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The Old Academy is literally a university within a university, both as a physical proposition as well as an academic one. It is entirely possible to construct an education for oneself wherein one majors in Accounting, and Minors in Alchemy; the system allows for it, but as a practical matter Accountants tend not to do that, even though it would probably help a lot.
Tycho Brahe attends his father’s lectures there, on topics ranging from Aggregate Belief to Attenuation Theory, concepts which define the absolute cutting edge of Apocalyptics. To him, this idea is intensely funny. Not the End of All Things, certainly. That’s an incredibly serious enterprise, and bringing it about has been a tremendous expenditure of effort. No, it was the idea that Apocalyptics still had a cutting edge. The selling of one’s body is generally considered to be the most ancient trade, but this claim squirms under scrutiny.
As a matter of professional primacy, Doomsaying has a strong pedigree.
Tycho the Younger cuts a strange figure, seated at the top stair near the back of the hall, completely alone - unless he had company. Professor Keel was entirely more kind than the circumstances seemed to warrant, and insisted on being called Consortia, even though (as the OA’s Divinator General) she had every right to her honorifics. Engrossed in his notes, he would occasionally surface long enough to notice a paper cup filled with hot chocolate. Its provenance was never in question.
Tycho Brahe is riding home from just such a lecture, one which posited that “a precise sequence of deicides” might, his father related with some relish, be like “cutting the legs off a stool.” The young man does not share this enthusiasm, as he is still somewhat attached to the notion of a living earth. It is occasionally suggested to him that, having only existed for a sixteen year span, he hasn’t much right to nostalgia.
Equidistant from his home and the Academy is an apple tree. He is unsure of the precise cultivar, but it bears something like a series of vertical stripes, striking, evoking the joy of the circus tent. He wants one, hopping his front wheel over the curb from the street, maneuvering, noting the branch structure and the tauntingly high fruit, formulating a comprehensive acquisition strategy.
Some fifteen feet from the tree, curled in its generous shade, lies the body of an opossum. Fat with the toiling agents of decay, its black lip has retreated from a jaw full of white needles. He cannot look at it. He has to look.
Many days pass in this way, his father holding forth with thunderous vigor on the matter of the world’s negation, and this creature disintegrating in its silent rebuttal. Tycho does this until one day the body is gone, and he doesn’t know how. What he does know is that the grass beneath it is rich and dense; a pillow of impossible Irish green. His breath stops, because it is in this moment that he understands.
He understands the grand machinery of the scheme now; why it must be done, the preconditions for a universe without divine tyranny were noble no matter the mechanism. Where he differed from the profound weight of his tradition was their insistence that the slate they created must be absolutely blank.
His hand shakes as he presses an apple seed into the moist earth. His father wouldn’t have tolerated this, said that he had learned the lesson incorrectly, that the creature had died to no good purpose. This is what the Gods do, he would have said: they presume. Guiding that process was as near to blasphemy as the Brahe clan allowed for. But this young Brahe has a retort, of course, as he so often does.
All that’s needed, he thinks, are better gods.