Study Guide

Lord of Light

Lord of Light Summary

Lord of Light is set up a lot like a season of your favorite television show. It contains six novella-length chapters (read: episodes) detailing the exploits of those wacky gods and downtrodden humans we come to know and love. Each chapter contains its own story and plot, but they each end with a giant to be continued vibe in the air. The stories eventually tie together in a grand conclusion, giving you that satisfied feeling that only comes from the very best television… or book.

Episode 1

Yama, the god of death, snatches the soul of the one called Sam from Nirvana. Yama, Ratri, and Tak need the former Buddha to continue his crusade against the gods if they are ever to set the world right. Sam is a little peeved at being yanked from paradise's all you can eat buffet of perfect and awesome (we feel you, bro), but agrees to take up the fight once again.

Sam adjusts to being human again. Mara, the god of illusion, attempts to discover his whereabouts only to meet his end in Yama's death grip. The holy fugitives escape to Ratri's palace in Khaipur to consider their next move.

Episode 2

Previously on Lord of Light, it was the present, but this episode, er, chapter takes place in the past. Prince Siddhartha—the man who would become a Buddha—travels to Mahartha to receive a fresh body since his old one is, well, old. There, he meets another of the Firsts, Jan Olvegg, and learns that the gods have changed the reincarnation requirements in a way that would make the DMV seem pleasant. Ugh.

If Sam (the Siddhartha formerly known as Prince) wants a fresh bit of flesh, he will have to undergo a mind-probe from the Lords of Karma, and they will decide what type of body he'll receive. Sam asks the god Brahma for assistance but doesn't trust the deity's word—and rightfully so; the Masters of Karma try to give him a diseased body. Sam tricks them, storms the Palace of Karma, and steals a resurrection machine for himself before going into hiding.

Episode 3

At Alundil, Sam fashions himself a Buddha and preaches the way to enlightenment (which, conveniently, does not involve the Hindu gods). Kali sends an assassin named Rild to do what assassins do, but Sam converts Rild to his new religion, and the former assassin achieves a state of enlightenment that perhaps even surpasses Sam's.

Yama, the god of death, is sent to finish the job, but encounters Rild instead. After killing Rild, Yama confronts Sam, but Sam catches Yama in two traps: first in the dreamworld, and then in the more worldly trap of quicksand. Realizing the gods are gunning for him, Sam goes to get some weapons.

Episode 4

Sam enters Hellwell and recruits the Rakasha, alien life forms native to the planet that share many similarities to demons. The Lord of Hellwell, Taraka, possesses Sam and uses the Buddha's body to delve into all manner of worldly pleasures—Vegas style, baby. Sam defeats Taraka by infusing the demon with human guilt.

Not long afterward, Agni, Lord of Fire, attacks Sam. Taraka flies his host to Hellwell where they are attacked by Kali, Shiva, Yama, and Agni. The Rakasha fight a brave battle, but in the end, the gods knock Taraka out of Sam's body and kidnap their nemesis.

Episode 5

In the Celestial City, everyone wonders what they will do with the captured Sam. Kali originally tries to convince her former lover to stay with her, but Sam refuses, so like a woman scorned, Kali makes a deal with Brahma to have Sam sacrificed at her wedding. Classy.

Sam breaks into the Museum of Heaven to steal a powerful artifact and escape, but gets stopped by Mara. The Celestial City becomes a hunting ground, and Sam is killed by an unknown god or goddess. It's a nice day for a white wedding, though, so Yama and Kali tie the knot.

Episode 6

Both Brahma and Shiva are murdered. Kali is raised to the new Brahma, annulling her marriage to Yama. Yama decides to discover who the killer is, since he needs someone to kill. Meanwhile, Lord Kubera solves the mystery: It was Sam, who transposed his atman into a new body after his death. Kubera, Sam, and Ratri flee the city and head to Keenset to prepare for battle with the gods. Yama, upset at Kali for throwing away their marriage, joins them later.

A battle ensues that would make Peter Jackson green with epic envy. In the end, Sam and his comrades are defeated, but the gods pay a hefty price. Yama kills himself, transmitting his atman into a new body. Sam's atman is linked to a satellite and sent cruising the magnetic storm circling the planet.

Episode 7

This is where we came in. Nirriti the Black One has picked up where Sam left off, joined with the Rakasha, and is on a warpath. Destination: Heaven. The gods regroup to meet him while Sam and company are stuck in Khaipur, right in the middle. Sam ultimately decides to join with Brahma and the gods under the condition that they permit freedom of religion and accept technological advancement amongst humanity. Brahma accepts.

Another epic battle ensues. Nirriti, Brahma, and most of the gods die. Sam claims victory. Afterward, Sam and Yama ride off into the sunset—so to speak—and into legend.

  • Chapter 1

    • Warning: This novel begins in medias res, meaning it drops you right into the middle of happenings already happening. Sorry, we don't like to toss in those Latin terms so soon, but we wanted to let you know upfront, so you don't find yourself wondering if maybe you'd bought a book that's second in a trilogy or missing the first seven chapters.
    • Onward to the tale. It's the rainy season. A fallen god named Yama-Dharma uses a prayer machine to send some prayers heavenward. Unfortunately, the tech must be based on some defunct satellite TV because clouds really mess with the signal.
    • A small ape named Tak joins him—he was once a guy in a previous life. The once man, now ape spots a break in the clouds westward, and Yama points the prayer machine in that direction.
    • The clouds come together, but Yama has already "hooked [his] fish" (1.25). The storm goes biblical with the lightening and thunder.
    • Tak asks Yama how he's adjusting to being flesh and blood again, and Yama straight up dismisses his monkey butt. Touchy, touchy.
    • Climbing the walls, Tak overhears two monks discussing why their in-house patron deity is granting Yama sanctuary. He figures they must be talking about Ratri, goddess of the night, whom he danced with in another life.
    • Tak climbs the deity's tower to see that it is, in fact, Ratri. He clears his throat, and she walks over to see who has transgressed her tower.
    • As she walks, Tak notices her new body isn't on par with the godly beauty of her previous form. Hey, she may have put on a few extra pounds, but you're a monkey, guy.
    • The two talk. Ratri remembers Tak and the dance they shared.
    • Tak says his new form is just "[a]nother turning of the wheel" (1.63), but Ratri believes they will restore things to normal by going their own path. In other words, they'll use Sam.
    • They discuss whether or not this Sam fellow was actually the Buddha. Ratri believes he was the "greatest charlatan in the memory of god or man" (1.75), but is quick to point out that he was also the worthiest opponent the Trimurti ever faced.
    • This reminds Tak that Yama believes he's caught Sam, so the two hurry to see if Yama has truly done so.
    • They make their way into a room filled with monks and machinery.
    • On the bed, a man sleeps. He goes by many names, but for the sake of our poor typing fingers, we'll continue to call him Sam.
    • He awakens with the god of death on one side of his bed, the goddess of night on the other, and a monkey at the foot. Yeah, it sounds like the start to joke, but this is how it goes down.
    • Sam slowly recalls who he is. He remembers he was the Buddha and that he fought a war against the gods.
    • Yama reminds him how the war ended. How he lost.
    • It seems the gods were unable to give him the truth death, though, lest they make him a martyr. They couldn't reincarnate him either, for fear of repeated history. So they sent him to Nirvana instead as… punishment?
    • Sam's a little upset about having been dragged out of Nirvana (think: paradise) to live again. Rightly so, too.
    • But Yama and Ratri explain that they still need him to fight the gods. Sam answers, "You've a willing horse, so flog him another mile" (1.132)—even though he's the horse, he seems to enjoy the joke.
    • Sam starts the process of not being dead. At first, Yama, Ratri, and Tak are worried about their savior-to-be, but then they realize they need to help him readjust to the ways of undeadness.
    • Tak suggests the proper medicine is walks through nature and the hills, and they agree to start him on this light-exercise/meditative regiment.
    • In the following weeks, Sam goes on these walks alone. Yama doesn't like it, though, because the man is still weak, and there are dangers in the world. Should he meet an agent of the Trimurti, well, game over, man.
    • Ratri suggests the country around her temple will be safe for him, but Yama isn't so sure. The resurrection machinery is a bit of a power hog, and sooner or later, someone will take notice of all that juice flowing into one place.
    • In fact, some say the thunder chariot has passed close by their location, hunting.
    • Ratri relents to Yama's judgment since he has more power than she does currently, but Yama reminds her that his power is knowledge, which cannot be taken from him even by mortality.
    • Yama lights a cigarette and decides they must leave within ten days. Ratri suggests her Palace of Kama in Khaipur, a fornicatorium if you will.
    • Yama thinks the idea of hiding the holiest of holies in a fornicatorium is wonderfully hilarious, but when Ratri gets upset at his laughing, he's forced to apologize (and apologize well).
    • Meanwhile, Tak is keeping tabs on Sam.
    • While trailing the Buddha, Tak notices lightening flashing nearby and thunder bellowing. But unlike normal lightening, these bolts don't disappear—bits of them hang around.
    • The ape goes to investigate and discovers two holy men talking. One is Sam, and the two appear to be gambling; the lightening flashes after every bet.
    • The other holy man, whose name is Raltariki, keeps upping the ante. Sam, in turn, keeps accepting the bet.
    • As the bet goes up, the number and ferocity of the lightening creatures also increases. Tak is a bit miffed when Raltariki appears to have grown the head of a water buffalo and extra arms.
    • This continues until Tak loses consciousness from the fierce blast of their betting.
    • Upon returning, Tak is informed by Yama that this Raltariki guy was a Rakasha.
    • What's a Rakasha? Well, a Rakasha is like a demon but not. A demon is a "malefic, supernatural creature, possessed of great powers, life span and the ability to temporarily assume any shape" (1.258)—but a Rakasha is all that and a bag of chips, minus the supernatural part. In other words, they're totally natural.
    • Yama's done the studying so he should know. These creatures once had a material form, but somewhere in their evolution learned to transcend into energy fields. The gods bound and defeated the Rakasha to prevent them from deviling or possessing mankind or their machines.
    • During his last war with the gods, it seems Sam set many of them free to aid him. Just a couple of natural demons, what could possibly go wrong?
    • They do have one material weakness, though: They love to throw down the odds. Sam was gambling with Raltariki to acquire his services.
    • Tak wonders what Sam put up as collateral, and Yama bets it was his body.
    • Why? To put his life in jeopardy, thus reminding himself what it means to be alive.
    • The next morning, a beggar appears at the temple. One of Ratri's priests, named Balarma, brings in the beggar to be fed, clothed, and given a place to stay (hoping to get in good with Ratri in the process).
    • The beggar's name is Aram. When he notices that some visiting monks are in the temple as well, he asks Balarma when he might speak to them; he's informed that in the evening they gather for discussion.
    • Time warp to that evening. Aram chats it up with Sam's monks. He wonders why so many of their order have come so far southwest so quickly, but they simply reply that they are a wandering order.
    • Aram tries to kill a bug, but the monks request he does not under the practice of the doctrine of ahimsa. Aram gives some argument that killing the bug would totally be in order with ahimsa but says he won't kill it anyway.
    • A monk of Ratri's order suggests Aram is a scholar, but Aram denies this. He does say, though, that if a scholar should be present he'd like to meet this person (all the while reaching to kill that dastardly bug).
    • Everyone suddenly looks at the door, and Aram turns to see what the hubbub is about. There stands Yama, dressed in his godly nines.
    • Yama's mama didn't raise no fool, either—he instantly recognizes Aram for Mara, god of illusion.
    • Mara doesn't believe Yama's fallen powers can match his own, but Yama's not going to let this opportunity to pass him by. The gods are going to throw down.
    • Mara attempts to use illusion to scare Yama, but Yama doesn't fall for it, and he reminds the god of illusion that he faces the true death with him as an opponent.
    • He backs Mara into a wall and grabs the god's throat. Mara gets desperate, changing his form into Yama's, but no dice.
    • Then Mara chooses Kali's form. Yama hesitates for a moment but breaks the god's neck anyway. Winner by permanent knockout.
    • He curses the god with no rebirth, but also orders the monks to perform all the death rites before leaving.
    • Well, what's a group to do when they've got a death god on their hands? They'll just alter the truth. No biggie.
    • First, they'll rewrite Mara's mind as though it were a palimpsest, then they'll have Sam give a grand sermon while Ratri and Yama slightly alter the minds of all those present. Go team.
    • Sam gives a grand speech about the lies of words and the truth of the Nameless. It's really something that needs to be read as no summary could do it justice, and it's also a super important speech for understanding the novel's themes and symbols, so make sure to give this one a go on your own.
    • Ultimately, the plan works, and Karma's machines are none the wiser.
    • The next day, they begin their journey to Khaipur. Yama congratulates Sam on his sermon.
    • Overhead, Shiva's chariot races across the sky a couple of times, hunting for either Mara or them or both. They manage to hide from it.
    • On the third day of their journey, they come to the river Deeva and charter a boat to Khaipur. As they travel, Ratri communicates with Sam by way of the night—she says that Yama believes the Golden Cloud has changed him.
    • Sam says it might have, but he will still rekindle his war with the gods.
    • Sam reminisces.
  • Chapter 2

    • A prince rides into the capital with his advisor Strake and his warrior host. They all head to Hawkana's, the host with the most.
    • There, Hawkana welcomes the prince—Lord Siddhartha, the man who'll become our Sam—with all the pomp and circumstance he deserves.
    • Sam and his entourage are given the royal treatment—wine, food, and music. Sam seems kind of down in the dumps, though, so Hawkana brings him a special drink, burgundy. He also brings in Dele, a magnificent musician who plays "The Blue Danube."
    • It's not enough, though, and Sam retires early. It's early to bed and early to rise, so Sam wakes up before everyone else and leaves the hostel disguised as a beggar.
    • He heads down to the docks and questions a ship captain as to the whereabouts of a Jan Olvegg. The captain tells Sam to find Janagga the sailmaker—as Jan's now known—on the Streets of the Weavers.
    • On his way, Sam spies a machine located in front of the Temple of Varuna. It's a pray-o-mat, taking the coins of patrons and offering their prayers and atonements to the gods. Imagine a slot machine dressed up in Hindu icons, and you'll get the idea.
    • Sam finds Jan. The old friends welcome each other, wondering how long it's been. Forty? Forty-five years? Wait, how old are these guys?
    • Sam mentions that he's seen a lot lately that he doesn't understand, and Jan tries to explain from his personal story.
    • For starters, Jan can't get a body transfer because he's accumulated too much bad karma.
    • The Council has authorized the use of psych-probes, and now old Accelerationists such as himself have been denied body renewal since they scan your brain before they allow you to get a new body.
    • Worse, the body merchants have become the Masters of Karma, fusing their power together, and thus maintaining the caste system and Deicratic (read: government ruled by gods) control. Believe it or not, this explanation actually makes sense when reading the book.
    • Jan asks when Sam's appointment for a new body is. It's tomorrow. Jan says he's stayed away from the probe, and this is the only reason he's still alive to mend sails. Old and decrepit, sure, but alive. And not a water buffalo. Don't want to be a water buffalo.
    • Over drinks Sam says he believes his bad karma has dissolved by now, but Jan counters that bad karma is anything the gods say is bad karma.
    • For example, he wanted to start passing out machines and technology to their descendants, but showing someone how to make a blender or printing press, yeah, bad karma. And the probe is so accurate it can sense even something as abstract as Accelerationist tendencies.
    • Who's responsible for all these advancements in religious tech? That "snot-nosed brat of dubious parentage" (2.178), a.k.a. Yama, of course.
    • Does Sam think he'll pass the probe? Yeah… no.
    • Jan wonders if Sam plans to oppose the gods on this one, and indeed he does. Sam leaves to pray at the temple and wishes Jan good sailings.
    • At the temple, Sam bribes the priest with silver and gold to allow him access to their communication device.
    • Meanwhile, at his private harem, Brahma wishes the ladies would enjoy his new manly body as much as he does. The phone rings. It's the head priest, patching Sam through.
    • Sam and his godly amigo catch up a bit. It has been a while since Sam left the other Firsts in the roost of Heaven.
    • Brahma offers Sam an alternative to having his mind probed: He could take a job amongst the pantheon and become a god. Position as god of the janitors? Sound good?
    • Sam has to think on this. On the one hand, he's really fond of the world, but on the other, he can't really go on enjoying it should the probe decide he's destined to be a water buffalo or, gulp, die.
    • Brahma laughs that only Sam would haggle over godhood. Sam merely has a few questions.
    • First, why do the gods not grant their descendants on the planet their superior technology?
    • Brahma answers that they are not ready. Well, it's a little more longwinded that all that, but that's the gist.
    • Second, why do they destroy technology created by the descendants themselves?
    • Same answer, Sammy boy.
    • Brahma complains that she's not here to discuss Deicratic politics with Sam. Has he reached his answer?
    • Sam says he has, letting it slip that he knows Brahma is really Madeleine.
    • Brahma becomes furious and goes to curse Sam. Sam claims he meant no offense, and besides it can't really matter if he knows the truth anyway. He's going to accept the offer and join the gods.
    • Brahma cools down, forgives Sam, and asks for the priest to be sent in—he needs to give instructions for Sam's transcendence to Heaven.
    • That night, Sam prepares. He has his physician, Narada, invite Shan of Irabek over. After drugging Shan and his men, the physician uses hypnotic suggestions to convince Shan that he is in fact Siddhartha and will go to the Hall of Karma to claim a new body tomorrow.
    • Sam recognizes that if he's misjudged the gods, he's in real trouble, but Narada doubts he was wrong. Sam departs Hawkana with his men, leaving only the physician and three guards behind; halfway to the palace, they stop and wait for Shan to pass by.
    • Shan eventually passes, and the grandeur of his new body momentarily makes Sam feel like he messed up. But then Shan doubles over in a seizure—the gods gave him an epileptic brain. Unfortunately for Shan, no receipt, no refunds.
    • Sam commands Shan's men take him to Hawkana where his physician will care for Shan, then he rides to the Halls of Karma.
    • There, he orders his men to destroy the Temple's gardens until he's granted an audience with all the Masters of Karma.
    • It takes some doing, and Sam has to call in his lancers to really get their attention, but he gets his audience.
    • The senior Master and Sam cross the courtyard to discuss matters privately. Sam tells the Master he knows of the man's treachery, and the Master orders the attack.
    • He and Sam have a duel. The Master's out-of-shape body and Sam's old one are evenly matched, and they both injure the other.
    • The Master thinks he has the upper hand in manpower, but Sam's reserve troops arrive and do what soldiers do best.
    • With victory in hand, Sam orders a freshly minted body, one for him and one for Jan.
    • That night, he burns his old body on the pyre as well as the bodies of all the Masters of Karma, save the obese one. They take a rebirth machine, too, so Sam won't have to go through this rigmarole again.
    • Sam decides to hide in the mountains for a spell. He does not know his path after that, save that it'll lead to heaven's gate with him armed.
  • Chapter 3

    • Our next tale opens in Alundil some time later. A man known as Buddha, Mahasamatman, Tathagatha, and the Enlightened One has been preaching there, but we're just going to keep calling him Sam (so as to keep our spellchecker from yelling at us in squiggly red lines).
    • Out of the north, a man named Rild comes to Alundil during the spring festival. Rild is an assassin for the goddess Kali, his target Sam. Too bad for him, though, he comes down with an immense fever. Not sure if you know this, but assassination really is the kind of job you need to be in top form for.
    • During the festival, Sam comes to watch the kathakali—an Indian performance art featuring drums and a dramatic production—tell the exploits of Rama and Pandava.
    • While the players play on, a man wearing saffron robes comes to whisper in the Buddha's ear. Sam considers leaving at once but waits to see the performance through.
    • The man who brought the message is caring for Rild. At the pavilion, Sam notices Rild's crimson strangling cord and recognizes it for what it is.
    • Sam studies the man's body and finds that it has been modified to act as a type of armor in certain areas. No doubt about it: He's an assassin for Kali.
    • Rild's fever breaks in two days. He awakens to find his target meditating over him, but clocks right back out from overextension.
    • When he awakens again, Sam offers him food and water. The assassin accepts the water but claims his body will simply reject the food. Totally been there, buddy.
    • Rild asks Sam what will happen next. The Buddha replies he has no need to act. Rild considers that since Sam saved his life he cannot kill him, thereby fulfilling his life debt by not taking Sam's. He decides that he cannot return a failure, though, so Sam offers up the idea that they keep each other company as Heaven's enemies. Rild accepts. So… problem solved.
    • In the days that follow, Rild listens to Sam's message, and it fills him with joy; Rild takes up the robes of a Buddhist monk.
    • Sam takes to walking in the woods and meditating for a long while. Then he travels to the Temple and comes before Kali's statue. He tells her she's lost this round, but even had she taken his life, his message has spread too far—he's become more than a man. Boo ya.
    • Many months later, Rild is asked a question by a man. Then another. Then another. Other men gather, and the questions grow and so do the answers. Rild reaches Enlightenment, becomes known as Sugata, and begins to preach alongside Sam.
    • When spring returns, the Garuda is seen flying over Alundil and Sugata fears for the life of his teacher. The craft lands to drop someone off before returning to heaven. Seems the gods are going to have another go at Sam's life…
    • The man dropped off by the Garuda walks until he comes to a white-haired man standing beside the log necessary to cross the stream.
    • The traveler turns out to be none other than Yama, and Rild has come to fight him and protect his teacher.
    • The two do battle. Let's get it on.
    • After a long, fierce battle, the two wrestle each other into the stream. Only one emerges, claiming the death of the other to be a pity.
    • We soon learn it was Yama who emerged victorious as he enters Alundil and heads for its Temple.
    • Yama encounters a priest and wonders why no sacrifices have been made at Yama's shrine. The priest simply replies, "Gifts are unnecessary, for [the god of death] takes what he wants" (3.289). When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.
    • Yama seems to find this an acceptable answer and even joins the priest for a bit of soma—an ancient alcoholic concoction used in Vedic rituals and for drinking obviously.
    • Yama leaves for the purple groove to find the Buddha. He questions the priests, but they remain silent—so he says that he'll outwait any man, sits beneath a tree, and promptly falls asleep, proving that he cannot, in fact, outwait any man.
    • He comes to in a dream. He's in a blue-green plain with a massive tree; somehow, Yama knows that this tree holds the entire world together.
    • Beneath the tree sits the Buddha.
    • Yama comes to kill Sam, but the four Regents of the World—representing north, south, east, and west—fly in to protect the Buddha.
    • North, East, and West attack Yama, but the Death God rocks their world.
    • The South Regent sinks his sapphire shield into the ground and claims his is not the power to destroy; instead, his is the power of life and defense. South leaves.
    • Yama resumes his execution of the Buddha, but a tree branch strikes the scimitar from his grip. Then the grass of the field imprisons the sword and Yama's ankles.
    • Yama curses the field with eternal death, killing the grass and tree. Unfortunately, that tree holds the entire world together, so, yeah, that doesn't work out so well for the world. It crumbles.
    • Yama wakes up, but the field is empty of the monks. He travels on and finds Sam.
    • Sam asks Yama why he is there, and Yama explains he's there to kill the Buddha—it's what the god of death does after all.
    • This surprises Sam since Yama has already killed the Buddha, Rild.
    • Yama questions this. After all, their religion is not a violent one. How could the Buddha have attacked Yama as Rild did? But Sam pulls some crafty logic, quickly pointing out that Rild had no chance of harming Yama. He performed an act of martyrdom, not violence.
    • Yama exclaims that Sam is a false Buddha, which Sam does not deny—he never claimed to be anything but. He just wanted to see the world, try something different.
    • Yama proposes that Sam come with him, give up the foolish fight, and join the rest of the gods in the Celestial City.
    • Sam refuses and says he's leaving here on his own. He has one more question, though: Sam wants to know "What's she like, that bitch Kali?" (3.459).
    • The quandary infuriates Yama something awful. He lunges to kill Sam but is stopped suddenly. He's stuck in quicksand.
    • With Yama captured, Sam says he's going to have a little sermon before telling him how to escape.
    • Sam wants to know how the powers of the Firsts can be kept despite being transferred from body to body.
    • Yama answers that the electrical-chemical makeup of the body alters the new body slowly but definitely. In time, it always ensures the powers return. Makes sense…?
    • Speaking of powers, Yama keeps trying to kill Sam with his deathgaze. Yeah, you read that right—it's a gaze that kills people. Rocking.
    • It doesn't work, but it does give Sam one heck of a headache.
    • Sam has one more bit of advice for Yama before he leaves: Kali is a disease for Yama, and she does not have the young god's best interests at heart; she cares only for chaos. To prove this, Sam asks Yama to cross her, just once, and see how quickly she turns on him.
    • With that, their parley ends. Sam tells the death god that if he just calls, the Buddha's monks will arrive shortly to save his life. That or learn how to breath in quicksand—totally Yama's choice.
    • As for Sam, he's off to get him some weapons.
  • Chapter 4

    • Hellwell: an immense pit that begins at a large metal door on top of Channa mountain and leads deep beneath the planet. Few have dared to travel to this forbidden place. It is located in the kingdom of Malwa, a place ruled by a real jerk of a rajah named Videgha.
    • Sam climbs the thin, snow-encrusted trail to the entrance of Hellwell. Since he's one of the First, he knows the combination to open the metal door.
    • He traverses the cavernous depths. Many faces of fire appear in the walls, begging him to free them in their own distinct languages; Sam ignores these and moves on.
    • At the bottom of the well, he comes to a great blaze, larger than the rest. The blaze sees that the "Hated One" (4.43) has returned.
    • Sam asks if the blaze is Taraka, and the thing seems a wee-bit insulted that the one who bound him can't remember him. He doesn't write, he doesn't call, and now this—ugh.
    • The two talk about the old days. Good times, like how Sam bound Taraka and his people into Hellwell and took the planet for the humans.
    • Sam suggests a way of reparations. They could ally together against heaven, and that would require Sam setting Taraka and his kind free.
    • Here's a question, though: How does one trust a demon? Sam says he'll free Taraka first, so the head Rakasha can scout Heaven's defenses. While he's away, both shall think of an agreement.
    • Sam frees Taraka, who immediately attacks him to test his power, so Sam binds him again to prove the point.
    • Before leaving for Heaven, Taraka wants to know how Sam manages his power. Sam says to consider it "electrodirection" and let that be that.
    • While Taraka is away, Sam stays in the cavern. The other Rakasha tempt him with images of worldly pleasures, and when Sam doesn't free them, they try images of a more, um, threatening nature. Sam resists those, too.
    • Taraka returns, reporting that his people can access Heaven though the air vents. There are also elevators that Sam's more human warriors can use.
    • Sam decides just to trust Taraka and releases sixty-five of his kin. One attacks him, but he easily kills it.
    • Tired from his labors, Sam rests in the cavern. Don't let the name Hellwell confuse you—it's totally comfy.
    • When he wakes up, however, he finds that Taraka has bound himself within Sam.
    • The Rakasha explains he's been in spiritual lockdown for too long—he simply wants to borrow Sam's body and take it for a little worldly joyride; when he's done, they'll attack heaven. Pinky promise.
    • Sam tries to convince Taraka that the gods will come soon and are far more powerful than before, so Taraka forces the Sam side of their body to sleep to keep those bothersome words silent.
    • Sam's consciousness awakens briefly here and there, catching tidbits of what his body has been up to. He gambles, whores, and drinks his way through his reality. In one gambling match, he wins the royal palace at Palamaidsu and imprisons Prince Videgha.
    • He realizes with horror that some of Taraka's joys are his own as well.
    • Sam builds his power and bides his time. One day, within Sam's body, the two do spiritual battle. Taraka wonders why Sam begrudges him this time of pleasure, and Sam says, "I am a man who has set out to do a thing, and you are now blocking my way" (4.215). That's one way to tell a demon to take a walk.
    • He then curses Taraka with the curse of the Buddha. Unable to win mano-a-mano—or spirit-a-spirit, as the case may be—Taraka summons other Rakasha to aid him; Sam slips back into darkness.
    • When Sam comes to (again), he finds a far more morose Taraka. Seems the curse of the Buddha has taken effect, and while Taraka has been rubbing off on Sam, Sam's humanity has been rubbing off on Taraka. The poor demon now knows the awful curse of guilt.
    • Taraka weeps. Poor demon guy.
    • The next morning, a guard enters their chamber warning that the palace is under attack. He describes the assailant, and Sam instantly recognizes as Lord Agni, the god of fire.
    • Sam pleads with Taraka that they should flee, but Taraka decides he must test this new power of the gods himself.
    • Taraka says not to worry. He strengthened Sam's flame so that he can survive as pure energy, like a Rakasha. That's some comfort, we suppose.
    • Taraka and Agni square off. The Rakasha throws the forces of nature, and much of the castle, at the god, but Agni uses his fire wand (read: thermonuclear butt-kicker) to defend himself.
    • Within the chaos, Taraka/Sam flies away from the palace and watches from the sky as the palace is destroyed by Agni.
    • They escape to Hellwell. Knowing the gods will pursue them, Sam agrees to free the remainder of the Rakasha.
    • Later, a Rakasha returns to give his scouting report to Taraka/Sam: Four gods are coming on the thunder chariot of Shiva—Agni, Yama, Kali, and, of course, Shiva.
    • Taraka's guilt leads him to desire a victory for Sam, but Sam says no. If they fight, they will lose, so instead, they'll send some Rakasha against the gods. Should they lose, then Taraka will carry Sam away from Hellwell.
    • Taraka and Sam listen to the battle in the distance when Sam has an idea. Why don't they steal the gods' thunder chariot? When a report comes back that things aren't going so well for Team Rakasha, Taraka decides grand theft space chariot is the way to go.
    • Taraka/Sam flies over the special effects masterpiece that is the battle. Agni's flame chases them, but they manage to escape out the cave and down the side of the mountain.
    • At the chariot, another Rakasha reports that the gods are after them; as Sam warms up the engines, the Rakasha goes to buy them time.
    • Agni runs into the valley, raises his wand to destroy the chariot, but the result is a fizzle, not a bang—Sam's electrodirection comes through again.
    • Agni bursts into the cabin, but Sam is too quick and attacks, knocking his opponent out. Unfortunately, he's not quick enough, though, and both Yama and Kali hit Sam with their death gazes.
    • Taraka is expelled from their body, and Sam is knocked out. (We're not neuroscientists, but all of this unconsciousness must be seriously bad for Sam's gray matter. Don't you think?)
    • Sam comes to—yet again—and finds Yama smoking.
    • They're taking him to the Celestial City to face Brahma. As for Taraka, Yama's not quite sure. He hit the demon hard, so it'll be a while before he recovers… if he's not dead. Plus Sam's doused with demon repellent, so no worries on repossession.
    • The two discuss godhood, but it becomes clear that Yama has a more rose-tinted perspective on the subject that Sam.
    • Seems Yama didn't take Sam's advice on Kali since the two are to be married.
    • They then spend the rest of the trip playing chess.
  • Chapter 5

    • A god stalks the jungle of Kaniburrha, a jungle sitting beside the Celestial City beneath the dome of Heaven. The she god doesn't know what she hunts for, only that she hunts.
    • Lakshmi sits with Kubera in the Garden of the Lokapalas. She wants to know if it's true what they say: that Kali wants a human sacrifice for her wedding. Kubera wouldn't put it past her; she is a death god after all.
    • Then Krishna does the Dance of Lust. He's apparently really good at it.
    • Elsewhere, Lord Rudra and Lord Murugan are having a shooting competition. Rudra talks about Sam from ye old days; he was known as Kalkin then, and he developed an Attribute that let him bind demons.
    • They wonder what Brahma will do with Sam now, coming to the conclusion that only Brahma knows what Brahma will do. The logic's a bit circular, but no less accurate.
    • At Worldsend, there is a place called the Pavilion of Silence. It was built by Kubera for Sam as a gift for Candi the Fierce a.k.a. Durga a.k.a. Kali. Its five rooms are Memory, Fear, Heartbreak, Dust, and Despair, and Kubera infused each room with its emotional namesake. Guess when you live in paradise, you need a little visit to Heartbreak now and again.
    • There, Sam and Kali talk. They reminisce about the old days, recounting their love and glories and victories.
    • Kali wonders if Sam still loves her. He admits that two people from the past probably loved one another, but he is not that man, and she is not that woman. So… no?
    • Kali claims she has not changed, but Sam behests her to go live with Yama.
    • She says she'll join the cause of Accelerationism, but Sam still won't be baited.
    • She then says she spits on Sam's Accelerationism and gets angry with him. But she says that "[she] lied when [she] said [she] lied" and offers to lay with Sam in the room named Despair.
    • Sam accepts.
    • Elsewhere, Mistress Maya visits a currently non-ape Tak in the archives.
    • She asks him what Accelerationism is, and he warns her not to ask such questions unless she wants to end up as a name on the wrong kind of list.
    • He has her lock the door and lets her in on a secret: The one called Sam is Tak's father although many different bodies removed. But, hey, what are such simple matters as family matters to immortals and gods?
    • As for Accelerationism, it's simply a doctrine of sharing: Give humanity access to the technologies of the gods to raise their level of existence. Fancy name, amazingly simple concept.
    • The opposition suggests that all of humanity cannot have access to the power of, say, nuclear bomb wielding Agni without fear of them destroying themselves.
    • In the forest of Kaniburrha, Ganesha and Shiva walk together. Ganesha suggests that they need to use Sam to bring his followers out of hiding before killing Sam.
    • At yet another elsewhere—the Hall of Mirrors—Vishnu and Brahma talk about what to do with Sam as well. They decide they'll merge Sam's religion with their own by spreading the gospel that Sam was another avatar of Vishnu. They still don't know what to do with Sam himself.
    • Brahma heads to his garden where he meets Kali.
    • She wants to know what will happen to Sam. When he says he doesn't know, she suggests they don't kill him, but alter his being instead. Brahma might be convinced otherwise, but it'll take three days worth of convincing (if you catch our drift).
    • Meanwhile, at Helba's house, Sam is being entertained by the god/goddess of thieves.
    • Helba tries to entertain his guest with stories of his former glories, but Sam is bored; he's heard these stories before and that was when he lived in Heaven.
    • Sam says he needs someone else, but Helba calls him back. He/she wants to know what's on Sam's mind.
    • Sam wants to go all Ocean's Eleven and steal the Talisman of the Binder from the Museum of Heaven—the old relic will substantially increase Sam's powers.
    • The idea of Sam owing him/her a favor, and the days of glory and battles returning to Heaven, seems to convince Helba.
    • In the forest, Krishna chases Ratri. As he reaches for her, she disappears, and her voice claims Krishna needs to be punished for his presumptions; she binds him to a blinding darkness.
    • A mythological cavalcade of the rich, famous, and fabulous journeys to the Celestial City for the wedding.
    • Tak seizes his Bright Spear in response to an alarm from the Museum. He arrives too late but sees two figures fleeing the scene.
    • He gives chase and reaches the two in time to hear them arguing over who tripped the alarm.
    • Sam tells Helba to leave and faces Tak.
    • Tak asks for Sam to return whatever he stole, but Sam isn't so inclined.
    • Having learned to fly, Sam goes up-up-and-away.
    • He tries to soar out of the dome of Heaven, but he's attacked by the illusions of Mara. Darkness consumes Sam.
    • At the Halls of Karma, Lord Murugan demands his new body be made ready in time for the wedding. The Lord of Karma apologizes that his body is not ready yet because the Great Wheel has not made it so (read: everyone is gone to prep for the wedding).
    • Murugan wonders if Lord Brahma would agree that the Great Wheel had not made it ready when he wants the body transfer done. The Lord of Karma agrees it will be ready in time.
    • Speaking of Brahma, he's with Kali, and she's changed her mind—she wants a human sacrifice as an offering at her wedding. Sam should do it and throw in the god of thieves as an encore.
    • On that day, a pyre is built at Worldsend and Sam and Helba's affects are burned. Parvati—Sam's mother or wife or sister or daughter or something—flees Heaven, heading for lands to the east.
    • Heaven is put into lockdown mode, streets emptied, portals closed. Sam and Helba are released into the city, and the Mara lifts the barrier between the city and jungle. Some of the gods have transmigrated into white tigers. The hunt is on.
    • Sam runs, but eventually a phantom cat hunts both him and Helba down. Sam dies.
    • Tak kills several tigers with the Bright Spear to protect Sam, but Lord Ganesha incapacitates him by way of chair to head.
    • Vishnu is not pleased with the proceedings, unhappy to see blood on the streets of his beloved city, and that Lord Varuna the Just spent the time in the room of Fear.
    • What remains of the victims is burned on the pyre, and the ashes blasted by Lord Shiva beyond Worldsend.
    • Now it's time for a grand old wedding. The party that follows is seven days of godly, epic hedonism that would make your grandma faint.
    • After Yama and Kali leave, the party gets even heartier. Lord Rudra gives an inappropriate speech about the bride, and Lord Agni challenges him; afterward, they need to find a new Lord Rudra.
    • Once the hangovers have subsided, changes are made in Heaven: Tak is transmigrated into an ape body; Lord Varuna the Just beats feet out of dodge; the Heavenly Purges begin and Accelerationism returns to the Celestial City; and Brahma the infallible regrets making a certain promise to Kali.
    • In the Pavilion of Silence, a lone god enters the room of Memory and laughs.
  • Chapter 6

    • In the Garden of Joys, Brahma is found dead.
    • Vishnu and Shiva are sent for, and they bring Lord Ganesha with them. First order of business? Find the killer. Wait, no… They actually need to find some successors first.
    • They decide on Kali. She's powerful and loathes Accelerationism enough to effectively stamp it out among men and gods.
    • Down amongst humanity, a merchant named Vama is met by a friend, Kabada, who wants to discuss the smell coming from Vama's place. Vama says not to worry—he's just saving his defecations to develop a machine that will take it underground and away from the house. If his friends will bear it a little longer, the toilet will at long last return to humanity.
    • Yama and Kali receive a call from the other gods. They offer Kali the job of Brahma. The catch? She has to become a man to be Brahma and the transfer of bodies will annul her marriage to Yama. And you thought your dress code was strict.
    • Yama and Kali discuss the job offer, and Kali accepts.
    • Yama spends that night in each of the rooms of the Pavilion of Silence. There, he learns that Shiva has also been murdered.
    • He goes to his friend Kubera to discuss the matter, and Kubera informs him Agni will become the new Shiva and fill in the gap.
    • Yama decides to take up the case to give him something to do, and possibly someone to kill.
    • As Yama goes Sherlock Holmes, Ratri comes to see Kubera.
    • Ratri's afraid that she'll be blamed for Brahma's death as she saw him twitching—maybe dead, maybe not—in the garden. She didn't call for help because, although she didn't want to kill him, she did want him dead.
    • Kubera assures her she will be fine. She need only wait to be called in for psyche-probing; if she's telling the truth, then it'll show she's innocent. He also promises he'll protect her since she is his friend.
    • Yama probes thirty-seven subjects, eleven of which are gods. Nothing.
    • Kubera tries to talk it through with Yama, but they reach no conclusions. Kubera peruses the master-tapes index as they chat.
    • In the human city of Keenset, the printing press, plumbing, and bifocals are all being rediscovered. The new Brahma decides the city must be destroyed and gathers a party for a holy war. Krishna declines the invite.
    • Kubera finds Lord Kalkin, one Sam, on a grassy hillside. He knows Sam is the murderer, and Kubera wants to know why Sam did it. For his part, Sam's more than curious as to how Kubera found him out.
    • Sam tells him he just decided mankind could live well enough without these gods.
    • As for Kubera, he realized that when Sam was killed, Murugan was undergoing a body transfer. Since Sam's Attribute means he has control of electromagnetic phenomena, he figured Sam slipped into Murugan's body instead of Murugan. Elementary, my dear, Buddha.
    • Sam fills in the holes of the story: Thanks to Taraka, Sam learned how to live outside his body, so when the tiger got him, he just slipped out and slipped into Murugan's. As for Murugan, he probably went to hell.
    • Now they're at an impasse. Kubera wants to help Sam, but he doesn't want Yama harmed. As for Sam, Yama's pretty much the next name on his hit list.
    • They decide to solve the problem the only way two intelligent people know how: Irish Stand-down.
    • Each takes a turn punching the other until one passes out. Sam loses.
    • Yama is talking with Ratri when they hear the Garuda bird; he drags her with him to the bird's cage.
    • They find Kubera with the bird, and Lord Murugan strapped into the saddle.
    • Yama wants to know what's going on and why Murugan's all unconscious, but Kubera tells him never you mind.
    • Yama asks Ratri to put a darkness on the Garuda so it can't see, but Kubera has her put the darkness on Yama instead.
    • Now a fugitive, Ratri joins Kubera and Sam. They're heading to Keenset.
    • In the days leading up to the great battle, forces from around the world join arms with Sam against Heaven.
    • Taraka finds Sam, bringing his legions of Rakasha with him. He also warns Sam that Yama is coming, along on a chariot filled with some scary looking machines.
    • Lord Nirriti the Black—another of the First—comes with his zombie army, and Dalissa, last of the Mothers of the Terrible Glow, will help defend the river. The Rakasha also bring slizzards, elephants, and fire elementals. What? No Ents?
    • Yama comes and is confronted by Taraka. Yama is hardly fazed by the attack, though, and goes to meet Sam. He's come to oppose Heaven on Sam's side, and he's brought plenty of fancy, death-dealing tools with him.
    • He'll fight alongside Sam as his charioteer. They talk strategy, and Sam informs Yama that Kubera drills the troops but also trains them in the ways of science and technology. Even if they lose, Acceleration will go on.
    • The battle begins the next day.
    • Sam and Yama lead the charge. Thanks to the Rakasha, they break through the slizzard cavalry of the gods and begin pushing the gods' forces; despite Yama's warnings, Sam gets a little cocky.
    • Then the gods join the fray.
    • The demigods join first, but Sam's power strikes them with lightening.
    • Mara sweeps onto the field, but Sam can't hit him through the illusions of darkness. Yama promises he'll kill that god one day (wink).
    • Mara's illusion causes him to grow to the size of a mountain. Sam strikes at the illusion god again, missing but forcing Mara to hide.
    • The banks of the river Vedra flood the battlefield, and between the water and darkness, Sam and Yama are stuck.
    • Ratri breaks the darkness, and the two gods go to the city in its defense.
    • In the city, Yama is accosted by Shiva or Agni… or he-who-was-once-Agni… anyway, you get the idea. Agni attacks him, but Yama's cloak sends the force right back, killing the god.
    • Sam kills Rudra but realizes he cannot save the city of Keenset. Brahma, Vayu, and Mara disarm Sam, and they're about to take him when Garuda comes dive-bombing from the air, ridden by Yama.
    • When the dust settles, Sam has met his first defeat, but the victory cost the gods much.
    • Later, Lady Ratri is sentenced to walk the human world in a middle-aged body and Yama is found dead in his cell with a strange device. He might have broadcasted his soul into a different body.
    • As for Sam, he's hooked up to a radio tower, and his atman is transmitted into the magnetic cloud circling the world.
    • Nirriti the Black's power grows strong while Accelerationism continues.
  • Chapter 7

    • Olvegg—remember him?—is captured by Nirriti the Black, who questions him on the state of the world, learning that Acceleration has gained ground while the gods lose it.
    • During the questioning, Olvegg reveals he knows Nirriti's real name, Renfrew. Nirriti remembers that Jan was a Christian and offers him a place in his army; Jan accepts seeing as job offers are generally more favorable than death.
    • In front of the Palace of Kama in Khaipur, an old man is brought into the kitchen for a drink.
    • Taraka thinks on what has befallen the world and his own dwindling power next to those he's fought beside. He decides to join with Nirriti and see the gods defeated once and for all.
    • Brahma receives a communication from a Lord of Karma: Nirriti is planning to attack Mahartha. The god assures his priest he need not fear (so… dude should probably start freaking out).
    • When Brahma asks Ganesha for advice, Ganesha suggests they let the Black One strike first, so they might judge his strength. Sorry, Mahartha.
    • Brahma has Ganesha recall Lord Indra and alert the City's powers.
    • Sam asks Yama to enumerate their strength. First, Yama tests him to see if Sam's powers are up to snuff. They are.
    • Their strengths include Lord Kubera, who went into hiding after Keenset and leaked scientific knowledge to humanity; Narada, Sam's old physician, is still kicking, and he's brought the resurrection machine Sam stole way back when; they've even got Krishna (the old man who demanded wine earlier), in a hot-off-the-presses body.
    • Also, Yama's been making those toys he's so famous for.
    • Sam asks about Nirriti. Yama says he's no fan of Heaven, but the Black One only wants to spread his special brand of Christianity across the world.
    • To keep Sam loose, Yama offers to practice with him in the sword.
    • Nirriti and the Rakasha topple Mahartha.
    • Back in Ratri's garden, she, Kubera, and Tak enjoy each other's company; Kubera knows Sam will have to make a move when either Nirriti or Brahma makes his.
    • On a high hill, Brahma watches as Nirriti's forces storm Mahartha. Ganesha advises they forego a frontal assault, and instead he suggests they hit Nirriti's forces with guerilla attacks as he marches on other cities. When they know he's weak enough—boom—they strike full on.
    • That night, Sam makes himself known to the Rakasha and demands they bring him Taraka. The Lord of Hellwell comes, and Sam asks him to deliver a message to Nirriti: If the Black One agrees to not war against Hindus, Buddhists, or Accelerationists, then Sam will join him against Heaven.
    • As Taraka returns, he decides he wants the chance to challenge Yama in combat and does not deliver the message.
    • Ganesha comes to Nirriti's camp. He informs the Black One that Brahma's full force will meet him in Kilbar. He wants only that Nirriti remember this when he is victorious.
    • Sam and company need to plan their next move as they sit between Heaven and Nirriti's warpath. Sam convinces everyone, including Yama, that Heaven is too weak to hold humanity too far back anymore; Nirriti, however, only grows in strength.
    • They decide to side with Brahma and go to make a phone call.
    • They hijack the communication device in the Temple and give Brahma a ring.
    • Brahma/Kali/Durga/Candi is surprised to find Sam still alive. Sam states his terms, and Brahma agrees. When the time comes, Brahma wants to discuss with Sam about her becoming a woman again. We wager it'll take a lot of Aretha Franklin.
    • When Nirriti comes to Khaipur, he meets both Sam and Brahma's forces. The battle is on.
    • Right off the bat—or sword in this case—Jan slays Olvegg and then falls himself.
    • Brahma faces Nirriti.
    • Taraka squares off against Yama.
    • Brahma breaks Nirriti's neck just in time to have Indra turn on him with his sword, injuring the god. Taraka looks into Yama's eyes, and the deathgaze weakens the Rakasha; Yama pushes it away.
    • Yama defends Brahma and deathgazes Indra to, well, death. Husky death.
    • Taraka, having not learned his lesson by now, attacks with water, wiping Yama clean of demon repellent. He then strikes at Yama with Indra's sword, but Yama catches the blade just in time for Kali and him to hit Taraka with their deathgazes.
    • The Lord of Hellwell finally dies.
    • Yama falls next to Kali's injured body. Nirriti recites Jesus's Sermon on the Mount to taunt the death god, but Yama refuses to take his life, and he carries Brahma off the battlefield instead.
    • Sam finds Nirriti and offers him water. The Black One asks for Sam to give him a blessing, and Sam obliges.
    • In the aftermath, Sam receives the injured Jan, and he calls for Kubera and Narada; as they bring Jan into the Hall of Karma, they stumble over Brahma's body.
    • Later, Tak finds Kubera in the Halls of Karma. He and Jan have both received fresh new bodies and want to take Yama's chariot and travel the world. Since Yama can't be found, Tak asks Kubera for permission to take the god's ride cruising.
    • Tak runs into Sam as he leaves the Halls of Karma—he lets Sam know that he always knew he'd win in the end. He offers Sam a place on their journey, but Sam turns him down. For a moment, Sam seems to recognize that Tak is his son, but it's unknown if he does so.
    • Kubera finds Yama at a local inn. He discovers Yama has a new "daughter" named Murga. She developed a mental handicap due to transfer effect, so Kubera swears to help Yama find a way to restore the girl to normal.
    • In the end, Varuna returns to the Celestial City, and more old technology is rediscovered in the world.
    • Kubera and Ratri stay in Khaipur while Vishnu rules in Heaven.
    • Sam leaves and is never seen again. Many different legends grow from his departure, all propagated by "the moralists, the mystics, the social reformers, and the romantics" (7.604). All involve a Red Bird not found on the western continent.
    • Half a year later, Yama also departs Khaipur, leaving his daughter in the care of Kubera and Ratri. No one knows his fate either, but with "Death and Light everywhere" (7.607) in the world, chances are he remains with Sam.
    • Meanwhile, Murga presents the only offerings of devotion the shrine of Yama has ever received: flowers.