Setting stuff established: Those who abandon their children (or do so implicitly by abandoning their spouses) are likened to Zyz, who abandoned his children because of his crime. If such mortal folk do not wish to flee into exile, they may find work and redeem themselves somewhat by becoming priests of Zyz, who are the gravediggers to the priests of Always’ undertakers.
Previously on: not only do we see Ix making the Ixola, but before that, from Episode 2. When Korak drops the defeated Ix into Aristeia’s arms and warned her about him – Aristeia says “he would never hurt me”. OR WOULD HE?
Prologue: The Return again, just as we saw it in Episode 2 – Korak returning from Cold, Aristeia rescued, Kalakaq defeated – only this time it isn’t about Always’ point of view but Ix’s. He watches from the shadows, jealous and confused by his brother’s return. What draws him out is seeing the girl he has brought back, her raiment as wild as his. He greets his brother then without words hands Aristeia the falcon, which until then was just the grouse, it could not fly. The two wild children need no words – Aristeia throws the falcon into the sky and the soars on its new wings – and the troubled girl smiles for the first time.
Skip forward a few years. Ulyuq returned from the Cold to stalk the land. He has been defeated, but given Aristeia’s history, Ix calls her to his forest to show her a gift he has made for her: The Sacred Pool, a strange and magical place deep in the Forst Infinite where Aristeia is invisible to all who walk Godhome, be they God or Kalakaq. Ix promises “No one, not even the stars in the sky will see you here; you are always safe.” To prove it, when the mole dared to poke his nose through the wall of trees around the pool, Ix blinds it and curses it to burrow beneath the ground, never seeing Aristeia’s sky.
PANTHEON, SERIES ONE, EPISODE FOUR: “WOUNDS”
Always awakens in an eyrie. The Ixola does not eat her, but prevents her from leaving. It’s frustrating, but she’s alive. Back on the battlefield, Korak tells Skoh to get his best men so they can go kill it. Skoh wonders how since it may not be trackable and their weapons bounced off it. Korak says “We will find the beast and kill it because it is what I MUST DO.” Damn he’s macho.
In the Forest Infinite, Smith is continuing to yell at Ix. Ix points out that he was going to listen to Smith and his planny plans, but Smith’s plans are stupid, whereas so far, Ix is two for two. Threatening to open the pit exposed Korak’s true motives, and making the Ixola saved Always. Smith explodes with rage and storms out. Ankar arrives soon after, because she, like Smith, thinks Ix isn’t moving things forward. Ix says things are in flux, he is not of Order, he can’t make things all neat like Ankar wants. She tells him to up his game, hinting that if he doesn’t she’ll find another way, and he won’t share in the spoils when Always takes the throne. Ix doesn’t care about such boons, but if he was smarter he might be afraid of what the Lady Order could do to the Wild…
Korak sends word to Aristeia that he is fixing things, and the rain eases enough to begin an ascent into the mountains after the beastie. In the eyrie, Always manages to shoo it away, just in time for her father, Rokan to turn up. He doesn’t quite get the “wager” going on, but reminds her that, mortal or not, she is noble-blooded and should always act like it. Be a goddess, whatever the circumstances. Always is heavily bucked up and sets out to do just that. Moments later, when Korak crests the peak to “save” her, she tells him he really needn’t have bothered – she knows now what she has to do. She has to die as a mortal. Korak doesn’t like the idea but is impressed again by her strength and says “okay, but don’t do it alone”.
Meanwhile, Smith has run to the Endless Plain to see Aristeia (Ix agreeing it would be best for Smith to explain to her about how he meant no harm, although of course Smith doesn’t do that). Aristeia stops short of shooting the messenger, and takes control of the situation, snatching the mind of the Ixola away from Ix. It returns to the eyrie, but curls up and sleeps. The danger past, Aristeia remembers that like ages ago (the start of Ep 3) she was infuriated with Smith for breaking Always’ experiment. Smith responds by inventing humanism: humans are not playthings to be ruled and directed into little games, or owned by anyone. All the Gods should do is inspire them. Smith even admits he REGRETS becoming a god because it was, in the end, only because of a game Always was playing with him.
“So why are you still here?” demands Aristeia.
“Because things are worse without me,” is his response.
Back at the eyrie, Korak takes a moment to tell Always how impressed he is with her (more bucking up). Everything is going swimmingly until Korak realises his men aren’t here yet because Ix’s wild nature caused a rockslide to cut them off….and hey, Ix has just realised Aristeia has left the beast sleeping calmly. He takes over the beastie’s mind and suddenly it rears up, spitting with fury and rage. And before anyone can react, it strikes! Korak’s reflexes mean he rolls clear. Always, keen to help, moves in front of him. The fangs bite deep into Always’ mortal flesh. Korak draws his Korix and chops heartily at the beast’s neck, but it flies away, cowed before it dies. Ix is…somewhat freaked out by hurting Always.
During the fight, Smith appeared and snatched Always away, taking her to her high temple in Yave to be healed. Not just out of concern, of course, but to stop the two of them being together. When Korak turns back from the battle, he finds no sign of his betrothed and assumes she is dead (and her mortal form has apparated).
We return to something completely different from the shocking clashes of before – Dorabus and Lika having a domestic scene. Lika watches her predictable, clumsy husband, thinking about how Smith was trouble but, as he said to her what has her life been without trouble. She makes a decision, and leaves to “go for a walk”….
Korak, meanwhile, finding his wife not in Godhome, fears she has been stolen by some force or is trapped in the Underworld. He storms into the Brass Palace and tells his legions to ready themselves for battle, probably against Sky. Aristeia comes down and Korak demands to know what her creature was doing. She explains it was Ix’s doing. Smith arrives (he was always there) and suggests Always might be in Zyz’ realm of Toleken below and that they go there together.
Before they set off, however, Korak gets word from Inikaya, messeneger of the Gods, about the true situation, because when Korak first went to earth he set Inikaya to watch Smith and Smith appeared as himself when he took Always to the temples. Korak decides to still go with Smith though, thinking that for once he has the upper hand on the Trickster.
We get our first good look at Toleken and the souls within it as the two descend, and they discuss Zyz’ exile. Smith suggests that Rokan was unjust, and broke the five as an unjust ruler, but this offenders Korak’s sense of loyalty. “You talk of reforging bonds, Smith, yet all you seem to do is break them”. Smith explains again his humanistic ideals of leaving the humans alone, and as above, having no ruler. It is better than replacing the Three with an equally flawed Five, which may repeat the sins of the past (ie Zyz).
The reunion between father and son (first time since Smith married Lika) is stifled but not stony. Always is not in Toleken so the topic turns to justice and philosophy again.
Zyz: And what did you do as a mortal, my son?
Korak: I fought a terrible battle! I climbed a high mountain! I slew a great beast!
Korak: I am a powerful god, I was a powerful mortal.
Zyz: But would you be a just king?
Korak: Would any king be just, in your eyes?
Zyz: A rule must be founded on more than strength, son.
Korak: You’d rather it be founded on lies and betrayal?
Zyz flinches. Smith notes that Korak said much the same thing to him earlier. Zyz says he is not a betrayal, and Smith pushes Korak to see that if his father is telling the truth, Rokan acted unjustly. Zyz wonders if his son will let him return to the surface, if he is king. Korak says he cannot unless Zyz explains his betrayal of Rokan. Zyz says he cannot, and so Korak says then he cannot trust him, and leaves to seek his betrothed elsewhere.
(For those who came in late: Zyz was exiled for the crime of stealing Rokan’s chaotic essence. However the thief was actually Ix and Zyz took the blame to save his son.)
Speaking of Always, she wakes up to find herself being tended in the temple. The poison isn’t killing her but the wound is deep. Always insists she go find Yeqawa and fix things, so decides to leave the temple and find her, despite her wounds. It is a dangerous and humbling thing to do, and her piety and dedication leaves an impact on the temple nurse who helps her (Hiamahe). After a while, she gets exhausted of walking and invents riding on beasts, something the Volanyi don’t do yet. She finds an oxen and sets off on its back, back to the battleground.
Back in Toleken, Smith stays to talk to his once-ally. He complains about Ix as a poor ally in his plan to stop Korak’s ambition, but Zyz says he can’t school Ix. Smith presses Zyz to tell him the secret about his “betrayal” but Zyz refuses. Smith says “I can’t intercede if I don’t have the information”. Zyz replies “I never asked you to intercede”.
Denied, Smith goes to leave, only to have the door slam open, hiding him from view, as Ix charges in. After running across Godhome and finding no Always and terrified he killed her, Ix too has come to the underworld to look for her. Their reunion is much colder and is full of subtext. Zyz accuses his son of being too much of destruction and chaos, and nothing of love. Ix tells his father to look around him, and see what love led him to – these dismal caves beneath the earth. Smith wonders what that means, exactly, as Ix storms off.
Korak meets Always on the road and tells her to stop being stupid and become a Goddess again. She tells him it is important. She says he has to make Skoh apologise as well, and he refuses, angry. He storms back to the Endless Plain, frustrated and not understanding. Not understood, Always cries into her cow.
Later, at the Sacred Pool, we find Ix dwelling on Zyz’ words about love. He HAS hurt people, and now is trying to make up for it by sprucing up the pool for its owner. Aristeia appears behind him and he swears to her he meant no offence by harming the eagle, but she refuses to believe him. “What can I do to prove you can still trust me?” he says. “You have to figure that out for yourself,” she says.
Tag scenes: Aristeia returns to sky, comforted by Teyamaq. Always clinging sadly to her oxen. Korak slumps onto the Brass Throne, alone and frustrated. Smith walks back to the battlefield too, taking time out to crush a sapling beneath his feet, no longer willing to ally with Ix. Meanwhile, Ix, finally realising he has Gone Too Far, throws the Ixola into the Pit so it will no longer hurt anyone or offend Aristeia.
Epiologue: At the Pit, vines extend down from when Ix tried to open the Pit two episodes ago. Alongside them, claw marks now score the earth. Nearby, in a tiny village, two guardsmen ponder how suddenly cold it is. And then something bestial and monstrous strikes from the darkness…