It was a dark day in the early days of Ur, which is to say it was an early night. It wasn't actually terribly dark, either. Friendly appreciated mood lighting, and imagined that other beings did too, and when Friendly imagined something that thing stayed damn good and imagined. Usually.
Stars winked on over Groddle Forest, and Friendly looked down on the Glitchen milling about and did something that was probably a smile but was mostly re-arranging the eyes on the sides of his face a little. He was pleased. They were all colors and they hopped around and smiled at each other and did things with planks and ate garlic and touched their faces together. He loved them all. Glitchen were the best thing to happen to Ur since cheeseballs: Friendly was sure of this, as sure as he knew that he'd imagined a hundred other things that weren't quite as good as Glitchen, like hedgehogs. He'd stopped imagining hedgehogs almost as soon as he'd figured out the hedge part. He was a little less clear about what cheeseballs were. Probably balls made of cheese, possibly the other way around.
He was busy trying to imagine a tree to grow cheeseballs so he could find out what they were when the strangest thing happened.
A Glitch wandered by wearing things.
Things! Imagine that!
It had never even occurred to him that a Glitch would want to put something over their little Glitch selves. In fact, he'd had to imagine up the word "wearing" just then, just for that. This meant that he'd have to imagine another new word for "not wearing", and "horbleflorp" wasn't quite right. "Naked" would have to do. Friendly himself was naked. Why would anyone ever want to be anything else?
Friendly hastily composed an urgent note to Cosma. It would have been easier to existentialize himself a little closer to her, but he'd imagined the mail system and sometimes he just liked to remind people about that. In case they'd forgotten. He liked mail. He liked mail a lot. He liked that you could mail really huge things and wondered if he could maybe mail himself sometime. What did the mail feel like while it was being mail? Could he fit in one of those boxes?
Oh, right. He manifested the note.
okay i need you to take a closer look at something because looking at things is what you do
you know how trees have bark
on the outside
and how thats cool its just what they do im not judging or anything theyd look better without it but thats just my opinion you know spriggs got his deal and its not like im going around just making up trees youre gonna have to trust me on that one
glitchen have bark or something now and do you know what that means because i dont think you actually do and i need you to understand whats at stake here
i cant see their butts
this is serious
And he sent it. He thought about the cheeseball tree some more. And then he saw a Glitch in a chicken suit. And another wearing a box.
This was his fault, wasn't it? All this hiding of butts was clearly due to a lack of hooch. He hadn't taken his responsibility nearly as seriously as he could have, that was true. Grain and corn weren't nearly enough. He should have figured out a way to ferment fruit. Or rocks. Grain came out of chickens, so why couldn't you brew the chickens? Why not indeed? Wasn't it his fault that you couldn't?
He decided that chickens were fermentable, and his imagining spread quickly; a chicken named Trucker Dan Is Big In Japan hanging out on his shrine in Groddle Forest Junction began to weave and cackle.
Cosma appeared: first her beak then her eyes and all the rest of her, and every butterfly in the region assembled to flit around her. Glitchen bounced around offering each other the highest of fives and threw approximately a million vials of milk into the shrine. He'd ferment those later. Somehow.
"Look," he said. Cosma looked.
Cosma kept looking. Looking was what she did.
"What *is* that?" he asked.
"Dreams," she said. "Worlds. Everything."
"...on the little hopping ones."
"Oh." She squinted her biggest eyes, the ones on her tongue. "Pants. Ask Lem." And then she disappeared.
Friendly hastily composed another note.
glitchen kovras siajn butts kaj cosma diras ke estas via kulpo iel
get your trunko al groddle kaj diru al mi kio okazas
Off it went. Talking to Lem was pretty much always a pain.
When he showed up, which it took him a while to do, he looked cranky. His tentacles were peevish and the eye on his trunk blinked too much. He was encrusted in a weird mixture of Red Element and Sparkly Element. Friendly, ever the gracious host, devised a cocktail for him on the spot.
"Drink this," he said. Lem drank it. His eyes spun, but they always did that.
"I'm calling it a Lem Island Iced Tii," explained Friendly. "Because you both do admixing which is almost like real mixing. I need to talk to you about pants."
"Што панталони?" asked Lem, which more or less meant: what about them? He rolled his eyes again and harrumphed in a trunky sort of way. Drifts of Sparkly slipped off his carapace.
"Glitchen," said Friendly, his three-bat voice more squeaky and urgent than usual, "ARE WEARING THEM."
Lem shrugged his tentacles and made a hiccuping sound that probably meant something in a language Friendly had never met. It didn't matter. Friendly pressed on; his cause was just, his heart was earnest, and nakedness was an art form. At the very least Glitchen butts were an art form, a totally valid and sincere art form, and Friendly would not see them eclipsed by the scoundrelly deployment of fiber arts.
"Do you have any idea," he demanded of Lem, "how many butts are hidden from me at this very moment? HUNDREDS. THOUSANDS. SQUIDILLIONS. And it's your fault."
"Tes máis ningunha destas bebidas?" groused Lem, and Friendly understood him perfectly. He imagined another of the exceedingly fancy drinks and handed it over, or winged it over, or more accurately just imagined that Lem already had it, which he did. Hell, he imagined one for himself. He made it a double. Then he realized that that simple multiplication was Tii's deal, and turned the double into some completely indefinite quantity that was nevertheless mostly hooch.
"Look," he said, wrapping a wing companionably around Lem, "I get it's your thing. I get it. I do. But you have to look at the big picture."
"Það er mynd af rassinn, er það ekki."
"Yes it is. Anyway." Friendly paused to try to high-five a naked grey Glitch and ended up high-fiving his shrine instead. The surrounding Glitchen threw music boxes into it and hopped like popcorn, which was something else he'd been meaning to imagine in more detail anyway. When he did, it would hop just like that. "I need you to stop being in charge of pants. I have to be in charge of pants."
"বাদাম," said Lem, his crest flaring.
Friendly stuck out his tongues. More than he usually did. "Nuts yourself!" He had no idea what nuts were.
"আরো বাদাম!" said Lem, which meant it was on. More or less.
They fought, then, the first time Giants had ever come to blows and surely the last as well. A fight between Giants was a strange thing indeed, composed as it was of equal parts slap fight and fierce re-imagination. Lucky it was for Friendly that Lem was already dealing with the pernicious influence of two Lem Island Iced Tiis, for Friendly discovered within himself a puissance hitherto unsuspected: Martial Imagination. And thus it was that he whupped Lem good and then then horked in a bush. Glitchen threw things into the bush, as was right and proper. Trucker Dan Is Big In Japan capered madly.
"Annoin voitat," mumbled Lem, rising unsteadily out of a different hedge, "and frak you, chummer."
Friendly nearly crammed the center of his three faces into the shrine. The drunk chicken scuttled directly onto his head and pecked at one of his bat ears, and he took the chicken instantly to his bosom. Which is to say that the chicken went into the shrine itself, because he hadn't figured out where his bosom was yet. He'd figure out how to deal with that later. "Give me the pants," he keened. "So I can make them stop."
Lem dropped back into the hedge and turned a little greener than he already was. "Yarbles," he groaned, "Fine. BUT ON ONE CONDITION."
Friendly waited. he waited what seemed like a very long time. Days passed. Glitchen climbed onto Lem and dropped hamburgers. Different Glitchen came and picked up the hamburgers. Someone invented a sauce, right there on top of him.
Finally Lem sniffled. "I want a hug."
Friendly was stunned. He was the most sociable of Giants, the chummiest and most convivial of all, and somehow--he hadn't imagined hugs. Lem rolled onto his back and made a sound that was half-wail, half-honk and Friendly knew that this was serious business. He had no idea what a hug was. He began to get the first tinglings of an imagining that they involved arms, but...well. He had wings. It wasn't the same thing. Not really. Glitchen had arms, though--Glitchen had the BEST arms! And so Friendly called to them, Friends and Potians and Humbabans alike, his squeaky voice echoing through all of the Elevenness.
His chitter leapt from rock to rock, from every still and every can, and from the mouths of newly-fermentable chickens. And it said: "GRODDLE FOREST JUNCTION. FREE BEER."
They came. Hundreds of Glitchen, all colors, some with freckles and some with no freckles, some with one eye and some with like six. They clustered around Lem's gloomy form, because that was where Friendly had imagined the beer.
"NOW HUG!" he screeched. AND THEY DID. THEY KNEW. Lem's majestic carapace disappeared into a heap of Glitchen love, and Favor flew everywhere. Success! Brilliance! Little hearts! Sauce!
Friendly beamed. Lem beamed. Glitchen hopped and hugged and high-fived and soaked each other with watering cans. And just like that, Friendly was in charge of pants. Lem kept his word. And yet somehow, caught up in the convivial moment, when Friendly turned his three bat faces down to the Glitchen hopping and eating stinky cheese and drinking his beer...being able to actually see their butts seemed a little less important. Pants were more like just another layer of Glitchness, weren't they? He could imagine their butts. That was the important thing.
He'd let them keep their pants on until tomorrow.