Monday, February 28, 2011

Expansion joints: part 1: "Fort"

This series of posts consists of responses to the "Expanders!" micro-fiction challenges over at Porky's Expanse!.

Feel free to use any of the posts tagged as Expansion Joints in an epos.

Here's my first effort, in response to the February 27th, 2011 challenge:

Crouched deep in the fort, amongst the meager supplies, Darial heard chaos pounding the gates.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Seven Keys of Destiny: The Kaleidoscope of Fate

The Kaleidoscope of Fate (also called the Kaleidoscope of Vision, and the Eye of Fate, or Baolal Koretaram) is one of the sites/artifacts that is most commonly regarded as one of the Seven Keys of Destiny, appearing in 94.3% of the texts dealing with the Seven Keys. Like all of the Keys, its true location is considered to be a closely guarded secret, and there are a variety of assertions of varying reliability regarding the authentic means of recognition. Because the circumstances required for the Kaleidoscope's operation are present in a number of different locations, all of which have had historical access to the relevant technology and biological materials, it is likely that there are in fact numerous sites at which the global experience of the Kaleidoscope of Fate has been replicated, and the differing references are not evidence of textual corruption or deliberate misdirection, as had sometimes been asserted in the literature, but rather records of different sites with the same or similar names and function.

Beneath the translucent orb of the natural dome, cascades of charged particles surging along the crystalline surface emanate shimmering auroras that resonate to the amplified brain waves and magnetic fields of the seeker deep within the Seat of the Oracle, a complex construct composed of nanoscale technology and an engineered semi-sentient symbiont activated, controlled, and nourished by the concentration of pure will. Immersed in the images, which, filtered through the template of the subconscious mind, form symbol sets that are said by many to hold the key to the Seeker's fate, the reclining figure remains entranced, locked in the symbiont's embrace, until the subtle resonances of mind and matter repeat the patterns long enough for the vision of them to be etched indelibly in the seeker's mind. Once the fullness of the vision has been captured, the seeker begins the delicate and dangerous process of disengaging physically and psychically from the symbiont. Done perfectly, it is said the process leaves the symbiont a little closer to true sentience, and the Seeker with enhanced sensory perceptions for the remainder of an enhanced lifespan. Mishandled, (a more probable scenario) it leaves both of them mad, trapped wandering in raving trance until starvation takes them, or dying in agonizing pain from neural overload.

The journey to the Seat of the Oracle is treacherous, arduous, and potentially lethal. The rewards are said to be proportionately great for those who succeed in mastering its secrets and then applying these lessons to meet their true destiny. The nature of the rewards, however, is not always what the Seeker had expected, nor are the visions always as immediately instructive as generally hoped. Seekers are cautioned in numerous texts that many who brave the perils and achieve their quest of finding the patterns of their fate fail to recognize the real meaning of the visions until they look back on nearly the full course of their lives. Halnar of Thoris, founder of the Therian Empire and one of the most famed of all those who mastered the Kaleidoscope of Fate, on his deathbed burned all four hundred standard years of his notes and memoirs regarding the content and interpretation of his visions and scrawled in the ashes: "Koretar manu garethi bar fadar" most commonly translated as "Fate is one sarcastic bitch."

The Seven Keys of Destiny

In the writings of the revered sage Da'ar T'ken, (literally, "Old Man", a term of endearment used by his disciples) there is a verse which reads:

Da'an na parn ba'el balarn, ferr ahl labarn.
Ma'a na kesh paree do resh, fesho daharn.
Labarn far na ahl koree sha.
Ma'al toree na po lora:
Zha Na, Vee Sa, Paha No, Desh,
Par Na, Hee Lafa, ae Toresh.

Sometimes referred to by scholars outside the devotional cult as "The Na-Na Verse" or "The Looky-Looky Poem", for its inclusion of the syllable "na", meaning to see or look, in every line, this verse forms the basis for many of the more extreme cultic practices of splinter groups, including the Journeys of the Keys, that have arisen from Da'ar T'ken's original discipline of contemplation and service.

An approximate translation reads:

The seeker sits in the center courtyard, surrounded by gardens.
They appear full of ripe fruit, just out of reach.
The gardens are guarded* by seven gates.
Their names seem simple:
Foresight, Knowledge, Courage, Devotion,
Imagination, Compassion, and Will

(*Literally, "watched over")

The "Complete Commentaries", composed and sanctioned by the Councils of Folly (the official ecclesiastical body responsible for doctrinal soundness) in the two centuries following the first known publication of Da'ar T'ken's collected verses, has this to say on the subject of this verse:

The prudent person seeks to unlock his destiny.
Where can the seeker find seven keys?
None can help you, if you cannot find them for yourself.

It seems clear that even at this early date, "Seekers" were beginning to look outside of themselves and outside of the teachings of the monastic order for the keys to unlock the gates of destiny. This search for external means of achieving the goals of the Seeker coincided with a decided shift in the common (if not the official) interpretation of the nature of those goals. This shift eventually culminated in the folkloric designation of a number of rituals, places, and artifacts throughout the Nine Worlds, some clearly material, and others possibly legendary, mythical, or purely spiritual in nature, as elements of the Seven Keys to Destiny, capable of unlocking the potential of one or more of the Gates, initiating the Seeker into dramatic personal power and prodigious material, magical, or spiritual achievement.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Introduction to the Nine Worlds: Anubis

Anubis floats, desolate, in the far reaches of the Nine Worlds. At first glance, the surface shows little evidence that sentient life has ever encountered this place, and its airless face offers no hint of welcome to the casual observer. A more-than-cursory look by a careful visitor reveals a hint of the planet's secrets, however: what appears to the untutored eye to be a crater surrounded by volcanic deposits is actually an engineered tunnel mouth, entrance to a warren of sub-surface excavations, marked with a stark orange blaze, visible even from high orbital range.

Anubis is, without question, the most powerful of the Nine Worlds. Not due its rich natural resources - the minerals found here are common in more hospitable, easier to access places closer to trade routes - and not for its engineering and manufacturing , which is minimal, used only to maintain and supply the tunnels and ports that make this bitter world habitable, and not even for its production of foodstuffs, which, restricted to synthetics and hydroponics as it must be, is barely sufficient to supply the needs of the local population. Anubis's power lies in its position as the seat of the federal interplanetary court system of the Nine Worlds.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Introduction to the Nine Worlds: Amphitrite

Amphitrite, known off-planet as "The Jewel of the Nine Worlds" and as "N'gor Thrak'ta'' (roughly translated as "This 'gorfragging thrakhole") by many locals, is the most water-rich of the Nine Worlds. Its spectacular scenery, diverse, equally spectacular, and incredibly abundant, if largely poisonous, flora and fauna, and markedly favorable exchange rate make it a highly desirable destination for discerning travelers.

It is poor in readily-accessible mineral and metallic resources, but rich in renewable biologicals, and trade in the exotic woods, hides and carapaces that can be obtained nowhere else forms a substantial part of the economic activity with the rest of the Nine Worlds. The unique venoms and toxins produced by its native species are in particularly high demand for the Collectively-sanctioned production of medicines, pesticides and herbicides, and weapons of war, as well as for the less legitimate but even more lucrative trade aimed at supplying the needs and desires of recreational or retributional users.

The dominant culture of this world, if it can be said to have one, is the aggregate expression of a complex and fluid set of familial, economic, and religious relationships between the myriad seafaring tribes and clans which vie for influence and economic control of the profusion of islands and lagoons which festoon the predominantly shallow seas that form the boundaries between the two major continents (Delphinius and Poseidon) and of the sea lanes that connect them.

The Portals of the Muse, or How I Discovered the Nine Worlds in a Package of Crackers.

This blog was created at the insistence of my son, with the express purpose of erecting and detailing the framework for the narrative space contained by the Nine Worlds. I didn't even know that the Nine Worlds existed until I referred to them in this comment, so no one was more surprised than I to find that they required not only a blog post devoted entirely to them, but an entire blog of their own.

It is a strange and wondrous thing that, often, I find that I do not truly know a thing until I say it aloud or write it down, and then suddenly, it is spread out there before me, crystallized into reality. It is as if giving voice to it brings it into existence, echoing both Lao Zi's assertion that "The Named is the mother of the Ten Thousand Things.", and the biblical account of the Creation proceeding from the Divinely spoken word. Or as if beginning to speak the words opens the gates of mystery, or portals through which the Muses can speak, and I am merely their scribe. This was certainly the case for the Nine Worlds. A packet of caraway, sesame, and poppy seed-topped Lavasch crackers that advertised "Authentic Seed Overload", a son with a penchant for punning, a momentary mis-reading by a person on the internet, and suddenly not one, but nine worlds appear, demanding that their histories, songs, stories, and fates be detailed.

This triggered some musings (and I use that word intentionally) about the creative process, intuition, and the nature of truth, reality, mythos, logos, psychological archetypes, and their relationship to fiction, poetry, and song. The arts and even the sciences are, at their most compelling, a way for us to tell ourselves and our community truths that we cannot express any other way. They are a way of exploring the boundaries of our mental, social, physical , and spiritual worlds while staying safe from the dangers inherent in pushing those boundaries to their limits in "real life". They are portals into the highest and deepest recesses of our minds, bodies, and souls, surrogates for rituals and rites of initiation, trials and tests and templates that we shape through the lenses and filters of our own temperaments, times, and cultures, and that shape us in return, but they are also, first and foremost, amusements, ways to engage the mind and the senses, to divert us from troubles and pain, to help us make sense of our world, and to open us to a greater capacity for joy and delight. It is with this understanding, that amusement is of the essence of the creative process, that I begin the task of making the Nine Worlds manifest, here and now, if my Muse allows.