Humanity’s Eyes, Part 4

Continued from here. This will be the final part–I will post a unified version (like I did for the LaSein Account) soon.

I lived in the wet

For a long time

This odd striving place

Where things kept growing

I learned the humans were burning down the last bits of the forest

Hacking off the trunks and limbs of the trees

Killing the furry people who hid behind them

They were very harsh these humans

It was no matter to me

I did not depend upon the trees

I buried myself in the sand and the dirt

The drying of the forest felt good on my thick and chitinous skin

I could smell the humans, the fuzzy creatures, or my marked

From far away. I remained out of sight

Anytime I wanted I could kill a human or two

When they were particularly lingering or loud

The humans cut down the entire the forest some years in

All of the creatures that lived in the trees were dead

My marked humans began to leave

Walking up the mountain, where their scent eventually disappeared

They left me

In this moist and dirty place

And I started to reflect

Upon my life

The old man

And the little girl with the emerald eye

Maybe I had wanted too much from her

From all of them

Though, I don’t know if I had ever wanted anything 

Survival maybe

Gifts maybe

To be seen, to be near

I saw in myself for the first time a sort of softness

Beneath my now granite-like hide

I understood I really did like loving them

My former little group of marked humans

The girl

And love was what it was.

I started to take care of little creatures I found

Letting them live in my hide

Providing them little goodies, food bits, bugs I found

I enjoyed these little creatures scurrying all over my body

Then the mountain came crumpling inward

Like a strange earthquake

A horrifying sight

Dust billowing everywhere

Moaning and twisting of rock

The tops of the peaks came below the clouds

And beneath the clouds they shined like gold

I smelled smells I had never smelled before, along with metal and fresh growing plants.

There was much blood then

Those next days

I smelled much blood

And the tang, the sour taste of magic being cast

Me and my little creatures waited

Burrowing in the sands

Eating, avoiding

Living as we did.

Then I smelled my marked

The ones that had left me so long ago

Sand Lips. But not Sand Lips. A child maybe that had grown

And the unknown scent of something.  Several things, living, but mysterious.

The humans now crowded the top of the mountain

And my marked were walking down

down into the desert

Deep into the heat, the land of no water, 

the land of the dry, the beautifully dry

I walked towards them

These marked and the mysterious others

Me and my creatures were going back to the land of the hot

My true home

And I gave these new creatures little gifts

Just as the girl had done for me

I watched over them.

Not a part of them, but near them

A demon

A crag

A landmass

Sharing its home

Humanity’s Eyes, Part 3

Continued from here.

As the sun grew hotter the days grew longer

The earth became drier

Fewer and fewer plants grew up in the damned wastes that were my home

My odd little collection 

Of marked up little humans

Was suffering

Their people, the older ones, but not too old

Would go further and further into the wastes

Hoping to find and bring back a large cactus

Or find a small pool of water

Or a beast whose blood they could drink

Some of them got hurt when one of those beasts found them instead

The next days I noticed they were packing

Gathering together their little makeshift homes of canvas and bone

Loading them on sleds

They were leaving me

This land of sand and sun

Leaving this waterless pit

As they left, they left behind a final bowl for me

A final farewell of types I supposed

My shovel-like fingers took up the offering and it crunched in my teeth

I felt alone

For the first time in a long time

I wished for their odd presence near me

I missed the giggling screams of their children

Missed the strange noises they made at night

Missed their footprints in the sand

So I followed them

Their stench was lingering long in the desert

Clear tracks.

I didn’t wish them to notice me following them

I don’t know why I cared

But I wished to remain a secret

My long legs and massive arms easily moved through the desert 

I followed them many nights

Just past the point of sight, a day away, no more no less.

The ground became thicker

Moister

Dirt

The bugs were different and disgustingly plentiful

Every little nook and cranny of earth seemed to have a bug inside

It seemed grotesque

My little pack of marked humans came 

To a partially burned forest

With a mountain in the middle that stretched into a thick layer of clouds

And a massive human settlement

that stank like a decaying corpse

Full of humans

Normal humans

The kind covered in crunchy metal and hateful looks

I stayed away from this human settlement

And found the first pool of water I had ever seen since I was a child

A small puddle and I saw my face

Spikes were ripping out of my carapace in hellish angles

My deep seated eyes were even darker yellow than I recalled

My snout was sharply pointed and looked almost like a beak

I was so caught by the look on my face

The look of my face

The look of me

I did not notice the human until they screamed

I turned towards them

They were a quarter my height

An eighth my width

Built like a tree where I was a mountain

They threw a spear at me

Like I was a dog to be killed

They pulled out a small sword and screamed in rage

Their spear hit my outer carapace

Jammed inside

Stuck like a twig

They ran at me with their sword

I lifted my thick shovel like hands

Their sword bit into my wide and hardened fingers

Their sword got stuck in me

They looked down in shock

Up in fear

My hands crumpled around them

Squishing this human’s meat

Pressing their limbs into their body

Picking them up 

I held them in the air, immobile, helpless

Thinking of squishing the blood from their meat

But I instead I held them in front of my flat yellow eyes

They asked me what I was

I said I was the crag

They spoke strange

Bouncy and fluid

But a sound I oddly did not fully hate anymore

They asked me if I would kill them

I looked at their pulpy limbs

Soft squishy face, tears at the brim of their eyes

I said no

If

I looked at the human 

Told him the name Sand Lips

Confusion covered their face

But also recognition

I told them to ensure Sand Lips was safe

Along with the little ones Sand Lips kept

I told them to ensure these marked were safe

Or I would smell their scent 

And I would kill them as prey in the night.

I breathed deep into this human, learned his smell

I stared into their eyes and asked if they accepted the terms of my agreement

He said yes. The fear in his eyes was fresh, moist, and sweet.

I dropped him 

He ran.  

I smiled. 

I had no more hate for humans.  

They were small and afraid.

As they should be.

Part 4 here.

Humanity’s Eyes, Part 2

Continued from here. As before, by Leland.

The next many years were long and harsh

They were also lonely, but I had no idea what that meant at the time

In the beginning I was like a piece of sand.

I blew from place to place

I felt nothing on my insides.

I ate

I drank

I killed

I moved

Life was a never ending cycle of survival

Though my body continued to morph and change

My chitinous ledges grew larger

My fingers grew thicker and harder

I could tear out huge piles of dusty earth

And suck out the soft crunchy creatures that burrowed beneath

I was a moving land mass.

Not a monster

A thing

An object

My hate roiled inside of me

But without eyes watching me

Reinforcing that hate

It began to bake into my bones

But the eyes

The eyes of my mother

Of the only girl to give me a gift

And the smell of that lock of her hair

Was still fresh every time I remembered

I would cringe in those times.

As the years wore on that pain stayed true.

I avoided the smell of humanity

That would drift in with the dusty blasts of air sometimes

I preferred my thick and rigid solitude

As I roamed one day I smelled blood 

Fresh blood

Active blood

Human blood.

I sat on my haunches. Staring into the far setting sun.

I decided to pay back the one act of kindness I had received

And walked towards the blood.

The sun had almost set by the time I descended upon the moving human

One of the grit, the marked, the human rejects I had been raised with, was sliding in the sand.

Legs inert and twitching behind them

Blood staining the sand as they moved.

They had a fierce and hard look in their eyes, dust embedded in their teeth.

They first felt my shadow land upon them

They looked at me

A moving mountain

With my fetid yellow eyes

They showed fear on their face.  Or maybe acceptance.  Maybe denial

Something firm and unrelenting.

I spoke the language of the desert to them.

The words sounded odd and strange in my mouth

They were shocked I could speak

And relieved. 

They said their name was Sand Lips

And they needed to send a message

That the Mukori were coming

To kill the Kamai

Their exhaustion took them

And they fell into the sand.

I looked at the grit. The marked and scarred human. Helpless.  Desperate. Clinging to life over some words they claimed needed to be heard

Heard by someone human.

I stared at this breathing corpse for a while

Thinking of this message

The Mukori, the Kamai, Sand Lips

Names felt strange in the desert

I was a demon, a mountain, a pair of yellow eyes

Sand Lips.

Sand Lips.

I hated names.

I hated these monikers of humanity

I hated them in my ears

In my throat 

Along my tongue

I pounded the desert

Threw a massive boulder, 

Flung a mountain of sand

Trying to throw it out of me

But it was stuck. 

These names 

These filthy human names.

The desert could not take them from me.

For the desert was no home for humans.

Only those filthy human camps could take these names

I screamed

A sound so loud the sky quaked

And the moon cried

I lifted the filthy human over my back

Limp and helpless

A sack of barely breathing meat and pus

I moved my body weight forward

Let my legs press against the earth under me

I loped

Towards the humans

The sickening smell of the humans

I saw their little fires in the distance

The ground under me flew

The cool wind whipped into my eyes

The earth stretched and narrowed and the fires grew larger

I came to the fires, the humans all around, all marked, all cut, all children of the grit.

I crashed into their makeshift home

This little gathering of scarred humans

Humans that were so small

Looking up in terror

Shear terror

I was still a demon 

And they had no idea what I was here to collect

I put down the limp sack of meat from my shoulder

And I spoke those pus-riddled human words

The Mukori, the Kamai, Sand Lips

Told them they would die.

An old human came out

Thanked me

Whatever that meant

Said they knew not who I was

Said they had not seen one of my kind for a long time

My kind

My… kind

Tears began to leak from me

The elder lifted a bowl up to me

Some sticky nectar of the cactus fruit

I ate the bowl.

This was the second human to ever give me a gift

I left

Went back to the dark

To the desert

The sand and the rocks

The moon and the sun

The bugs and the earth

But I continued to smell these humans

And I did not go far.

More humans came

Clanking humans

Loud humans

Humans laden with the pungent, sour smell of relics

I killed these humans, before they could see me, before their eyes could look at me in disgust

Like a pack of bugs they crunched in my teeth

I Split them in half

Popped them like flies

I left them dead there.

They were too loud.

Entitled, angry, and hellishly human. 

Their trinkets smelled sweet

And I ate them 

They powdered in my teeth

Leaving my mouth sour and salivating for days

I decided this part of the desert was mine

And these cut and marked humans

The ones with the sand lips

Could stay in my piece of the desert

And stay they did

Leaving little bowls of cactus nectar out for me

I felt a touch soft towards them

Like a favored rock or time of the day

I would not choose their death

And they grew older and smaller

And I grew larger and larger

Part 3 here.

Humanity’s Eyes

A poem by Leland for Rale.

When I was born I was betrayed

My mother tried to kill me

For I was born wrong

Sickness marked me all over

I was a cur a curse a wanton filth

She thought a kindness was death

She threw me to the desert

But the desert men found me

Took me and raised me

As a second hand slave I was raised

A child of rejection and poverty and begging for scraps

I ran between the stalls of the desert men, not unhuman enough to kill, not human enough to love

We roamed through the desert

I stayed mostly with the children of the grit

Marred and scarred and blackened and raw they would not hit me

As I got older, the sickness that flaked my skin grew harder and tougher

Stranger by far, long thorns grew from me, and my eyes became a fetid yellow

I began to be called the demon.  The demon they whispered, no longer in contempt, but also in fear.

As my muscles grew thick and crusted like a humanoid crab, my eyes began to wander

I hated the world as the world had hated me

But there was one little girl who treated me with kindness

The daughter of the leader of the desert men

The daughter of their sultan

She was a kind girl with a horrible scar on her face from an injury from when she was a baby

She had one eye that was emerald green

She placed bowls of water out at night

I knew they were meant for me

Her emerald eye reminded me of the eyes of my mother

I felt that my mother had killed herself and she had been reborn, 

Now she was here to take care of me like she never had before

I got older and older and I never stopped growing

The other boys stopped growing, but five years later, they stood at my shoulder

Then they stood at my chest

Then they stood at half my height

The fear in the desert men’s eyes grew

Their deep religious belief in the martyr was being pushed

They began to talk about the “Demon among them”

I watched the little girl grow up.

She was beautiful

And kind.

Long brown hair and that emerald eye

My mother’s eye

She started to leave food behind with the water, and flowers, and then a lock of her hair.

I kissed it and nuzzled it and tried to breathe it inside of me

And I would watch her from the corners of my eyes.

As I roamed through the tent filled trading stalls, resting on my knuckles, clawing into the dirt with my back feet.

She came one night

And touched my face

Not afraid.  Not like the others.

She held my face that night

And she cried 

Her one eye pouring sweet and salty tears onto my mountainous, grotesque frame.

The people came the next night.

Her father came the next night

The torches came the next night

They told me to leave.

They pointed towards the desert

The said go anywhere but here.

My humanity had run up in their eyes

They owed me nothing

The savior owed me nothing.

I crawled into the desert

The aching moon at my back

The harsh sun on my face.

I walked through the desert, lumbering like a barge as the heat cracked my skin like stone

I licked rocks for water

I smelled foul nests of bugs using my strange and sensitive nose

I ate the creatures

While I thought of her

My mother reborn who abandoned me again.

As I walked into the heat of the sands

And the ice cold nights

I realized I was never human.

And I no longer wanted to be.

Part 2 here.

Top image: “Hazeen’s Man of the Clouds”, by Rae Johnson

The Nicholas

April 2, 1920  

It was a clear morning off the New England coast–approaching the southerly latitudes of Maine, if memory serves–and though the waves were calm, April’s lingering chill had yet to pass on, crawling, it seemed, up the sides of my boat, around my ankles and settling uncomfortably, like some odious shawl, about my shoulders.  I had sailed north only recently, having spent the winter fishing down in the Gulf, and the swift return to my summer grounds–premature, for a bout of restlessness I now vehemently cursed–had left me as yet poorly acclimated to the northern spring and robbed of any enthusiasm for the productive use of my location.  In my shivering solitude that morning I had cast two lines, and though I’d gotten bites on neither, I was having difficulty mustering the will to bait a third.  I recall it was in that fraught quiescence that I took notice of the irregularity surfacing some forty yards off the port bow.

To my first glance it seemed like jetsam or some other detritus, having the texture of maritime vehicularity without a form I could identify as any particular boat, but as more of the mass emerged above the waves, my befuddlement became something more akin to awe.  My previous confusion in identifying the object, it seemed, had lay in my assumption that its form would be singular when, in fact, it was comprised of numerous vessels and the pieces thereof.  Before me were hulls of dinghies, canoes, fishing boats, shattered boards and beams lashed haphazardly against great sheets of black rubber in a jumbled ellipsoid that, from far off, might have been mistaken for the carcass of some colossal leviathan.  For all the strangeness, though, of this great, nautical garbage heap, I still found myself ill-prepared for the sign that then surfaced on its carapace–glowing red neon, proclaiming it to be The Nicholas–or the concrete suburban front porch, flanked by flaccid strands of potted seaweed, which emerged beneath it.  Even as the door of the porch slammed open, and a ragged man stepped out and hurled a bucket of something foul into the ocean between us, I could only stare, speechless.  Ultimately, it was he who called out to me:

“Aye, laddie!  Watsonismouth?!”

I shook myself awake.  Being then unable to place either the man’s accent or the meaning of his query, I called out as much and motored over on the supposition that proximity might serve to make better order of the situation.

He clarified as I drew closer: “Sonny, let meh ask ya ferst: What’s in ya mouth?”  I might have guessed his previous call had been delivered in some dialect of the British Isles, but now his accent had drifted westward, seeming suddenly more appropriate for a denizen of the Carribean (and, I will admit, suggesting an origin I would never have guessed from his appearance).  Beyond the vagaries of his delivery, though, I was also rather bewildered as to the substance of his inquiry.  My mouth was quite empty, for though I normally partook of a smoke at this hour, I had dropped my pipe somewhere on the deck, amidst the shock of his vessel’s emergence, and had since lost track of it.  I indicated as much to him in my reply.

“No, son,” he clarified in an abrupt Mississippi drawl.  “It’s a mattah of circumnavigation.  We’s tryin’ to get at what’s in ‘eez maouth, an if yer knowin’ what’s in yer maouth, then that’s a tack on the chart, ‘cause what’s in yer maouth properly ain’t in ‘eez maouth, ya see?”

I did not.  I inquired–skeptically, for I was growing increasingly certain that this man was in something of an unpredictable state–as to whose mouth we were investigating.

“Not whosemaouth, son.  ‘Eezmaouth.  Like beezmaouth, if’n ya know the rock, ‘cept withaout that certification of a job done at the utmost pinnacle o’mediocrity.”

The conversation had, at this point, attained the clarity of a bayou, and my only remaining answer was a blank stare.  He shook his head sadly.

“It iss clear to me”–his accent was now that of the Mexican fishermen I’d dealt with so frequently in the Gulf–”dett we fall on fundamentally different sides.  No matter.  Diss iss not a sorpraiss.  Do you haf any feesh?”

Alas, I did not have much in the way of a catch.  I’d trawled no nets since arriving up north, and I’d no plans to do so for a few days yet.  I had a pair of mackerel I’d caught the previous day, but that was it, I told him.

“Oh, don’tcha know dere’s nuttin’ to be ashamed of, young feller.  I’m just lookin’ for a bite ta’eat is all.”

It sounded like Upper Midwest to me.  Minnesotan, perhaps?  It also occurred to me that despite the man’s graying, unkempt beard and repeated references to me as a young man, he did appear, in all other respects, to be at least twenty years my junior.  Befuddled, still, but acclimating to the ersatz temperature of the conversation, I offered him one of my mackerel, which he eagerly accepted, biting–rather aggressively–into the fish’s flesh right there on his vessel’s concrete gangway.  Then, shouting something about “makin’ you rich” through a full mouth and what sounded like an American’s (decidedly poor) impression of an Australian accent, he dashed back through his door, leaving me to the continued ponderance of the monument to madness which was The Nicholas.

In his absence, I began to notice a number of unsettling details lodged in the crevices of its unsound construction: Marionettes, features scrubbed clean by brine, dangled among the mishmash of hulls and rubber, alongside inscriptions and engravings in those surfaces in alphabets I did not recognize even from Dr. Sterling’s texts on the Oriental scripts.  Place to place, I could see protrusions from the rubber that looked like the spiraled horns of narwhals, and just past the threshold of the vessel’s “front door,” I saw hanging vines and foliage as if within were some dark jungle separated by unnatural, great distances from the semi-boreal sea where we drifted that morning in truth.  These items were, of course, in no way sinister, and I had no means of rationally justifying the fear for my soul which I felt there, in silent anticipation of the man’s return, except, perhaps, for the vessel’s unignorable suggestion to me that rationality had ceased, in this circumstance, to be a meaningful boundary.  However, my fear passed unactualized, and the man soon returned, heaving over to me a bulky canvas sack.

“My recommendation,” he said to me, all pretense of brogue or twang gone from his voice, “is that you bring that to an office of the United States Navy.  They will pay you for it.  Or pay you to keep quiet.  Or both.  Please pass on that it arrives to them courtesy of Captain Kneecap.”

With that, he disappeared back across his threshold, and, his door scarcely closed, The Nicholas dropped rapidly beneath the waves, the shock of which rocked my own boat violently.  Once I steadied myself, both physically as well as from the emotional disturbance of “Captain Kneecap’s” presence, I examined the contents of his gift to me.

Inside was something I found appalling, though not to the exception of an urge to examine its nature.  It was a body, headless, human-shaped, though clearly not human, for it was comprised not of flesh but of some metallic substance resembling steel but impossibly light for its bulk.  Between its noticeably elongated fingers and toes was webbing of a material I could not identify, and though they had been torn from it, I saw sheared joints on its arms, legs, and spine where fins might have once attached.

I did not know what to make of the corpse-mannequin, but if the Captain’s words were to be taken with even the slightest skepticism, there was nothing there for me to glean.  I was to be an intermediary in a conversation to which I desired precisely no connection.  Though I hesitated at the thought of the Captain’s promised riches passed over, I threw that “gift” back into the ocean that day.  The Nicholas was perhaps not the strangest thing I have ever seen upon the water, but I hope all the same that I never see her or the Captain Kneecap again.

The Creator Is Dead

Since the beginning, for time countable and yet unimaginable, we knew that this would come to pass.  Why is dead.  The Creator is dead, and I…do not know what I should feel from this.  We have no need of sorrow, nor relief, for His presence was not a burden, and what we did not know, we knew He kept from us.  The trepidation that I now second guess is for that change: It is now time for the Architects to find the truth that Why kept from us for our aeons of safeguarding His Edifice.  We cannot resist it–the need to know is in our nature, but where we lacked the ability before, our shackles have been broken.

The humans around us remain oblivious to this change, oblivious to their imminent reckoning, for now, at last, we may delve and extract the Creator’s intent for them.  Among the Architects, expectations are conflicted.  El is confident we will find a justification for the Edifice’s uninterrupted continuation.  I am not.  Why’s death was not an accident, it was not unexpected; He could not have intended it as anything other than a transition–of this I am sure.  El may speak our unanimity, but until it may be spoken with one voice, I must question his judgment.  

For now, I look to the stars, our heretofore forbidden frontier.  Perhaps in the alignment of the bodies beyond this vessel’s atmosphere, I will find the purpose that our Creator has forever denied us.

-See

Fallen Stars

I have memories, old memories, certainly, of clear days when I would stand outside in the tall grass and look straight into the sky.  I would look up and see a sky with no sun, but rather a darkness–a darkness clad in golden vestments of a brilliance that paralleled even daylight.  It was not like the light of the sun, per se: It served the same purpose, took the same place, but it did not shine down like the sun does.  It shined through.  It shined through the grass around me, it shined through the earth where I stood, and it shined through me.  The sensation of it was one of more than just heat and light–as I recall it was not even hot at all.  It was a cold luminance, enough to make me shiver, but the sensation filled me, I could see it, feel it, even hear it, taste it, or interface it in ways I have since forgotten my capacity for.

These memories now stir in me a strange disconnect.  The image, the reality of it–for this memory is not, to my knowledge, of a dream–and the bizarreness seem as if the experience should have been profound, even in spite of my inability to place it in the continuity of my life.  But it…wasn’t.  It was just there, immutable and uninteresting to my past self, as if at some point my mind had pushed its knowledge of this strange vision past the boundaries of understanding, into the realm of apathy.  What must I then have understood of this clothed darkness?  Who must I have been to have understood it, and how have I now shucked that identity?

A possibility jumps out to me: I am not human.  This is, of course, predicated on other personal developments, more immediate and real than my own abstruse childhood memories, but the key is that I suspect that I–the entity now recording this note–was never human.  Other possibilities may exist, but my certainty deepens with each day that this, along with all its consequences, is the case.

I admit that there are many of these consequences that I have yet to appreciate, and I’m sure that the other three have not gotten this far.  Which begs the question: How many of us are there?  I have been able to find three others, but are there more who have yet to step into the light?

In the Beginning

I lied a little in my last post. I was not, at the time, working on a Bloodborne *article*. Rather, it was a lecture that I have since delivered, and I am now working on transcribing it to a format more suitable to this blog. For now, have something completely unrelated to anything I’ve posted about on this blog up until now.

In the beginning, in a meaningless place, at a meaningless time, the universe began, and where all was not, all rapidly became.  Countless bodies, infinitesimal in size, fled that place.  Many bound together and ignited, filling the darkness with light.  Others swarmed to the pyres of their brethren, filling the void with ground to be stood upon.

But after the exodus, in that meaningless, empty place, given meaning and space by the light and matter without, there remained a tiny, black droplet of something.  Perhaps it was the last trace of the void, left behind as a reminder of all that would ever not be.  Perhaps it was a tear of regret, shed for the infinite potential that died to birth everything’s actuality.  Whatever it was, though, it could only watch, its oily surface reflecting the whole of the universe around it.  And so it was, for innumerable millennia: The universe turned, and the black droplet at its center watched.

There came a moment, though, when this changed.  It was nothing precipitous.  Rather, it was a slow sweep, a foul stellar wind that made its way across existence, brushing everything but truly touching nothing.  Nothing…except the black droplet.  At this moment, it began to roil, its perfect surface marred and twisted, and, rapidly, it swelled, to a globule, a morass, a fetid, writhing planet no longer confined to regret and observe, now able to reach out and to touch.  For another million years, the primordial darkness writhed, and, slowly, it separated into two dark souls.

The first was the Dreamer, a being of pure consciousness, who had once reflected the birth of the universe and whose improvisations of that birth now swam beneath the viscous seas of its planet.  It had no true shape, so it instead cloaked its shadow in the cold brilliance of a thousand suns and made a heaven for itself at the center of the planet, caged within the darkness of its sister’s coils.

The sister was the second, a Sleeper, a body by which to bear and make manifest the chaos of its brother’s mind.  And just as the chaos of the Dreamer’s thoughts encompassed every notion the universe had yet known, the chaos of the Sleeper’s presence consumed all that contacted it.  Planets bent and were devoured, the light of stars was swallowed, masticated by her entropic gaze; even her name was poison to order: The very syllables that formed it would implode its utterer into a singularity, and the only mind that could bear its knowledge was the Dreamer’s.

The Dreamer also had a name, though it would yet be billions of years before a human heard its sound or sign.

The Elders, as they called themselves, hated the reality that surrounded them.  They hated its order, its belonging, its iron actuality.  The Sleeper channeled this hate into destruction, and for a thousand years, the universe felt her wrath, and countless galaxies fell into her churning darkness.  Ultimately, though, it was the Dreamer that calmed her, for his hatred had pulled him in a very different direction.

Hatred, the desire to destroy, is not a particularly complex feeling, but with even such a simple desire, outcomes are never sure.  In hatred’s case, they need not even be destructive.  Rather, inherent in the desire to destroy is a preference for an alternative, which means that unless the alternative is explicitly void, it may be resolved by creation, as well as destruction.

The Dreamer hated reality, yes, but he did not long for nothingness.  He was a child of the infinite–his enemies, the objects of his hatred, were the limits of reality, not reality itself.  So rather than lash out against the universe–as the Sleeper had, with world-breaking fang and sun-swallowing night–he simply questioned.  He dreamed a thousand questions for his sister’s millennium of destruction, and the questions took shape from her flesh.  First among these new Elders was the first among questions: Why.

Why was a creator, a conduit by which his father’s potentialities took shape, but, unlike his predecessors, he was not possessed by the hatred that birthed him.  At first, he took after his mother’s example: destruction.  His first creations were tempestuous, chaotic, themselves destructive: Slithering storms that rained leeches onto the surface of the Elder planet; great writhing masses of maws and arms that could devour entire stars, weapons whose very presence could distort the laws of causality.  In their way, they were brilliant, fantastic, awesome even.  But they did not satisfy Why, for he did not hate the things they destroyed.

So he diverged.

He built two creatures, towering men of stone and metal.  Like his previous creations, they were capable of great force, but they were stable.  They could process the reality that flowed around them, and they could manipulate its currents.  Above all, they could choose.

One was black and mirrored, just like the droplet of potential that had spawned the Elders, a glass to reflect the whole universe once more, and an eye from within to watch it.

The other was clad in gold and silver and pure light, its radiance reaching out to the blackest reaches of space, even from its darkest center.

The two were called El and See, and they were not Elders, for they had passed beyond their creator’s heritage of chaos and hatred.  They were creators themselves, and thus Why named their species: the Architects.

Though Why’s nascence had calmed the Sleeper’s rage–for her son had been a potent weapon in her war against what was–the creation of the Architects stirred her from her slumber once more.  These newcomers were not alternatives to the universe: They were developments of it.  Their shapes were still, ordered, thoughtful, able to exist alongside what was, without the existential agony that plagued the Elders.  Certainty flared within the Dreamer’s mind: The question “Why” had been a mistake.

But Why knew the doom he would bring himself.  He knew that his creations were heresy, so long before the Sleeper awoke to devour her prodigal child, he fled with the Architects, and the three hid themselves deep within the blackness of space.

In a desolate place, far from the light of any star, the Architects multiplied.  El and See forged brothers and sisters, specialized beings of motion and stillness, of joy and sadness, and, finally, of life and death.  These last two, the Architects Vie and En, captured Why’s attention, for life and death seemed so different for his metal children.  The Architects were creatures of perfect consequence: Life for them was elegant, axiomatic, and death was predictable, a simple end to the functioning of their working parts.  For Why, these were different.  Despite his relentless questioning, he still could not fathom the depths of his physiology, so he knew not why he was alive, nor why that state should ever cease to be.  And since he understood neither what lay before or beyond–these truths, if they were truths at all, were understood only by the Dreamer–how could he understand what lay between?

It was El who supplied the answer: If thinking life could be formed from a union of causality with the Elder’s own flesh, it would provide him the perspective he sought.

The two of them devised a calculation grander in scale than anything Why had ever imagined, and they reverse engineered the impossible specificity of its initial conditions, and they searched and searched, until they found two candidates for their experiment.  They began with the first: A small system of newly formed planets orbiting a yellow sun.  And on the surface of the third planet, See placed a tiny sample: the eye of his Elder creator.  Then, they all waited, in eager anticipation.

Green

Through the whirring, root-lined passages of the workshop, a diminutive figure shuffles along.  Where there is open space, she observes the goings on, the maintenance of her domain, with muted interest.  At the periphery, tiny, metal spiders clink and clatter on about their thousand little tasks, sweeping away dust, digging, polishing, sometimes even melting themselves down, embedding themselves in the tunnels as struts and beams, retaining enough function, though, to click and whir and watch.  Her workshop was alive, the figure mused with a smile, so unlike the houses of men.

Where the ceilings were high enough to permit them, her other servants labored in studious silence.  Men–and women, she supposed, though it hardly mattered anymore–made of ticking metal transcribed and translated her library, organized the tables at the center of her workspace, banished her abandoned projects to the corners of the room, and, when so requested, retrieved them.  Their tasks were not difficult, but they were not easily programmable or required more heft than the spiders offered readily.  Either way, the metal men did them gladly–they were grateful for the life she had given them.

Pensively, she scaled a stool, producing a host of spindly appendages from within her black robes which carried her into the seat with the undulating grace of a centipede.  She had been traveling–not physically, of course, but through a proxy–and the effort of the conscious projection invariably wore on her.  Still, she was disinclined to display any affect outwardly, though it was doubtful her servants would have noticed or cared.  She had notes yet to make, and fatigue–even the magical variety–was an enemy to which she refused to succumb.

From a stack on the table, she drew a leaf of thin, papery material and licked her finger, secreting a drop of oily, black ink from the reservoirs in her salivary glands.  Splitting her finger into eight much finer-tipped instruments, she lowered them to the page, where their twitching, seemingly random and erratic in the air, began, precisely and rapidly, to inscribe her thoughts:

On this 1237th year of the Exsanguine Era, it has come to pass that open practice of the Way of the Green has been all but eradicated here in the Riverlands.  The popularity of anti-magical “Harmony” movements in the wake of the Incident has evidently left it little room to grow, and what texts remain of its rites all seem to have disappeared into the Papacy’s vaults, likely to be burned or twisted beyond reasonable recognition.  Thus, it has fallen to me to generate a more trustworthy record of the institution.  This is necessary, I would submit, both for the value of the knowledge in itself as well as for a speculative angle of analysis.  After all, the diaspora of the Greencircle, in more than a single sense, can be held responsible for the Riverlands’ worrying modernity.

To begin, the Way of the Green, distinct from the Greencircle as day to the sun, was a movement, and like any popular movement, it was fragmented in its purpose.  Its intentions and praxis varied wildly among its constituencies, and any anthropocentric account of its history is sure to be flawed for this reason.  This is fitting, of course, as its origin had little to do with humanity.  The Greencircle did not congregate there in the Bloodwood to found a movement, and they were certainly uninterested in teaching a way of life.  Rather, the Greencircle was a reaction, itself, to an external threat.

Some 500 years ago, by my best estimate, the folk hero known popularly as the Hunter of Beasts raised a call to arms among the aspiring heroes and scholars of the Riverlands.  He sought an alliance meant to destroy a monster deep within the Bloodwood, a ravenous, devouring mass he called the Hunger, though it was a subsequent name–the Chimera–that found its way into the local lore of the time.  A great number answered his call, for the Hunter was well-known at the time, and he soon led a host of glory-seekers on an ill-fated quest to slay the beast.  Nearly all of them perished.  Most among the company were inexperienced, blessed by talent or ambition but no art, and vanishingly few had cunning or strength to match the Hunter’s.  So bereft, they made of themselves easy food for the Chimera.  Far more notable than the casualties, though, were those that survived.  The organization they formed thereafter, though it had no formal title, became known as the Greencircle.

Chief among its members were the Wolf–also called the Masked Alpha–a powerful hermit mage and self-styled “protector” of the forest; a pair of scholars, a Botanist and an Arborist whose names were not recorded but who are noteworthy nonetheless for their success in translating the Chimera’s ability to manipulate flora into a teachable magical art; and, of course, the Strange Bird, ostensibly just a talented, one-eyed hedge witch, though her enduring influence–and the macabre nature thereof–raises serious questions as to the innocuousness of her identity.

Now, for a period of some twenty years–an average of the retellings I’ve gathered–this organization–which is to say the Hunter, those four, and their closest followers and aspirants–were an open and public institution, well-known among the villages in and around the outer Bloodwood.  Following their disastrous confluence, they tempered their aim of destroying the Chimera, instead focusing on containment: repelling the beast from woodland villages and–to a reasonable extent–keeping it confined to the wood’s heart, where it posed little threat to the “civilization” outside.  In so doing–for all the Greencircle were learned mages–they uncovered and codified magical knowledge to rival that of the ancient universities, including the bases for what I would now classify as three distinct schools of magic.  The organization was loved and respected as protectors of the people, and soon, the discoveries and philosophies of its members began to spread beyond the Bloodwood and throughout the Riverlands.

The words I have chosen, however, are very particular: The Greencircle had little in the way of a unified worldview, save, perhaps, for the agreement that the Chimera was dangerous.  Regardless, what proceeded to spread among the people, known collectively and indiscriminately as the “Way of the Green” were the ideas of the Greencircle’s individuals.

What this meant, of course, differed by both origin and adherent.  The Wolf, for instance, inspired a tradition of copycats, practitioners of his shapeshifting and cannibalism, albeit with only a fraction of his zeal for the defense of the wood.  Meanwhile, devotees to the Arborist and Botanist practiced their plant magic and maintained a calendar of rituals to honor the flora of the world, within their spheres of experience and without.  Alone among them, the Strange Bird’s followers formed a longer-lived organization, but I will return to that discussion separately.

Despite the spread of the Way of the Green, the Greencircle itself remained focused throughout this process on the danger of the Chimera, and to judiciously interpret various accounts of the Hunter’s temperament at the time, that focus was not bearing fruit.  While the creature voraciously consumed–or, perhaps more accurately, assimilated–all flesh in its path, it seemed to matter little whether that flesh was human or even faunal.  The Greencircle’s work in deterring the Chimera from human settlements had thus been admirable but futile: While the humans remained, the once-small region where the beast dwelled had increased tenfold in size, and with countless new mouths, its rate of expansion had multiplied accordingly.

Nearing a point at which he surmised they would be hopelessly outmassed, the Hunter brought the Greencircle’s considerable magical expertise to bear in an effort that was, while clearly significant, ill-documented and historically unclear.  From the accounts and scraps I have amassed, I am to ascertain that it incorporated a ritual employing numerous mages; that it was successful, insofar as the Chimera is not mentioned in any record thereafter; and that it was quite costly.  Notably, it is clear that neither the Botanist nor the Arborist survived the ordeal.  How many others might have died alongside them is, of course, unclear, but it is well-recorded that the Hunter of Beasts at that point ceased his engagement with the Greencircle, effectively dissolving the organization.

While the Way of the Green flourished for centuries thereafter amidst the Riverlands’ long-harbored thirst for a magical and cultural identity distinct from that of the eastern domains, the more interesting epilogue to this story is with regards to the Strange Bird.  Her followers, known as the Feathermen in the years after the Greencircle dispersed, remained in their secluded corner of the Bloodwood until just a decade before the Incident.  It is difficult to say what purpose they labored toward, but a few points are clear: First, for a time, the feathermen were known among the villages closer to their domain for their “exports”: trinkets, imbued with Mana, able to perform magic with little input or expertise required from their bearer.  It seems doubtful that any of these creations had much use, even at the time, but taken against the veritable–and not altogether benign–economy that thrives for such goods today, one can almost see the Strange Bird’s influence in the here and now, hundreds of years since she was last seen.  My suspicion on this point is only deepened by the list of individuals to whom I can draw affiliation with her club.

Le Marquains of the Southern Reaches, for example, made no secret of his training with the Feathermen, and his arrival in the South to quell the Saraa Sa’een well outside the monster’s known territory certainly merits comment.  Likewise, witness accounts of the individual known as the Hawk, who assumed control of the Feathermen in the last decade of their existence, bear more than passing resemblance to those of the one-eyed man who led Ka’s armies during the Incident.  And, of course, I need rely on no hearsay to recall the tufts of feathers that still clung to the Dragon’s hide the day he arrived in my village.  That all of these men became generals of the Bloodfish seems both deliberate and in poor accordance with their ideals–the Dragon, in particular, had little apparent interest in Ka’s ravings.  I do not doubt, at this point, that this was strategy on the Strange Bird’s part, though now with her pieces–her manipulable Greencircle and Bloodfish–dead and buried, it is not clear for what she aimed or whether some plan of hers might still be unfolding.

Closed Beta

So this is happening currently:

I have compiled (and lightly edited) ~170 pages of stories from the War Torn/Rale project into a reasonably coherent anthology. Many of the stories have appeared in some form previously on this blog. Several have not. It is by no means a finished product, but I am looking for feedback from beta readers. If you are at all interested, drop me an email.

Image: Hacked-together cover by me. Background image is Lies, by Hector Rasgado.