Skip to content

Prologue

PREHISTORY (BACH) / THE AGE OF SILENCE…

And like that, in a flash, it was gone.  All of civilization, eight thousand years of cities, three hundred years of science, gone.

Those who knew did not mourn but became something other.  Something small, clinging to the final peaks of the Himalayas rising like impish and distinctly misplaced Hershey’s kisses out of the finally-calm singular Ocean, New Tethys.  Something with gills.  Something entirely… other.

Or they did not.  This is after all the prehistory, and it does not concern us.

Or, as the gmothi say only, the time before the Age of Silence is that “of which we know very little, and not even that.”

[Here I imagine listening to the entirety—and nothing after—of Bach’s Toccata in D Minor, listening to the rapid fall of notes, the tension-easing chords, the pauses so patient, as a wave one thousand feet tall, the first of phalanxes of waves of that size, bears down from the Atlantic on Coney Island, then the Narrows, Governor’s Island, Staten Island, in the last rapid febrile seconds of the Toccata, upon the perfectly red brick of the Old Battery Park Ferry Building, still somehow calm as its final inhabitants shriek soundlessly and that shadow falls, the perfect summer-afternoon light otherwise still, long organ notes, longer organ notes, twisting notes, across the Park, the shadow that finally eclipses the other shadows, of the meager-looking art deco “sky-scrapers,” Promethean nonsense—

And then a silence.

A silence of one hundred million years.]

1 0 0 M . Y .
[Earth, 100 Million Years Later]

[Being a history, as you would know it.  Already in progress.]

A VERY SHORT FOREWORD BY THE INVISIBLE AUTHOR

The planet is older than you will ever know.  For Homo novohomo gmothi—the para-humans known as the gmothi; slender, black-haired, tireless, savage, clever—perhaps the planet is without change, without history.  The gmothi (“em OTH ee”) roam in tribes across desert, plain, and swamp alike, and they use ancient human technology, the archaetech, indiscriminately and disgustedly, never trusting it beyond its immediate application.

But for you, history is very important.  It is, under whichever of various guises (Sanguinity, Chrisme, Technem), your religion….

ANTIQUITY:  THE WAR, PAX TEPHNI, THE FALL, THE CHASMING

Bruised and degraded, life slumps forward.  As it slumps, it changes, and the world is changed.  The air and seas are changed, and the mile-thin skin of the earth heaves and gives forth new land, New Ur, great ranges of unsculpted holy land upon which the insectids and octopods and squamids might have erected a tower to reach heaven.

But, alas, the monkeys were coming back.

We were always coming back.

From where did we reemerge, sans star-grasping words and maths, we do not now know.  What is “known”—as best as any myth is known—is that the tribes of the first brothers of the second mankind were three in number, and they dwelled in the West, upon the blighted continent you name after the oldest brother, Lat.  Upon this barren expanse, Latura, the tribes of Lat and his brother Teph and their brother Zaad dwelled and had to learn again their place in the scheme, or invent their place.  Or steal it.

In any event, the tribes dwelled in peace or unrest, we do not know, and came somehow unto the fertile East, called Pala—”home,” in the most ancient, most lost tongue of the tribe of Lat.  And there and upon Latura they argued over the fraternal limns of the bounded earth—two great masses, and two great masses only, a wasted sea choking the one, and the jewels of the future’s fern-forests and fungal karsts crowning the other.  Fire and storm, desert and plenty.  The tribes could not agree, and they fought, and they fought, and they fought…

The mythical War is simply called as such.  How long it truly lasted, we may never know.  How high man had climbed again on his karmic ladder before its sudden and global outbreak, we do not know.

The twilight of the war left man exhausted but unified under the leaders of the tribe of Teph, who settled in the East, leaving the dry West to the tribe of Lat.  The tribe of Zaad, the youngest brother who had sided slyly with both of his elders in the War, was allowed to live where they pleased.  And from the furor of the War grew the long peace:  The Pax Tephni.

The Pax Tephni was not, to you, merely the beginning of true history, culture, technology, civilization, and justice.  It was the beginning of humanity.  All the warring peoples of Pala still trace their origins, if not to Tephnian blood, than to the Tephnian peace and nurture that allowed for technology not only to grow again, in fits and starts, unhumbly, unpredictably, but to eventually, it is said, surpass that of the prehistoric Ancients altogether.  Again, we cannot judge such mythic claims, only note their ubiquity, their weight in Palan discourse:  Were the Tephnians, in their mirror-black city on the westernmost island in the great eastern Imperial Sea, truly demigods?  Their millennia-lived Technarchs truly gods?  It is not for us to speculate, but for the ecclesiarchs, who keep the portions of the Code still extant, left unburied by the Fall…

For of course, of course… man being man…  In time, the light of the Pax dimmed, and the Tephnian elite grew ravenous for more than even their godlike command of sea, sand, body, blood, and mind could offer.  It is said they engaged in forbidden experiments, and they hastened the still-changing seas to die in places and could not reverse their errors, and granted life and sentience as they willed, and could not keep from granting even greater deaths…

And the infighting among the supposedly transcendent, the should-have-been-invincible!  …  After many thousands of years, the Tephnian Wars of Succession led to the massive generation of a race of servant–warrior–bodyguards—four-armed, four-eyed, seven feet tall to the man, tireless, and hideous:  The unhumans.  Homo sapiens secundus.  (Or, in the Sasparadan Empire, Homo unsapiens monstra.)

It is not fair to accuse the unhumans of wanting liberty.  Liberty was the very motto of the Empire.  (VBI LIBERTAS • IBI PATRIA:  “Wherever there is Liberty—there is my country.”)  But the unhumans were without their own culture, had no source of nurture, saw no hope in liberty by any means but the enslavement of those who would oppress.  And so the greatest war, greater even than the War with no other name, began in the south of the Empire, it is said below the streets of the very metropolis still called Saspara today.

The unhumans waged their Rebellion against their masters with their masters’ finest arms, and the masters invented new arms.  The by-this-time brutal aspect of the Technarch became still more brutal, and into His blood was borne all civilization, all knowledge, so that to him the ecclesiarchs went to slake their thirst for a Meaning behind it all (the war, the bombings, the shortages); to him the people looked for the Audax (unfear, the new, single-word credo of the Empire) to continue (to fight); to him even the lesser technarchons retired, drawing open his veins in supplication and asking of him why…

Finally, the Fall.  Tephni, dream-city of man.  Of flying carriages and tastes and colors untasted and unseen by we who live today—undreamed by us.  Tephni, externalization of man’s puissance and hubris, his fancy and his evil…  What is there to say?  Finally…  The unhumans overcame the humans (or post-humans) who had been their creators, and Tephni the invincible fell.  Somehow.  The city’s final wrack, its ultimate passion before it became a prison for an hundred million ghosts, remains obscure.

And still the war between the humans and unhumans smoldered on.

Still the raids, the shortages, the factory-fires, the loss of capabilities, the darkening of grids, the depopulating, the cannibalism…

The end came swiftly, both times.  It was the unhumans’ final gambit to achieve a total victory that led to much of southern Tephnia lifting into the sky in a reverse magmal hail to form a second moon…  Or it was a human gambit…  We don’t know.  You wouldn’t want to say.  It would be too easy to blame them.  And of course by that time, the chaos was like a disease, like a drug.  It might have been another group entirely—a human–unhuman perpendicular anarchistry, bent on an end to everything…

In any case, they did entirely succeed.  The Chasming did eject great nations of matter into the heavens, creating Tsune, the little irregular second moon, the one that makes the seas so dangerous to ply.  The Chasming did cause the Great Earthquake, which leveled whichever cities had escaped, if any even had, the ravages of the Rebellion.  And of course the Chasm yawned suddenly, filling up, as if to the will of the earth itself, with strange new fungal life, great forests of death-loving toadstools, the only redwoods in an age of cypresses, cattails, and falcon-claw ferns.  Some men descended, they say, into the Chasm at this time.  But they say many things.

The greatest consequence of the Chasming, however, was none of these, though the tidal waves, Earthquake, and fast-growing fungal taigas did not help.  No, the final and most painful calamity that came to define the Fall of Tephni was the Dusk, or the year(s) when nothing grew.  The ejecta from the Chasm covered out the sun, and the waves pounded the biodomes and fields of light-sucking mirrors, and the world was pitched into a metaphorical and very real dimness, albeit not a blackness.

Not a blackness, a fair forgetting.  A third and clean beginning.  But a dimming.  A vanishing at the pace of a snail.  A loss of words but not a loss of the memory of their having had meanings—an aphasia.

THE EARLY DARK AGE:  APHASIA, THE UNDIMINISHING WAR, ASMAAR

In the Dark Age, strange new races arose;—some here, some there; some against men, some for him; many not even seeing him;—and strange uneven gifts came to men, almost as if to balance him against the rest.  In time, man made peace with two northern species, the monitormen (varanids, “VAHR a nidz,” Varanus giganteus homunculus) and skinkmen (scincids, “SKIN sidz,” Tiliqua scincoides homunculus).  The gmothi lived as they had always lived—on the fringes, ruggedly, with poetry and gleaming gunplastic and little else.  And, from time to time, the peoples of the seas came onto land, only to return, inevitably, to the seas—an, if not safer, than certainly more familiar world.

On land, the unhumans and men hated one another and blamed one another for the Fall, and war became as routine as it was constantly pointless.  Technology regressed to a medieval state, and the sword and arrow made the man.  Those who could, tamed saddle-worthy saurians and rode the beasts across the swamps.  Time distorted the Code.

Then, three thousand, three hundred years ago, the Code was reproclaimed in Saspara.  Incomplete and often ineffective, still the Code bound together the eastern peoples, and the Sasparadans pressed their claim to the divine lineage of the Technarch of the Great City of Black Mirrors.  The growing Sasparadan Empire made sweeping advances in the sciences of war and food, and the unhumans in their western swamps, where they had been driven, stole these advances.  The cat chased the mouse, the mouse was the tail of the cat.  Neither side struck.  Neither side struck.

Until the black year 2587 BG [the current year being 100 AG], when the third Palan war erupted.  The unhumans, it is said, fought to capture the west of Pala as their own, as humankind so firmly held the east.  (Who knows the truth.  Don’t believe everything the Sanguin ecclesiarchs drone today down in the suqs in Dasapar and Notho.)

In any event, the war began, and the Sasparadans sought to make it a final one.  The cat and his tail:  The unhumans would not give in to extinction, and the Sasparadans and their allies would not grant the unhumans life.  Both opponents claimed the inheritance of Tephni, both material and moral.  It is hard, of course, to sympathize with the brutes.  It is hard.

But if the unhumans did incite the Rebellion that sent man back to his iron roots—if they did even tear from the earth the soil that now floats irenically above as Tsune—if these events came to pass, still it is not clear they deserved the scything-down of that new war, the Undiminishing War or First Unhuman War, in which the last easy metals of the supercontinent were churned into bullets, then into bullet-ridden corpses (magic!), both two-armed and four-.

The Undiminishing War lasted generations, though not a thousand years:  In 2438 BG, the Treaty of Trevalee was signed by some of the humans and some of the unhumans.  Many others had long before given up in disgust.  The war had flicked from the fire what embers had remained of Tephnian culture.  (Though tell neither the unhumans nor the Sasparadans that, even today.)

Worse, the fire-bombings and terra-deforming of the war had dried up the fertile interior sea of Pala, leaving the Great Desert, Asmaar (“sans water,” simply, in the Old Palan [Laturan] tongue).

Where once the toothy sharks were abundant, now there was sand, and man’s diet turned even more to the dark Ocean, to its algae and jellies, and man lamented the taste of flesh, and he blamed his brother for his lament.

THE LATE DARK AGE:  CARVOLIS, THE NATION

Since the end of the Undiminishing War, called the First Unhuman War by the Sasparadans, history has been more or less recorded, and technology has slowly been more or less perfected back to a point of gun-readiness.  But we leave history, the meat of it, to the historians, and the technical apologia to the doctors.  We glide by, high above, peregrines armed with myth.  And the myth, anyway, proves truer the fact.

For some centuries out of the last twenty five, petty kings ruled petty kingdoms, and the Sasparadans at most times maintained what could pass for an Empire, and the unhumans in their jungle-like crushes of swamp-tree and fern and creeper plotted.  More races came, and many fascinating incidents occurred which we have forgotten.  And then one day the people of the north, descended from the tribe of Zaad, found in one of their petty kings, one Carvolis, a glimmer of a new path, and they followed him to victory after victory, until he was the only king in the north, and he was no longer petty.

Carvolis united most of Pala under the his rule; he was said to be fearless, brutal, and just; his dominion never truly challenged the remains of the Sasparadan Empire, nor the deepest (Old) Unhuman Kingdoms; but all sent him tribute… during his lifetime.  Upon his death, his sons commenced another war, and Greater Carvolia became Carvolia, which comprised much of the west, north of the unhumans’ jungles, as well as Vennar and Gilspar, which occupied and still occupy the center–north of the supercontinent.

The Carvolian escapades might have been forgotten, had they not sparked a more general shift away from petty fiefdoms and the practice of dividing land among many sons, moving Pala toward a modern ideal of a nation, united in some aspect, diverse in yet others.  Guilds and oligarchies.  Voting, in places, with restrictions.  Canons of law instead of piratical baronets and cannons of, well, cannon.

The modern nations emerge around this time as Carvolia (including what was then the north, Dravania; today, Dravania is the southernmost region in “Carvolia” or what remains of it), Vennar (including Gilspar, Ripar, and Rosavalee, none of which have merged perfectly happily with Vennar proper), the wilds of Fjatal (inhabited mostly by the gmothi and the men who would imitate them; allied more or less under an elected Marshal and his warband, technically opposed to both the norther human nations and the Empire, as well as to the unhumans), and the southern or old nations, whose people are said to be descended from the Tephnians, including the Sasparadan Empire (still the greatest human state on Pala), Faldan (or Greater Western Saspar, which broke from the Empire in the Sundering, many years before the Undiminishing War), and Assan (or Lesser Western Saspar, which is no more).

But these are merely the human nations.  Lest we prove human-chauvinists, we must mention that—in the north, between Vennar and Fjatal—stood relatively happy Arakha, territory of the monitormen and skinkmen.

And in the center–west, in the Unhuman Kingdoms—the low fern-and-kudzu-and-fungus jungles just east of Assan—the unhumans remembered their treatment in the war thousands of years ago.  They clamored for food, for jellyfarms, for rights.  The Carvolians treated them as servants to indenture.  (It is worse:  In some feudal states of Carvolia, in the south, many unhumans were forcibly bred; they could be killed or traded; they could be punished for learning to read…)  Elsewhere, the situation was not much better.  The Vennari did not lower their prices or teach them to make their own complex goods.  The Sasparadans did everything they could to kill them off.

And so it came to pass that the fourth great war was waged.  Carvolia was prospering, and the first train line since the Fall had only eighty years before been completed, linking the Carvolian capital, Thasmodium (now Thasmud) with the great northern city of Hyden (now in the south).  Vennar was contemplating an enduring peace alliance with not only the Carvolians and even the Fjatali, but with the monitormen and skinkmen of the swamps of Arakha as well.  The Empire, even, was at peace.

But in the heart of the jungles, the axes and guns had been beaten into shape and readied.  In the year 19 BG, the unhumans marched on the greatest Carvolian city, Caltaraan, in the south, and then on hallowed Thasmodium herself, and they were like a wind freed from an angry heaven, and the slaughter of the humans turned the rivers to rust.  And the Second Unhuman War was begun.

MODERNITY:  THE SECOND UNHUMAN WAR, GAZAAROU

Had it not been for Gazaarou, “Gazaar the Mighty,” or “Gazaar the Cruel”—had it not been for a certain unhuman commando and his loyal platoon, who knows how long the war might have been waged.  And who knows if there’d remain even a single unhuman today.  As it stood by 16 BG, the humans were winning the war.  The unhumans’ attacks had been surprising enough, but they simply didn’t have the industry or the numbers of the humans, who combined their armies without (too much) ego and marched under the orders of the Emperor of Saspara, at least until the coming of Gazaar.

Gazaar had been a loyal Carnarist [a pro-unhuman/anti-human bigot], as were all the special operative leaders of the unhuman kingdoms’ fierce but disorganized army.  But Gazaar was disappointed with war immediately.  He saw nothing particularly noble in the carnage he was ordered to carry out, such as the almost complete genocide against the humans of Assan; there he saw unhumans commit war crimes as bad as any humans’, and later vice versa, and vice versa again, until he didn’t care which side has once-upon-a-time held the higher moral ground.  That said, he also saw that, if his army lost, his people would be destroyed this time.  He saw the need to not prosecute the war and the need to prosecute it perfectly, both, at once.  And he rose to the challenge.

Gazaarism has been called many things since its initial proclamation in 16 BG [“before Gazaar’s death”].  “Utopian” and “stupid” are two words frequently overheard in discussions of the Great One’s ideals, his “religion” (he would have preferred “science”).  Mostly, it’s been called “heresy.”

But regardless of his ideals’ ultimate vector, at first they amounted to little more than a blending of savage Carnarism, practiced by the elites, with the populist Technem, or worship of the unhumans’ Tephnian past, into a single, simple set of moral guidelines that curiously asked their guidees to look less into the material reality of the past and more into its moral underpinning, and its mental architecture (positive, inclusive), and to apply these to the present.  Gazaar highlighted the lack of unity among his people, their pride, their mutant genome’s tendency to give rise to miscarriages and cancer…  The need to operate, as a people, systematically, to preserve themselves upon a cruel planet…

The unhumans took him seriously not because of his initial precepts and questions, however, but because he won battles.  He turned the tide in the former south of Carvolia and held Caltaraan despite intense efforts to retake it.  He pressured the great western cities of Faldan so heavily in the south that, without signing a capitulation, they effectively were forced to remove themselves from the war (forever earning them the enmity of the other human nations).  And he personally led a mission against the Emperor’s host in the unhuman nation of Lothay, in the Sasparadan east, defeating the much larger force by adopting gmothi sniper tactics and digging out great swaths of the desert, suddenly drowning enemy battalions in fifty-foot channels of falling sand and their own upside-down pack-saurians.  He was everywhere, he was indispensable.  And the people listened.

Back in the unhuman jungles, Gazaarism became a martial art, a philosophy, an atheist religion, an economic policy, and a governmental strategy.  He was granted the title Ou, from Ourr, Golden One.  And he was made the Marshal of the nation he fought to create and protect:  The Federation of Unhuman Kingdoms.

For this was Gazaarou’s greatest dream, the reason for his creed’s being heresy (against both orthodox Carnarism and Technem):  He sought to create not a strong nation, but an invincible, durable, and humane world government—a singular crown, voted upon by all.  A Technarky of the unhumans, humans, gmothi, and squamids, in which all who pledged their allegiance could be granted rights, protection, and that fleeting ideal of the yesterage—LIBERTAS.  It was the Tephnian creed, “VBI LIBERTAS,” that the first Gazaarists scarrified across the meat of their four arms with their traditional unhuman parangs [machetes], and it is today by this creed that the inhabitants of all the most populous cities on Pala besides Saspara pledge to their local elected metropoles on suq days.  Gazaar’s triumph was a post-species-ism cloaked in species-ist terms:  “The Federation of Unhuman Kingdoms,” in his final notebooks, is crossed out; in its place, in a hand unsteadied not by doubt but by sheer anticipation—”the Federation of United Kingdoms.”  All hominids and squamids as brothers, and all brothers made eternally free…

By 8 BG, the war was all but decided in favor of the unhumans.  The Carvolians simply couldn’t compete without retaking Thasmodium or Caltaraan (or Terbas, or Marrak or…), and the Dravanian dukes conspired to overthrow the king and make a deal with the unhumans, who were, it was rumored, always open to a smart detente.  (In fact, the Vennari might or might not have made such an overture; they never admitted after the war but…)  The Sasparadans would hear none of it.  Fighting raged in Asmaar and in Sasparada, where the ancient Tuuri marshmen were driven from their ancestral fens by unhuman sword and gun.  The ancient Sasparadan satrapy of Mirshalam declared neutrality to avoid being sacked, then a month later sided over into the F.U.K.  The Empire was assailed from every side, and the Fjatali ragers and Carvolian peasants and Vennari dandies and Arakhan fangs [monitor-rangers] would not be enough to prevent a total collapse…

And then in 0 BG, a funny thing happened.  Gazaarou died in a battle he needn’t have even attended, much less fought nobly in, in person, in the desert near Bhaddam, Mirshalam, gunned down by a Ripari assassin and buried hastily to avoid a popular apotheosis, per his request.

The war simply… ground… into peace.

Behind Gazaarou had stood his loyal officers, now called the nine Heresiarchs, his chosen “Carriers of the Heresy,” and they now rose to the challenge left by their much-mourned leader’s absence.  Their people were as exhausted as the humans.  True, they were winning.  But food was growing more and more scarce, for everyone.  Weapons were broken.  Transport was difficult.  And so, voting unanimously, the Heresiarchs drafted a treaty inviting the human and varanid archons to cease military operations and exchange prisoners under guarantee that the New Kingdoms (of the unhumans) would be recognized, including the Tuurmarsh in Sasparada and Mirshalam.

Carvolia and Dravania, now more or less officially sundered from one another, agreed, having lost their ancient homeland irretrievably and badly needing not lose the northwestern hinter-states to which the bulk of their civilian populaces had more or less safely retreated.

Vennar agreed.

Arakha—which has been targeted especially fiercely during the later stage of the war and subjected to what might have turned into an ugly genocide, without Gazaarou—did not agree initially but was persuaded within a month to sign by Vennar, in exchange for massive Vennari aide.

Faldan had no choice.

The Empire did not agree and does not to this day.

The gmothi, as in every single human conflict, refused to acknowledge statehood, grasp state violence, or condone the writing and signing of treaties.*

*Or the writing of anything:  The gmothi are illiterate and speak the Poeisa, what we call the All-Tongue—a shifting assemblage of metaphor that is universally understood, by all gmothi on ever continent, the way that dance and laughter and tears are universally understood.  The gmothi think only in abstraction, signification, allusion, metonymy.  They do not understand how other hominids pretend to concretes.  For this reason, they are essentially feared, everywhere, by the humans, who see in them a mirror that reflects a level of being to which humanity is not [yet] privvy.  Likewise, the gmothi find humans intolerable, for they see in them a mirror back unto an era trapped in the skin, the sword, the shark-ale jelly, the onyx collar.  So similar, brother and sister, yet millions of years apart.

And thus, with the still-partial signing of the Treaty of Dravus, the Second Unhuman War ceased—five months, fourteen days, and one minute (according to the F.U.K. Chronarchon) after the demise of its founder and genius.

RESURGENS:  THE LAST HUNDRED YEARS, STEAM, RUINS, THE STRANGERS—A NEW AGE OF EXPLORATION

It is too early, of course, to proclaim a Pax Monstra, as the Heresiarchs have done.**  But in truth the last hundred years have seen an explosion of artistic, scientific, technological, geographical, aquacultural, and governmental advances.  Just last week, the first steam-powered train departed from Thasmud to the Federation capital at teeming Bankaran (formerly Banacarum).  Metal is still scarce, and guns are still transitioning from wheellocks and flintlocks, to pepperboxes and derringers, to rifled carbines and six- and eight-shooters.  But unhuman and especially Vennari tinkers are carefully studying the valuable archaetech they hoard, hoping to find better ways to sail—to reestablish contact with the, at this point, blatantly mythical West.  Trade prospers between the nations.

**They tried “Pax Lunctus Sapientia” (the Peace of the Wise Ones United, i.e., the sentient races), but the Sasparadan term, “Pax Monstra” (the Peace of the Monsters) does have a nicer ring.

Guns—guns arrive in greater numbers every day to the markets, be they old, broken-triggered hunting rifles, rare Vennari Martinets [fine carbines, strictly controlled in the Federation], or titanic hand-and-halfer pistols;—and beside them, sabers, bone swords, and whips.

And then, not two paces away, you may smell a few bunches of pungent purple neusaffron, which sway above barrels of pickled jellies and rare seastars, jerkeyed nudibranches, and carefully sifted volanic salts; and these barrels, of course, may support rack after rack of drying kelp (the mainstay of the human diet, along with jellyfish and dikdik milk [similar to goat milk], and bees and ants [the size of fists], roasted with fern-chilies).

And what else?  There too hang Arakhan wetskins, made in Tephni and rotted and repaired in Gilspar yesterday.  Crystals to heal the psi of the body, fermented swampgrain to soothe the mind, snortable bugpowder.  Armours of live beetles, beetles [the size of cats—cats being extinct] as pets, as mounts [the size of horses, also extinct], saurians as mounts [clawed post-raptors, flying post-pterodactylae, sea beasts, prized horse-like inixes, titanic chameleon desert beasts, all hard to keep full and active in the heat beyond the fern jungles], onyx-studded leather armour, ancient Tephnian charge-devices which can drink the power of the sun—all these in the suq, for sale.

All these on suq days, yours for a few gold rikars (in Saspara) or proli-10 (in the Federation) or trada (in the surviving human states of the north).

The cities, crowded, changing rapidly [think London circa 1750], full of suqs and bazaars, and everywhere infested with brainrats, watching in their hives, stealing knickknacks, evolving…

The hillsides and deserts and vast swamps and dry plains, too, are intermittently crowded with other life, other eyes, or eyeless tongues—sand-eels, displacers, chuuls (the vile crabs), shan, the invisible slynx, the rare, alien xanjin flying by in their black shard-catafalques…

And the ruins!  The ruins rise in black, sun-drinking walls and waves of metal and living red metal, cerasteel, the dry tissue of once-thinking buildings, the twisting spires of Tephnian gengineering long lost…  In the arid plains that once were the Empire, in the sands that are Sasparada, in the jungles where the unhumans fled after the Rebellion—Suul and Rubaz, and Cybru, given back to the unhumans who refused to go to war (the “Pure Ones,” in their tongue)—here the land shimmers with psychic energy.  Ghosts seem to speak in every ear, and animals dread to enter.  Bees drop from the sky.  Charge-packs melt in the sun and explode, sending flechettes at hypersonic speeds through cerasteel armour.  Cracking the sky as in the olden days.  And then, after the misstep, a return to silence.

And in the cities and lonely ruins, visitors sometimes arrive from (and often quickly return to) the Ocean—the proto-hominid quans (Homo sapiens aquatica) and octopod ammon (Amphioctopus marginatus ultrasapiens)—as well as from the West—the mantismen (mantids, Mantis ecclesiastica sapiens) and rarely their antmen enemies (formori, Oecophylla smaragdina multisapiens).

Perhaps even stranger, new humans have begun to emerge from the fungal Chasm, where man cannot long tread without asphyxiating and petrifying as the spores rot his skin into bark from within.  These humans, lithe and totally wild, are commonly called the “greens” (Homo sapiens tertius) and have begun to display the same powerful psychic evolution (or aberration?) that has been classified, by the humans, as “the science of hell”—or, more lyrically—hell science.

DEAR READER:

You are now on the verge… of something.  Exploring a new world.  War with alien peoples.  Discovery of ancient technology.  Steam, steel, saurian-skin.  It is up to you to make, remake, preserve, or undo the world.  “Free the humans” or uphold Gazaarou’s ideal of LIBERTAS.

It is up to you to interpret destiny.  No one can tell if this will become the Third Age of Man, as the time of great empire of the Tephnians was the Second, or if this is already the Unhuman Age—or the Insectid…  No one can tell if hell science will become common in Pala, as rumors claim it is the West.  No one can tell if the genius ammon are really dispassionate, solitary, selfish scientists, or if, in their Antarctic kelp-forest laboratories, they are planning something beyond the imagination of the hominids.  No one knows if or when the Federation will seek to dominate the remaining human states and impose their democracy at the point of a gun.  No one knows if they will really convince the varanids to permit them to invade the northern island of the scincids, as is rumored.  Or if they have a war fleet to go West, as is whispered by others.  Whisperings everywhere, energy everywhere…  The anarchists want to rebel in Vennar; the Carvolians want to wrest control back from the Dravanians; the X against the Y, and vice versa, always…

It is up to you.  You are new man, old gmothi, or adolescent unhuman—or something altogether other.  You are here and alive, under the brutal sun, in the 120-degree afternoons, amid the primitive orchids and roses and—mostly—the ferns, and the cypresses and dwarf breadfruits.  The buzzing of hives.  You are here and alive, and it is up to you to stop reading history and begin making it.  Will the future be free, or be yours?  It is up to you to decide.

[End of first holodisc, History as propaganda of the humans, vol. 1.  Patriotic polyphonic gamelan-like Bankaran music.  Credits.  The unhuman-accented human voice that is addressing you at last becomes tinny and fades, and the discspinner grows hot in your hand, then emits cracking, whizzing, gasping noises.  Finally, tendrils of smoke curl up from its clam-like face.  Another priceless archaetech artifact, junk.  It’s hot out.  You should get some rootjuice and sit under the colorful shade of the bootblacks.  The day is still young, and you are, as the speaker pointed out, alive.]

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: