In times that were ancient before they were recognized as such – two men came across each other traveling east and west. One a Pilgrim the other a Slave. At the sight of each other both exclaimed, “Who did such things to you?”

There was confusion at the outcry from the other, as both men took in the wrongness of the other. “I did this to myself – I shed the trappings of weakness and found strength,” the Easterner proclaimed, standing tall and proud. The whorls of dark red that branded his flesh, the two sets of eyes that blinked in horrible synchronicity, and the second mouth that spoke in a hollow echo. “But who damaged you in such a way?”

The Westerner grimaced, “I did this to myself as well – I had myself broken down and reforged. The impurities of my form were cast off as I was rebuilt to better server.” His flesh was smooth bronze, his eyes brilliant topaz, his voice was slightly deadened, though still proud, and each word was punctuated by the tick of clockwork. The Westerner gestured, “Look at you – you are impure, you grow with cancers and hideous deformations. Even among the un-forged you have strayed even further from perfection. Your eyes weep blood and your mouth sprouts tongues that lap at your sweat.”

The Easterner shook his head, “You are one to talk – you have shed everything that makes you human. I can feel no blood in your veins, only a poison virulent and unnatural. I can feel no bones within you – only cold and alien metals. Even your hair is not truly hair, I can see it as fine metal, gold spun into threads.” The Easterner paced around the Westerner, “You demean me but to my eyes you are a monster. What you call deformation, I call splendour, what you call impure and cancerous I call life. My eyes weep blood for those who have died under the deprivations of the cruel. My mouth sprouts tongues to wipe my sweat and nourish me, to keep thirst from my throat and my senses clear.”

The Westerner turned in a circle, following his counterpart, “And thus the same to you – what you call a poison I call invention – my blood will never know weakness from age or illness. You find cold steel and alien metals, I find comfort in bones that will never shatter nor break. And to mock my hair? That is unfair – and seems to be slightly petty.” He bowed his head, lifting it to raise a great hammer – a hammer of the forge turned into a weapon of war as well as creation – high, “Even with so many eyes, you are blind – please, let me help you. I know of those who can reforge you – who can give you strength both pure and ancient, you can be made so much more than you are now!”

The Easterner pulled a face, “And find myself a creature of metal and cold? Emotionless and detached? No.” A shake of the head as he leaned against a crooked staff, the head split into gaping jaws with tendons stretched between and a single eye forever staring. “But let me help you – please, I can feel some of the true you inside of that cold and distant shell. I can reshape you, I can mend these wounds and grant you true life again! You have an intellect, I can feel it, one as smart as you must understand that the life you lead is not a true life, you can once more find the joys of the flesh and the blood!”

The Westerner turned away, “If I could I would be ill – the flesh is weak, it is a corruption of true perfection. I am sorry, but I cannot accept a curse such as that – not after finding the blessings of metal.”

The Easterner looked down, “These blessings are the true curse – how can you ever know love again? How can you ever feel the touch of one who cares for you through that shell? You have made of your body a fortress – and your self has been forever locked away.”

The Westerner looked back with a long face, “I may be locked away – but I am safe, you have invited in every invader to your own – loss, heartache, disease, and death. Your body will betray you, it will crumble with time and scatter into dust.”

The Easterner smiled with both his mouths, “Or I will invite them in and become stronger – from loss I will draw resolve, from heartache comfort, from disease resilience, and from death life.” The Easterner bowed his head, “I think you and are of two separate minds.”

The Westerner smiled – as much he could, “I think, as they say, we will never see eye to eye.”

The Easterner bowed his head, “Then may your god keep you safe from life.”

The Westerner bowed his head, “May your life be as filling as it is brief.”

And so the Pilgrim and the Slave parted, one heading west and the other east.