The Dice of Aikkos

Simon Whitechapel

Yea, black Aikkos the God is eternally blind
    But He sees with the eye of the infinite mind;
He plucks from our flesh the leech-curse of our sight
    And we dwell therefrom safe in unslayable night.
              --"Nocturnal Hymn to Aikkos".

It was once taught in ancient Dlaqal, where ancienter creeds go to die, that the fate of the world hung on the throwing of dice in the cavernous temple of blind chthonic Aikkos. The dice are dodecahedral quartz and are tested for a month before they enter, on the dice-renewal at the hibernal solstice, the hands of the twelve dice-throwing priests, all blind as their chthonic Master. The priests sit in a lightless chamber beneath the temple, and before each stands a five-sided obsidian basin lined with black silk. Herein, as the five-sided silver gong of Aikkos is struck by a neophyte in the temple above, each throws his die. When it has come to rest, he reaches out unerringly and strokes the uppermost face, reading the incused pattern thereon with his fingertips and chanting the number to its requisite note. Then he takes up the die and prepares to throw again to the slow gong-stroke.

Most of the priests are ageing now, and no longer is the temple courtyard strewn with eyeballs as the lustral intake of neophytes, well-drugged with mandragora, is exoculated for entry into the god's service. Like Dlaqal itself, Aikkos is mostly forgotten in the lands of men, and few families can be persuaded now to dedicate their younger sons to His service. One day, perhaps, the temple will stand empty and web-strung by escaped cave-spiders, for the priests collect all manner of blind creation: pale spiders and centipedes in cages of filigreed silver, bleached fish and salamandra in tanks of five-sided crystal; and the dim air of the temple is moist and odorous with their presence.

But it is written on the temple, which is built of polished basalt vermiculated within and without by the finger-read script of His priesthood, that the world will end before the temple fall empty, when all twelve dice roll with an identical face uppermost. If the number thereon is odd, then the world shall end by fire; if even, then by ice; and there are six ways of doom by fire and six of doom by ice. Several times a day the dice roll five faces identical, and it is a rare week that they never roll six, and seven comes most months and eight some years, but though many times in the centuries of the temple's existence have the dice rolled nine, ten has been seen but once. So it is that the apostate folk of Dlaqal now mock the prophecy, and say that twelve shall never come in a millennium of millennia; but the dice-priests of Aikkos sit and roll day in, day out with an unwearying patience, and who knows what each sees in the universe of his eyeless skull?

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