Thursday, December 23, 2010
It all begins this night, a night of fright and terror, this night when everything descends into a lethal silence, a silence in which all things are paralyzed, everything has stopped due to what has happened on the other side, the other side which on this particular night has come into this side, this side which is afraid to lose everything it has ever known, everything it has ever seen during its forty something years of life. (I remember being unafraid of loss, unconcerned with either living or dying, but this too I lost eventually.)
Nothing was forever, that was the simple rule to remember, everything was temporary and without sense, it was others who gave it sense, others speaking, others looking, others pointing things out, all the other things that in one day or another could be found along the path, a path full of life or full of nothing. What could it matter if everything was made of nothingness to begin with, if everything is and was an essence of nothingness and came from nothingness and to nothingness would return?
The things that happened on that night are indescribable and heart wrenching at once, because of the fear and the accent on horror, life had horrified itself. In a matter of seconds nothing that life had accumulated for years and centuries, none of it had any more importance nor substance. None of it was real, none of it was worth anything, everything was garbage and shit. It was all the worst hypocrisy in which a spirit could get into so that it might get away with what it could, to escape from whatever it would be, from whatever it was. Here nothing mattered anymore, it was a life whose only purpose was to observe a particular situation, an event, a something, a nothing, and that turned everything into a loss. It made life from what it wasn't, but nothing was what it could be. Everything had lost its brilliance, the color that it once possessed. In everything there was a sense of agony, of darkness, of harshness, of laziness, life in full degeneration. A slow decay of things that would never again return, things that would never be happy with themselves, the things that happened on that night.
“To hell with so many expectations! To hell with life itself!” it said.
Who said it? It didn't matter if it died, it died all the time. Badly born, recently deceased, thoughts weighed down by irony and by this life which had cracked like an egg, it had fallen from an unknown distance. What difference could it make? Everything was the same. It was all the cursed agony of an ancient being, covered in tumors, having repeated this agony so many times, this weakness, this same foolishness of dying from lack of skill at living.
“Life and its heaven,” it said, “what a disgusting prison! How large it is! And how narrow is heaven!”
More confused, more painful, is that blue expanse which laughed at us at every moment. With its pretentious greatness, perpetually showing us its unreachable dexterity in being able to be anywhere. And we are down here, unable to move away, unable to emerge from under its damned sphere of cursed power. We are unable to escape its cowardice and refusal to show us its liberator face, the face that could free us from so many sins, sins which we have been subjected to during all these years of being newly born in an egg that is dead and rotten, broken by the damned beak of a bird that flies over us, reminding us that up there is a heaven of sheer agony. A heaven dying every single day in all the tones, in all the colors, in all that could be a single stumble, a single moment of union. Whatever it is, it is everywhere and it ends everywhere.
This is a snack for gods of the void, of whatever is and whatever isn't, whatever manages to be what it can't be, whatever manages to truly be what it is. I don't understand anything. It is simply life which talks about itself and says whatever it wants to say, as if it's asking me to fuck it, to make love to it, asking me to throw it from a window, from a corridor, from the fifth floor of an empty building, from something that is also made of everything and nothing. Asking me to kill this agony inside of me and kill the rats that are part of your glory and your desolation. Your fears are your gods, your gods are your loves, and the rest is not important. The demons don't matter. My tomb will be in the nothingness some day. Deep under the earth I will sleep.
I go through the dying during a long period of tenderness and of eternity. What matters is to sleep and nothing else. It is the same to me, the state that is the agony of living and of dying. Nothing matters, not anymore. Life, death, they are both here. They have always been here and they will always be here. It's the same to me; a monkey, an elephant, some other thing that tries to jump, tries to die, tries to achieve something in which it might find a way to live, to feel, to really feel, to feel anything at all. To feel hate, real perfect hate and not that garbage that they show us on the radio and the TV, on the Internet, in these words of 'who knows what this man is trying to say here', this imbecile that is writing to try to say what he doesn't dare to say in his own insides, this damned idiot that is just barely learning to say a half truth that he learned somewhere in his country of El Salvador, The Savior, as if this was the savior of that fucking word that is hell, in which everyone burns and then remains confused. The fucking fear of burning playing for eternity among the heretics which were burned alive and crucified so they could reach the endless glory of hell, where they would never be able to understand their own martyrdom, waiting to sense that everything that is, everything that can be achieved, could come one day to liberate them. Something else would come to do the hard work of sacrifice, so they could keep on fooling around and making trouble with the gun powder that one day was in their words. The fire that they picked up from a virtual garbage can in which man found himself due to the thousand speeches of centrifugal language. It all begins this night, in the things that happened on that one night, the things that I will forever be at a loss to describe.
Monday, December 20, 2010
In the biggest challenge to the King’s authority for the decades he had reigned, thousands of common folk massed outside the new palace to protest the ongoing war in Vitnu. Through upheavals and bitter strife in the kingdom were natural process, bound to occur in any realm with a large collection of players, there had never been a gathering of opposition so large that the chanting could be heard as far as the Sophrastas Sea.
People had grumbled at his unpopular rulings before in the markets and taverns, it was a minor crime, though a popular pastime. But now, it went beyond irritation, beyond drunk complaints. The people went out in the misty winter air and gathered at the gates to make their discontent known and unmistakably heard. With torches aglow that sent fiery messages to the King in his tower, they chanted into the starry darkness, rocking the metal gates with the collective force of their anger.
It was not long before their presence drew out the Royal Guards. Armed, the Royal Guards drove the rabble forcefully from the main plaza. Eager to administer beatings to members of the unarmed crowd, they drew their batons, their swords, and fists, swinging wildly at any figure without a shield or uniform. There were screams of children and much shouting. No one was spared the hand of the Guard. The people dropped their torches with each blunt blow and small fires broke out, filling the night with smoke.
The violent night left in doubt the next step for the Kingdom. The recurrent doubts as to the true birth right of the King continued to plague the populace. Many scribes and a small number of councilmen had been offended by the King's harsh rule and his resistance to change. They rallied with the peasantry, calling for a change.
The apparent leader of the King’s opposition was forcefully taken from a healing temple by unknown men in common clothes that betrayed no sign of their rank. Bright and two other councilmen had been severely beaten in the clashes with Royal forces, but Willem alone was carried away. The old healer watched in terrified silence as seven men wrapped Willem the Bright in a blanket as he lay sleeping on a bed in the largest temple of healing in the Kingdom. Locked in the neighboring chamber, Willem’s wife screamed for him while the cowering healer watched his patient being carried away.
The High Priestess hid her smile when the news of Willem the Bright’s abduction reached her. His whereabouts remained unknown, though his fate was certain. The King was playing into her hands, making it all the easier for her by removing yet another beloved man of the people. She was astonished at the level of his blindness, his arrogance. He acted as though he had never studied the history of the Spheres.
It mattered little to her that he no longer sought her consultation. These days he kept council with Argus the Torturer and though brutal, his advice was simple to decipher. She would know his next move before it became a thought in his mind. Soon, she thought, it would be time for her to act openly against the King. For now, she was content to watch his unraveling and with it, the unraveling of the Old Kingdom.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Branan, the former Royal Guard who allegedly leaked hundreds of secret magickal scrolls to Olslo, celebrated his 23rd birthday with the mice in the dark depths of the dungeon under the towers.
Since his capture, Branan had spent most of those two hundred days in solitary confinement. The sound-proof cell removed even the possibility of finding comfort in the screams of those being tortured. He had not even been permitted to touch the hand- written note from his family, rather, the guard read it to him through the small slat in the iron door. There were of course, no windows. No sun, no moon, it was life without seasons, color or natural pattern. In all respects, his birthday had been no different than any of the other days spent in darkness, it was by a small miracle that one of his guards had wished him a “pleasant birthday.” Perhaps it had been sarcastic given his situation, but he took it as an amazing gift, it gave him a way to count the days since his imprisonment, thus restoring to him a small measure of sanity.
His life had become a single endless night spent alone in a damp and cold narrow cell. His world, a sink, toilet, and bed. He was denied the luxury of sheets, pillow or blanket from the chill. Exercise was forbidden, human contact was a forgotten pleasure. In the earliest days of his imprisonment, when he was still permitted visits, he was forced to wear shackles and had to sit behind two rows of metal bars for the entirety of the interview. Now, he couldn’t bear to even hope for that long, difficult walk down the corridor in metal restraints, nor would he permit himself the dream of seeing another human face. The faces of people had become a diffuse thing in his memory. The harder he strove to recall a particular countenance, the more illusive it would become. His mother was a blur of pale pink and white. Remembering the smiles of old comrades was like looking at the world through rain-soaked glass, every color ran together, blurring into a palate of warped shapes. He had never seen the guards by the door, he heard their voices when they issued a command through the slat and though he resented his captors, he now lived for their voices, for that small reminder that there was life and humanity beyond the endless night.
On his birthday, he accidentally tore a toenail by bumping it against the hard leg of his bed. It had hurt for only a moment and the small sliver of nail served as a great diversion. He would toss it to the floor, then search for it in the darkness, fingers scanning the rough surface of the floor and delighting in its tactile stimulation.
Branan’s future remained uncertain. While he searched with eager fingers for a lost piece of himself, Councilman Coyar was in a meeting of the Council. The councilman called for calm and a measured response to the new challenges that Olslo’s actions had presented. The Kingdom had changed dramatically, not just with leaked magickal scrolls, but with the subsequent rebellion. The Council needed to find a way to move fluidly with the changes. "When everyone in this capital is joined together calling for someone's head, it's a pretty sure sign that we need to slow down and take a look," the elderly councilman suggested to his peers.
Councilman Pushkar responded with a call for punishment. “I have no sympathy for the alleged thief in this situation. He’s no better than a common street thug that deals in stolen merchandise and sells it to the highest bidder,” he spat angrily.
Councilman Coyar glanced at the empty seat of Willem the Bright. Where was his old friend, the champion of reason and justice? Times being such as they were, it was hard to distinguish reasonable fears from paranoia. Could Coyar himself expect his own seat to be empty tomorrow for expressing an opinion unfavorable to the King and his watchdogs, zealous men such as Pushkar for whom everything within the Three Spheres was painted black or white? Could Willem himself be in a dungeon beneath the towers after his recent denouncement of the King’s war in Vitnu? Long gone were the times of respectable debate and measured compromise. A glance into the face of Councilman Argus, the retired torturer, gave Coyar cause to shiver. There, he was sure he saw the answers to his questions. They made his blood run cold.
Friday, December 17, 2010
"I would rather this weren’t the end," Karnin said when he stood before the Council in a newly renovated granary. "I want to continue to serve. I feel as though I have many years left."
He looked out to the men in robes seated on the wooden benches. Their faces seemed to reveal nothing, neither contempt or sympathy. He thought about stories he had once heard in the time before the great fire, where it was rumored that the Chamber of Windows was alive with debate and shouting and the thoughts of intelligent men who could not be silenced, yet still somehow believed in consensus. The room he found himself in was silent but for a few stifled coughs and the sound of the washer women singing by the river. Karnin’s pale face called to mind notions of wriggling things that had never seen the light, a face that glowed as white as the moon, though in stark contrast, his eyes possessed a certain fire that had recently begun to burn even brighter. Though he stood tall, unwavering in his convictions, his chubby fingers fidgeted slightly with the seams of his robe, he knew the power of the council.
Disagreeing, the High Lieutenant Barthar stood, “on behalf of the proud institution of the Royal Guard, I ask that Karnin be sentenced to no less than two years in a military dungeon. We further recommend that he be dismissed from the Guard. He invited and earned this sentence, it was he who ruled out conventional options. He could have resigned from his post, he could have requested a halt to his deployment if he had such grave concerns with his military orders.”
Barthar stood in stark contrast to Karnin. His complexion was dark and his body lean and muscular. He maintained impeccable stillness as he continued to address the Council. “Instead, he used his deployment earlier this year as a political ploy,” the High Lieutenant said, “going to great lengths to create a spectacle by informing people of what he was doing.”
Karnin’s eyes acquired a glazed expression and his fingers bumbled their way over his seams with greater fervor, the prospect of dungeon time was enough to worry any man.
"He knew exactly what he was doing and he did it anyway," Barthar told the Council, “it is in the interest of our Kingdom to send a strong message to other would-be traitors. This behavior is simply unacceptable for any member of the Royal Guard. Our oaths are sacred. This simply cannot stand.”
The Council took recess to discuss their decision, though Karnin did not have to wait long. As an official Magician of the Royal Guard who disobeyed orders of deployment to Vitnu because he questioned the King's legitimacy, Karnin was sentenced by the Council to six months in a military dungeon and dismissal from the Royal Guard.
It was agreed by some that Karnin was the "victim of an obsession," referring to the continuous questions he posed about the King's birth-right authority. Officials in the Second Sphere claimed to have seen and verified Dominious’s original divine seal, which was kept in a secret library. But rumors persisted, circulating in the pools and most particularly among the clergy, farmers and crafts people of the Old Kingdom. They were unsatisfied with that assurance, finding the officials untrustworthy and secretive. They claimed that the seal of divine origin did not list the name or the location of the chamber where the King was birthed, nor did it list the name of the magician who delivered him unto the Old Kingdom, though none of those who spoke of its technicalities and omissions had even seen the seal. Karnin could not go to fight and die in Vitnu based on the orders of a falsely anointed King.
When the King, after almost nine long years, had decided to send more troops to a remote region north of Vitnu in the Second Sphere, feeding the flames of an already unpopular war, one powerful Councilman had had enough.
Willem the Bright spoke up in the new council room where the King occupied his seat in the north, as was tradition, and the dark wooden benches of the councilmen flanked the east and west walls. The new council room was nothing compared to the architectural gem of the lost Chamber of Windows, possessing none of the old room’s history or centuries-long energetic charge. They were now gathered in a stone building once used by the Thusmec monks for storing grain and though it was large, it boasted no windows or aesthetic. Lumina globes were used to keep the chamber lit and now, due to the King’s edict, there was no space by the south wall for the common folk to occupy, the council meetings were to be a private affair.
Willem stood to hold the floor, commanding the attention of his peers. In the dim glow, his red gown was alive with shadows as the ample fabric cascaded over his slight paunch. He was of medium height and let his salt and pepper hair make an unruly wreath around his face. His face was wrinkled from a lifetime of free-flowing expression and his eyes were twinkly even in dismay behind his clean, clear spectacles.
"The Royal Guard can not create stability in a region where there is chaos,” Willem said looking over his peers and even sparing a glance at the King, “royal submission where there is no tradition of it, and honest government where corruption is almost a way of life."
A slight murmur erupted as it had become the custom since the destruction of the capital to agree unconditionally with the decisions of the King. The surviving councilmen of the ordeal had been few and terrified enough to be cowed into agreement again and again. Willem himself had been absent for a good 15 months mending a broken leg and several cracked ribs and a mysterious infection that had spread from the wounds made by his assailants. He had only recently and most insistently returned to his station. He knew things had changed. Once brave and intellectual men, councilmen who had always been up for debate and discussion, now were hiding behind eyes of fear. They had seen death, torture, he knew that terrors still lurked in their dreams, as they did in his, but the very essence of their council was crumbling from complacency and blind agreement. Their traditions were fading in this new style of governance.
"It's unnatural and unhealthy for the Kingdom to be engaged in astral crusades for some principle or idea, however grand these may be, while neglecting the needs of its own people," he said. “Our capital remains in ruins, her people remain in temporary shelters without heat, light or the running water they were once accustomed to. The schools are gone, the libraries have sustained massive damage- and we are doing nothing about it. It is as if we were allowing ourselves to be swallowed up by a dark age.” Willem removed his spectacles with a flourish.
“We are approaching the ninth anniversary of the Vitnu war. I myself mainly slept through the last year of it due to my injuries. But now I am awake, and I ask you: when does it end? The scribes are asking the same. The priests are also asking, as are the people. They say that the King and his warlords have put the Kingdom on an unsustainable path towards eternal war, something we have only heard about from ancient books. Dare we continue on this path? Soon we will be a region where there is chaos, where corruption is a way of life. We will make a desert of the Old Kingdom so that we have no need of the desert of Vitnu. We will be able to fight our own people here, if we continue on this path to destruction. The nature of our goals on Vitnu is no longer important. What we once wanted is no longer attainable, something here must change. I urge you to look past the terrible things we have recently seen and find a will to change our course.”
Willem wiped his brow and took his seat upon the bench, leaving the chamber in a silence most befitting a tomb.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The rebels of Vitnu had invited hundreds of people to a festival in the western city of Zingan, one of the oldest in all of Vitnu. It was to be a celebration of their victories as well as a commemoration for the fallen, though it swiftly turned from merriment to blood thirsty combat with the arrival and invasion of the Old Kingdom’s Royal Guard.
“They didn't bother to keep it a secret,” General Calder said to the scribes at a conference held at an Old Kingdom base in the Second Sphere. He wore the clean royal blue uniform of the guard with his polished medals dangling from his proud, bulging breast. His narrow face was adorned with a thin, pale mustache and his flaxen hair was tied back with a crisp, white ribbon. “The Royal Guard learned about the gathering. Then troops were quickly deployed. The battle broke out within the first few hours when they arrived to investigate,” he said, folding his white-gloved hands behind his back.
The High Priestess had already delivered her official report to the King and all of the Old Kingdom was now aware that the Vitnu leader Nazario, nicknamed "The Craziest One," had been killed in the raging battles that lasted two days. The fighting had not remained only in Zingan, but had easily spread to strategic parts of the Vitnu mountains where rebel warriors blockaded roads with burning vehicles and huge boulders from the cliffs. Amidst the chaos and fighting, the Royal Guard was unable to recover Nazario’s body.
"What happened during those two days is that we gave the Vitnu rebels the biggest blow in their history," Calder said, smugly tilting up on his toes and back again to his heels in swift rocking motion. His neatly polished boots glistened sharply in the candles that lit the official room for such occasions. "With a certain amount of insolence, they organized a festival, a gathering of hundreds of their people. Everyone found out about the party, not only those on Vitnu. Why shouldn't we?”
Later, the High Priestess spoke with Calder in a private pool that could transcend the distance of the spheres. “Now that we are alone we can speak openly…Nazario?” the High Priestess asked the general through the crimson haze that supported them.
“The rebel scum fled with their dead after the battle. As far as anyone knows, thanks to our report, he is dead,” Calder told her, struggling to make out her features.
“It is as we discussed then?” she asked with tones of pleasure she did not hide.
“Yes, holy lady. I have decided to accept your offer, as has Nazario. He will play dead until you ask him to strike. You have our allegiance.”
“Good,” she answered and withdrew from the pool, leaving the general alone in the mist.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
“In my brother Olslo's words, we recognize the strategy of poetry,” the Lucen Master Egrani explained to the small crowd that sat cross-legged upon a plush red carpet in the center of the old stone library deep in the cave of the Othrusa mountains. The scant light that filtered its way through the room was provided by a wrought iron chandelier filled with slowly melting white candles dangling from the stone ceiling. The group gathered were the sons and daughters of Lords, several others that had once been apprenticed to the magician, a few were fresh from the deserts and caves of Vitnu; also among them were a number of young Lucen scribes and a Prince.
Egrani paced around the carpet, moving his hands widely, but slow and fluidly, as though he was swimming through water. “In their most stringent formulations, the poets of the past epochs set forth a magickally charged theory, one which saw ordinary language as an ally of royal oppression.” Egrani hoped up onto a tall wood hewn stool and looked upon his students and a few attending peers with a youthful face. His hair was longish and bleached almost white by the sun and salt of the seas of Southern Astrada in the Second Sphere. His skin, for the same reason, was strikingly dark in comparison. It made his almost straight teeth flash even whiter as he spoke, catching the candlelight. His inconsistent eyes were in the constant, never ending process of shifting from bronze to blue, passing through hues of green along the way, only to then begin the lengthy process of returning to bronze.
“Regardless of what is being said,” he continued in his slow, calm cadence, “use of standard patterns of syntax and exposition effectively rebroadcast, often at a subliminal level, the basic constitutive elements of the social structure-they perpetuate them so that by constant reinforcement, we are no longer aware that decisions are being made.”
He gave the appearance of being no more than 15 years old, with a lean body and smooth, supple face, but he moved with such ease and grace it seemed impossible for him to be so young. He had spent much of his young life in the water riding the AnacarI, the hairless water beasts, which had helped endow him with the physical manifestation of youth, but it was his time in the Lucen pools that allowed this grace to take shape in his mind and presence. For it was there, in the pools, where water is not just water, where molecules transform with ease, that biological bodies mutated into manifestations of the divine.
He continued, “here, the ‘clear’ and ‘orderly’ functioning of language plays the same part in the poets’ magickal mythology that the clear and orderly functioning of secrecy plays in Olslo's view: both are invisible agents of the King, up to no good for as long as no one is looking.”
Prince Suk listened to the young master with a deep sense of awe and just a tiny bit of pride. In a way, he could be considered the boy’s father. Certainly he was his guardian in the physical sense, and had raised and cared for him in the politically neutral Kingdom of Astrada, neighbor to his own Principality in Vitnu. This brief sampling of fatherhood had lasted an accelerated 11 and a half months in which the young baby had grown into a capable teacher. In two weeks they could celebrate the one-year anniversary of Egari’s birth in Taurus. Suk mused that he had in the abstract, participated in Egari’s conception when he penetrated Olslo’s Library in Valance with the scribe Rosh. It was there that Rosh found the “recipe” for Egari. In that sense, Egari was the son of Olslo. The seven sisters in the laboratory at Taurus might be considered his mothers or his grandmothers, or both, with Rosh as his surrogate.
Egrani was not the only child, but he was the first of that initial penetration. His 11 siblings had been born into a variety of households, to a variety of parents throughout the Three Spheres after Egari was successfully brought to term in a matter of 3 months. Even the elusive Illuhuati of the Third Sphere had agreed to foster a child, creating the only child not born to a woman. The Illuhuati’s physiology, being too incompatible with that of a human, required a technology that assembled and gestated the biological data entrusted to them by the seven sisters.
Suk was drawn from his reverie by his foster son’s words, “if language control equals thought control, and thought control equals reality control, then it is not only possible, but imperative to fight the battle for a new reality at the level of language. There, and only there, can real victories be had, as elusive and temporary as such victories may be.”
Monday, December 13, 2010
The library was an inverted sphere tucked within an astral chamber located in Olslo’s former residence in Valance, in the Second Sphere. They found it in a marble room with a large window that overlooked the lake outside. The room contained no furniture, just a single marble pedestal with a small golden orb that rested upon it. Within the orb, the library glowed with an electric blue incandescence and was connected to not only the vast networks of the Lucen pools, but also to the great libraries of all Three Spheres. This was the haven Olslo had built for himself in Valance. Suk Arev, a Prince of Vitnu, accompanied by Rosh Sil, a scribe of Valance, explored the library within the inverted sphere which existed outside of space and time.
“My sense of self is very strange,” Suk communicated to Rosh. “I feel that I have no body, and yet I am aware of the concept ‘I.’ I find that I am feeling a certain degree of fear.”
“What do you fear?” Rosh asked as she raced through the liquid light, accessing pools and libraries in a simultaneous moment of understanding.
“That I will be unable to find my body again. Where is it?”
“It isn’t anymore. There is no place holder left in Valance and there is no place to hold here. You are not, at this juncture. But, there is no need for fear. You will be again soon, when we return to space. You will recreate yourself, much as you do each morning when you awaken.” Rosh told the Prince. “You may also release the concept 'I' at this juncture. You will create that again as well. It will be as convincing as it ever has been.”
“If I release ‘I,’ there will be no more Suk. I will not exist. What could I then accomplish?” the Prince asked with alarm, which both of them experienced as a terrible squeezing in their chest and limbs.
“You must relax and be unafraid or we will be expelled from this library. There is something that remains when you release ‘I.’ With it, you will be able to accomplish more here. Think of it as diving. For a moment you and I will dive, we will explore the pools here, leaving the concept of ‘I’ waiting for us on the bank. When we have finished our exploration we will surface and resume our individual identities. Will you come? As long as we continue this linguistic form of communication which is itself the separating force that reinforces the concept of ‘I,’ our search of this library and the pools it connects to will be ineffective. We must go deeper.”
There was a silence and the swirling blue light was punctuated by a final communication from the Prince, “Yes. I see. We will go deeper.”
The blue pulsing and swirling intensified and then blue bled into white and at last the shining clarity of empty water as Rosh and Suk dissolved. What remained raced through the pools connected to Olslo’s library in bright bursts of electric white energy.
When Prince Suk awoke, he was lying on the cool marble floor of the empty room in Valance with the warm golden orb in one hand. Rosh’s head was resting on his stomach. His other hand was in her hair and for a moment, he was aware of nothing other than its amazing silky texture. Rosh stirred and quickly opened her eyes, turning her face towards his. Their eyes met and love flowed easily between them.
“I have never felt like that,” the Prince said, beaming. “Not even in making love have I ever been so close to another human being.”
Rosh smiled at him. “That’s because we were no longer human. We found something. Do you remember?”
“I remember elation. I remember bliss,” he said.
“If you do it more often, that experience will become more integrated with this one. You will remember more, which is the first step,” Rosh told him, moving slowly into a comfortable seated position.
“We retrieved something from Olslo’s private pool. We leaked it into all of the pools connected through his library. Everyone in the Three Spheres will know it soon. And there was something else, something that we kept hidden, something wonderful. Can you get us into the First Sphere? We need to visit Taurus.”
“The laboratories of the Seven Sisters?” the Prince asked. His face was dark and handsome and his smile refused to fade from it.
Rosh nodded at him slowly, her eyes were black pools of determination and clarity. The fingers of their hands laced together and they smiled as one.
The words from the leaked manuscript found their way beyond the reach of the pools and libraries of the Three Spheres. In the deserts of Vitnu, within a cave deep in the mountains, Stevash Khal read the manuscript to his tattered band of guerillas. In the prison mines where the first Olslo had toiled before his death, it was repeated by the new arrivals. In the Third Sphere, the Illuhuati arranged it to music. The High Priestess, in her secret lair in the underground ruins of Nurk, read it in the pools of the Lucen scribes before they sent it on to more remote pools deeper in the Sphere. Even the torturer who had administered Olslo’s last punishments three days prior read the disappeared man’s words from a wall where they had been written outside the Towers:
“There are no unarguable axioms of value or worth, there are only inclinations.
My inclinations have turned to an intense loathing of institutions, and most of the people in them; those spineless supplicants agape at the passing of other men's ideas, not drawn by desire, but driven by fear and ignorance, to the tepid hearth of institutionalism.
One may argue as to the qualities of a passing man's wife, but as a life philosophy, it can only appeal to self-loathing celibates. How much better the subjective stance which curls the mind around the lovely creature in one's embrace!”
Friday, December 10, 2010
Violent skirmishes raged across the Spheres between the supporters of Olslo and the warlords they accused of trying to stifle the revelation of magickal knowledge. There were fires upon the grounds of carefully tended manors and several of the largest squares were littered in glass, metal and blood. Amidst the panic and smoke, the Chamber of Windows lay melting. Once a glory or architecture, it bubbled in a pile of iridescent goo.
Beside the molten walls, wooden stakes had been erected on the scaffolding where condemned criminals had once been humanely vaporized, but now, the heads of councilmen from both the Red Hat and Yellow Hat parties oozed their blood. Smoke rose from the smoldering ruins of the capital city and lines of refugees marched towards the forests of Avin where temporary dwellings were being established.
The Lady Rob, along with other surviving council members found herself sequestered within the safety of the Towers of Ral, the sanctuary of the Kingdom’s most powerful magicians. Many of her fellows were distracted beyond reason. Grown men, including Philip the Old, were reduced to sniveling wretches. Most had not noticed the terrible inconsistencies of the reports that blamed the Lucen Scribes and Vitnutian terrorists for the attack on the Chamber of Windows. The Lady Rob herself had met the resurrected leader of the Lucens, Olslo, and found it impossible to believe that such a person could be responsible for the violent attack. His eyes shone with something alive beyond the simple need for violence. He was not a creature of quick reaction or anger, there was no need in him for sticks or guns. There was something else that reached out to her, coming out through his eyes and into her, something so fierce and wild and wise that it could only turn into itself, becoming soft.
Having been present during the attack, she had seen with her own eyes the strange creatures with shiny black armor that tore the heads from Council members. Her account of the event had already been written off as the results of hysteria, but the Lady Rob knew her mind to be sound.
Exploring her thoughts as she wandered the white halls of the towers, she made her way into the forbidden western tower where the magicians were gathered in the Kingdom’s defense. Here, she overheard the warlords and magicians making preparations to cut off the magickal energy necessary for Olslo's work with the Lucens and others throughout the Three Spheres. Listening, she was filled with a sense of dread.
In many ways, Olslo and his ideals of freedom and equality reminded her of her father and his disgrace. As a young woman, she had been devastated by her family’s loss of status. She had been little moved by her father’s lofty dreams and had worked her whole life to repair his name. Now, picturing Harrold’s head on a stake and remembering with pain her father’s own vaporization on the same lucite platform in front of the Chamber of Windows, she felt her hands begin to tremble. The hot tears she had never shed over her father’s execution fell from her eyes. Her body began to shake, a cold terror began to move through her, starting in her fingers, toes and back, and moving inward, journeying quickly towards her chest and the heart that lay protected. With each falling tear she released the locked thoughts and visions of the kingdom. It was not as pure and true as she had pretended it was, as she had wanted it to be. It had not been her father who had failed so many years ago, it had been her own heart and the heart of The Old Kingdom.
The Lady Rob made her way to one of the public communication portals, tears flowing unabated over her reddened cheeks, hot salty tears dowsing the velveteen fabric of her dress. She established a connection with the Lucen Scribes and relayed to them all that she had learned in the west wing.
Councilman Argus had not been present at the Chamber of Windows. Now a guest in the house of Lord Avin where the King himself was taking refuge, he expressed surprise at the scale of the astral attacks that had targeted major astral compounds of the Kingdom within the last 8 hours. Many high ranking guests of Lord Avin were convened in his dining hall, still dining on game hens and pudding despite the violence.
"It's truly what the scribes would call an astral war. What is happening is just astonishing," Councilman Argus said from behind his dark glasses. Lord Avin shook his head, “they’ve had the power to do this sort of thing all along. This is their response to the attack of our magicians on their Lucen pools.”
“You mean their counter-attack,” Councilman Argus corrected harshly. “They used brute force to destroy our capital city.”
“We have reports coming in from reputable sources that the attack on the capitol was launched by a third party,” Lord Avin said firmly but softly.
“You mean the account of the traitor Lady Rob.” The retired torturer glared, “who is clearly an ally to the Lucens.”
“There are other accounts,” Lord Avin answered softly and the High Priestess entered the dining hall, her purple robe rustling as she bowed before the king.
“A young boy suspected of being involved in the magickal attacks was just captured in the Cold Reefs an hour ago and is currently under interrogation.”
“Will he lead us to Olslo?” Dominious asked.
“It is quite possible,” the High Priestess told him.
“And the Lady Rob?” he pressed, “has she revealed anything about her connection with the scribes?”
“No majesty, but we will continue questioning her.”
“What about our plan, have we been able to shut down the Lucen pools?” Dominious leaned eagerly forward in his chair.
Shaking her head, the High Priestess continued, “Olslo's actions have thrown all magickal operations into disarray. Our magicians are working to restore some of our own astral chambers. When we have recovered these we will resume our attacks on theirs.”
“And our people? Those taking refuge in Avin, are they taken care of?”
“Our Lord Avin has been most gracious in opening his lands to our displaced citizens. Most are already sheltered and their wounds are being tended to. I personally have been amongst them, administering to their spiritual needs and listening to their accounts. Most of them cannot understand what is happening, but they are angry nonetheless. They will be glad when Olslo is brought to justice.”
In the dungeon of the Towers of Ral, Lady Rob collapsed upon the stone floor of her cell where her keepers had left her. Beyond the bars of her cell, she watched them grab hold of the boy and carry him away. She wished to scream, more than anything, she wished to scream, but her tongue was swollen and saliva ran from her mouth onto the cold stone. Completely paralyzed, she lay on the ground floating in a state of near bliss now that an eternity of pain had come to an end. Vaguely, she could recall having done something to have earned her misery, but it was a blur. All that was real was the pain inflicted by The Torturer. That was all that had ever been, all that could ever be now. She wished dimly that the strange boy could be spared the experience. Then she lost consciousness.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
The proposal by the Red Hats to make dramatic changes to the Kingdom’s inter-spheral immigration system had been stalled by the dramatized political threats of the Yellow Hats, which was to be expected. The plan called for an overhaul of the old and now shoddy AT field that surrounded the First Sphere and the implementation of a new citizen tracking chip. Over the past nine years, the third-generation chips had grown obsolete and were easily rewritten by tech-coyotes with the right set of demagnetizing and code writing tools. It was all too common for citizens from the Second Sphere to pay one of these tech-coyotes to re-write their citizen chips so they could pass through the scanners of the First Sphere undetected. The new chip, should it be produced, would be impervious to such manipulation, at least until those codes were once again broken by a new generation of tech-coyotes, at which time new chips would be developed. While there were many places where the First Sphere’s ailing AT field could be compromised, the overhaul would make it possible to track and prevent bodies of any size from entering the First Sphere.
The council was held in the old Chamber of Windows, a room reserved for discussion and political maneuvering. A muted light passed through the panes of particle glass, bathing the red and yellow robes and hats of the council members with its soft glow. The milky luminescent floor and benches of lucite reflected the light up into their faces so that each visage seemed to radiate an ephemeral light of its own. Argus the Torturer, a powerful Yellow Hat and former member of the League of Assassins, had just refused to sign onto the proposal and the Red Hats feared this critical, much-needed vote would fail. Argus sat with his elbows resting on the lucite tabletop, his hands folded just under his chin. His bald head shone like a pale sun in the illuminated space of the Chamber of Windows, his forehead bulging and protruding over the small slits of eyes that glared narrowly about the room from behind rectangular shaded spectacles.
Councilman Harrold knew, from years of experience and a finely tuned political intuition, that this could turn out badly for him and his fellow Red Hats. His gray hair matched the hue of his gray eyes perfectly, both shone like silver next to the bright crimson of his cap and gown. Through the general uproar that was taking hold of the chamber as arguments and discussions poured from councilmen with flushed cheeks and saliva moistened lips, Harrold caught sight of the gracious Lady Rob. He could remember the days when at her father’s table, he had dined on duck and wine and watched her play by the fire with the dogs. Her father had been a good friend in those days, and she, a maiden with braided brown locks decorated with rainbow-colored ribbons and pearls. It had been nice, those chilly nights by the fire, so many years before her father’s infamous fall from grace.
Lady Rob met his eyes and he tried to let her know, through gesture and carefully directed energy that he meant no harm, he was a friend. She returned his look with a wary, yet sympathetic smile. Keeping in mind the crucial vote, he turned to his left, to the one Yellow Hat that might come over to his side, "will you please help us," he whispered. She was a petite red-haired woman with a heart shaped face and hard blue eyes. She tilted her head to the left and right, refusing to say yes or no while she stared into the space ahead of her.
To the crowd that had been permitted to gather in the northern quadrant of the chamber of windows, the scribe announced: "We're getting close, but negotiations are still ongoing."
At the opposite end of the chamber, the King as usual, remained aloof, appearing distant and inconclusive, his head turned slightly to one side as he gazed into the milky surface of the lucite floor. His hand, covered in rings, tapped pensively upon the velvet arm of the seat reserved for him at the southern end of the chamber.
Harrold glanced at the wan statuesque form of Dominious. Turning again to the impassive female Yellow Hat, he said, "will you please help us, it is for the good of the Sphere..." Once more, there was no answer.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
The feast would be strikingly minimal, composed of fare provided by the King’s own garden and the main course cooked simply, made of the common rooftop hen. In the grand dining room, there was nothing present that could suggest extravagance of any kind. There was no pre-dining entertainment, no dancing, no jesting. The tables were covered in simple ivory linen and a single goblet, plate and fork for every guest. The gold utensils and embroidered napkins had been kept in the closets, out of simple necessity, the room was alive with the light of a thousand red and white wax candles.
Half a dozen war-weary soldiers recently returned from Vitnu were present and still adjusting to the Sphere after several years away. Dominious had them seated to the left of his vacant chair. All of these gestures of humility and concern had been orchestrated to prove to his fellow Red Hats that their values and causes where still close to his heart. He hoped to prevent defections by Red Hats that could sink the proposal he had recently worked out with their rivals, the Yellow Hats. They were here, those Council members who had been Lords and Clergymen before becoming members of the illustrious Council, and also those Red Hats who did not sit upon the Council, among these Lord Avin.
“Many Yellow Hats seem ready to embrace the compromise and declare victory,” he said to Dominious as they strolled together through the clusters of men and sweet-scented women waiting to be seated. “The question is whether enough Red Hats will join them in support, especially in the Council, where resentment of your concessions run strong.” Dominious glanced sideways at Lord Avin, his mouth turned down at the corners, but not so strongly that it could be declared a frown.
“And you? What do you think?” he asked while maintaining his forward glance.
Lord Avin sighed, “you know that I am forever your most ardent servant,” he said, and then looked to the King as if he wished to say more. Dominious turned to him and nodded to continue. “I fear that you lose site of the doctrines of our brotherhood. We are stewards of the people, and the Yellow Hats serve only themselves. The people are hungry and over-taxed. They and their children are dying in this bloody drawn-out war. They were sympathetic to the Lucen Scribes, and now that Olslo is dead, the sense of injustice has become heightened. These were wrongs begun during your brother’s reign, and it was believed that after his death, you would set them right, but you yield to the desires of the Yellow Hats at every turn…”
Dominious raised a hand to silence Avin. “You must understand, they are a force to be reckoned with. And they are not entirely wrong. The imprisonment of the Lucen Scribes was necessary, the security tax is necessary, ferreting out our enemies is also necessary. Don’t forget, most of our brethren on the Council voted for the war during my brother’s reign, and for the security tax as well. They understood these necessities then.” Dominious pressed a hand to his forehead, searching for words to explain the particular box he now found himself in, the pressure that came from all sides and prevented action in any direction. “They are like unruly children, both brotherhoods. We must preserve the kingdom. I will speak to all of our brethren tonight. I must make them understand.”
Dominious left Avin to take his place at the head of the table. Soon all were seated at the great horseshoe arrangement of tables. The room buzzed with chatter and the clinking of silverware. An electric lute strummed quietly by the attending bard who sang softly of the orphans housed by Dominous and of the new temples of healing established throughout the kingdom.
Over the general clatter the King caught fragments of conversation. The Red Hats with seats on the Council criticized the compromise, sometimes harshly, but stopped short of saying they would try to stop it. In the middle of it all, the King sat pale and bent in his chair, his face harrowed with creases. His poultry and stewed vegetables remained untouched and grew cold. In the candlelight, the dark circles under his eyes gave him the appearance of a man in the final stages of illness. His thin hands played idly with the silverware as he waited for his moment to speak.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
In his weekly sermon, Philip the Old expounded upon what he believed was the original intent of the Ancestors on voting rights in the Kingdom. The manuscripts had been debated by half a dozen scholars in recent times, though none were as politically powerful as Philip, who had mountains of gold and fully equipped armies at his disposal. Because of his stature and riches, his words resonated with a harsher impact, turning other interpretations of the Ancestors to shadows that no one could remember. Standing upon the lucite scaffolding in the town center after the customary vaporization of condemned criminals, the smell still lingering in the stone covered plaza, Phillip huffed and spoke with such furious conviction that the great mound of his belly swathed in arbrit, a shimmering synthetic known for its superior wicking, jounced up and down, wiggling as his words tumbled out like dominoes.
The crowd was a little subdued, reflecting on the fragility of life and their own mortality, a feeling which hit them with whirls of hurt and confusion in the center of their chest, when Philip began to speak. A little chilled by the wintery air and morbid reflection, they were slow to comprehend the true content and underlying motives of Philip’s righteous monologue. Their consciousness flowed along on the pitch and cadence of his voice, not grabbing on to particular words or concepts, but floating with each rise and fall of vocal vibration like boats traveling along a brisk stream. His self righteousness and their easy and somewhat distracted acceptance of it imbued them with a sense of righteousness too, it was the perfect antidote for the poison of reflection.
Today, however, unlike his many other sermons, Philip failed to mention the massacre of Orzab and the hated hosts of Vitnu being hunted on the third Sphere by the brave Soldiers of the fine Old Kingdom. Instead he sought to interpret the desires of the Ancestors as stated in the old manuscript. He stated, once again, loudly and with absolute belief in his conviction, that their original intent in holding elections was to allow property owners the power to vote, nothing more.
"It makes a lot of sense," he said, belly heaving, "in a modern setting. If you're a property owner, you actually have a vested interest in the community, others do not." Further, he advocated the dismissal of a prominent council member for being a follower of the old ways of Annis, which was as close to a death sentence as he was prepared to make that morning.
There were rumblings in the crowd as Philip spoke, a murmur that rose as the torpor of the executions wore away. Of the billions of inhabitants of the Old Kingdom of the First Sphere, only a few could claim to be property owners. The King himself for certain, his Lords and their Ladies by marriage, the public conglomerates formed of coalitions of noble people, a handful of the great magicians, and a few private conglomerates and personages.
A sense of slow dread and alarm grew to a buzz of whispers and anxious glances in the cold winter-drenched chill, but nobody spoke up to question Philip’s interpretation of the Ancestor’s manuscript. Not one could raise his voice towards the man with armies and chests of gold. His power silenced even the most skeptical gathered in the square. Most assumed that the majority of those present were in agreement with him, or they forced themselves to believe that so the obligation for objection could be lifted from their shoulders, for there was no sense in creating disharmony when agreement abounded. And so Philip was allowed to continue with his carefully planned diatribe.
At the edge of the thick crowd Maia stood holding the hand of her small son Olslo. He had grown just as fast as his brother, which he had a vague sense of, though he lacked the words to describe it in any detail.
“What does it mean?” she asked her sister Alcyone, who stood on the other side of the tiny boy. Maia’s face hid her concern, but it swam within her, hidden by a lifetime of magickal practice.
“How can we know? We don't yet know how far they will go. We would still be in possession of Taurus, in any case.” There was a brief moment of silence, then Alcyone heard the voice of her younger sister standing so close behind she could feel the warmth of her cinnamon-scented breath.
“This is not the world I would wish for our son to inhabit,” Asterope said, her long fair face looking even longer with the glimmer of dismay. Beside her was Celeano with a smaller, muscular body and a moon-shaped face. “Sister, you forget. Our son was not made to inhabit the world. He was made to re-make it.”
Monday, December 6, 2010
They had released a manuscript listing chambers worldwide that the Old Kingdom considered critical to its royal security. This was in the year of the blue Sapphire in the aftermath of the Orzab massacre. The crops were poor that year and the new security tax left the people facing hunger, while the soldiers were sent what bread there was to keep them occupying the deserts of Vitnu on the third sphere. Rumor had it that the perpetrators of the massacre in the capital city were hiding in the arid mountains somewhere in the darkness of Vitnu.
The locations cited in the manuscript from the High Priestess of the Old Kingdom ranged from underwater cities to suppliers of food, medicine and manufacturing materials. A council was summoned to determine the fate of those who had circulated the manuscript throughout the three spheres of Galia. In these meetings the Royal Guard declined to comment on the details of what it called "stolen" writings containing magical knowledge. A local magician called the disclosure "damaging," and said it gave valuable information to the adversaries of the King.
"This is one of many reasons why we believe their actions are irresponsible and dangerous," the magician cried through trembling white whiskers. Even his cloak rippled as if disturbed by a wind, though the great hall was oppressively warm and still.
The scribe Olslo was among those accused of conspiring against the King. His eyes were clear and blue, as placid as a frozen lake. He stood tall at the trial, the son of seven mothers who had worried over his upbringing and education and now were absent in light of his disgrace.
“We felt that this manuscript, along with others, should be available to any citizen of the kingdom, that airing out secrets might help to bring peace to all three spheres by empowering even the lowliest inhabitants of Galia with knowledge. We reproduced the manuscript and others without regard for, or even knowledge of, their content. All information should be available to all beings.”
Even the old magician seemed momentarily stunned by the young scribe’s composure and clear bright voice. He was quick however to re-spin his own webs for netting the support of the council. Olslo would be sentenced to imprisonment in Narion on the second sphere.
Nonetheless, the manuscript had been disseminated throughout Galia. There were many who had become familiar with its content. It was now well known that in it, the High Priestess asked her envoys to help update a list of chambers around the world which, if destroyed, disrupted or exploited, would likely have an immediate and deleterious effect on the Royal Kingdom.
The Priestess Amalidia herself was questioned. Though the manuscript was meant to serve the purpose of strengthening security, it could now be regarded as having done the opposite.
“Just who made this manuscript available to the likes of Olslo? He could not have reproduced it without having at some point seen the original. Only the High Priestess and her envoys could have had access to it,” Lord Avin Deloro pointed out to his majesty the King of the Old Kingdom while they hunted the genetically manifested foxus in the revived forest of Avin.
“Your kingdom is ancient and vast. You are the only monarch who can claim rulership of an entire Sphere. It would make an appealing prize for an ambitious woman.” They sat astride their stallions, Lord Avin’s a deep purple, King Domonious’s a resplendent red. It was a strange coincidence unknown to either man that their mounts had been manifested in the same laboratory where Olslo’s seven mothers had conceived, gestated, and birthed him.
Ahead of them the hounds bayed in pursuit of the foxus. “I’ve never known Amalidia to be overly ambitious,” King Dominious said warily through his neat black beard.
“Believe me, every woman in a position of power is there for no reason but ambition. For them there is no brothership such as we know. We must be most wary of our wives and then our magicians, in that order. Amalidia is the worst of both.” King Dominious eyed the landscape through squinted eyes, letting the words roll through him.
Down in the catacombs of Nurk, among the ruins of a long lost civilization of the first sphere, Amalidia sat in her underground tower looking into the darkness. The manuscript had been considered so confidential the envoys had been advised to come up with it on their own: "Posts are not being asked to consult with local strong men in respect to this request," the High Priestess had dictated. In truth only she could posses the manuscript in its entirety. Only she knew of all the chambers it had come to describe. The incomplete manuscript that she had shared with the King was the same that she had leaked to Olslo and the other Lucen scribes. She smiled at her own reflection in the glass window pane. Beyond it, in the darkness, a shinier darkness scuttled through the ruined underground city. Amalidia watched her children moving through the inky depths of the Sphere.
In Narion, on the second Sphere, Olslo toiled in the mines with the other convicted scribes of Lucen. In the gloom, the clarity of his voice and eyes faded. Only there in the throws of despair did he begin to suspect that they had been played as pawns, just like he had once played in the old sphere game his seven mothers taught him in childhood. He had a bit of rope hidden under his bunk. Tonight he thought, would be a good night to die.
In their laboratory, Olslo’s mothers took the information they had gathered when they first conceived Olslo and created him once again. In the laboratory, where the King and his Lord’s fine stallions were born, Olslo was again gestating.