed and fell to the ground. There rose … the city. Beautiful, shining, empty at first but soon every street and window box, garden and park was filled with flowers and the blue waters of many canals, fountains and reflecting pools. It was the dream of cities. The perfected mother of all metropolises. And every god that watched it grow knew there was a mansion or place in the city for them.
And from the garden at the heart of the city rose something even more wondrous. A new god. A god born of Omphalos. Of the essence of the prince of flowers and the blood of three gods. A beautiful, dark-skinned youth, shining with power and peace. Some call him Kulkulkan or Quetzalcoatl, but he simply calls himself Urbanus, ‘The City’.
It was this new god who kept the peace, arguing that his ‘father’ made a sacrifice to cement the alliance of the gods and that as the only god native to Omphalos, he would always be neutral to the conflicts out in the planes and would always have the power to enforce civility and order in his own place of birth. In time, Urbanus adopted El Adrin and later still, became a patron to all those who would accept no god as their masters, but wished to live free in his city.
And it is by Urbanus’s law that we remember Xochipilli, honoring the flower prince with the blossoms of our crests and homes and gardens and with a tradition of love that knows no bounds.
And that, young one, is ‘why flowers’.
Now stop sniffling and help your grandfather plant these bulbs. I’ll be damned if that halfling upstart down the street is going to have a better display of jasmine for Lover’s Night this year. Really, the only reason they are good at gardening is because they are so close to the ground! Hrmph.