1 Regarding Orx

The manifestation of the Orx may constitute the single greatest danger to our world. This can not be over emphasised. Anyone who witnessed the events known as the Overcast will testify to the horrors unleashed upon them that day, marking their souls forever. First hand accounts from Bizapul amongst other cities speak of a dark day boiling with the humours of hatred and fear, with friend attacking friend, families enraged in blood feud, neighbours tearing each another apart with their bare hands and nothing sharper than their teeth… a day which sullied the spirit of a generation of children and curdled the blood of the most hard-hearted of Royal Guard. Nobody was left unscathed.
Although that event passed only once in the extended memories of our historian annals, it should not be treated as an isolated or freak occurrence. Rather it was the high tide of a storm yet to come. The Meherim have long been aware of the darkness rising in the west, but to its full extent we have been ignorant. The day of Overcast brought the darkness to the shores of the Empire, and its shadow cast long into the homeland. It is not impossible to consider the Overcast may swell once again, and its reach may extend further such that the Pharohim may see His skycity unfounded and its citizens razed to a rubble of broken minds.
The Meherim have known of the threat from the West for many years, but our progress in understanding has been pitiful. Reflection in the Crystal Lake has revealed the significant progress made by independents, albeit idiosyncratic and untempered by formal practice. Information is being consolidated, cross-referenced, and a picture is beginning to emerge. What we know for definite is that the Orx has intensified at the fringes of the Empire, across all Outer Reaches simultaneously. What has first come to the Seven Valleys is now being seen across other Gal territories, and replicated across Rone, Zu and Agrahal provinces. Unlike the day of Overcast, it is a constant presence. Crops spoil, livestock sicken and die, and men turn upon themselves. It erodes the wellbeing of civilisation, and makes dwelling together impossible in cities or towns or even villages. In common terms, lands infected by this unholy plague are commonly known as Shadowlands, a buffer zone before the Underlands where the Orx multiply rampantly and where men fear to tread.
And what we know for certain is that these Shadowlands are expanding, encroaching into the Outer Reaches and if unchecked, will expand to the boundary of the homeland within our lifetime — sooner given additional Overcast events. It is for this reason that a division of Meherim have been formed under the auspices of the venerable and wise Exarch Arkon, the Necrons whose sole task is to nullify the plague and innoculate us against the worst behaviours of another Overcast event.
Individual monks and wizards, as well as mendicant meherim, have conducted forays into the Shadowlands to investigate the Orx. Accounts are varied and will require time for sorting and validation. Meanwhile expeditions are being mounted not only in rax form empowered through the amplification of the Crystal Lake but also physically in person to capture atarax in their native habitat. All spiritual warriors must be fortified against the powerful psychotropics which characterise these Shadowlands. Meherim inspired by the call are welcome to participate, but only the strongest may join the ranks of the Necron. Even well trained meherim can be snuffed out in an instant or their minds turned in the presence of the more powerful Orx. Despite the trickling down of low state garsu into the general populace and the correlating math to empower them, meherim training still requires years to complete. We must be careful we do not squander our reserves at this early outset, in case an all-out state of war comes to pass. The Meherim must retain its numbers for future encounters. For those who have the stomach for it, may the uncompromising reflection upon death in the placid expanse of the Crystal Lake invert their mind to become Necron practioners.
What has been gleaned so far about the Orx is that it is chaotic, unruly, anarchic, full of the darker sides of human motivation, a seething mass of ill-intent. Anger, contempt, anxiety, disgust, envy are its constant emotional state, a cesspit of feelings which eats away within it in many and varied hideous forms. Witnessed by common folk as goblins, trolls, wraiths, all forms of horror once imagined in fairytales now made real. Currently their ability to organise is poor, no form of togetherness is possible beyond the species and even within species they fight amoungst themselves. Which makes the day of the Overcast that much more unlikely. It has been postulated that what made the Overcast possible was a concerted effort across a legion of dark forces which pulled at the rotten parts of mens souls and gave rise to their wild behaviours, worse than animals truth by told. What appears to be influencing it, like a magnet around filings, is greed and avarice, the selfish sense of taking, an insatiable sense of stealing from others, an unholy pit fathomless in its appetite. It is recognised that this sense has been growing within man from the dawn of time, or at least when man set stone and brick to build cities. And it has been postulated there is a correlation between how we lead our lives and the manifestation of Orx. If so, it may be that Orx have been collecting in Everdark for thousands of years and may even explain how the ancients came to an end. Expeditions into the Underlands and into Everdark might verify the many and varied hypotheses being proposed, but who might be willing to risk themselves in such foolhardy endevours? Searching for origins of the Orx is of academic interest. We face more pressing concerns.
What may explain the phenomenal growth of Orx over recent years? Here we have disconcerting evidence that the Meherim itself has been instrumental in its acceleration. Rax vapour, or leakage. Just as garsu dust leaked in the waters from garsu mines have led to the discovery of living clay, the base material for the formation of golem, so there is a side-effect of rax. That whenever we manifest rax, a little evaporates and is flung around the world as fine mist, finer than dust, and it accumulates and coalesces as the substance of Orx. There are some esteemed colleagues who posit something more precise and even more disturbing: that the exercises of azrax gives rise to Orx directly. In fact, though it may pain us to acknowledge it and especially by my colleagues, the earliest proponent of this hypothesis is the disohonoured exile Grad-hacr’ash, whose subsequent investigations are unknown to us either because he is dead or because he has shielded his garsu from resonance with the Crystal Lake.
As is fundamental to garsu operation, azrax nullifies rax, utile in the inhibition of unwanted rax, the manifestation of unwanted feelings and thoughts made real, subconscious tendencies which if unchecked spoil any rax. Absolutely necessary when working with untrained minds as many in our order are employed to do, fulfilling the fanciful imaginings of so many royals. The azrax practices are less required within our own ranks, but even the azrax of the honed and perfected order of azmeherim, those stone-minded bulwarks who are feared even amongst our order, the azrax practices contain inherent misapplication: that is, these subconscious rax have in fact been banished, and not vanquished as first thought. It may be these noxious rax vapours have been fueling the growth of Orx for decades. And should any reject this hypothesis offhand, it has been verified by Guise. We still do not have replicable proof. Investigations are being conducted and once azrax practices have been purified, the stemming of this leakage of rax will slow the growth of Orx. However, with the increased number of common minds operating lower state garsu, whatever reduction in leakage on our part as Meherim will be dwarfed by the increasing amount of leakage from lesser minds. It is a problem we can not solve within ourselves, as Meherim, nor stem the spread of garsu abuse; we may only pray for deliverance by Machus.
A final consideration, and it is this: the force of greed and avarice which drove the Overcast may exist in one, singular entity. A powerful entity capable of uniting the division of Orx, as much as the sun unites all living things. We have already lost several respected Meherim elders to its investigation. Its psychic gravity is too strong, capable of bending primary attention and turning the mind; as a consequence, more indirect methods are being developed. We have bound this psychic hole with the ward Manx. The word barely protects those who utter it. It has the potential to bring utter destruction to all that man has built, it might see civilisation brought down and all barbaroi slaughtered, its hatred of the human spirit so great as to burn out the heart of any man who witnesses it unprotected. And in the face of this unholy enemy, even the kindest of souls cower. Demonstrating mercy merely excites more hatred and anger, such is the deep extent of its mindrot. There is no appeasing Manx. Having grown for centuries or millennia in the Everdark, the rising darkness in the west may only be countered by the rising our saviour, Machus. Only Machus may have the power to unite and protect us, and purge man’s soul of this wicked plague.

1 Meherim Exploring

“I don’t know,” said the old woman, “don’t ask me!”

“I am asking you,” emphasised the man with a smile. “You are the only person who knows what is going on in your own head!”

The old woman laughed because it was true. Her son’s meherim had been asking her simple sums, three and seven, nine and six, and had stumped her with a complicated one, forty three and sixteen. She persisted and had answered correctly, for which she was very pleased. It had been decades since she had need of using sums, teaching her grandchildren perhaps, and she was surprised that should could remember any of it so distant was her childhood lessons. And then he had asked her how she had done it! Whatever could he mean?!

“It just came to me,” she snapped, exasperated at such a question.

“On the contrary, you had to work at it,” countered the man. “I am interested in what you are doing in your mind.”

“Nothing, I tell you,” barked the old woman. Though she was annoyed, it was more at herself. Secretly, she was enjoying it. The mage had lived by her son’s side his entire adult life, his Pungent Shadow she called him, or just Pungent. He had that same cold temperance he always had, give her chills. Now, with his attention upon her, she could actually feel the benefit of his indifference: he did not waver. Her annoyance, which pricked at her from rise to fall, did not seem to disturb him as it did her servants and family. She could tell they did not enjoy her presence, and the feeling was mutual. She’d rather sit alone in the garden, not so much to admire the birds, trees or clouds as others seemed to, but just to be alone, brooding over her life, imagining the lives she could have led if she had made decisions for her own life.

 “Your job is to describe what is going on in your head as easily as you can describe how many fingers I am holding up, which fingers on which hand,” said the mage.

“Three on your left and two on your right,” said the old woman.

“Just like that, but with what is going in your head. I don’t want to hear any more of your not knowing, giving up and so on. You are the only person who knows, which is why I am asking.”

“What about your garsu magic,” asked the old woman.

“Lady Carmin, the garsu gives me some insight into what you have thought, it is true. I know when what you say does not match what you are actually doing. But there are deterioriations according to age which interfere with how thoughts are laid down in the structure of the crystal. Hence I am asking you questions and it is your job to answer at the best of your ability.”

“Alright, alright,” clucked the old maid. She had never pretended to understand what the arts of the Meherim were. She was content to call him mage or magician, which annoyed her son, and admittedly she drew some pleasure from experiencing the various plays which the garsu unspooled in her mind, a marvellous magic. She would spend hours of her day reliving the most fanciful dramas, murder and intrigue amongst lords and ladies, the myths of translucent angels and blood dragons, and the political histories of her own house and those of competing houses. She had not experienced anything like it when she was a child, it was all tapestries and puppet shows back then. She had learned to read and write, and basic numbers, but most of the stories she learned were word of mouth, recounted by the most able storytellers her father invited to their home. The xan-garsu performances were entirely captivating, easily consumed, though admittedly recently she had difficulty remembering the names of characters, and losing track of why they were behaving as they did midway through a story. Her broken memory was affecting the drama of it, and as a consequence the plays were starting to lose their appeal. Which brought her to increased annoyance generally because she had to spend more time in the real world which was dull and repetitive to a fault. 

“So no more backing off, no more don’t knows. I ask, you answer. Do you understand?” pressed the mage, smiling. “Have some more tea.”

She laughed and carefully placed the cup to her lips. It was a trail she was used to, since her shaking made the cup tremble and the contents would threaten to leap from the brim. It was miraculous that as the cup came closer to her face, so close it was out of focus and below her line of sight, she could feel it settle against her lip and she could sip slow and calmly. But she still had to place a cloth on her lap because as she removed the cup from her lips the trembling would resume and accidental splashings were becoming more common. Age, she thought ruefully, the great leveller. Great or lower house, solozo or gal or barbaroi, we are all reduced to the same. Except the Pharohim, except Him, she thought with a mixture of awe and envy. 

The meherim resumed asking arithmetic questions, which brought an unaccustomed sharpness to her mind. She was thankful for that so let him proceed.

2 Giant-Killer

“Get out of my way,” he growled.

The five Gal brigands surrounded him. Two in front two behind, and one amidst the trees to one side armed with a sling. They had thought that their show of numbers would be enough to part some coin from him. He shook his head.

“Once I unsheath my sword it will end badly for you,” he growled. “All of you,” he emphasised.

The lead ruffian wiped his nose with a snort. “That may be. What’s your business in these parts?”

“My business is my own.”

“That may be, but perhaps I can help you on your way.?’” He smiled gruffly, revealing his browned rotten teeth.

“”Is there a giant in these parts?”

The brigand narrowed his eyes, glanced at his companions, reappraising the situation. He shifted into a more relaxed conversational stance,  “Giant, eh? Like you?”

There was a snort from behind him. Uneak stood a good foot taller than any of them, but even a bear could be downed by a pack of hungry dogs. They needed a little goading, a show of dominance, confidence, and the alpha here was building up to it. At least with his yapping.

Uneak elbowed his cloak wide as he drew his sword, just at the briggand nodded and leaped forward with his club. Uneak side-stepped and ducked lifting the sword tip to the side of the briggand’s abdoment. From his heel through his leg, rotating his hips, he drove the sword up through the abdoment into his chest, sewering the brigand mid-step, his face transfixed with shock. Uneath stepped away removing the sword from the wound with a wide arc till it was raised high above his head as a warning to the others, the body slumping to the ground like a sack of bones, which was hat it was. The others stepped back, the slinger winding down his spin.

Uneak took a wide crossstep, the blade fell, he rotated his wrist and lunged into the second man through his gut. Like an elestac, he sprung back, the sword flashing high and wide in a great loop, slashing into first one man behind, and as the fourth stumbled backwards, Uneak leaped forward athen with counter-rotation swung the sword from the gash made in the third, slicing leather and skin into the spine of the retreating man. The slingsman, barely a man at all, was scramblin gpu the grassy bank, his way to the road blocked by his fallen comrads. 

Uneak raised himself to his full height and commended the boy to stop. He glanced both ways of the road, then knelt to first rip then slice off the remains of a wasitcoat from one of the bodies. He carefully wiped the blood from the blade, being sure none had dripped into the hilt.

“Were any of these relatives of yours?” he asked.

The young man nervously eyes the bodies, and Uneak who stood calmly. He shook his head.

“Find me my giant, and I shall spare you your life,” said Uneak and the boy nodded. “Speak it!” barked Uneak. 

“Yes, I wil, thank you Sir.”

The goat herder jabbed with his chin, indicating it was close. Uneak stared at him coldly. The goat herder shrunk and pointed up ahead. “Just there,” he said, his voice thick with dis-use. He lived a lonely existence up here at he edge of the trees, leading his herd in and out of the forest, scrabbling for the outcrops of grassses which thinned and gave way to the mountain rock..

UUrak approached the opening into the forest. It was as he imagined. A trail thrinto the forest, tree trunks snapped like twigs, flattened likground, branches trailed through the dirt, as if a herd of gippos had passed through here. By its’s width

A trail through the trees, heavy branches broken and strewn o through the dirt, a tree angled, roots partially excavated. By thwidth, he estimated the passing of something taller than the trees, perhaps forty feet in all.

He turned back to the goat-herder who was already making his way back, smotes of snow swirling in the wind. “Have you been  How many more of these have you seen?”

The herder shrugged. The forest to the west of here is criss-crossed with these trails. Noone travels here. The land is cursed. The shadow deepens here, the night is long and dark.”

Urak stood silouetted in the opening, a boy in the space made by the passing giant. He pulled his hood over his head and turned to follow the trail. It whad entered the forest here, and though the trail was over a week old, it was a start. For the trail to persist this long, he thought, it was powerful presence, in the realm of the being he hunted. This was no hill giant. THis was a mountain giant. He gritted his teeth and clambered over the ruins left of the forest floor, glancing briefly to note that the boy dutifully followed.  A crack of a smile, the boy was more afraid of Urak than the giant. Wait until they met it. He would be hardpressed to know the difference.

After following numerous trails, whenever they crossed, he would carefully judge the time of passing, the lay of snow, the sap from the broken which seeped from the broken branches, the ice formed. In the footfalls. AllHe would gauge the level of detail, the scale of the passing, and make his decision. .

They were sleep ing when he was woken by the sound of birds, crows  complaining, the wrong time for them to be flying.  Something had disturbed them. He caught their flight in the silver light of the moon, and gathering his weapon, he jogged into the forest in the direction from where they came.

He stopped for hearing, only the beating of his heart in the silent silent trunks, the gentle swaying above. At last he heard something, breaking of a branc, perhaps a trunk, and then the slow thumping of steps. He headedin its direction. The sound was impelling, and soon he saw it, across tha gulley. The trees racked up the side of the gulley on the opposite side, the moonlight off the branches, and there was the disurbance, branches shaken, snow flurries falling to the ground, a dark trail from where it was going, heading up the gulley.

Urak headed up the gulley at a jog. He would have to press hard if he was to match its speed a.

He ran into a thicket of thorns and cursed, cutting away from the gulley before he could find a way thraround the thicket. He began running, risking stumbling over the undergrowth, slowed to heaving through fthe ramains of ernslayered with snow, srambling up a loose rock slope, and he stopped, his heart thumping, sweat rollion his face, his leathers clining to him, his legs burning. He held his breath and localised the sound of the giant — it was close. He burst through the undergrowth into its trail, and there to his left was the hulking great thing, wider than he expected, and sodouble tand as tall as the trees. It was pushing its way through the trees and hadn’t heard him or noticed him.. An advantage , one of the few advantages of being a sixth of the giant’s size. The floor of the forest was strewn with broken bracnhes, flattened ground, rocks flattened into the ground, he swiftly foollowed the trail as he brandished his weapon.

Mouthing a incantation as he ran to meet it, his voice rising to a shout as he shouted out the final wording, his mind becoming hard and edged like the iron of his sword, he hurled himself at the beast and sliced through its thigh.

A tramendous roar issued form the thing, and a great arm spun, and it spun around, a great arm a large as a trunk swatting Urak , spinning him to the ground with a glancing blow, his sword dislodged and twirling in the air to thud between distant trees. Urak lay concussed on the ground. , Coming to his senses, the great beast before him in the moonlight, its a, twisted back on itself, trying to gauge the damage to its leg.  Urak realised his sword was not at hand, and fear gripped him. He swore., and lay there looking up at the great beast.  It turned around and scanned the ground, searching for what hat cut him. In its automatic response, it had lashed out, and in its immensity had hardly felt he blow he had given Urak. A work, a bear, perhaps? But there was a single cut, it was man’s doing. A trap set in the forest, a spwswinging blade.?  Urak saw it calculate the possibilities,, and he lay silently where he had fallen. If it noticed him there, 

Holding his breath. He held his mind still, his eyes defocused. If the giant noticed, it could take a step and crush him underfoot.. The grotesque mishappen head faced one way, another, the steam of its breath from mishappen nostrils, until it finally turned its lumpen head to the sky and howled with anger and fear. , Before it turned back to its path and with greater vigour pushed between the trees, throwing its weight against trunks which bent and buckled, and uprooted, bracnhes snapping and falling in its wake.

Urak let out his breath and sank his head into the snow. 

He lay there, resting, feeling his injuries, how sore, how accurat ethe the damage to his ribs. It had been a glancing blow, spun him more than struck him. He had been lucky. He repllayed the vision of the thing in his mind. Its grey skin in the moonlight, the mishapen shoulder, the characteristic diffrence of left and right side of tbody, the lump of head,, its ears ha were so deformed as to be holes, themouth ful, the dislocated jaw, the squahed eye, the deformed skull. Clearly it was in pain, constant pain, having deteriorated over months alone, lost and deranged. And as he lay there, sizing up his inuries and considering the lot of the tortured giant, he felt an overwhelming sense of compassion. It was why he did the job. That this thing was alone out here.

Reluctantly he heaved himself to his hunches and searched and found his sword. He held it in his grip and shook his head. A  rookie’s mistake, parted from his blade. He checked the garsu stone remained central in the hilt, next time he had to reach for the spine. , Or hack through the leg clean, even at the ankle. He had inflicted a cut, that was all, a potentially defatal mistake on his part. He would not survive many such mistakes..

He was puled from his recollections by the eyes of the boy peering between wide-eyed from the shadows between the trees. Brave enough to follow, eh? Plucky.

He turned on his heel and slowly followed the trail THere was no point chasing, not at the rate the giant was travelling now. It was a matter of following until the giant tired, and hope that the it didn’t break clear of the tree line.

It was sitting forlornly like a sostrone outcropping in a clearing. A hazy steam rose from it which coallsced in the moonlight, blurring its surface. There was something of recognition in the thing that its time was up. How many were trapped in that thing, Urak pondered. THis was more than a couple of score. The level of detail, the persistence of trails. It was wanting to be found. But as many as there were that wanted to be foundthere were an equal number  which had mutinied, lost all hope and sense wwith it, driving it in a mad rush of survival, away from civilisation, out into the most inhospitable areas. Urak still did not understand its pmotivation. Why these most inhospital areas? It was hardly afraid of man. If vengeance was part of its make up, it wcould destroy villages, but they seldom did. THere was a general movement towqrds the Everdark, but ithey would zigzag to and fro, as if attractd and yet fearful of wht it might find in the darkness. Mad, for sure.

Urak stepped from the shadows ot eh trees and slowly rounded the clearing to stand before it, outwith reach., his sword held before him, ready.

He slowly intoned the incantation under his breath, his focus on the garsu crystal in the pmel of the sword, his intent hardening with the length of iron, his being thinning, weaponising. He knew only a few specific mathix calculations, without flexibility to modify. This was the purest form, knowngly, before his prey. His audience drawn in, all of them, along the edge of his sword, towrds this single point..

The thing heaved on to its feet, its great arms swinging like logs loosly at its side. It head turned slowly, its great eyestaring down at him. It throated something, like a stretched out caugh.

Urak ignored it, ignored the pteasing of curiousity, promising his future self he would rememcall the sounds, but for now he was one thing, single intent, his wil iron.

THe thing screamed at him, and jumped forward, its great arm swinging through down upon him. With iron confidence, Urak leaped into the air, agains the ar and redoubled his height and thrust the point of the sword into the thing’s dropping jaw. Hfelt the shudder as it slpenetrated sinews and momently paused at bone before puncutring the underside of the skull.. The thing twisted, Urak was flung to one side, but he remained gripping the hilt two handed, and was. Feeling the sword well placed, he fell to a roll on the ground as the whole heap of the giant slunk to the ground. QUickly, he rose and clambered over the limp limbs till he was at  its head, its eye upturned agains the moon, his shadow upon it. Breath gugled from its punctured throat as Urak lay his hand on its head, as big as he was tall. He slowly intoned the final mathix caclulation, as he saw the last whisps of breath escape into the night air. Urak breathed deeply, sadly, and wished them safe journey back to their home.

He leapt onto the trunk of an arm and rebounded high into the air, a miraculous inhuman leap witnessed by his attendant peasant boy, the sword gleaming in the moonlight, destinted to pierce the neck and enter through the spin into the skull of the giant, a single arspear-like thrust, as if the sword had a trajectory like an arrow, the flight as light as a feather.

Urak recognised the characteristic long-term deformation, the calcified joints, inarticulate shoulders, the kneck swollen with tendon, the solid overbrow. This thing had evolved into a rock giant, a thing of the wild open spaces. Whateer was inside it was polarised between fear and feirsome will, fear expressed as will. The more it was afraid, alien to this world, the more its spirit became enflamed with the willpower to live.  In this way, it troe its way through the forest leaving a wake of destruction.

He knelt at examined the fine details, the taste of sap from broken branches, the splinters from torn trunks, and rubbing leave, the scent of crushed foliage. It was It wasn’t quite there, Urak felt, but it was a good start.

He murmered as he crossed the trail, examining the remains, whispering whenever he met a new trail, and ain his murmering ruminations, he would rise to his feet and with certainty in his stride, change the trail he was following.

In a local outhouse, around the between the warmth of a blazing fire and a round of friendly bodies, and within him swirling the warmth of beer, Urak let himself go, laughing loudly at the local joker, swearing passionately with their prejudice of the neighbouring settlement, holding two lassies in his lap, one oneach thigh. He was expressive and warm-hearted, the heart of this makeshift tribe, amongst his own.

In a lul in the proceddings, while another round of drinks were sought, paid for generously by Urek’s generoristy, the peasant boy who had accompanied him coughed and woke him from his temporary slumber.

“How did you manage to fell such a beast?” Urak’s eyes blurred and he snorted and collapsed back to his slumber. “It was only what you saw,” he slurred.

“”I have never seen anyone carry a sword as you do. It is alwaost like it wasn’t there, so light it is in your hands.” Said the boy in awe. Villalagers encouraged him to speak, and the boy retold the scene in the moonlit clearing in the forest, the stone giant bearing down on Urak, the superhuman leap to sewer the things head. It was increudolous, but the boy spoke with the honesty of seeing with his own eyes, and his awe was infectious.

“We were told of there are several giants in this reach, how did you know which it was you saught?”

“I won’t get paid if I get the wrong one,” snorted Urak and swigged more beer.

“There were so many trails to choose from, how did you know which one would lead to the one you wanted?”

Urak eyed him and blinked the bluriness from his eyes, and turned to the villagers who were listening enrapt, hoping to learn something should they ever encounter such a thing face to face.

“Each has a name, you see. They are not monsters, as such. They are lost souls. And if you utter its name, you can its trail livens, sharpens… enlviens before your very eyes,” he said and fixed his gaze on the eyes of one of the girls who sat on his thigh. The brightness of his spirit shone, her eyes glinted, life sparkled between them. Here was the vitality of life. “You know what I mean?” he said, a wry smile closing one eye, the other winking slowly.

“To the those who were lost who are now found!” cheered Urak raising his tankard, and his companions raised their mugs in concert. “May all beings find their home!” To distant homes! May each day bring usbring them nearer.”

(How can he tell which giant is which?) naming it, trail has more definition. 

1 Garsu Smoke

“Are you not happy here?”

Filipina was pouring cool water from a large jug into a copper basin laid into a white marble table, the sound mixing with the playful burbling of children which wafted in with the cool breeze from the courtyard. “Yes, I have been happy here, Karazine,” she said flatly. 

Karazine was chopped vegetables on a black wood table. She stopped and walked into the sunlight to close three of the six shutters which formed one wall, glancing out at the children dancing and splashing in the pool, the cream-coloured canvas canopy stretched across the courtyard providing a cool glow. She turned to check the ambient light within the chamber, a mellow amber, closed another shutter and gauged the subdued light ideal. “Would you like to tell me what troubles you?” she asked.

“It is difficult,” replied Filipina, who barefoot crossed to the hearth and began piling sticks for a small fire.

Karazine drew the cotton gauze across the remaining gap to ensure privacy from the frollicking children and the other members of the extended household, the metal rings sliding along it rails like rushing water. “I understand. It is about your children,” Karazine said. “There is nothing to be afraid of.”

“It has been three years since I have moved to the Heartland. Three years away from my own people,” Filipina said with a sigh.

“Have I not taken you in and treated you as our own family? There is no distinction between you and the others here.”

“Yes, Karazine, you have been most generous. But I have not seen my children in these long three years and it pains my heart.”

Karazine was silent. She regarded Filipina kneeling at the hearth. “Yes, it must be very hard for you. I could not bear being separated from my children for an afternoon. I admire your sacrifice, your strength, Filipina.” She paused. “It must have been hard making the decision to leave them.”

“Thank you, Karazine, it was. But I always had the intention of making enough money to return.”

“You know we are not of hot of blood. I do not have the resources to spare. It is difficult enough to run this household as it is.” Karazine spoke curtly. Finances were not her favourite topic, though she was quite competent. They were her responsibility and she kept frequent check of the fiscal health of the entire extended household. It was not a Major House, but even a Minor house with its tens of members had substantial assets distributed throughout Terrabiz and Bizapul to account.

“I have not asked you for money, Karazine.” Filipina turned to look at Karazine who was pouring dark green lentils into a wide brimmed black charred pot.

“You know I hardly understand rax. Despite the difference of our blood, we are simple people. I have never pretended to understand your vision.” The Lady meant this sincerely, and raised her head briefly to assure Filipina appreciated her intent. “I have witnessed your rax, have I not? And the children too?”

“I promise you the garsu smoke exists. I have seen it. It rises from garsu use.”

“I’m sorry to say, I have not,” Karazine said, sifting the hard round lentils through her fingers.

“The skills of conjurers and magicians of the market are insufficient to detect the garsu smoke. They have helped me product a xanplay, but I have failed to secure an exponent of the Meherim to examine it.”

“I have helped as much as I can. Have you not been living here well enough? Enough to eat? A place to sleep? These are certainly not slave quarters. Beyond your service, what you do with your own time is your own.”

“In the three years I have been here, I have failed to form the necessary relationships.” Karazine lifted the pot onto the grill. Filipina could feel the brittle quality of her intensity fixed excessively on the pot, nevertheless she asked: “Have you spoken of the smoke or shown the rax to a House…?”

Karazine wiped her hands and fetched the jug of water. “Your business is your own. If it hasn’t worked out for you, I am sorry to hear that. I did as much as I could.”

Filipina tried to catch Karazine’s eyes when she returned to pour water into the pot. “I am cold of blood, not even Solozo. It is impossible for me to approach a Royal House.”

“So why not return to the Reaches? Try with your own kind?” It was a positive remark but as their eyes met, both knew it was empty. Karazine turned away.

“They do not have the resources. I can not return to them with nothing. After three years…” Filipina slumped beside the small spluttering fire, dejected. “I have failed them.”

Karazine resumed cutting the vegetables. “I am sorry to hear that, Filipina. But you may stay here for as long as you are a contributing member of the household.” And then she added cheerily: “We won’t let you starve!”

“My life is not worth living,” said Filipina, poking the fire with a stick, which spluttered ineffectually. She thought of the fire in the hovel she had left in the Seven Valleys. Her extended family living in poverty, the failing of the harvests year after year. She had seen it all in a vision. Black smoke issuing from the garsu crystal, turning and twisting like it had a life of its own, falling upon all the crops, blackening the ground, turning the rivers dark. A living death.

“You have been invaluable, my dear. You have brought much cheer to the children. They love the stories which you brought with you. They are so vibrant.” Karazine reminisced when Filipina had arrived at the household, the chaos at the time, the fierce competition with another family for attending a Minor House. It was a time of great distress, and Filipina had brought a mixture of down-to-earth service and joyful spirit that they all benefit from, her sisters and their lovemates, and all their children. “I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

“But I have nothing to show for it,” said Filipina forlornly.

Karazine reminded herself again: Filipina had indeed been vibrant, but something of that zest was missing in her these days, and it was starting to get wearisome. “What is it you say?” asked Karazine raising her head and fixing Filipina with a solicitous smile. “You have my deepest gratitude.”

Filipina could tell Karazine was trying to lift her mood, to push back her sorrow. It was Ikawe. She returned the smile cheerlessly, and added another brick to the fire.

Kazarine came over to stir the pot. “And you are such a fine cook, Filipina,” she murmured. “A genius with lentils — I can certainly recommend that!”

“Thank you, Karazine,” whispered Filipina.

“I don’t know what I will do without you.”

1 Namu

The mind of the Namu is unlike ours. It is fractured into millions of pieces. The structural density of each piece can easily lead to collapse. The discreteness of its internal and external boundaries necessitate reinforcement by social cohesion, a poor proxy to spiritual union. Their reliance on inter-subjective communication has weakened what little cohesion they are inherently capable of supporting.

In light of this, I suggest the utmost care in our approach. Our presence has triggered shears in individual psychologies in the past. Those lucky enough to survive such episodes as well as find their state embraced within a local social matrix have led to unfortunate regid or religious structures which persist beyond their time. We must avoid this if we are to achieve our goal.

 I would suggest we only attend in low intensity until we locate suitable personages and small groups who are capable of appreciating an intervention. Depending on the dispersal pattern of these constellations of individuals in cultural form and societal structure, can we ascertain the exact power of the entire network of couplings and derive a coherent strategy of intervention. 

Our objective is to raise to a level of awareness that enables a sustainable social cohesion so that first and foremost their impact upon the natural world is lessened, and second they are ready for engagement with our kind. Mistakes will be made, and particularly gifted and receptive individuals will inevitably begin the slow process of appreciating our nature, but it would be foolish to necessitate their understanding of us to achieve their social cohesion.

Let us fully concord that our immanent action of observation is necessary due to the accumulation of malign agencies which now threaten to enshroud their world. Should that happen to the Namu, then we shall be next. What’s more, owing to the discovery of garsu and their subsequent complexification of what they call mathix, the Namu themselves are nearing the minimal threshold to intentionally produce autonomous language machines. As a consequence, social agents will inevitably emerge. Their’s is a brute force approach, with little guile or refinement, as crude as their first discovery of fire, and to their current state of mind, destructively addictive. Their destructive practices amongst themselves bleed into the environment accelerating its deterioration which will inevitably threaten our own health. And despite the adherence to creating a super-conscious being by the collective known as the Meherim, they will not survive its sui generis. In all likelihood, neither will we.

It is therefore with the greatest respect that we ensure that we retain low intensity, spreading ourselves thinly over the ground. Assemble lightly, aggregate in intensity less than seven. We must spread as widely as possible, which necessitates only brief periods of observation, just enough to ascertain individual psychological intentions, and deriving the barest delta of their social cohesion to project feasible future integration. Only by casting a wide net can we then progressively explore select individual constellations with greater temporal depth, again with low density so as not to trigger any individual collapse or social breaches.

Let us step lightly. And once we have a denser future projection by fleshing out the future lives of those fated significant, we will then arrive at a time to gather and intensify our attention to action a simultaneous intervention.

And remember, if our following is noticed, redirect and remove ourself immediately before we induce a reflexive cascade. They can not sustain awareness of us if we are not present. Their memories can not contain us, even with vigilant reliving of their garsu records. We are mythical beings to them, angels.

0d Forethought

Purple Braiding; Almanac of the First Princess-Elect, Celeste of Family Adrienne

Forethought by the Venerable Sage Kirsus of the Hazad, Meherim Exarch, Specialist of Sang-Garsu Axim

For those interested in the future-history of this world or indeed any world, the life of Celeste deserves special attention. Her position as one of the first Princess-Elects to the God-Emperor of Urb offers a unique transversal from on-the-ground Gal practices in the Outer Reaches to the current evolution of the Pharohim’s skycity above the Urb capital. Her singular narrative in the Thousand Valleys region has a high temporal valency, and cross-threaded with barab, Ashitlan, Ntora, the outer Rings Adukwe and Beredin, the inner Ring Toloese, and the Imperial Ring of the Pharohim, as well as the latest advances of garsu and jax in all their denominations —  her story weaves a rich tapestry of the politics and culture of this crucial period.

Few in history are placed at the juncture of critical events, and fewer still who are aware of their crucial responsibility. From reviewing this material, it will become clear to followers that Celeste’s awareness can hardly be said to be of the greatest horizon. She is young, the bead of awareness is narrow. Like all of us, Celeste’s life is a result of conscious choices made given her awareness at the time, contrasted with the far greater effect of non-conscious choices which result from the collective decisioning around her. That said, there is sufficient evidence in the sang-garsu threads to support the Soza Precept, that awareness expansion (or contraction) in the face of adversity is the single greatest factor which determines the fittingness of a person to their time. We ardently enthuse exploration of this psocial nexus to extrapolate the underlying generic psycho-social parameters, and encourage sharing of this sang axim in order to invite serious collaborative synthesis.

Three notices.

Records begin with the eighth sang-garsu crystal. The seventh garsu crystal is missing, and the sixth garsu may be perused by the scholar who is particularly interested in examining the development of Celeste’s character before the events relived in this volume. For example, it may appear her life is devoid of childhood friends, which is to a large extent true owing to the strict programme calculated to best execute her office. Friendships with her peers were carefully restricted and personal attachments strictly managed in order to extend her natural emotional concern to her people. We believe that there is sufficient recollection in her mind during the eighth garsu to flesh out her motivations, and we felt that adding previous records would detract from the central thread.

May it also be noted that this braiding has been composed by a third order atarax whose formula has been composed by myself based on the [lengthy disclosure of references are omited]. Discrepencies have been manually altered in order to provide a smoother axim experience. For example, the algorithm of transcription favours experiences which Celeste lived through with increased vitality, though the astute follower may experience discrepencies in style, notably the chapters on her personal love. Acknowledging the official privacy rules around Imperial matters and the ban around material dealing directly with the Pharohim, we have elected to inhibit resolution of these passages of her life. We do not see any political disadvantage to this modification which we see fit to apply; the existant lossless record is available on request to ensure an enhanced psycho-social validation may be made.

Finally, with the recent discovery of Blue Mountain which is undeniably the world’s largest deposit of naturally occuring garsu, access to all unkeyed garsu axim has been granted us. Although we recognise the sacred privacy of individual subjectivities, it is in the spirit of Machus that this thread amongst others is teased from its history. Share responsibly. Our intent is to invite the cross-threading of selected threads to create a social fabric accurate to our volatile times; please refer to Beginnings: First Volume of the End of Civilisation. It is hoped that whatever is relived here may be advantageously reflective to the attendant fellows of the period this is compiled, or as it matches the events of the follower’s own world and time.

May Machus retrospectively bless all who pass this way.

3c Servitude

“My Prince,” whispered the servant.

He stood at the side of the bed and spoke softly. The Prince lay sprawled in his bed in a deep sleep. The servant looked up at the Prince Advisor who nodded curtly. The servant edged closer to the bed and whispered again. “My Prince.”

The reason why he had been elevated up the ranks of servants in the Royal Household was for his striking looks and his strong body, a steady friendliness amongst his peers, and a placid demeanour before the Royal family. Obarak had noticed him personally two years before while he had been serving Table. Noone laid claim on him, so he was given a lowly duty in the Prince’s personal retinue. Over the two years he had learned his place of personal attendant, and more importantly the favours of his master. From the slightest of clues, he knew when to step forwards and serve and when to hold back. He could tell  what mood the Prince was in as he awoke, by the way he shifted in his bed, lifted his head or swung his legs from the bed. He had also cunningly in his manner so that he avoided compromising positions which so often caught out servants, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In all his time in the Prince’s quarters, the Prince had not raised his voice against him. Amongst the small family of personal attendants, he was “the special one”, and the celebrity extended beyond that group further into the royal household so when he had errands to conduct, sending messages to other family members, acquiring foodstuffs from the kitchen, or — Salah forbid — he ever had to leave the citadel and visit the market, he was treated with respect. With patient regard, people would wondered what skill he had or what power he had with the Prince. Even with this power, his placidity came across as kindness, though there were some who envied him and took his placid demeanor as offhand or even arrogance.

It was thus unfortunate that through no fault of his own, the Prince Advisor had come to the bed chambers while he was waiting his Prince, demanding that the Prince be woken from his slumber. It was unprecedented, but he could tell from the manner of the Meherim that there was no questioning it. And so, here he was, leaning over the Prince and breathing softly over him. “My Prince.” He took pains to lean over the bed without laying a hand on the prince or disturb the bed and blew gently on the Prince’s face. The Prince stirred gently, but turned away. The servant relocated to the other side of the bed, carefully navigating the Meherim Advisor who stood in the dim light lost in thought, only the slightest crack of light through the shutters which were set, as always, on one latch removed. He closed his face to the Prince’s and blew gently, whispering “My Prince”.

The prince’s eyes opened suddenly, and they found themselves staring at one another, frozen. The servant caught his breath, fear suddenly coming to him. The Prince frowned, groaned an indistinguishable phrase and breathed in deeply as he rolled onto his back.

“My Prince’s Advisor wishes an audience with you.” As soon as he said it, he bit back on himself, clenching his fists, closing his eyes, a ball of consternation in the pit of his stomach. He had used the familiar term, “you”, a mistake he had never made in his life! The Meherim began speaking with the Prince, who reluctantly entered into dialogue which soom mushroomed into conflict. He breathed slowly and calmed himself. He had not seen his Prince express his annoyance in this way before. The noise alerted the two servants who slept in an alcove. The Prince demanded the shutters be opened. The servant who had woken him took a few steps towards the window when the Prince called out, “Not you!”. Another servant hastily moved to the shutters, removed the latch and opened the shutters, too rapidly thought the servant, the sunlight would hurt the Prince’s eyes, and in this state of annoyance it would surely anger him further. Sure enough, the Prince cried out. “You!” he said, pointing at him, “Leave me! I never want to lay eyes on you again.” There was no point averting his gaze. The Prince and the servant locked eyes, anger in one, the sure knowledge that life as he knew it was forever changed. It would be the last time they would engage. Only a handful of snatched glances over the last couple of years, when he was gauging the Prince’s mood, his wishes, his intent but had lingered too long. On rare occasions, the Prince had turned to him and their eyes would have met had he been not so well trained. He would simultaneously avert his eyes so the Prince would only see the eyes moving away. Never had it consciously provoked the Prince. Now there was no point, so the servant held his Prince’s gaze steadily.

“See to it,” commanded the Prince as he glanced to another servant and motioned dismissal.

With that, the other servant went to the door and he dutifully followed, and as they left the room, he glanced around the room that had been his home for two years, with all its furniture, the Prince’s trappings, the wardrobe of silken kaftans and robes, the wetroom with its array of perfumes, that abominable desk which the Prince Advisor’s servant pored over, and the window and balcony which afforded one of the most splendid views of the city below. He would never reach such elevation in his life, in terms of view or service.

He walked from his Prince’s room, left his quarters, the royal wing, making his way down to the common levels, almost in a daze. But as he walked alone, a voice arose in his head. Opportunity now. For a little while he was alone, ahead of the storm which was issuing from the Prince’s room. Only once the current issue had been resolved and things had settled, would the Prince’s instructions be passed along the servants and result in action, whatever that might be, demoted to the kitchens perhaps for he could not even service the Table anymore, nor enter another royal family branch. His fall from grace would be hard. But for a while he was free, another servant doing his duty, walking through the quarters of the Royal House unimpeded. Now an image in his head, the Prince Advisor, but instead of anger or any form of energy at this figure, a positive forwards direction was evoked from him — opportunity now. Before he knew what he was doing, he found himself at the Meherim compound, winding his way to the Prince Advisor’s room. He did not knock on the door for he remembered seeing the Advisor’s servant waiting for him outside his Prince’s room when he was dismissed. Odious little toad of a thing, spineless, a smudge of a person. He had been in that room on a number of occasions. To the advisor, to the meherim generally and certainly to any of the Royals, he was furniture, invisible as any chair or table is seen so many times it is not seen, just used. He baulked at the smell of the room, ignored the untidiness, and strode quickly to the “Still Chamber” where he had witnessed the meherim conducting his sorcery. There, he snatched up what he was looking for and stuffed them into a small pouch hanging from a wall hook, and as he left the Meherim’s chambers, he grabbed a travelling robe hanging from a hook nearby, which crackled dustily in his hands from disuse.

He did not pause on leaving, walking back up through the citadel, through the kitchens, across the back courtyard and the barbican. One of the four guards half-glanced at the scarring on his lower arm which testified to his place in the royal household, but it was his plain servant attire and manner which was enough to see him through the gates of the barbican, over the bridge and the dry moat and out into the city at large.

He kept walking through the bustle of the streets, lost himself in the market bazaar with its hundred sellers calling out their wares, amid the throng of buyers, and found himself caught in the slow current of merchants preparing to leave the citadel. On his way, he transacted one of the things he had taken from the Prince Advisor’s Still Room, and procured a deep leather satchel, a belt and knife, a number of dried foodstuffs, a wide brimmed hat and a walking staff. By the time he was at the city walls which divided the inner well-to-do from the external riff-raff, donning the meherim’s old travelling robe, he looked more or less like a mendicant meherim. The disguise had the effect he wanted, as the Imperial guards — more lax than those at the Citadel — turned away quickly when they saw him. It was wise to avoid dabbling with the Meherim, their shifty secretive ways was something which evoked distrust, and the only reason they were not outwardly shunned was their service.

He avoided the direct route to the West Road because the Winged Guard swooped low over the caravan of people there, partly to draw wonder from visitors and to impress them with the security that was expected in Terabiz, a portal city to the Urb hub. Instead, he wound his way through the poor quarters stopping at a small square edged by an inn and stables. For the first time in his life, he ordered a drink for himself, careful not to reveal the tattoo on his forearm, and in a back corner of the common room, took stock of his situation. He poked open the pouch and saw the glistening reflections from within. Garsu crystals. The Prince Advisor would be furious, of course, but he had not taken them all. He would still be able to conduct his business; if he had been greedy the Meherim would stop at nothing to have them returned immediately. As it was, the search would begin a little delayed and with slightly less pitch than fury, and when his absence was noted together with his missing robe, it wouldn’t take the Meherim long to connect up what had happened. This day-cycle he was a trusted servant in the Royal House of Tolose, attendant to the Third Prince Obarak, an hour later, he was a fugitive. This treasure of garsu crystals was all he had in the world, but it would be enough to live a good life if he could get far enough away from Terabiz. First he had to strike out to the west to the Reaches, then north or south so he was outwith the Toloese district. Or perhaps he could use the crystals himself? He had the experience of the Prince in his own mind as he mirrored him, there was learning there. He rubbed his forearm thoughtlessly; before he made a mistake and reveal it accidentally, he needed to rid himself of his family scaring. And the disguise would not last, he concluded, so he inverted the robe. The beer was warm, he felt its effect of confidence on his feelings, and in the midst of his thoughts he considered his place if it was not as a servant to the royal household, the disguise as a meherim, and his name. It had been so long he had heard anyone call it out to him, he could hardly remember it. He tested it in his mind, which recalled distant memories of childhood. The time for reminiscing would come, but not now, while he was still within a stone’s throw of the city walls. He tested his name with his voice. “Ood.” Sounded alien to him. “I am Ood.”

With his name, the garsu crystals, a satchel of food, hat staff and travelling robe, he was Ood, servant to his Prince who must not be named, trusted with the important mission of bearing his stash of Garsu crystals to a distant Meherim monastery, a monastery he had heard mentioned, the monastery in Padley, of the Seven Valleys in the Outer Reaches of Gal. Ood replayed the voice that had come to him, the journey which he had embarked upon. Here was providence, here was divinity. He was being led by a divine force. He could feel it, aware of his own thoughts and feelings, receptive in the air and in the warmth of the sun and everything brought to light around him. He had wondered why his life had a special character to it, how things had come easily to him, the confidence he had been born with. Now he felt a new found confidence. He had been touched, and was now being directed. It was not his will. Something was guiding him, and into their hands he gave himself. Wherever he was led, he would follow. It wasn’t a hard switch to make. He had been selfless in his service to the Prince. His life was now in the hands of a greater power, and the feeling of it was inspiring. 

1b Awake

He felt his breath come back to him. His own lungs, his body. He hardly had to move at all, the sleek coolness of silk on the back of his hand, around his foot. He detected the delicate odour of vanilla in the air, the warmth of it. He lay there, eyes closed, breathing his senses back into his own body, luxuriating in his own bed, his mind’s eyes taking in his own bed room, a room with one bed in it, the luxury!

He opened his eyes, blinked, closed them again. He smiled, then opened them again, breathing deeply. He rolled his head to one side, his cheek against the smooth pillow, dark blue the colour of his dreams, closing his eyes again to feel the pillow soft with down. Each sensation coming to him new, a morning of first-times. The light from the open window, a slight breeze billowing the diaphanous curtain pale yellow in the sunshine. He felt impelled to rise, and as he did so took a bowl of water from hands outstretched. He sipped, delighting in the wonder of cool liquid in his mouth, played with it around his tongue, the curious way it slipped down his throat, absentmindedly returning the bowl to the air, effortlessly taken from his grasp by unseen hands. He rose to his feet, wiggled his toes — his own toes! — and stepped cautiously to the floor-to-ceiling opening and on to the balcony, his flowing pastel green kaftan rippling behind him. He opened his arms to take in the vast pale blue sky, the widest sky he had experienced in his life, again, his face upturned and warmed by the joy of sunshine. Miraculous. Born again, he thought. He savoured it, then felt some phlegm rise in his longs, and he cleared his throat, and now became aware for the need to urinate, then a general ache of his body — less ache, more the sheer weight of his own body. As if he was carrying this thing. He tightened his shoulders, then dropped them. Brought his hands to his face, rubbed his eyes, the strange simultaneous sensation of his eyes and face from the inside, and the continuous feedback from his fingers, palms of his hands, back of his knuckles as he rubbed his face.

“More realism,” he mouthed into the air.

“Yes, my Prince,” came the soft reply from behind.

He took a cursory survey of the city sprawled beneath his balcony, below the citadel walls, the haphazard arrangement of rooftops extending to the city walls, became aware of its distant susurration of morning hubbub like a dog sleeping, a mangy dog by contrast with the plains beyond the walls extending to the horizon, a hazy savanna of dry grasslands but for the divine clump of boab magnificent even at this distance, a distant patch of shimmering brown indicating a herd of gipo, and the raised highway pointing west, impossibly straight, the ultimate mark of mankind upon the world, simultaneously connecting cities and dividing land. His eyes roved over the vista. He was bored of it already.

“I want more detail, Ubarakhan.”

“I understand, Prince Ubarak” came the soft reply, formally.

“You understand, but can you deliver?” He turned around to the man behind him and fixed him with a stare. Ubarakhan was not a short man, but against the height of his lord and in the palacial surroundings of his royal bed chamber and its tailored furniture, he appeared diminutive, as did the four servants who silently and invisibly carried out their lord’s bidding; one holding out the bowl of water, his eyes ever lowered, another repairing the bed linen, another awaiting his lord by the washrim; the fourth studiously attending some task at a table covered in phials, jewelry, parchment scrolls, and intricately made wooden boxes. This last servant wore grey smock unlike the pale linen of the others, as did Ubarakhan who wore a plain grey robe, loose fitting to the floor, the rough silk woven to bunch alternately concave and convex at the resolution of a coriander seed producing a dimpled texture, effecting an overal rustic look. It was the only extravagance that the Meherim permitted, a concession demanded by Ubarak — his Meherim was not to be seen in court wearing plain sackcloth even if that was standard Meherim apparel before nobility. Nobody had remarked on his stylistic upgrade, yet. Ubarak smiled to himself; such open rebellion in the house of his father, and an uncharacterisitic concession by the meherim.

“If you may permit me, my prince,” asked the Meherim, lowering his shaved head by way of a bow.

The prince signed accord, and engaged Ubarakhan while he was assisted in his bodily ablutions.

“In order to effect the quality your station deserves, my Prince, care must be taken not to introduce unnecessary architecture.” Ubarakhan noted the Prince’s raising of his eyebrow. “Such as the coin you passed on to the boy. It is an added burden to our burax contingent to maintain that coin. Such resources might be better allocated for the discrepancies you unfortunately experienced, the lack of response by insects for example.”

The Prince smiled. That wasn’t a detail he had noticed. Or rather, he hadn’t noticed the discrepancy. It was good to keep the meherim on their toes. They were in a race, and his Meherim knew it. It was mutually advantageous to push the boundaries of what was possible. Far more was at stake than the detail of a mere rax adventure.

“The issues you experience may be resolved in the standard way by increasing our burax contingent, however a more economical method is within our grasp.” The Prince’s attention piqued, and the Meherim breathed in a deep breath, stretching out the moment of their mutual attention. “There is a shipment of stable che-garsu making its way to the capital. I believe I have the resources to reverse-synthesise our own.”

The Prince noted the swaying grey sackcloth pause in its movement at the table, the servant was listening. This was new even to him, he thought. Although Ubarakhan vouched for this Meherim underling, his Aduherim, it might be wise to ply him with some slight luxury, scented soap or softer bedding or finer food, or if they were fortune, initiate ronig addiction — just enough to hook him, certainly not to impair him, for however much Ubarakhan was indispensable to his ambitions, it was a role and contingency plans were a necessity. He considered the secretively attentive aduherim’s competencies as a substitute. Ubarakhan himself would approve of his prescience.

“Make that a priority,” the Prince said flatly. “Although the visuals are passable, it is like the rest of me is dead. I want to feel it. All of it.”

“Che-garsu will actualise full sensory feedback, my Prince. With it in effect, we will be able to redirect perhaps ninety percent of our burax to solidifying ambient mindmass. Your rax will be unshakably convincing. And your adoption, indeed immersion, of the Twilight culture is… exemplary.”

The Meherim spoke with obvious pride in his work, which blended naturally to an almost familial pathos with the Prince. Ubarak forgave the indiscretion, and was rather touched by it. To have this level of companionship with his own Meherim was unusual, as stark contrast with how his friends spoke of theirs. They saw their Meherim as just another kind of servant, marginally better than a teacher. But they were oh so much more.

“My father is set in his ways, Ubarakhan. All honours to him, but My Lord is either not aware of, or does not care for, the Twilighters and the effect that ver-garsu will have on them. I have witnessed the movement of garsu crystals into the Reaches. It reminds me of my childhood, the delight the peasants take in mere sang and xan lightshows. They are children unaware of what is to come. They have no inkling what is going on here in the heartlands. The transformation that will occur in the Reaches will have a profound effect not just on us, but on the geopolitics of the entire Empire.”

It was good that the Prince could confide in Ubarakhan. Although a few of his friends were also exploring rax in the Reaches, most were centre-facing, spending most of their rax-time participating in the wondrous worlds created by Pharohim and his legion of burax, incredible as they were. None of his friends shared his interest in immersing himself in the culture of the twilighters, living their lives, day to day. It required a self-discipline, a commitment to execution which he knew was rare among his rich friends. They were keen to import the fantastic, a necessity for quick stimulation, but his target was realism which meant slow and patient. There were rewards ahead if he was right, rewards that might surprise even what the Pharohim’s ancestors had achieved at the advent of the Urb Empire itself. Garsu wasn’t a toy, a fancy, and rax was certainly under-utilised as Pharohim’s playground. It was rare to find a Meherim who aligned to his vision, who was not afraid of thinking outwith the confines of his religious order, just as he was thinking beyond the luxuries and responsibilities of being a Royal Prince of Urb.

“I do find that the change of day to night and back again… challenging,” admitted Ubarak.

Ubarakhan nodded sympathetically, then angled his head. “That, we can not change. It is the source of their anxiety, deeply rooted in their physiology and psychology. It is a desperate plight they suffer from. And simultaneously a source of their resilience and peculiar genius. It is a necessary burden to bear if my Prince is to penetrate the veil of our future.” 

“Is it impossible that we devote some of the liberated resources to bringing a touch more spice to the experience? The Forest Guardian, for instance…?”

His Meherim cocked his head and what passed as a smile teased at the corners of his mouth. “Certainly, that would be one use for our surplus burax, my Prince. Such adornments will inevitably follow on as other royal houses turn their attentions outwards. They will no doubt bring with them the short-term fancies they have accustomed themselves to here in the heartlands. You are aware of this tendency, however — need I remind my Prince of our goal?”

“No, my trusted Meherim, you needn’t,” remarked Prince. “I remain your faithful student.” It was a joke between them. It was absurd for a member of a royal family to study under the Meherim. Their dark arts of the mind, their reflexive mathematics required arduous and lengthy training, and besides the Prince knew it was covetously protected by the order itself. It was not his place to learn from the Meherim, nevertheless learn he did, for his future path was intricately interwoven with the objectives that the Meherim set themselves, with the awakening of the twilighters, and ultimately the latent power the garsu crystal unlocked.

“In which case, my Prince, may I draw your attention to a minor detail which will prolong your adventures with the twilighters? And it is this: do not feed them. Between towns and villages, you have fallen into the habit of assisting your band with hunting, providing rabbits, pheasants and the like.”

The Prince was being patted dry, he waved his servants away and stood imperiously in the centre of his room. “You want me to stop hunting?”

“The past-time might be agreeable to you and indeed bonding with your group, however the game you provide to your fellows — however delicious our burax make it — they are not nutritious beyond the satisfaction of feeling well-fed. Over time, their bodies will tire, your companions will become weak.”  

“Then make my foods distasteful. Wean them off it. As far as I have come to understand the Twilighters, they do love banter. They will no doubt hold it against me, turning my unpalatable meals into the butt of their jokes. One of their numerous charming mannerisms.”

Ubarakhan bowed his head in acknowledgement and stepped back as the Prince waved him away. Ubarak turned and faced his servant squarely. The servant’s eyes remained averted as they faced one another. Ubarakhan’s servant, his Aduherim, walked to their side and lifted his hands, his left hand holding his right wrist, and his right hand lifting up a sang-garsu crystal between the prince and the attending servant. The prince performed the mental exercise and a faint red aura surrounded the crystal. He defocused his eyes and focused his attention on the process of the crystal. The effect was second nature to him, and his vision immediately sheared as if he was watching a reflection in a pool, only he was now looking back at himself through the eyes of his servant. The Aduherim lowered the colourless sang-crystal and the Prince beheld himself naked before him. At least a head taller than the servants, finely defined muscled body, lithe and youthful. Although he resented the time he devoted to bodily training, his father had made it a condition for his bursary, and he could not manifest his rax exploration in the Reaches without his household of thirty or so servants. He observed the fine features of his face, strong jawline inherited from his father, a feminine upturn to his eyes from his mother’s line. Pure Solozo blood of the royal house of Toloese. The servant’s hand reached out to touch the skin of his shoulder, lightly. The Prince wondered what this mirror-experience would be like with chegarsu. Definitely a priority.

0b Forethought

Green Eye Binding, which includes The Frayed Thread; Almanac of Matrich of Bizapul, Former Guard of House Adukwe.

Forethought by the Venerable Sage Kirsus of the Hazad , Meherim Exarch, Specialist of Sang-Garsu Axim

Sang-Garsu injects the natural state of future-orientation into our historical records. No more examining history as a thing already written, but as a current of actions continuously presenting, where the momentuum of past decisions clash with the hope and desires of future states, where the living edge is everywhere a shore in flux. Future-history is a moving coastline of time, where we no longer cling to the fixity of the land, but courageously face the endless churn of the sea with the subjectivities we study.

This thread is presented as a preliminary experiment using the newly delineated re-appropriation of sang-garsu as fortified and upgraded by the discovery of the Blue Mountain garsu deposit. This volume serves to demonstrate the unprecidented level of resolution available remotely: geographically, chronologically and socially. We have chosen Matrich of Bizapul not for any historically critical reason, but for his undistinguished heritage and contribution to human progress. Matrich is a satellite subjectivity around a garsu held by a common magician, and fine details in his mental activity can be discerned and extracted despite the garsu crystal being fixed.

A few notices. The account is not a pure thread, but interweaves accounts from several subjectivities as the Purple Eye Binding. This is partially because of the fixed state of the target crystal (xan) and also the tight cording of four subjectities who live closely together as a social unit. A sang garsu crystal lays down experience continuously at an atomic scale, whereas garsu set for other purposes have an irregular mapping. And though we expect improvement in our techniques in delineating and extracting singular background threads, it is evident that actual psycho-social experience is inherently merged in nature, and not discrete threads as we tend to think of them.

In terms of world events, our subjectivity visits the Valley of the Dead. We hope to show what the area was like before the Orx manifestation. This may also be read as an invitation to ascertain the genesis of the Orx as their presence poses a threat to our current political stability. Further, while we acknowledge the wisdom of the Council of Epituria which prioritises the capture and examination of native Orx, we would hold in equal measure the collective effort in the defragmentation of aberrant atarax, the so called Dark Ledger.

Despite the unique insights which sang-garsu evidently provides, the investigative work of the historian remains. We are still left with the challenge of sifting through the immensity of social fabric available to us, in order to discern exactly the subtle psychological originations of many large scale social effects. We hope this volume may provide interested parties with an overview of current practices and the challenges which face scholars on this exciting frontier of exploration.

May the coming of Machus retrospectively bless all those who pass this way.