Queen Alis Li and the ever enigmatic Mara Sov stand together a kilometer off the ground on a wooden deck the Awoken have built to reach up to on of the Shipspire’s airlocks. They are both watching a somber funeral ceremony taking place on the lake far below. Bodies of Awoken killed in the ongoing Theodicy War are being sent out into the lake and set ablaze while friends and loved ones sing songs of grief on the shoreline. For Alis Li, this ceremony is all the sadder because one of the 891 is among the dead, and because the one that killed her did so with a Matter Laser, a weapon that only Alis’ own Paladins should have. It seems very possible that one of her most trusted warriors has defected to the Diasyrm.

Alis expresses her deep frustration to Mara. She says that things were not supposed to go this way. She explains that she still has the original Amrita Charter, and that it indicated they were to explore new worlds. That they were never supposed to lose their original bodies, or become gods, or gain new immortal bodies that shine with starlight. To Alis, this whole war is pointless and wrong and based on bad conclusions that should have never been possible to make. She’s also saying that she never even should have had the power to make a world or decide on the form the Awoken would take.

Alis then all but accuses Mara of starting the war. She asks if Mara saw the Diasrym on her mountaintop and gave her the idea that the Awoken had been denied godhood. Mara responds that she did not have to provide that idea. In a half answer, Mara explains that Alis Li did that herself. That by being too honest and too open, Alis provided others with too much to use against her. Mara quotes one of Alis Li’s old writings back at her as proof:

We were born when a great ship fell into a pearl of shattered space. I awoke first, and in my awakening I collapsed the potential of the void into a form I understood…

“Who can read that truth and not hear arrogance?” Mara asks. In part, Mara is saying that Alis should have kept her creation of the Awoken more secret to prevent a war of ideas like this from happening. But, also, unspoken but implied, is Mara’s answer that yes, she helped start this war, but that she was not its only causes and that no, she did not personally instill the ideas that the Diasyrm used to start the war.

“Why do you love lies so much?” Alis asks Mara next.

“Not lies. Secrets.” Mara answers. She explains that one truth can be seen many different ways. That those subtruths all fight for attention and often the most controversial and inflammatory subtruth, instead of the truest of those subtruths, wins the fight. Mara suggests that it is perhaps better to keep some secrets to prevent this war of subtruths.

Finally, Queen Alis Li asks the question she summoned Mara for. She asks what she will have to provide Mara for her and her mother’s help in ending the war.

Mara smiles graciously and bows her head. “Nothing but a future boon.”

Some time later, Osana, Mara’s mother, and Uldren, her brother, enter the Diasyrm’s camp. Osana has become a famed negotiator having settled many disputes over land and property. And Uldren’s skill and beauty and the ever present eagle-crow on his shoulder make him just as famed in other ways.

Osana gives the Diasyrm’s followers an offer:

“I come from Mara,” said Osana, “whose heart has frozen in her chest. If you will end the killing, she will tell you any secret that you desire.”

Uldren comes saying something else:

“Mara remembers how the Queen led us here out of chaos and saved us from the twin blindness of darkness and light. Mara knows what the Queen keeps secret. Mara has seen the strife in our souls, the clash from which we were made. We could not ever have been gods with this flaw in us! Rather, we were made from this schism. For as all life is born from energy gradient, as life in the World Before was born from the gradient between hot proton-rich ventwater and cold seawater, we were born of the shadowline at the edge of Light and Dark. We are tremors in that fault. Forever will that schism lead us.

These two ideas are both important, but they are aimed at accomplishing two very different things. Both are needed to end the Theodicy War.

Uldren’s words are meant to undo the rage that the Eccaleists feel towards Alis Li for denying them godhood. In essence, Mara, through Uldren, is saying that the Awoken never had the chance for godhood. That their birth in the contest between Light and Darkness left them wonderfully but hopelessly flawed. It is that flaw that makes them as special as they are, but also that this flaw would have never let them be gods.

The Eccaleists take to this idea and spread it far and wide. Now, instead of Alis Li having gravely wronged them by taking it on herself to choose a physical life over godhood, they see that she only did what she could and what was necessary because godhood was not even an option. With their point of view shifted, there is no longer any reason for them to fight.

Osana’s words were meant more specifically for the Diasyrm who is just as heartbroken over the war as Alis Li, but who also wanted to know the real truth. Osana meets with the Diasyrm in private and tells her that there is no simple weregild, no payment, that can make amends for the war, and that instead she would need to devote the rest of her immortality to serving life and enriching others.

We don’t really know what the Diasyrm did after that, though. We do know that she craved the secret knowledge that Mara had promised, and that she went to Mara’s mountaintop to obtain it. But then she vanished and:

If she was ever known again, it was not by the name Diasyrm.

And so, the war ends since the Eccaleists now have no leader and all the movement’s followers now adhere to Mara’s third way: That the Awoken were not destined for godhood, but also that the Awoken were not some cosmic gift free to simply learn and explore. Instead, they now believe that they are a beautiful but flawed creation meant for something more.

Two other interesting things happen immediately after the war:

First, Queen Alis Li leads the Awoken into a new age of peace and progress, but then she steps down as she still feels the guilt of the war.

Second, Mara has a very interesting meeting with her mother and brother in the woods near her mountain. Uldren has come into the forest to allow his latest eagle-crow to find its own place to die, and Osana has come along with him to confirm her suspicions about Mara’s role in the Theodicy War. The three of them meet at a camp in the woods and Mara cooks for them as they talk.

On one level, Mara is happy to see her family again. She is so very proud of her brother for finally accepting that his prized hunting birds will each grow old and die while he remains the same. It has taken him a long time to do so.

On another level, Mara is guarded. Especially when Osana starts talking about Mara’s role in the war. At one point she explains to Uldren why she tagged along. Uldren sorta again asks why Osana is even with them and Osana says:

It’s your sister about to admit she’s behind it all. Aren’t you, Mara?

Hearing these exact set of words cause Mara to very nearly freeze up in shock. The key here is the two words “it all.” Mara worries that her mother has figured out her deepest, darkest secret! But then, her mother continues, explaining to Uldren:

“The Eccaleists are her creation,” her mother tells her brother. “The Diasyrm was her pawn. She allowed the Theodicy War because she was afraid we’d be too comfortable here—also so Queen Alis would need her help politically. Mara couldn’t afford to be the most radical dissident. She had to seem moderate for her beliefs to thrive. Isn’t that right, Mara?”

Mara again has to stay guarded, but this time she has to prevent herself from letting out a slumping sigh of relief that no, her mother has not somehow guessed her worst, most precious secret. That’s not to say that Osana isn’t correct in everything she said, she is, it’s just that Mara has something much more important that she wishes to keep from her mother.

Uldren, though, senses all of this so he asks a critical question. He asks why Mara has descended from her mountain and decided to live in the woods like a hermit or heretic. He understood her love of charting the stars but doesn’t understand why she stopped and came down.

Mara gives him the most direct answer she has given anyone in quite a while. Though, in her true fashion, it is not a direct answer but an answer designed to let him and only him know her true answer.

“I remember the day I was born,” she says. “Do you, Brother?”

He does. He remembers himself being pulled apart as he chased after Mara on her 50km long tether far ahead of him and the Yang Liwei. And, in thinking back to their pasts before the Light and Darkness clashed around them, Uldren comes to realize exactly what it is that Mara is doing, and exactly what her deep, dark secret really is. And he hides it from even his mother.

Eventually, we will talk about Mara’s secret directly. At some point in the future she will reveal it directly and fully to someone without hiding behind oblique mysteries. I will say, though, that the necessary information is already all there at this point if you’d like to guess.

As their meal ends, Mara stands and tell her family it’s time for them all to go. She has new stars to chart, she says. And new heresies to tend to, she thinks. And, along the way, she hopes to help her brother find a new eagle-crow.

What has really happened here with the Theodicy War and with the new, interesting peace that Mara provoked, is that Mara has completed one step in a grand plan and now she is about to start on another. Mara knows very well that there is power in remove and safety from the belittling politics of temporal power, which reveal the mighty as unforgivably ordinary and petty. But this new step will require her to go to the city and live among the people she avoided for so long.

Oh, and charting stars really will play a big role in the next stage of Mara’s plan.

Chapters Referenced:
Fideicide II
Fideicide III
Heresiology – This one is particularly good and well worth reading outright if you have time.