Z’shi (Foundation)

A world of endless towers, this.

Towers of purest precious ice, delicate and ethereal, a colourless beauty to steal one’s breath.

A realm of shining latticework minarets, of smoothly bulbous spires and clockwork obelisks, of ever-shifting, ever-growing, ever-branching towers upon towers that build themselves upwards — ever upwards — and onwards, forever towards the glittering white-crystal dome of the heavens above which may be, in turn, yet more growing, splitting, duplicating, fusing, elaborating towers.

As they climb ever higher these fragile structures change, the ice of their structures now glassy, now frosted, now whirled and patched with dead-white milky zones; now a touch of silver, now deepest azure or most royal teal, forms precious and rare; now sharp as razors, now smooth and bulbous.

A new sub-tower branches free; a lacy bridge reaches delicate fringes to cross — to maybe cross — the frigid span of emptiness as countless spans have crisscrossed, above and below. Sometimes a plaza slowly spreads, a dizzying plate of ice, hanging over the endless heights below.

Sometimes there are great curving balconies and balustrades, thick with intricate ornamentation; sometimes the ice grows strange pistons and levers and gears delicate as snowflakes.

Sometimes there are delicate gardens, growing from grains of ice instead of soil, trailing luxuriant vines of a million shining leaves and tiny blossoms over slender rails and down curving tower walls.

And sometimes towers fall.

Oh yes, they fall.

They shatter — losing entire sections, whole spires — under their own weight, under a flawed growth-angle, under the onslaught of would-be conquerors not satisfied with the ephemeral beauty they already possess.

They fall, losing part of themselves, until the ice begins to flow and grow once more towards the glittering silver-white perfection far above.

* ice * fragility * pathways * rejuvenation * patterns * beauty * ephemerality *

Yroon: Foundation

There are mysteries in the deeps; mysteries and secrets and lost things, and the spinning tales and of unfathomable beings to be found nowhere else but in the fathomless deep. And then, there are also those that prefer to keep themselves amongst those lost and secret things —

The darkness of water conceals all: the dead, the dreaming; the seeking, the broken, the pining; the silent and the strange; the hunter and the prey. And Yroon is very dark indeed, a watery darkness of teals and ultramarines, black as emeralds and fathomless in truth, an ocean without beginning, ending, bottom or surface.

But not featureless, no.

Beyond the ripples of great serpentine forms that glide through the depths, just out of reach, beyond what little is to be seen in the wan shimmer that light-sources offer — for all such things brought to Yroon are muted, tinted, lessened — and the ghosts of all finned things, there are yet things that may be touched. Drifting globes of tangled weedery, lacy and plump and violet-green, tawny-rust, blackened bronze, bleached pearl, the size of cities. Communities of the hidden, perhaps cities themselves, in delicate, cherished, carefully pierced and sealed orbs — of bubbles — of silk-thin nacre.

Lesser things: drifts of clinging silt, of melting iridescent jelly, of burning salts, of slicks of clay, that shape and spawn strange wonderful things on fins and ghosts and the blood of the deeps.

And now the currents whisper of something else: something that will unfurl in the deepest darkness, and …

* water * hidden * darkness * infinity * nurture * secret * secrete *

Ushil: Foundation

Welcome to the White Winds, traveller:

with its endless skies churning gently through all the shades of blue and twilight to the deepest violet-darkness and back again;
with the namesakes of the plane, the white winds that etch elaborate scrolls and spirals and twisting knots into the masses of pearly cloud that form and drift, break and re-form anew;
with its silver storms — spun up when the white winds whirl through their dances too fervently — that race through the realm and leave rain like silk and shimmering hailstones in their wake.

All in the boundless, bottomless, endless skies.

But the realm is not without its anchors.

There are great mountains within the Wind; massive, twinned peaks, craggy, and chiseled by the storms, translucently dense honey-tinted cloud cores garlanded top and tail with their insubstantial brethren — and each such peak hosts in its depths, clinging to its crags, and carved into the valleys of its knotted spirals a blossoming of hermitages and hidden palaces, strange graven echoes of histories long ended, and slowly growing, ever-expanding crypts and grottoes of, not the dead, but those who wait.

Not even the rain saints and the luminous torrents disturb such sleepers. They shy away from the grotto mouths, prowl silently at the mausoleum portals before being carried off by wind and rain and storm, and choose their prey from amongst the denizens of amber palaces and unwary gatherers of mist.

* air * serenity * dormancy * cycles * concentration * distillation * endlessness *

Rahure: Foundation

Warmth, banked against future need in the face of the cold, inside or out.

Quiet contemplation, waiting to be stoked to white-hot readiness at a moment’s notice.

Flame, contained, in the flow of syrupy rivers, rumbling orange and sizzling gold; in the banks of steady-glowing embers breaking through black-ashen hill-crests; in the deeply ruby carbuncle glow of the great forests before they erupt into great harvests of flamepods and drifts of fluttering sparks.

Contained, as well, in the vast basalt kilns and glassworks that creep across the rugged crumbling land, turning dust, ash and obsidian into objects of craft, tools of production, works of beauty; and in the proud and bright-riveted forgeworks that temper and test metal and mettle both. And, not least, contained within the communes and creches, of glass and brick, pumice and ember, where ravages of the body and woundings of the heart alike are tended with slow-burning, warming intensity.

The realm makes, and re-makes. The plane prepares, stores away its great workings: for the needful, for the mindful, for the traveler, for those in travail. All things, all existences, have a purpose, needing only to have their embers stoked to burning brilliance at the right time, and the proper place.

If ashpards prowl and sword-wights tear loose from their circles, if conflicts erupt in molten glass and forge-hot metal, no matter; the fires will bank themselves in time, all shall be righted, all shall be soothed, mended, put to rest. Should even the crimson fireblossoms of the skies above be stained black by stormsoot or malediction, invasion or revolt, Rahaure continues.

A single ember is all that is ever needed.

*fire * generation * temperance * preparation * craft * restoration *

Makhru: Foundation

Blue-black roiling stormclouds as far as the eye can see.

The thunder that roars in your veins and speeds up your pulse.

The inky billows that hide neighbour, companion, enemy, danger, safety, all from one’s searching gaze.

And the winds that scream unceasingly, bringing savagery to the bruise-dark cloudbanks and lashing all in reach like a hail of unseen knives, flaying, merciless — and carving the paths through the endless thunderheads for the rivers of moon-pale lightning that flash and flow, sometimes left frozen and tangible, in the knife-winds’ wake.

Yet nestled in the shadows of the endless storm, drifting along the surface of frozen lightning and the echoes of thunder, are the cloudbowers; glossy, gently-glowing orbs with life in their bellies, of homesteads of windsilk grasses, meadows of thunderfruit, great cities of gleaming twisting storm-silver and wrought-lightning towers — and these primals claim kinship to the storms without, and always have, and always will. The storms’ bounty they claim for their own purpose, tying themselves and their bowers together with invisible bindings of promises and sharing of ichor, sharp as the wind’s own blades.

And though wild-bannered warlords may soar on black wrathwings through the storms by their uncountable numbers, none have yet brought that stormwar siege inside such refuges.

None, yet.

Some whisper of a change on the knife-winds, and a murmur of alien promises to storm-pearl war machines.

* air * tempestuousness * contrasts * shadow * comfort * honour *

Kharat: Foundation

Motion is life is the heat within is emotion is the heat without.

Near-nonsense, perhaps, but it encapsulates all that Kharat is: its rolling plains of golden grasses, of melt-copper grain; the wild rapids of its rivers of roiling crimson fires, barely tamed by the whirl of flamewheel mills or endless flotillas of bright-sailed ashreed boats, slim and bound in silk like embers; the shifting of each Dancing City’s border pennons, the galloping of bright-burning steeds and roaring chariots, the oriflammes of ten thousand whirling, shifting allegiances fluttering wildly under the flickering flames of the eternal fires above.

None are surprised by a change of mind, in Kharat, nor of a change of taste, of preference, or even of patronage. Only oaths sworn over true flame are held inviolate.

Suspicion comes snapping instead at the heels of those without action, without emotion, without life. Such wretches find themselves cast outside the shifting networks of promises and passions to scavenge for shards of blisstouched obsidian beyond the polychrome walls of the Cities and their dazzling plazas.

Some give themselves to ashes; other swear vengeance unto eternity, and feel Kharat’s hot embrace enfold them once more.

* fire * motion * passion * inconstancy * display * bedazzlement *

Joui: Foundation

Aqua above and aqua below, here in the endless slow flow fluid existence that is Joui; if “above” and “below” are words that mean a thing where the difference between water to drift and water to breathe is its density.

Perhaps true below lies under the drifts of translucently jade greenery — like verdant fluid barely contained within gelatinous skin — and the dense pearly foam that forms rafts, in places, enough to build upon. Above would be where water has become the mists, above the clinging weeds and banks of foam — drifting, eddying, thick enough to part like phantom curtains, a milk-pearl haze lit softly by an unseen light tinged with the aqua ripple of another endless ocean — threaded with the trailing, slowly twisting roots of wandering lilies lighter even than the mists.

Reach above and learn to float upon the mists. Reach below and learn to slip through the gently lapping depths.


Go back.

Return again.

Change to suit yourself, inside and outside.

In the aqua below, in the depths of the deepest of colour, sinuous shapes twist and dance. A flash of silver and a foam-ship disappears.

In the aqua above, the mists fill with winged, whirring barbs and shell-coiled trumpets. The above calls to the below to change, change again, join them, an endless shifting of shape and drifting of purpose.

Yet the Graven Wave and the Last Mist Weaver and a thousand thousand colourless wavekin and more muster with salt and nets and lances of frozen creation — so it is whispered, softly, in bafflement and doubt — to lock all forms forever.

* water * hidden * metamorphosis * idleness * wandering * ambush *

Gebul: Foundation

The soothing susurrus of sand; sand that drifts through knotted labyrinths of chambers strung like gemstones on tangled passages through dense and layered strata, and whirls across the smooth-swelling rolling plains and rising peaks of weathered stone like a murmur of dust beneath the million million glittering facets, the uncountable colours, of the jeweled dome glowing softly overhead.

Gebul is a place of soothing sounds, of patience, of implacability. A place where the murmuring sand weathers away time, memories, concerns as it does the features of uncountable statues that slowly thrust through the surface of the stone, collecting all in placers of preciousness that collect in the cracks where stone lilies and pale tubers feed from them. Where veins of soft and colourless crystal pebbles are valued; swallowed, they refresh as water refreshes.

And it is also a place of eternal ending, whether ending comes in the form of dissolution or the engulfing embrace of stone.

The spires of Gebul hold jeweled cathedrals, they say; geodic amphitheatres and gleaming pillared halls that twist and coil deep down into the rock. Softly moving, slowly moving artisans craft coffers and sarcophagi of delicately etched slate, murmuring stones-of-poems in a gentle, unending rhythm.

And they say, as well, that Kevoken, the Velvet Shard, massive of stature and dark of patience, gathers the shale-scaled and mica-dusted clans who offer praise and worship together beneath a new banner …

* earth * waiting * dissolution * quietude * erosion * release *

Burelac: Foundation

What is more precious than the core of one’s self, solid and resolute, a stony cradle for all that came before and shall come after, tucked away from prying eyes?

What emerges from such secret nurturings but the most precious of gifts, given freely, from one who can choose to make that gift?

And so it is in the depths of Burelac’s vast and chthonic heart. Through solid immensity of stone, implacable as black basalt, wind countless labyrinthine passages; from these paths, like beads on a cord or a heavy harvest hanging from bowing limbs,vast chambers piled on chambers expand and meld together, each lined with dense black soil that glitters like mica.

From such earths the coal-scaled primals of Burelac till, and hoe, and plant, and reap: harvests of pale curling shoots, of delicate leaves, of sweetly-tender fruits of strange appealing shapes, all of softly glowing, shimmering, translucent jewels. Each such, it’s said, carries the gift of resolution, of stability, of cycles of gain and loss and time — of long-lost secrets, of lives long past lived, and more rarified things yet. And the gardeners save over but one seed, one kernel, from each of their charges, to begin again when they grind the precious things to dust and turn the soil.

Sometimes a new tendril sprouts, unknown; a gift, tended and tested and brought into the fold.
Sometimes gnawing horrors of broken stone and keening shards break through the chambers seeking to devour or corrupt garden and gardeners both.

Conflicts between enclaves spill, not primal blood, but the shards of shattered crops, the gifts they bear lost forever. Fruits are stolen; soil is scoured with acids. There are whispers, also, of growing disruption of the very core of Burelac’s endless rhythms; the light-veins fade, the sawclans gather, and dissent whispers through the labyrinths.

* earth * cycles * centering * secrets * resolution * preciousness *